Ice Network

Improved jumps propel Miyahara to lead over Wang

U.S. bronze medalist Chen in contention despite boot, wardrobe difficulties
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Satoko Miyahara took a two-point lead over Team USA's Angela Wang with a sterling performance of her "Firedance" short, which included a triple lutz-triple toe and three Level 4 spins. The reigning world silver medalist will carry 63.48 points into Saturday's free skate. -Jay Adeff

A graceful, controlled short program by Satoko Miyahara won the day at the 2015 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, but U.S. ladies Angela Wang and Karen Chen are within striking distance of the Japanese world silver medalist.

The diminutive Miyahara, who has been penalized for under-rotations in the past, showed improved height and power on her jumps, which included a solid opening triple lutz-triple toe loop combination as well as a triple flip and double axel in the program's second half. She presented her steps in her Tom Dickson-choreographed "Firedance" short with style and assurance, and gained Level 4 on all three of her spins. Her score of 63.48 is solid for this point in the season.

"It was a good start to the season," Miyahara, 17, said. "I am very happy with my jumps; they were good for me. I skated with some confidence, but I want to have even more confidence as the season goes on. I want to skate with more speed."

Over the summer, Miyahara worked with 1998 Olympic champion Ilia Kulik on her jumps.

"He said to me, 'Concentrate on your timing and on jumping higher,'" the skater said. "We worked on the lutz and axel a lot."

Wang skated one of her best short programs ever to an instrumental version of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black," choreographed by 2010 U.S. champion Rachael Flatt. The Colorado Springs skater hit a huge opening triple toe-triple toe that earned +2 Grades of Execution (GOEs) across the judging panel. She followed with a solid triple loop done "Rippon" style, with both arms overhead. There is room for improvement: Her closing combination spin gained just Level 2. Her score of 61.31 puts her just 2.17 points behind Miyahara.

"That's how I've been training; I did what I've been doing every day," Wang, 19, said. "Nothing felt forced; everything felt good. That comes with confidence: The more I train, the better I get."

Wang credits her coaching team, which includes two former U.S. champions, with improving her consistency.

"I've worked a lot with Rachael, communicating back and forth, and (2011 U.S. champion) Ryan Bradley has helped," she said. "Of course, having my three coaches here, Damon [Allen], Christy [Krall] and Erik [Schulz], is great."

It's been a hectic few weeks for Wang, who, like many skaters, scrambled to incorporate program changes recommended by U.S. Figure Skating officials at August's Champs Camp.

"I flew out to Southern California to work with (choreographer) Mark Pillay, and Rachael drove down from Northern California to join us," Wang said. "It's been challenging to incorporate all of the changes, but I'm excited to show them off here."

Chen fought through struggles with her boots, as well as a costume malfunction earlier in the day, to skate a strong short to "Nessun Dorma." The U.S. bronze medalist reduced a planned triple lutz-triple toe combination to a triple-double but hit the move well. The rest of her program, including a triple loop, was solid, although her closing layback spin gained just Level 2. She takes 60.94 points into Saturday's free skate.

"I was definitely a little bit nervous, but then I started thinking about how much I love skating, performing and competing," Chen, 16, said. "I wanted to go out, enjoy the moment, do my best and have no regrets."

Chen and her coach, Tammy Gambill, decided to reduce the planned triple-triple to a triple-double after an unsettled 20-minute warmup.

"I struggled a little with a dress malfunction, and I was kind of frantic, so we decided to do a triple-double," Chen said. "I think my dress was too big; the rhinestones were too heavy and it kind of flew out. I'm glad I brought a back-up costume."

Making her senior international debut in Salt Lake City, Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan sits fourth with 59.66 points after hitting a triple lutz-triple toe and triple flip in her short to Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns."

"It wasn't bad -- it could be better," Tursynbaeva, 15, said. "I think I should work on my spins. They are a bit slow. They all got Level 4, but they need work. My jumps were pretty good for the start of the season."

"I was happy with it; we're trying to get over the 60-point threshold," said Brian Orser, who coaches Tursynbaeva in Toronto. "She's quite strong-willed. Earlier this season, she had all three jump passes in the second half. We tried it a couple of times, no success. Finally, she let me move the combination (to the beginning), and mission accomplished."

Japan's Kanako Murakami skated an intense, dramatic short to "El Tango de Roxanne," but she lost points when she hit only a double toe-triple toe combination and had the second jump judged under-rotated. She sits fifth with 55.58 points.

Mariah Bell is close behind in sixth place with 55.03 points. The pupil of Kori Ade, who trains in Monument, Colorado, fell on the second jump of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination but hit a triple lutz and handled Cindy Stuart's striking step sequences in her "StormCry" program with aplomb.

"I've been working hard on the triple flip-triple toe, pushing it every day," Bell said. "It's getting a lot stronger. I need more experience competing it."