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Carriere hopes to avoid sophomore jinx

U.S. bronze medalist shows quiet confidence as he enters second senior season

Stephen Carriere is focused on getting his programs perfect for the upcoming season.
Stephen Carriere is focused on getting his programs perfect for the upcoming season. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/29/2008) - Winning the world junior title is no guarantee of triumph on the senior circuit. For every Johnny Weir and Daisuke Takahashi, who won the title in 2001 and 2002 respectively, there are skaters like 2003 champion Alexander Shubin, who struggled with injuries and never made an impact as a senior.

With a successful debut senior season under his belt, 2007 world junior champion Stephen Carriere is well on his way to landing in the first category.

The 19-year-old from Skating Club of Boston won bronze at last fall's NHK Trophy and placed third behind Evan Lysacek and Weir at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He went on to finish 10th at the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, helping to secure three spots for U.S. men at this season's worlds.

And if Carriere has his way, this coming season will be even better.

"I always kind of expect more from myself," the 19-year-old said. "At school, if I get an A-minus, I want an A. If I get a 95 percent on a test, I want a 97 percent.

"That's the way I am in skating, too. If something is not going right I always expect myself to do better. I do this on a day-to-day basis. I work off that pressure. It's a big aspect of being a top skater in the U.S. It kind of matches my striving; I can always use it as a driving force. Intimidation is my motivation."

Carriere, who is known for his consistent triple jumps and steady programs, is working hard to add more polish and difficulty to his routines.

"I've been training hard, kind of going back to basics," he said. "After every season I think it's necessary to work on your edge quality, on your [skating] components. I'm also working on the quad [toe loop] more, setting it in my long program."

Carriere and his coaches, Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, have worked on the four-revolution jump before, but the skater has never tried it in a major competition. That's something he'd like to change at his Grand Prix assignments this fall.

"Last year [the quad] was getting better after NHK Trophy and I was like, 'Why don't we put it in my programs at nationals?'" he remembered. "Peter said, 'You haven't been doing it this season, it would be a big gamble.' So this season I think we'll do it for Cup of China and NHK Trophy so by the time nationals come I've already done it twice.

"Right now [the quad] is pretty consistent, sometimes it will be on, and sometimes it will be off. But I'm actually kind of glad with the progression, because I want it to be completely consistent in November, January and then March."

Carriere also plans to up his performance intensity this season; to that end, he and choreographer Jamie Isley have created two new programs that, he hopes, will show off his new maturity.

"A lot of U.S. officials, and actually ISU too when they've done their roundtables after competitions, have wanted to see more maturity from me," he said. "There is no excuse, I'm getting older, and [many] mature skaters have that feeling in their performances and more facial expression."

His short is set to Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" and his free skate is to music from Igor Stravinsky's Firebird.

At first, Carriere and his coaches thought they might keep last season's short to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," but "Mark heard this [Metallica] music, and we loved it, so we got a new short before a new long, even though our priority was a new long."

Searching for free skate music, they considered flamenco and selections from the ballet Spartacus, "but then Firebird came up and I thought, I could do really well with this, capture a feeling and show everybody how my skating has changed."

As a top-ten world skater, Carriere was not required to enter a summer competition. Instead, U.S. Figure Skating officials will visit his rink to monitor the new programs.

"Also, Skating Club of Boston [SCOB] has exhibitions on Friday nights, which kind of simulate competition, and I'll probably do a lot of them before Cup of China," he explained.

Mitchell and Johansson, who have won the PSA Developmental Coach of the Year honor three times, have a large stable of skaters, including U.S. novice silver medalist Ross Miner; top U.S. junior competitor Curran Oi; and 2008 Eastern Sectional champ Katrina Hacker, among others. Until last season, former U.S. pewter medalist Scott Smith also trained there -- he has since moved to Salt Lake City to work with Stephanee Grosscup. But Carriere is clearly king of the rink.

"The skating scene on SCOB has changed so much," he said. "I was the younger skater for so long and now I'm the oldest skater. Most of the other skaters are younger.

"I don't really work off any of them. When Scott Smith was training there, that's who I emulated and pushed to work as hard as. He was older, more experienced. Without Scott here, I'm still okay, because I'm kind of a 120 percent person."

Between practicing his quad and laying down two new programs, Carriere finds time to attend Boston College, just 15 minutes from his rink.

"I just finished with my macroeconomics class and now I'm taking microeconomics; next semester I'm starting with another two classes. It's manageable, a perfect fit," he said.

"In the fall I'm taking two more cases, but when it comes to the Olympic year I'm probably not going to take any classes. All my focus needs to be on training."

The workaholic allows himself a few summer pleasures, including trips to the beach each weekend and such television shows as Gossip Girl, America's Top Model and So You Think You Can Dance.

"When I do have downtime during week I mostly rest because I have to kind of regain my strength for the next day," he said, "We're doing three [on-ice] sessions, off ice, power and edge classes, ballet, really packing it all in. It's exhausting."