Thursday, January 12, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: St. Paul 2008

Today's look back at Nationals past takes us to the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota. The setup in St. Paul was fantastic because the host hotel was connected to the Xcel Energy Center by a series of winding corridors that also connected shops and offices. We nicknamed the route the "habitrail" because we felt like mice zigzagging through the maze. But it was awesome not having to go out in the icy temperatures all week. My sister and I only ventured out once to check out the ice sculptures in Rice Park near the arena.

Speaking of the arena, I LOVED the Xcel Center. From its spacious concourses to its great concessions (the BBQ cart was fantabulous), the arena was one of the most comfortable places to watch a skating event. I hope Nationals returns there soon.

Thinking about the competition, I'll get the bad memories out of the way first. Kimmie Meissner's terrible free skate had me in a thousand depressions. I wasn't caught up in the excitement of the youngsters who were on the podium that year. On to happier thoughts . . .

One of the weird things about the schedule in St. Paul was there were no dance or pairs practices/warm-ups at the main arena after Tuesday. That was a bummer because I always look forward to watching the practices. But with the time freed up at the arena, I got to see more of the junior events than I usually do. Junior men and junior dance were the two I enjoyed most. Junior men had lots of familiar names - Adam Rippon, Brandon Mroz, Richard Dornbush, Curran Oi to name a few.

Junior dance was my first chance to see Maia and Alex Shibutani skate, and they impressed me so much. It was also my first look at Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein. Both teams made me an instant fan.

Senior dance was definitely the highlight of the event for me. I discovered another team that instantly drew me in with their charisma - Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt. And the final flight of dancers in the free dance gave some outstanding performances. Kim Navarro and Brent Bommentre started it off with their sultry "Since I've Been Loving You" free dance. Later, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto raised the emotion even higher with a flawless performance of their Chopin program. But the moment of the night belonged to Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They left me speechless with their "Eleanor Rigby" free dance.

I'll never forget the speed they had in the circular footwork, which was right in front of me. They attacked everything with raw power but yet the program maintained its softness. Dick Button was likewise impressed as he gushed about the performance on NBC.

Just when we thought the Johnny Weir-Evan Lysacek rivalry couldn't be any more heated, then the two men finished in a tie in the free skate, and Evan won on the tiebreaker. There was mass confusion in the stands as hardly anyone knew the tiebreaker rules. I was among the confused. Lost in the Johnny-Evan drama were two great performances by Stephen Carriere and Jeremy Abbott, who both stood on the podium.

For lots more photos from 2008 Nationals, check out my Webshots album here!

Next up is Cleveland 2009 - another fabulous indoor walkway, new faces on the podiums, and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig's emotional free skate that had me in tears.

No comments:

Post a Comment