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Vise, Trent throw caution to the wind

American pair makes history with nothing to lose

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent made their mark at the Trophee Eric Bompard with the first quadruple throw Salchow in international competition.
Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent made their mark at the Trophee Eric Bompard with the first quadruple throw Salchow in international competition. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/26/2007) - Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent made history partly because they had nothing to lose.

At the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris on Nov. 17, the American team, who placed fifth at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships, became the first pair to land a throw quadruple jump in an international competition.

"It was the second element in the program. Tiffany felt good, and we just thought, 'What the heck, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose,'" the 27-year-old Trent said.

"We had been training the [throw] quad Salchow since last season, and it was getting more and more consistent. Tiffany always wants to do it; I'm the one who says, 'no, no, no.'"

"It's true I don't like to back down," the 21-year-old Vise said. "Either go for everything, or just don't do it at all. I'm always trying to build confidence. But he knows more when something goes wrong with it, like in the take-off."

The couple is the second U.S. pair in recent years to win worldwide recognition as innovators. Two-time U.S. champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin became the first team to land a throw triple Axel in an international event at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Vise and Trent succeeded where many famous teams have failed. Throw quads have been practiced since the 1980's and attempted at the Olympics by three-time world champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao (in 2002) and Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (in 2006).

This season alone, Russians Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov and Canadians Jessica Miller and Ian Moram have tried the quad in Grand Prix events. Vise and Trent failed on the move at last season's Skate America. In Paris, performing their free skate to music from "Les Misérables," the time proved right.

"I was in shock; I know the video shows I clapped after Tiffany landed, but I don't remember that," Trent said.

The Americans earned a base value of 8.0 points, and judges assigned a Grade of Execution (GOE) score of +.60, giving them 8.6 points total for the cleanly landed, four-rotation throw jump.

"We had a bad warm-up but ended up with a good long program, third overall," Trent said. "It was far better than our [previous] personal best. In the free we beat the Ukrainians [Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov], who were fourth at the '07 worlds, and we beat the Russian champions [Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov]."

Vise and Trent ended the event fourth overall, behind Zhang and Zhang; Qing Pang and Jian Tong; and Mukhortova and Trankov. After the competition, they celebrated with a mini-vacation to Prague.

"We knew it was the first quad in an ISU competition, but it wasn't verified as the first right away," Trent said. "We asked them, 'What is that about?' So it was hard for a day or so until they got it squared away."

The throw was ratified by Technical Controller Ann Hardy-Thomas, and the ISU officially proclaimed it as the first in international competition on Nov. 19.

Putting the quad in the program was not a last-minute decision. "It was about 80 percent in practice, and there weren't any crazy falls," Vise said. "I would put a hand down or step out. We decided in France, if it was going good and felt controlled, we would try it. The main focus was to not do a crazy fall that would break up the program. We said, 'Let's go for it and put it all on the table and do a great program.'"

The team's free skate score of 109.70 points shattered their prior season best -- 96.26 at Skate Canada two weeks earlier. Their fourth-place total in Paris (165.75) was more than 18 points higher than their fifth-place total in Canada.

"Oh my gosh, we [gained] a lot of points," Vise said. "Our [element] levels were not as high as in Canada, but we got a lot of positive GOEs, up to plus twos. "It was weird because in Canada our second mark [Program Component Score] was 40 points, and [in France] it was 51 points. It really varies by competition. And also the technical mark varies; some controllers are a little stricter."

Trent added that being a "mirror" team -- he and Vise jump and spin in opposite directions, with Vise rotating left and he right -- may have hurt them in the past.

"We skate opposite, and some judges don't like it," he said. "But this year, we didn't feel it held us back. It's a nice change. Our goal at each competition is to outdo our previous score, and we did it at all our events this season."

The 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, to be held in January in St. Paul, Minn., will be Vise and Trent's fifth. The team began skating together in July 2003 in Colorado Springs, training under Irina Vorobieva, the 1981 pairs world champion (with Igor Livosky). In 2005, they moved to the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz., to train under former Canadian pairs champion Doug Ladret, who competed in the '80's and early '90's with Christine Hough. Julie Patterson, the Director of Skating and Programming at the facility and a long-time Ice Capades performer, also works with the team, concentrating her efforts on helping them improve their Program Component scores.

"We will definitely work on the throw quad to get it more consistent, so we don't have to worry it as much," Vise said. "Each competition is getting better and better. We're starting to get more trained, and we know how to compete."

"We wish the ISU would incorporate quad throws into the short program," Trent said. "They allow the [throw] triple Axel, so they should allow quads. The point difference is substantial. We need to push for this.

"It can be a very consistent element for us; we hope to do it at every event. We want to win U.S. nationals. Then, for our first worlds, we think a top-eight finish would be cool."