U.S. team struggles at Skate Canada

Injury and poor performances mar trip to Quebec

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent decided not to include the throw quadruple Salchow in their free skate at Skate Canada in Quebec City.
Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent decided not to include the throw quadruple Salchow in their free skate at Skate Canada in Quebec City. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford / special to
(11/04/2007) - QUEBEC CITY -- There were a few missteps and spills, but members of the U.S. figure skating team competing at Québec City's HomeSense Skate Canada International still found bright spots in their performances.

Unfortunately for ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov, the only good news is Gregory is scheduled to be released from nearby L'Enfant-Jésus Hospital late Sunday. The 26-year-old took a frightening fall while practicing a rotational lift in the final minute of the warm-up for the free dance earlier Sunday.

The U.S. silver medalists were fourth going into the final. An official statement said Gregory had a CT scan, and it was clear.

Other skaters fared better, although they didn't bring home any medals.

U.S. ladies silver medalist Emily Hughes placed fourth at Skate America in Reading, Pa., last Sunday, pulled an all-nighter studying, and then took a midterm exam at Harvard University on Monday. By Thursday, she was practicing in Québec City en route to another fourth-place finish.

"My midterm went well, and things went well here at Skate Canada, too," the 18-year-old from Great Neck, N.Y., said.

"Balancing school and skating, the biggest thing for me is to improve from competition to competition. I broke 100 points for my free skate (103.70) here, and last season, I only broke 100 at U.S. nationals. It was a lot better than last week, and that was my goal."

Another improvement was Hughes' triple Salchow. At Skate America, the jump was judged to be underrotated and downgraded to a double. Here, it gained its full base value.

"Different [technical] callers may have different opinions," Hughes' coach, Mark Mitchell, said.

"What one person thinks is a short jump another person might not. I tell my skaters, 'There has to be no doubt. If you get the reputation for underrotating jumps, it's twice as tough.' The goal should be, don't let [the technical panel] call for any [replay] reviews."

World junior bronze medalist Ashley Wagner, at 16 the youngest competitor in Québec City, placed fifth at her first senior international event. She hopes for bigger things once she adds a triple-triple combination to her programs.

"I know I need it; I watch skaters like [Skate Canada champion] Mao Asada, and I want to compete with them," Wagner, who is perfecting a triple Lutz-triple loop, said before the event. "I can't put Mao on a pedestal. Ice is slippery, anything can happen, and I'm going to work hard."

Making history will have to wait for Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent. The pair elected not to try their throw quadruple Salchow in their free skate to "Les Misérables," even though they landed it in practice. If they had executed the element, Vise and Trent would have been the first Americans ever to include a quadruple throw in a major competition.

"The event started so early [10:30 a.m. ET] after a 7 a.m. practice, we decided to just go for a clean program," Trent said.

The couple did skate clean, although intended side-by-side triple Salchows were downgraded to doubles. They placed fifth.

A forgotten dress also added a bit of stress to the equation.

"I was on the bus, and I said, 'Oh my gosh, I left my dress in my room,'" Vise said.

Molly Marron, wife of ISU judge Hal Marron and a U.S. judge in her own right, volunteered to retrieve the garment and bring it to the arena. It arrived in time for the free skate warm-up.

"The quad throw will be in the program for sure, either by our next event [Trophée Eric Bompard] or U.S. nationals," Vise and Trent's coach, Doug Ladret, vowed.

Quad problems of a different sort helped derail Jeremy Abbott, the 2007 Four Continents bronze medalist who was the top U.S. male hope in Québec City.

The 22 year-old Aspen, Colo., native fell on the move in his short program, then missed his next two jumping elements and placed 11th in that segment.

His free skate, to Khachaturian's sweeping "Masquerade Waltz," was better. He missed the quad again, but recovered quickly with a solid triple Axel-triple toe loop combination.

Abbott finished fourth in the free and pulled up to eighth place overall.

"The fat lady hasn't sung yet," he said. "I know what I did wrong, and I can work on it. I'll have much more confidence and a better state of mind for my next event."

Abbott is slated to compete at Japan's NHK Trophy Nov. 29 - Dec. 2.

"Jeremy is going to continue to put the quad [toe loop] in his programs, no matter what," Abbott's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, declared.

"He trains it well on a daily basis. He did it in practice here. His performance was disappointing; I don't think there's anything wrong in saying that. He's trying to get on the U.S. world team, and he has the ammunition to do it.

"When your goal is to be in the upper one percent of a sport, you have to get used to taking risks on a bigger stage, and that's what Jeremy is learning now."

Two other U.S. entrants, Scott Smith and Geoffrey Varner, placed ninth and 12th, respectively.