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Crowd favorite Holliday prevails, sheds tears

Mourning his former coach and friend, sentimental pick wins junior/senior men's

Larry Holliday's 51.55 points delivered him the title with more than four points to spare.
Larry Holliday's 51.55 points delivered him the title with more than four points to spare. (U.S. Figure Skating)

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By Andy Schell, special to icenetwork.com
(04/14/2012) - In the championship masters junior/senior men's event, the sentimental crowd favorite, Larry Holliday, was sentimental himself upon hearing his marks being read. While the crowd was filled with wild raucous emotion, he was filled with emotion of a different kind.

"I just never thought I'd be here again," he said, tears streaming down his face. "My coach moved to Denver; I'm by myself on this. And this past week my former coach and friend, Stina Rogal, passed away. Maybe she was what got me through this program, because before tonight I could hardly get through it all the way."

Holliday did more than get through it; he mastered it. Flowing like water to a cool and jazzy rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," his impeccable skating skills brought him a program component score over five points higher than the silver medalist's at the 2012 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships. And while four other skaters had higher technical marks, it was Holliday's components that took him to the top in a program he choreographed himself.

It was a beautiful irony from the man that provided the U.S. Adult Championships its first triple jump in 2002.

Skating to Camille Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre," Davin Grindstaff skated a gorgeous and complete program that was truly seamless. Also self-choreographed, Grindstaff likes to "build the program around the music."

"First I cut it, and I cut with certain technical elements in mind," he said. "And then I give myself places to breathe, rest and emote. I wanted to tell a story with passion, love, and revenge -- all the things "Danse Macabre" provides."

Grindstaff opened with a light and airy Axel, followed by six double jumps -- three of them in combination. It was a masterful edit of emotion, music and sport. And it was done in the classic former champion's style, with an effortless feeling and light-as-air approach to it all.

In third place was another former masters junior/senior title holder, Grant Chien-Hao Huang. This year, Chien-Hao Huang had to push through his program from The Little Prince.

While he completed nine double jumps, many in combination, it was a program that Chien-Hao Huang admitted he had to fight through.

"Oh, I was definitely fighting through it," he said. "I had to think about it all. In fact, we just changed my step sequence yesterday into a spiral sequence."

Perhaps skating in three separate events wore on the competitor. But he did win a beautiful and emotive artistic dramatic event earlier in the week.

"My program components were low," he said. "Maybe next year I'll do one less event."

His coach, Maryellen Sbrocca-Lindsay, nodded her head in the affirmative.

Another crowd favorite, Michael Ferlic, gave the crowd a masculine, no-frills, strong program. But when he fell on his second element, his double Axel, it took a bit of the wind out of his sails. Still, he hung on for fourth place and the pewter medal.