Tuesday, January 3, 2012

U.S Nationals Nostalgia: Atlanta 2004

So far in my series reflecting on past Nationals, I've covered Boston, L.A., and Dallas. On to Atlanta 2004! A nice, easy trip for me since I live in the South, and I'd vacationed there before so I didn't need to plan much tourist time.

I arrived in town shortly before the original dance, missing the compulsory dance which had taken place that day, also. We were barely in our seats at Phillips Arena when Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev withdrew, leaving Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto as the odds-on favorites to win. Their swing and jitterbug OD is still one of my favorite programs they've done, and they rocked it that night. I remember the sound system in the arena being one of the best I'd heard, making their high-energy music sound even more awesome.

2004 was the first year that I watched a good bit of the junior events, and it was a great year to do so. In junior dance, I saw Meryl Davis and Charlie White perform for the first time. Also that year, Morgan Matthews and Max Zavozin skated to "Bolero," which I thought was a little ambitious for the junior champions. Junior pairs was another event that I enjoyed, especially seeing Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski for the first time. I loved their speed and attack.

The junior ladies competition was headlined by a couple of familiar names - Kimmie Meissner and Katy Taylor. I first saw Kimmie when she performed in the Exhibition in Dallas after winning the novice ladies title, and she made me an immediate fan. I was so excited to see her skate in Atlanta and was thrilled when she won the junior title.

It was no surprise Michelle Kwan captured her eighth championship. And she did it again with a free skate that would be talked about for years to come. She gave the old standard of Tosca new life. Her straight-line footwork to end the program was one of the most emotionally charged footwork sequences I've ever seen. She was simply brilliant.

Phillips Arena stands as one of my favorite Nationals venues. Besides the great sound system, there was some darn good pasta salad and pizza in the club lounge, and the arena was connected to CNN Center, which had a food court for convenient between-event meals.

It was bone-chilling cold in Atlanta that week, and walking from the hotel through Centennial Olympic Park to the arena every day and night wasn't fun. I couldn't believe it felt colder in Atlanta than it had in Boston. My sister and I only took one afternoon to do sightseeing when we visited the Margaret Mitchell House. We're both big fans of the movie Gone With the Wind, so we wanted to see the home where the author wrote the book. It was a fun little excursion away from the arena.

Next on the agenda is Portland 2005 - watching a bus slide off the road after the ice storm, skaters practicing at the mall, free snacks at the arena, Matt Savoie's breathtaking short program, and bidding the 6.0 farewell.

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