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Big names shine at Golden West Championships

Flatt blows away ladies field in Southern California

Olympic hopeful Rachael Flatt continues to skate well, taking first at the Golden West Champs.
Olympic hopeful Rachael Flatt continues to skate well, taking first at the Golden West Champs. (Getty Images)

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By Lexi Rohner, special to icenetwork.com
(09/08/2009) - The past few days in Southern California have been hot, especially inside the ice arena. The All Year FSC hosted its annual Golden West Championships over the weekend to packed bleachers, as potential U.S. Olympic contenders skated at the important non-qualifying event.

Senior Ladies
Though it is early in the season, Rachael Flatt looked solid and prepared in her upbeat, Big Band-style short routine and bright yellow dress from last year's Breakfast at Tiffany's program. With good speed, Flatt landed a triple flip, double toe loop combination and a triple Lutz from a mohawk-crossover entry.

Originally from San Diego, Flatt has participated in the Golden West Championships periodically since she was five years old. As she enters her senior year of high school, Flatt states that she isn't changing her training for the Olympic season.

"I'll be running many programs and working hard," Flatt said. "If anything changes, I want to have more fun. I'm excited about everything!"

Flatt's free skate was clean and stunning, with a back spiral entry into a double Axel, and clear joy on her face as she performed her spiral sequence. Flatt's choreography, dramatic step sequence and charm did not disappoint, as she completed her free skate with a change-of-direction camel-catch foot-scratch spin and garnered 179.67 points to take the gold by 17.86 points over Mirai Nagasu.

With the exception of a fall on her triple Salchow, Nagasu performed a solid, graceful free skate to Carmen, achieving a level four with her spiral sequence. There was less characterization, interpretation and choreography compared to Nagasu's programs from the past two years, though her footwork roused the audience to enthusiastic claps, as did her flexible spin combination. The 16-year-old is grateful for what she calls "Frank's [Carroll] magic jump technique."

"I am very motivated when I skate with Evan Lysacek daily," said Nagasu, who is now being homeschooled. "The change was worth it."

Accumulating 152.34 points, Caroline Zhang placed third, failing to make a triple flip into a combination jump with an over-curved landing edge and stepping out on a double Axel in the short program. Zhang's free skate began with elegant moves, leading into a triple flip-double toe loop, and she also landed a triple Lutz, double toe loop and double Axel. A second triple flip had Zhang swinging her free leg wildly in the entry, causing a step-out landing. Zhang skipped a planned triple Salchow entirely, but she did land a triple loop and a triple loop-double toe loop-double loop combination, finishing the free skate with her trademark "pearl spin" into a Biellmann.

"I had some injuries and wasn't allowed to jump the past month, so it was hard to train," Zhang said.

Coaching changes were abundant as well this summer, as Zhang switched from Mingzhu Li to Charlene Wong and back to Li. Wong continues to work with Zhang on choreography.

Senior Men
The men's competition was surprising, as Douglas Razzano score of 193.05 points narrowly topped that of Canada's Kevin Reynolds by 2.66 points, though Reynolds won the free skate. Both men had strong programs, Razzano with strong, quiet edges and sharp presentation, Reynolds with wild hair and pulling the crowd along with him to a medley of classic rock music, including Led Zeppelin.

Razzano did sit down on two jumps and stepped out on a triple loop, but he performed a solid triple flip-double toe loop and exhibited fast spins. Razzano held a focused look throughout his program, as coach Doug Ladret watched approvingly from the boards. Reynolds popped a triple Salchow but landed solid double Axels.

Jeremy Ten, also from Canada, placed a distant third with 162.68 points, landing a double Axel, triple flip and a triple loop-double toe loop combination. Ten's overall program was lacking, with slow spins, a popped double Axel and triple flip, and a double loop instead of a triple.

Junior Men
Watch out, ladies! A new champion of hearts has arrived. Misha Ge, coached by his father, arrived in the United States just two months ago and took the audience by storm this weekend. Eighteen years old but looking much younger, this baby-faced phenom hit the ice with so much energy and emotion, one spectator was overheard to say, "I think he just out-Weired Johnny Weir!" Ge's clean, strong program was smooth, with incredibly fast footwork, raising the crowd to its feet as he finished. Scoring 160.67 points, Ge topped second-place finisher Christopher Caluza by 8.99 points.

Caluza, who pulled up to second from sixth after the short, was very pleased to have stayed focused.

"I felt energetic even though I fell, and I worked harder in the free skate because I knew I had another chance," said Caluza.

Dropping from second after the short to third overall was Sean Rabbitt, with a total point score of 151.58. Rabbitt's speed and strength were obvious the moment he stepped on the ice, with high jumps and a good line throughout. Rabbitt stepped out on a triple loop, but a touch-down on his triple toe loop did not prevent him from completing the double toe loop that followed it.

"I was determined to place," said Rabbit, who is in his third junior season. Also coached by Li, Rabbitt said he and Zhang push each other in practice.

A surprise crowd-pleaser was 11-year-old Nam Ngyuen from British Columbia, Canada. Half the size of his competitors, Nguyen is Canada's current novice champion, and he moved up to junior this season. Though falling on many jumps, Nguyen captivated the audience with his personality.

Junior Ladies
Lindsay Davis is taking to her second year skating junior. Davis, who placed first with 139.16 points, 2.03 points ahead of free-skate winner Vanessa Lam, is clear on her goals.

"I want to train hard, make it to nationals and then look for a pairs partner," Davis said.

Moving across the ice with profound expression, the 16-year-old Davis, who is coached by Tammy Gambill, looks to have a strong future.

In second place, Lam performed a huge double Axel, a clean, fast triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, a solid double flip and a high flying sit spin. In a word, she was explosive. Lam is one to watch.

The always bubbly Katlynn McNab exuded expression, though she had slow moments during her program. Moving up from seventh to third, McNab, also coached by Gambill, took one jump at a time.

"I felt confident today, and I wanted to enjoy every moment," said McNab, who finished with 110.04 points.