Challenger Series

Team USA earns five medals at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City

By Johanna Bear

As is often the case, the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic served to set the stage for the remainder of the summer international events in the lead-up to the start of the Grand Prix season. While these early events in no way indicate or foreshadow skaters’ future performances in larger events, they do give many a chance to test out their new programs in front of an audience and in front of international judges. That said, here is a look back at a fascinating, and at times surprising, week of skating in Salt Lake City.


The man of the hour was most certainly Israel’s Daniel Samohin, who was able to complete three quadruple jumps in his Sherlock Holmes themed free skate en route to his first senior international medal. Samohin, who will be competing in the Junior Grand Prix this season, also landed four other triples (two lutzes, a loop and a salchow) to secure the gold medal with a total competition score of 223.67.

2011 World Junior Silver Medalist Keiji Tanaka, of Japan, made a solid statement in the senior ranks, moving up from fifth place after the short program to claim the silver medal in Salt Lake City with a total score of 212.34. Though he turned out of the landing of his attempted quadruple salchow, he landed both a triple axel and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination to match the highest international podium placement of his senior career.

Defending U.S. International Classic silver medalist and American Ross Miner found himself in first place after the short program after skating a clean program to “New York State of Mind,” but was unable to continue that success in the free skate after popping a planned triple flip into a single and failing to complete a triple-triple combination. After earning a total competition score of 209.93, Miner had to settle for third place. He will look to rebound before competing in Skate America, the first event of the Grand Prix season.

With scores of 209.94 and 207.41 respectively, Team U.S.A.’s Timothy Dolensky and Japan’s Shoma Uno finished fourth and fifth. Uno won the free skate but after a short program that had put him in ninth going into the long he was unable to make up more ground. Team U.S.A.’s Richard Dornbush electrified the crowd with his Coldplay free skate but struggled on the jumps, putting the 2011 U.S. National Silver Medalist in a disappointing sixth place with a total score of 191.02.


Unlike in the other disciplines, the leader after the short program in the ladies event held on to win the gold at the end of the competition. Reigning World Silver Medalist Satoko Miyahara put together two solid programs, and despite a fall on her triple lutz she was able to keep her composure through to the end of her “Un Sospiro” free skate. Well known for her beautiful lines, Miyahara utilized them throughout while also displaying improved jumps, including two double axel-triple toe loop combinations along with a well-executed triple lutz-double toe loop-double loop combination, which helped keep heron top of the ladies podium with a score of 183.64.

In an extremely impressive senior international debut Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva moved up from fourth after the short program to claim the silver medal. Tursynbaeva, who trains under Brian Orser used her small stature and flexibility to express her “Papa Can You Hear Me?” free skate and included an incredibly unique Biellmann spin variation to highlight those strengths and to contribute to her total competition score of 177.91.

Team USA’s Angela Wang finished out the podium in third place despite going into the free skate in second. Wang has excelled in Challenger Series competitions over the past few seasons, and this week’s event was no exception. She executed a clean Rippon-style triple loop with both her arms over her head, but an under-rotation on her triple loop-single toe loop combination along with several tight landings prevented her from moving up higher in the standings. She ended the competition with a score of 166.80.

Reigning U.S. National Bronze Medalist Karen Chen started off her “Les Miserables” free skate by popping her planned triple lutz into a single in what was ultimately a tight performance that dropped her from third to fourth, just missing the podium. She would finish with 159.18, followed by Canada’s Selena Zhao in the standings. Zhao jumped from ninth to fifth overall with the help of a beautiful double axel-triple toe loop combination and finished behind only Miyahara and Tursynbaeva in the free skate to end her competition with a total score of 157.03. Team USA’s Mariah Bell finished the event in sixth place with a total score of 149.47.


While it seemed after the pairs short program that it would be a routine victory for Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran, instead it ended up being the first international gold medal for Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, who topped Castelli and Tran by less than a point after their powerful and technically sound free skate to “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera. Kayne and O’Shea, who had been sidelined during 2014 due to Kayne’s hip surgery, have bounced back since then in earning the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships and putting out another strong performance in Salt Lake City. Their huge throw triple lutz and unique lift entrances helped to contribute to their total competition score of 170.30, narrowly edging out Castelli and Tran and Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.

Castelli and Tran were in first place after the short program, but struggled to find consistency in their Journey free skate, doubling an intended throw triple flip and side-by-side triple toe loops, but they were still able to hold on for the silver medal with a score of 169.46. This was Castelli and Tran’s first international competition as a team and should prove to be good practice for their two Grand Prix assignments: Skate Canada and Tropheé Eric Bompard. They will also compete at Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in October.

Rounding out the podium were Moore-Towers and Marinaro, another relatively new team testing the international waters. Their Romeo and Juliet free skate was not as well received as they would have liked, and with the addition of a severely downgraded lift and low component scores they landed in third place with 160.08 points for the competition. Moore-Towers and Marinaro have been assigned to the same Grand Prix events as Castelli and Tran, so another match-up between the two teams will be in the cards in the very near future. Canada’s Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps finished in fourth place with a total score of 148.52 while Team USA’s Gretchen Donlan and Nathan Bartholomay came in fifth with a score of 144.86 to open their 2015-16 international season.

Ice Dance

2015 U.S. National Bronze Medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were able to hold on to win the gold medal in Salt Lake City after putting together two beautifully lyrical programs. For more coverage of the ice dance event, head over to