Torgashev sets new U.S. standard for junior men

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Andrew Torgashev had just set a new overall scoring record for a junior man at the U.S. championships, but he didn’t know it until this reporter asked him about it.

“Well, I was not aware of that until now,” the self-possessed 13-year-old said. “Setting a new standard is just incredible. I don’t even have the words to explain it.”

That’s probably because of what his parents and coaches, former Soviet competitors Ilona Melnichenko and Artem Torgashev, have long told him: Don’t worry about the score or what you’re competitors are doing. That’s our job.

“We don’t think about setting records, or any other skaters,” said Melnichenko, the 1987 world junior ice dance champion. “We focus on ourselves, and we just try to make him better, at his own pace.”

Torgashev, who led the field by more than 10 points after the short program Wednesday at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, hit two triple Lutzes and two triple flips in his free skate, set to Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” He also hit an impressive double Axel-loop-triple Salchow sequence.

The young Floridian’s skating skills were as impressive as his jumps. He delivered intricate choreography, done by Melnichenko and Scott Brown, with seeming ease. A Level 4 step sequence that included twizzles, leaps and kicks looked smooth, not flailing. His spins, too, impressed the judges and technical panel alike, and he earned 149.63 points for the free. When added to his short program score, Torgashev’s 225.24 points eclipsed the standard set by Nathan Chen a year ago.

After placing fourth in novice last season, Andrew told his parents he wanted to compete as a junior in 2014-15. They said fine, with one condition: You have to work on your basic skating and speed, not just your jumps.

“We decided he needed to look like a junior man,” Melnichenko said. “So, we worked a lot on his skating skills — everything to make him big and strong — to be competitive with the junior boys, because he is the youngest in the group (born May 29, 2001) and we want him to look big.”

Torgashev’s win here, along with his monster score, will likely make him part of the conversation when U.S. Figure Skating’s International Committee Management Subcommittee sits down to decide the U.S. world junior team, to compete in Tallinn, Estonia, in early March.

The skater, who hit a triple flip-triple toe in his short program here, won’t have a triple Axel by then, although it is planned for next season.

“If I go to junior worlds, that would be a great, great goal for me. That was my goal at the beginning of the season,” Torgashev said. “But I probably won’t have any time to learn any new jumps. After this season, I will be going full out learning the triple Axel and see what happens.”

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