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Hiwatashi hauls away another U.S. championship

Melnyk wins free, takes home silver; Vrdoljak susprises himself with bronze

Tomoki Hiwatashi has not lost since the 2010 U.S. Junior Championships.
Tomoki Hiwatashi has not lost since the 2010 U.S. Junior Championships. (Jay Adeff)

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By Josh Ellis, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2013) - Once, twice, three times a champion.

Tomoki Hiwatashi added the 2013 U.S. novice men's championship to his long list of accomplishments on Monday in Omaha, Neb., as he earned 155.29 points overall and his third national title in three years.

Hiwatashi, the 2010 U.S juvenile and 2011 U.S. intermediate champion, wowed the crowd with his effortless skating skills, earning Level 4 for all three spins and his step sequence in his Die Fledermaus free skate. He executed each element with a positive grade of execution, including a triple toe-single loop-double flip combination which earned 7.84 points.

Despite the victory, Hiwatashi insists he has room for improvement.

"I think I was generally really slow," Hiwatashi said. "I saw everyone in warm-ups doing triple jumps, and they had strength and were faster. I just want to get better."

In first after the short program, which took place on his 13th birthday, Hiwatashi earned 103.24 points for his free skate.

In third after the short program, Oleksiy Melnyk landed seven triple jumps in his "Ancinet Lands" program en route to the silver medal. Eleventh at this event a year ago in San Jose, Calif., Melnyk has since finished first at the 2012 U.S. Challenge Skate, as well as at his regional and sectional championships.

He earned a 103.72 points for his free skate and 152.99 overall.

"This feels good," Melnyk said. "It was much better than last year, and winning the silver medal gives me more confidence in myself. I think that from now on I'll be able to do a lot better in all of my competitions."

In his performance in the free skate, Melnyk earned the top components score while executing seven triple jumps and two Level 4 spins.

In second after the short program, Nicholas Vrdoljak improved on his finish from last year in this event by four places to earn the bronze medal.

Vrdoljak earned 89.58 points for his Man in the Iron Mask free skate and 139.11 points overall.

"I didn't really come here to medal," Vrdoljak said. "I managed to do one and a half good programs, and to do that out here, I'm happy with that. It's a good feeling to win a bronze medal."

Vrdoljak's program featured the highest-scoring element of the competition, an opening triple toe-triple toe worth 9.40 points.

Daniel Samohin earned the pewter medal, amassing 135.07 points overall and 87.40 points for his "hip hop tango" free skate.

"I felt confident in the warm-up, but I guess I didn't give it my all," Samohin said. "I think I could have done a little better. I love the sport, so I am just going to try and work harder next year."