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Sam Mindra makes top-10 in junior men's division with clean, short program in U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Sixteen-year-old Sam Mindra of Happy Valley had some big goals as he entered the national figure skating championships last week in Greensboro, North Carolina.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ACTIONPHOTOS BY MARIANNE - Sam Mindra finishes his routine with a spin at the Pacific Coast Sectional Finals in November, where he placed first in the novice division. He wanted to place in the top-10, he wanted to improve his point score, and he wanted to attract the attention of coaches and officials at the national level.

And, after two rounds of competition, Mindra  COURTESY PHOTO - Sam Mindra is pictured in the stands during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last week in Greensboro, North Carolina. He placed 10th in the junior men's competition.achieved those goals, all while skating above his qualifying level.

This year for the first time, the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held for only two levels — junior and senior. Mindra is technically a novice, so by winning the novice division at the Pacific Coast Sectional Finals in November, he qualified for nationals.

Since there was to be no novice competition, Mindra, who represents the Portland Ice Skating Club and Team Axis, was bumped up to the junior men's division, said Mari Malama, Mindra's coach.

At nationals, Mindra skated a clean, short program to "Misa Tango," had a fall in his long program skating to "The Golden Age" by Woodkid, improved his point score to 165, and finished 10th overall out of 18 skaters.

"He did really well; we're proud of him," Malama said.

But the really big deal, she said, is that Mindra was approached to be considered for Team USA and invited to attend a high-level training camp immediately after the national competition wrapped up.

At the camp, coaches and officials "will be testing how well you spin and how well you jump, deciding who they will send to international competitions" and ultimately to the Olympics in 2022, Mindra said.

Looking back on the competition, Mindra said he felt good about his performances and that being out on the national figure skating scene motivated him.

"The crowd was supportive, so I thought, OK, I can do this," he said.

Training

When Mindra returns to Oregon, he will resume his training regimen of getting up at 6 a.m., driving to the ice rink in Sherwood, and training two to four hours Monday through Friday and one hour on Saturday. He takes Sundays off.

"Sam is a very hard worker, and when he wants something, he'll do anything he has to do," said Malama, who has been coaching Mindra for six years.

He had a good season this year, she said, noting that Mindra previously had a couple of rough seasons dealing with an ankle injury, surgery and physical therapy.

"It's been hard on him; he's had to catch up," she said.

Mindra can execute all of his triple jumps, including the triple lutz, which is his most difficult jump, but also his favorite, Malama said.

"We're working on adding the triple-triple combination" to his choreography, she added.

Mindra is able to train so many hours per week and attend competitions because he is a junior at Oregon Connections Academy, a tuition-free K-12 online public school.

"This helps me a lot. I don't have to sit behind a desk for six hours, I can take my school and my homework with me," he said.

'It factor'

Mindra said he most admires Nathan Chen, the current senior men's national and world champion, and Evgeni Plushenko, a former Russian figure skater who won four Olympic medals from 2002-2014.

Mindra has worked with Chen's coach Rafael Arutyunyan, who sees promise in him, Malama said. She also noted that Daisuke Murakami, a former international skater from Japan who has relocated to Sherwood, has given helpful advice to Mindra.

"When Sam is out there performing, he has that 'it factor' and knows how to use his adrenaline rush to project to an audience, Malama said, adding, "when he's on that stage, it's a big deal."

As for his future, "I'm ready to see what's ahead," Mindra said.


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