USA’s Angela Nikodinov won her first gold medal in a senior Grand Prix event at her fifth visit to Skate America. Canada’s Cynthia Phaneuf won the silver, while Miko Ando of Japan won the bronze.
Skating to Gypsy Soul, Ando landed a triple Lutz-triple loop combination followed by a triple flip and a double Axel to earn 53.64 points for a first place finish after the short.
“I am glad to skate here,” said Ando of being at Skate America, “but if I’m competing in the U.S., they are interested in more than my jumps, and I wasn’t confident about my expression. I felt like other people gave me courage.”
Nikodinov landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination as well as triple flip and a double Axel in her elegant routine to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, earning 53.62 points for a second place finish after the short.
“It felt good to get the first program of the new season out of the way,” said Nikodinov. “It is a hard competition. With the new system, I’m thinking about the new levels in the spins and elements. When I saw my scores, I had no idea what it meant.”
Phaneuf and USA’s Alissa Czisny both tied for third with a score of 50.20 after their short. Both landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but Phaneuf popped her flip while Czisny underrotated hers. “I have no excuse on the flip,” said Phaneuf, “but I’ll go out and do it right in the short program at Skate Canada.”
Phaneuf’s coach, Annie Barabe, said: “Physically she grew a lot over the summer and is adjusting to that with her jumps. She’s [still] getting used to her new body.”
Czisny also received a standing ovation for her delight program to music from The Mission soundtrack in what was her first senior Grand Prix appearance.
“I’m very excited to be here,” said Czisny, “It’s an honor to be asked and I wasn’t expecting it. My finish in the short program gives me confidence going into the long program.”
Japan’s Yukina Ota was fifth after the short, followed by Elena Liashenko of Ukraine.
Finland’s Susanna Pöykiö was in eighth after the short, but gave an astounding performance to win the ladies free skate, moving up to fifth place overall (same as last year).
Skating to Nino Rota’s Romeo and Juliet, the 22-year-old opened with a triple toeloop-double toeloop combination, followed by a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, and a triple Salchow. While she had a shaky landing on a triple flip doubled a triple loop, she landed a double Axel and another triple loop, showing a very nice back throughout most of her routine. She received 97.40 points for the long for an overall score of 140.38.
Nikodinov, who had been absent from the Grand Prix series for two season due to injuries, opened her long with a double Axel-triple toeloop sequence, followed by a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a triple flip, a triple flip-double toeloop combination, and a double Axel. and a triple loop. Despite a doubled toeloop and popped Axel, the 24-year-old also impressed with nice spins and a layback, scoring 95.88 points for a second place finish in the long. With an overall score of 149.50, Nikodinov moved up from second place to win the title.
“I gave it [my] all, but I ran out of steam at the end,” explained Nikodinov of the marred jumps. “It is a little overwhelming [winning]. I just came here and focused on what I had to do. Obviously I have nothing to lose. I have to reestablish myself at the world level.”
In her routine to Capriccio Espagnol, Phaneuf popped the opening triple Lutz and then a triple flip. The Canadian champion went on to land a double Axel as well as four triple jumps (two in combination with a double toeloop), earning 94.20 points for an overall score of 144.40. Despite placing third in both programs, the total score was enough to move the 16-year-old up one spot to finish second overall.
“I was nervous before my long program,” admitted Phaneuf. “After the [popped] flip, I tried to calm down. I need to be more focused and I need to be more ready for my first jumps in my next competition.”
Czisny, who was third after the short, had problems with her jumps in her long to Tchaikovski’s Swan Lake. She fell out of her triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, struggled with the landings on a triple loop and triple Salchow, and popped a triple Lutz. The the 17-year-old earned 91.16 points for a fourth place finish in the long but the total score of 141.36 wasn’t enough to keep her in the top three and she slipped one spot to fourth overall.
While overnight leader Ando landed a triple Lutz-double toeloop-double toeloop combination, she underrotated a quadruple Salchow and a triple Lutz, falling on both. While landing a double Axel, the reigning World Junior champion had problems on the landing of a triple Salchow-double loop combination and earned only 89.00 points for a sixth place finish in the long. With an overall score of 142.64, Ando dropped to third place overall.
“Winning the Short Program was good for me,” said Ando, “but I regret deeply that I wasn’t able to do what I tried today.” Stating that she will continue to work harder, the Japanese champion stated, “My mistakes today were a result of the pressure I was under and of my own weakness.”
Nikodinov, who received 12 points for her win is not currently scheduled for another Grand Prix event. Phaneuf (9 points) will compete again next week in her native Canada. Skate America was not a scoring event for Ando, who will skate at the NHK Trophy in Japan and at the Cup of China.