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Ladies continue to impress at Moran Memorial

Gedevanishvili, Wagner in fine form

Ashley Wagner took second in the free skate at the Moran Memorial Championships.
Ashley Wagner took second in the free skate at the Moran Memorial Championships. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/30/2009) - If their free skates at the Moran Memorial on Saturday give any hint, Elene Gedevanishvili and Ashley Wagner mean business.

Both skaters were in nifty form, showing programs well-developed for so early in the season.

The 19-year-old Gedevanishvili is following in the steps of Katarina Witt, Debi Thomas and, more recently, Mao Asada with her interpretation of Carmen. She's not alone. Mirai Nagasu, too, is taking a stab at Bizet's fiery heroine this Olympic season.

Robin Wagner, who trains Gedevanishvili at Hackensack's Ice House, grappled with the familiar choice.

"I thought about it 50 times. Do we really want to do Carmen?" she said. "But Elene said she always wanted to skate to it, and if an athlete is really committed to the music, that's half the battle. I felt she could really get into the character and actually be the character."

"I love it," Gedevanishvili said. "It's so different. I tried to do it two years [ago], but I wasn't old enough. I'm glad I waited for the Olympic year."

The skater, whose 10th-place finish at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships earned two Olympic ladies' spots for Georgia, opened with a Lutz and triple toe-double toe combination. She also hit two triple Salchows, one in combination with a double toe, but didn't try a flip.

"It's a strategic move. Her flip is big and consistent, but at times, it changes edge [from inside to outside] a bit," Wagner said. "It's a hard call. The edge deduction can really hurt you. We'll have to work on it and think about it as the season progresses."

Gedevanishvili earned 98.86 points, placing first in the free by .71.

Wagner debuted her new free program choreographed by Irina Romanova to Borodin's "Polovetsian Dances."

Quickly recovering from a fall on an opening triple flip, Wagner did five other triples, including a triple flip-double Axel sequence that racked up 8.25 points.

"Obviously, it wasn't my best yet," Wagner said. "I've only had a week solid training with it, and my stamina is not where I want it to be, so under pressure there were some mistakes.

"I wanted to get it out there and do the best I could. I'm not supposed to be at my peak now. I have plenty of time to get there. There are things I can easily improve on."

Romanova, a former ice dance competitor, works with many of Priscilla Hill and Karl Kurtz's pupils, including Wagner, Stephen Carriere, Shaun Rogers and Austrian champion Viktor Pfeifer.

"This is Irina's baby. She drew on a lot of Russian folklore to tell a story," Wagner said. "She was really excited to turn this program into something authentic and something that she loves. I know that she is so proud of what she created, and I'm happy I can help show that to everyone else."

"Pretty much [the program] is about her, about how she can become a stronger skater and stronger person through the program," Romanova added. "When I work on it, I'm trying to give her images to think of when she does the moves. This program is so new, you may not be able to see all of the details, but I think we have a good base and in a few weeks it will be even better."

Daniela-Bella Favot, fourth at Canadian juniors last season, skated an inspired free to music from Turandot, choreographed by Nikolai Morozov.

"It was nice to finally go out and do in competition, what I do everyday in practice," Favot, 17, said. "It felt good."

The Windsor, Ontario, native, who trains with Craig Maurizi at the Ice House, opened her program with a solid triple loop and triple Salchow-double toe combination and hit three big double Axels. Her spins and spirals also shone, and she earned 93.81 points to take third place.

"I'm planning to compete as a senior at Canadians this year," said Favot, who has been named as an alternate for a Junior Grand Prix event. "I just have to work harder all the time."

Ksenia Makarova hit two strong triple Salchows, both in combination, and was fourth with 86.43 points.

Samantha Cesario had an expressive performance to "Dark Eyes," but all four of her triples were downgraded by the technical panel. Still, she landed a solid double Axel- double Axel sequence as well as a level 4 spiral sequence and closing flying sit spin. She placed fifth with 79.16 points.

"I really loved Sasha Cohen's program when she did "Dark Eyes," and I wanted it for a long program," Cesario said. "She's one of my favorite skaters."

Joelle Forte, who placed third in the short, was sixth in the free skate. She opened her free with a triple loop and triple Lutz-double toe combination, but fell on a second triple Lutz and stumbled during her straight-line steps.

Rogers reels off quad toe
On the men's side, Wagner's training mate, Rogers, electrified the crowd at the start of his program to music from Rush by reeling off a quad toe-double Axel sequence (worth 11.64 points) followed by a triple Axel-double toe and triple Lutz.

The 24-year-old skater, who placed 12th at 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, also had two level 4 spins and a fine straight-line sequence to earn 131.29 points and the top spot in the free skate.

"I had the one mistake on the second triple Axel, and I didn't do the second quad [substituting a triple toe], because I wanted it to be as clean a program as possible," Rogers said.

"I didn't feel too tired to do a second quad. Whatever my next competition is, whether I get a senior B or go straight to [Eastern] sectionals, I want to do a second quad."

Carriere, the 2007 world junior champion, who trains with Wagner and Rogers in Wilmington, Del., popped an opening triple Axel but recovered with a triple flip-double toe-double toe combination in his free skate to Stravinsky's Firebird. He earned 120.80 points for second place. He had previously won the short program.