Ice Network

Brilliant short sees Edmunds in midseason form

Hicks third after sound program; Missed jump puts Nagasu fifth; Shin sixth
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Polina Edmunds was brilliant in her "Flamenco Medley" short program, which included a spot-on triple Lutz-triple toe combination. The U.S. silver medalist finished first in the segment with a score of 63.27. -Jay Adeff

There is a second or two toward the end of Polina Edmunds' short program when the high school junior really takes her audience into the palm of her 16-year-old hand.

With her jumps out of the way, she looks the judges in the eye and glides into a sophisticated Flamenco-inspired step sequence, crammed with counters, brackets and rockers, with two clusters and a few twizzles thrown in for good measure.

"That's her moment; she has that pause after her combination spin that can really draw the crowd in," said David Glynn, who coaches Edmunds in San Jose, California. "In training, she really flies on that step sequence, and it's wonderful."

At the 2014 U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City on Friday night, everything was pretty wonderful for Edmunds in her Flamenco Fantasy short, choreographed by 1996 U.S. champion Rudy Galindo.

The U.S. silver medalist hit a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, followed by a lovely layback spin and triple flip. The combination spin preceding her steps ended with something not often seen: a blurred scratch. She earned 63.27 points, putting her 1.72 points in front of Japan's Riona Kato.

"I'm happy I skated a clean short -- that was the goal," Edmunds said. "I pushed through and did all the elements. I'm excited to move forward and work on my artistry, since it's early in the season."

"It's definitely difficult to do my footwork sequence at the end of the program, but that's what makes it special," she continued. "The music is so strong, and I love the steps Rudy Galindo made for me. There are a lot of Flamenco elements in them."

Both Edmunds and Glynn know there is plenty of room for improvement. As entertaining as the step sequence is, it gained just Level 2. Edmunds wasn't completely satisfied with her triple flip.

"The Lutz-toe was pretty good, the [double] Axel was good," she said. "My flip was a little off today, but I'm happy I fought for it. When I was in the air I knew I would land it."

"It's senior B season; these competitions are stepping stones for the Grand Prix events, and on our way to nationals and beyond that," Glynn said. "Polina is very prepared. I think she has so much potential with these programs to enhance and build and make them special."

Kato, a 16-year-old from Osaka, skated arguably the finest short program of her career, opening her balletic "Flower Duet" program with a superb triple flip-triple toe combination and delivering Phillip Mills' choreography with musicality and a light touch. She earned 61.55 for her effort, which included a solid triple Salchow and Level 3 and 4 spins and steps.

"It was a nice skate today," Kato said. "My jumps were good, and my skating is much better this season.

"I came to America to train in California (with Anthony Liu in Palm Desert), so I enjoy competing here. It is very hard to breathe (in the altitude), but I'm going to do my best and make everyone who works with me happy with my free skate."

Courtney Hicks had a fine showing to "Code Name Vivaldi" by The Piano Guys, a Jonathan Cassar-choreographed program with staccato movements that suit her speed and athleticism. The Californian opened with a huge triple flip-triple toe followed by a triple Lutz, but she popped her double Axel to a single and gained no points for the element. She sits third with 58.90 points.

"Axels don't like me in Salt Lake City," Hicks said. "I fell on it last year, so it's a step up that I didn't fall on my face this year. That's a plus.

"Sometimes in the short I'll get excited and space out for the Axel. It's the last jump, it's close to the end -- I think, 'I did a clean program!' and then little errors like that sneak in. I need to work on keeping my focus all the way to the end."

Hicks is pleased with her triple Lutz, a jump that gave her some grief in the weeks before Salt Lake City.

"I was having some issues with it for a little bit, because I got new skates," she said. "I was adjusting with that and lost the feeling. Then the other day, it all clicked, and it's been so much easier. I'm really confident with it again."

Canadian Alaine Chartrand had a solid outing, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, but having the toe deemed under-rotated by the technical panel. She earned 58.35 points and sits fourth.

Mirai Nagasu did a lot of things right in her short to "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," choreographed by Adam Rippon, including a spread eagle into a strong double Axel, a fine triple loop and a lovely closing layback spin done in the center of the ice.

Missing the second jump of an intended triple flip-triple toe, though, cost her big, limiting her score to 55.46 points and fifth place.

"I popped the second jump of the combination and only did a single, which is really bad because I got zero points for it," said Nagasu, who now trains in Colorado Springs under Tom Zakrajsek. "I've been practicing really strong, so to have the mindset of putting that combination in my program at all is a step in the right direction."

"I wish I had at least done a double, but I think I have the right mindset going into this program this year, so hopefully I can build on this for the next competition," she continued.

Competing in her first-ever senior international event, U.S. junior bronze medalist Ashley Shin had a few jumping mistakes. Her opening triple flip-triple toe combination had the second jump downgraded, and her triple loop was judged under-rotated. Her 49.83 points put her sixth.

But for the 16-year-old Texan, it's all about the experience.

"To be honest, I was really nervous at first, but I started to get used to it the more I got to practice," Shin said. "It really started to sink in when I got out there. I just want to try everything here and soak in the experience of what it's like to be at a senior competition."

"She did a couple of mistakes, but she looks confident, and I can see she enjoyed herself, and that's our goal," said Olga Ganicheva, who coaches Shin with Aleksey Letov. "That is more important than placement or points at this moment."