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Roller skating phenom Donovan takes home gold

Yacomes grabs silver; Immensely popular Entwistle captures bronze

Roller skater Courtney Donovan squeaked out the victory in the junior/senior ladies event.
Roller skater Courtney Donovan squeaked out the victory in the junior/senior ladies event. (Matt Parat)

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By Andy Schell, special to icenetwork.com
(04/15/2012) - The final and marquee event of the 2012 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, the championship masters junior/senior ladies event, was packed with capable and exciting skaters. The field was deep, filled with several former champions, any of them capable of taking the crown. In fact, the top three skaters all broke 50 points by a comfortable margin.

But it was Courtney Donovan of the All Year Figure Skating Club who put down the most intelligent program to build the points needed for the victory. Just 23 years old, Donovan is third in the world in the inline roller skating ranks. Fresh back from the world competition in Brazil last November, Donovan traded wheels for blades and got down to work with her coach, Jacqui Palmore. Together, Palmore and Donovan constructed a program to the Puss and Boots soundtrack that included no less than nine double jumps, including three double-double combinations. Two of her spin combinations received Level 3s from the panel.

It was a smart, sprightly and energetic performance that Donovan just let build, and build, and build.

"The audience carried me through," she said. "I like to skate to the crowd, and I choose soundtracks because I think it grabs the crowd and takes them along the journey."

Donovan's destination was gold, and she took the crowd along the entire route to get there.

The silver medal went to last year's winner, Jaclyn Yacomes of the Body Zone FSC. Skating after Amy Entwistle, who received a wild ovation, wasn't easy for Yacomes.

"Yes, I was definitely aware of the response to Amy," she said. "But my coach made me focus. She said, 'You drive your own bus.'"

Yacomes was more like a jet fighter pilot than a bus driver. She stepped onto the ice with steely determination. It was obvious she wasn't going to let the crowd or Entwistle intimidate her. Wearing a look to challenge, she gave the crowd a controlled, elegant, and dramatic performance to "Assassin's Tango."

While she executed eight doubles, several in combination, it was her spins that rocketed her to high scores with one receiving a Level 4 and all positive GOEs (Grades of Execution) of +2 from the entire panel. The crowd agreed and went wild as Yacomes spun with fervor. Her component scores were second only to Entwistle.

While the crowd at a U.S. Adult Championships can sound like a screaming high school group, they quickly settle and hush themselves whenever Amy Entwistle steps onto the ice. Winner of the championship in 2009 and 2010, audience members know they are going to be reeled in by Entwistle's mesmerizing and complicated artistry. She's a skater's skater -- one whose transitions are so intricate that most watching in the audience nearly fall off their benches watching. And yet she's got all the goods, and in fact her final double Lutz was the strongest jump of her program.

Her opinion of how it went?

"Everyone under 35 is disqualified!" she announced, before bursting out laughing. "OK, OK, I'm glad the younger skaters are here. It's good for our sport, but ..." And then she laughed some more.

She credits her coach, Mary Jo Bullin, for her skating success. Bullin makes the most of Entwistle's skills in the best way to create those innovative and hypnotic programs that Amy is famous for. It's a symbiotic relationship that has worked well for many years, and the crowd hopes Entwistle returns for more.

Former champion Natalie Shaby skated a light and lovely program that earned her 42.40 points and the pewter medal.