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Hicks arrives in Milan armed with new triple-triple

Aldridge, Eaton look to improve on last year's bronze-medal showing

Courtney Hicks is hoping to erase some bad memories she has of Milan.
Courtney Hicks is hoping to erase some bad memories she has of Milan. (Jay Adeff)

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By Lynn Rutherford and Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to icenetwork.com
(02/26/2013) - Courtney Hicks does not have fond memories of Milan's Agora-Stadio del Ghiaccio: She broke her leg at the rink while competing at a Junior Grand Prix in the fall of 2011, which forced her to sit out the remainder of that season.

This week, as Milan hosts the 2013 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, the 17-year-old from Southern California expects a far happier outcome.

"[The injury] happened after I landed my first jump in the competition, but I'm not thinking about it now," said Hicks, who placed sixth at the 2011 World Junior Championships. "I'm here to do better this time."

The athletic Hicks used her blazing speed and big jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe combination, to finish fourth in seniors at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month. Alex Chang, who trains Hicks at Paramount Iceland, expects more of the same in Milan, with one big addition: a triple Lutz-triple toe combination in her short program.

She will include a triple flip-triple toe in her free skate.

"In juniors, a solo triple flip out of steps is required in the short, so she can't do the triple flip-triple toe she did at nationals," said Chang, who coaches Hicks with Jere Michael. "We decided to think big, and figure out the pattern and timing needed for a triple Lutz combination."

Although Hicks has worked with Chang and Michael for some time, they didn't become her primary coaches until just before the 2013 U.S. Championships. The decision to include the Lutz combination was made as a team.

"In the last few months, she has made significant advances technically in the launch of the jump," Chang said, adding that training for junior worlds, held a month after the U.S. championships, had its challenges.

"It's a balancing act; you have to not let things get too far 'out of the box' from nationals but still allow for a little down time," he said. "It's always difficult from one competition to the next, when there is a short turnaround. You have to allow the skater to come down a bit and build back up, to hold on to that [prior] experience but generate new energy."

In Milan, Hicks heads a strong U.S. ladies team that also includes Boston's Yasmin Siraj, sixth at the 2013 U.S. Championships, and New Yorker Samantha Cesario, who placed eighth in Omaha. Both of these stylish skaters are making their first appearances at junior worlds.

The favorites in Milan, though, are two Russians: Elena Radionova, the 14-year-old winner of the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, and 2012 world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia. Lipnitskaia won silver and bronze medals in the senior Grand Prix last fall but suffered a concussion after a bad fall in practice in December and had to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final.

Anna Pogorilaya of Russia, who won the bronze medal at the JGP Final; Satoko Miyahara and Rika Honga of Japan; Germany's Nathalie Weinzierl; and two South Korean skaters, Hae-Jin Kim and So Youn Park, are also in contention.

Two-time U.S. junior ice dance champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton, who won both of their fall Junior Grand Prix events and placed third at the JGP Final, seek to better their bronze-medal finish at the last season's junior worlds.

They hope their uplifting free dance to Fiddler on the Roof is just the ticket.

"The program had the toe-tapping that we loved, but there was also such a deep connection between the characters," Aldridge, 18, said. "We thought that would be a good challenge for us, to play up the love story."

Aldridge and Eaton, who train at the Detroit Skating Club under a team of coaches including Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova and Massimo Scali, are joined by training partners Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, winners of the junior silver medal at the 2013 U.S. Championships, and U.S. junior bronze medalists Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, who train at the Wheaton Skating Academy in Maryland.

World junior silver medalists Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia won all of their fall competitions, including the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi, by comfortable margins and are the favorites to win the ice dance crown in Milan. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, who train in Muriel Zazoui's school in Lyon, placed second to the Russians in Sochi and will also contend for the podium.

Other couples that may figure into the mix include Valeria Zenkova and Valerie Sinitsin of Russia, and Shari Koch and Christian Nüchtern of Germany.