Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Men Set Sights On St. Paul Skating Championship

Parker PenningtonThe senior men’s event at the 2008 Eastern Figure Skating Championships looked like a Washington, D.C.-area get together. Tommy Steenberg of Annandale claimed the gold, Parker Pennington of Fairfax the silver and perennial competitor Derrick Delmore of Alexandria the bronze. With the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships taking place in St. Paul, Minn., next week, they’re ready to rumble again.

“I was happy with how I did at Easterns for a bunch of reasons,” says Steenberg, 19, the youngest of the three. “I landed the triple axel and triple/triple in the short program for the first time. To win the short and long was also really cool. Also, I got my personal best by like 19 points. That was huge.”

It also showed Steenberg had put the Junior Grand Prix circuit out of his mind. After two gold medals in 2006, he finished a disappointing sixth in his one competition. He attributes it to changes he made to his off-ice regimen.

“I was still adjusting,” he says. “I feel I’ve been building since then. It’s been getting better and better.”

In order to maximize his training leading up to the National Championships, Steenberg has done his utmost not to get sick — always being sure to get enough rest and wearing scarves and gloves on cold days.

Steenberg has taken another step forward in his style, and opted for classical music for his short program, choosing excerpts from the ballet “Le Corsaire.”

“It’s more lyrical in the beginning, with long lines,” he says. “Then the middle section is the circular footwork. That’s where the male solo in the ballet is, so it’s more powerful. Then the ending is lighter. It builds to the end and the pace quickens.”

Steenberg graduated high school last year and deferred his admission to the honors program at George Mason for a year. He’s given himself some breathing room and he’s also started coaching at the Fairfax Area.

“I’ve been getting a perspective from the coach’s stand point,” Steenberg says. “It’s opened up my mind a lot about how the coaches care and how much they do for the skaters.”

Steenberg says having Pennington, 23, train at the same rink has been beneficial. A veteran competitor who placed seventh at 2007 Nationals, Pennington is enjoying his new surroundings. For the first time he’s living on his own, which has its challenges, but he’s also within driving distance from his family's home in Connecticut.

“My family came here for Christmas and they stayed until New Years,” he says. “I’ve gone to Connecticut a couple of times.”

He’s performing new short and long programs this season, and for the first time he took an active role in the choreography. He’s also been taking some classes and enjoying Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“I’ve been exploring doing some art work of my own,” says Pennington, who has been a frequent visitor to museums.

Pennington says he feels the progress in his skating, and he’s looking forward to showing that off in St. Paul.

“I feel that I’m growing as a skater,” he says. “I’m definitely improving in terms of my artistry. I’m learning a lot about myself through all these changes. Trying to find that consistency. You have ups and downs throughout your skating career, but I’m definitely looking forward to Nationals. Whether it’s going to be the time that I skate my absolute best, who knows. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I’m taking it one day at a time. I feel I am improving.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to take that next step,” he continues. “I want to go out and perform to the best of my capabilities. If that happens, I think the results will reflect it.”

On the junior level, Armin Mahbanoozadeh is looking to continue the positive momentum he had throughout the autumn. The 2007 Novice Men’s Champion won gold and bronze medals on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and bronze at the Junior Grand Prix Final. The two U.S. skaters who took gold and silver at the Final, Adam Rippon and Brandon Mroz, will also be competing in the junior men’s division in Saint Paul.

“I’m doing better than I ever expected,” says Mahbanoozadeh, 16, who balances training with attending a regular high school. “My goal for this season was just to make it to the Final. Once I was there, I wasn’t really putting any pressure on myself to medal. I told myself to skate as well as I could and have fun. It turned out to go really well.

“Nationals is definitely the most exciting competition for me,” he adds. “I love Nationals. I’ve been looking forward to it all year. I’m training as I have all year, trying to take my programs to the next level. I’m really trying to work on the program components. Hopefully, [I'll] keep my consistency up and get a new personal best.”