Ward brings unique presence to the ice
ST. LOUIS -- When Rohene Ward takes to the ice, people notice.
There's the muscular build that would suit a pairs skater more than a singles competitor.
There's the long ponytail.
And, more than anything, there's a fluidity to his skating that, while still somewhat raw, hints of great things to come.
Already 22, Ward hardly is a kid in a sport where athletes sometimes hit their prime as teenagers. His list of achievements is short; he was 16th at last year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships and 14th the year before.
But the Minneapolis native stands out in a practice session, even when the likes of Tim Goebel and Michael Weiss also are on the ice, because of the theatricality that marks his skating. If he never makes it big in competition, he could be a sensation in shows and tours.
"Ever since I began teaching him when he was 11, he has had that ability to be a great skater, the way he moved and the persistence he had and his sense of humor on the ice," said coach Page Lipe. "He's very much like an organic skater. He mostly picked things up if he saw them and liked them and he would incorporate it into what he is."
Ward also is a rarity in that he's a black American skater, and he says he's needed patience to work his way toward the elite level of the sport.
"I'm ready now," he vowed, while also saying that the 2010 Olympics are more in his sights than next month's Turin Games. "I'm more focused, better trained, ready for a new life and new chapter versus one chapter repeating itself."
Last fall, he worked with Robin Wagner, who coached Sarah Hughes to the 2002 Olympic gold medal. Wagner helped with choreography and training for the season and for nationals.
She believes Ward is ready to blossom.
"I think he's finally said to himself, `I'm really very good and it's time for me to experience that performance I know I can do,' " Wagner said. "He's tired of hearing about his potential and what he might be able to do.
"Rohene is truly a unique talent, one of the best male skaters I've seen in a long time. He's the complete package: strong with beautiful lines, excellent jumps and fantastic spins, masculinity. I don't think we've yet seen how far he can go."
^A WINNING PAIR:@ Fans didn't need to look at a scoreboard to see who won the junior pairs title. All they had to do was watch Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz at the center of the ice.
Moyle and Seitz screamed and hugged each other when they finished their program Thursday, knowing it was good enough to give them their first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Moyle and Seitz finished with 147.81 points, more than eight points ahead of Bridget Namiotka and John Coughlin.
"To do a clean pairs long program, it's very draining to watch, very draining to do," said Adrienne Lenda, Moyle and Seitz's coach. "It's not easy to do under pressure. They knew they needed to skate clean to win."
Moyle and Seitz not only skated clean, they did some of the toughest tricks in the junior division. They did two throw triple jumps, a salchow and a loop, and a double twist so big they could have thrown in an extra twist if they'd wanted. They also did a side-by-side double axel-double toe loop jump sequence.
"We've been training all year for this," Moyle said. "When I got on the ice, I was really excited to do the program."
And they've not even been together a year.
Seitz used to skate with his sister, Lindsey, but they split after nationals last year. Lenda saw him at a pairs tryout, and matched him with Moyle, who also does singles.
"They pretty much knew right from the start of the first tryout that it was going to work," Lenda said.
Though Moyle, 15, and Seitz, 20, can move up to seniors next year, Lenda said they haven't made a decision on that yet. The couple will likely compete in the Junior Grand Prix series, though.
^ICE DANCERS OUT:@ Kate Slattery and Chuen-Gun Lee withdrew from the ice dance competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday, two days after Lee broke his nose during warmups.
Lee also had a slight concussion after colliding with another competitor, Jonathan Toman, during the warm-up before the original dance Tuesday night. Slattery and Lee completed the original dance, but he's having trouble breathing.
Slattery and Lee were 12th after the original dance.
"I am disappointed we can't compete in the free dance, but it is very, very difficult to breathe through my nose, because it is so swollen," Lee said. "I don't want anything bad to happen. Our coaches said it wasn't a good idea, because we don't want to push it and risk an accident on a lift or a spin or any of our skating."
HONOR ROLL: Ten youngsters made the U.S. Figure Skating Scholastic Honors Team, including three who competed at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this week.
Junior men's skater Princeton Kwong of Los Altos Hills, Calif., who spent last summer teaching bible classes for children in Mexico, finished seventh at nationals. Mauri Gustafson, who is a junior ice dancer with partner Logan Giuletti-Schmitt, has worked with local nursing home in the Plano, Texas area. Gustafson and Giuiletti-Schmitt finished 10th here.
Tommy Steenberg of Annandale, Va., is competing in the senior men's division. He's a member of the National Spanish Honor Society and is a Spanish tutor.
State Farm is awarding $25,000 in scholarships to the winners.
Other recipients are Megan Calhoun of Rolling Hills, Calif.; Elizabeth Cruikshank of Larchmont, N.Y.; Lee Anne Filosa of Medfield, Mass.; Lisa Lucido of Sterling Heights, Mich.; Anna Peng of Newark, Del.; Taylor John Toth of Kittanning, Pa.; and Stephanie Zastrow, Forest Lake, Minn.
KILLING TIME:@ The ice dancers had plenty of time on their hands this week.
A change in the schedule at this year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships gave the senior dancers two days off between the original dance and the free dance. Instead of having the compulsories, original dance and free dance on separate days like most years, the first two events were both Tuesday and the free dance wasn't until Friday night.
The three events will be held over four days at the Turin Olympics.
"We're happy to have the free dance Friday evening and not in the afternoon," said Igor Shpilband, coach of two-time defending champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. "I'd like to have more audience for the free dance, so we're willing to have another day off as the sacrifice."
The dancers still had practices to take up part of their free days. But what to do with the rest?
"Play pingpong in the skater's lounge," said Denis Petukhov, who is in second place with wife and partner Melissa Gregory.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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