Skaters gather in Pennsylvania for Liberty Open

Chan, Bradley and Wagner expected to head up senior fields

Patrick Chan has withdrawn from the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia, next week.
Patrick Chan has withdrawn from the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia, next week. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(07/14/2009) - Skaters are gathering at the IceWorks Skating Complex in Aston, Pa., for the eighth annual Liberty Summer Competition, hosted by the Liberty Figure Skating Club of Philadelphia. The non-qualifying event is a chance to perform new programs, gain feedback and make necessary changes before national qualifying events and international competitions, including the junior and senior Grand Prix assignments.

Among the men scheduled to compete: reigning world silver medalist Patrick Chan, who is expected to debut a new program, choreographed by Lori Nichol to selections from Phantom of the Opera, in the senior men's free skate event; 2009 U.S. pewter medalist Ryan Bradley; 2008 U.S. bronze medalist Stephen Carriere; 2009 U.S. junior champion Ross Miner; 2009 U.S. junior silver medalist Keegan Messing; and Armin Mahbanoozadeh, who finished second at last season's Junior Grand Prix Final.

"This summer has been as intense as ever," said Carriere, who will perform a new short program to "Carmina Burana" and last season's free to Stravinsky's Firebird.

"Summer is when you get that good foundation training your programs. Not going to worlds [this year] was tough to swallow, but it gave me more time to go home and get down to the basics, work on my triple Axel and triple-triple combinations [Lutz-toe and flip-toe]. I want to see the [triple] toe in those combinations more optimal and ideal."

Carriere, who placed a disappointing ninth at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, has also been working on a new entrance to his triple Axel, which failed him at a few key moments last season.

"I had a lot more negative grades of execution on the Axel [than in 2007-2008]. It was a little inconsistent, so I've been working on new technique for the take-off," he said. "I used to go into it with a half circle. Now I'm trying to get that step and skid, gain consistency. I need to bring out the fire. The past year was muffled. I'm taking nothing for granted."

For three of last season's top U.S. juniors -- Miner, Mahbanoozadeh and Messing -- It's an early opportunity to compete as seniors.

"It's important Armin feels confident competing at this new level," Traci Coleman, Mahbanoozadeh's coach, said. "U.S. Figure Skating [officials] are looking over the programs for competition readiness, including levels [of elements] and program components."

Mahbanoozadeh will perform two new programs, a short to "Virtuoso" by violinist Edvin Marton and a free to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. Nathan Birch, his choreographer of four years, created both.

On the senior ladies side, Ashley Wagner, who won the free skate at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Championships and placed fourth overall, is expected to compete. Her new short program is set to selections from the Once Upon a Time in America soundtrack. She may square off against 2008 U.S. junior champion Alexe Gilles, who placed ninth at the 2009 U.S. Championships; Kristine Musademba, who placed 11th; and Joelle Forte, who was 12th.

Forte, who recently competed at the Chesapeake Open in Maryland, is excited to show a new triple in her repertoire -- the flip.

"Last season at the Moran [Memorial Competition] was pretty much the first time I tried the triple flip. After that, though, I concentrated on my other jumps and having two [triple] Lutzes in my long," the 23-year-old skater said.

"I accomplished those other jumps, and now I want to do a little more. [The flip] is consistent in practice, and I got full credit for it at Chesapeake. I'm still working out the kinks, but I'm really hoping to put good programs out there."

The skater will perform last season's short to the Mr. and Mrs. Smith soundtrack and a new free program choreographed by Evgeni Platov to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.

U.S. Skating recently announced that Forte was removed from the reserve envelope. The skater said she hopes to compete this season for another country but is not ready to announce her plans.

"I'm definitely not retiring," Forte said. "The way I look at it is [that] a skating career is so short, especially when you're older and you have other things going on. I took big leaps last year, and I want to continue until I absolutely feel I can't go any further and can't improve any more."

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, fourth at the 2009 U.S. Championships, head up the senior pairs event. In addition, reigning U.S. junior champions Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau are expected to make their senior debut. Both teams train under PSA Developmental Coach of the Year Jim Peterson in Ellenton, Fla.

The event makes for a busy week at IceWorks, a four-rink facility located in a quiet Philadelphia suburb.

"We anticipate about 750 entrants, down a bit from last year, probably because of the economy," Joey Suchodolski, IceWorks' figure skating director, said.

"U.S. Figure Skating will be doing [competition-ready] evaluations for the skaters and three seminars for the younger [juvenile and intermediate] skaters. There will also be meetings and seminars for envelope skaters being considered for international events."

Check for reports and off-ice photos later this week.

UPDATE (07/17/09): Carriere withdrew from the senior men's event.