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Zhang hopes to prove she's a contender

'Pearl spinner' focuses on jumps, consistency

Caroline Zhang is focused on improving her elements for the upcoming season.
Caroline Zhang is focused on improving her elements for the upcoming season. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(08/01/2011) - For Caroline Zhang, things haven't always worked out exactly as predicted. When she won the 2007 World Junior Championships and the 2006-07 Junior Grand Prix Final, many people anointed her the next big thing in U.S. ladies figure skating in line with Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan. When she took home bronze at the 2009 U.S. Championships, she seemed to be on the path to stardom.

Unfortunately, she wasn't spared from the on-ice growing pains experienced by many skaters her age. She is often criticized for the lack of high speed in the execution of elements, and a string of coaching changes may not have helped her development. Since last year, Zhang has worked with Peter Oppegard, the coach who also works with the Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim.

Even in the midst of these minor struggles, Zhang has shown flashes of the dazzling skater she may soon become on a more consistent basis. She has already made a big contribution to figure skating by inventing a new spin that her mother calls the "Pearl Spin," a cross between a catch-foot layback spin and a Biellmann spin. In this spin, the free leg is brought up to waist-height and the free blade is grasped with both hands. This spin has become Zhang's signature.

Icenetwork.com talked with Caroline Zhang about her upcoming challenges, summer preparation and hopes for the new season.

Icenetwork: Caroline, last season wasn't easy for you. What can you tell us about it?

Caroline Zhang: Last season was hard for me; I was trying to make a lot of changes, and it was a little confusing for me.

Icenetwork: In your opinion, what was the main cause of instability in performances in your past season?

Zhang: The changes in my technique made my jumps inconsistent and that affected my confidence in my competitions throughout the season.

Icenetwork: What have you done to change the situation for the coming season?

Zhang: I have been focusing on my jumps and consistency.

Icenetwork: And how's your summer preparation going in general?

Zhang: I think that training this summer has been going well. I am happy with how I am doing right now.

Icenetwork: Could you tell us about your new programs?

Zhang: I have a new short ("The Rushing Wings of Dawn" by Tim Janis, choreographer: David Wilson), and it is to classical music, and I really like it. I am keeping my long, and I am hoping I can show more emotion in my programs this year.

Icenetwork: What do you think about new faces and competitors coming up from the junior ranks?

Zhang: There is a lot of talent coming up from junior, and it will be exciting to see them all in senior.

Icenetwork: Before skating you was successful in ballet classes and piano. Is it helpful in your present career?

Zhang: I think ballet has helped me a lot in skating, and piano has helped as well, as it helps me connect with the music better.

Icenetwork: Many people are interested in your innovative Pearl Spin. Will you keep this element in your new season's programs?

Zhang: I invented the Pearl [Spin] a few years ago, and I love trying new spins, and I will be keeping it in my programs this year as well.

Icenetwork: Will we see some new elements in your programs in the upcoming skating year?

Zhang: No, I am mainly focusing on the elements I have now.

Icenetwork: A few words about your main goals for the coming season.

Zhang: I hope to skate to the best of my abilities and show that I can be a contender again.