Smart Ones Skate America Ready to Kick Off in Pittsburgh

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

Skate America Event Details

(10/12/04) - With just over one week to go, a world-class field of figure skaters is set to converge on Pittsburgh, Pa., to compete in Smart Ones Skate America, Oct. 21-24. Sanctioned by the ISU and U.S. Figure Skating, Skate America will attract a total of more than 60 athletes from 16 different countries competing in each of the sport's four disciplines ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing.

Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena will serve as the host venue for the four-day competition, which will feature the new ISU judging system. Under the new system, points are awarded for a technical score combined with points awarded for five additional components - skating skills, transitions, performance/execution, choreography/composition and interpretation.

The Grand Prix Series consists of eight international events in a cumulative point-scoring format. Each athlete is eligible to score points in two of the eight scheduled events. The top eight point-earners in each of the disciplines then qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China, Dec. 16-19. Athletes will be vying for a total of $180,000 at Skate America and $1.35 million in prize money throughout the series and the Grand Prix Final.

Ladies
Skate America will feature a strong U.S. lineup including 11 entries and 17 athletes. Leading up the ladies division is reigning World silver medalist Sasha Cohen (New York, N.Y.), who won the ladies event at Skate America in 2003 and will look to reclaim her title. She will be joined by Angela Nikodinov (San Pedro, Calif.), who first competed at Skate America in 1997, placing fourth. In her four visits to the event she has won one medal, a bronze in 1998.

The top challengers to the U.S. lineup include 2004 World Junior champion Miki Ando of Japan, as well as the Ukraine's Elena Liashenko, the 2004 European silver medalist and four-time Ukrainian national champion.

Men
The U.S. men will be led by three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss (Fairfax, Va.). The two-time World bronze medalist is defending his title from 2003 Skate America and will make his seventh appearance at the event. Joining Weiss in Pittsburgh is 2003 U.S. fourth-place finisher Ryan Jahnke of Colorado Springs, Colo. Jahnke will look to improve on his 12th-place finish at 2003 Skate America. Completing the U.S. men's team is Evan Lysacek (Naperville, Ill.) in his first year on the Grand Prix circuit as a senior. In 2003 Lysacek claimed the Junior Grand Prix Final title before winning silver at the World Junior Championships and taking fifth at the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a senior.

The top international competitors to watch in the men's field include two medalists from the 2004 World Championships: Brian Joubert of France who took the silver, and Stefan Lindemann of Germany who took the bronze.

Pairs
In the pairs competition, the U.S. will be represented by three entries including 2004 U.S. champions Rena Inoue & John Baldwin (Santa Monica, Calif.), who are making their Skate America debut this year. In 2003 they placed fifth and fourth at their Grand Prix Series events, Cup of China and NHK Trophy, respectively. Also set to compete for the U.S. are 2004 U.S. silver medalists Katie Orscher (Glastonbury, Conn.) & Garrett Lucash (Granby, Conn.), who will compete in their third Skate America, looking to improve on their eighth-place finish in 2003. Rounding out the U.S. lineup in pairs are Jennifer Don (Sugar Land, Texas) & Jonathan Hunt (Rochester, Mich.), fourth-place finishers from the 2004 U.S. Championships. This is the pair's first season on the Grand Prix circuit at the senior level.

Top international competitors include 2004 World champions Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin of Russia, who won Skate America in 2002. Two medalists from 2003 Skate America will compete again, Russia's Maria Petrova & Alexei Tikhonov, who won the silver, and China's Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang, who won the bronze.

Ice Dancing
In the ice dancing competition, the U.S. will be represented by 2004 U.S. ice dancing champions Tanith Belbin (Kirkland, Quebec, Canada) & Ben Agosto (Chicago, Ill.). The reigning Skate America champions had a stellar 2003-2004 season, placing third at the Grand Prix Final, first at Four Continents and fifth at the World Championships. Also competing are U.S. bronze medalists Loren Galler-Rabinowitz (Brookline, Mass.) & David Mitchell (Cortland, N.Y.). Rounding out the U.S. team are Kendra Goodwin (Randolph, N.J.) & Brent Bommentre (Hatboro Horsham and Jenkintown, Pa.), who in their first season together placed fourth at the U.S. Championships.

Leading the international dance teams are Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov of Ukraine and Galit Chait & Sergei Sakhnovsky of Israel who finished fourth and seventh respectively at the 2004 World Championships.

2004 Skate America will showcase Pittsburgh in two weekends of national coverage on ABC. The event is scheduled to be broadcast on Oct. 24 from 1-3 p.m. (ABC), Oct. 25 from 8:30-11 p.m. (ESPN2), and Oct. 31 from 1-2 p.m. (ABC).

The remaining events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series are:
Skate Canada: Halifax, Canada - Oct. 28-31
NHK Trophy: Nagoya, Japan - Nov. 4-7
Cup of China: Beijing, China - Nov. 11-14
Trophée Eric Bompard Cachemire: Paris, France - Nov. 19-21
Cup of Russia: Moscow, Russia - Nov. 25-28
ISU Grand Prix Final: Beijing, China - Dec. 16-19

Skate America List of Competitors

Ladies
Miki Ando, JPN
Anne-Sophie Calvez, FRA
Sasha Cohen, USA
Alissa Czisny, USA
Idora Hegel, CRO
Elena Liashenko, UKR
Miriam Manzano, AUS
Angela Nikodinov, USA
Yukina Ota, JPN
Cynthia Phaneuf, CAN
Susanna Poykio, FIN
Fan Zhang, CHN

Men

Ben Ferreira, CAN
Nicholas Young, CAN
Ryan Jahnke, USA
Brian Joubert, FRA
Stefan Lindemann, GER
Roman Serov, ISR
Evan Lysacek, USA
Vakhtang Murvanidze, GEO
Alexander Shubin, RUS
Lun Song, CHN
Michael Weiss, USA

Pairs
Yang Ding/Zhongfei Ren, CHN
Jennifer Don/Jonathon Hunt,USA
Rena Inoue/John Baldwin, USA
Julia Obertas/Sergei Slavnov, RUS
Katie Orscher/Garrett Lucash, USA
Maria Petrova/Alexei Tikhonov, RUS
Elizabeth Putnam/Sean Wirtz, CAN
Julia Shapiro/Vadim Akolzin, ISR
Tatiana Totmianina/Maxim Marinin, RUS
Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang, CHN

Ice Dancing
Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto, USA
Eve Bentley/Cedric Pernet, FRA
Galit Chait/Sergei Sakhnovsky, ISR
Loren Galler-Rabinowitz/David Mitchell, USA
Julia Golovina/Oleg Voiko, UKR
Kendra Goodwin/Brent Bommentre, USA
Alexandra Kauc/Michal Zych, POL
Svetlana Kulikova/Vitali Novikov, RUS
Sinead Kerr/John Kerr, GBR
Elena Romanovskaya/Alexander Grachev, RUS
Megan Wing/Aaron Lowe, CAN