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Junior & Senior Grand Prix

Gao looking for her ‘zone’ after breakout season

By Amber Gibson
Special to Figure Skaters Online


Christina Gao is in Austria  for her first Junior Grand Prix event of the season and she is feeling confident after a productive summer in Toronto.

“I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvements [this summer],” Gao said. She landed her triple flip-triple toe combination at both Skate Detroit and Thornhill, where she debuted her senior and junior programs, respectively. Look for the triple-triple in both her short and free programs this season.

Senior and junior programs have “almost the same elements because the spiral sequence changed to a six-second spiral,” Gao said. The biggest difference is that in the senior program there is more room for creativity and choreography.

“In the senior program, you have more time to breathe,” Gao explains.

Gao doesn’t set goals for herself in terms of placement, but wants to be physically and mentally prepared for every competition this season.

“I’m trying to figure out how to get in my zone and stay in my zone,” she said. Having coach Brian Orser with her at competitions helps her stay calm. At the 2010 World Junior Championships, Gao said her first practice didn’t go as well as she hoped, which caused her to panic and not to do her best.

“When you go to a competition you have to be able to adjust mentally, to adjust to the rink and the little things that mess with your mind,” she said.

Last year was a breakthrough year for Gao, who skated in the last warm-up group at the U.S. Championship en route to a fifth place finish and won the bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Gao considers those two competitions to be the highlights of last season.

David Wilson chose the music for and choreographed both of Gao’s programs this year. Her short program is to Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto while her free skate will be Asian-themed, to Yellow River.

“My dresses this year are pretty simple because instead of having so many beads, more of the design is in the actual cut of the dress,” Gao said. Her short program dress is black velvet with a deep V-neck front and her long program dress is “purplish-bluish with a really cool skirt.”

It’s been a little over a year since Gao made the move to Toronto to train with Orser, and she is very happy with how training has been going. Her father lives with her in Canada, while her mother and sister are back in Cincinnati.

“My mom and sister come up pretty often ’cause it’s only an eight hour drive from home,” Gao said. This summer they have had a couple family get-togethers in Toronto.

School recently started for Gao as well, although there were no school buses or homeroom teachers involved. Gao is a junior in high school this year, through an online program with her school in Cincinnati. She appreciates how flexible the online program is for her.

“I can get a good night’s sleep during the weekdays and then work really hard on weekends,” she said. Typically, Gao is on the ice for 3.5 hours each weekday, with an easier regimen Saturday and she gets to take Sundays off.

“My parents always tell me that school is really important,” she said. “I have to make sure I study hard as well as skate.”

Gao has never been to Austria before, but doesn’t know if she’ll really get a chance to sight-see much in Graz since she is skating on the last day of the competition. However, she is looking forward to seeing some of her international skater friends and meeting the new faces on the Junior Grand Prix circuit.

“I’m not a really competitive person off the ice,” she said. “I can be friends with my competitors.”


Photo courtesy of Leah Adams

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