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Kulgeyko grabs intermediate ladies gold

Gold and silver medals won with new personal-best scores

A very happy Katarina Kulgeyko waves after hearing her gold medal-winning scores.
A very happy Katarina Kulgeyko waves after hearing her gold medal-winning scores. (Becca Staed)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2008) - The only surprise in the intermediate ladies free skate at the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., was for gold medalist Katarina Kulgeyko (Los Angeles FSC) herself.

When she heard her total segment score announced as 73.66, giving her a competition mark and personal best of 107.71, her jaw dropped.

"I wasn't expecting a personal best," Kulgeyko said. "I thought I would have a high score, but not this."

"She has never actually landed two clean triples in a program before," said coach Faye Kitariev. "She has tried before but doubled them, and one time her foot was under-rotated, so she didn't get full credit for it."

That makes another first for the 12-year-old Kulgeyko, who said that her success today was not luck, but focus.

"We played a game during warm-up," said Kitariev. "Whoever loses their focus first, has to pay the other a dollar, and I lost my focus more."

Kulgeyko opened with a beautiful double Axel and proceeded to land six more doubles and two triple Salchows, one as part of a triple Salchow-double toe and another that earned a 1.00-point Grade of Execution (GOE), the highest from the judges. Two of three spins earned Level 4s.

Courtney Hicks (All Year FSC) took command of her second-place position with a strong free skate of her own. Her total score of 98.92 was also a personal best.

"I was just thinking, 'Stay calm and don't tense up,'" said Hicks. "It feels really good, especially since I got [a personal best] at nationals -- it's even better."

And because the 12-year-old doesn't have a phone, her mom has been texting all Hicks' friends to tell them about her finish.

En route to silver, Hicks landed eight clean double jumps, including a nice double Axel after the midway point that brought in a 0.80-point GOE. Both combo spins received Level 4s, and her flying camel spin earned a Level 3. After leaving Lake Placid, she and her parents have plans to spend a couple days in New York City and maybe catch Wicked on Broadway before returning home to California.

Third-place finisher Allison Timlen (Columbia FSC [MD]) improved from fifth place after the short program to third overall, with 90.86 points, thanks to a third-place free skate, a move reminiscent of her jump from ninth in the short to first in the free skate and second overall at the South Atlantic Regional Championships in October.

"Once again, I moved up, so I am excited," Timlen said. "It gets me going to come from behind."

After skating second to last, Timlen sat in third and could not be sure that she would not lose the bronze-medal spot to Nicole Rajic (SC of New York), who sat fourth after the short.

"I didn't really care whether I got third or fourth, because fourth place gets a medal too," Timlen said.

To boot, she pulled her groin early on in her program, causing her to step out of a double Salchow.

"But I was in fifth place after the short, and now I am in third," she beamed.

Despite the injury, she landed eight clean double jumps and received Level 4s on all three spins.

Finishing fourth was Maria Kalina (Starlight Ice Dance Club), who moved up from sixth place after the short program with an 87.44-point total.