Ice Network

Dolensky, Tennell shine bright in Pennsylvania

Popular figures display stellar form at Philadelphia Summer International
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
With the help of coaches Darlene Cain and Peter Cain and training partner Alex Krasnozhon, Tim Dolensky (second from left) earned the gold medal in Philadelphia. -Courtesy of Mary Yang

Tim Dolensky had just performed one of his best free skates, winning the Philadelphia Summer International at IceWorks Skating Complex in Aston, Pennsylvania, and staking a claim to the open U.S. men's spot at Skate America in late November.

Sure, he wanted to talk about it. But training partner Alex Krasnozhon, the reigning U.S. junior champion, had just left the ice after his free skate to Gladiator.

"I'm going to talk to him," Dolensky said, jogging off. "I'll be right back."

Camaraderie used to be in short supply for the Alabama native, who trained most of his career in the Atlanta area. He calls his primary coach there, Debbie Prachar, a "second mom," and she's still a member of his coaching team. But he had few training siblings.

"There was no one at his rink to push him any harder," new coach Darlene Cain said. "That's why he wanted to make the change. He loves his coach and he loved where he was, he just felt he had no one to train with."

Nearing age 25, Dolensky joined Darlene and Peter Cain's group in Euless, Texas, this spring. There, he shares the ice with Krasnozhon, U.S. pairs bronze medalists Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, 2014 U.S. junior champion Amber Glenn, Daniel Kulenkamp and others.

"I just needed to enjoy the day-to-day training more, and [in Atlanta], still living at home, I felt like I was kind of stuck," said Dolensky, who is boarding with the Cains, staying in their son Brenden's room while Brenden attends Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. "I wanted to be around skaters who were doing the same things as me and have friends, so I think that's really helping me."

Peter thinks the change of scenery benefits Dolensky on, and off, the ice.

"He's come out of his bubble and he's a lot more social, which is really good," the coach said. "He's enjoying his training. You get all the boys together, they start jumping together and challenging each other. It's all good prodding, good fun."

Dolensky credits his training partners with helping him push through his intricate free skate, choreographed by Ryan Jahnke to Novo Amor and Ed Tullett's graceful and yearning "Faux." After falling on an opening quadruple salchow -- a jump he landed in warm-ups -- he hit a glorious triple axel-triple toe loop combination, followed by six jumping passes in the program's second half. His spins and steps gained Level 4's, and his only major mistake was doubling an intended triple loop. His 153.84 points, added to his second-place short program score, gave him the win with 229.22 points, more than 12 points over the field.

"When I was getting in shape, falling three and four times in run-throughs, everyone helped keep me going," Dolensky said. "I wanted to start my footwork at a certain time, and I take my time in the beginning. But I think it can be really effective when I start popping off those jumps in the second half."

"He's a great athlete, he works very hard," Peter said. "We want him to understand that he's an elite skater. He's never really believed that in himself. We feel like he's trying more things now."

Seventh in the U.S. the last two seasons, Dolensky knows he needs a quad or two to crack the podium.

"It's coming, it's getting better," he said. "It's been a long process to try to get it consistent. I'm landing it more than I ever have and I want to keep it going upwards. My goal for the season is to medal at nationals, which I think I can certainly do."

Ukraine's Yaroslav Paniot, 10th at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, opened his free with a quadruple flip and a quad toe-triple toe combination. While several of his jumps had flawed landings, he was second in the free and second overall with 217.05 points.

Paniot, who trains in Riverside, California, in Tammy Gambill's group, travels to Kiev this month for an internal competition with two-time world competitor Ivan Pavlov. The winner will compete for an Olympic spot for Ukraine at Nebelhorn Trophy in late September.

Max Aaron arrived in Aston with two goals: test the competitive feel of two new programs, and rotate quad toe loops and salchows in both his short, set to a medley from Les Miserables, and free, choreographed to selections from Phantom of the Opera.

There were glitches -- no combination in the short and two single axels in the free -- but the 2013 U.S. champion returned home to Colorado Springs satisfied. He ended with 209.37 points and the bronze medal.

"I wanted to get out there and put the [quad] toe and salchow together," Aaron said. "I haven't tried this since the last Olympic year, so I wanted to put them out and rotate them, get the feel of it, and then go back to training and tweak things."

Krasnozhon led by a point after landing a strong triple axel and triple flip-triple loop combination in his Russian folk dance short, but two quads, loop and salchow were downgraded in his free, leaving him fourth with 206.25 points. Philadelphia was his senior international debut. Later this month, he will compete at the Junior Grand Prix in Australia.

"This year, as far as senior, I don't have any particular goals, but as far as junior, it's top three at the JGP Final," Krasnozhon said. "I think I'm ready for that. I'm going for the quality (in my elements) -- holding that extra bit for the landings and doing more in the spins. It was good to try stuff out here."

Alexander Johnson brought his trademark musicality and fluid upper body movement to two Tom Dickson-choreographed programs, but had axel trouble in his free to Concierto de Aranjuez and finished fifth with 203.39 points. After a disappointing short, 2015 U.S. junior champion Andrew Torgashev placed third in the free with the highest program component scores of the event. He ended sixth with 202.95 points.

Ladies turn up the heat

Many ladies arrived in Aston with polished, sophisticated free skates that belied the event's early-season date. From Angela Wang's mesmerizing outing to the hypnotic "Circles" by Greta Svabo Bech, to Courtney Hicks' heartfelt "Amazing Grace" and Tessa Hong's light and charming "Fascination," fans that showed up at IceWorks on Sunday were richly rewarded.

In the end, Bradie Tennell came out on top, continuing her strong summer with solid triple lutz-triple toe combinations in both her short, choreographed by Scott Brown to music from the 2004 Korean film Taegukgi, and her free, set to the Cinderella soundtrack with a dash of Prokofiev and created by Benoit Richaud. She placed second in both events and won gold with 184.98 points.

The 19-year-old Tennell, ninth in the U.S. last season and seventh at the 2017 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, attributes her fine showing here and at the Broadmoor Open in part to good health. Stress fractures to lower back vertebrae in May 2015 and June 2016 limited her training the past two seasons.

"It's really made a huge difference in my confidence and just being able to skate without worrying about reinjuring it or worrying about pain," Tennell said. "It's kind of been liberating, actually."

Wang, seventh in the U.S. last season, won the short with a near-perfect outing of her "Over the Rainbow" program that included a triple flip-triple toe. Her free, choreographed by Tanith Belbin-White and Charlie White, opened with a triple flip-triple toe-double toe combination and triple lutz, but was most memorable for intricate footwork and transitions. A few missed jumps, including a popped loop, dropped her to second place with 183.53 points. The 21-year-old, who spent some of the summer training in Sun Valley, Idaho, with Ryan Bradley and primary coach Christie Krall in Colorado Springs, considers the Whites benevolent taskmasters.

"I just got back from working with Charlie in Sun Valley and I'm really working on incorporating what he wants, and what Tanith wants, the program to look like," Wang said. "It's all about the whole package. Some of the jumps weren't there today but it's definitely going in the right direction. That's the benefit and the difficult part of working with the two of them: their skating skills are amazing and I strive to be able to perform it the way they want it to look."

Asked about the couple's working style, Angela laughed.

"Oh, Tanith is in charge," she said. "Whenever Charlie wanted to add or correct something, he looked to her for permission first."

Making her senior international debut, diminutive Hanul Kim of Korea impressed with her jumps, winning the free skate with strong triple lutz-triple toe and double axel-triple toe combinations in her ABBA program. She climbed from fifth after the short to take home bronze with 180.41 points.

Hicks was in strong form, landing big triple flip-triple loop combinations in both of her programs, but a few mistakes -- including a fall on a triple salchow in her free -- left her fourth with 175.92 points. Brazilian Olympian Isadora Williams recovered from a subpar short to place fifth in the free and sixth overall. Hong was grace and fluidity personified in her free skate, choreographed by Catarina Lindgren, but fell on her first triple lutz and finished seventh.

Chen, Zhou withdraw

A bad fall in practice prior to the short program forced U.S. champion Karen Chen to heavily tape her right knee during her "Tango de Roxanne" program, and she placed fourth in that segment. After the knee swelled up a bit more, she withdrew.

"It's a bruise," Chen said. "I'll be fine."

World junior champion and U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou arrived in Aston with painful foot blisters. After practicing on Friday, he withdrew.

"I think it's better to take a little time now to rest and get better," he said. "It's a precaution."