Ice Network

Gold debuts stunning 'Firebird' free at Glacier Falls

Hicks attempts first triple axel in competition; Le impresses in junior event
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The Gold sisters, Gracie (right) and Carly, with coach Frank Carroll. Gracie scored 70.39 points in the senior ladies short to place second, while Carly finished 10th in the segment. -Klaus-Reinhold Kany

Performing a dynamic free skate to Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, Gracie Gold showed excellent early-season form at the 2015 Glacier Falls Summer Classic, winning the event by 29 points.

Fourth in the world last season, Gold opened with a strong triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by a superb step sequence which was awarded with four +3 and two +2 Grades of Execution (GOE). Four more triple jumps and two double axels followed. Gold doubled her second triple lutz and her components were around 8.6.

The Stravinsky classic helped lift another Frank Carroll pupil, Evan Lysacek, to Olympic gold, and both coach and skater think it will also be a winner for Gold.

"The idea to skate to Firebird is exclusively (choreographer) Lori Nichol's decision," Carroll said. "I sent Gracie to Lori and had no idea which music she would pick. I think this program is one of the best Lori has ever done."

"Firebird really has a character I can relate to," Gold said. "Probably, it is the best program I have ever had.

"I am really excited with how I skated here," she added. "For Aug. 1, I am in better shape than in the years before."

Gold also did well with her short program, choreographed by Nichol to a tango medley. In her triple lutz-triple toe combination, the lutz was excellent, but she was forced to touch her hand to the ice at the end of the combination.

The other elements were very good. Her stylish step sequence gained five GOEs of +3, despite receiving just a Level 2 from the technical panel. She ended the event in second place with a score of 202.54.

"My tango is very sophisticated; I like it very much," Gold said. 

Hicks tries triple axel

Courtney Hicks, who trains under Jere Michael and Alex Chang in Paramount, California, placed third in both the short program and free skate to finish second overall with 173.05 points. She was eighth in the U.S. last season.

Hicks likes to portray big personalities in her free skate. After performing to music from the Anna Karenina soundtrack last season, she plays Queen Elizabeth I in the dramatic and powerful Elizabeth the Golden Age soundtrack, choreographed by Rohene Ward.

After a good triple flip-triple toe combination, Hicks tried a triple axel, which she said she had trained regularly over the last few weeks. The rotation was not complete and she fell, but she recovered quickly to finish the program, doubling the majority of her jumps.

"I thought it was pretty good today," Hicks said. "I tried the triple axel for the first time in competition. Otherwise, I paid more attention to the performance than the jumps. I thought I interpreted my role pretty well." 

Hicks skated a new short choreographed by Jonathan Cassar to Peter Gabriel's well-known exotic piece, "The Feeling Begins." She opened with a triple flip-triple to combination, but made a small turn on one foot between jumps. The other elements, including a very high triple lutz, were good, but her step sequence gained just Level 1 from the technical panel.  

Mariah Bell, who placed an impressive sixth at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, changed coaches last spring, and now trains with Kori Ade and Ward in Monument, Colorado. Skating a short set to an Irish medley, she hit a triple flip but fell on a triple toe, the second jump of the combination. She also missed her triple lutz.

In the free skate, however, Bell's triple flip-triple toe combination and two triple lutzes were all solid. She fell on a triple loop, as well as some transition steps, but still placed third with 166.41 points.

"I am excited with what I was able to accomplish so early in the season, but I feel that I have a lot of room to grow, for example adding triples where I did doubles today," Bell said after the free skate. "I am proud of my progress, and I have a great training environment in Monument now."    

Edmunds brilliant in "Moonlight Sonata"

Polina Edmunds, fourth in the U.S. last season, won the short program with an excellent performance to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." Choreographed by Rudy Galindo, the performance included a triple lutz-triple toe combination and a triple flip. Both jump elements gained GOEs of +2 and +3 from the judges, as did her three spins. Edmunds' dynamic Level 3 step sequence was also well-received, earning four +3s and two +2s from the panel.

Edmunds unveiled her new free skate to selections from Gone with the Wind, and while Galindo's excellent choreography was on display, the program was most notable for its lack of jumps. Except for a triple flip, Edmunds performed only single jumps, and did two three-turns where her double axels will be. She finished fourth.

"It was planned like that," Edmunds said. "We really wanted to concentrate on the choreography and leave out the jumps."

Tyler Pierce placed fifth with 145.40 points. Katarina Kulgeyko, who represents Israel, finished sixth with 135.50 points. Carly Gold, Gracie's sister, finished eighth with 117.41 points.  

U.S. bronze medalist Karen Chen earned 57.54 points for her short program, but did not perform her free skate because she plans to skate again next week at the small competition in Silicon Valley.

Le impresses in junior event

Vivian Le, the 2015 U.S. junior bronze medalist, was by far the best of the junior ladies event, which consists of a normal short program and free skate, and then an additional final free skate for the top eight skaters.

Le, who trains with Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva in Dallas, performed an outstanding and extremely dynamic short, which gained 65.82 points. Her triple lutz-triple toe combination was strong and fluid.

Le's two free skates were done at a high speed with excellent triple lutzes, but she fell on a triple loop in both programs. She earned 182.81 points for the combined result of the short and the first free, and 112.83 points for her final free skate.   

Le's training partner in Dallas, U.S. novice champion Emily Mei-Lin Chan, was second in the final free skate with 97.14 points. Sarah Feng, a student of Ilia Kulik, finished third with 94.97 points.