Sandra Jean Rucker Shines Through for Junior Ladies Gold

by Amy Partain
Sandra Jean Rucker,
photo by Michelle Harvath

Junior Ladies Free Skate and Final Results
Junior Ladies Free Skate Photos
All Event Results and Photos

(1/12/05) — Focus. The one word described the performances for the junior ladies free skate at the 2005 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday. The winner had it. The bronze medalist lost it, and then recovered. It proved that a lot of skating is mental.

Sandra Jean Rucker (All Year FSC) has spent most of the week in her room visualizing her programs. It may not sound that exciting, but that focus paid off this year with a gold medal.

Her free skate was not perfect, but it allowed her to hold on for victory. She fell on her triple flip and put her hand down on her triple Lutz. Otherwise the program was solid and conatined three clean triples, including a triple Salchow-double toe combination and a double Axel.

“I felt focused, really mentally and physically prepared this year and confident in my programs,” Rucker said. She credits that focus and being healthy all season with success this year. Last year Rucker said a strained hip kept her off the ice. She fifth at the 2004 Southwest Pacific Regional and failed to qualify for the U.S. Championships.

Now Rucker looks forward to skating in the exhibition on Sunday.

“It's going to be amazing — the big crowd and doing a show program,” she said. “I've been waiting for this for so long.”

Christine Zukowski moved up a spot from the short program to win the silver medal. The goal this year for last's year novice champion was to place in the top three, so she was pleased. She fought for the landing of her first jump, a double Axel, then stuck her next five jumps including a triple Lutz-double toe, triple toe-double toe and triple Salchow, before falling on her last jump, a triple Lutz.

“I felt good going out,” Zukowski said. “I rushed some things and could've landed the last Lutz but I didn't check it.”

Zukowski and her coach Jeff DiGregorio have already decided that she will move to the senior level next year.

Megan Oster was second going into the free skate, which is exactly where she wanted to be. Coming into the U.S. Championships her goal was to finish in the top two. But loss of focus in the middle of her program resulted in three missed jumps, and she finished with a bronze medal. She completed two combinations — a triple toe-triple toe and a triple Lutz-double toe — before falling on the triple flip and singling her loop and Lutz. But she fought for the program, regained focus and completed a double Axel and triple Salchow-double toe.

“I lost focus because I was so excited after I did my first two jumps,” Oster said. “But I regained my focus because I knew I had to have those last two jumps to medal.”

Oster wants to move to the senior level next year, but coach Denise Myers said they haven't made a final decision.

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