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Castelli, Shnapir return to competition at Mid Atlantics

Favot continues impressive summer run

Marissa Castelli, who suffered a frightening injury earlier this summer, was back on the ice with partner Simon Shnapir at Mid Atlantics.
Marissa Castelli, who suffered a frightening injury earlier this summer, was back on the ice with partner Simon Shnapir at Mid Atlantics. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(09/14/2009) - The 2009 Middle Atlantic Figure Skating Championships, held at Chelsea Piers in New York last weekend, marked a return to competition for Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, who won a bronze medal at junior worlds in February.

The pair didn't skate their best, missing key elements and placing second overall to Jessica Crenshaw and Chad Tsagris of Greece. But Castelli, who narrowly escaped major injury after a scary practice collision early this summer, is happy just to be back on the ice.

"I was skating [at Skating Club of Boston] with Simon; we were going backwards, and this Italian boy who had come over to Boston to train was skating backward also. We had a collision and when we fell, I landed on his blade," the 19-year-old skater said.

"I got an incision on my upper inner thigh and had to get rushed to the hospital. It was not a really painful experience, but it was a big bummer."

The injury, which required many internal and external stitches as well as physical therapy, took Castelli off the ice for four weeks, costing the pair training time and the chance to compete at both Liberty Open and Indy Pairs Challenge.

"It's a huge setback," said the team's coach, Bobby Martin. "They were getting ready for the summer competitions and getting feedback on what they were doing. They've added a lot of difficulty to their programs, the choreography is more intricate, there are new elements -- it's a big transition year for them."

Last season, the petite Castelli and her 6-foot-4 partner, who was born in Moscow but emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was an infant, placed third in juniors at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Castelli calls their world junior medal "amazing; we didn't really think about the podium. We just wanted to skate well and we came back with a medal. It was a surprise in a way, but it really wasn't, because we were training well. We had the lifts and throws."

Now, they're taking steps to improve their side-by-side elements.

"This is the first season we've put double Axels in the short and triple Salchows in the long," Shnapir, 22, said. "It's a big step up. Peter [Johansson] and Mark [Mitchell] are working with us on the jumps.

"We have to go out and skate clean programs and really work on our skills -- skating faster, getting down in the knees."

The team completed triple Salchows in their free skate here to Michael W. Smith's "Freedom Battle" and the Elizabeth: the Golden Age soundtrack while missing several moves they usually complete with relative ease. They also showed off a new entrance to their death spirals, with Castelli gaining a near Biellmann position.

"They changed the rules a little bit, so we decided we would try harder things, stretch the boundaries and get a new death spiral," Castelli said.

"Marissa brings a lot to the table that makes them incredibly unique," Martin added. "Certainly her flexibility allows her to get into some pretty crazy positions, and we try to use that as much as we can. She's so creative she comes up with three quarters of that stuff herself."

Castelli and Shnapir now train full-time at Skating Club of Boston, where in addition to Martin, they are coached by Carrie Wall and 1980 Olympian Sheryl Franks, who choreographs their programs.

"We're very fortunate to have such a strong coaching team," Shnapir said. "We all get along so well. The support we get in that environment is crucial."

Now, it's back to the rink to prepare for their senior Grand Prix debut, scheduled for Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris next month.

"They have a little catching up to do, and emotionally it's harder than anything," Martin said. "That's the challenge they have right now. They came from such a high and were looking great and then they had this huge setback, and now their window has shortened up a bit."

Favot continues summer run
Daniela-Bella Favot, fourth at Canadian juniors last season, celebrated her 18th birthday by edging out Georgian Elene Gedevanishvili, tenth at the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, to win senior ladies with 133.34 points.

The Windsor, Ontario, native won the short with a triple loop-double toe combination. In her free skate to music from Turandot, choreographed by Nikolai Morozov, she did a triple loop and triple Salchow-double toe before falling on her second triple Salchow. Overall, she earned 133.34 points, taking the win by just .8.

A few weeks ago, she earned a combined 129.79 points at the Moran Memorial competition.

"The [free skate] felt good. I just have to go back and work harder, and next time I'll get that second Salchow," Favot, who trains under Craig Maurizi in Hackensack, N.J., said.

Favot and her mother, Paola, live in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J. Her grandmother is visiting from Italy for several weeks to celebrate Daniela's birthday and watch her compete.

"I love training in New Jersey; it's very exciting and very motivating," the skater said. "I love where I train. It keeps me focused and it's good to see a lot of good skaters."

The Canadian teen shares the ice with Angela Maxwell, who recently won the silver medal at the Hungary Junior Grand Prix, Japanese champion Nobunari Oda and 2007 world champ Miki Ando, among many others.

"I look up to Miki. She works really hard and she pushes me," Favot said. Despite her impressive summer, Favot is not scheduled to compete internationally this fall. Skate Canada sets a 120-point standard for junior Grand Prix entrants, a score she only recently attained.

"The point barrier was achieved by several of the other Canadian girls prior to Daniela breaking it this season," Maurizi explained. "Plus the other girls have previous experience on the junior Grand Prix circuit. It's a fair process, they had to pick someone. Canada only earned six spots on the junior Grand Prix this year.

"She's got a good program, getting great reviews, lots of high points. We still have our fingers crossed [for the junior Grand Prix], there are a couple of events to go, and she's on the substitute list."

Maurizi added the teen is working on perfecting additional triple jumps.

"We're absolutely going to add more triples. I'm not a believer in trying anything that you're not comfortable with," he said. "She's landing triple toe loops in practice. Triple flips, we're still trying to get into the mix."

Favot's next scheduled event is the Western Ontario Sectional Championships in Sarnia, Ontario, Nov. 12-15.

Gedevanishvili, who earned 132.54 points, won the free skate with her fiery interpretation of Carmen, including a triple Lutz; triple toe-double toe; and three Level 4 elements. She placed second overall. Samantha Cesario was third with 125.13 and Israel's Tamar Katz fourth with 120.16.

Murakami preps for NHK Trophy
Daisuke Murakami, fifth in Japan last season, impressed with an exciting short program set to a techno-hip hop version of music from West Side Story.

"It's a special composition, based on West Side Story," said Morozov, who coaches the skater in Hackensack. "It's from the same [arranger] that did [former student] Daisuke Takahashi's Swan Lake."

Murakami's short, which earned 72.92 points, featured a triple Lutz combination, a slightly over rotated triple Axel and triple flip. His superb circle steps earned Level 3, and two of his three spins took Level 4. His only big error was failing to complete his closing combination spin, dropping it to Level 1.

"That was my fault," Morozov said. "I have to re-do the end of the program."

The Japanese skater's free, set to music from composer Hans Zimmer (The Rock and Pirates of the Caribbean), was not as polished. He hit a triple Lutz-double toe and triple Axel, before falling on a second triple Axel and completing five more triples. He earned 114.49 and first place overall with 187.4.

"The Japanese federation assigned me to NHK," Murakami said. "I want to do two senior B internationals to get ready. I've been practicing both my quads [toe and Salchow] in training but I want my other jumps to be consistent before I put quads in the programs."

Jason Wong, who placed 17th at the 2009 U.S. Championships, was second with 170.22 points. He had a fine free skate, including a strong opening triple Axel. Former U.S. novice champion Colin Pennington was third with 130.67.

More notes from Mid Atlantics
Megan Williams-Stewart, who placed tenth at the U.S. Championships in 2005 and 2006, was eighth with 88.66 points. She plans to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy later this month and hopes to qualify an Olympic spot for Puerto Rico.

"I [applied] to compete for Puerto Rico about a year and a half ago," she said. "My mother has family [in Puerto Rico], and we have a house there. There are actually two rinks in Puerto Rico; neither of them are full size, though. There's talk of building another, so that nationals could take place in the country."

Joelle Forte, 12th at the 2009 U.S. Championships, also hopes to qualify for the Olympics with a strong showing at Nebelhorn. (Forte did not compete at Mid Atlantics.) The 23-year-old Fordham University student will compete for Azerbaijan pending ISU approval.

"Azerbaijan has completed all of the applications, organized all of the papers, and is delivering the package this week," Forte's coach, Dmitri Gromov, said. "It isn't just Joelle, it's for the senior man [Canadian Fedor Andreev] as well."