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Are you afraid of the loop? Skaters talk bugbears

Abbott 'hates spinning'; Donlan, Speroff refer to element as 'spiral of DEATH'

Even though it is one of the stronger aspects of his skating, three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott says, "I hate spinning."
Even though it is one of the stronger aspects of his skating, three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott says, "I hate spinning." (Tom Briglia)

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By Sarah S. Brannen, special to icenetwork.com
(06/26/2012) - Throughout Kristi Yamaguchi's winning Olympic season in 1991-92, one element, the triple Salchow, plagued her so much that her mother offered her $100 if she landed it at the U.S. championships (she did).

Johnny Weir has always admitted to hating the triple loop; in fact, he has said he also hates single and double loops.

Many skaters, no matter how talented, have one element that gets under their skin.

Jason Brown and Jeremy Ten share Yamaguchi's dislike of triple Salchows.

"Triple Sal is not my favorite," Brown said. "I don't know why. I don't love them. Some days they're good, but it's always a joke about how the Sals are going to be. I think what happens is, they're always the first triple, and you do all these different variations and setups going into them."

"My least favorite element would have to be the Salchow, by far," Ten said. "I have a perfectly fine triple Sal, but out of all the triples, it gave me the hardest time, and when I was learning it, I had some scary falls, so I have a nightmarish feeling about it. Talking to other people, that jump is the one where you either love it or you hate it."

Asked to name their least favorite element, it's probably not surprising that a lot of skaters mentioned various jumps.

"I definitely have a least favorite jump: my loop," Agnes Zawadzki said. "I just think positive about it. I've always had a thing for loops. I try to be positive and embrace it as my friend."

"My least favorite element would be combinations with loop jumps," Ross Miner said. "I just feel like I'm lost in space. I try to avoid them. I can do them -- I just don't like doing them."

"I used to hate loop, but now I really like loop," Alexe Gilles said. "I'm not a huge Sal or Lutz fan, so it's a toss-up."

Timothy Dolensky was the first to mention a spin.

"I think I'd have to say the broken leg sit spin," he said. "I had to do it last year in my flying sit, and even though I only had to hold it for three revolutions, it felt like the longest three of my life! It's just such an uncomfortable and unnatural position for me. I try to get by without it if possible, but sometimes if you want your spin levels, you have to do things that aren't your favorite."

Jeremy Abbott shared a more general dislike of spinning, having to do with the ever-evolving restrictions of the international judging system.

"I hate spinning," he said candidly. "I used to love it but not the ways the rules continue to change. The ISU [says] they want to see more variety in spins, but when you take away options every year, there will only be less. It's now to the point this season where the ISU has taken away so many spin variations that Adam Rippon and I have exactly identical spins."

Alex Johnson agrees that spins are his least favorite element, due to judging requirements.

"It's become harder and harder to become unique with spins, and everyone is doing the same spins," Johnson said. "I wish they would make one of the spins a choreographed spin."

Abbott also mentioned a jump: the quadruple toe loop.

"It's my favorite when I land it, but it's so precarious," he said. "The technique has to be so perfect and exact for it to happen. It's a very love/hate type of relationship."

Interestingly, no singles skater said he or she disliked step sequences, and no pairs skaters mentioned a jump as their least-favorite element.

Matthew Blackmer instantly picked footwork as his pet peeve.

"My least favorite element is easily footwork, because you never know what you're going to get!" he said.

"My least favorite element would have to be the new choreographed step/spiral sequence that was just added as a requirement," Colin Grafton said. "It's my least favorite because I would much rather just do a nice long spiral without having to do steps."

"Well, my least favorite pairs element would absolutely be the death spiral, or as we like to refer to it, 'The spiral of DEATH,' " Gretchen Donlan said.

Donlan's partner, Andrew Speroff, mentioned a moment rather than an element, as did Marissa Castelli.

"I'm going to go with the time between Gretchen landing a throw and having to catch up to her for the next element in the program!" he said. "It kills me, but I think Gretchen enjoys the chase a little too much."

A few skaters declined to name a least-favorite element, even if they had one, possibly not wanting to admit to any weakness.

Recently retired Amanda Evora remained her usual positive self when asked the question.

"At the end, I really loved all the elements," she said. "That's what I loved about pairs: there's so much variety in the elements."

Evora did eventually mention one problematic element.

"There was one that was hard: We (she and former partner Mark Ladwig) had to explore how to improve our twist. We took a totally different approach to it, so it was like learning an entirely new element. We never really got to evolve it. It was so late in our career, so changing it was tough."

Castelli mentioned an element that wasn't a problem in and of itself, except for where it is placed in the program.

"My least favorite element has to be side-by-side spins in our long because they always mark the halfway point," she said. "It is the point where I try to catch my breath, and it seems the most challenging element to get through."

Misha Ge of Uzbekistan, possibly the most upbeat competitor in figure skating, says emphatically that he doesn't have a least-favorite element.

"I love them all!" he said. "As long as it's a skating element, then I love it. But my most favorite are elements with passion and elements with heart."