US Nationals: Senior Recap

Mens:

What an event!  Ryan Bradley put together a clean short program complete with a quad and his signature personality weaved throughout to take the lead in the men’s event.  His free skate wasn’t pretty, including a miss on both of his quads but he hung on and even executed a Triple Axel + Triple toe combination to finish 4th in the free skate.  His scores were good enough to give him his first national title at 27 years of age.  He thought about retiring after last season and sat out the Grand Prix but was convinced to come back by fans.  At the press conference after the event he declared that he was open to making a run at the 2014 Olympic team.  These programs were not as well trained as they could have been, and if he can skate clean, he could place well at worlds.  With three quads he has the technical skills and he’s one of the best performers in the world.

Richard Dornbush is the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion and after a 7th place short program, he had an impressive outing of his Sherlock Holmes Free Skate and placed first in the segment and won the silver medal.  While many were predicting him to win a medal at Junior Worlds, he’ll instead be heading to Senior Worlds.  At both the JGP Final and Nationals his free skate was able to carry him to the top after a less than stellar short program.  His JGP Final scores put him amongst the top 10 in the world.  If he can clean up his short program, he could have a stellar debut at Worlds.

After skating on the Grand Prix for the first time, Ross Miner decided to go home and train harder.  He wanted to bring himself up to the level of the top skaters he was competing against.  These results paid off as he skated a gorgeous free program to edge out Jeremy Abbott for the bronze medal.    He has been named to the Worlds Team and will be competing in Tokyo in May.

Jeremy Abbott skated a beautiful short program full of passion and fire and put himself in a good position to defend his national title.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to keep it together in his free skate and was plagued with falls, downgrades, under-rotations and doubling of his jumps.  He finished only .19 behind Miner, but USFSA elected to send Miner to Worlds and Abbott to Four Continents in Taipei.  When he is on, he is truly one of the best male skaters out there today but he can’t always seem to get past his mental block.  He’ll be going up against the top Japanese men at 4Cs so he’ll have a chance to redeem himself there.

Adam Rippon had a disaster of a short program, including a fall on his signature Rippon Lutz.  He rebounded in his free skate to place 3rd in the segment and finish 5th overall.  I was especially impressed in how he refocused himself after a mistake on his opening jump combination and was able to go clean for the rest of the program.  He’s now had one bad short program (nationals) and one bad free skate (Skate America) so hopefully he can put this behind him and skate like he did at Skate America.  He’ll be skating at 4 Continents along with Armin Mahbahnoozadeh.

The trooper of the year award goes to Joshua Farris.  He finished 13th in the short program in his first senior nationals.  He tore a muscle in his leg practicing quads and then suffered an allergic reaction that kept him in the hospital almost all night the day before the free skate.  Then, during his free skate, he broke his ankle in the middle of the program.  He kept skating and went for all of his elements, including the triple jumps.  He has the rest of the season to heal and we’ll see him back on the Junior Grand Prix circuit next fall.

I had no correct exact predictions, but I picked two of the medal winners (Abbott and Bradley).

Ladies:

Alissa Csizny put together two clean programs to reclaim the national title she last won in 2009.  Her levels on her step sequences were greatly improved from her outings on the Grand Prix and her only mistake in the free skate was an under-rotated jump.  Reports from the arena were the crowd went silent because they were so captivated by her performance.  In the press conference, Alissa said this victory was sweeter and gave credit to her new coaches for believing in her when no one else did.  She’ll be competing at Four Continents where she’ll face off against the Japanese ladies again before taking on the world in Tokyo.  If Alissa skates like she has been for most of this season, she should land on the World podium in March.

Rachael Flatt debuted her new short program in Greensboro and Lori Nichol hit a home run on the choreography.  I’ve never seen Rachael so committed to her performance or so free in her movement as during her step sequence at the end of her East of Eden program.  I think this program really suits her and I’m interested to see how it’s received by the international judges.  Her spins have long been a weakness for her, and a Level 1 on her layback spin made the difference between being 1st or 3rd in the short program.  She’s working on some more difficult jump combinations for the next two competitions.  With a great new program and a renewed love of skating, Rachael looks ready to take on the world and attempt to win back three spots for US ladies at next years worlds.

Mirai Nagasu skated a clean short program to land in first place.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t keep it together and let her nerves take over.  She looked terrified before she started her free skate and it showed in her program.  She botched her flying sit spin so badly that she ended up receiving no credit for the element.  Frank Carroll revealed after the event that she didn’t start training seriously until a few weeks before Nationals.  In the press conference, Mirai was upset about not going to Worlds because she wanted to go to Japan to see her family.  I’m not sure how much her heart is into skating and while she can be a lovely skater, she doesn’t seem to be mature enough to handle the pressure of training and competition.  Hopefully she’ll do some soul searching before next season and decide what direction to take her career.

Agnes Zawadzki and Christina Gao both had solid outings to claim spots on the Junior Worlds team.  Agnes has struggled with her long program all season, and it was great to see her execute a good program here.  Christina has really grown up and matured since last season.  I think she’s still getting used to her new height, but she definitely is beginning to skate like Yuna Kim.  Both these young ladies have a bright future ahead of them and are armed with a full technical arsenal including triple-triple combinations.  They’ll take on the young Russian prodigies for spots on the Junior World Podium.

Ashley Wagner was battling the flu and wasn’t able to put out the two clean programs necessary to medal in this extremely competitive field.  She seemed to have a good attitude after the event, and hopefully we’ll see her next year, healthy and fighting for a spot on the World team.

Vanessa Lam who won her only JGP assignment this season and Yasmin Siraj, the youngest senior competitor, finished 7th and 8th at their first senior nationals.

I had one exact prediction (Alissa won gold) and picked 3 out of the 4 medalists (Alissa, Mirai and Rachael).

Pairs:

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin had the arena and the television in audience in tears after their moving free skate to Ave Maria, a tribute to John’s mother Stacy who passed away last February.  Besides their amazing emotional performance, they solidly executed all of their elements to finish 1st in both segments and earn their first trip to Worlds.  I have been impressed with this team for several years and it was nice to see everything come together for them in such a trying year.  They also won their first Grand Prix medal this season and I think their programs can carry them to the podium at 4 Continents as well.

Evora and Ladwig debuted their new short program here and it seems to suit their personalities much better and the judges agreed.  They showed off their signature lifts in the free skate and won their second consecutive silver medal.  If both of these teams skate their best at Worlds, there is a small chance that the United States could earn a 3rd pairs slot for next years Worlds.

Denney and Barrett were able to rebound from the mistakes in their short program and only erred on the side by side double axels in their free skate to claim the silver medal.  They have now won a medal at nationals in each of their three seasons together.  They’ll be heading to Four Continents but not Worlds.

Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker have only been skating together for a few months but already showed some of the maturity and polish of the top teams.  I can’t wait to see what they look like next season with more training under their belt and some international assignments.  They finished 4th in their first competition.

Castelli and Shnapir had some troubles in both their skates but still finished 5th overall.

I had 1 exact prediction (Yankowskas and Coughlin won gold) and picked 3/4 of the medalists (Yankowskas/Coughlin, Evora/Ladwig, Denney/Barrett)

Dance:

While the final results were what many predicted, the dance event was still full of surprises.  Davis and White won their third consecutive national title.  They received Level 3s and 4s on all the elements in their free dance with all positive GOEs.  Their free dance was full of difficulty and passion and their program showed all the potential of being a world championship winning program.

The Shibutanis were absolutely charming in both of their programs and performed with maturity beyond their years.  They finished only 6 points behind Davis and White in the short program and beat them on the technical score in the free skate.  They also received all Level 3s and 4s and positive GOES on their program.  They looked like completely different skaters than on the Grand Prix, where they already shined as the only team to win two medals in their senior debut.  If they continue their growth and perform like they did at nationals they should have a great debut at senior worlds and it won’t be long before they’re on the medal podium at Worlds and possibly even passing up their training mates.

While Chock and Zuerlein had two solid programs, they fell far behind the rest of Team Canton, nearly 20 points out of second place.  They had similar scores as the Shibutanis on the Grand Prix and their programs were cleaner here than on the Grand Prix.  I don’t particularly love their short dance, but their free dance is phenomenal and they completely embrace their roles and put on a great performance.

The Hubbells were able to grab the pewter medal after an unusual fall by Kriengkrairut/Giuletti-Schmitt in the free dance.  Cannuscio and Lorello had a good senior debut to finish 6th.

I had three exact predictions (gold-bronze medals) and picked 3/4 medalists.

Overall: I had 5 exact predictions and picked 11/16 of the medalists.  My USFSA Fantasy Team finished 6th.