Sokolova Back in Form at Smart Ones Skate Americaby Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Photo by Paul Harvath
(10/21/05) - The ladies competition at Smart Ones Skate America at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City opened Friday night with the short program. 2003 World silver medallist Elena Sokolova stands in first with 57.94 points. Japan's Yoshie Onda is second with 53.90 and American Alissa Czisny is third with 52.82. Her teammate, Bebe Liang is fourth (47.54), and Emily Hughes is eighth (38.74).
Sokolova powered through her program to Puccini's “Turnadot,” landing all her jumps confidently. The main weakness was her layback, with her free leg not turned out, although she did grab her blade in the latter half of the spin for a higher level. Her elements were mostly level three, with a four on her change foot combination spin. On her way to meet the media, Sokolova stopped to look at the results monitor.
"As for me, all levels should be level four!" she laughed.
Asked how she felt after her performance, Sokolova declared she felt "hot!"
“It's a warm ice rink and warm public,” she said. “It's a little hard to breathe at the end of the program.”
After a disappointing 2004-2005 season that followed the successes in 2003, Sokolova opened her Olympic competitive run with an appearance that is right on track.
“I think I did the best I can do right now,” she said, “but I'm satisfied with today's program.”
Yoshie Onda, skating to “Madame Bovary,” opened with her triple Lutz-double toe and followed that with a triple flip. Her spiral sequence started a bit wobbly, but she got it back on track. At the end of her final spin, she thrust her arms up in celebration.
“I think it was a good start,” Onda said. “I was nervous. I have one more program, and I think I'll be nervous until then.”
As a last-minute replacement for the ailing Sasha Cohen, Czisny did not even practice in Boardwalk Hall until this afternoon.
“I got home from school Monday night and my coach called and said ‘we're going to Skate America!'” Czisny said.
The short notice did not seem to affect her.
Czisny sailed through her first three elements (flying sit spin, triple Lutz-double toe and double Axel) before a fluky problem on the usually standout portion of her program, the spiral sequence. She was unable to get her leg extended and finally yanked it up in the air and received the level four with a .40 GOE. After this, she nearly sat down on her triple flip, but it was not counted as a fall so she did not receive the mandatory 1.0 deduction.
“It was pretty good,” she said. “I was a little embarrassed about the spiral sequence.”
Skating last, Bebe Liang skated a relatively clean program to “Firedance,” save for a fall on her triple flip.
“From my first competition (Nebelhorn) it's better,” Liang said. “I'm enjoying my skating more. I think this performance is a big step for me.”
“Each time she goes out there, she's gaining ground,” her coach, Ken Congemi, added.
Emily Hughes' performance was not one she'd like to repeat. After opening with a triple flip, she set up for her intended triple Lutz combination. She dragged her foot on the ice and wasn't able to get up in the air, doing two turns on the ice before trying to salvage something. She went up for a triple toe and came down in a heap. The element was called a “2T + combo” by the technical specialist and was given a value of .30. Hughes' layback spin was entered from a back Charlotte, the only woman to attempt this unique move. Unfortunately, her double Axel crashed, leaving Hughes with a mandatory two point deduction on top of the lower technical scores.
Although this is Hughes' first Grand Prix event, she handled the media like a pro.
“It started off well,” Hughes laughed. “I feel like I'm an overall better skater, and I try to get better and better every time I go out there on the ice. This program really wasn't the one I wanted to do, but I think I've improved and I want to improve more.”
Hughes is back in shape after a serious bout of viral meningitis in August. She was in the hospital for nearly a week and wasn't training for about a month.