Dornbush tackles 'spaghetti western' film genre

Californian debuts new free at Champs Camp

Richard Dornbush hopes to attack this season's free skate with the same enthusiasm that earned him the silver medal in Greensboro.
Richard Dornbush hopes to attack this season's free skate with the same enthusiasm that earned him the silver medal in Greensboro. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(08/25/2011) - When Richard Dornbush debuts his free skate at U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp, he knows his storytelling abilities and skating skills will combine for an entertaining performance.

What he would like to do is add a quadruple toe loop to the mix.

"Sure, my big technical focus is the quad," Dornbush, who turns 20 on Aug. 27, said.

"If there is one thing we learned after this past world championships, it's that you have to have the technical and the component scores, not just one or the other. [Patrick] Chan and [Takahiko] Kozuka showed you need both."

Chan, the reigning world champion, and Kozuka, who won world silver, hit quads at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow, with Chan executing a total of three in his two programs.

Those skaters are also known for their deft footwork, flowing edges and performance quality -- attributes the U.S. silver medalist, who placed ninth at his worlds' debut in Moscow, has already demonstrated.

Last season, his Sherlock Holmes free skate led him to victory at the Junior Grand Prix Final and also won the free skate at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"I've always been very happy with the levels [my elements] have gained," he said. "There have been a few little [rules] changes that have made it easier to get Level 4 footwork, and people have gotten it this summer, so that's definitely a goal for me.

"Plus, there is always room to work on the GOE's [grades of execution] and get more points that way."

Still, Dornbush and his longtime coach, Tammy Gambill -- who has taught him since he first stepped on to the ice for a group lesson more than 13 years ago -- know a quad would help solidify the skater as a world medal threat.

"The quad is going okay," Gambill, who trains her skaters in Riverside, Calif., said. "He will hit some, miss some.

"Last year, I said he rented it but did not own it yet. At this point, he still doesn't own it yet. We are going to try it here at Champs Camp in the long and then try it again at Golden West [Competition, Aug. 31-Sept. 4]. If it goes well, he may do it at Skate America [Oct. 21-23] as well."

Dornbush and Gambill turned to choreographer Cindy Stuart, who created Sherlock Holmes again this season for both the skater's short program and free skate.

Stuart and Dornbush chose an electric guitar version of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons" -- Dornbush calls it "a working man's blues" -- for the short, and a medley of Enrico Morricone's Spaghetti Western soundtracks and Rossini's "The Lone Ranger" for the free.

"Ricky competed the short it at Escondido [at July's Hidden Valley Open] after we had just finished it," Gambill said. "We wanted more experience with it, because the short was a bit of an issue last year. It was great until nationals and then in Greensboro it was rough.

"Cindy comes up with such creative ideas. At first, I wasn't sure about this new free, but I wasn't sure about Sherlock Holmes either, and it turned out to be phenomenal. We've had a good reaction to the free from local coaches and hopefully we'll get a good reaction here at Champs Camp. It helps that Ricky has a real passion for doing it."

Like many skaters who competed at the delayed 2011 worlds, Dornbush got a late start on his free.

"We didn't start working on the free until a few weeks after [Moscow]," Dornbush said. "Then Cindy had to do Disney on Ice. After that, we worked on it another couple of weeks. We probably finished it about a month and a half after Moscow.

"It's in the same vein as my free last season; it tells a story. I think it's the kind of program that will hopefully show my skating skills and maturity, as opposed to just the technical tricks."

Dornbush's mom, Shelley, designs her son's costumes, and this season's are still works in progress.

"Ricky's not playing a typical cowboy in his free; he researched the clothing of the [post-Civil War] era and place, right down to the type of tie," Gambill said.

"If we get any feedback here that's easy to fix, say on a costume or a spin, we're going to go home and work on it right away for Golden West. Otherwise, we'll take our time and get it right for Skate America."