Ice Network

SLC snippets: Dornbush's skating takes turn inward

Miner brings Queen to ice; Castelli, Tran aiming to convey feeling of free
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Richard Dornbush's "Come What May" short program is a reflection of his up-and-down journey through skating. -Getty Images

Richard Dornbush's list of on-ice personas reads like an actor's résumé: Sherlock Holmes, a Spaghetti Western cowboy, a film noir detective.

Now, at age 24, the skater feels more comfortable drawing on his own personal history than a fictional character's.

"Character pieces can be fun, and they can make training fun," Dornbush said. "I think, though, as you get older, you become more reflective. You start really drawing on why you're in the sport. That's a huge factor in what this season is about for me."

"My skating has become more introspective," he continued. "It's turned in on itself, in a big way."

In 2011, Dornbush won the U.S. silver medal and placed ninth at the World Figure Skating Championships. He hasn't medaled at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships since, partly due to ill-timed injuries and equipment issues. Last season, he finished 10th.

The skater's short program to "Come What May," a Moulin Rouge ballad about undying romance, reflects some of his feelings about his sport.

"(Choreographer) Mark Pillay came to me with the music, and I felt the power of it," Dornbush said. "It really hit me. I've had my ups and downs in skating. This is an expression of what skating has been in my life."

This is Dornbush's first trip to Salt Lake City for the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. Last month, the University of California, San Diego student defeated the three-time champ at this event, Max Aaron, at the 2015 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships. In early practices here, he looked in near mid-season form, nailing quadruple toe loops and triple axel combinations.

"Coming into early B's (international competitions) is tough [because] you want to look good, but you want to continue training for the Grand Prix season," Dornbush said. "I made the decision I was going to train super hard all the way through to Salt Lake City, not taper off. I'm a little tired but pumped and ready to go."

As a physics major, Dornbush's biggest challenge is balancing his academic and athletic pursuits. He trains three days a week with longtime coach Tammy Gambill in Riverside and also practices in San Diego, where he works with Jonathan Cassar.

"I have my life in skating and training, and then I get in the car and go off to school," Dornbush said. "It's nice to have that little dichotomy."

Miner makes Queen medley his own

Like Dornbush, Ross Miner is facing up to the challenges of continuing to compete into his mid-20s.

"For the last couple of years, I've tried to be the version of myself when I was 19 or 20, competing consistently every time," Miner said. "I was talking to Mitch Moyer (U.S. Figure Skating's director of high athlete performance) and he told me, 'You've got to figure out how you're going to compete as a 24-year-old.' I thought that was really insightful, so over the summer I've tried to figure that out for myself."

Part of Miner's solution was to take a more active role in selecting his material. In early April, the Boston-based skater traveled to Toronto to work with Lori Nichol.

"On Easter Sunday, Lori allowed me, in the kindness of her heart, to come and search for music for seven hours," he said. "I thought at the end of the seven hours I really liked something, but then I woke up and (realized) I was just too tired."

Miner kept returning to the idea of a Queen medley, which he and Nichol had considered -- and rejected -- last season.

"Lori finally said, 'If you want to skate to it, you've got to skate to it,'" Miner said. "She allowed me to be assertive in this one thing. I think I took the program and made it my own, and she guided and helped me so much. It was the first time I was active and chose music."

Miner, a three-time U.S. medalist, was solid in early practices here but did not attempt his quadruple salchow.

"It's been going well in training, but I'm not going to do it here; the goal is to get the program out," he said. "I've really been enjoying training, and I'm practicing great. It's time to figure out again how to connect that up with performance on the ice."

Castelli, Tran won't stop believing in Journey

This summer, icenetwork chronicled the creation of Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran's free skate, choreographed by Julie Marcotte to a medley of '80s hits from the rock band Journey.

The skaters debuted the number at Skate Detroit this summer but were disappointed with both their performance and the response.

"Everyone was like, 'Uhh...,'" Castelli said. "We didn't get the overall feeling of the program out. When we do it every day in practice, it's exciting, it's a good program, and it's fun to watch. That's our main goal here: to get the real feeling of that program out."

"People who saw the program a few weeks ago at Champs Camp, and at Skate Detroit, saw a big difference," Tran said. "We've been doing run-throughs, run-throughs, run-throughs. Did I mention we've been doing run-throughs?"

Watching early practices in Salt Lake City, it's evident that all those run-throughs have paid off: The team's triple twist looks higher and stronger than ever.

"We've just been drilling the same thing every day, working on the snap and explosion of it," Castelli said. "We're not focusing on it; we've just been building so much confidence since Skate Detroit that it's just been feeling better day to day."

"We're still a new team, that's the thing," Tran said. "Last year, when the double (twist) felt off, we'd put off practicing the triple. Now, it's not on a pedestal any more; it's just another move."

It's been just over a year since Castelli, winner of two U.S. titles with Simon Shnapir (2013, '14), teamed with Tran, the 2012 world bronze medal with Narumi Takahashi. With all of their combined experience, it's hard to believe that Salt Lake City is the first international event.

"We have lots of experience but not together," Tran said. "We're just happy to be here. We don't know what to expect from our first Grand Prix, Skate Canada. We honestly don't know where we're going to sit with everybody else."

One thing that's sure to smooth the way is Tran's humor. Whatever the outcome, he's always ready with a smile and a quip.

"There's no sense in both of us worrying, so I let her do it," Tran said.

"I worry about everything, and he's a huge goofball," Castelli said. "The biggest thing is, we come in every day ready to work. We understand it's a work in progress. For us, we have a great relationship, and I think that's what's going to carry through, on the ice and off the ice."