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Springs snips: Denney, Coughlin looking ahead

Wagner portrays masterpiece in Pollock short; Hicks on the mend

An image of Ashley Wagner stepping out of a Pollock painting.
An image of Ashley Wagner stepping out of a Pollock painting. (courtesy of JanLongmire.com)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/10/2012) - Ever since Caydee Denney and John Coughlin teamed up after the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships last spring, it's been go, go, go.

Now that their first big goal -- winning the 2012 U.S. title -- is in the books, the athletic duo is targeting improved program components to go along with their dynamic technical elements.

On the agenda for the offseason: creating some unique "Caydee and John" moves and polishing their style.

"We put together programs pretty quickly," Coughlin, 26, said. "We were way behind when we decided to skate together. We're already looking at music selections for next year and potential choreographers.

"We did things we knew wouldn't rock the boat this year, because we wanted to be strong and consistent, and so far we've been pretty successful in that regard. But to make a splash at the [2014] Olympics, I think we're going to have to do a lot more."

Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches the pair here in Colorado Springs, has big plans for her skaters.

"I think throughout this whole season we've just been trying to jell and just to skate a little bit more finished," she said. "We looked at the tape from nationals and said we have to clean this and this up, and those are all extensions and lines you can't make up when you don't have time. They got together so quickly, I lost a lot of that time."

Of course, the pair still has this event on its plate, as well as the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice in March.

"Two clean skates would be a good finish for us," Coughlin said. "We do what we can control. That's what we say at every competition."

"After this competition, we'll have time to fine tune and put a little bit more finish on some of the in-between stuff," Sappenfield said."

"It's been kind of a crazy season. We came back from NHK Trophy and re-choreographed the whole free skate, so it's only about 10 weeks old. It's been kind of a learning year to see what works, what doesn't work."

Denney thinks there are also more athletic feats to pursue.

"Technically, who knows what we are capable of?" the 18-year-old skater said. "Maybe quad [throws and/or twist]."

Wagner is her own special creation

When Ashley Wagner took the ice for her short program Friday and earned a career-high international score of 64.07 points, she not only landed a triple-triple but she represented an abstract expressionist masterpiece.

The U.S. champion -- whose short is choreographed by Phillip Mills to the score of Pollock, the Ed Harris biopic of American painter Jackson Pollock -- sports a creation by California designer Jan Longmire, who collaborated with Mills to create a work inspired by Pollock's paintings.

"I wanted to present Ashley, not Pollock," Longmire said. "The color was chosen from the paintings; a strong orange-red is used throughout his work."

Pollock, best known for his pioneering "action painting" of the 1940s and '50s, created densely tangled lines and splashes, dripped on to canvases while he stood on a ladder.

"We studied some of Pollock's paintings and used them as motivations for Ashley's movements," Mills said. "Many of the movements were more staccato in nature that those skaters usually do."

"The musical selection for the program is from the part in the film where Pollock discovers his famous 'dribble' technique," Longmire said. "Following months of tortured indecision, he finds a moment of pure inspiration and energy. In Phillip's choreography, Ashley plays the moment with her bright, happy expression and painterly arm movements."

While Longmire and Mills earlier created more literal translations of Pollock's work for one of Mills' pairs teams, both knew that approach would not work for the strong-willed Wagner. Instead, Longmire used white beads to simulate the dribbles.

"Ashley does not want to be a literal translation of anything but her own self," Longmire said.

We don't know what Wagner paid for her lovely dress, but it was certainly less than collectors get for prime Pollocks. Back in 2006, the late artist's "No. 5 1948" was auctioned at Sotheby's for $140 million, rumored to be a record price for a canvas.

Hicks on the mend

2011 U.S. junior champion Courtney Hicks, who made her Junior Grand Prix debut last fall and won the JGP in Australia, is on the comeback trail after suffering a season-ending injury competing at her second JGP in Milan.

The 16-year-old fell on the opening jump in her free skate, detaching a piece of bone from the tibia in her right leg. She underwent surgery on Oct. 12.

Mills, one of Hicks' coaches in Aliso Viejo, Calif., had good news about his pupil.

"She's working on next season's programs," he said. "She's jumping again, doing double Axel and triple Salchow."

"She's doing really well," Wagner said of her training partner. "She's back on the ice skating and has plenty of time to work on all her other elements, other than jumps. Poor girl, I think she's going a little bit stir crazy.

"I definitely think that girl has enough drive, and if she wants to compete, she will compete next season."