Tuesday, 7/7/2020 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Former Singles Gold Medalists Team Up for Pairs

Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth

Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth are among the rising stars in U. S. junior pairs skating. The couple, who teamed together in May 2009, have already competed in two ISU Junior Grand Prixs. They placed sixth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Torun, Poland and 11th in Dresden, Germany.

“Our goal was to try to get some Junior Grand Prixs to get experience before Nationals,” Toth sad. “I’ve done the JGPs in Quebec and Slovakia, but Felicia had not done any. It was really beneficial for us as a new team. We did OK at both of them.”

“Now we know what others are doing and what we need to work on,” Zhang added.

Toth, 21, first went skating when he was seven years old. “My mom and dad wanted to go to public skating so they took me along,” he said. “I skated and played hockey in recreational leagues but I always had a problem with offsides. I quit when I realized that I could be OK in hockey but really good in figure skating.”

He landed his first double Axel when he was in intermediates at Junior Nationals and his first triple toe loop as a novice. Toth was the 2007 junior men’s collegiate champion and continues to compete in singles at the National Collegiate Championships.

“I started pairs when I was nine and made it to Junior Nationals at ten,” Toth recalled. “I always wanted to do pairs. It’s far more exciting with the elements we can work on together. I was always bored with hockey and singles.”

Toth won juvenile pairs in 2002 and intermediate pairs in 2003 with Kylie Gleason. He then skated with Molly Aaron, placing fourth at U. S. Nationals in novice pairs in 2005. He also competed with Minne Lee and Lauren Ryan.

Zhang, who is 16, started skating when she was seven. “My dad liked to speed skate so he took me to public skating,” she recalled. “I did gymnastics for about half a year when I was five and took ballet, but I didn’t try any other sports.”

She landed her first double Axel two and a half years ago and her first triple, a triple Lutz, last year. Zhang won the bronze medal in novice ladies at U. S. Nationals in 2008, but only finished fifth at Regionals in 2009.

“Jeff (DiGregorio) came up to me after Regionals and asked if I had thought about doing pairs,” Zhang stated. “A couple of guys had asked me before but I’m afraid of heights. I’m OK if I don’t look down.”

“I like the throws because they’re different than jumps,” Zhang said. “You can go really high.”

Zhang and Toth include side-by-side double Axels, a throw triple Salchow and a double twist in their short program. In the long, they add a throw double loop and side-by-side double flip-double toe loop combination.

Ron Ludington and Jeff DiGregorio coach the couple who train at the University of Delaware. They skate four 40-minute ice sessions six days a week in the summer, and three sessions in the winter for pairs. She skates three more sessions for singles, while he skates one more. They also so another hour off ice training daily.

“We never worked with a choreographer this year,” Toth said. “Everything was left over from before we started. Because we stated so late, everything had to be done quickly. Felicia and I pieced the programs together using some of her singles programs, some of my past pair programs and our own ideas.

“Evgeny Platov polished them,” Zhang added.

“The short program music was something that Alexander Zhulin picked when I skated with Minna Lee three years ago,” Toth noted. “We used it in novice at Nationals.”

“The free program is left over from last year,” Toth added. “It’s ‘Croatian Rhapsody’ by Maksim Mrvica. I liked it when Irina Slutskaya skated to it at Worlds.”

Off ice, Zhang enjoys hip hop, while Toth listens to country and radio music. He played the French horn in high school, but doesn’t play now.

Zhang’s off ice interests include hanging out with friends, reading, swimming, running, biking in the woods, and playing soccer. “I’m a night person,” Toth said. “I like clubbing and going to discos.”

Toth is a junior at the University of Delaware, where he is studying biology. He intends to go into the medical field. Zhang, who is a junior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, plans to study physics, chemistry or biology in college.

One of Toth’s way to contribute to the sport was to develop “ITS GR8 TO Sk8,” a program for the Armstrong School District in western Pennsylvania that teaches skating to special-needs students.

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