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Dornbush debuting new short at Skate America

Hometown skater hopes to make mark at first Grand Prix event

Ricky Dornbush is excited to be making his Grand Prix Series debut at Skate America.
Ricky Dornbush is excited to be making his Grand Prix Series debut at Skate America. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/18/2011) - There's a last-minute change in Ricky Dornbush's Skate America plans.

When the U.S. silver medalist hits the ice at 2011 Skate America in Ontario, Calif., he will debut a new short program choreographed last month by Justin Dillon.

"My long program [set to Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western movie themes] has gotten great feedback this year, and the short [originally a jazz version of "Sixteen Tons"] has gotten pretty good feedback," said the 20-year-old, who hails from Riverside, Calif. "But we decided we wanted the short to be as well received as the long, so we made a change."

The free skate's choreographer, Cindy Stuart, was hard at work on Disney on Ice, so Dornbush and his longtime coach (Tammy Gambill) turned to Dillon, who has done programs for several of Gambill's other students.

Over one weekend in late September, Dornbush and Dillon created a new short, set to Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

"It's a rendition done by David Garrett, a violin virtuoso who does a lot more contemporary-sounding classical pieces," said Dornbush, who played the violin throughout his middle school and high school years.

"The whole program is entirely aggressive. I go from one movement to the next. I never really pause; it's pretty much a sprint the whole way through. There are so many transitions and really intricate movements that really keep me on my toes."

Dillon, a longtime U.S. men's competitor who recently teamed up with Lynn Smith to coach 2010 U.S. champion Rachael Flatt, sought to capitalize on Dornbush's story-telling abilities.

"You don't want it to be too kitschy; you want it to be effective and entertaining," Dillon said. "I wanted to bring out his musicality, and I knew about his violin background. He's playing a kind of a crazed composer, with the desire to be the best -- kind of how all of these young skaters on the horizon are, heading into Sochi [site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games].

"It was a true collaboration. He's very creative; we worked off of each other's energy. There are a lot of his thoughts and feelings in the program."

Dornbush is also planning a quad. He landed his first-ever quadruple toe loop in competition at the Golden West Championships in Culver City, Calif., in early September and hopes to try the jump in his free skate at Skate America.

"In the future, maybe I will add it to the short program, too," Dornbush said. "It all depends on how consistent I can get it this year.

"I have no doubt, though, that [eventually] it will be consistent enough to do it in both programs."

Skate America is Dornbush's debut in the Grand Prix Series; last fall, he competed in the junior ranks and won the Junior Grand Prix Final in Beijing. The victory gave him an added jolt of confidence heading into the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where he won the free skate and just narrowly lost the title to veteran Ryan Bradley.

Dornbush went on to place ninth at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow, the highest finish among the three U.S. men competing there.

On a teleconference with reporters, the skater said a disappointing 11th-place finish at the 2010 U.S. championships gave him extra motivation last season.

"I was seventh at nationals after the short, and I had a poor long program, which led me to finish lower," he said. "I took the opportunity to skate [as a] junior internationally but really train as a senior. That helped me in the senior ranks at nationals."

Last season's success has bolstered his hopes for Skate America, and Dornbush said his training is right on track.

"I definitely feel I am on pace to be where I want to be, training for Skate America," he said. "I'm excited [because] it's so close to home, just a 20-minute drive in good traffic."

Defending Skate America bronze medalist Armin Mahbanoozadeh, sixth at the 2010 U.S. championships, makes a return appearance to the event this season. The 20-year-old, who trains in Wilmington, Del., under Priscilla Hill, has been trying out the quadruple toe loop in his summer events.

Olympic champion Evan Lysacek's withdrawal last week opened the door for Douglas Razzano, who will make his first-ever Grand Prix appearance in Ontario.

"I'm very blessed to be getting this opportunity," said the 22-year-old Razzano, who is coached by Doug Ladret in Scottsdale, Ariz. "It's been a long time coming. My birthday [Oct. 22nd] is on the day of the men's free program, and I'm hoping it's the best birthday ever."

Razzano is fresh off a silver-medal finish at the Finlandia Trophy, where he placed a close second to former Japanese bronze medalist Takahito Mura. He hopes his programs, including a short to Rachmaninoff's "Concerto No. 2" and a free to a Tango medley, are even better at Skate America.

"Some things went well at Finlandia, some didn't, but a medal is a medal," he said. "I wasn't too disappointed in the way I skated. We want to build toward nationals. Last season, I didn't really start landing the quad consistently until November.

"I'm planning -- they key word here is 'planning' -- pretty much the same [elements]. I'm putting the quad in the short program, and I may also do a triple flip-triple toe combination [instead of triple toe-triple toe] because it's been going well in practice."

The U.S. men face formidable competition from world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka, who won 2008 Skate America, defeating Lysacek and three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir. Kozuka opened his international season at the Japan Open early this month, where his six-triple free skate put him third in the men's event.

They will also square off against Michal Brezina, the stylish Czech who landed two different quads -- a toe and Salchow -- in his fourth-place finish at 2011 worlds, as well as flamboyant European champion Florent Amodio of France, whose crowd-pleasing programs are sure to excite.