Ice Network

Great expectations: Hicks aims for U.S. podium

California skater has high praise for Cassar-choreographed programs
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One cannot accuse Courtney Hicks of playing it safe this season: In her programs, she will be portraying a phoenix (short) and a woman who goes insane (free). -Getty Images

The West Coast has always attracted bright individuals seeking to fulfull their ambitious plans. Recall the history of Hollywood, which has attracted stars of cinema from around the world. Sport is no exception to this sunny region.

If we can say with a confidence that Michigan is now a kind of capital of ice dancing in the U.S., then California aspires to be the capital of American ladies singles skating. Such athletes as Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds and Ashley Wagner live and train in the Golden State.

Add to this list Courtney Hicks, an 18-year-old from Chino Hills, California. This talented woman made the U.S. podium in 2013, finishing fourth, and placed sixth in 2014. In this new season, she is set on taking her place among the elite.

Last season, she won the title at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, finishing ahead of national-champion-to-be Gold. She also won the 2013 Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria.

She started the new season at the 2014 Glacier Falls Summer Classic a couple of weeks ago, presenting fresh programs and taking third overall. Hicks has two Grand Prix assignments this fall, Skate Canada and Trophée Éric Bompard.

Icenetwork talked with Hicks about her first competition of the season, the details of her new programs and improvements she worked on during the summer.

Icenetwork: You started the season at Glacier Falls. How did that go for you?

Hicks: I was pretty happy with my performance there. I was dealing with some skate issues going in, which I didn't know about until the short program. Overall, though, I thought it was a decent start to my season, and I'm about where I need to be for August. I've got a good foundation to build on.

Icenetwork: You tweeted that you received a lot of useful feedback and advice there. What did you learn?

Hicks: I just learned a lot of things about how patterns and jump entrances work in the program. Glacier Falls was really helpful because it was the first competition of the season for me, so I got to see how the program works when I'm under pressure. I also figured out how the patterns and the jump order works, and whether me and my coaches need to make any changes.

Icenetwork: How's your preparation for the new season going in general?

Hicks: This summer has been going extremely well for me. Earlier in the year, I switched to Jackson skates, and I've found that it's made my skating and my jumps so much better! Other than that, I've just been fine-tuning my jumps and focusing on technique, rather than focusing on how the jumps feel. Overall, this summer and training season is going smoothly, and I'm really happy with my progress. 

Icenetwork: Are there any improvements you have worked on the most during this offseason?

Hicks: I've been working really hard on my skating skills and my performance. In June, I went to Detroit for a week to work with Tanith Belbin, and I've been trying to push my performance and movement during my run-throughs. I've also worked on my jump ratios and my mental strength.

Icenetwork: You got two Grand Prix assignments. Are you happy with your assignments? What do you expect from yourself in Canada and France?

Hicks: I'm extremely happy with my assignments, and I'm so grateful for them! I'm looking forward to skating my best and holding nothing back in my performances.

Icenetwork: Last year, you won the Ice Challenge in Austria. Do you plan to take part in that event again or in a similar competition this season?

Hicks: At this point, I am only scheduled to compete in Salt Lake City for the U.S. International Classic. I would love to go back to Graz for the Ice Challenge again, though!

Icenetwork: The last two seasons you finished outside the top three at the U.S. championships. Do you have any particular goals in mind for this year's event?

Hicks: I plan to be on the podium this year. I want to do everything that I need to do to improve my skating and my programs, and being close the past two years has made me want it even more.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your new programs and the process of creating them.

Hicks: Jonathan Cassar choreographed both of my programs again this season. Both programs are totally different from anything that I've had in the past, and I absolutely love them. Now that this is my second season working with Jonathan, we've been able to develop two programs that have really transformed my skating in the best possible way.

My short program is set to "Code Name Vivaldi" by The Piano Guys. The story behind the choreography was inspired by a dream about a phoenix that is on the brink of extinction. She is the last of her kind, and she just wants to soar free. The program follows the story of the phoenix as she faces a world torn by famine, war and greed, while being pursued by scientists, poachers and predators. The program builds and builds, until finally the phoenix finds sanctuary on the edge of the tallest cliff, far out of reach of those who want to capture her. The end of the program is a reflection of the bird soaring and realizing the beauty around her on her mountaintop. I love this program because it really highlights my power and speed on the ice, and I love the choreography.

My long program music is from the Anna Karenina soundtrack by Dario Marianelli. It is an eclectic arrangement of music that showcases a different movement vocabulary and style that I've never had before. The program is great because the character slowly loses her mind over the course of the story. The footwork sequence toward the end of the program is so much fun to perform because my character is going crazy. There's a lot of head and upper-body movement throughout the footwork and choreographed steps, and I use my arms more than I ever have. I'd definitely have to say that this is my favorite program that I've had.

Icenetwork: Taking into account the fact that many of the top American ladies are training and living in California, we can dub this state the "capital" of U.S. ladies skating. Why do you think this state attracts so many high-level skaters?

Hicks: I think it's a great training environment, especially because of the abundance of rinks. The fact that the weather is nice attracts a lot of people, too, and skaters are bound to go where the coaches are. Plus, who doesn't like California?

Icenetwork: Tell us about your main goals and expectations for the upcoming season.

Hicks: I really want to show off all the work that I've put into my skating in the past few months. I want to skate and perform better than I did in the past, and I also want to get over some of the mental issues that I've had in the past, especially on the short programs. I've gotten much more confident in my skating and my technique, and I really want to highlight that this season.