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NOTEBOOK “I think we absolutely took that as a wonder-

ful opportunity,” Benoit said. “Tat really enlight- ened us as to where to go next and it made us all the better.”

Tat open attitude served Pogrebinsky and

Benoit well, as they won the pewter medal their first year as seniors. Tey’re planning to address all of the feedback next season. “We’re going to build a program around

things we need to improve on, and hopefully strengthen them,” Pogrebinsky said. — Lynn Rutherford

Johnson said.

‘A dream come true’ While the men’s free skate was ultimately a

record-breaker and landslide victory for Nathan Chen, the event’s first standing ovation went to Glacier Falls FSC’s Sean Rabbitt. In 11th place after the short program, Rab- bitt was ninth to take the ice in the 21-man field. His playful “Mambo Medley” free skate to music by Perez Prado featured eight triple jumps, in- cluding two triple-triple combinations — one of which received bonus points for being executed in the second half of the performance. Rabbitt’s playful and exuberant program, choreographed by himself and Cindy Stuart, had the audience clapping along and on their feet before his final element, a Level 4 combination spin, had even finished. “For me, yes, you have to have the elements

but you have to have the skating skills,” Rabbitt said. “I’ve always admired skaters who have the full package, and that’s always my goal to have a good balance. To be able to display that tonight and get the whole audience on their feet at the end is a dream come true.” Rabbitt earned a career-best free skate score

of 154.61, en route to an eighth-place finish, his highest-ever at the U.S. Championships, with 228.02 points.

— Mimi McKinnis

Johnson jumps Yuri bandwagon

Te Japanese anime series “Yuri!!! on Ice,”

which follows the personal and competitive lives of skater Yuri Katsuki and an international cast of his fellow competitors, is a major hit in Japan, and Joe Johnson rode the wave in Kansas City. Te Colorado Springs-based ice dancer, who

with partner Karina Manta placed eighth at the U.S. Championships, mimicked “Yuri” character Jean-Jacques Leroy’s trademark “JJ style” pose — crossed arms, with index fingers pointing up — in the kiss and cry. Many of the show’s fans quickly drew anime versions of Johnson as JJ, and some went viral. “My initials are JJ, so I just did the JJ pose,”

28 MARCH 2017

Te skater added thousands of followers to his twitter handle, @joejohnsononice, which features lighthearted thoughts on topics ranging from his eyebrows, to the Kardashians, mixed in with more serious notes on the team’s training and charitable endeavors. Most of the tweets now get hundreds of likes, thanks to Johnson’s new “Yuri!!! on Ice” fan base.

Te ice dancer thanked his new followers, but admitted he doesn’t have much in common with the anime JJ, who is a singles skater: “‘Yuri!!! on Ice’ fans who thought I’d be a tall Canadian with a triple Axel — I’m not but I love that you guys thought I might be tall.”

— Lynn Rutherford

Gold, Carroll part ways Two-time U.S. champion Gracie Gold and

coach Frank Carroll parted ways at the conclusion of the ladies free skate in Kansas City. Gold had been coached by Carroll since 2013, after she left her Chicago-area coach, Alex Ouriashev, about six months before the Sochi Olympics. She moved to Los Angeles to work with Car-

roll with whom she won U.S. titles in 2014 and 2016, finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics, and 2015 and 2016 World Championships. At the 2017 U.S. Championships, she

placed a career-low sixth. Gold announced on Feb. 8 that she would

be moving to train with Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein in Canton, Michigan.

— Troy Schwindt

Gambill ‘still smiling’ Te morning after the championship ladies

free skate, coach Rafael Arutunian congratulated Tammy Gambill on U.S. champion Karen Chen’s major accomplishment. Arutunian, who has coached many champions during his illustrious career, hugged Gambill and commended her for all of her hard work.

Bring on the constructive criticism

With Olympic champion Charlie White,

and Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin White and Ben Agosto all working for icenetwork and/or NBC, it’s a golden age of ice dance commentary. Great for fans, but how do skaters feel when their heroes offer constructive criticism? In Kansas City, Elliana Pogrebinsky’s idol,

Belbin White, praised her elegance, but also thought Pogrebinsky and partner Alex Benoit could produce cleaner edges through their step sequences. “We use [comments] to our advantage,”

Pogrebinsky said. “We’re thankful they are saying something that we can learn from.” “We have such incredible coaches, but we

see them every day,” Benoit said. “With Tanith, or any other commentator, it’s a completely fresh perspective.” Benoit cites White’s comment early this sea- son that the couple’s free dance to an exotic med- ley started strong, but grew a bit labored toward the end.

“Tat means so much,” Gambill said. “I

have so much respect for him. He’s done such a great job. I think all the coaches have so much re- spect for each other. We all work hard and put our heart and soul into this and to have that success is certainly very special.” Chen’s gold medal was the first at the cham- pionship (senior) level for Gambill in her 30 years of coaching. She’s guided countless other skaters to titles and medals at the other competitive lev- els. In 2011, she led Ricky Dornbush to the silver medal at the championship level, and in Kansas City, she directed Vincent Zhou to a silver-medal finish at the highest level.


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