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Last-minute changes pay off for Mata, Levchenkov

Vibrant 'Cirque du Soleil' program carries pair to gold

Judy Mata and Vladimir Levchenkov perform a lift during the championship adult pairs free skate at the 2012 U.S. Adult Championships.
Judy Mata and Vladimir Levchenkov perform a lift during the championship adult pairs free skate at the 2012 U.S. Adult Championships. (Matt Parat)

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By Barb Reichert, special to icenetwork.com
(04/14/2012) - As they walked off the ice Saturday, Judy Mata and Vladimir Levchenkov expressed looks of frustration. What they didn't know was that they would hold on to win the championship adult pairs gold medal at the 2012 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Bensenville, Ill.

Mata and Levchenkov (International Center For Excellence In Skating) skated a solid program to earn 46.36 points, good enough to sneak past Jan Calnan and Mark Stanford, whose 45.22 points earned them a silver medal.

"We didn't do our best," Levchenkov said, "But I guess we can always do worse."

Winning the bronze medal with 41.08 points were Kimberly Sailer (Wheeling FSC) and partner David Garber (Pittsburgh FSC). Tara Cioppa (North Jersey FSC) and Stephen Trzaska (Washington FSC) won the pewter with 39.49 points.

Mata and Levchenkov, who train in Troy, Mich., made some last-minute changes to their program after a spread eagle on a lift performed earlier in the week at the event was judged a carry. The second-year pair adjusted well enough to become national champions.

Skating to music from Cirque du Soleil, their vibrant costumes set the tone for a whimsical program.

"It's a fun program," said Levchenkov, who gave a playful gesture to the judging panel as he skated by. "We wanted to bring some theatrical style. It's the best program that I've ever skated."

Calnan and Stanford worked hard in the offseason to spice up their program.

"Jan and I set some goals this past season, and our goal was to add a couple of new elements," Stanford said. "Surprisingly it went very well."

"Our other big goal was getting our unison a lot stronger," Calnan said. "We also wanted to have a program that we could play with, adding a little sass and attitude, and I think we hit that."

Bronze medalists Sailer and Garber, who finished fourth at last year's event, were particularly pleased with their performance, as was the crowd.

"To look out at the audience and get a standing ovation brought tears to my eyes," Sailer said.

Garber agreed: "It was an excellent skate for us. We were emotionally connected to the music and the audience."