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Nikodinov Captures Gold at Smart Ones Skate Americaby Amy Partain
Photo by Michelle Harvath
(10/23/04) - Before this competition Angela Nikodinov hadn't competed in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series for two years. Now she is back with a vengeance.
Saturday night she won the ladies event at 2004 Smart Ones Skate America in Pittsburgh, Pa. While she didn't skate a completely clean program, Nikodinov said she was pleased with the event as a start to this season.
"After not being in the Grand Prix for two years, I came in with more of a can-do attitude," she said. "I have nothing to lose because I have to re-establish myself at the World level."
Nikodinov's free skate started off strong with her landing a double Axel-triple toe sequence and a triple Lutz-double toe combo. But she struggled with the last two jumps in the program, doubling a planned triple toe and singling a planned double Axel. She landed four triples overall.
In the past Nikodinov has fought with the mental side of the sport. But she said Saturday that the problems at the end of her program weren't mental, but physical.
"For the end of the program I need to be in better physical shape," she said. "And I need to get to know the program better. I've only had the program for about a month."
Nikodinov skated to Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet."
The other two ladies in the top three also struggled with jumps in the free skate. Canada's Cynthia Phaneuf won the silver after struggling with her first two jumps. She popped her first Lutz, which was a planned triple Lutz-triple toe with a sequence. Then she popped her next element, a planned triple flip. After that her program smoothed out and she completed four triples, including a triple Lutz-double toe, triple loop and triple Salchow.
"I was pretty nervous," Phaneuf said. "I need to work on my focus."
Japan's Miki Ando fell on her quad Salchow attempt, which was scored by the judges as a triple Salchow with a -3 grade of execution. The quad Salchow attempt was Ando's second element in the program. Later in the program Ando also fell on her triple Lutz. She finished sixth in the free skate, but her first place finish in the short program secured her the bronze medal.
At a press conference following the competition she was visibly upset.
"Today I strongly regret that I couldn't do what I tried to accomplish," she said. "It was partly pressure and partly a weakness in my emotion."
Alissa Czisny, a late U.S. addition to the competition, finished fourth overall after finishing fourth in the free skate. She was tied for third with Phaneuf after the short program.
"It was not as good as at regionals, so I was a little disappointed in that," Czisny said. "But I fought for everything and tried to stay focused on what I had to do."