Friday, December 30, 2011

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Los Angeles 2002

2002 Nationals gave me my first chance to visit California, and I didn't want to leave the sunshine and clear blue skies. Since it was an Olympic year, there was a "do-or-die" feeling to the competition that I hadn't felt in Boston the previous year. I was happy with some of the Olympic team members but heartbroken for some of the athletes who didn't make it. More on that in a bit . . .

My sister and I couldn't go to L.A. without sightseeing, so we took the subway to Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Fame. When we got there, we saw the area around the Kodak Theatre roped off and lots of media setting up. We found out Muhammad Ali was getting his star on the Walk of Fame that morning, so we parked ourselves along the barricade and had a great view of the ceremony. The movie Ali was out at the time, so we were hoping Will Smith would make an appearance, but that didn't happen. After the ceremony, we ate at the Hollywood & Highland mall next door to the theater. I remember sitting outside in the perfect weather and understanding why so many people flock to southern California.

We wanted to see Beverly Hills, too, so one afternoon we were adventurous and took a city bus from downtown to Rodeo Drive. The bus ride took us through some interesting parts of town, and we got to see the two extremes of the city. Rodeo was very pretty, but I enjoyed seeing the Beverly Hills residential neighborhoods more. Everything just looked so perfect.

One of the practice rinks for the event was the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, which required a bit of a long trip on the shuttle bus, so we only went out there once for ladies' practice. I think that rink was even colder than the Skating Club of Boston. We stuck with going to the Staples Center for practices after that. Security was tight at Staples in the wake of September 11, so half of the arena was blocked off to spectators during practices, making autograph-seeking impossible. I did get one of my most treasured autographs that year, though, when Kristi Yamaguchi sat in my section during one of the events.

On the ice, my favorite performances of the week were Matt Savoie's "Passion and Power" short program, Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" free skate, and Michelle Kwan's "Scheherazade" free skate. There wasn't a person who wasn't on their feet after Michelle's skate.

The ladies, pairs, and men's events all had me experiencing some disappointment. I wanted Matt Savoie to grab the third spot on the Olympic team; same with Angela Nikodinov. And in the pairs, I had high hopes for Stephanie Kalesavich and Aaron Parchem. Their "Les Miserables" free skate was one of my favorite programs of the year, and I thought they had such a beautiful look together. But it was not meant to be . . .

Next up is 2003 Nationals in Dallas - touring the site of JFK's assassination, the men's free skate from Hell, and an almost-upset in ice dance.


  1. One of my nieces, now in the army, was big into skating. She competed in individual events and in some 'skits' on ice. In the Maryland area, some years ago.
    I've never been a big fan myself, but I used to like Torville & Dean. I thought they got robbed in their final appearance.

  2. Hey Jeff! That's really cool that your niece competed. Yeah, Torvill and Dean were great at the '94 Olympics, but the Russians had a lock on the title.