Roman Sadovsky Prepares for New Season

After an eventful Olympic season–which saw him swing from a 29th-place finish in Beijing all the way up to 12th place at Worlds–Roman Sadovsky is back and ready to start a new four-year cycle of competition. This past weekend at Skate America in Norwood, MA, he finished fifth in a strong men’s field. American phenom Ilia Malinin grabbed headlines–and the Skate America title–when he landed a quad Axel in the free skate. But Sadovsky also impressed the crowd and judges in Norwood, landing some quad Salchows and debuting a new long program. His next Grand Prix event is the MK John Wilson Trophy in Sheffield, England.

The day after the men’s competition, I spoke with Sadovsky to get an update on how his off-season went, the process of creating his new programs, and his progress with quad jumps.

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Hawayek/Baker Stay True to Themselves

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker are excited to be kicking off their Grand Prix season this weekend at Skate America. They have big plans for this year’s Grand Prix–and this season in general.

“We are absolutely aiming to be at the [Grand Prix] Final this year, which would mean podiuming at both of our Grand Prixs,” Baker said. “We don’t go into an event trying to be second. We want to be the best we can. We want to be in the top 6 at Worlds, absolutely. And we want to be stepping into the role of being National champions. We know that Chock/Bates have been [there] for a very long time, but we have to believe we can push into that space. Otherwise, we’re only ever going to be behind them.”  

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Skate America: Notes from Pairs Short Program Press Conference

Schuster: It was a great experience for us. It was a little bit shaky. But we did our best. It was not a clean skate, but I think we can proud of new stuff for us.

Roscher: It was a really great experience because it was the first big Grand Prix, the first time in America, and the first time with such a lot of people watching us. I really liked the crowd cheering for us.

Stellato: We are very pleased with our performance, happy to be here. It’s kind of a homecoming for me. It’s like my wedding (laughed), it’s like I know everybody.

Knierim: We’re very happy to be back on competitive ice. It felt weird to compete again, because when you compete, it feels like high sensitivity.

Frazier: I never started my season off at a Grand Prix before. There was a lot of positivity out there tonight. It was a little bit of a fight tonight, but it was our starting base.

Knierim: The music choice was strictly from Shae-Lynn (Bourne). In the beginning, Brandon come into my world, and I try to save him. [Music is from Stranger Things.]

Frazier: [on starting season in Boston for second year in a row]: I remember last year when we started, it was the same vibe, we had some things we were working through. Last year, we were on a mission. When we came out here tonight, it felt exactly the same.

Knierim: Every event is important. Whether it’s a Grand Prix [or not], we attack it the same way.

Stellato: [On her expression in lifts] Both my former partner, Nate Bartholomay, and Maxime are so strong. They both made me feel very safe and very strong. I feel very secure over Maxime’s head, and I really like performing even in a lift. The whole last minute of the program, I’m being carried, I love it, it’s my favorite part of the program. This was our first real off-season as a team [previous summers, there was either Covid or she was not released]. We really took that time seriously, and we think that’s why there’s been such a great improvement from then to this time. We’re trying to keep together and centered, so we don’t let [pressures] get to us.

Gilles/Poirier: Focusing on the Now

For Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, the 2021-22 Olympic season proved draining and difficult. The duo considered retirement, but are now back for another season of competitive skating. On a press call today with reporters, they talked about the process of rediscovering their motivation for the sport. For the 11-year veterans, it’s all about their mindset and approach to competition.

Gilles and Poirier started the Olympic season as reigning World bronze medalists. They acknowledged that this wasn’t necessarily the easiest position for them. 

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Coach Spotlight: Jim Peterson

Jim Peterson is a familiar face to U.S. pairs skating fans. He’s been a leading coach in the discipline for many years now. At his former base in Ellenton, Florida, Peterson worked with a number of top U.S. pairs over the last decade and successfully guided three of them to the Olympic Games: Caydee Denney/Jeremy Barrett, Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig, and Felicia Zhang/Nate Bartholomay. Peterson also coached  2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea.

During the last few years, Peterson’s coaching career has changed a bit. First, his former student Amanda Evora has joined him as co-head coach of their students. And, after over a decade in Florida, Peterson and Evora decided to move their school north to the Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Michigan. They now work in the same rink as the Michigan Ice Dance Academy (MIDA), recently launched by Charlie White, Tanith White, and Greg Zuerlein.

Last month, Peterson accompanied his and Evora’s students Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez to the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, where the team won bronze. After the event, Peterson gave me an update about his new skating school, his partnership with Evora, their work with Plazas/Fernandez, and his thoughts on recent happenings in the pairs discipline.

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Ilia Malinin: Ready for Skate America

On a press call today, Ilia Malinin said that he is happy, but also nervous, to compete in front of a sold-out audience at Skate America later this week.

“It will be pretty packed. It gets me really excited, but is also kind of nerve-wracking, to see that I’ll be performing in front of a lot of people,” Malinin said. But the 17-year-old looks at it as good practice for major competitions. 

Last month, Malinin drew international notice when he landed the first quad Axel in competition at U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Lake Placid, NY.

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Coach Spotlight: Alex Johnson

When Alex Johnson stepped away from competitive skating in spring 2019, his goal was to pursue a career in business, while staying involved with figure skating. Two years later, Johnson is thriving professionally, having recently started a new job as a financial analyst with Amazon. He’s also taking on a new, high-profile role as head coach for Camden Pulkinen, who finished fifth last season at both U.S. Nationals and Worlds. Pulkinen is a student at Columbia University in New York City. Johnson recently accompanied Pulkinen to Lake Placid for the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic, where I had a chance to chat with him.

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U.S. Classic: A Look Back at Lake Placid

A couple weeks ago, I had a chance to go to Lake Placid, NY, to cover the 2022 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. The competition turned out to be pretty exciting, with Ilia Malinin making skating history by landing the first quad Axel. 

It was my first time visiting Lake Placid–a small town that has played an outsized role in the history of U.S. winter sports. Lake Placid hosted both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, and will host the 2023 Winter Universiade event next year. It is also a center for events and training in other winter sports. I didn’t really know what to expect from the town, but I had a feeling it would be pretty cool, one way or the other. And it was.

Lake Placid lies in the Adirondack mountains, at 1800 feet above sea level. Although it’s not, of course, as high up as the Rocky Mountains out west, I did feel the altitude a bit while walking around town. You can see hills all around in the distance, and the village sits directly on the shoreline of small but lovely Mirror Lake. The whole area is super-scenic and a really nice place to visit for a skating competition.

It’s pretty cool being near a lot of sports history, too. Directly on the other side of the street from the arena is the speed skating oval where Eric Heiden won five gold medals in the 1980 Winter Olympics. And U.S. Classic itself took place in the same rink where the “Miracle on Ice” happened and the U.S. hockey team won Olympic gold in 1980. Not too many skating arenas can boast that kind of history!

The Miracle on Ice rink at Lake Placid

The skating itself was pretty great. U.S. Classic is an early-season event, so you know going in that skaters aren’t going to be in the same kind of top condition as at Nationals or Worlds. However, the upside of the early-season timeframe is that you get to see a lot of new-program debuts and, sometimes, witness skaters trying out new things that they’d be hesitant to go for in a larger competition. I’ve attended this event three times now, and it always winds up being quite fun.

Here’s some news & notes from the unofficial mixed zone about each discipline.

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Malinin and the Evolution of the Axel

This past week brought a new milestone in men’s figure skating. U.S. skater Ilia Malinin, 17, became the first man to ever land a quadruple Axel jump in competition, a feat he accomplished at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Lake Placid, NY. 

Malinin’s groundbreaking moment caught the mainstream press by surprise. Those who follow figure skating closely, though, were primed for the moment. This spring, Malinin had shared videos of himself doing quad Axels in practice, so skating fans knew it was a possibility he’d land the jump at this competition. 

Still, the actual sight of the first quad Axel was stunning. This is in part because the triple Axel jump–the quad’s predecessor– remains itself such a relatively significant element in men’s skating.   

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2022 Worlds Diary

Spring. Bright sunshine, passing showers, flowers, a touch of warmth in the air. The World Figure Skating Championships always takes place at the intersection of seasons, between winter and spring, in March. You never know what those days will bring. This year, in the south of France, Worlds came with beautiful days of cool breezes, high clouds, and happiness. It felt like an oasis after a stormy season. 

Worlds, by its nature, is such a celebratory competition. Skaters at Worlds have won just by qualifying to be there. It’s a happy thing for anyone to be there–skater, fan, judge, or media. 

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