Vise, Trent set sights on making world team

Pair adds Olympic medalist Jill Watson to coaching team

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent landed the first ever throw quadruple Salchow in competition at the Trophée Eric Bompard in 2007.
Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent landed the first ever throw quadruple Salchow in competition at the Trophée Eric Bompard in 2007. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(08/22/2008) - Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent are known for a single historic moment: landing the sport's first-ever competitive throw quadruple jump at last fall's Trophée Eric Bompard.

And just in case the memory of that glorious Salchow ever fades, there's a reminder in front of them each time they step onto the ice at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"They put up a ten-foot mural, really a permanent fixture, of Tiffany and I that says 'home of the first quadruple throw,'" the 28-year-old Trent said. "It's really exciting, really cool. Everyone here at the rink has been wonderful to us."

Proud as they are of their achievement, the couple is now striving to perfect other aspects of their skating.

"Of course, we're still working on the quad, and we plan on doing it," Trent explained. "But we've been working on the overall packaging and gaining more consistency on the jumps, too. Our goal is to skate solid programs all season."

After strong performances last fall, that consistency eluded Trent and his 22-year-old partner at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where missed jumps left them in fourth place and off the world team. It's a storyline the duo is determined to change, and they're leaving no stone unturned to achieve their goal.

For starters, in April, they added Jill Watson, who won the 1988 Olympic pairs bronze medal with Peter Oppegard, to their coaching team.

"We're actually being co-coached by Jill and Doug [Ladret] now; we spend two days a week in Peoria, about a half-hour drive from here," Trent said.

They also spent a week this summer in California training with veteran pairs coach John Nicks and two of his most celebrated pupils, three-time U.S. pair champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.

"It's great to have different people look at us, because everyone sees something different," Vise said. "Someone might look at the way you go into an element and think it looks great, and someone else might notice something. All these coaches help with the detail work. We want to be national champions, and we know it's going to come down to the details."

Paired up in July 2003 in Colorado Springs by former coach Irina Vorobieva, Vise and Trent moved to Scottsdale in 2005 to train under Ladret, a former Canadian pair champion. Julie Patterson, the Director of Skating and Programming at the Alltel facility and a long-time Ice Capades performer, also works with the couple.

The two are a "mirror" team, meaning that they jump and spin in opposite directions. This hasn't worked in their favor, as judges generally favor the symmetry of same-direction teams.

"Jill has brought us the perspective of opposite skating, because she and Peter skated mirror," Trent said. "Also the female perspective for Tiffany, and it's been great for me too, [learning about] all the little things, the toe turnout and the hand placement, the way you look at your partner, the finishing touches."

"Having a female coach has definitely helped a lot," Vise agreed. "Especially since Jill's height difference with Peter was the same as mine is with Derek. We're about a foot apart. [Vise is five feet tall; Trent stands six feet.] So she definitely can help me with lifts, take-offs and twists -- everything like that."

The couple needs the insight, because after skating their free for two seasons to music from Les Misérables, they're tackling two new programs. Both were choreographed in Colorado Springs by Sandy Hess and former U.S. ice dance champion Renee Roca.

"We're trying to do mature programs this year that are very strong and portray a story that's not as easy to understand as Les Miz," Trent said.

"The short is to 'Sweet Remembrance of You,' by [pianist and songwriter] William Joseph. It came out just the week before we chose it, on Joseph's new CD [Beyond]. We tried to bring a softer image to the short program, a more balletic feel, while still using the athleticism which is our strength."

For their long, they turned to Joseph's "Heroes" and "Return with Honor."

"The two programs are very different," Trent said. "In the long, we're dynamic and strong, yet still able to relate to one another."

"We wanted to go into this season being athletic but also raising our program component scores," Vise added. "We've never done these types of programs with each another before. We wanted something where everyone is going to go, 'Wow, this is a beautiful program.'"

The skaters will debut both routines next week at the All Year FSC's 2008 Golden West Championships in Culver City, Calif. They are scheduled to compete at Skate Canada and the Trophée Eric Bompard this fall.

All the talk about refining their style doesn't mean the throw quad Salchow won't figure into Vise and Trent's plans. As one of the few teams in the world to include the move -- Russians Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov are another -- the element has a base value of eight points, which could help make the difference in many competitions.

"We've been working on the consistency, and it's improving," Trent said. "We're also working on our other jumps. Our goal right now is [to do] triple toe and double Axel in our free. Last year, we did triple toe and double Lutz-double toe, so we're trying to step it up with the second jump."

"For sure, the quad is definitely going to be in the [free] program," Vise agreed. "We're going to put it as the second throw in the program, more towards the middle. I want to do the throw triple loop first to get my feet under myself."

With upgraded jumps, the quad throw and more polished choreography, Vise and Trent are confident they can make their first U.S. world team. The top two pairs at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland will qualify for the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles.

"We feel like if we skate to our potential and do the elements we are incorporating into our programs, we can make it a reality," Trent said.