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Miller edges Gold in Skate Detroit free skate final

U.S. junior bronze medalist connects on six triples to secure victory

Winner Hannah Miller (right) with runner-up Gracie Gold (center) and her sister, Carly.
Winner Hannah Miller (right) with runner-up Gracie Gold (center) and her sister, Carly. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/28/2012) - Call it a midsummer night's surprise.

After winning the short programs and free skates in their respective senior ladies groups, Hannah Miller and Gracie Gold squared off in the free skate final at Skate Detroit on Saturday evening, and Miller -- who won junior bronze, to Gold's gold, at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships -- edged out the win by 1.17 points.

"She really did a nice job today," Kirsten Miller-Zisholz, Miller's aunt and coach, said. "Each performance this summer is getting a little bit stronger. Her skates here were better than at the Broadmoor Open last month."

Miller, 15, reeled off six triples, including a Lutz, two flips, two loops and a Salchow in her free to Hungarian composer Havasi Balázs' haunting "The Storm." Her only notable mistake was a step out on one of the flips, and she earned 111.77 points.

"The triple-triple is not quite there yet; we're still working on [loop-loop] for the future," Miller-Zisholz said. "We're working on bigger jumps and good speed; those are our big focus points. She got good grades of execution (GOEs) on her jumps here, and it was a good all-around effort."

Miller worked with former ice dance competitor Daniil Barantsev, a two-time world junior champion, to choreograph both of her programs this season, including a Tango short program. Tanith Belbin, the five-time U.S. ice dance champion, also worked with Miller on her movement and helped develop the footwork sequence in the short.

"We all worked together and also got input from technical specialists, so it was a good team effort," Miller-Zisholz said. "Hannah got Level 4's on her footwork sequences in both the short and long programs here."

The coach hopes Miller's next event will be a Junior Grand Prix.

"Last year, we did competitions in Chicago and San Francisco [as well as Skate Detroit] and it was too much, too close together," she said. "We're going to spend some time working on things and breaking in new skates. Hopefully we will get a JGP but if not, we'll be at regionals."

Gold debuted her new free skate to the soundtrack of Life is Beautiful, earning 110.66 points.

"It felt really good for a debut competition," Gold, 16, said. "I stepped out of a double Axel and doubled my second Lutz, but I did both of my triple-triple combinations [a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip-half loop-triple toe]."

Gold's choreographer, Scott Brown, said Gold is taking her step-up to the senior ranks "very seriously."

"She tried out her short [to "Hernando's Hideaway"] at Skate Milwaukee, and now did both programs at Skate Detroit, so come next month she will be very prepared for U.S. skating's Champs Camp and, hopefully, her two Grand Prix events," he said.

While Gold's Life is Beautiful free is based on the film, the story of a father's efforts to save his young son at a concentration camp, Brown's choreography does not follow every plot point.

"In the movie, Guido [the hero] dies, everybody knows that, but we did not want it to be sad," he said. "It's a love story to survivors of the Holocaust, and it's very emotional. You'll see Grace more mature, more sophisticated, more elegant."

Gold scored 62.29 points for her short, also choreographed by Brown.

"I did a triple flip-triple toe, a 'Rippon Lutz' -- or maybe it's a 'Gold Lutz' -- and a double Axel, and nice spins, so it was clean technically," Gold said. "I really like the program. The choreography is so much fun, and Scott did a wonderful job with it."

"It's a Tango-Mambo-Tano, playful yet age appropriate," Brown said of the short. "It's been received very well. Everything about it is meant to be fun and entertaining."

Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond placed third in the free skate final with 100.03 points.