South Jersey skater Isabeau Levito opens her season with a victory
Three months ago, South Jersey figure skater Isabeau Levito became world junior champion.
So you would think she would have free time. And she did – a few days off, a week to break in new skates, and a vacation to visit relatives in Italy. His mother is from Milan – site of the 2026 Winter Olympics, which Levito has his sights set on.
But while summer may seem like the off-season for a winter sport, figure skating doesn’t get much of a break. On Saturday, 15-year-old Levito won his first competition of the season, the Philadelphia Summer International Competition at IceWorks in Aston.
It was also a preview of the upcoming season. Summer competitions are generally considered a time for skaters to test new programs in front of judges. They often add different jumps, spins and footwork throughout the season.
Still, Levito, who lives in Mount Holly and trains in Mount Laurel, got a score in his free skate, or long skate, which was just four hundredths off his personal best.
“I didn’t expect that,” Levito said of his score. “I sort of participated in this competition, just as I want to present my programs very well. I was less focused on the technical stuff and more focused on showing my programs for the first time as best I could, for a good first impression of those programs.
His trainer agreed.
“We didn’t expect this high score,” said Yulia Kuznetsova. “But we have moved on to seniors. The component system has changed a bit, and we weren’t expecting much. But what I understand from the comments – Levito had a review with the USA team judges on Sunday – the programs look very slick.
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Part of the goal during this quick turnaround was to make Levito look more grown up and more like an international skater. Kuznetsova choreographed her programs with strong plots.
Its short program is to Latin music“Una Noche Mas” by Yasmin Levy.
“I really love him so much,” Levito said. “I get the impression that it’s very – is the right word – flirtatious?”
Said Kuznetsova: “I try to make you look like a movie star. I’m trying to teach you to be, yes, flirtatious, but to be a strong woman who learns to say how to govern life. There’s tension and flirtation, but no matter what, she’s still strong and elegant.
Its long program is “Dulcea Si Tandra Mea Fiara”, sung by Catalina Caraus and Eugen Doga, a Romanian version of a song originally featured in a Russian film. Kuznetsova has created a story that is kind of a heavenly version of The little Mermaid. Here, Levito is an angel who falls in love with a person who is on earth.
“And the angel wants to connect with that person…and protect the person,” Kuznetsova said. “We will try to follow the story throughout the program, and the program can be very emotional.”
For this one, Levito wears a blue dress with a rhinestone wing on the front and back.
“She’s very good with her hands,” Kuznetsova said of Levito’s artistry, “and how she can bend [her shoulders, back, and arms]. Not everyone can do. And, of course, she worked a lot with a [ballet] teacher.”
Levito’s criticism was requested by Team USA and helpful to them and their coaching staff. She has been assigned to two Grand Prix competitions this fall — skate america, to be held Oct. 21-23 in Norwood, Mass.; and the MK John Wilson Trophy November 11-13 in Sheffield, England.
Not only will she compete against the best skaters in the world, but she will also have to deal with new rules. This year, to achieve the highest levels of footwork, avoid repeating steps. And spins must have difficult entries and exits, increased speed during certain parts of the spin, or the skater must spin in both directions, which few can do.
On Sunday, the judges told Levito and Kuznetsova that her footwork and combined spin were in good shape, but she would have to add difficulty to her extended spin.
They see this year as a transition. She is on the rise and a new quadrennial between the Olympics has begun.
His most difficult jump at this point is his triple lutz-triple loop combination.
“And hopefully we can have a triple axel by the middle of the season,” Kuznetsova said. And maybe also quadruple toe loop, flip or lutz.
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Besides rising to an international level and understanding the new rules, Levito has also had to deal with some adjustments in recent months. She’s grown about three inches and is now 5-1 or a bit taller. The growth did not affect his jumps, however; some skaters have to relearn them. But she ended up with an injury, a sprained ankle.
“She missed four weeks of skating after her vacation because of her left ankle,” Kuznetsova said. She ended up working on her programs “in total probably five weeks, six weeks. I mean work on them” intensively.
All of this made his win at Aston all the more impressive. She placed ahead of another skater from New Jersey, Lindsay Thorngren, with whom she has competed since they were very young. Thorngren, who lives in North Jersey, placed third at the Junior Worlds. Gracie Gold, a former national champion and 2014 Olympian who trains at Aston and has made a comeback in recent years, placed third.
This puts Levito in a good position for the upcoming season. And while she doesn’t like to speculate on US or international championship placements, others are wondering out loud or online for her.
The other medal-winning skaters at the 2022 U.S. Championships, where Levito won bronze, are not competing in the upcoming Grand Prix season. Only Alysa Liu has announced her retirement, so other skaters can still compete in the US Championships. Two-time national champion Bradie Tennell missed last season through injury but is returning.
“I’m definitely not going to count her,” Levito said of Tennell.