Ice Network

Hicks riding high after breakout performances

NHK Trophy medalist hopes to incorporate triple axel into future programs
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Courtney Hicks surprised many when she finished ahead of several more accomplished skaters at the 2015 NHK Trophy. -Getty Images

Before the start of the season, few fans and journalists pegged 20-year-old Courtney Hicks as a potential breakout performer. Yet that's just whatAmerican skater has become, showing how meaningless preseason predictions can be.

The California native began her season by taking silver at the 2015 Glacier Falls Summer Classic, where she attempted a triple axel for the first time in a competitive setting. She then won bronze at the 2015 Nebelhorn Trophy and finished sixth at Cup of China before surprising everyone by winning silver at the 2015 NHK Trophy, where she got the better of such accomplished skaters as Mao Asada, Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu.

Icenetwork spoke with Hicks about her achievements, impressions of the first half of the season, her programs' images and her goals for the 2016 U.S. Championships.

Icenetwork: At the 2015 NHK Trophy, you won your first Grand Prix medal. How do you feel about this achievement and what does it mean for your career in general?

Hicks: I'm absolutely overjoyed to have won a medal! It's something I've wanted to achieve for such a long time, and it felt so good to have done so. Winning the silver medal at NHK Trophy is also great because it gives me a really solid base to build the rest of my career on.

Icenetwork: After the strong, confident and beautiful short program you put out at that event, you had a bit of a shaky start to your free skate. Was this due to nervousness or were there other factors involved?

Hicks: I think the [problems with the] opening jumps of my free skate were really just because of adrenaline. I remember being so excited to perform and feeling so ready to go, and I think I sometimes let that excitement get the better of me. I end up skating way too fast and doing crazy things, and then I end up making mistakes.

Icenetwork: You quickly regained control of your performance to Elizabeth: The Golden Age and finished it on a high note, just as the big personality you portray in that program did in world history. Do the characters of your performances help you perform?

Hicks: Very much! I always love having a character to portray because I feel like I can really get into the performance and tell more of a story with my program and choreography.

Icenetwork: Does finishing ahead of a three-time world champion Mao Asada and a three-time U.S. champion in Ashley Wagner add an extra value to your silver medal in Japan?

Hicks: I'd say it's actually more of a cherry on top of the fact that I got a medal. I'm most excited to have been on the podium, regardless of who I beat. It's definitely cool, though.

Icenetwork: Your results this year show that you have grown significantly as a performer.

Hicks: It's really nice to see all the work I've been doing for the past couple of years finally starting to show. I feel like my skating these past couple of years has been kind of like a business that's under construction, and the owners put up a sign that says something along the lines of, "Please pardon our mess. We're making improvements." A couple of years were a little rough and messy while I was trying to incorporate more performance and quality into my programs, and now my skating has improved and everything is finally coming together.

Icenetwork: Can you tell us about working with Rohene Ward, the choreographer of your free skate?

Hicks: Working with Rohene has been a blast! He's so incredibly creative and knows exactly how to craft a program that brings out a skater's best features. There are so many things in my free skate that I never would have thought I was capable of pulling off, but he figured out what would work and knew when to push me to keep working at something even when it didn't work immediately.

Icenetwork: At the 2015 Glacier Falls Summer Classic, you tried a triple axel. Do you plan to include this element in future performances?

Hicks: I would love to start incorporating it into my programs consistently next season. I wasn't able to work on it as often as I would have liked this year because I ran into some boot problems, so I'm hoping to train it more for next season.

Icenetwork: What would you like to improve about your skating?

Hicks: I would really love to improve my consistency. I often get carried away during my programs and end up making mistakes, and I would really like to fix that. I'd also like to continue to improve on the performance aspects of my skating.

Icenetwork: It seems many American ladies share an attribute -- they don't hold on to mistakes and move on when things don't go as planned. What are your thoughts?

Hicks: I think it's really just that moving on from mistakes is so stressed in practice. My coaches always remind me to leave behind any mistakes that I've made and to move on and focus on the next element. I think that's a very common practice in U.S. figure skating.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your main objectives for the 2016 U.S. Championships and for the remainder of the season.

Hicks: My main objective for the U.S. championships is to skate like I practice. I know that if I can manage to do that, I have a really good chance of being on the podium. I want to showcase the effort I've been putting in this year, and I really want to go out and truly enjoy my programs. For future internationals, I want to continue with the momentum that I started this season.