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O'Shea grabs novice men's title

Danny O'Shea won the novice men's title at U.S. Championships.
Danny O'Shea won the novice men's title at U.S. Championships. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2008) - Time for Daniel O'Shea's father to follow through on the promise he made a year ago.

After last year's U.S. Championships, where Daniel finished eighth in novice, Donald O'Shea told his son that he if he won the U.S. title the next year, he would buy him a puppy.

Monday night, Daniel held up his end of the bargain.

O'Shea's militaristic, patriotic free skate was the class of the novice field, and he skated it nearly flawlessly. His score of 99.03 was almost six points better than that of his next closest competitor, and he won the novice crown by a comfortable 10-point margin over silver medalist Ross Miner (SC of Boston). David Wang (All Year FSC) captured the bronze, coming in just ahead of Alexander Zahradnicek (Georgia FSC).

"It's a big step up for me," O'Shea said. "My goal was to come in and place in the top four and be on the podium, and I did it."

Oh, and Donald, if you're reading this, Daniel would like a Golden Retriever, please.

O'Shea landed five of his six planned triples. After a double Axel to start, he landed a triple toe-double toe combination and triple Lutz before stepping out of the landing on his triple flip.

He felt relieved, however, that he was at least able to stay upright on the flip. "I have one more jump after (the flip) that's pretty hard -- the triple Sal-double toe-double loop. After that I was like, 'Ahhh, OK, (new let's) do the rest of this,' said O'Shea, who represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club. "I had to keep myself focused. I didn't want to mess up on an easy jump.

He didn't. He continued with a successful triple Salchow-double toe-double toe combo, triple toe and a triple Salchow-double combo.

It was a program of firsts for O'Shea, as it was the first time he landed the Lutz and the flip in competition.

"It was the closest to skating clean I've done this year," O'Shea said.

Dressed in a navy blue uniform reminiscent of the kind the Midshipmen wear in Annapolis, O'Shea exhibited the requisite level of intensity for a program set to music from the movie JFK and the John Williams piece "Summon the Heroes." "I try to humble myself in reverence to (the JFK music). It feels strong through there," O'Shea said. "At end it's inspiring, almost Olympic-type music. It really gets me pumped to finish the program strong."

The only question is what to name the pooch.

"Maybe Paul," O'Shea said cleverly.

Miner took a clumsy face-first tumble as he skated out to the center of the ice to begin his Gershwin program.

"I think that was almost good for me. It woke me up a little bit," Miner said. "I'm full of stupid mistakes like that."

Miner readily admitted his performance was far from his best. He two-footed the landing on his triple Lutz, fell on his triple loop and popped the second half of his triple Lutz-double toe combo.

His soaring triple flip-triple toe at the beginning of the program was a definite high point, as was his presentation. His program components score (46.60) was second only to that of O'Shea.

"It's my first nationals," Miner said. "I was very nervous in the beginning. I was a little too hyper."

Miner narrowly missed qualifying for last year's U.S. Championships. He sat first after the short program at Eastern Sectionals, but a poor free skate dropped him to fifth overall.

"It was really hard, but it motivated me to come back," Miner said.

Wang doesn't have the crowd-pleasing jumps, but he is frighteningly consistent and really gets into the program. He started his Remember the Titans/Dragonheart free skate with a nice triple toe-double toe, followed by a triple flip.

"I was real excited to land the triple flip," Wang said. "We just put it in the program a few weeks after sectionals. That was the first time I landed it in competition."

Wang's talents are not limited to the skating rink. As mentioned in the story after the short program, he is a Rubik's Cube whiz. When a reporter asked him to prove it, he sprinted to the locker room, grabbed his favorite mechanical puzzle and ran back to the mixed zone. After the reporter jumbled it up, she handed it to him, and he promptly solved it in a couple minutes.