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Musademba, Forte win short programs at Liberty

Gilles finishes just back in group A; Maxwell second in B

Kristine Musademba celebrates her first-place short program in Aston, Pa., with Uschi Keszler, who choreographed the winning performance.
Kristine Musademba celebrates her first-place short program in Aston, Pa., with Uschi Keszler, who choreographed the winning performance. (Liz Leamy)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/17/2009) - The offseason was work, work, work for the top finishers in senior ladies group A at the 2009 Liberty Summer Competition, and it showed in their polished, confident programs.

"I'm just really happy with the way I skated," said winner Kristine Musademba, who won two Junior Grand Prix events last season. "I actually had the chance to train for Liberty this year, and I think that's why I had a better showing."

The 16-year-old hit an opening triple Lutz and triple flip-double toe combination in her short to Debussy's "Clair de lune," choreographed by Uschi Keszler. She received Level 4s for both her step sequence and flying sit spin combination and scored 52.84 points.

"I'm working really hard to be the best I can be, in both practices and competition," said Musademba, who trains under Traci Coleman in the Washington, D.C., area.

"I think I have a Junior Grand Prix [event], but I don't know where yet, so I want to be 100-percent ready."

Alexe Gilles, who won the U.S. junior title in 2008, showed off a mature, flowing style in her short, choreographed by David Wilson to Cinderella.

The 17-year-old opened with a solid triple Lutz-double toe, but she doubled her triple flip. She placed second with 52.22 points.

"I really like the work David [Wilson] did choreographing this program. I love the music," said Gilles, who trains under Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin at Colorado Springs' World Arena.

"This performance was a good base. We've been working on pushing everything out, making [my movements] bigger to the eye. Those little details go a long way. Also, I'm trying to get more consistent with everything."

Kristiene Gong shone in her short to "One Summer Day," choreographed by Philip Mills, but lost ground when her triple flip was downgraded by the technical panel. She placed third with 49.66 points.

"One of my friends knows a lot of music, and I was looking for a new short, and she showed it to me on YouTube. It's actually Japanese," Gong said of her music.

The 16-year-old, who placed fourth in juniors at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Championships, trains under 1982 world champion Elaine Zayak in Hackensack, N.J.

"This is the first competition where she's done both the short and long, so I was a little nervous," Zayak said.

"She's much stronger this season. We've just been training, training, training, doing run-throughs and practicing the jumps to the music. I told her, 'You need your [triple] flip and Lutz. Do really well here, and maybe you'll get a Junior Grand Prix [assignment].' That really motivated her."

Kate Charbonneau was fourth with 40.90 points.

Forte keeps getting better and better
By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com

Experience triumphed in the senior ladies group B short program, as Joelle Forte beat out younger contenders with a solid performance to music from the soundtrack of Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

The 23-year-old Fordham University junior executed her choreography with the confidence and elegance of a seasoned competitor. She reeled off a triple Lutz-double toe combination and a double Axel, but she had to fight for the landing edge on her triple Salchow, which caused some negative Grades of Execution from the judges.

Forte's connecting steps were also first rate, and, despite a slight wobble on her flying sit spin, she earned 50.50 points.

"I felt good about the jumps. I haven't seen myself [on video] since nationals, but I've worked very hard on them," said Forte, who was 12th at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"I'm always a little nervous when I start, but, once the music begins, I feel confident."

Forte was recently removed from U.S. Figure Skating's reserve envelope, sparking speculation that she is planning to compete for another country. The skater said she is not ready to announce her plans, beyond vowing that she is not planning to retire.

Angela Maxwell, eighth at the 2009 U.S. Championships, placed second on Friday with a dramatic and energetic interpretation of "Go Tan Project" and "Libertango" that earned 46.20 points.

Maxwell scored pluses for her superb Axel. Her triple toe-double toe combination, layback spin and straight-line step sequence were also strong. She lost ground by doubling her triple flip.

The 16-year-old skater felt her performance was a step in the right direction.

"I've been working really hard on the in-between skating and on maturing my presence, and I feel I'm starting to grow into a whole different look, which is exciting," she said.

In recent months, Maxwell, who trains in Hacksensack, N.J., under former ice dance competitor Olga Orlova, has spent much of her time working on her connecting steps.

"Olga is picky about every movement, and she makes sure I do it right," she said. "It's a lot of work."

Orlova is currently in France, trying out a possible dance partnership with Mathieu Jost. However, she plans to return to Hackensack to continue coaching Maxwell. Craig Maurizi accompanied Maxwell to Liberty.

Melissa Bulanhagui was third with 42.53 points. She attempted a triple Axel-double toe combination, but the triple was downgraded. She also popped her triple Lutz but made up ground with a Level 3 layback spin and a Level 3 step sequence.

Jenna Syken, who represents Israel, placed fourth with 36.52 points for her engaging rendition of Santana's "Europa."