For Nikodinov, This Victory Is Special

From Associated Press

After skating little in the last two years because of shoulder surgery, Angela Nikodinov arrived at Skate America just hoping to compete.

The 24-year-old American did that and more Saturday, winning the women’s title after completing 10 jumps while the rest of the field fell -- literally.

Japan’s Miki Ando, who led entering the free skate, fell while attempting a quadruple salchow and a triple lutz. She ended up third behind Canada’s Cynthia Phaneuf, who also couldn’t complete several triple jumps.


Susanna Poykio of Finland won the free skate with a 97.40 score but finished fifth in the overall standings behind American Alissa Czisny.

“To be able to get myself at this level and still not be at my top, it’s really going to make me better for nationals,” said Nikodinov, who skated last and finished with an overall score of 149.50.

Nikodinov is a perennial competitor. She first skated in a senior event in 1996 and has had several top-10 finishes at Skate America. Her longtime coach, Elena Tcherkasskaia, died in 2001 of cancer; Nikodinov now skates with Igor Pashkevich.

“I wanted to come back and prove to [Elena] that I could do it,” Nikodinov said with her new coach at her side.

Ando, fighting back tears after the competition, said through an interpreter that she was disappointed she couldn’t do what she had set out to perform.

Her program in the free skate was the most difficult, in part because of the inclusion of the quadruple jump. She is the first woman to land a quadruple jump in competition.


In ice dancing, Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto won the competition for the second year in a row.

Dressed in gypsy-inspired costumes, they skated a program with perfectly synchronized turns. They were followed by Israel’s Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski and Canada’s Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.

World champion pairs skater Tatiana Totmianina of Russia fell headfirst onto the ice during the free skate, a terrifying fall that ended the competition.

Maxim Marinin had just lifted Totmianina into the air in a one-handed lift when they lost their balance. Totmianina tumbled to the ice as the crowd gasped.

Paramedics tended to the fallen skater, who lay motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

U.S. figure skating officials said Totmianina was “stabilized well” by an attending physician. She was carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to the trauma center at nearby Mercy Hospital. Officials would not release any details on her condition, citing patient privacy laws.

Totmianina and Marinin, in first place after the short program, were the last couple to skate in the pairs. Dan and Hao Zhang of China took first place.