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Carriere on comeback trail with win in Liberty short

Boston skater reclaims triple Axel; Messing impresses despite fall

Stephen Carriere earned the highest program component score in the senior men's short at Liberty.
Stephen Carriere earned the highest program component score in the senior men's short at Liberty. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/16/2011) - Stephen Carriere hit a strong triple Axel to win the Liberty senior men's short program, edging out Keegan Messing, who also landed a triple Axel but fell on a quadruple toe loop.

The 2007 world junior champion, who missed the last two U.S. Championships with injuries, gained the event's highest program component scores (34.26 points) for a fluid program to "La Vie en Rose," choreographed by Irina Romanova. He earned 71.61 points.

"It felt good today," Carriere, 22, said. "This is the first time I've done the short in front of people."

The Boston-based skater, who formerly trained under Priscilla Hill as well as Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, is now coached by Suna Murray, who takes a relaxed approach.

"I don't let him skate too many sessions a day," Murray said. "If something isn't working right, he takes a break.

"He has [the triple Axel] down; he never pops it. He might step out, but I'd say he lands it 80 percent of the time. His quad [toe] is pretty good, too."

Murray also encourages Carriere to take time away from the rink. He has an upcoming visit with Alissa Czisny at the Detroit Skating Club that will include work with Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato, and a trip to Colorado Springs to work with Kathy Casey.

"I call them 'working vacations,'" she said. "If Stephen wants to get out of Boston for a little bit, that's fine."

Carriere, who showed his new Swan Lake free skate at the Boston Open earlier this summer, will compete both of his programs at the Cranberry Open next month and the Mid-Atlantic Championships in New York in early September.

"He knows he has to crawl his way back to the top. He's not going to be given anything," Murray said.

"I can't have a pity party," Carriere said. "If anything, this is going to make me appreciate past seasons, when I was on the Grand Prix and [competing] at worlds. I wasn't at nationals last season and, like anyone else, I have to do the job [to get international assignments]."

Messing, who placed eighth at the 2011 U.S. Championships and fourth at the 2011 World Junior Skating Championships, hit a solid quad toe-triple toe in the six-minute warm-up, but fell on the quad in his Robin Hood short.

"I was a little quick and hectic [with the quad]," Messing said. "It's the first time I've tried it in the short program."

The Alaskan hit a triple Axel and triple Lutz and executed three crisp, speedy Level 3 spins to earn 69.41 points.

"I always work on my spins," Messing said. "A saying I like to use is that when you stop getting better, you stop being good. So if my spins stop getting better, then they're not the best anymore. I always work on my spins and also push my steps to be more lifelike and in character [with the music]."

Messing and his coach, Ralph Burghart, hope for an international assignment this fall.

"We feel he can beat anybody," Burghart, a former Austrian champion, said. "We're hoping something opens up.

"We're also competing at Skate Detroit next week, to get in front on the U.S. judges again. That was one of his problems, I think, at nationals last season; he didn't get the [high] program component scores, so we want more judges to see him."

Performing to "Concierto de Aranjuez," Wesley Campbell hit the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination well, gaining 11.28 points. He sits third despite falling on a rotated triple Axel.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh, sixth at the 2011 U.S. Championships, is fourth after falling on a quad toe in his "Kashmir" short.

Mahbanoozadeh's coach, Priscilla Hill, said the skater's main goal this summer is to continue to put the quad in his programs, including his new free skate to the Kill Bill soundtrack.

"All we want is to land the quad," she said. "That's it. He's doing it in the short and long. Putting it in the short here at Liberty was the start."