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Rink Notes: Zhang gets loop-y in practice

Forte seeks to improve on Nebelhorn; Kevin misses Jenna

Caroline Zhang has no problem landing triple toe-triple toe combinations in practice.
Caroline Zhang has no problem landing triple toe-triple toe combinations in practice. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/22/2011) - Caroline Zhang has a triple loop-triple loop combination. She's just not sure what she is going to do with it.

The 2007 world junior champion, who lives just half an hour away from Ontario's Citizens Business Bank Arena, has been showing off the combination in her practices at 2011 Skate America but may not include it in either of her competitive programs here.

"It's still something I'm considering," Zhang said. "It's been consistent, so I'm not too worried about it. It's probably something I'll do, if I do it in the warmup.

"It could be in either program, but I'm not sure yet. It's probably something I'm aiming for later in the season."

The unusual combination -- most famously done by Tara Lipinski, who nailed it to win the 1998 Olympic crown -- is considered one of the most challenging of all triple-triples, but Zhang said it comes relatively easy to her.

"It's actually a pretty comfortable combination for me. I've always liked triple loop. I've actually been doing [triple loop-triple loop] in practice for a couple of years; I've just never trained it as much or thought of it as an element in my programs."

Zhang, who trains under coaches Peter Oppegard and his wife, Karen Kwan-Oppegard, plans three different triples -- Lutz, flip and loop -- in her free skate to a Dvorak cello concerto. That limits her options, something she aspires to change by the time the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships roll around in January.

"Later in the season I hope to have triple flip-triple toe back in the program," she said. "One of the problems with doing triple loop-triple loop in the long is in my jumping passes. I'm currently doing two loops by themselves, and one of them is a three-jump combo, so I don't have the [slot] for it. Later in the season, when I have everything together, hopefully it will be there."

Under the international judging system (IJS), ladies may do a maximum of seven jump elements. A triple jump may be done twice, but one of the jumps must be done as part of a combination or sequence.

In addition to triple flip-triple toe, Zhang has worked to add lift and speed to her double Axel.

"I've been trying not to skid or anything, so hopefully it shows," she said.

Zhang is coming off a disappointing 2010-11 season, including a ninth-place finish at this event and a 12th-place showing at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"My problem for the last couple of years is that I didn't train the way I should have for each event, so I think that I'm ready for this competition, and I hope that it will show in my programs," she admitted.

"I've been trying to do a lot of summer competitions to get back into competition mode, and I hope that it will show in my programs this year."

Forte doesn't like the waiting game

At age 25, many might think Joelle Forte would be anxious to arrive in Ontario for her first-ever Grand Prix. They would be wrong.

The Long Islander, a recent graduate of Fordham University, took her time getting into town, arriving a day later than the other ladies.

"That's what I'm more used to," Forte said. "Any time I go to nationals or Eastern [sectionals], I always go the latest possible time.

"I kind of look at [Skate America] as if it is nationals, and I love being at nationals. I don't want to look at it as a really, really big competition; I don't want to freak out. I want to keep the same [routine]."

Forte is coming off her best national result ever, a ninth-place finish at the 2011 U.S. championships. She competed at Nebelhorn Trophy last month, placing seventh overall after many of her triple jumps were judged under-rotated.

"I changed the flip in my short back to a Salchow [before Nebelhorn]; I was told that it might be better, to get pluses for a good Salchow than to do an okay flip and get minuses," she said. "In my long, I'm doing two Lutzes, two Salchows, a toe, a flip and two Axels.

"I've had an extra month to work on my programs. Nebelhorn was a little sticky. Now, I feel more comfortable. I don't want to think about my jumps so much; I want to reach out to the audience more."

Forte coaches at several New York area rinks, and some of her students competed at the recent North Atlantic Regional Championships.

"My little boy made it to junior nationals," she said. "I also have a little girl, who has been skating only two and a half years, and she made it to the [North Atlantic] finals."

Apart from training and competing, Forte is considering her next step off the ice.

"I graduated from Fordham last May, and that was a very big hurdle," she said. "Before that I was still doing school and competitions, and traveling into the city four times a week, which was terrible.

"I want to go to grad school for psychology, but I don't want to do that until I know exactly what I want to do."

Quick hits from the mixed zone

Fabian Bourzat, who could barely speak at the short dance press conference due to heavy bronchitis, reports he feels better. "I will get through the free dance, but afterward, I know I will feel worse," he said. He and partner Nathalie Pechalat sit second entering the final; certainly, the $13,000 prize for a silver medal here is incentive to continue.

Belgian veteran Kevin van der Perren impressed with a solid short and stands fourth going into the free skate. Someone close to him is missing, though: his wife, British champion Jenna McCorkell, was not nominated for any Grand Prix events this season. "Her scores qualified her for at least one, but her federation [Britain's National Ice Skating Association] didn't enter her name," he claimed. "We were shocked at the [entry] lists when we saw skaters ranked lower."