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Armin Mahbanoozadeh Heads to Taipei City

“I fell a bit short of making the World team, but I’m honored to be on the Four Continents team and am eager to compete on the international stage,” says Armin Mahbanoozadeh of Alexandria, who finished sixth at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Next week he competes at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei.

“I fell a bit short of making the World team, but I’m honored to be on the Four Continents team and am eager to compete on the international stage,” says Armin Mahbanoozadeh of Alexandria, who finished sixth at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Next week he competes at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei.

“It was a roller coaster week for me,” says Mahbanoozadeh, 19, who trains in Delaware. “I came to Nationals healthy, confident and with a lot of good training under my belt. Of course, I was very disappointed after the short program.” During this program, he fell on his last jump.

“Getting the short out of my mind was probably the hardest part of the week because I felt very confident in my ability to skate a great long program,” he adds. “Out of three long program run-throughs I did in Greensboro prior to the event, two were clean and the third was extremely close. That gave me confidence all through Sunday, especially after I saw the ovation Ricky got right as I got on the ice. I was very determined to skate well. I don’t remember ever being so focused and ‘in the zone.'”

Ricky, or Richard Dornbush, 19, won the silver medal at Nationals. His placement and that of bronze medalist Ross Miner, 20, were shocks to most of the skating world. Although Dornbush won this season’s ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, he had yet to establish himself in the senior ranks-finishing 11th at 2010 Nationals. Miner, the 2009 U.S. Junior Men’s Champion, missed his senior debut last year due to a sprained ankle. They will join 2011 Champion Ryan Bradley at the World Championships in Tokyo in March.

Joining Mahbanoozadeh in Chinese Taipei will be the two men who were considered favorites at the U.S. Championships, two-time Champion Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon. They finished fifth and sixth at last year’s World Championships.

“This is the next generation coming in,” says Audrey Weisiger, head coach at the Fairfax Ice Arena and founder of Grassroots to Champions. “Our Nationals is so difficult because we do have such depth and talent and so many competitors. There aren’t very many other countries that have as many competitors as we do.

“I certainly was not expecting Jeremy not to make the World team, but at the same time, he was pretty outspoken about he was working to peak in March, which is different from how his seasons had gone previously. He had a tendency to skate well at Nationals and get to Worlds or Olympics and not skate as well.”

Abbott defeated Evan Lysacek at the 2009 U.S. Championships and then finished 11th to Lysacek’s first at the World Championships. Abbott defeated Lysacek again in 2010. The following month, Lysacek won the gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver while Abbott was ninth. Trying to peak later in the season was solid strategy, but Abbott seemed to lose sight of making the U.S. World team.

Dornbush delivered the skate of a lifetime in Greensboro.

“Ricky is going to have to step it up again at the World level,” says Weisiger, who has coached World and Olympic competitors. “It’s one thing to do well at Nationals, but at Worlds it’s a whole different ballgame-particularly against the Japanese men. I’m not expecting him to be in their league just yet.”

While Dornbush and Miner represented youth, Bradley, 27, was at the other end of the spectrum, winning the title in his 11th trip to Nationals at the senior level.

“Hats off to Ryan. He was the only man that was going after three quads, including one in the short program,” says Weisiger.

Bradley did land his quad in the short, but failed on both quad attempts in the long. Still, he’s the first U.S. man since Timothy Goebel to attempt that many quad jumps.

Weisiger says Mahbanoozadeh showed marked improvement and should be in contention for the U.S. podium again next year.

“The conclusion of my long program felt like a redemption for me,” Mahbanoozadeh says. “To be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely pleased with my marks, but after skating as well as I did, scores mattered only minimally.”

Noticeably absent from this year’s U.S. Championships was veteran competitor Tommy Steenberg of Annandale. He has stepped away from competition and is not training on a regular basis.

“I have been focusing on school at George Mason University, (averaging 22 credits a semester) pursuing a B.A. in dance and a B.S. in business,” he tells the Falls Church News-Press. “I am currently very happy and don’t miss competing. However, I have replaced it in a sense as I have been enjoying performing as a part of the George Mason Dance Company.

“I do not have much time to skate right now, but last week I went to the rink and cranked out a triple axel-double toe,” he adds. “I’d like to continue maintaining my skating abilities in order to keep possibilities open-most likely shows. The dance definitely assists me in doing so.”

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