Golden Skate

2009-10 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating Preview

The 2009-10 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final will take place in Tokyo, Japan, from December 3-6, 2009.  Forty-eight skaters representing six member nations qualified for this event by skating in Junior Grand Prix events in August, September, and October.  Russia boasts twelve entries in the event, and the United States will send ten entries to Tokyo.

This is the second time that the Junior Grand Prix Final and the Grand Prix Final will be held at the same time and place. Skaters will compete both a short program (or original dance) in reverse order of their qualification finish, and then a free skate in reverse order of their finish in the short program.  The compulsory dance will not be skated in Tokyo.

LADIES

The ladies competition will be a battle of the junior ladies superpowers – Japan, Russia, and the United States.  Three skaters representing each of these countries have won two events apiece, and the others are all very close to each other in terms of scoring potential.  The competition should be exciting from start to finish, and should be one of the highlights of the week in Tokyo.

Leading the pack is 15 year-old Kanako Murakami, who outscored the competition in both Torun and Zagreb by eighteen points in claiming her two titles.  This will be Murakami’s second trip to the Junior Grand Prix Final- she just missed the podium last season with a fourth place finish.

Murakami skates a passionate Flamenco short program that could compete with the ladies on the senior Grand Prix circuit, and jumps six triples in her Swan Lake free skate.  Recently, Murakami won her first Japanese junior title in convincing fashion, and is now qualified to compete in the Junior World Championships to be held in The Hague in March.

Murakami has thus far been the class of this field, and should skate well enough to earn a medal in Tokyo.  However, she faces stiff competition from a couple of ladies who are in their freshman season on the Junior Grand Prix.

Russian Polina Shelepen qualified for Tokyo by winning in Budapest by more than twenty points, and then again in Minsk where she won by almost ten points. After finishing in fourth place at the Russian Junior Championships last season, Shelepen finished in sixth place on the senior level at her national championships.

Shelepen has a personal best that is just three points shy of Murakami’s, and has consistently scored more than 150 points this season.  The 14 year-old has been inconsistent in the short program so far this season, but she has a seven triple free skate that includes a triple-triple combination that could be tough to beat.

Kiri Baga, the 2009 U.S. Novice Champion burst onto the international scene in Dresden, where she won her first international assignment.  She followed that up with another win in Istanbul, and found herself on the way to the Junior Grand Prix Final.

“In Japan I want to have a great experience and skate two good programs,” said the tiny Baga.  “I don’t really have expectations placement-wise. It was such an honor to even make the Final.”

Baga skates to Danse Macabre in the short program with the conviction and skating skills of a senior level competitor, but she does not have the technical content that some of her other competitors have.  In the free skate, Baga confidently interprets the music of Carmen, and she hopes to increase her technical marks with a new addition to the program.

“I have put my triple Lutz in my long program,” Baga admitted.  “I have also changed the order of my jumps very slightly, but that’s it. After nationals last year, I was so excited to train again. I immediately started training my new programs and working on new jumps. I’m really happy with how things have turned out so far.”

Fellow American Angela Maxwell heads to Tokyo to compete in this competition for the second time in as many years.  Last season Maxwell finished in fifth place, and she seems poised to do even better this season.

“My goal is to just do the best I can and try to stay on my feet,” said the former U.S. junior silver medalist.  “I’ve been training hard and hopefully it’ll pay off.”

Maxwell earned a trip to the Final by winning two silver medals in qualifying events – one in Budapest and one in Dresden.  In both competitions Maxwell fell twice in the short program, and had to play catch up in the free skate to earn her place on the podium.  In order to work on consistency, Maxwell has not made any major changes to her programs for this competition.

“We swapped a few of the jumps, but essentially it is the same program,” Maxwell explained.  “We’ve worked more on consistency and fluidity in both programs.”

With clean programs, Maxwell is perhaps the biggest threat to win this competition.  The half-Japanese Maxwell jumps a triple-triple combination in both of her programs, and also has a consistent triple Lutz.  Should she be able to land all of her big tricks in this competition, Maxwell could find herself at the top of the podium.

Two more Americans have also qualified for Tokyo, and like Baga, they did it in their first season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit.

Ellie Kawamura and Christina Gao, the silver and bronze medalists on the junior level at the 2009 U.S. Championships respectively, took very similar paths in earning their tickets to Tokyo.

In the opening event in Budapest, Kawamura finished in fourth place and followed that up with a bronze medal in Croatia.  As skaters who had won medals in earlier events faltered in their second competitions, Kawamura’s chances of qualifying for Tokyo improved.  It wasn’t until the final event in Istanbul was complete that Kawamura learned that she would make the trip to Japan.

“I was pretty surprised (to qualify) because I got fourth at my first event and third at my second,” confessed the high school student.  “I wasn’t really expecting to go after that. But, when I found out that I made it, I was so excited to get to represent the United States at the Final.”

Kawamura is realistic about her chances at standing on the podium in Tokyo, and is focused on improving her skating and experiencing everything that comes with qualifying for the event.

“Its so exciting to be one of the few ladies going to the Final this year,” said Kawamura, who just celebrated her sixteenth birthday.  “This will be a great experience for me before nationals and to get used to the big crowds. I just really want to have fun and enjoy my performance and do the best I can!”

Gao won a bronze medal in Torun to open her international campaign, and had to wait to a month to compete in her second event in Istanbul.  Another bronze medal propelled the 15 year-old student to the Junior Grand Prix Final – a trip that she didn’t expect to take in the off-season.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting to make the Final because at the beginning of the season, I didn’t even have an assignment,” Gao explained. “I’m not sure if surprised is the best word.  I’m just really happy to have made it this far.”

Gao, who trains alongside World Champion Yuna Kim, is somewhat inconsistent in her short program, but she skates a six triple free skate with two Lutzes and two flips.  Gao could be the dark horse in Tokyo if she is able to finally get a clean short program out there.  To do that, she has made few changes to her programs, but instead has focused on improving the programs as they are.

“I’ve made little changes, but nothing significant,” Gao admitted. “I have been working hard on my spins and footwork because those were the weak points in both of my events.”

Two Russian ladies complete the roster of qualifiers for Tokyo: 16 year-old Ksenia Makarova, who has dual citizenship in Russia and the United States, and 13 year-old Anna Ovcharova.

Makarova is competing on her second season on the Junior Grand Prix, and qualified for Tokyo by winning a silver medal in Lake Placid and a bronze  in Minsk.  The daughter of former World silver medalists Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, Makarova is a strong technical skater who attempts a triple-triple combination in both of her programs.

Makarova placed fifth at last year’s Russian Junior Championships, and won the Coupe de Nice earlier this fall with two solid performances against senior international skaters.  With two clean programs, Makarova could win a medal in Tokyo, but she will have to make sure that she doesn’t take herself out of the running in the short program.

Ovcharova placed fifth in Budapest, and then jumped her way to the silver medal in Torun to qualify for the Final in her first season of eligibility.  Ovcharova is a strong jumper who needs more time to grow into her skating, but she has plenty of time.  To do well in Tokyo, Ovcharova will have to make sure that she receives full credit for her triple Lutz attempts, and that she nails everything in the short program.

MEN

The men’s division features five men who harvested gold in the qualifying events leading up to the Final, as well as  handful of national champions on the junior level.  Six men will compete in this competition for the first time, while the reigning bronze medalist takes another shot at winning the gold medal.

Yuzuru Hanyu is the only man to win two events on the junior circuit this season, and the 14 year-old Japanese junior champion has been on quite a roll since finishing 12th at the Junior World Championships last season.  In his opening event in Torun back in September, Hanyu took home his first international gold medal and decimated the field along the way.  In Zagreb, Hanyu was challenged by American Ross Miner, but edged out the U.S. Junior Champion with a new personal best score of over 200 points.

Since qualifying for his first Final, Hanyu won his second national junior title, and has been selected to represent Japan at the Junior World Championships early next year.  Thus far, he has been the class of the field on the junior circuit, and is armed with two triple Axels in his freeskate and one in the short program.

The biggest hurdle that Hanyu will likely have to overcome could be a familiar face- Ross Miner. To qualify for Tokyo, Miner won his Junior Grand Prix debut in Lake Placid with a solid performance that earned him nearly 180 points.  The 18 year-old then decimated that score with a new personal best of 196.08 points as he took home the silver medal behind Hanyu in Zagreb.

Miner has decided to go with more of the same in Tokyo, focusing not on changing his programs, but ensuring that everything is cleaner and more secure.

“Nothing has changed,” said the recent high school graduate.  “I want to put out two good programs and show how hard I’ve been working.”

Miner finished two spots ahead of Hanyu at the Junior World Championships last year, and both will be looking to gain the upper hand in Tokyo in this budding rivalry.

Another developing rivalry is between China’s Nan Song and Russia’s Artur Gachinski. Both skaters competed twice against each other in qualifying for Tokyo and  came away with a win against each other. Gachinski struck first by taking the title by less than a point in Minsk, while Song got his revenge in Dresden edging out his rival by a little less than four points.

Coming into the Final, Gachinski and Song are on very equal footing in terms of technical elements, scoring, and experience.  Both skaters jump a triple Axel in the short program and two in the free skate, and both have a personal best in the 180s.  Gachinski qualified as an alternate for this competition last season, finishing in eighth place, but was excluded from the Russian Junior Worlds team.  Song will compete in the Final for the first time, but he finished in seventh place at last year’s Junior World Championships.

The key to this rivalry is Song’s short program performance.  In fact, the 19 year-old could win the entire competition if he finally skates a clean short program.  If Song is anywhere near the top of the heap heading into the free skate, he could take the title as he tends to skate well in that phase of the competition.

Gachinski, on the other hand, has to work on his free skate.  In all three of his international events this season, the Russian Junior Silver medalist has finished in second place in the free skate after strong short programs.  Whatever happens, it will be exciting to see which skater comes out on top.

Further down the line, two more skaters have equaled each other’s accomplishments on their way to Tokyo next week.  Japan’s Kento Nakamura and Russia’s Stanislav Kovalev have each won silver and bronze in their qualifying events, and have personal best total scores that are within two points of each other.

Nakamura won his silver medal in Lake Placid just behind Miner, and then came away with a bronze medal to Kovalev’s silver in Istanbul.  Nakamura recently finished in second place behind his teammate Hanyu at the Japanese Junior Championships, and won the free skate along the way.  The 18 year-old Nakamura has an inconsistent triple Axel that he includes in both of his programs, and it could be the element that makes or breaks his chance to make the podium.

In addition to the silver medal in Istanbul, Kovalev won the bronze in Minsk behind Song and Gachinski.  The 18 year-old finished sixteenth at the 2009 Junior World Championships, and recently finished tenth at a national event in Russia on the senior level.  Kovalev has yet to attempt a triple Axel in international competition this season, and it remains to be seen if he will try one in Tokyo.

Richard Dornbush from the United States and teammate Grant Hochstein complete the eight-man roster in Tokyo.  Dornbush will compete in the Junior Grand Prix Final for the second time, and is the reigning bronze medalist.  After a stellar international season last year, Dornbush had to withdraw from the U.S. Championships due to illness, and was not named to the U.S. Junior Worlds team as a result.

This season Dornbush came back with a vengeance, winning the event in Budapest, but later struggled to a fifth place finish in Dresden where he made uncharacteristic jumping errors in both of his programs.   Dornbush has regrouped since then, however, and is ready to get back to skating to the level of which he is capable.

“The most important thing for me in this and any other major competition is doing two solid programs,” Dornbush explained.  “I will be attempting a triple Axel in the short program and two triple Axels in the free program.”

Dornbush has an intellectual take on having to travel so far from home for this competition, and believes that he will adjust quickly to his competition surroundings.

“Everybody has to deal with these things at one time or another, but you have to learn how to cope with it,” Dornbush lamented. “It’s a challenge, yes, but the human body is capable of almost anything as long as your mind is able to handle it. It is just another aspect of competition.”

Hochstein is perhaps the biggest surprise of the competition, qualifying as the eighth seed in his first season on the Junior Grand Prix.  In his debut in Budapest, Hochstein won the silver medal after leading the competition after the short program.  The U.S. Junior pewter medalist then finished in fourth place in Dresden, earning a trip to the Final on a tiebreaker against three other skaters.

“The most exciting thing about qualifying for the Final is finally seeing all of my hard work pay off,” Hochstein admitted.  “I’ve worked really hard this season, and to qualify for the Final is a dream come true.”

But Hochstein isn’t content with simply qualifying for the Final.  He hopes to come home with another medal for his trophy case.

“My goal in Tokyo is to win. I’ve really improved even since Dresden, and I think if I can skate the way I’ve been training, I have a solid shot of doing so,” Hochstein said confidently.  “We put in the triple Axel for the Final. It was in the program (over the summer), but we took it out for both Junior Grand Prix events. I have nothing to lose so I definitely want to go for it before (US) Nationals.”

PAIRS

The pairs competition will be a one of familiar faces for the skaters since there were only four Junior Grand Prix competitions this season that included pairs skating.  In fact, several of the teams have already competed against six other of the qualifiers in this event.

The Chinese team of Wenjing Sui and Cong Han are the only team to have won two Junior Grand Prix competitions this season, and they did it with plenty of room to spare.  In Minsk, they won by almost twenty points, and followed that up with another win in Dresden by more than fifteen points.

Like the Chinese teams that have come before them, Sui and Han have a strong split triple twist, as well as gorgeous throw triple jumps.  As far as junior pairs teams come, Sui and Han have everything that they need to be successful, and should skate away with the title in Tokyo with little resistance from the rest of the field.  Their one weakness is, like many Chinese skaters, are their spins that sometimes aren’t as precise and fast as they could be.

For the short program, Sui and Han skate to music from Balalaika: Russia’s Most Beautiful Songs, and to music from the Charlie Chaplin film City Lights.  In Tokyo, Sui and Han’s biggest competition could come from teammates Yue Zhang and Lei Wang, who finished second to them in both of their qualifying events.

Zhang and Wang qualified as the fourth seed for Tokyo, but have the technical content to go head-to-head with their teammates.  In addition to a split triple twist, Zhang and Wang have two throw triples in their free skate that they do after the halfway point of the program.  The duo is also the most experienced in this field – competing twice at the Junior World Championships and finishing in 16th place in their debut at the World Championships last season.

Zhang and Wang’s weakness has been consistency on their side-by-side jumps in both programs, and an inability to perform a correct back outside death spiral.  Still, they have a great shot at making the podium in Tokyo, and could upset their teammates with two good skates.

Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran from Japan won a bronze medal to open their season at the event in Lake Placid, and then won their first international gold medal in Torun with a personal best performances.  They were also invited to skate at the NHK Trophy this season, where they finished in eighth place.

Takahashi and Tran do not have a split triple twist, but they do have a two throw triple jumps in their free skate and have been quite consistent on their side-by-side jumps.  In winning in Torun, the Japanese Champions earned a new personal best exceeding 150 points.  To win a medal in Tokyo, Takahashi and Tran must use the home crowd to propel them to clean skating.  Should they skate close to what they did in Torun, a medal is not far out of reach.

The other team to win an event on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this season is the Canadian team of Kaleigh Hole and Adam Johnson.  Hole and Johnson won the event in Lake Placid, their first international competition together after teaming up after the Canadian National Championships last season.  The duo followed that up with a bronze medal behind both Chinese qualifiers in Minsk.

Hole and Johnson’s strength is their technical elements. In the free skate, they are one of the few junior teams who try solo triple jumps and two throw triples.  Their weakness is their program components, which are indicative of a first-year team.  To combat their weaknesses, they have planned a few upgrades in their programs.

“We haven’t changed much technically in our programs,” Hole explained,  “but we have changed some choreography to improve our program components score.”

Hole and Johnson have a good shot of winning a medal in Tokyo, and are anxious to try.  The duo has a plan to attack the jet lag that might come with traveling so far from home.

“We will adjust to Tokyo’s time as soon as we get onto the plane so that we can adjust as quickly as possible,” said Hole. “We get there on a Monday so by the time we compete, we will hopefully have our legs under us and ready to go. We would like to skate as well as we can and have fun with both of our programs. Placing on the podium would be extremely exciting.”

Three Russian teams have also qualified to skate in Tokyo: Tatiana Novik and Mikhail Kuznetsov, Alexandra Vasilieva and Yuri Shevchuk, and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov.  All three teams are skating in their debut season together on the Junior Grand Prix circuit.

Novik and Kuznetsov won the silver medal in Torun and placed fifth in Dresden to earn a trip to the Final.  Teammates Vasilieva and Shevchuk are the only qualifiers who did not win a medal in their journey to Tokyo (they finished in fourth place in both Torun and Minsk).  Stolbova and Klimov, the eighth seeds, won the silver medal in Lake Placid, and then struggled to a seventh place finish in Minsk to earn the final spot in the competition.

Completing the roster is the American team of Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller, who earned their way to Tokyo after finishing fourth in Lake Placid and third in Dresden.

“Anytime we have the opportunity to represent our country we are very honored,” Simpson said.  “One of our goals for this year was to qualify for the Final in Japan. We are very pleased that we have.”

Though the U.S. junior pewter medalists are only the sixth seeds in this competition, they have a good shot of making the podium in Tokyo.  With a personal best score of 144.80 points, they could be competitive with the top qualifiers.

Our goal for the Final is to have two personal best performances,” Simpson admitted. “We can’t control scores, only how we skate. So we are really focused on performance and personal goals. We have increased the levels of our twist and the death spiral in short, and we have really focused on getting higher grades of execution on our elements.”

DANCE

The ice dance competition could be one of the closest competitions in recent history, with several teams having the opportunity to snag the title with strong skating.  In Tokyo, teams will not skate a compulsory dance, and this could work to the advantage of new teams who have had less time to develop these dances.  The competition will likely come down to who earns the most level fours on their elements, and medal winners will have to earn high grades of execution as well.

Leading the way are the top qualifiers, USA’s Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, the current Junior World silver medalists.  The siblings qualified for Tokyo by winning in Lake Placid and Zagreb, and will compete in their second Junior Grand Prix Final in as many seasons.  Last year, Shibutani and Shibutani finished in fourth place at this event in Korea, but are favorites to skate away with the title this season.

In both of their qualifying events the U.S. Junior silver medalists dominated the field, first by winning by more than twenty points in Lake Placid, and then by winning by twelve points in Zagreb. Shibutani and Shibutani understand that leading the field means that all of the others are chasing them, and Alex believes that they continue to put the work in to stay at the top.

“Since our last event, we’ve been working very hard on every aspect of our programs. We are really excited to show how much we have progressed.  We would also love to perform two solid programs.”

“We increased the difficulty of our combination lift in the free dance,” he added, “and we have also worked on improving our speed, edge quality, and performance.  We love our programs this year and are really excited to skate them for the fans in Tokyo.”

Shibutani and Shibutani skate two beautiful programs this season that show very different sides of their personalities.  For the original dance, they skate to music that allows the siblings to honor their Japanese heritage, which should be very popular in Tokyo.  For the free dance, Shibutani and Shibutani have prepared a program to Luis Enriques Bacalov’s Tango Rhapsody that is choc full of level four elements.

“With the compulsory dance event omitted from the competition, we have had more time to focus our training on our original and free dances,” Alex explained.  “However, our approach for every competition remains the same.  In fact, we continue to practice the compulsory dances since they are always a fundamental part of our training regimen whether we compete them or not.”

Though skating will be the main focus in Tokyo, both Alex and Maia have school to contend with before, during, and after the competition.

“Both of us maintain a balance between our skating and a commitment to school,” Maia explained.  “We’ve been working with our teachers and professors at our respective schools so that when we return, we won’t be buried under a pile of homework.”

Qualifying as the second seed in their first trip to the Final is the Russian duo of Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin, who won events in Minsk and Istanbul. Like Shibutani and Shibutani, Monko and Khaliavin easily won both of their events in convincing fashion, and could be a serious threat to win the competition.

This season Monko and Khaliavin have come on strong, but have struggled with their step sequences in competition that they will need to improve if they want to compete with the Junior World silver medalists.  This will be the first competition in which Monko and Khaliavin will face Shibutani and Shibutani, and it should be an exciting meeting.

Making things a little more interesting will be Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov from Russia.  Like the top two seeds, Ilinykh and Katsalapov won their events in Budapest and Torun with little resistance from their fellow competitors. The duo teamed up last season and finished in fourth place on the junior level in Russia, one spot ahead of Monko and Khaliavin.

This season Ilinykh and Katsalapov made their international debut, and are already earning high levels on their elements and strong program component scores.  Like their teammates, Ilinykh and Katsalapov have never competed against the Americans, so how these three teams stack up is virtually unknown.

Two other Russian teams also qualified for the Final. Ekaterina Pushkash and Jonathan Guerreiro won in Dresden in their first international competition, and finished in second place behind Ilinykh and Katsalapov in Istanbul.  Pushkash and Guerreiro teamed up last season after the Junior World Championships where they finished in 6th and 3rd with different partners respectively.

“At first I thought that the change of partner and coach would lead to a few difficulties in terms of technique and of course the bond between partners,” Guerreiro admitted. “But I was surprised at how quickly we were able to bond as a couple.  We were good friends before (we paired up) so maybe that helped. We have a very good relationship and are able to work as a team to achieve a common goal, and maybe this is one of the major reasons that we will be competing at the finals this year.”

Since Pushkash and Guerreiro have been partnered together for such a short time, their competitive nerve has not yet been tested in a pressure-packed competition.  Competing in Tokyo will give them a good reading as to how they respond to such a competition, and also how they stack up against other teams competing on the junior level.

“I would like to skate both of our dances to the best of our ability,” Guerreiro wished. “I want to make sure we do everything we have been working on and hopefully mark much higher then our personal best.”

The other Russian team, Maria Antipova and Artem Kudashev are competing for the Junior Grand Prix Final for the second consecutive year.  Last season they finished in eighth place, and will look to improve that result in Tokyo.  Antipova and Kudashev qualified to the Final in seventh place by winning the silver medal in Torun and finishing in fourth in Dresden.  It would a stretch for Antipova and Kudashev to earn a medal in Tokyo, but the duo has several years of junior eligibility that they can use to improve their standings.

Canadians Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill return to the Junior Grand Prix Final after finishing in sixth place last season, and closing out the season with a fifth place finish at the Junior World Championships. Ralph and Hill had the pleasure of finishing in second place at both of their qualifying competitions behind Shibutani and Shibutani on their way to Tokyo, and are excited to be skating in Japan.

“The fact that the Final is in Japan is tremendously exciting,” Hill said excitedly. “Ever since I was little I have always wanted to travel to Japan. Also competing (at the same time as) the World’s top seniors for the second year in row is very exciting.”

Ralph and Hill have an inspiring African folk original dance that should be a crowd pleaser, and could play the role of spoiler for the top ranked couples if they have their way.

“There have been a countless amount of changes done to our programs, including the step sequences and transitions, and hopefully we will benefit from all of them,” Hill said.  “We hope to achieve personal bests in all portions of the competition and to be on the podium.”

Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi from Italy have qualified for the Final for the first time in their young careers.  After winning the bronze medal in Budapest, the Italian Junior Champions took the silver in Dresden to earn a trip to Tokyo.

“Qualifying to the Final was one of the goals that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season,” Alessandrini explained.  “We have worked hard so that we could do it, and so we are not surprised by qualifying.  However, in sport there are no guarantees, so we have a feeling of great accomplishment in seeing our goal come to life.”

The Italians have qualified to this competition with the lowest combined score in the field, so making it to the podium will be a difficult challenge.  However, Alessandrini remains focused on her team’s goals of improving from one competition to the next.

“We have not changed our programs that much, but we have worked instead to improve the fluidity of our skating,” Alessandrini said.  “Our final placement in this competition is not the important issue, but rather it is skating our best that we hope to accomplish.”

A second American team, Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello qualified to compete in Tokyo as the eighth seed after winning bronze medals in Torun and Istanbul.  In their three seasons together, Cannuscio and Lorello have steadily climbed up the ranks, and are happy to have qualified for Tokyo in their final season of junior eligibility.

“The most exciting thing about qualifying for the Final is that we get to go to Japan,” Cannuscio admitted. “Qualifying was one of the goals that we set for ourselves before the season began.”

Cannuscio and Lorello have been working tirelessly since their last competition to improve in hopes of being more competitive with this strong field.

“We have changed the majority of all four of our step sequences,” Cannuscio explained. “We are hoping to get a better level on them.”

Beyond the skating, Cannuscio and Lorello are like most of the other competitors from North America, and are hoping that their bodies can adapt to the time change that they will experience in Tokyo.

“I have never traveled anywhere more than seven hours ahead, so this will be a new experience,” Cannuscio admitted.

Lorello is more at ease with the prospect, however.  “The first few days in Tokyo will probably be a little rough with the sleeping, but I usually adapt pretty quickly.”