The 2004 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held Jan 3-11 at the Philips Arena and The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The nation’s most prestigious figure skating event, held since 1914, crowned a total of 12 national champions in the ladies, men’s, ice dance, and pairs (senior, junior, and novice divisions). In addition, the event was used to select the U.S. World Team (junior and senior) as well as who will compete in the upcoming 2004 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
Michelle Kwan (Los Angeles FSC) cinched her eighth national title in what proved to be a chair-gripping event. Sasha Cohen (Orange County FSC) won silver (her third in the senior division), while Jennifer Kirk (The SC of Boston) claimed the bronze – her first senior national medal.
In the short program, Kirk skated a jazzy routine to music from the Chicago soundtrack. The 19-year-old landed a tripe toe-triple toe combination followed by a triple Lutz and a double Axel. The routine earned Kirk marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.8, placing her third overall in the short program.
Cohen delivered a steadied yet intense performance in her short program to Malaguena, executing a triple Lutz-double toe combination followed by a triple flip, a double Axel, and good spins. The 19-year-old earned marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9, putting her in first in the short program.
Kwan struggled on the landing of her double Axel, but recovered to land a clean triple Lutz-double toe combination and a triple flip. Her routine to The Feeling Begins earned the defending champion marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9, resulting in a second place finish in the short program.
Angela Nikodinov (All Year FSC) skated an elegant program, but double-footed the landing on her triple lutz-double toe combination, putting her in fourth after the short.
In the long program, Kirk opened her routine with a triple loop followed by a triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz. The 2002 Four Continents Champion landed only two of her four remaining triple jumps cleanly, stepping out of the triple Lutz and falling on a triple Salchow. Her long program to Die Fledermaus earned her marks of 5.6 and 5.7, enough to maintain her third place position.
Skating to Swan Lake, Cohen opened with a solid triple Lutz-double toe, followed by another triple-double combination, a triple loop, a double Axel, and a triple Salchow-double toe. The first mistake came when she fell on a triple toe followed by a stumble on a triple Lutz. She bounced back landing a clean triple Salchow and delivery great spins, but the mistakes cost her. Though her marks ranged from 5.6 to 5.9, she fell from first to second place overall.
Kwan had a good solid skate which seemed to gain momentum in the last 45 seconds of her program to Tosca. The 23-year-old opened with a triple loop followed by a triple Lutz-double toe, a triple flip, a double Axel, a triple Salchow, triple toe, and a triple Lutz. The reigning US champion earned marks ranging from 5.8 to 6.0, for an overall win.
Nikodinov had a good start in her long program, but fell in the middle of her routine and doubled some jumps which dropped her from fourth to fifth overall. Amber Corwin (All Year FSC) moved up one spot to fourth after earning marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.6.
Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto (Detroit SC) captured their first senior national title after three consecutive second place finishes (2001-2003). Melissa Gregory (Broadmoor SC) and Denis Petukhov (Skokie Valley SC) won silver, while Loren Galler-Rabinowitz and David Mitchell (The SC of Boston) won the bronze.
Five-time U.S. dance champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev withdrew after the Compulsory Dance (CD) due to pain caused from a cyst on Lang’s Achilles tendon. The same injury cut their season short last year.
The Compulsory Dance (CD) at this event was the Ravensburg Waltz, created by Angelika and Erich Buck from Ravensburg, Germany and Betty Callaway. Its first performance dates back to the 1973 (West) German Figure Skating Championships.
Belbin and Agosto took the lead in the CD with a very strong performance, with marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9. Lang and Tchernyshev were second with marks from 5.6 to 5.8, ahead of Gregory and Petukhov who received marks ranging from 4.8 to 5.6.
Galler-Rabinowitz and Mitchell were in fourth place followed by Christie Moxley (Univ. of Delaware FSC) and Aleksandre Kirsanov (Univ. of Delaware FSC) who placed fifth.
The ice dance event continued with the Original Dance (OD), with the “Swing Combo” being the theme. The couples can choose any two or three of the following rhythms: Blues, Jive, Rock’n’Roll, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and/or Swing.
There was a hesitation before Lang and Tchernyshev took the ice, and then Lang, favoring her left foot, made her way to the referee and informed him they were withdrawing from the event.
She knows that it has to be taken care of immediately, and that it would take a couple of months to recover from surgery.
Already in the lead after the CD, Belbin and Agosto turned in a demanding dance to Jitterbug, Blues and Swing that included an interesting lift and a nice dance combination spin, as well as a good side-by-side footwork line. The 2002 World Junior Champions dominated the OD, earning marks ranging from 5.6 to 5.9.
However, the most pertinent questions were not based on their performance, but of their friendly rivals who didn’t dance.
Gregory and Petukhov were in second place. Using Rock Around the Clock, Great Balls of Fire, and Harlem Nocturne, the team earned marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.6. Galler-Rabinowitz and Mitchell were third, followed by Kendra Goodwin (Univ. of Delaware FSC) and Brent Bommentre (Philadelphia SC & HS), who moved up two spots from sixth.
In the the Free Dance (FD), Galler-Rabinowitz and Mitchell put out a a passionate yet tentative tango to Obsession by Bajofondo Tangoclub, earning marks from 4.9 to 5.6. The 2002 U.S. junior champions were thrilled with their overall third placement.
Gregory and Petukhov’s elegant performance to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Air earned them marks ranging from 5.2 to 5.8. Thought they had problems on a lift, it was enough for the husband-and-wife team to finish second overall.
Belbin and Agosto easily defended their lead with their routine to excerpts from the Westside Story. The 2000 World Junior champs produced a nice rotational lift, a dance combination spin with difficult positions for both, as well as intricate footwork. Their marks ranged from 5.7 to 5.9.
Goodwin and Bommentre placed fourth overall, followed by Christie Moxley (Univ. of Delaware FSC) Aleksandre Kirsanov (Univ. of Delaware FSC) who finished fifth.
Rena Inoue (All Year FSC) and John Baldwin (All Year FSC) captured their first national title in the pairs event. Katie Orscher (SC of Hartford) and Garrett Lucash took home their second consecutive silver, while the 2003 champions, Tiffany Scott (Colonial FSC) and Philip Dulebohn (Univ. of Delaware FSC), had to settle for bronze.
In the pairs short program, Scott went down on the side-by-side triple toes, while Dulebohn put his hand down to keep from falling. Their marks ranged from 5.1 to 5.7, enough to give them seven of nine first-place marks for their routine to Farandole (from L’Arlésienne, Suite No. 2) by George Bizet.
Skating to Still Got the Blues by Gary Moore, Orscher and Lucash finished third after Lucash stepped out of his triple toe loop. They received marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.6.
Inoue went down hard on her throw triple loop while Baldwin struggled on the triple toe. The team received two first-place marks for their upbeat routine to Murder at the Cotton Club, with scores ranging from 5.0 to 5.6 for a second place finish after the short program.
Jennifer Don (Texas Gulf Coast FSC) and Jonathon Hunt (Univ. of Delaware FSC) were fourth. Though they had excellent side-by-side triple toes, but Don fell on an attempt at a throw triple flip.
Reigning US champs, Scott and Dulebohn had a less than par free skate to Les Miserable. Dulebohn fell on the opening side-by-side triple toe-double toe combination. Though Scott landed the first throw triple Salchow, she singled the next. They landed the side-by-side double Axels but the performance had too many mistakes, including a messy star lift, resulting in marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.7 for an overall third place finish.
Orscher and Lucash performed their long program to Khachaturian’s Spartacus, opening with a triple twist which was bumpy on the landing. Orscher double-footed her landing on the first throw jump but the team executed good side-by-side triple toe jumps and side-by-side double flips. On the side-by-side double Axels, Lucash opened his up, performing a waltz jump instead. They performed a good throw triple Salchow and earned marks ranging from 5.3 to 5.4. to place them second overall.
Performing to the soundtrack of Pearl Harbor, Inoue and Baldwin opened with side-by-side triple toes but Baldwin doubled his. The 2003 US Bronze medalists performed good side-by-side double Axels but Baldwin fell on the next side-by-side jump (triple toes). Inoue then fell on a triple throw Salchow. The team earned marks ranging from 5.2-5.7, enough to move them up one spot to first place overall.
Don and Hunt maintained their fourth place finish followed by Laura Handy (Univ. of Delaware FSC) and Jeremy Allen (Univ. of Delaware FSC) who placed fifth.
Johnny Weir (SC of New York) was the surprise winner in the men’s event, capturing his first national title. Michael Weiss (Washington FSC) settled for silver while Mathew Savoie (Illinois Valley FSC) won bronze. Tim Goebel (Winterhurst FSC) had a disastrous short program (placing tenth) and subsequently withdrew from the competition. Goebel plans to take off the rest of the season to address what a team doctor said were ‘major changes’ in the skater’s anatomical structure.
Weiss opened his Henry V program with a quadruple toe-triple toe which was two-footed on the landing of the quad, then fell on the triple Axel. He completed a triple Lutz, but had to settle for fourth overall with marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8.
Savoie, who is still recovering from a knee operation from last April, skated a clean short program to Kitaro’s Spirit of Taiko, completing a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe combination, and a triple Lutz. The 23-year-old earned marks ranging from 5.0 to 5.6, placing him second overall after the short.
Although Weir didn’t have the most difficult program, he had a clean and elegant skate to Valse Triste, landing a solid triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple Axel, and a triple flip. The 19-year-old received marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8, placing him first overall in the short program.
Evan Lysacek (DuPage FSC), completed a triple Axel-double toe combination, a double Axel, and a triple flip in his program to Espana Cani, finishing third overall after the short with marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8.
Ryan Bradley (Broadmoor SC) put out an entertaining short program which earned him marks ranging from 4.7 to 5.8 for a fifth place finish.
In the long program, Savoie landed six good triples but had slight turnouts on both triple Axels in his routine to tunes from Ragtime. The musical quality of his program, along with excellent spins, earned him marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.8 for third place finish overall. Savoie had knee surgery last April and just started jumping again in September.
Skating to a military medley, Weiss put out a conservative and clean program which contained a total of nine jumps (two were triple-triple combinations). His marks ranged from 5.6 to 5.9, enough to move him up two spots for a second place finish overall.
Weir’s program to selections from the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack was elegant yet loaded with solid jumps, including a triple Axel-triple toe combination and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. The 2001 World Junior champion earned marks ranging from 5.8 to 6.0, easily maintaining his lead and a center spot on the podium.
Jahnke finished moved up to spots to finish fourth while Lysacek dropped two spots to place fifth overall.
The top three men earned a berth at Worlds and the Four Continents, but Jahnke will take Weiss’ place at the upcoming Four Continents Championships (Weiss declined to go).
The US will also be sending the top two dance and pair teams to Worlds and the top three to the Four Continents Championships.
The top three ladies will also be going to Worlds as well as the 4C, but Corwin will be taking Kwan’s place at the Four Continents Championships (Kwan declined the event).
The Four Continents Championships are schedule to take place Jan 19-25 in Hamilton, Ontario at the Copps Coliseum.