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Cain's 'Ave Maria' free skate wins day at Liberty

Cesario tackles triple loop-triple loop; Siraj preps for junior circuit

Liberty champion Ashley Cain smiles with coach and father Peter Cain.
Liberty champion Ashley Cain smiles with coach and father Peter Cain. (Klaus-Reinhold Kany)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/20/2013) - Ashley Cain overcame boot problems and a disappointing short program to win Liberty Summer Competition's senior ladies free skate Saturday.

A top hook in the 18-year-old Texan's right boot popped out during her short Friday, contributing to a fall on a triple Lutz. She stopped her music and then restarted to finish the program and place sixth.

The free was a different story. With tape wound tightly around the boot, Cain hit a triple flip-triple toe in the six-minute warm-up, and then landed a solid triple Lutz-double toe to open her "Ave Maria" program.

She followed with a triple flip-double toe, triple loop and triple flip, and then fell on another triple loop before landing a triple Salchow and double Axel. Her 102.78 points put her far ahead of the field in Aston, Pa.

"The triple flip-triple toe is going to be an element in both of my short and long at every competition," said Cain, who landed the combination at Broadmoor Open. "My landing on the flip was a little off today, so I didn't go for the [triple] toe.

"So far, I've gotten really good feedback, mostly that I look more confident. I think doing the more difficult jumps gives me more confidence."

Cain, who placed 12th at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, is still Junior Grand Prix eligible.

"I'm hoping for any kind of international assignment," she said, and then added, "I'm getting new boots next week. That was always part of the plan."

Véronik Mallet of Quebec, fifth at the 2013 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, skated a charming free to selections from Funny Girl, choreographed by Sebastien Britten.

The 19-year-old Mallet fell on a triple flip and the second jump of a double Axel-double toe combination, but landed a triple loop-double toe combination; triple toe; shaky triple Lutz and triple loop; and a final double Axel. She earned 92.19 points.

"This is a brand new program. It's the first time she did it," Mallet's coach, Annie Barabé, said. "It's disappointing she fell on the double Axel (combination). The rest, I was happy with."

Mallet qualified for the Canadian national team for the first time and hopes for a senior B assignment.

"In the past, Skate Canada has not assigned many skaters to senior B's, but maybe they want to start to do more," Barabé said. "Mike (Slipchuck, high performance director for Skate Canada) said, 'Let's see what she does here; maybe we can do something.'

"I hope she gets an assignment. She trains hard and is a good athlete, even if she is not as flamboyant as some other skaters, like (former pupil) Cynthia Phaneuf."

Barabé and her husband, trainer Joe Letendre, brought 14 skaters to Liberty, ranging from novice to senior.

"I love this event," she said. "I've been coming here for 10 years."

Boston's Yasmin Siraj placed third with her free skate to Seven Years in Tibet, hitting a triple Salchow, triple toe-double Axel sequence and second triple toe. She fell on a triple Lutz and had a triple flip called under-rotated, but ended with a strong double Axel-double toe-double loop.

"I've been working on getting my jumps bigger and my spins a lot faster," Siraj said. "That's been our main focus. We work on new combinations on the side, as the year progresses."

The 16-year-old rising senior at Brookline High School elected to do the junior version of her free skate, in preparation for her Junior Grand Prix event. Her 87.41 points included a time deduction, as well as a deduction for not including a choreographed sequence.

"She has had a lot on her plate, with the end of the school year and her AP (Advanced Placement) finals," said Mark Mitchell, who, with Peter Johansson, coaches Siraj at Skating Club of Boston. "It was more important to get the [junior] program out than to worry about deductions. Now, she can settle in and focus. She is doing better this year than she was at this point last year."

Samantha Cesario, who won Friday's short program event with a sophisticated performance to "Fever" -- which included a triple loop-triple loop combination -- was fourth in the free with 82.32 points.

The 19-year-old New Yorker debuted a new free to the Titanic soundtrack and again landed her triple loop-triple loop, but as in the short, the second loop was judged under-rotated.

Cesario's choreography by Inese Bucevica promises well, but the skater fell on a triple flip and turned out of several other triple jumps.

"This wasn't the program I wanted to do at Liberty," Cesario said. "I think I put so much into the triple loop-triple loop, I spent the rest of the program playing catch up."

"It's early in the season, and the program is not fully trained yet for the triple-triple," Cesario's coach, Mary Lynn Gelderman, said. "By chasing the jumps, the program got lost a little."

Skater and coach acknowledged the challenge of gaining full credit for the difficult combination, since triple loops are more often called under-rotated or downgraded by the technical panel. Gelderman believes it is the best choice for Cesario, who has a history of back problems.

"The trick is knowing your athlete," she said. "With Sam's history of facet joint [injury], our job is to keep her healthy. The loop puts most of the pressure on the right side, and the facet is on the left. We also work on triple toe-triple toe, but that puts more pressure on the facet joint."

"It's more difficult to get full credit for the loop-loop, but I'm going to work it," Cesario said.

Cesario is currently 27th on the ISU's seasons' best scoring list, just missing the cut-off for a Grand Prix assignment. She is considered in the running to be assigned by U.S. Figure Skating to a senior B international, as well as the TBA slot at Skate America.

"We can't count on anything; we're just hoping and doing our best in the summer competitions," Gelderman said.

Reporter's notebook: Barabé shared some news about Phaneuf, the two-time Canadian champion: "She is doing so well. She is expecting a baby with her boyfriend, [Philadelphia Flyers forward] Max Talbot" ... Siraj looked stronger and more mature on the ice, and there's a reason: "I think I've grown 2 1/2 inches since nationals," she said ... Next summer, this competition will be renamed Philadelphia Summer Championships and will be hosted by the Ice Works Skating Club.