Tuesday, January 17, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Spokane 2010

2010 Nationals in Spokane is my favorite Nationals of all the ones I've attended. Even though I sadly missed the men's and pairs competitions because of the dumb two-weekend schedule cooked up by NBC, the five days I spent in Spokane were full of memorable moments.

The fun started the night I arrived in Spokane and I had dinner with Meryl Davis and Charlie White. A friend and I had won the dinner at a Friends of Figure Skating reception at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles. Another group of ladies had also won, so we all met Meryl and Charlie at a restaurant overlooking the Spokane River. It was an awesome experience, being able to chat with Meryl and Charlie in a casual setting. They were so down-to-earth and they both have a great sense of humor. It was an unforgettable evening!

The dance event had fierce battles among the top four teams, and it made the competition an incredibly emotional one to watch. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto's free dance had me especially emotional because I knew it was probably the last time they would skate at Nationals. Their first year as seniors was my first Nationals, and I'd watched them grow every year since then. I got pretty choked up as they took their final bows.

Meryl and Charlie swept up the audience and took us on a breathless ride with their Phantom of the Opera free dance. They looked primed and ready for the Olympics. Another of my favorite performances that year came from Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, who skated to music from Slumdog Millionaire. Their style is so smooth, and they always make beautiful shapes with their highlight moves.

Junior dance in 2010 was a very entertaining event, too. The depth of talent was high and so was the performance level. Maia and Alex Shibutani's exciting Japanese folk original dance and sharp tango free dance led them to the title. At the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast, my friends and I sat with Maia and Alex, and Alex had us cracking up. He really is as funny as his Tweets. And Maia was so sweet. Her poise at her age never ceases to amaze me.

Once again Spokane rolled out the red carpet and became "Skate City USA." There was high interest in the event everywhere we went. The Fan Fest at River Park Square mall was a popular spot, and the concerts and victory ceremonies were always crowded.

The Davenport, the official hotel, was beautiful and it had a great bar in the new tower. My friends and I were in the Safari Bar every night, and it was always hopping. There were lots of random sights. One night, Amanda Evora was using an orange to practice throwing out a first pitch to Rusty (the roaming announcer guy at all big U.S. skating events). We were feeling pretty generous during our nights in the bar, and a few famous patrons benefited with free drinks. On the final night, my sister and I spent the entire evening there, watching our New Orleans Saints win the NFC Championship and earn their first Super Bowl berth. It was the perfect end to the perfect week!

Next up is the final installment in the series, Greensboro 2011 - a men's competition full of standing ovations, almost getting arrested after the dance medal ceremony, and the best practice arena setup yet.

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