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Fun Facts at Skate America

*The first Skate America was called “Norton Skate” and was held in 1979 in Lake Placid, NY as a test event for the 1980 Olympic Games.

*American men won 7 of the first 8 Skate America titles (Scott Hamilton 1979-82); Brian Boitano in 1983 ‘86; Christopher Bowman in 1988-89).

*Kristi Yamaguchi competed in both Pairs and Singles. She won the Ladies title in 1990. The following year, partnered with Rudy Galindo, Yamaguchi won a silver medal in Pairs.

Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto won the most Skate America ice dancing titles with five (2003-05, ’07, ’09). Agosto now living and coaching in Olympia, WA served as honorary chairman of Skate America in Kent, WA. He and long-time girlfriend, Merrie, are celebrating 13 years together. Agosto will also be skating in Steve Disson’s Pandora Unforgettable Moments of Love on Ice, in January. Belbin was also in Kent, commentating on the Ice Dancing competition for Icenetwork along with doing some interviews.

*At 1999 Skate America, Timothy Goebel landed 3quad jumps in one program (one toe loop, and 2 Salchows, one in combination with a triple toe loop.)

Michelle Kwan has 7 Skate America titles, more than any other skater. She won 4 consecutive gold medals from 1999-2002.

Day 1

Staying at the official hotel, the Doubletree, a good 12+ miles from the arena, makes cabbing it pricey but the weather is great so far. China’s pair team Qing Pang & Jian Tong arrived on Tuesday and were still dealing with some jet lag coming from Beijing. They were first up performing their Freeskate to Variations on an Original Theme, Enigma by the Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday the first day of official practice and had a near collision with Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov.

Tong was found afterward icing down both knees and also complaining of pain his back and neck, a situation that plagues him continually from injuries occurred over years of competing. However, he stoically said he plans to continue to compete through Sochi. Afterwards, the duo will plan their marriage.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu arrived from Toronto just hours before the men’s practice because he was held up by immigration authorities according to his coach Brian Orser. Nevertheless he managed to land a quad toe loop, quad Salchow and two triple Axels in his Notre Dame de Paris Freeskate, ending with a terrific scratch spin.

US dance champions only just arrived today and missed the practice to the disappointment of the fans hoping to see their new programs. Canada’s Kaitlin Weaver & Andrew Poje were the stars of this dance practice with a lovely performance of their The Sound of Music themed Short Dance.

Americans Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Guiletti-Schmitt came off the practice ice with Kriengkrairut running off to see a physiotherapist after receiving a minor cut just below her shin after their practice session on the Short Dance performed to country/western themed Ring of Fire sung by Johnny Cash and I Can’t Help Falling in Love by Chris Isaak.

Day 2

First day of competition begins with Men and Pairs. Hanyu rocked! His performance to Parisienne Walkways by Gary Moore, choreographed by David Wilson and Jeffrey Buttle earned a new world record of 95.07 points. Hanyu said he was surprised at the high score, “But it’s only the Short Program,” he said modestly thru an interpreter. Teammate Takahiko Kozuka placed 2nd and American champion Jeremy Abbott was 3rd after he fell on his opening quad toe loop, but his program, Spy by Nathan Lanier was a hit with the audience.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh, a last minute replacement after Evan Lysacek’s withdrawal due to a groin injury, had a battle wound of his own tending to a bloody finger after his skate to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and admitted that he had sprained his ankle the day before. “The ankle thing kind of threw a wrench into things, but it’s kind of taken my mind off the pressure,” he said of his 7th placement in the Short Program. Teammate Douglas Razzano said he was “pissed off” after his unfortunate performance to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, where he fell on both his opening quad toe loop and triple Axel.

Despite winning the Short Program in Pairs, Russia’s Maxim Trankov (with partner Tatiana Volosozhar) complained of a subpar performance with small errors on the first three elements performed to Love Theme from The Godfather due to what he termed “a very strange schedule. We only had 2 hours at the hotel after practice. We don’t know when to eat or when to rest.”

Americans Caydee Denney & John Coughlin were 3rd behind China’s Pang & Tong, delivering a clean program to Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. Teammates Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir placed 5th skating to Stray Cat Strut and Gretchen Donlan & Andrew Speroff were 7th with their Nocturne number by Ennio Morricone.

In Friday’s dance practice earlier in the day, Meryl Davis & Charlie White aborted a lift from their Free Dance to avoid a collision with Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. No one was injured.

Day 3

The longest day with Short Dance, Ladies Short, Men’s and Pairs Final. The class of the field in Dance was the winning program of defending champions Meryl Davis & Charlie White. Their light and airy performance to music from the Giselle ballet was a sheer delight to watch. White said of the Yankee Polka Pattern Dance incorporated into their routine, “It was always one of our strengths because we have quick feet.” White also has relatively small feet, wearing only a size 8 ½ shoe.

Teammates Kriengkrairut & Guiletti-Schmitt placed 4th with their crowd-pleasing routine, while Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus in their first Skate America appearance were 7th after their energetic program to a Strauss waltz and polka. Canadians Weaver & Poje were 2nd and the Russian team of Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev placed 3rd.

In the Ladies event, U.S. champion Ashley Wagner took the ice with confidence skating to The Red Violin. She opened her winning program with a triple flip/double toe loop combination but hopes to replace the double jump with a triple by the World Championships. Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova landed her triple toe/triple toe combination but singled the following flip to place 2nd. Teammate Alena Leonova, the current world silver medalist, had a disastrous performance to music from Slumdog Millionaire and left the ice in tears with a disappointing 9th placement.

American Christina Gao surprised with a 3rd placement after a clean and polished performance to Close Without Touching by Kostia, opening with a lovely triple toe/triple toe combination. She is taking a full course load at Harvard, taking economics, math, and Chinese.

Stanford student Rachael Flatt doubled her opening jump, skating somewhat lethargically to place 10th and explained that she was suffering from tendonitis in her right foot and ankle.

Day 3 (Part 2)

Although they fell on their throw triple Salchow, Volosozhar & Trankov won the event with an otherwise strong performance to Violin Muse, and said they were happy to win despite dealing with what they felt was a difficult schedule and were looking forward to their next event which is in their hometown of Moscow. Pang & Tong took the silver and Denney & Coughlin held onto 3rd place ending their Phantom of the Opera program with a standing ovation from the audience.

Although they didn’t attempt the throw triple Axel they had been practicing, Castelli & Shnapir were pleased with a 5th final placement and getting a personal best score of 108.52 in their Freeskate to Payadora by Julian Plaza. Teammates Donlan & Speroff performed to Sleeping Beauty and placed 6th in their very first Grand Prix and were off to compete in the Ice Challenge competition in Austria in November.

Team Japan took over the men’s competition with a 1-2-3 finish and one wonders at the wisdom of inviting three top competitors from the same country to your own international event. However, there was no denying Takahito Kozuka, the eventual gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu, the silver medalist and Tatsuki Machida who won bronze, deserved their medals.

Jeremy Abbott’s emotional delivery of Bring Him Home by Steven Jamail resulted in a standing ovation despite the two falls and other errors that placed him 8th in the Freeskate and 5th overall. He later discovered that he was dealing with a small compression in his back which hampered his performance. Hopefully rehab and rest will correct the problem in time for his next Grand Prix event, Trophee Bompard in Paris.

Teammates Armin Mahbanoozadeh (7th place) and Douglas Razzano (9th place) competed in their only Grand Prix event and although both weren’t completely satisfied with their respective performances, Mahbanoozadeh was happy to have gained valuable experience leading to the upcoming Nationals, while Razzano felt vindicated by skating a much better program in the final.

Day 4

Meryl Davis & Charlie White debuted their Free Dance performing a dramatic routine to music from Notre Dame de Paris portraying the main characters of the gypsy Esmeralda and her devoted companion Quasimodo, generating a standing ovation from the audience and winning marks from the judges. Davis said that because both she and White have a basic understanding of French, they were able to construct a program that followed the original storyline’s emotional impact.

The Russian team of Bobrova & Soloviev upset the Canadians Weaver & Poje by winning the silver medal with their intense presentation of a woman who tries to save a friend from madness only to succumb herself. They commented afterward that their improvement this season was due to the coaching of former world ice dance champion Alexander (Sasha) Zhulin.

Disappointed Weaver & Poje accepted their bronze medal but added that they were determined to improve their technical score and are on track to push for a medal at the World Championships which will be held in London, Ontario.

Kriengkrairut & Guiletti-Schmitt have cornered the market on romantic and angst-ridden programs, this time skating to Adele’s popular ballads Turning Tables and Rumor Has It and performing interesting and technically difficult lifts to put them in 4th place overall. Teammates Cannuscio & McManus performed a jailhouse rock routine to finish in 7th place.

The Germans, Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, dressed in colorful period costumes delivered a crowd-pleasing comical dance as Zombies coming to life. They finished in 5th place.

The Ladies final solidified Ashley Wagner’s claim as one of the world’s top women competitors with her winning performance to Samson & Delilah, saying she now has the mental strength to perform as she practices. She heads to Paris in November to meet current world champion Carolina Kostner.

Skating to Libertango, American teammate Gao won the silver medal, which she said was “pretty awesome.” This medal is a feather in her cap and gives her an edge in the running of those ladies hoping to make the US World Team in January. Flatt rebounded with a much stronger presentation to Stravinsky’s Firebird, landing five triple jumps to come off the ice with a big smile and the audience’s appreciation of her efforts.

Russia’s Sotnikova claimed the bronze medal but her teammate Leonova’s 5th placement could not move her up higher than 7th place overall. Leonova’s placement here pretty much destroys her hopes of making the Grand Prix Final, which will be held in Sochi. Both skaters will compete again at the Grand Prix in Moscow.