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Mahbanoozadeh moves training site to Colorado

Skater coming off disappointing Grand Prix season hoping to add quad in time for nationals

Armin Mahbanoozadeh has split with his coach of two years, Priscilla Hill, and has begun training under Christy Krall (among others) in Colorado Springs.
Armin Mahbanoozadeh has split with his coach of two years, Priscilla Hill, and has begun training under Christy Krall (among others) in Colorado Springs. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/28/2011) - Armin Mahbanoozadeh is gearing up for the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships by making some big changes in his training and scenery.

The 20-year-old from Alexandria, Va., who joined Johnny Weir, Ashley Wagner, Brandon Mroz and others for the second annual Holiday Dreams on Ice show in Philadelphia on Dec. 23, has moved to Colorado Springs.

"I needed a place where I could really train as hard as I could for nationals," Mahbanoozadeh said after the show. "I have a lot of work to do, but I'm looking forward to skating with all of the great skaters there and improving myself and having a good end to the season."

Mahbanoozadeh, who trained under Priscilla Hill in Wilmington, Del., the past two seasons, is now coached by a team headed by Christy Krall and including Eddie Shipstad and Catarina Lindgren. Krall also coaches Canadian world champion Patrick Chan and U.S. senior competitors Josh Farris, Agnes Zawadzki and Angela Wang.

In addition to Krall's students, training at Colorado Springs' World Arena puts Mahbanoozadeh in close proximity to fellow U.S. hopefuls Brandon Mroz and Max Aaron, students of Tom Zakrajsek.

"There are a lot of top male skaters [in Colorado Springs], and I'm hoping that we all work off each other's energy and just get better," Mahbanoozadeh said. "And, of course, skating with the world champion [Chan], there is a lot to learn and there's a lot to kind of see. Especially with the consistency he has on his quad, it's good to kind of have that there."

After a fine 2010-11 season that saw him win bronze at Skate America and place sixth at the 2011 U.S. Championships, Mahbanoozadeh had some disappointments this fall. The skater, who is trying to add a quadruple toe loop to his free skate, placed tenth at Skate America and eighth at NHK Trophy.

"I'm looking for some stability in my training, and I think Colorado will give me that," he said. "I owe it to myself to train well. My training this season has just been not what I imagined at all, to be honest. I am looking forward to just working as hard as I can for nationals."

"He's out here to stay focused and become the best skater he can be," Shipstad said. "Since he came 10 days ago, the difference in where he was, and where he is now -- he's a different skater."

Mahbanoozadeh trains the quad toe daily with Shipstad using a pole harness, while Krall analyzes the jump with Dartfish video technology.

"My main focus now, without a doubt, is the quad toe," Shipstad said. "Armin obviously has the talent to do the jump; now it's fine-tuning the details. The goal is to have it at the U.S. Championships.

"Some days a skater will be more fatigued than others, but he still needs to get those repetitions in. That's where the pole harness comes into play. He still may fall on the jump, but in the harness, he knows he's not going to hurt himself. The mindset is more [focused] on making the correction, in the arms or wherever. He can get the reps in on the quad in a safe environment."

The skater is also working with choreographer Lindgren to revamp his free skate, set to a selection of music from the Kill Bill soundtrack.

"There will be some music changes in the long; we are rearranging some [musical] pieces," he said. "We took the critique that I got in the Grand Prix Series, and some pieces weren't working as well as we hoped, so we're going to be replacing with some fresh music."

Mahbanoozadeh, an outstanding part-time student at the University of Pennsylvania, is not yet certain if the move will be permanent.

"The amount of time I have is so short, the singular focus is on nationals," he said. "I'm not looking past that right now. I have a great training program, I'm staying at the Olympic Training Center, and they have the most amazing facilities in the world, so I'm just putting everything into nationals right now and then afterward we'll kind of see where everything falls."

"When someone loves the sport like Armin does, you can see it," Shipstad said. "We're very blessed to have the opportunity to work with him."

Wagner brims with confidence

Wagner, who wowed the Philadelphia crowd with her upbeat holiday number to Jessica Simpson's "What Christmas Means to Me," likes her chances at the U.S. Championships next month.

"I know it's going to be my year -- it is," said the 20-year-old, who trains in California under John Nicks and Philip Mills. "If I perform the way that I'm practicing, I'm going to be set. This is, I think, my nationals to lose."

Wagner had a strong fall, winning bronze at Skate Canada and placing fourth at NHK Trophy to narrowly miss qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

The two-time U.S. bronze medalist, who placed 16th at the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships, thinks her string of solid but disappointing finishes, including a third-place showing in 2010 that cost a berth on the U.S. Olympic squad, will soon end.

"Mentally, it's my nationals to lose," she said. "Physically and training wise, I am completely capable of being the next national champion. In past years, mentally, something has always come in the way. If go out there and do my stuff, the rest will follow, I think."

Wagner and her coaches have made some changes to her Black Swan free skate, choreographed by Mills.

"We have completely overhauled the program," Wagner said. "The triple [flip]-triple [toe] is in, and we completely changed the choreography of the second half, layout wise. I think it's a lot more entertaining and bigger and better.

"As of now, the flip-toe is also in the short, and we'll see how solid it is and go from there."