U.S. Nationals
Portland, Oregon January 9-16, 2005

Part I

Text & photos © Kristina Ziegler

 


Although I have watched the US Nationals on television all my life, this was my first time ever attending the event. This may be surprising to many in Europe and elsewhere, but you have to truly understand the geographic size of the US to know that this isn’t really all that unusual. When the Championships were announced three years prior for Portland, Oregon, I bought my tickets right away. Now, however, I think I am “hooked,” as I also now have tickets for the next two years!

I live about 185 miles, or a 3 ½ hour drive from the city of Portland, and I stayed at my sister-in-law’s house about 18 miles from the arena. Portland in the winter is generally mild – pansies grow in January – and it usually rains a lot there. The ice storm that hit the city on the final Friday night was not unusual, however, as there is usually one bad ice storm per year there. Fortunately, my husband got us a hotel room downtown at that point, so that I didn’t have to miss a thing! On Saturday morning I took the tram to the arena in the freezing rain, while the streets were a literal “sheet of ice.”

A truly wonderful thing about the Nationals being here was that the two ice arenas, the Rose Garden and the Memorial Coliseum, were literally just steps apart from each other. Perhaps 100 yards. So it was easy to go back and forth. As opposed to next year, when the two arenas will be a 25-mile bus ride away. I noticed that some of the spectators tended to go to watch every competitive event at each level, while others tended to watch the Senior skaters, whether they were competing or practicing. I tended towards the second group. The first thing I noticed when I looked at the schedule was that there were always two things going on at the same time, from about 7.00 to 23.00, every day. Senior, junior, and novice levels compete at these Championships, plus practices are open to those with all-event tickets. I knew I would have to try to pace myself, so I skipped the first Saturday of novice practices entirely.

 

Overall Impressions


Dance


I cannot comment on any of the Novice Dance, as I did not attend any of it.

Junior Dance – I watched the Junior Original Dance, and was generally quite impressed with the level of skating here. The use of the rhythms was quite appropriate, good unison among many of the couples, costumes (thankfully) not over-the-top! US ice dance is finally on its way!

Senior Dance – Throughout this event, there were couples 3-13, then there were Gregory and Petukhov far above them in quality, then there were Belbin and Agosto doing an entirely different sport from the others.

The compulsory dance was the Midnight Blues, and already Belbin and Agosto shone. I don’t recall ever watching a compulsory dance that was so “not compulsory” anything, and a true dance. They received the first and only 6.0 awarded at US Nationals in a compulsory dance, and they fully deserved it. The surprise of the event, starting with the compulsory dance, was Stiegler and Magerovsky, a new couple in their first year of dance together. Tiffany Stiegler was a former pairs skater with her brother Johnny Stiegler; they had to quit skating together several years ago after a promising career at the Junior level due to her physical growth. Just last summer, she took and passed all of her dance tests to compete at Nationals this year. They came in 4th in the compulsory dance. To my eyes, they look like a beautiful couple, great line, good unison, but lacking somewhat in difficulty in their steps in their OD and FD.

The couple I was really taken with during practices was Matthews and Zavozin. Both very young, they had just won the Junior Grand Prix Final. They had a great deal of speed, a great deal of chemistry, and lots of energy. Unfortunately, their competition didn’t quite live up to their practices, perhaps nerves? I am looking forward to seeing much more of them in the future.

Another rather interesting thing happened during the Sr. OD practice – one of the ladies tripped and actually fell completely outside of the boards! She was unhurt.


Original Dance – I loved Goodwin and Bommentre’s OD, and would have seen them placed higher, in spite of a few small mistakes. Gregory and Petukhov had a few minor bobbles but were still lots of fun. Manon and O’Meara skate with a lot of polish for another relatively new team, but I have difficulty finding their personalities coming through to relate to. Belbin and Agosto skated with such supreme confidence, incredible speed, relating to each other and the audience, fun and beauty all together – there just aren’t enough words to describe this OD. Four more 6.0’s, again the most ever given in the US Nationals for an OD!

Free Dance – There were few shifts in placements from one section of the competition to another. Matthews and Zavozin did move up to 5th place overall, to my delight. (To be replaced later by chagrin when their FD was not broadcast on ABC.) Gregory and Petukhov again seemed to have some slight troubles, but still firmly deserved their placement. Belbin and Agosto’s FD was the highlight of the Championships in so many ways, and there wasn’t a person in their seats at the end. Their string of 9 6.0’s for presentation, well the crowd roared, Tanith jumped up and down, and it was all deserved. I know that many people believe that there were too many 6.0’s given out at these Championships, although it was to be expected that with the final time using this system this would happen, just as at Dortmund Worlds. However, if 6.0’s are showing ranking, there was no other way to judge the huge differences between Belbin and Agosto and the rest of this field. This was the only time in the history of US Nationals that anyone has ever received 9 6.0’s for presentation, as both Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano had each once received 8 out of 9 previously.

 

Final Standings:
1) Belbin and Agosto
2) Gregory and Petukhov
3) Manon and O’Meara
4) Stiegler and Magerovsky
5) Matthews and Zavozin
6) Goodwin and Bommentre
7) Slattery and Lee
8) Rey and Rey
9) Evans and O’Keefe
10) Ellis and Ross-Frye
11) Allapach and Westenberger
12) Palmer and Stucke (the hometown favorites – from Portland, Oregon – first year at Sr. level)
13) Cheli and Clark

This gives Igor Shpilband three of the top four teams.

 

Pairs

Again, I didn’t see any of the novice pairs.

Jr. Pairs – I attended the Jr. Pairs Free Skate. I was really looking forward to this event, with several teams who had done well on the Jr. Grand Prix circuit, however; two of those teams were competing here at the Sr. level. No one really stood out that much to me, and there was a distinct lack of side-by-side triple jumps attempted at this level. In spite of that lack, there was a lot more “staying upright” than we usually see with our Sr. Pairs.

Sr. Pairs – At last a US Nationals where the pairs who won deserved to win, rather than just being those who fell the least! Orscher and Lucash were “on” for both their SP and FS. They skated with fire, passion, and conviction, and in spite of Katie’s fall on the throw in the SP, they were the class of the field in both events. They received a full standing ovation, richly deserved, for their FS.

On the other hand, Inoue and Baldwin were very good but somewhat tentative in comparison in both events. The side-by-side triple lutz’s were not successful, as John doubled his each time. Their FS is beautifully choreographed and very sensitive, as well as being packed with difficulty.

Hinzmann and Parchem have a lot of promise. They are still a relatively new team. Jennifer Don had come to this competition competing both in pairs and ladies. After the SP in ladies, she dropped out of that discipline to focus on pairs. Scott and Dulebohn, although reportedly strong in practice, had two terrible skates. They will probably never be able to regain the Nationals podium.


Final Standings:
1) Orscher and Lucash
2) Inoue and Baldwin
3) Hinzmann and Parchem
4) Scott and Dulebohn
5) Evora and Ladwig
6) Don and Hunt
7) Castile and Okolski
8) B. Vise and Kole
9) T. Vise and Trent
10) Jordan and Barrett
11) Appel and Harris
12) Kuban and Ibarra
13) Burns and Leftheris
14) Beriau and Gazzola
15) Simm and Mathews

 

For Ladies, Men and the Exhibition, read part II.






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