Dornbush qualifies for JGP Final; looks to improve

Richard Dornbush performs an exhibition routine at the Junior Grand Prix event in Dresden, Germany.

USA’s Richard Dornbush has seen a few ups-and-downs in his career, but has established himself as one of the top men at the junior level. He qualified for his third consecutive ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final this fall after finishing fourth and first in his two events in Graz, Austria and Dresden, Germany.

“I definitely think that the Junior Grand Prix in Germany was better than Austria,” noted the 19-year-old. “The short was definitely much better and so was the long. I felt pretty good about how I skated and how it went.”

Last year, he had competed in Dresden as well and finished fifth, but this year he came back to win. Was it a kind of redemption? Dornbush didn’t quite think so.

“Somewhat,” he responded. “I think it was more of a redemption from Junior Grand Prix Austria than from last year’s JGP Germany. Pretty much as soon as I get past a competition I try to forget about it. Every competition is a new competition. You can’t let the old ones bother you much.”

Dornbush gave two good performances in Dresden to fend off a challenge from Russia’s Gordei Gorshkov. He hit the triple Axel in both programs, however, he also missed one triple Axel in the long.

Both his programs were well received. He had changed his short program to Elena by Brian Setzer shortly before U.S. Nationals last January, and he hadn’t competed it yet internationally. The long program to Sherlock Holmes is completely new this season.

“It was my choreographer, Cindy Stuart, that found them both times and suggested them to me,” Dornbush explained. “We’ve been looking for something with a character to it, something to really add to my skating, and she came up with Sherlock Holmes. I like it a lot. It has a lot of quirky choreography in it. I’ve seen the movie. I actually read some of the books, too.”

Sometimes Dornbush is plagued by inconsistency, but he has an explanation.

“It probably comes down to training,” he conferred. “I have gotten injured a few times which has been trouble for me at Nationals. I’ve actually been injured a little bit before each of the last two finals,” the skater revealed. “So I was healed by the time I that got there, mostly, but I hadn’t been able to work on my programs as well as I could have. I couldn’t do all of the jumps.”

Nevertheless, Dornbush was definitely happy with how he competed at the Finals.

“I skated very well there compared to how I’d been training because of these injuries. I still was very proud of those skates.”

Both times it was a hamstring tear that affected him before the Final.

“This is a kind of an Achilles heel, I suppose,” Dornbush concluded. “I’ve only done it twice, but that was before the Final each time. The first time I couldn’t do triple Axels at all for a few weeks, and the second time it was on my landing, so I didn’t do any jumps for a couple of weeks. I’ve also broke my ankle a couple of years ago, but that was during the off-season. I fractured my foot, but again, that was during the off-season, but I still lost some training.”

He was ranked third and fourth in his two previous Junior Finals, and finished 11th at (senior level) Nationals 2010.

This summer, however, his preparations went well.

“I’ve had a few problems with my boots,” Dornbush offered, “but I got them worked out with my skate person. Things really started rolling along a couple of weeks before Austria.”

Dornbush got involved in skating because his three older sisters took up the sport.

“My mum took them to the rink and I came along and my mum had me skate with them,” he explained. The sisters skated  for a while but now he is the only competitive skater in the family. “My older sister is a coach and she also skated with Disney on Ice for a year.” he explained. Both parents liked to do various sports but didn’t compete internationally.

When he was younger, Dornbush looked up to Scott Hamilton, Todd Eldredge, Evgeni Plushenko and Michael Weiss.

“Scott Hamilton was just an all-time great,” he said. “I saw Todd Eldredge at Stars on Ice once, and even though he was retired from competitive skating, he was still very athletic and could do his triple Axels. And I just think Evgeni was the most consistent person that’s ever skated. Very impressive.”

Today, he doesn’t have real idol in the sport, but admires a lot of his current competitors.

“I competed at senior Nationals this year, so I competed against Evan (Lysacek), Jeremy (Abbott), Johnny (Weir) and Adam (Rippon). I definitely admire a lot of traits of my competitors,” Dornbush pointed out.

For his entire career, the Californian has been coached by Tammy Gambill, which is quite rare these days.

“I have been with my coach the entire time, probably about 12 years,” Dornbush revealed. “I’ve got a very good relationship with her. It’s definitely changed as I’ve gotten older, but it’s definitely a very good relationship.”

Off the ice, Dornbush is in his first semester at city college.

“I’m taking 11 units, three classes, so I’ve stayed really busy this semester,” he explained, revealing that he also brought all his school work with him to Germany and wrote a midterm paper for his literature class in his free time in Dresden.

With skating and studying, there is not much time left for other activities.

“I don’t have any spare time right now!” Dornbush exclaimed. “I hang out with my friends a little bit, but that’s pretty much it.”

A typical day for Dornbush starts at seven in the morning when he gets up and trains from nine to eleven. After the first skating session, he takes a break, has lunch, and does some homework. He has another on-ice training session from 12:45 to 1:45 and goes to the gym on Monday and Wednesday or to class  on Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon. On Monday and Wednesday the skater is attending night classes from 6:00 to 7.30.

“Then I go to sleep and do it over again,” he laughed. “Saturday and Sunday is a day off, and Friday is a little lighter. On Friday I have pretty much the afternoon off. Most of my school is done on the weekend.”

Dornbush appears as a thoughtful, quiet person. When asked to describe his character, he thinks for a moment before answering.

“Somewhat of a sarcastic, dry humor, I suppose,” he responded. “It’s a hard question. I think it takes a lot of thinking. I don’t know how to describe myself that quickly.”

He sees his strength as a skater in training.

“I train really well,” Dornbush stated. “I’m pretty consistent when I train and I think that helps when you come to compete. If you train well, you skate well.”

He names inconsistency as his weakness.

“I definitely could be better at being more consistent in competition,” Dornbush admitted. “I’ve been running clean programs and I’ve been doing very strong programs in practice and I wasn’t quite able to do that this in Dresden. So I’ll be working on that before the final and I’ll try to be able to get my programs done cleanly.”

It is Dornbush’s last junior eligible year and he hasn’t yet been to Junior Worlds, but he doesn’t set a specific goal such as competing at Junior Worlds for himself.

“I just started training the quad toe in the program,” he shared, “so I’d like to be able to do it in competition sometime. But I’m not going to try it if the rest of my program is suffering because of it. That’s one possible goal I’d like to see myself to be able to complete. Otherwise I just want to skate the best programs as I can at every competition.”

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