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Cesario's 'Carmen' shines in group B short

New York skater overcomes back injury; Phaneuf sits second

Mary Lynn Gelderman credits pupil Samantha Cesario's success to her intense off-ice training.
Mary Lynn Gelderman credits pupil Samantha Cesario's success to her intense off-ice training. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/16/2011) - Samantha Cesario, who withdrew from the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a back injury, launched an impressive comeback with a sparkling short program that won senior ladies group B.

The elegant 17-year-old's Carmen short featured smooth, emphatic landings on her triple Lutz-double toe combination, triple flip and double Axel, although her Lutz received an "e" call from the technical panel.

Two Level 4 spins -- a high flying sit spin and a closing combination spin with a full split position -- added to her total of 52.07 points.

"It felt great," Cesario said. "I've been on and off [the ice] because of my back injury. I've had to deal with a stress fracture; I had a cortisone shot."

Cesario put her time off the ice to good use by working out with a new trainer.

"I think I've improved my jumps a lot," she said.

"I've had downgrades once in a while, and it's just so frustrating because you think you're doing the jumps well. I'm trying to get the jumps as big as possible. My coach, Peter Burrows, has been working on that with me."

Cesario's other coach, Mary Lynn Gelderman, also credits off-ice training with giving her skater a new lease on life.

"She was off the ice for a while, but she kept her body in shape, and she bounced right back," said Gelderman, who trains Cesario in Monsey, N.Y. "She has been training full-out for three weeks now and is really doing well."

Cesario, who competed at the Junior Grand Prix Romania last season, hopes for an international assignment this fall.

"My main goals are to get a JGP and to place top five at nationals," she said. "If I get JGP [assignments], I hope to make the final."

On Saturday, Cesario will debut her new free skate to a "Black Swan" medley, including music from the recent movie and selections from Swan Lake.

"An entire program based on the movie, that would be a little too dark for skating," she said.

Cynthia Phaneuf, 13th at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, opened her stylish flamenco program with a strong double Axel but fell on her triple Lutz before rebounding with a solid triple loop. It was the first time the Canadian champion executed the jump in her short program. She sits second with 50.19 points.

"We changed [from triple toe] to loop, to take a little bit more risk and bring something new to the program, which is the same as last season," Phaneuf said. "I always keep my programs for two seasons, so next season I will get new programs for Sochi [Olympics].

"Of course, I cannot fall on the Lutz. I have to land it."

Yasmin Siraj, who trains at the Skating Club of Boston under Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, placed third with a charming program choreographed by Jamie Isley to Ravel's "Daphnis et Chloe."

The 14-year-old opened with a triple toe-triple toe combination, but the second jump was downgraded by the technical panel. While her triple Lutz was under-rotated, she floated through a challenging step sequence and gained Level 4 for three spins, earning 49.43 points.

"It was my first competition doing triple toe-triple toe, and I'm glad I tried it," Siraj said. "The first toe was a little scratchy but I tried to pull it off."

Siraj and her choreographer came up with a useful device to help the skater interpret Ravel's delicate piece.

"I'm pretending I'm a bird," the skater said. "[The music] has nothing to do with birds, but it's very light, so we tried to incorporate the idea of a bird into the choreography."

"Last year, Yasmin did a Hungarian folk short; this year, we wanted something more mature," Johansson added.