Olympic and World Medalists Kick Off At Grand Prix Series Opener — NHK Trophy

Nagoya, Japan will set the back drop for the first stop of the 2010 Grand Prix Series – The 32nd NHK Trophy. Nagoya sits on the Pacific coast of Japan and is the fourth largest city in the Country. It is one of Japan’s largest ports and more than 2.17 million people reside here. Nagoya is the sister city to Los Angeles, California and comes equipped with hand prints of American stars. The auto industry is its main industry with the headquarters of Toyota and Mitsubishi Motors being stationed here in Nagoya.

Approximately, sixty skaters from seventeen countries from around the world are on hand to make a bid for one of the six spots up for grabs in the final. Besides points that qualify towards the final 180,000 USD is up for grabs here at NHK.

All the reigning World Champions are here in Nagoya, except for Ice Dance Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who are out due to injury. All are clearly favored to win gold here in Nagoya, but they will need to be on top of their skates in order to hold off challenges by former World, European, and Grand Prix medalists. In ice dance Olympic and World silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White will compete and should be a shoe-in for the title.

The men’s field is particularly packed with talent. Reigning World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi will head a field which includes 2008 Grand Prix Champion Jeremy Abbott, 2010 Junior World Champion Yuzuru Hanyu, 2008 Junior Grand Prix Champion Florent Amodio, 2009 Skate America bronze medalist Shawn Sawyer, and 2009 European bronze medalist Kevin Van Der Perren. Also in the hunt for medals are Kazakhstan’s Dennis Ten and Sweden’s Adrian Schultheiss.

Two-time World Champions and Olympic silver medalists Qing Pang and Jian Tong are clearly the front runner for the gold in the pair’s event. Their silky smooth presentation and explosive throws should easily keep them in the top spot at NHK. The real question here is can powerful US Champions Caydee Denny and Jeremy Barrett hold off the elegant Nebelhorn Champions Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larinov of Russia for silver or could Junior World medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran steal their thunder? 2010 Junior World silver medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran will have the home crowd on its side but lack the experience of the other two teams.

In the dance event Olympic and World silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White are clearly in a league of their own here in Japan. Their speed, passion and precision on the ice clearly separate them from the rest of the field. Once again, the battle will be for silver and bronze. It should come down to Nebelhorn silver medalists Anna Cappelini and Luca Lanotte of Italy or reigning Four Continents Champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada. Cappelini and Lanotte delivered a charming short dance at Nebelhorn last month, but the Italians struggled in the free dance. Weaver and Poje have yet to compete this season but are here to deliver after narrowly missing a berth on Canada’s Olympic Team last season. The duo has made great strides since teaming up in 2007 when they won the bronze medal in their first Junior World event. If either should falter I am sure Junior World Champions Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov or Junior Grand Prix bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani will step up to the plate. The American brother and sister duo put out a dazzling free dance in their senior debut event – The Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany last month. Ilinykh and Katsalapov delivered an emotional driven free skate to Shindler’s List to capture the Junior World title last February. Olympians Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were slated to be in Japan but had to withdraw from the competition due to injury.

Hometown queen Mao Asada should reign supreme here in Nagoya but the two-time World Champion and Olympic silver medalist often struggles in the series and can be eclipsed by former World silver medalist Carolina Kostner. Kostner has had troubles of her own with a less than stellar season’s Olympics where she placed sixteenth but rebounded slightly to finish seventh at the World Championships. The 23-year-old has returned to her roots and is training back in Oberstdorf, Germany for now with former coach Michael Huth. Asada on the other hand, has a new coach in Mr. Sato (father of World Champion Yuka Sato) and this could cause a change in her Grand Prix performances. Challenges could come from World Junior Champion Kenako Murakami of Japan, Nebelhorn Champion Kira Korpi and a trio of American girls Rachael Flatt, Ashley Wagner, and Caroline Zhang. Flatt placed a respectable seventh place at the Olympic Games in Vancouver and fifth place at the World Championships in Torino last season, but both Wagner and Zhang have something to prove after failing to qualify for the American Olympic and World team in 2010.

The festivities get underway on Friday afternoon with the competition at 3 PM local time with the short dance. It will be followed by the pairs short program at 5 PM and the ladies short program at 7 PM. The men’s short program will start at 12:20 PM on Saturday.

At the conclusion of this event, the Grand Prix Series will continue its tour across continents making stops in Kingston, Ontario, Beijing, Portland, Moscow, and Paris, France before returning to Beijing for the final match up where the best in the World will join in a battle for a global purse of 272,000 USD and the prestigious title of Grand Prix Champion. It will be held from December – 2010 at the Capital Gymnasium. Once again, this year’s series will host both junior and senior finals.

— Photos by Robin Ritoss

Can it be a Golden Waltz for Virtue and Moir?

2010 Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continued their edge over training mates Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the compulsory dance section of the World Championships.  The final event of the season is being held this week at the Palavela in Torino, Italy. The Palavela is most notably known as the Olympic Figure Skating venue of the 2006 Olympic Games which were held here four years ago. Neither of the two teams participated at those games and neither of them have won a World title. With the World title on the line, both duos have shown up with their A game faces on.

Home country heroes Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali who placed 13th here in Torino in 2006 brought the loudest ovation after placing third with 40.85 points. It is a virtual tie for the next three spots with Grand Prix bronze medalists Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in fourth with 37.75 points, European Champions Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski are fifth with 37.70 points and seven-time British Champions Sinead Kerr and John Kerr are sixth with 37.56 points.

“We’ve never gotten a World title, (and) it’s something we’ve been planning on, so it’s not difficult,” Virtue told the World media of their motivation here after winning Olympic Gold in Vancouver last month. We’ve expected it to be a huge crash after the Olympics, but we’ve done two weeks of great training after that, and it’s not hard to stay motivated when you’re training with Meryl (Davis) and Charlie (White).”

Virtue and Moir were the first on the ice of the top teams and were smooth as silk during their Golden Waltz. Their blades quietly glided them into first place with an overall score of 44.13 points. Their timing and expression were impeccable. They outscored the Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White by 0.88 points. While both teams are best buddies off the ice, a friendly rivalry on the ice ensues from competition to competition. So far, this season Davis and White commanded the top spot at the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo and Virtue and Moir brought the house down with a home country gold medal in Vancouver.

Their fate here in Turin has yet to be determined as 0.88 points can easily be made up Thursday with the original dance. The Americans will showcase an unusual and creative Indian folk dance and the Canadians a hot and sassy Flamenco.

“We are excited to be at another World Championship.  It’s (such) a huge competition,” Moir said energized. “It was great for us to get back on the ice and push ourselves just a bit further. We have come a long way in two weeks, so we’re excited to show that (here in Torino).”

Meryl Davis and Charlie White also delivered an exquisite Golden Waltz sailing through each pattern with elegance and ease. Their first and third segment of their second pattern was especially well-done earning GOE’s (Grades of Execution) as high as +3 for those segments. Their precise steps and well-matched leg lines kept them in good stead with the judging panel.

“It was a really confident performance for us,” Davis commented. “ Before we went out, Marina (Zueva) and Igor (Shpilband) (told ) us, we’re really well trained on this dance, so (we wanted to) just go out and enjoy performing it and that was what we were trying to do.”

“It is a really different way (of) coming into this competition for us,” Davis added about competing here after their performance at the Olympic Winter Games. “With all the excitement from the previous competition it’s been a little bit more challenging (for us) to focus on Worlds. But we’ve known we were coming to Worlds all season, so we are prepared for this.”

The duo exuded confidence and seemed to gain power and speed as the dance progressed through each segment. It seemed like it was over in an instance.

“We’ve put a lot of work into our compulsories this year to really step it up,” White added. “Conceivably this will be the last year of compulsories, so we really wanted to make it count and that definitely showed (for us) tonight (The compulsory dances may be eliminated by the governing body after this season).”

The fans went wild as two-time (2009, 2010) European silver medalists Federica Scali and Massimo Scali stepped on the ice for their Golden Waltz. Skating last the seven-time Italian Champions highlighted their dance with strong interpretation skills and long flowing movements.

“We felt even more pressure, because probably it is the last compulsory dance in the history of international events, but we did a good job and doing that in Italy is fantastic,” Scali told the press. “We are in good condition, and we enjoyed every step on the ice as it should be when you dance. It is important to have a strong beginning and third place with a personal best (score) is a perfect start.”

“The public helps you a lot in this situation,” Faiella added about the home country advantage. “It supports you, and makes you feel more confident. We danced very well today, now we have to keep our concentration and stay relaxed.”

Youngsters Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier were charming in their rendition of the Golden Waltz that earned the duo 33.22 points landing them in ninth place and 0.61 points ahead of their closest rival’s American Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates who currently are in tenth place with 32.61 points.

“We are very happy for making a season best (score). It’s amazing to do a compulsory dance, we really enjoyed it and so we hope the compulsory (dance) will remain,” Poirier said.

2009 American silver medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates remained upbeat on their performance.

“This is a seasons’ best score, so we are very happy,” Bates stated of their performance. “This is our second World Championship, and after coming eleventh at the Olympic Games, this is just the beginning, and we hope to do better in the future. This is our first time in Torino, and I am very excited because I love Italian culture, and I have also studied Italian,” he added.

Last minute replacements for Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, Americans Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre are in fourteenth place with 31.36 points.

The dance event continues Thursday with the skating of the original dance. This year’s theme is the folk dance.

Riding High After All These Years – Two-Time National Bronze Medalist Dan Hollander Finds His Niche in Life and Love

2009 proved to be a banner year for entertainer extraordinaire Dan Hollander, who lives and trains in Michigan. From skating and consulting with his career idol Scott Hamilton last summer, to his engagement to the love of his life Ashley Wyatt on New Year’s Eve, Hollander admits he is on top of the World.

When Hollander won his first of two United States bronze medals in 1996, he knew he was well on the path to success in the sport of figure skating. Making the World team for the first time and then placing tenth in Edmonton at the World Championships just seemed like icing on the cake. Despite a repeat bronze medal in 1997, Dan was unable to capitalize on the momentum he had built in 1996, and he struggled in the eligible ranks until 1999 when Dan bid his eligible career adieu.

So what was the problem with his amateur career?

In 1996 when Dan won the bronze medal, he caught the watchful eye of Tom Collins, owner and operator of the “Champions on Ice” tour. Collins invited Hollander to join his tour for fourteen shows in the summer of 1996. The then 23-year-old blossomed that summer. He became an instant hit with the audience and with Collins and his contract was expanded that summer to forty-seven shows. Returning to the restrictions of competitive skating was difficult for Dan, and he struggled with motivation and consistency.

It wasn’t until he joined the pro ranks that Hollander really hit his stride.

Entertainment and innovation are Hollander’s strong suit. Thinking outside of the box Dan went on and created brilliant routines which he performed with Champions on Ice until its close in 2008. He rapidly became an audience favorite, and wowed crowds throughout the U.S., with clever routines such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Elmer Fudd. Demand for his comedic routines soared, and he performed in a variety of shows such as Art on Ice, the Jimmy Fund, and the Elvis Stojko tour. He began teaching and doing seminars in 1998, and also made routine appearances each summer skating in the Sun Valley Ice Show. Since the close of Champions of Ice, Hollander has spent his entire summer in Sun Valley as a regular in their summer series.

Unbeknownst to Hollander, as he hopped into his Subaru Baja on June 18th for this year’s trip to Sun Valley — his life was about to change forever.

“On my way out to Sun Valley, I taught a seminar in Kansas City, MO. My friend Katie Holmes wanted to fix me up with one of her former students, Ashley Wyatt. Katie thought Ashley and I would get along well together, so she set up this kind of blind date for us,” Hollander told Skate Today.

“With Katie’s prompting, Ashley invited me to a modern dance/Cirque du Soliel type show my last night in Kansas City,” he added. “We had a great dinner and the show was good, but I was really surprised that the time went by so fast sitting outside Cold Stone eating ice cream for three hours! I really wasn’t expecting to meet someone, nor was I even looking.”

Hollander left as scheduled for Sun Valley the next day, but as he drove off his thoughts kept drifting towards the 30- year-old perky blond with the twinkling eyes. It was as if lightening struck, and he was mesmerized.

“I talked to her on my cell phone almost nonstop during the following two day drive to Sun Valley,” the 2000 American Open Champion recalled. “A week later she came to visit in Sun Valley, but ended up staying the whole summer. Suddenly, I realized I must not have been very popular in years past because I never had a social calendar. That all changed when Ashley showed up, and we were invited to go out every night with a variety of very cool people…. I was totally EXHAUSTED!”

During the summer Dan also learned of Scott Hamilton’s return to the ice and that he would be coming to Sun Valley to prepare for his comeback.

“I can’t tell you how excited I was to skate with my idol. Scott is the reason why I skate! And to skate with him for the first time in my life was just awesome,” he said jubilantly. “He was really nice when I met him, and he gave me a few pointers. I remember each time I would skate past Ashley and whisper, “Oh my god, did you see that, Scott Hamilton totally gave me a correction.…how cool is that???”

While driving home from Sun Valley at the end of the summer Hollander was shocked when he was asked to skate at Scott’s annual charity show.

“I remember I received a call from Steve Lindecke, the producer of Scott’s Cares Foundation show. He told me Scott wanted me to participate in his annual cancer benefit in November. When he asked me I was stunned, but I didn’t even hesitate for a second. I just immediately said ‘Yes’.”

“The show was amazing. I have never learned so much in so little time! We rehearsed seven hours the first day in preparation of the show. We slammed out four of the five routines we would perform in the show and then I sped off to have a costume fitting.”

“The day of the show it was like a whirlwind,” the 37-year-old explained. “We had to learn the fifth number on the floor since the trusses with all the lights was still on the ice. We skated only a few minutes on the ice while Cheap Trick had a sound check before the dress rehearsal, and before we knew it was showtime! It was so fast, and we had so much information to remember that nobody had time to be nervous! I had such a BLAST!!!!“

Hamilton and Hollander hit it off right from the start.

“When I met Dan this summer we spoke a lot and laughed a lot,” the 1984 Olympic Champion said chuckling. “While we were together in Sun Valley, Dan and I tossed around a lot of ideas. I wrote them down and as I was getting ready for my return, I flew Dan down to Nashville. We worked together for a few days, and he helped me with my shtick. He stayed at my house, and we had a great time working out the routine.”

“Dan is so creative,” Scott added. “I found we have a lot in common and we both like to make people laugh. He has a great comedic sense,” Hamilton explained of his choice to work with Hollander for his comeback.

Hamilton’s request meant the world to Hollander.

“I remember I was at Great Lakes shopping with Ashley when I called Scott,” Hollander told Skate Today.

“He had emailed me that he had a favor to ask and he wanted me to call him. Scott asked me to fly to Nashville for two days to choreograph his new comedy routine, “Everything Old is New Again,” which aired live on Thanksgiving Day on Kaleidoscope. Sure, I may have been calm and cool on the phone, but I was totally doing the happy dance in the store, much to everyone’s amusement.”

“While in Nashville, Scott asked me to help spot his first back-flip since his retirement. We were both taught by the same person, Michael Weiss’s dad. I was honored, he trusted me not to kill him! Scott was training like a maniac…. and it totally showed.”

“Working with Scott was so much fun,” Hollander said smiling. “I would give a basic outline, and he would expand on it, and then I would add to that. To have a video of us side by side doing the same routine is surreal,” the Michigan native added.

“We are just two short guys trying to make people smile,” Hamilton said, in summary. “Dan has a great work ethic and I look forward to doing something with him in the future.”

Dan has also succeeded in other avenues within skating. For example, he is using his comedic ability to produce fun video résumés for skaters. 26-year-old Alberto Martinez, who picked up skating in college, worked with Dan and created a video. Three days after posting his entertaining video online, Martinez landed a major role in an ice show in Singapore.

As 2009 came to a close Hollander had a surprise to share of his own. On New Year’s Eve with fireworks setting the backdrop the 37-year-old proposed to his girlfriend Ashley Wyatt.

“Ashley was performing in an ice show at Busch Gardens in Florida. I flew into Tampa for Ashley’s final show on New Year’s Eve with my father,” Hollander said of the surprise. “The show ended about 11:30 PM. Ashley and I gathered backstage with others for the cast party. At midnight the fireworks started and we all went into the main park to watch.

“I left Ashley for a second to get the box from my father, and then I walked her to a park bench. I became tongue-tied and stumbled through my words,” he recalled. “I then reached into my pocket to pull the box out of my tight jeans and as luck would have it, the box got stuck! The story of my life….always a comedy.”

Wyatt and Hollander plan to wed in the near future. They are entertaining the idea of tying the knot in Sun Valley, ID where it all began. They plan to live in Michigan. No date has been set as of yet.

Hollander will continue his work with Dan Hollander Productions: http://danhollander.com.

Photos courtesy of Dan Hollander

Davis and White Deliver the Goods and Head to Vancouver as America’s Number One Dancers

The packed house at Spokane Arena leapt to their feet before reigning Ice-Dance Champions Meryl Davis, 22 , and Charlie White, 22 , completed their final element of their “Phantom of the Opera” free dance — a level four rotational lift. Picking up a new personal best score of 108.76 points for their free dance the duo sailed to the top of the leader board with a competition total scire of 222.29 points and captured the gold medal.

Despite a misstep by Davis on the synchronized twizzles in their Indian-theme original dance, it was an instant hit with the crowd here in Spokane.

The program skated to the soundtrack from the movie “Devdas” by Nusret Badr was jam-packed with technical difficulty.

“It is a story based on an Indian folk tale about an Indian God, who is playing a flute to call the women in the village to him,” White told Skatetoday earlier this season.

With Davis donning a modified Ghagara choli and White outfitted in traditional Sheerwani garb the dancers portrayed an authentic Kathak dance from Northern India complete with hand gestures, that represented actual words.

“We worked with an Indian folk dancer that we found near where Charlie and I go to school in Arbor,” Meryl explained. “She worked a lot with us on our movement and on our hand gestures, and she helped us pick the music. Every gesture has a meaning. We wanted to make the program as authentic as possible. Our moms designed our costumes,” she added. They are based on designs we found in a magazine.“

Their opening mid-line non-touching steps were near-perfect, and they were awarded perfect GOE’s (Grades of Execution) from seven of the nine judges. The curve lift that followed was equally as strong, and again they were awarded seven +3 GOE’s for that element. Their circular steps were called level three by the technical panel and awarded mostly +2 GOE’s, but after the mistake on the synchronized twizzles their GOE’s ranged from 0 to +2.

“It wasn’t our best skate of our lives, but we’re happy,” White said of the performance. “But we’re happy. The crowd seemed to get into it and we went for the component scores and I think we accomplished that,” the reigning Champion added.

The attention paid to detail in this program is what has made this memorable. When their segment score of 68.11 points was combined with that of their compulsory dance score of 46.42 points they entered the free dance with a cushion of 1.62 points.

Their free dance was a masterpiece and was packed with passion and excitement. It engaged the audience from their opening move a level 3 combination spin to the perfect final rotational lift that received straight GOE’s of +3 from the judging panel.

Despite a one- point deduction for an extended lift the duo received perfect marks on three of the seven elements of the program to earn them, their second National Title and an Olympic berth in Vancouver.

“I think it’s a testament to our training and everything that we’ve put into skating in our 13 years,” White explained. “To come out at nationals and beat such an amazing team with the credentials that they have, is huge for us especially going into the Olympics. We’re going to take that (all in) and run with it.”

Their near-perfect component scores ranged from a low of 9.50 for linking footwork to a high of 9.75 for performance..

“Tanith and Ben are remarkable skaters, and they have done so much for ice dancing here in America,” White explained. “They have been excellent role models, and we admire them very much.”

The Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin , 25, and Benjamin Agosto, 28, were equally as gracious despite losing the title they held for five years (Belbin and Agosto missed the 2009 Championships due to Agosto’s back injury).

“Charlie and Meryl work very hard, and we could see when we were training with them how fast they were improving,” Agosto stated. “We knew then they would become a force in the world of ice dance.”

Belbin and Agosto showed improved power and strength in their Moldavian folk dance, which earned the four-time world medalists second place marks of 66.89 points. Their straight-line lift and synchronized twizzles were graded level four by the technical panel while there no touch midline steps and circular steps were awarded a level three. They skated with speed, but seemed to slow down on the footwork.

After words of Wisdom from their coach Gennodi Karponosov to “skate for the people, skate for yourself.” Belbin and Agosto stood at center ice.

The most decorated American ice dancers in history and the first to claim an Olympic ice dance medal in thirty-two years stepped it up in the free dance delivering a gracefull performance to “Ave Maria” and “Amen”. The performance was touching, but it lacked the engagement withf the audience that Davis and White had with “Phantom”.

The dramatic presentation was sure-footed and displayed some wonderful highlight moves, and the synchronized twizzles and rotational lift was superb.

It was the final national’s performance for Belbin and Agosto, one that earned them a silver medal with a world-class score of 218.51 points.

“We kind of went into this (competition) with more satisfaction,” Belbin said of their final national competition, “And I think that it can be misunderstood that we’ve lost some of that drive. We haven’t. We’ve just learned that there is always going to be more, and you are always going to want to improve. But we have to learn how to enjoy the process. That’s what we are doing this year for the first time ever (in our career) and it’s creating a poetic final season for us.”

After placing fourth in the compulsory dance the “Tango Romantica” Michigan University students Emily Samuelson, 19, and Evan Bates, 20 delivered a lively performance to a Dixie Chicks Medley.

The high-steppin folk dance was the perfect vehicle to express their personalities and strengths on the ice. The reigning national silver medalists had the audience in the palms of their hands within the first thirty seconds of the program.

Their well-matched lines, deep edges and toe-point is first-rate and the unison of their elements was spot-on. The choreography and attention to detail highlighted the performance and the 2008 World Junior Champions sparkled and lit-up the ice picking up 59.60 points en-route to a bronze medal.

“Let’s go Bates” was yelled by Charlie White from the Kiss ‘N Cry as his roommate Evan Bates and partner Emily Samuelson took to the ice for their free dance.

Skating to “Canto Della Terra” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli the Michigan based skaters exceeded their expectations and qualified for an ticket to Vancouver in February.

They managed five level four elements with positive GOE’s, but the midline steps were level three and the circular steps was declared a mere level two by the technical panel. They were awarded a segment score of 93.73 points for the free dance to claim the bronze medal overall with an event total of 190.69 points. The duo eclipsed fourth place finishers Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre by 4.27 points for the final berth on the 2010 Olympic Team.

“Watching the Olympics four years ago, we didn’t really think that 2010 was in the realm of a possibility,” Bates said. ” But then we progressed quicker than we thought we might have and success has come and now that we have made the team it seems very overwhelming.”

“This just seems so surreal,” Samuelson added. “We just feel honored to be part of this Olympic team.”

Kimberly Navarro, 28, and Brent Bommentre, 25, smashed their season’s best score by 17 points after an emotional free dance to “One” by U2 and Mary J. Blige — that left their coaches in tears.

Navarro and Bommentre were ranked third in the compulsory dance but slid to second in the original dance after Navarro struggled on a twizzle, but otherwise delivered three solid programs and are first alternates to the 2010 Olympic and World Championship teams.

2009 Junior World Champions Madison Chock, 16, was exquisite while performing with partner Greg Zuerlein, 21, to finish fifth in their debut at the senior level with 177.48 points. With eyes firmly focused on the Olympics in 2014 the duo makes rapid progress toward reaching their goal.

Brother and sister Madison Hubbell and Kieffer Hubbell also show great promise finishing sixth with 173.87 points.

Cohen Falls Short of Olympic Comeback — Flatt and Negasu Finish 1-2 to Claim Olympic Berth

On Saturday night Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen fell short of realizing her dream to compete in a third Olympic Games next month in Vancouver. Cohen tumbled to the ice on a triple flip and struggled with two-footed landings on most of her jumps. The reigning Olympic silver medalist finished fourth in the competition with an overall score of 184.70 points.

” I was disappointed with my free skate,” Cohen said. “It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I still enjoyed being out there and performing for the audience.”

Despite the mistakes the 2006 National Champion earned high marks for the elegance and the maturity she exhibits on the ice.

“I have no regrets,” she added. “I really enjoyed being back and seeing all the people I have known all my life. It was just great competing again, and I am proud I was able to come back and fight.”

On Thursday evening the twenty-five-year-old from Westwood, California earned a standing ovation after a stellar presentation to “Espana Cani” by Pascual Marquina, which earned her the second spot entering Saturday’s free skate with 69.63 points.

“This whole event has been incredible. It’s been a great challenge for me. I’m really happy to be here for this week and see so many familiar faces.”

The three-time World medalist has struggled with injury this season causing her to pull from her fall events. Having missed those competitions may have hindered her preparation.

“Right now I am a little bit tired. It was just really special for me to take this challenge this year. I had to train really hard and try and get back into great shape. You can’t control what happens. I just did my best with everyday.”

Cohen handled her defeat with the grace and poise she is known for on the ice.

“Just watching Rachael and Mirai, they are so great and US Figure Skating has so many young girls that are so strong. There wasn’t sadness and there wasn’t regrets. I am just really proud to be here again and proud of the U.S.”

Edging out Cohen for an Olympic berth, teenagers Rachael Flatt,. 17, of Del Mar, California and Mirai Negasu, 16, of Arcadia, California claimed the Gold and Silver, respectively and picked up their ticket to the Olympic Games next month in Vancouver.

“I’m very excited with how things went,” Flatt told the press. “I was a little shaky on the flip toe, but I thought I recovered well and the rest of my program was really strong. It is stressful I have to admit it, but I think I handled it very well. It was a great feeling. I am still shaking.”

Flatt a two-time US Silver medalist set herself up as the top American and will face-off against Korea’s Yu-Na Kim, Canada’s Joannie Rochette, and Japanese phenoms Mao Asada and Miki Ando for a podium placement in Vancouver.

What Flatt brings to the table is consistency. Should others falter, she will surely be there to pick up the slack.

“I think as I went through the program, I continued to get stronger. Right before my triple loop I felt a little weak and just decided to push through it.

Flatt skated a near-perfect program on Saturday, which included seven triple jumps and a strong triple flip/triple toe combination en-route to her first National Title. Her free skate score of 130.76 points smashed her previous record by almost 17 points.

“I think the most important thing for me was just taking the speed that I had gained throughout the program and continuing, and improving upon it,” Flatt explained. “It was a good program, but I still have things to work on.”

She shook her head in disbelief as the scores came up, and she saw she was indeed number one with an overall score of 200.11 points.

Negasu, who delivered a brilliant short program to enter the free skate in first place, slid behind Flatt on Saturday after three of her jumps were downgraded by the technical panel and was placed only third in the free skate.

Despite her under-rotation the 2008 National Champion dazzled the crowd with a strong presentation to “Carmen” by George Bizet which was awarded by a standing ovation and an overall score of 188.78 points.

“I was a little bit nervous going into long program,” Negasu explained. “This year I’ve been practicing a lot more longs than I have in the past few years. I’m proud of myself for getting 2nd and can see that I still have a lot to work on.”

Ashley Wagner who fell on a triple flip in her short program entered the free skate in fourth place. The eighteen-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia pulled up to be third overall to capture the bronze medal after placing second in the free skate.

The two-time Junior World bronze medalist delivered a technically packed program which included six triple jumps, two level four spins and a level four spiral step sequence to earn a new personal best free skate score of 122.15 points.

“It was a dream mindset for me and I pulled it off and I’m really happy with myself,” Wagner told the press.

Upstart Christina Gao finished a distant fifth with an overall score of 156.53 points. The fifteen-year-old competed on the senior level for the first time. She captured the bronze medal on the junior level last season and placed third in the Junior Grand Prix Final in Tokyo, earlier this season. The youngster hit five triple jumps, but received an edge call on the triple Lutz.

2009 US Champion Alissa Czisny settled for tenth after she produced an error-prone free skate where she appeared to battle nerves. 2009 bronze medalist Caroline Zhang delivered two uninspired programs to finish in a disastrous eleventh place.

Chan Claims Third Consecutive Canadian Title

World silver medalist Patrick Chan put out a strong performance to capture his third consecutive title on the final day of competition at the 2010 BMO Canadian Championships in London, Ontario.

The 20-year-old from Toronto, Ontario received record breaking scores to capture his ticket to Vancouver. Chan is Canada’s best hope for Olympic Gold and when he takes to the ice at the Pacific Coliseum next month, the hopes of the nation will weigh heavily on his shoulders.

He was awarded a personal best free skating score of 177.88 points for his performance to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. The score – somewhat inflated — is the highest on record and exceeds that of Daisuke Takahashi (Japan) who holds the international record of 175.84 points.

The quad less free skate was not flawless and the score appeared to be out of line. Chan turned out on his opening triple Axel and put a hand down on the triple flip/triple toe that followed. The rest of his elements was strong and his stellar straight line steps were awarded the rarely seen level four.

Despite the mistakes, the performance quality and musicality of the program is outstanding. His spins and footwork was woven into the nuances of the music.

New coach Kristy Krail and choreographer Lori Nichol were pleased with the program. He executed eight triple jumps including three combinations. His overall score of 268.02 points exceeded his closest competitor Vaughn Chipeur by 45.92 points.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Chan said while showing off his new Olympic jacket. “I think I’ll be sleeping with it tonight.”

Chan was not the only one with a astronomical score, silver medalist Vaughn Chipeur was awarded 143.23 points for his third ranked free skate. Putting that score in perspective, it would place sixth on the World scale just ahead of fellow Canadian World Champion Jeffrey Buttle.

Chipeur had the skate of his life to capture the second Olympic berth despite placing third in the free skate with an event total of 222.10 points. He edged fellow Canadian Kevin Reynolds, who put out a spectacular free program to “The Immigrant Song” and “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.

Chipeur skated with abandon and powered through seven triple jumps, which included two combinations. He executed three level four spins and two level three step sequences.

Reynolds delivered a technically superior program which included two quads and eight triple jumps. He managed two triple/ triple combinations and a triple flip/double toe/ double loop combination but was ranked only fifth on the component scores. His overall score of 216.49 points was enough to capture the bronze medal.

Reynolds, 19, of Coquiltam, B.C. was hoping to compete at home at the Olympics.

2008 bronze medalist Shawn Sawyer of Ste-Julie, Quebec had to settle for fourth place after the 24-year-old struggled on his opening triple Axel and his triple flip/triple toe combination. His spins were first-rate. His overall score was 210.35 points.

Joey Russell, 21, of Labrador, NL, dropped from third to fifth overall after he struggled on a planned triple Lutz/double toe combination and a triple flip/double toe combination. He accumulated an event total of 202.16 points.

Virtue and Moir Skate to Record Breaking Gold

As expected hometown heroes Tessa Virtue, 21, and Scott Moir, 23, stood on top of the leader board after a gripping performance to “Symphony No. 5” by Gustav Mahler which left the audience at John Labatt Centre in London standing on its feet.

The Canton based skaters who train under the tutelage of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, wowed the crowd with their fancy footwork and explosive lifts to capture their third consecutive Canadian Crown and secure a spot at upcoming Olympic Games in February – and did so in record-breaking style with a free dance worth 221.95 points.

“Vancouver will be the place to be and Tessa and I are really going to go for it,” Moir told the press. “We have been training really well, and we expect to be in top form. Four years ago we let the opportunity slip away from us, and I think that is what has motivated us this time around.”

“We are right where we want to be and our training is right on track,” Virtue added. “We have some room for improvement. Now we want to work on the performance. Making everything just a bit crisper,” she added.

The reigning World bronze medalists opened their program with a level four curve lift which moved nicely into the rotational lift that followed. They performed a combinations spin, synchronized twizzles and two risky lifts, all which were awarded a level four from the technical panel.

The straight-line lift – which has been coined “the Goose” has Virtue balancing on one skate on the small of his Moir’s back is awe-inspiring. However, the “Goose” may be cooked as the dismount has received much attention and the legality of the loop Virtue executes off Moir’s back questioned. To date, they have not received any deductions for the dismount, but have decided not to tempt fate.

“It’s just not worth the risk to find out in Vancouver that what we have been doing all season is illegal,” Moir stated.

Virtue now swings around Moir in the dismount and is caught in his arms. It is a blind entry.

“It’s more fun and I think more exciting,” she told the press. “I can’t see where I am going, but that’s the fun of it, I know he is going to be there to catch me.”

Virtue and Moir earned no less than +2 GOE (Grade of Execution) for any of their elements. The edge quality of their footwork was outstanding and their flow on the ice superb. The performance, the choreography and the interpretation was first – rate earning the Canadians component scores in the nine’s.

The three-time Canadian Champions exceeded their previous personal best score of 105.28 points, earning 107.82 points for their free dance and an overall score of 221.95 points.

“There was a lot of energy in the arena, and we were really trying to feed off that,” Moir said of skating at home. “It added a little bit of pressure for us today. We really wanted to go out there and give them something to stand up for.”

“I think we’re a strong skating nation, so even if we’re young I think we’re very competitive,” added Moir. “Our hearts go out for Andrew (Poje) and Kaitlyn (Weaver) (who missed the Olympic Team by less than a point), we were there four years ago, and we know how it feels. We believe it made us stronger skaters, and we wish the best for them.”

Vanessa Crone, 19, and Paul Poirier, 18, clung to the second spot by a mere 0.30 points after Crone had an uncharacteristic fall on their synchronized twizzle sequence, which nearly cost the youngsters who train at the Scarboro Figure Skating Club in Ontario. The duo sat crushed in the kiss and cry waiting for their marks believing their Olympic journey was over.

“Paul and I locked ourselves in a room in back…. We really thought we had given it away,” Crone told the press wiping tears from her eyes. “We didn’t know until our training mates (Kharis Ralph and Ashier Hill) came in and starting jumping on us. I was stunned.”

Despite the mistake Crone and Poirier received a personal best score of 89.93 points for their free dance and pulled up to second and capture their second consecutive silver medal with an overall score of 184.70 points . Skating as seniors for only the second competitive season Crone and Poirier have been on the fast-track to success.

Fall aside Crone and Poirier were seamless and delivered a sophisticated routine with complex choreography earning them high grades of execution from the judging panel. That and a slight misstep on the footwork sequence earned them a nod for the 2010 Olympic Team.

“Even if we didn’t get the spot, overall, we managed to achieve what we came to do,” Crone said. “And we were able to get the reaction from the crowd we were looking for. Our main goal was to get our presentation marks up. Since the Grand Prix Final, we have worked on bringing up the performance and make a connection with the audience….And that’s what we did tonight.”

“Of course we are thrilled to get the spot,” Poiriier said with excitement. “It just hasn’t sunk in yet.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ontario looked stunned when the scores came up, and they had dropped to third place and missed an Olympic Berth by a mere 0.30 points. Their free dance to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” was elegant, polished and skated very well. Their only error was a slight misstep by Poje on the footwork.

The audience at John Labatt seemed confused by the result.

2008 Junior Champions Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill finished a distant fourth with 170.84 points and 2008 Canadian bronze medalists Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno finished fifth with 168.31 points.

Rochette Reignites Her Competitve Fire to Rise to Sixth Canadian Title

World silver medalist Joannie Rochette took to the ice at John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario today like she was on a mission. Her eyes firmly planted on the Olympic ticket she worked four years to earn.

Rochette, 23, of Ile Dupas, Quebec who placed second to Cynthia Phaneuf in the short program, was determined to return to the Olympic Games as the number one woman in Canada. Being second just would not do even though an Olympic berth would still await her.

The Skate Canada Champion appeared tough as nails, and she delivered the program with the power and the fortitude that won her a World medal last season in Los Angeles. Her opening combination a triple Lutz/ double toe/ double loop had great spring and the triple flip and triple loop that followed were near-perfect. They earned +2 GOE’s (Grade of Execution from all eight judges. In all Rochette rocked seven clean triples, which included a triple toe + triple Salchow sequence.

“I don’t know why I was crying,” Rochette told the press. “It’s the sixth time I was going for this title. It seems like every year I’m more nervous about it. Even though I was qualified for the Games, it was really important for me to come here and do two strong performances.”

Rochette has never been just a jumper. Her spins and spirals were all first-rate and were graded level four by the technical panel. The Champion blew away her previous personal best by over 25 points. She won the title with a free program score of 144.08 points.

It has been a hard road for Rochette this season and some have criticized her for showing up to competitions unprepared, but today she silenced those critics. The demands of being a World contender, has not been easy for the Canadian Champion. Media’s requests are constant and public appearances have been overwhelming. Rarely does she have time to rest.

“The thing I learned in Torino that I will take with me to the Olympic Games is that you have to manage the demands placed on you, and you have to make sure that you have enough time to rest, Rochette stated. “After these championships I will go home for a few days and rest before I resume my training.”

“Yuna (Kim) is a definite contender, and you cannot rule out Mao Asada – her triple Axel is amazing and then there is Miki Ando also,” Rochette identified as her biggest competition.

When asked about Sasha Cohen the 23-year-old stated: “I got to tour with Sasha this summer, and I got to know her as a person. When Sasha competes, she is very focused and I really wish her the best of luck.”

2004 Canadian Champion Cynthia Phaneuf told the media she had no expectations of winning the Championship.

“My goal was to make the Olympic Team. The dream I have had since I was a small child,” Phaneuf said. Joannie is an amazing competitor and I expected her to fight back.”

“It was not that difficult to skate after Joannie. I knew she skated very well and I just tried to focus my thoughts.“

Even though Phaneuf did not win the Women’s title, she did win a battle.

In the past Phaneuf would have been consumed by the pressure and would have difficulty staying focused. Although her program was not as magical as her short program, when she made a mistake, she did not let it shake her confidence and crumble under the pressure.

Despite doubling her second jump a planned triple Lutz, Phaneuf fought back with a triple loop/ double toe combination and a triple flip. A second blip occured when she doubled a planned triple Salchow, but that did not deter her either. She refocused and delivered a strong double Axel and a triple toe/ double toe/ double loop combination.

Some thirty plus points behind Myriane Samson, 21, of St Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec finished third, despite a fourth place free skate worth 97.59 points.

Skating to “As Time Goes By” the 2004 Junior ladies champion produced four clean triples and a double Axel + double Axel sequence. She ran into problems when she under-rotated the front end of a planned triple loop + double toe combination and fell on a triple Lutz which took off from the wrong edge. Despite the mistakes, she delivered strong spins and spiral.

Samson racked up a competition score of 151.10 to capture the bronze medal.

Diane Szmiett placed third in the free skate with 100.28 points ,but fourth overall with a competition total of 148.47 points.

2009 Canadian bronze medalist Amelie Lacoste slipped to fifth place overall after a error-prone free skate worth 93.44 points.

Three-time Canadian silver medalist Mira Leung withdrew after placing fifteenth in the short program. No reason for the withdrawal was given.