Ice Network

Skaters gear up for new season at Skate Detroit

Tursynbaeva overcomes music miscue; Disciplined approach helps Baldé
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Canadians Elladj Baldé (right) and Nicolas Nadeau placed first and second, respectively, in the senior men's event. -Lynn Rutherford

In the summer, skaters often get second chances to make good first impressions.

At Skate Detroit on Saturday, the free skate was a lot sweeter the second time around for Elizabet Tursynbaeva, Hannah Miller and Bradie Tennell.

"I think it was not bad," Tursynbaeva, a 15-year-old wisp of a skater representing Kazakhstan, said with a shy smile. "Much better than the first one."

During Thursday's performance, a music snafu forced the skater to restart her "Papa, Can You Hear Me?" free skate, and she fell on a triple loop and faltered on a double axel. She rebounded Saturday, hitting seven triples -- including a triple salchow-triple toe loop combination and a double axel-triple toe -- to earn 128.89 points to win the senior ladies event.

"[Thursday] wasn't her best; I think she was spooked by the music thing," her coach, Brian Orser, said. "She's a lot happier -- and I'm a lot happier -- when she skates well."

Orser is also happy that Tursynbaeva's visa woes have been resolved, following a process that he says delayed the Moscow-born skater's move to Toronto by eight months. The teen and her mother gained two-year visas and moved into an apartment near the Cricket, Skating and Curling Club in May.

"I've been to two junior worlds with her, but our time together has been sporadic," Orser said. "The delay was so long, she had a Russian choreographer I don't know do her new short (to "Send in the Clowns"). Now, we're good to go."

(Tursynbaeva's free, choreographed by David Wilson, is a holdover from last season.)

The Kazakhstani skater, who placed fourth at the 2015 World Junior Championships, will next compete at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City in September.

For Miller, who was ninth in the U.S. last season, Saturday's free skate was a personal victory. On Wednesday, the skater missed the triple toe-triple toe combination in her short, choreographed by Rohene Ward to "Rich Man's Frug" and "Big Spender" from the Sweet Charity soundtrack. Thursday's free skate included a triple flip-half loop-triple salchow combination, but she popped a few other triples into singles and wasn't satisfied with her expression of the Puccini medley.

Her choreographer, Tom Dickson, had some advice.

"He told me to try to feel like I'm singing throughout the program -- not with my mouth, but with my body," Miller said.

During her free skate, the 18-year-old hit another triple flip-half loop-triple salchow, made a solid attempt at a double axel-triple toe and landed three other triples. She earned 119.12 points.

"I just moved from Lansing (Michigan) to California about month ago, to train under Rafael Arutunian," Miller said. "(On Thursday,) I got tight and didn't really trust my technique I've been working on for the past month. I called Raf earlier today and said, 'Give me some words of advice.' He was like, 'Relax, follow your mind.' I tried to do that today and it helped. I was really happy with my performance."

Besides Arutunian's prowess as a technician, the move to Artesia means Miller trains with Ashley Wagner, Adam Rippon and Nathan Chen. She's living on her own for the first time, sharing an apartment with pairs skater AJ Reiss in Downey, about 20 minutes away from the rink.

"It's awesome to have such great training mates; it's so motivating," Miller said. "They're always there to give me a pat on the back. Leaving Lansing was tough, but there was no other athlete there training with me at the same level."

Miller's aunt and longtime coach, Kirsten Miller-Zisholz, is still involved in her training, and may accompany the skater to some competitions this season. She wholeheartedly endorsed her niece's move to California.

"Seeing her work with skaters who are up to her level is great," Miller-Zisholz said. "On off-days, they provide motivation; on good days, it's even better. That's something she just couldn't get in Lansing right now."

For Tennell, Skate Detroit marked a comeback after a stress fracture in her back kept her off the ice for three months. On Saturday, the U.S. junior champion showed four different triples in her free skate to "Tango in Ebony," earning 111 points, good for third place.

"I just felt more confident, more comfortable in my own skin," Tennell, 17, said. "I just didn't think about anything. I had nothing to lose. ...It was fun to get out there, show the program and see where I stand."

"She's just coming up on five weeks back on the ice (after the injury), and this was a good senior debut," added Tennell's coach, Denise Myers, who trains the skater in Buffalo Grove, Illinois. "She is scheduled to go out on the Junior Grand Prix (JGP). We've got some new things planned for the program, but we wanted to take this baby step first, get some feedback."

Canada's big-jumping junior champion, Selena Zhao, landed six triples in her final free skate to place fourth with 98.12 points.

Competing for the first time in 16 months, Kaetlyn Osmond performed an impressive free to a tango medley Thursday, hitting a solid triple flip and lutz, flowing expressively through Pasquale Camerlengo's choreography and steps. The magic wasn't there on Saturday, when the two-time Canadian champion fell on a triple flip and had trouble with several other jumps. She placed fifth with 89.54 points.

Osmond missed the 2014-15 season due to a broken fibula. Her coach, Ravi Walia, thinks a few summer competitions will help get her back into competition mode. Her next event is the Wildrose Invitational in Alberta.

Baldé embraces discipline in Quebec

For Elladj Baldé, Skate Detroit was a homecoming of sorts. The Canadian skater trained at DSC under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen for several seasons before recently returning to Montreal, where he works with Bruno Marcotte and Manon Perron.

"Manon is amazing. She's really strong; she pushes me," Baldé, 24, said. "My first lesson, I think I might have done 150 jumps in 20 minutes. She doesn't take any [nonsense]. She doesn't care -- you do it her way. I need this, someone who drives you and pushes you to the max."

Baldé fell on a quadruple toe loop in his short program Friday but still won the event with 73.94 points. He landed the quad and a triple axel-triple toe in his flamenco free skate Saturday night, and delivered a fiery step sequence with flair. He won with 145.13 points.

"I just did this free (choreographed by Camerlengo) twice internationally and at nationals, and I felt it could go so much more, so I decided to keep it," he said. "We're going to work on it to improve the transitions, but we're going to keep the base of the program."

Canadian junior champion Nicolas Nadeau attempted a quad toe in his free to selections from Mary Poppins, but fell. He landed a solid triple axel combination and four other triples to place second in the free with 142.18. Combined with his short program score, it put him second overall.

Alexander Johnson was third in the short and fourth in the free, ending with a third-place total of 202.25. The Colorado Springs skater, who is coached by Tom Dickson, fell on a quad toe but landed a solid triple axel combination as well as triple loop and triple lutz in his free.

"This was the first time I tried everything after (the quad), so it was a pretty good start," Johnson said of his free, which is set to a medley including Balázs Havasi's "The Christ Trilogy" and "In the Act of Creation." "It's hard to fall on a quad and get back up and do the rest of the program. I'm learning how to deal with that. I'm also still learning the pacing of the program and really developing that, all of the details and nuances."

Tim Dolensky was third in the free with an elegant skate to Chopin's "Fantaisie-Impromptu," which was highlighted by a triple axel and a superb closing combination spin. California skater Philip Warren landed a solid quad toe-double toe combination in his short to James Brown's "I Got Ants in My Pants," placing second to Baldé in that segment. He popped the quad to a double in his free and ended up fifth in total points.

"Last season, he had a nagging foot injury and he didn't try the quad toe, but it's been pretty consistent for about six months," said Warren's coach, Todd Sand.