Golden Skate

2012 US International Figure Skating Classic

The 2012 US International Figure Skating Classic, an international senior competition, was held this week in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Celebrating its inaugural year, the event is an International Skating Union (ISU) points-earning competition, and featured more than 70 athletes representing nearly 20 countries in all four disciplines of figure skating.

“U.S. Figure Skating is excited to host the inaugural U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, a competition we expect to become an annual occurrence,” U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith said. “This event allows us another opportunity to welcome the international figure skating community to the United States.”

The event kicked off on Thursday with the short dance and men’s short program, and concluded on Sunday with the ladies and pairs free skate.

Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier perform their free dance at the 2012 US International Figure Skating Classic.

ICE DANCE

The Canadians rose to dominate the podium with Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier winning the gold and Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam taking the silver. USA’s Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt settled for bronze, while their teammates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, slipped to fourth.

Short Dance

Chock, 20, and Bates, 23, placed a comfortable first in the short dance with 62.89 (32.33/30.56) points. The team, who paired up last July, impressed the panel with good level three circular steps and twizzles, and met four of the six key point in the YP patterns.

“We are really happy with the way we performed it,” said Bates. “This is the third time we have done it. We did it in Lake Placid and we did it at Champs Camp, and each time it’s gotten better. This is the best to date.”

Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt were second after the short dance with 56.49 (29.17/27.32) points. The 2012 U.S. pewter medalists met four of the six key points in their YP patterns, and displayed solid level four twizzles as well as a good level four straight line lift.

“We are excited to be here,” said Kriengkrairut, 23. “It’s nice to skate at home so early in the season. We are happy with the program and thought we performed well overall.”

“There were a few things here and there, of course,” added 27-year-old Giulietti-Schmitt. “Overall, the skate felt good. We’re happy that scores came out so quickly. That means they didn’t have to review a lot, and it was a good score on top of that. We’ve made a lot of improvements since Champs Camp and we want to keep building in the right direction.”

Gilles and Poirier, both 20, were third after the short dance with 55.98 (29.33/26.65). The newly-formed team  met four of the six key points in their Yankee Polka (YP) patterns, and showed a  good level four rotational lift and twizzles.

“I felt like it was a good first run for us,” said Gilles, on making their first international competition as a team. “We have a few things that we’ve been working on that we hoped would make our first appearance on the senior scene a good one. There’s always more to work on, but we feel good about what we did.”

“Every day of skating is really fun for us,” Poirier added of their new partnership. “We enjoy being in each other’s company and we both like to work really hard. Hopefully we can just keep building from here.”

Paul, 20, and Islam, 22, also gave a solid short dance, placing a very close fourth with 55.86 (30.83/25.03) points. The 2011 Canadian bronze medalists earned the second highest total element score (TES) of this segment, displaying strong level four twizzles and level three midline steps.

Free Dance

In their free dance, which is entitled “Wild Spirits”, Gilles and Poirier impressed again with strong level four twizzles and lifts, as well as good level three circular and midline steps, earning many positive Grades of Execution (GOE) along the way. They placed first with 90.92 (46.17/44.75) points, and with a total score of 146.90 points, rose from third to first overall.

“We wanted to stay away from one specific style of dance,” explained Poirier of their free dance, which was choreographed by Carol Lane. “We left our style up to interpretation so everyone can enjoy it in their own way. We wanted to be different and we love this program. It’s very different from our short dance and from our programs last year.”

In their free dance to a selection of music by Ennio Morricone, Paul and Islam earned the highest TES, displaying very good level four lifts and twizzles. Although they only earned a level two on their diagonal steps, the team otherwise garnered many positive GOEs, and placed second in the free dance with 87.90 (44.83/43.07) points. With a total score of 143.76 points, they rose from fourth to second overall.

“Our goal coming here was to skate our programs how we know we can,” said Paul. “It wasn’t about the placement at this point. It’s about our comeback since last year was a rough year for us. We want to show everyone we are back and we can skate.”

“We are skating for ourselves this year,” added Islam, “and that’s what this is going to be about for us. This is a good start.”

Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt placed third in the free dance to music by Adele which featured level four lifts and twizzles, as well as good level three circular and midline steps. The 2012 Ice Challenge champions, who train in Ann Arbor, Mich., were awarded 84.37 (44.00/40.37) points, slipping to third overall (140.86 points).

“It was a solid skate overall,” offered Kriengkrairut. “We were a little nervous for this competition, but I think we worked through everything well.”

“We’re nervous going into any competition,” emphasized Giulietti-Schmitt. “There were a lot of things, psychologically, that we worked through this week, which was really good for us. We’re approaching our programs in a little bit of a different manner and we’re taking things one step at a time. Now we’re one step closer to where we need to be later in the season.”

Chock and Bates, who train under Igor Shpilband in Novi, Mich.,  did not fare as well in their free dance to Doctor Zhivago. Only one of their lifts earned a level four, and Bates took a spill at the end of their level two diagonal steps. They also received a deduction for an extended change lift, and placed fifth with 76.95 (35.43/42.52) points. With a total score of 139.84, they slipped to fourth overall, missing the podium by just over a point.

“It was shaky, not our best skate,” admitted Chock. “Now we know what it feels like and we can continue to work out the kinks. It was an off-day which happens sometimes. We will train through it.”

Siobhan Heekin-Canedy and Dmitri Dun of the Ukraine were fifth overall (128.40), followed by USA’s Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus (113.08).

“We changed a lot of elements going into this event and we want to see how they were received here and hopefully get some more feedback,” offered McManus. “Luckily we have a good amount of time before Skate America, so we can really let everything sink in and make our skating the best that we possibly can.”

Max Aaron

USA’s Max Aaron performs to music from “West Side Story” at the 2012 US International Figure Skating Classic

MEN

It was a clean sweep on the podium for the United States, with all four American men placing first through fourth in the event. Max Aaron took the gold, while Armin Mahbanoozadeh and Ross Miner won the silver and bronze, respectively. Timothy Dolensky rose from fifth place to fourth place overall to complete the run.

Short Program

Aaron reeled off a solid quadruple loop-double toe, followed by a triple Lutz and triple Axel, in his short to music from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. The 20-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz. earned 74.69 (40.02/34.67) points for a first place finish with his routine which was choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo.

“It’s nice to lead for a change,” said Aaron. “I haven’t done that in a while. I would like to get my first senior international medal, but if I can come out with the experience of being able to focus, that will be the big thing for me.”

“The six-minute warm up was rough,” continued the 2011 U.S. national junior champion. “I’ve been working on pulling myself together and making sure everything is in the present. That’s been a problem this year. I’m glad the program came out this way. It’s still not perfect, but we still have the U.S. Championships and that’s when we want to hit the jackpot.”

Miner underrotated and fell on his opening quadruple Salchow, but rebounded to land a good triple Axel and triple Lutz in his short to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The 21-year-old also showed good spins and footwork, and scored 69.09 (34.10/35.99) points for a second place finish. He also earned the highest total component score (TCS) of this segment of the event.

“It was a good debut to really show this program at an international event,” said Miner. “There are obviously a lot of improvements to make. I had a really bad fall in the warm up on a Salchow. I was happy for the break between the warm up and my skate, and I got a chance to refocus and get my head together.”

Mahbanoozadeh hung onto the landing of a quadruple toe in his short program to Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, but then underrotated and fell on a triple Axel. The 2012 U.S. pewter medalist rebounded to land a triple Lutz-triple toe, and showed good spins and footwork to place third with 68.95 (37.54/32.41) points.

“I’m feeling good, happy that I stood up on a nice quad,” said the 21-year-old. “That will be my goal for the first couple of events. From here, I just have to keep working to improve my scores. Overall, I’m happy.”

Hong Kong’s Shiu Ting Ronald Lam placed a close fourth (67.13), while Dolensky sat in fifth (63.68).

Long Program

In his long to West Side Story, Aaron landed a quadruple Salchow as well as eight triple jumps, including two triple Axels. Although he received an edge call on a flip, he otherwise displayed good spins and footwork to earn 156.58 (83.58/73.00) for first place. He finished first overall with a total score of 231.27 points.

“My goal was to have my first senior international medal because I have not done that,” said Aaron. “It’s something I have wanted to conquer in my career, so I’m proud to have done that. I can take away from this competition that [while] being off balance, you can still make things happen by remaining focused. I want to build on this competition and put it on at the U.S. Championships.”

Mahbanoozadeh fell on his opening quadruple toe attempt, but otherwise landed six triple jumps in the long. The only other flaws in his Dr. Who routine was a popped Lutz (in combination with a triple toe-double toe) and an underrotated triple toe (in combination with a triple jump). He otherwise earned positive GOEs for his level three footwork and spins, placing second with 149.11 (76.43/73.68) points. With a total score of 218.06 points, he rose from third to second overall.

The fall came a surprise for Mahbanoozadeh.

“I haven’t fallen on it all week,” he claimed. “As Christy (Krall) says, whether you land or fall, you have to put it behind you and that’s what I did today and had a good skate.”

“Getting the quad in the short was good,” added Mahbanoozadeh, who wants to have two quads in the long by nationals. “I came here to do that. I would have liked to do it in both programs, but the jump is there. I’m going to train it and get more mileage on the programs. I wasn’t skating until about three weeks ago because I sprained my ankle a little over a month ago. So I was proud of myself to get out here and skate the way I did.”

Miner doubled his attempt on a quadruple Salchow in his long program to music from the Captain Blood soundtrack, but otherwise gave a good performance which featured six triple jumps. He was also awarded a level four on two of his spins and showed good level three footwork, placing third with 144.35 (69.69/74.66) points. He finished third overall with 213.44 points.

“I did the easy stuff, but I wish I had done quad Salchow,” said the two-time and current U.S. bronze medalist. “I didn’t trust myself when I needed to. I’m glad I did this competition. It’s good to get my programs out there. I have motivation to get where I need to be.”

“I’m missing points because I’m missing the second triple Axel and the quad,” the 2012 Four Continents bronze medalist summed up. “I’ll get there. Congratulations to my teammates Max, Armin and Timothy on a great job here!”

Dolensky, who stood in fifth after the short, placed fourth in the long with 139.91 (68.91/71.00) points, and overall with 203.59 points.

The 2012 U.S. junior silver medalist was happy with this placement, citing that he met his goal for the season by breaking 200 points.

“I felt really good out there,” Dolensky said of his long program. “I always skate my best when I feel calm. I just have to trust in my training and know that everything in my program is something that I can do.”

“I feel really confident,” added the 20-year-old . “Once I get the triple Axel in my long, I’ll be right where I need to be.”

Lam finished fifth overall (196.34), followed by Christopher Caluza of the Philippines (181.95).

Agnes Zawadzki

USA’s Agnes Zawadzki performs to music from “Sex in the City 2″ at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

LADIES

USA’s Agnes Zawadzki was the winner of the ladies event, while teammate Gracie Gold took the silver. Amélie Lacoste of Canada won the bronze.

Short Program

Zawadzki gave a flawless performance in her technically meticulous program short program to music from Sex and the City 2 soundtrack, opening with a solid triple Lutz followed by a triple toe-triple toe which harnessed +2 GOEs across the board.

 The 2012 U.S. senior bronze medalist, also earned a level four on two of her spins, as well as positive GOEs for level three footwork. She scored 65.24 (35.44/29.80) points for a first place finish.

“I’m so excited!” exclaimed the 18-year-old. “I’ve been working really hard on confidence and mental toughness coming into competitions, and I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of it now.”

Gold had a rough start in her short program to Hernando’s Hideaway after she doubled both jumps on what was meant to be a triple flip-triple toe.

“It’s a hard combination and I can’t hit it every time,” explained the 2012 U.S. junior champion. “I was excited going in and I really rushed the take-off.”

The 17-year-old recovered to land a solid triple Lutz and double Axel, and earned a level four on her much improved spins and footwork. She earned positive GOEs on all elements except for the opening jump, earning 59.37 (29.97/29.40) points for second place.

“The program is really coming along,” said Gold. “We’re really trying to add a sassy sort of attitude to it and not have a single focus moment where you can tell I’m getting ready to jump. I want to keep the character from the beginning to the end, and make everything even bigger. This was another chance to get my program out there and I thought it went well.”

Lacoste finished in a close third with 59.14 (31.88/27.26) points after her determined and focused short to The Feeling Begins. The 2012 Canadian champion gave a solid routine which featured a triple flip-triple toe, triple loop, and a double Axel that had a nice run out.

“It was my best short program in a while,” said the 23-year-old. “I’m really proud of it. My goal coming to this international senior B was to make the technical points for Worlds (Championships). In the short, it was 28 and I got 31 points. One down and one to go for the free skate. Overall, I felt very good on the ice. I wanted to stay calm and perform like I do in practice.”

Long Program

Gold placed first in the long with 111.78 (54.92/57.86) points for her playful routine to Life is Beautiful, however, it wasn’t perfect. The 2012 World Junior Silver medalist received an edge call on both triple flips, one of which she underrotated and fell on, and her second Lutz was downgraded to a double. Nevertheless, she produced strong level four spins and good level three footwork. Her layback awed the judges, earning many positive GOES. With a total score of 171.15, she maintained second overall, missing gold by just under two points.

“It’s a different style than my short program, much more classical by comparison,” explained Gold of her long program “It’s a really beautiful piece and I just have to keep working to improve it. It’s only September, so it’s really early in the season, but I think it’s coming along nicely. It wasn’t perfect today, but I think it was a valiant effort.”

Zawadzki opened her long to Rhapsody in Blue with a solid triple loop and triple Lutz-double toe, but then received an edge call on a triple flip. She also later stumbled on her triple Salchow (in combination with a double toe), two-footing the landing with a hand down, and had a stumble in her footwork. The teen from Illinois otherwise impressed with a level four layback spin that was awarded positive GOEs, and placed second with 107.71 (50.58/58.13) points. With a total score of 172.95 points, she was able to maintain first overall.

The two-time World Junior medalist felt she crossed a large hurdle since last year.

“Before the program, I was thinking about the U.S. Championships and how I was in first after the short and my free didn’t go as planned and I ended up third,” she recalled. “I’m really proud of myself for keeping it together after a mistake, because I tend to let that rattle me.”

“I’m so happy!” Zawadzki said of her win. “I’ve been working so hard, and for it to finally happen is great.”

“I want to work on getting the Lutz-toe into the free skate,” she added, regarding moving forward this season. “I want to skate consistently. It was good today, but can always be better.”

Lacoste doubled her opening Lutz in the long program, and later touched down with her hand on a triple Salchow, but was otherwise clean in her routine to Rhapsody in Blue. The Canadian displayed good footwork and spins, placing third with 102.39 (47.99/54.40) points. She maintained third overall with a total score of 161.53 points.

“It wasn’t perfect,” admitted Lacoste. “I had a big mistake at the beginning, and then I refocused and I was pleased with that. I pushed myself until the end because my goal here was to make the technical points for Worlds, which I think I achieved. That’s a goal I accomplished this week.”

The Canadian will compete next at Skate Canada.

“I will be even more relaxed because I’m not going to have the pressure of getting the points for Worlds,” reaffirmed Lacoste. “Now I want to go home, train hard, and be better prepared for Skate Canada. I have a month and a half to train harder, do my programs and have better cardio so I don’t feel tired at the end of my programs. I’m not worried at all that at Skate Canada I won’t be better.”

Elena Glebova of Estonia finished fourth overall (149.49), followed by Brazil’s Isadora Williams (119.86).

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch

Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch perform to selections from Queen at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

PAIRS

Canada dominated the pairs podium with Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch winning the gold, while teammates Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers took the silver. USA’s Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin rose from fifth to third overall to capture the bronze.

Short Program

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were nearly perfect in their short to a Parisian Waltz which featured a triple twist, side-by-side triple toes, and a throw triple loop. The 2011 Canadian champions earned many positive GOEs for their their high level footwork and spins, placing first with 63.34 (34.42/28.92) points.

“We feel really good about what we did today,” said Moscovitch, 27. “I think our short program has been improving all summer and this was our strongest outing so far. We’re very happy with our skate and our score. We definitely know we can skate it better, so we still have somewhere to reach. We have room to grow, but we’re thrilled with today.”

“We just want to attack the free skate now,” said 20-year-old Moore-Towers, regarding their first place. “Being in the lead so far gives us confidence, but it’s not really about that. It’s more about attacking everything for us. We always want to improve on our last performance.”

Lawrence, 22, and Swiegers, 25, finished second with 54.43 (29.69/25.74) points in their program to music from the Robin and Marian soundtrack. Although Lawrence fell on the triple toes, the Canadian bronze medalists were otherwise clean, impressing with a solid throw triple flip and level four lift.

“The program went really smoothly,” said Lawrence “It was a good second time out this year. The only disappointing thing was my jump. That’s something I’m working on myself. The rest of the program has a good base and this was a good starting out.”

“We are trying something new for the short program this year,” said Swiegers of their new routine. “In previous years, we’ve picked really fun programs where we emote to the audience and get them pumped. This year, we are trying to go more of a mature short and bring the crowd into us.”

USA’s Felicia Zhang, 18, and Nathan Bartholomay, 23, were third with 47.44 (23.66/23.78) points. While the team underrotated their triple toes and Zhang had a tight landing on the throw triple flip, they were otherwise clean in their routine to music from the Cocoon soundtrack.

“We just talked with our coach about the fact that it was our first time and that it was our short program,” said Zhang. “Now we have a day to regroup and hit it strong for the free skate. We were happy with the skate, but we know we can do better.”

USA’s Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig finished fourth (45.58), followed by teammates Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin (40.99).

“The technical aspect is the most difficult thing to get together at the beginning, so we’re really focused on that right now,” said Davis of their new partnership. “We’re trying to match our skating styles and start to blend everything together.”

“We learn stuff every time we go out there,” said 32-year-old Ladwig. “There are positives that came through today, like our jumps. We’re going to make some mistakes, but we’re going to learn from them.”

Long Program

Moore-Towers and Moscovitch had problems with their two final lifts in their long to selections from Queen, however, the team was otherwise solid. Their routine was highlighted with a triple twist, a solid triple toe-triple toe sequence, triple Salchows, and two good throw triple jumps. The team also earned +2 GOEs across the board for a level four Axel lift, and placed first in the long with 115.91 (59.38/56.53) points and overall (179.25).

“I feel great,” said Moore-Towers of their performance. “There’s some stuff that we’re frustrated with, but this is just another time out there for us. We know everyone in our event, so it was a fun competition. There are some things we need to work on and some things we’’re really happy with.”

“This entire week, we stepped up our game,” added Moscovitch. “Our warm-ups and practices have all been very strong, smooth, and aggressive, which was our goal. We learned what we need to do in order to step up even more going into the Grand Prix season, and that’s exactly why we came here.”

Lawrence and Swiegers had a rocky start in their routine to music from the War Horse soundtrack. Lawrence took a fall on the triple toes and the catch on the triple twist was sub par. Nevertheless, the 2011 Four Continents bronze medalists recovered to land a double Axel-double Axel sequence, throw triple loop, and throw triple flip. They also earned a level four on all three lifts, and finished in second with 109.60 (56.73/53.87) points and overall (164.03).

“We had a rough summer training-wise, so we are happy with that program,” offered Swiegers. “We have been dealing with a lot of little injuries, so we couldn’t train the way we wanted to. It’s just coming together for us now.”

“It’s a confidence booster to know that even with the opening mistake, we still came back and had a smart program,” added Lawrence. “We used our heads out there. We didn’t give up on anything and we fought for everything. It wasn’t a clean, easy program, but we made everything work. Now we can go home and take that and build it into a world-class competitive program.”

Vise and Baldwin, who stood in fifth after the short, placed third in the long with 102.35 (51.68/50.67) points. The only mistake in their long program was a bad stumble on the landing of a throw triple flip. The team otherwise produced a double twist, clean triple toe-double toes, and a solid throw triple loop. With a total score of 143.34, they edged out teammates Zhang and Bartholomay by .02 points for the bronze.

“It felt good,” said Vise of their performance. “When we nail the first three elements, it really sets the tone for the rest of the program. Once we hit those, we could relax and take the rest of it one step at a time.”

“It was great to have Team USA cheering us on,” added Baldwin. “It really helps when you start to feel tired. They really pulled us through.”

The team plans to reorder some of their elements in the short program prior to Skate Canada.

“We did it last year and it made a huge difference,” said Vise. “You just have to play around with everything until it fits.”

Davis and Ladwig placed fifth overall, followed by Israel’s Danielle Montalbano and Evgeni Krasnopolsky.