Olson Leads Junior Ladies at North American Challenge Skate

by Juliet Newcomer
Kirsten Olson (with coach Tracy Keefer) leads the junior ladies event.

Event Results and Photos

(8/27/05) — Team USA kicked off the Kansas segment of the North American Challenge Skate with a great showing Friday. Following the short programs, six U.S. athletes were in medal position and many more in medal contention.

Novice Pairs
Caitlyn Yankowskas and Daniyel Cohen got the competition started with a clean program to music by Rodrigo. They completed side-by-side double Lutzes and a strong double twist along with good spins and footwork.

Meg Byrne and Nathan Bartholomay continued the strong skating with a nice forward inside death spiral, double Lutzes and good spins. Their only error was a slight collapse during the catch of their split double twist, but the rest of the program was good enough to pull them ahead of their teammates by a few tenths of a point.

Despite strong efforts by the U.S., more difficult lifts and spins completed by the Canadian teams left them holding the top four spots after the short program. Steza Foo and David Struthers hold the lead after a program that included a level three star lift, level three pairs combination spin and a level two straightline step sequence.

Molly and Christopher Schleicher, and Kalie Budvarson and Christopher Anders placed seventh and eighth respectively.

Novice Men
Skating first, Kelvin Vu opened his short program with a double Axel and continued his skate with a triple Salchow-double toe combination. He doubled his planned triple toe, but strong grades of execution and a level three flying sit spin helped place him in third.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh is in first after completing a clean program that included a triple loop, triple toe-double toe combination, double Axel and level two spins. He finished with the highest technical score of the day for the men.

Patrick Wong of Canada sits in second after the short program. Wong showed personality and musicality during his “Super Mario Brothers” program that included a level two step sequence, double Axel and triple toe-double toe combination.

Pulling double duty by competing in both novice pairs and novice men, Nathan Bartholomay showed no signs of fatigue during his short program, which included a triple flip-double toe combination, double Axel, and a fast, level two flying camel spin. His efforts were good enough for fourth after the short program.

The other three U.S. skaters, Richard Dornbush, Anthony Dang, and Kevin Sun, currently sit in fifth, tenth and 11th respectively.

Junior Pairs
The new team of Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz grabbed the junior pairs lead with a program highlighted by a huge throw triple loop – the only one in the event – along with level three spins and a level three star lift.

Katie Boxwell and Danny Curzon skated to Led Zeppelin's “Since I've Been Lovin' You” to finish in second. They also had a level three star lift and level three pairs combination spin, as well as a strong double twist, throw double loop and side-by-side double Lutzes.

Stephanie Valois and Jonathan Boudreau-Beland of Canada sit in third after their performance which included a level three double twist, level three forward inside death spiral with changes of position and hand hold, and level three spins. Slight problems on their side-by-side double Lutzes and unison problems on their side-by-side spins and straight line step sequence kept them from placing higher.

Skating last in the event, Lilly Pixley and John Salway hoped to join their fellow Team USA skaters at the top of the leaderboard. They completed a strong throw double loop, level three star lift and side-by-side double Lutzes, but a rough landing on a double twist and slight problems on the side-by-side spin left them slightly more than two points out of third.

Junior Ladies
The junior ladies finished the day with some beautiful skating. Kirsten Olson took the lead with an awesome short program. Nicknamed the “jumping shrimp” in her movie role in the “Ice Princess,” the 13-year-old showed that “spinning top” might be an even more appropriate nickname.

Olson completed a triple Salchow-double toe combination and double Axel, but it was her fast and intricate spins that really set her apart. She opened her program with a flying sit spin that had enough height to look as though it could clear the boards. Her layback and combination spin were also very strong, and all three earned level threes and positive grades of execution. Her only error was a two-footed landing on a triple Lutz attempt that was downgraded to a double.

Showing a maturity of presentation well beyond her 12 years, Caroline Zhang claimed second place. Her difficult spins displayed her flexibility and all earned level threes. Her spiral sequence was also a highlight, including a forward outside spiral in a full split, which changed into a forward inside spiral and then went into a forward Charlotte. Her double Axel was also strong, but her triple Lutz, and triple flip (completed in combination with a double loop) were both downgraded to doubles.

Mandy Valentine of Canada skated a strong program showing why she is the current Canadian junior ladies bronze medalist. She opened her program by singling her planned triple Lutz but recovered nicely to complete a triple loop-double loop combination out of traveling three-turns. She also had a level three spiral step sequence and two level three spins.

Melissa Bulanhagui was spending the hour before her event getting an emergency blade sharpening after she discovered in practice that she had no outside edge on her landing foot. By the time her warm-up started, though, the blades were fixed and she was ready to go.

Skating with speed and power, Bulanhagui opened with a triple Lutz out of footwork. She couldn't keep the momentum going, though, and fell on her other two jumps – the triple flip and the double Axel. Strong spins, a level three spiral sequence and an interesting program helped keep her in the top four.

Skating to “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini, Rachael Flatt displayed a lyrical style while completing a double Axel, a level three combination spin and a beautiful layback, but a fall on her triple flip and a downgrading of her triple Lutz to a double left her in sixth place.

The North American Challenge Skate event concludes Saturday.