Nguyen ekes out ladies short in jam-packed field

First, third place separated by just over a point entering free

Elizabeth Nguyen carries a slim lead into the ladies free skate in East Lansing.
Elizabeth Nguyen carries a slim lead into the ladies free skate in East Lansing. (TSS Photography)


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By Renee Felton, special to
(12/13/2011) - Elizabeth Nguyen and Tyler Pierce, who are training mates and share coaches at the All Year FSC, sit in first and second, respectively, after the short program. Just over one point sits between Nguyen and Dalia Rivkin, who is currently in third, and barely five points separate the top 10 skaters.

Nguyen, 12, delivered a flawless "Cubana Cubana" short program at the 2012 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships, featuring a double Lutz-double loop, triple Salchow and two Level 4 spins. She earned 36.30 points. Her technical elements, which she and coach Tammy Gambill agree come more naturally to this self-taught spinner than the intangibles, were the best in the field and netted 21.86 points.

"I feel comfortable with my elements," Nguyen said, "So this year I have been working on skating skills, components and speed in my programs."

Nguyen's goals for the free skate are clear.

"To not fall apart like last year," she explained. "I am confident and will concentrate on what I know I can do." Competing on the juvenile level in 2011, Nguyen won her qualifying round before settling for 17th overall.

Pierce, 13, posted the best score in qualifying on Sunday and is looking forward to another strong skate tomorrow.

"The short program was really good to perform today," she said. "But I am definitely feeling pressure to do well in the free skate."

Her goals for the free skate include receiving a Level 4 on both of her spins and performing to the crowd.

Rivkin, the 2011 U.S. juvenile champion, netted 35.19 points for her short program to the music of Chopin. She opened the show with a triple Salchow-double toe combination, which had coach Julia Lautowa jumping up and down as she watched, and concluded with a Level 4 combination spin.

"My short program was great," Rivkin said. "I have worked on speed and confidence in my jumps since sectionals and I think that showed."

The intermediate ladies free skate will broadcast live on to Season Pass subscribers at 12:30 p.m. (ET) Wednesday.