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Hochstein conquers quad in short program win

Gag order works for subtle skater; Orser's stars on track

Peter Oppegard doesn't want his pupil, Grant Hochstein, to talk about his skating.
Peter Oppegard doesn't want his pupil, Grant Hochstein, to talk about his skating. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/27/2013) - For Grant Hochstein, the first time was the charm.

The skater opened his short program at Skate Detroit on Friday with a glorious quad toe-triple toe that notched 16.15 points. While an element that good always leaves a gratifying feeling, for Hochstein it was brand-new experience.

"That was the first time I ever attempted the quad in competition, and it came out well," the 23-year-old said.

The rest of Hochstein's program to Ennio Morricone's La Califfa wasn't perfect, but all was done with subtle elegance. He fell on a fully rotated triple Axel, recovering with his final jump, spread eagles transitioning into a triple Lutz. His closing combination spin featured an eye-catching twisted intermediate position reminiscent of Toller Cranston, and his score of 79.89 was his highest ever.

"We've played around with that spin all summer, experimenting with different positions," Hochstein said.

Hochstein gives his coach, Peter Oppegard, credit for his fine showing here.

"I'm not allowed to talk about my skating; if I come back from practice, and someone asks how I did, I just say, 'Fine,'" Hochstein said. "I'm doing it, not talking about it. I've let Peter take control."

"He's letting his skating speak for him," Oppegard said. "He's been very focused in his practices. I'm very proud of him."

Hochstein, 15th at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, could leap up the standings this season if he continues to add quads to strong spins, steps and musicality.

"One of the first things I wanted to do when Grant came out to California was work on skating skills, to give him an even better base to build on," said Oppegard, who coaches his skaters at the East West Ice Rink in Artesia. "Karen [Kwan-Oppegard] choreographed his programs to bring out the beauty of his skating."

On Saturday, Hochstein plans to try two quads in his free on to a classical medley of Rachmaninoff and Dvorak.

Skating to the soundtrack of W.E., Canada's Jeremy Ten sits second with 66.70 points after hitting a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and triple loop. His fell on his opening triple Axel but completed the rotations.

"For the first competition of the season, I'm happy," Ten said. "I fought for every element. I'm a little upset I missed the triple Axel. It's been going really well in practice, and I think I got a little greedy; I wanted too much."

Ten, who has had ankle trouble in the past, is working to stay injury free.

"I still have to monitor [the ankle]," he said. "I see a physical therapist once or twice a month to take care of it and make sure everything is in alignment. I also try to find a balance and not over-train."

Timothy Dolensky, the 2012 U.S. silver medalist, opened his short with a triple flip-triple toe combination that gained 10.45 points. He turned an intended triple Axel into a single but landed a triple Lutz.

The highlight of his short, set to the Piano Guys' version of "Nearer My God to Thee," was a well-controlled step sequence that incorporated upper-body movements. His 64.53 points was a new high for him.

"I thought it was really good for the first time out," Dolensky said. "I'm disappointed about the [triple] Axel. I did a great one in the [six-minute] warm-up.

"I want to show I've stepped up, especially with my [footwork]. I think it's the kind of program that when it's skated clean will have a big impact."

Canadian bronze medalist Andrei Rogozine sits fourth with 63.95 points after turning a planned opening quad toe into a triple, and then faltering on his combination, intended to be a triple flip-triple toe. His triple Axel was strong and his spins all gained Level 4.

"My warm-up was better than the actual program, which fell apart a little," Rogozine said. "It's a new program [set to Vivaldi], and it's the first time I'm doing it.

"I've always had a good triple Axel; the quad is not as consistent right now," he continued. "I planned triple flip-triple toe but tried adding a loop (instead of a toe) and kind of landed [the flip] weird."

(Since Rogozine had already done a triple toe instead of a quad, he could not repeat the jump. Had he simply done a double, he may have gained more points.)

Rogozine, the 2011 world junior champion, is seeking to fine-tune other parts of his skating.

"We've been working a lot on the spins," the 20-year-old said. "We got some feedback last season that they could improve."

Orser's stars on the right track

Brian Orser is in Detroit with students including 2011 Canadian junior champion Nam Nguyen, who competed a solid short choreographed by David Wilson to a snappy Dave Brubeck jazz number.

The 15-year-old stood up on a triple Axel, but it was downgraded by the technical panel. His triple loop and triple Lutz-triple toe combinations were solid, and strong program component scores helped him gain 63.39 points for sixth place.

"Nam is still working on the triple Axel, and once it is clean, that program will really score well," Orser said. "He has been growing so much, about 8 inches in the last year and a half."

The coach thinks training alongside two of skating's biggest stars, Javier Fernández and Yuzuru Hanyu, at Toronto's Cricket Skating and Curling Club helps inspire the teen.

"It's great for him," Orser said. "The first week of July, he got to perform in shows in Japan that Yuzu headlined. I worked with David Wilson to create the opening and closing [numbers] of the show, and part of the deal was Nam and Javi also performed, because I didn't want to leave them on their own."

Organizers likely didn't need any arm-twisting to add Fernández to the lineup. The popular skater, whose world bronze is Spain's first-ever world figure skating medal, has kept a busy performance schedule this offseason. Orser thinks it has helped him maintain discipline.

"If he were another skater, I would be worried about it, but for him, it keeps him out there skating," he said. "He does a four-minute version of his Charlie Chaplin program, so it's almost like doing full run-throughs. Plus, at least he is out there practicing with other top skaters every day, and you know they get competitive."

Fernandez' programs, both choreographed by Wilson, are set, although Orser prefers not to discuss music yet.

"He is doing the Japan Open (in early October), which is just the long, so we will spend extra time working on the short," he said.

The Spaniard, already master of the quad toe and quad Salchow, has often talked of adding another quad to his arsenal.

"The quad loop is on the radar," Orser said. "We'll see how the rest of the summer goes."

Hanyu, the 18-year-old Japanese who placed fourth at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, set the skating world abuzz by hitting a quad toe followed by several triple Axels -- four, by Orser's count -- as an encore for one of his shows.

"It was insane," Orser said. "He is right on track and skating really well. He was invited to do [Mao Asada's] show in Japan but had to decline."

The Japanese star's programs -- a short by Jeff Buttle and free by Wilson -- are set, although Orser remains mum on music.

"We've been working a lot on Yuzu's transition skating skills," he said.