NORWOOD — Michal Brezina’s appearance on the entry sheet for this week’s 2021 US International Figure Skating Classic may have been a bit of a surprise to some, but the veteran’s performance showed how years of experience can pay off.
Brezina, a late entrant to the 2021 US International Figure Skating Classic, was the class of the field Thursday evening. The three-time Olympian from the Czech Republic won the men’s short program at the event held at the year-old Skating Club of Boston facility in Norwood. American Jimmy Ma, who trains at the club, is in second place going into Friday night’s long program.
Brezina, who trains in California, kicked off the evening with a quadruple Salchow, but only had a triple-double jump combination in his program to Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” His spins, especially his camel positions, were some of the best in the field, earning him an 87.40.
These early-season competitions are key for Brezina as he tries for his fourth Olympic Games in February.
”I’m just trying to see what works and what doesn’t work before Skate America and Russia [the Rostelecom Cup], and so on and so on,” said Brezina. “I’m just trying to work on things, and figure it out. The combination wasn’t great [tonight], so I know I have to work on that a little bit more.”
Ma, who trains at the Skating Club of Boston, continued his stellar early season, landing a high and airy quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination. His only mistake in his commanding Swan Lake program was a hand down on his triple Axel. The home crowd cheered mightily for him as he gained speed on the dynamic footwork near the end of his program. His 84.07 score was the best international score of his career, besting his score at August’s Cranberry Cup, also at the Skating Club of Boston, where he won the silver medal.
Ma is trying to demonstrate that he is not the up and down skater he once was. He credits his coaching for making him into a more commanding skater.
”Basically what [coaches Aleksey Letov and Olga Ganicheva] have done is tear down my pride,” said Ma. “I came to them, I had the quad, I had an Axel, but they said, ‘That’s a good quad, but you need more. You aren’t only going to do three [quads] a day, you’re going to do three a minute. It’s a big change for me, but I also feel like it’s a necessary one. I’m very stubborn, but with them, I’m like, ‘You’re the bosses.’”
Competing in yet another international on his home ice provides comfort, but also can add another level of anxiety.
“There’s a wee bit of pressure because it’s like, we must defend this house,” said Ma.
American Eric Sjoberg had a positive showing to start off his first senior international, scoring the highest short program score of his career with a 78.11 and finishing the night in third place. He landed a triple Axel and a triple-triple combination and demonstrated great speed on his spins.
Mexico’s Donovan Carrillo had a downgraded quadruple toe loop in his short program, but had solid spins and powered through his program to finish fourth with a 77.48.
Maxim Naumov, another Skating Club of Boston-trained skater, doubled his quad Salchow to start his short program, but he landed his triple Axel and triple-triple combination. He had a few bobbles on his footwork, but still managed to finish in fifth with a score of 69.99.
Despite the mistake, Naumov was pleased that the mistake on the opening quad did not impact the remainder of his performance.
”[The quad] is still a relatively new jump,” said Naumov, who has just added it to his repertoire. “We are trying to really push it, and do it with the music, without the music, even when I’m tired. It’s important not to let it mess up the rest of the program.”
Fellow Americans Camden Pulkinen and Dinh Tran finished sixth and eighth, respectively. Tran debuted his new coaching arrangement at the event. He is now being coached by Chatham native and three-time Olympian Todd Eldredge.