Skate America 2004 in Pittsburgh was very exciting for me because it was my first chance to see international skaters in a competition setting. I was especially excited to see Brian Joubert, and when I spotted him in the stands, I raced around the arena to get a photo with him!
Jennifer Don and Jonathan Hunt were one of the America pairs competing, and I'd been a big fan of theirs since 2003 Nationals. I thought they had a bright future... one of many failed American pairs I've had to experience disappointment with over the years! The clear favorites in the pairs event were the Russians Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, but disaster struck during their free skate when Maxim lost his footing during a lift and Tatiana fell head-first onto the ice. Many minutes passed as medical personnel attended to her on the ice and then carted her off. It was the scariest thing I've ever witnessed at a competition. None of us knew how badly Tatiana had been hurt. We were all so glad to see her interviewed on TV the next day.
I don't remember a lot about the arena or the hotel except they were located within a short walking distance of each other. And there was pretty foliage in the area. We don't see much foliage down here in the Gulf South! That year was the first time I attended a Friends of Figure Skating reception, and I got to talk to Ryan Jahnke and Tanith and Ben. That was a fun afternoon!
After my experience in Pittsburgh, it was no surprise that I was hooked and wanted to attend Skate America again. Atlantic City in 2005 seemed difficult to get to, so I passed on it. That turned out to be a good decision since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, and I was still exiled from home when Skate America rolled around. But I returned to SA in 2006 in Hartford, and there was some unforgettable drama. Read all about the early morning fire alarm and more in the next installment!