Ice Network

Ciarochi, Malinin deliver golden performances

Siblings Mokhova, Mokhov capture pairs gold; Wolfkostin, Zhao win dance
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Stephanie Ciarochi and Ilia Malinin captured their second straight gold medals at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Sunday. -Jay Adeff

Ladies

Stephanie Ciarochi notched her second U.S. title in as many years, claiming the gold medal in the ladies event on Sunday afternoon in Independence, Missouri.

Ciarochi, the 2016 juvenile titlist, overcame a fall in her program to music from Michael Kamen's Don Juan DeMarco. She finished with the second-best free skate behind Emily Zhang and the top overall score of the event with 126.54 points.

The eighth-grader, who trains at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Plano, Texas, fell on a triple toe loop, but bounced back instantaneously with a solid triple salchow.

Ciarochi, the short program leader, said she was nervous heading into the free skate, but was able to put those nerves behind her during the competition. She added that winning this title is great, but said her first one is still the most special.

"I'm most happy with her confidence," coach Olga Ganicheva said. "I'm proud of how she responded after the mistake."

The future for Ciarochi, Ganicheva said, is to continue to work on and master the triple jumps and triple-triple combinations in the novice and junior ranks.

Emily Murdock had a strong competition as well, finishing with 122.00 total points and the silver medal. She opened her free skate with a triple salchow-double toe loop and added a pair of double axels (one in combination), two Level 4 spins, and impressive footwork. Murdock matched Ciarochi for the top component score of the free skate, but Ciarochi was in a league of her own.

Ariela Masarsky won the bronze medal with 120.55 points, and landed five triple jumps. Zhang, the pewter medalist, won the free skate by completing six triple jumps -- three in combination -- including a triple salchow-loop-triple salchow that generated an event-best 10.52 points for a single element. She was eighth after the short program, but recorded 83.58 for her free skate.

Men's

Sixth-grader Ilia Malinin proved once again that there isn't a moment too big for him, as he delivered a nearly flawless and entertaining program en route to the men's title on Sunday.

The juvenile champion in 2016, Malinin took control of the Zorro-feel "Puss in Boots" program with his opening triple salchow-double toe loop combination. He commanded the ice with three triple jumps, two double axels (one in combination), two Level 4 spins, as well as masterful footwork.

The short program leader, Malinin's total segment score of 80.59 easily bested the field and lifted him to an overall score of 125.44, nearly 14 points clear of silver medalist Nicholas Hsieh.

"He likes to compete and loves the pressure," said his father Roman Skorniakov, who with wife Tatiana Malinin, coaches Ilia in Reston, Virginia. "It was really hard out there but he pulled out an awesome skate."

"He's not just a student, but my son," Tatiana added. "So there's double pressure, but he doesn't give me that much worry."

The only negative marks on Malinin's scoresheet came late on the landing of a triple salchow late in his program.

"He was not very confident about that jump because this morning in warm-up he didn't do it so well," his mother said. "It was a triple Salchow from a spread eagle and he was a little nervous about that."

Malinin, however, put that hiccup behind him with his signature move of having two arms up on a double axel.

Hsieh, an eighth grader who started skating nearly four years ago, was equally excited about his program to a Rachmaninoff piece. He started with a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and was rock solid the rest of the way. He also delivered the best component score of the segment.

"Nicholas is a very hard worker, very passionate," said his coach Viktor Pfeifer said. "The main thing I like about him is the whole artistry part. He's so interested in learning skating skills and gliding across the ice. I'm trying to develop him as a well-rounded skater with a lot of artistry."

Philip Baker won the bronze medal by accruing 108.20 points, while Daniel Argueta secured the pewter medal with 107.46 points.

Pairs

The brother-and-sister tandem of Masha Mokhova and Ivan Mokhov rallied from second place after the short program to claim the free skate and pairs titles on Sunday afternoon.

They performed to music from a Russian ballet entitled Cipollino. Their score of 97.11 points bested short program leaders and silver medalists Jade Esposito and Franz-Peter Jerosch, who finished just off the pace with 95.61 points.

Mokhova, 10, and Mokhov, 17, are coached by their parents, Oksana Yakusheva and Andrey Mokhov, at the Suburban Ice Arena in East Lansing, Michigan. The team did not compete at sectionals, and it was the first time they had performed their free skate in competition.

"We are really excited and happy with how we did," said Ivan, who also holds singles experience. "We were really happy that we skated clean since that was our main goal."

Esposito and Jerosch experienced some minor mistakes in their free skate to music by recording artist Michael Bublé.

"They both went out there and fought the whole time and put 100 percent into their skate," coach Carrie Wall said. "I think they were a little disappointed like any athlete is. They wanted to stay in position, but they gave their best effort and that's all we can ask of them."

Defending juvenile pairs champions Isabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard earned the bronze medal with 91.77 points, and 2015 juvenile pairs title holders Altice Sollazo and Paul Yeung grabbed the pewter medal by collecting 88.77 points.

Ice dance

Skating to music from Mary Poppins, Katarina Wolfkostin and Howard Zhao secured the ice dance title on Sunday morning. Their smooth and lively skating garnered all Level 4s, with the lone exception being a Level 3 they received for the diagonal step sequence.

The short dance leaders earned a score of 107.19 points, which proved to be 12.66 points more than silver medalists Layla Karnes and Jeffrey Chen were awarded.

"We were feeling really good after patterns," Zhao said. "We were a little tight this morning so our practices weren't so great, but we put that behind us and went out and did our jobs."

The first-year team is coached by Detroit SC's Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova, Natalia Deller and Paul Bellantuono.

"They handled the competition well," Camerlengo said. "They skated fiercely and without fear, which is great for this young age. I like the way they handled everything and I see a bright future on the ice for them."

Karnes and Chen, second after the pattern dances, performed to the Blue Danube Waltz choreographed by 1984 British Olympic ice dance champion and renowned choreographer Christopher Dean.

"It was a difficult challenge to get under time and hold those positions," Chen said of the various lifts included in the program. "It took a lot of work."

Their coach, Christine Fowler-Binder, said the program has changed a lot since its inception, including a costume change following the sectional championships.

Paulina Brykalova and Daniel Brykalov collected the bronze medal with a total score of 89.25, and Maria Soldatova and Faddey Soldatov earned the pewter medal with 82.20 points.