Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Nationals - Friday Practices & Events

I apologize again for not being able to timely post photos and reports. I'll start the catch-up with all the Friday events. My day kicked off with a trip to the HP Pavillion for one group of pairs practice, where I saw Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir almost land a clean throw triple axel.

After cheering on Marissa and Simon, my friends and I took a quick lunch break before returning to the arena for the short dance warm-up. There were a few near collisions with so many teams on the ice in each of the groups. The most memorable happening from the warm-up was the debut of Meryl Davis's and Maia Shibutani's new dresses.

Following a brief break, the short dance commenced. It promised to be a great competition, and the skaters delivered. Only a few points separated third and tenth place. In second place were Maia and Alex Shibutani, who showed they'd been working hard since the Grand Prix Final. Their short dance was almost totally revamped, and the changes sparkled. Also sparkling were Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Their short dance just gets more and more fun with each performance. The new ending surprised us, and I need to see it again because I wasn't ready for it!

With a delicious dinner at Amici's behind us, my friends and I headed back to the arena for the men's short program. There were a few surprises in the event - Armin Mahbanoozadeh skating clean after a rough season, Richard Dornbush not completing any jumps up to par, and Joshua Farris also having multiple jump issues. Adam Rippon finally exorcised his short program demons and skated a lively performance that put him in second place. The man of the night was Jeremy Abbott, who flew across the ice with amazing intricate footwork in his swing program.

Here are my photos from all the Friday practices and events:

2012 Nationals - Pairs Practice, Dance Warmup, Short Dance, Men's Short

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nationals Photos Coming Soon!

I sincerely apologize for the lack of updates since Thursday. The late nights/early morning starts plus sketchy internet service at the hotel have combined to interrupt my regular blogging. I have lots of photos to upload and will hopefully be able to post some tomorrow night. I will have to save the thoughts and impressions of the events for later. There just aren't enough hours in the days at Nationals!

Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 Nationals - Pairs Short Program

Wow! An unexpected turn in the pairs short program this evening! I think everyone was talking about Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig and Caydee Denney/John Coughlin battling for gold, but Mary Beth Marley/Rockne Brubaker stole the show and rocketed into first place. Their high-energy "Singin in the Rain" program was a definite crowd-pleaser. They looked like they were having an absolute blast through every step of the performance.

Evora/Ladwig are currently in second after a beautiful and elegant performance to "The Man I Love." Their footwork was the best of the competition, flowing so smoothly down the ice. One mistake hurt their standing. Denney/Coughlin had the same issue.

Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir performed a clean and inspired program to music from Phantom of the Opera. Their throw is one of the most impressive with its height and distance. Right behind them in the standings are their Boston training mates, Gretchen Donlan/Andrew Speroff. They showed off their elegant lines and wonderful posture as they successfully completed all their elements.

With the pairs short program photos linked below, I've included a few photos from dance practice this morning at Sharks Ice. Also included a few shots from around San Jose. Hope you enjoy!

2012 Nationals-Pairs Short Program & Dance Practice



Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hello from San Jose!

Just a quick post to start my 2012 Nationals coverage as I've been awake twenty-one hours and am not too coherent right now. First, I have to say the weather here was beautiful today and I think it's going to continue that way for the remainder of the event. Walked around downtown a bit and saw lots of dining options.

I attended ice dance practice at the Sharks Ice rink and was disappointed to find hockey glass and a net around the ice. This means no decent photographs from the practices at that location. Going back tomorrow for another ice dance practice and will be sure to bring three layers again. Feels like subzero temps in there!

Will post notes and photos tomorrow night from practice and the Pairs Short Program!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 1/22/2012


Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing an excerpt from my debut novel, LIFE ON THE EDGE, released earlier this month by Astraea Press.

In this week's excerpt, Emily and Chris have just finished their short program warm-up at Skate America, their first international competition of the season.

Time expired, and we followed Sergei backstage to await our turn to skate. On cue, the muscles in my legs twitched more violently, and my stomach did a gymnastics routine.


I paced the narrow, gray corridor while Chris relaxed in a metal folding chair. The click-clack of my plastic skate guards on the cement floor echoed off the stone walls. Sergei watched me walk in circles before putting his arm around me. At the touch of his hand on my bare shoulder, my insides went from doing back flips to slowly melting like the last snow of winter.


Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Sweet Saturday Sample

This is my first time participating in Sweet Saturday, and I've posted a deleted scene from my current release LIFE ON THE EDGE. This scene was part of my very first draft of the story! Emily and Sergei are at a Halloween costume party. Sergei is dressed as a cop and Emily is in a 1940's-style dress.



Aubrey left to find Marley, and I turned to the makeshift bar on the kitchen counter for a soda. The ice chest was almost empty, so I scooted into the small utility room off the kitchen to get a new bag. Behind me, someone grabbed my right arm.

"Ma'am, you're under arrest," Sergei said, gently taking my other arm and circling handcuffs around my wrists. "You have the right to remain silent."

I laughed. "What are you doing?"

"You have to come with me." He laid his hand on my shoulder and steered me toward the back door.

We walked out into the damp night, and I twisted my neck to look at Sergei. "What am I being charged with?"

He didn't answer as he continued to nudge me ahead of him. We turned the corner of the house, and he spun me to face him while backing me against the wall. 

Leaning toward me, Sergei locked his eyes on mine. The corners of his mouth tipped slightly upward. "Endangering the life of a police officer," he said.

"How did I do that?"

He momentarily lowered his gaze. "You're killing me in that dress."

A shiver accompanied my smile. "I didn't realize I was lethal."

"I'm going to need to frisk you," he said, putting his hands on my waist.

"By all means. I'm not hiding anything."

Sergei angled nearer, his mouth hovering and teasing mine, making my heart race with anticipation. As his hands slowly traveled up from my waist and settled on the bodice of my dress, our lips finally met. The long and lingering kiss that followed proved worth the wait. 

"What's a girl have to do to get out of these cuffs?" I asked breathlessly.

He eyed me with amusement. "How do I know you're not going to grab my gun?"

I stifled a laugh. After regaining composure, I said, "I guess you're just gonna have to trust me."

Sergei appeared to ponder my statement, but his smile grew wider. Turning me around, he released my hands from the cuffs. I faced him again and said sweetly, "Thank you, Officer."

As he moved closer to me, I quickly reached for the plastic gun in his holster and yanked it out. Sergei grasped my wrist, but I already had the barrel pointed at his nose. 

"Don't even think about it," he said.

With a big grin, I pulled the trigger, sending a spray of water all over his face. I giggled as he wiped his eyes with his hand. 

"You think that's pretty funny, don't you?" he said.

I laughed louder, and Sergei drew me to him, dripping water on me. My squeal was silenced by Sergei's lips covering mine. I wrapped my arms around him, letting the gun drop to the ground. 


The breeze rustling the trees and the faint sound of music from inside the house provided the only background noise until a voice exclaimed, "Oh!" 


Sergei and I broke apart and looked toward the voice. Jeremy and his girlfriend stood there, both with their mouths hanging open.




For more Sweet Saturday samples, check out the list here!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S Nationals Nostalgia: Greensboro 2011

We've reached our final stop on the trip down Nationals memory lane - Greensboro 2011. I thought Greensboro was an excellent host with great organization, and I loved the quick and easy flights I took there. The host hotel, the Sheraton, was huge and had a great little cafe for cheap breakfast and lunch. And the cafe was adjacent to the lobby, so it was right in the middle of all the action.

Greensboro also had the best setup of any Nationals as far as practice arenas go. The main arena and the practice arena were connected, as was the site of Fan Fest, so we could easily hop from one venue to another. Fan Fest had some cool events, including an appearance by speed skater Joey Cheek. I got to hold his Olympic gold medal!

On to the competition - the men's free skate was phenomenal! It seemed like we were on our feet giving standing ovations the entire afternoon. Some of the most memorable performances for me came from Jason Brown, Ricky Dornbush, and Ross Miner. Watching the young guys step up and lay down perfect, amazing programs was so awesome. And seeing Ricky and Ross's ecstatic faces on the podium was so much fun. Oh, and I can't forget to mention Jonathan Cassar's Schindler's List free skate that had the audience completely captivated. The beauty of Jon's skating plus the haunting music made for a sublime combination.

In ice dance, Meryl Davis and Charlie White continued their winning ways, capturing their third National title, and Maia and Alex Shibutani blew onto the senior scene with two WOW performances. Their feel-good free dance brought the audience to its feet at the end.

After the dance medal ceremony late Saturday night,  I experienced some unexpected drama. My friends and I were waiting to take pictures of the medalists after they'd done all their official duties, and the ushers wanted us to clear the building. Team Canton was still on the ice, taking photos with the kids practicing for the exhibition the next day, and we were waiting for them to make it to the exit. As we stood in the front row, one of the ushers got on his radio and called the police for "crowd control." Because three other girls and I were so dangerous, LOL! We had some good laughs as we high-tailed it out of there.

I hope you've enjoyed this series of Nationals reflections! It's been eleven years of great memories, and I hope San Jose 2012 will bring more great ones. Look for my reports and photos starting Wednesday!

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.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Cleveland 2009

2009 Nationals in Cleveland gave us another great setup with the host hotel connected to the Quicken Loans Arena through a mall. I literally did not step outside for four days. Everything I needed was contained within the complex. Even the McDonald's in the food court was open before dawn when I needed breakfast-to-go for the 6:00am dance practice.

Ah, yes, 6:00am practice. I woke up before the sun to see Meryl Davis and Charlie White practice their Samson & Delilah free dance, and they didn't show. Lesson learned - verify who will be attending pre-dawn practices before making plans!

With Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto out of the competition due to injury, Meryl and Charlie took center stage and skated like champions. My heart was in my throat during their original dance, thinking about their disastrous OD at Cup of Russia a few months prior, but they put on a show and cruised through it with no problems. In junior dance, Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein also proved worthy of the champion title, skating their Phantom of the Opera free dance beautifully.

There was a big surprise in the pairs event when the new team of Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett beat defending champs Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker in the short program. Some thought they should've won the free skate, also. The most magical free skate, though, was Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig's. As they got deeper into the program and had completed almost all their elements successfully, Amanda started crying. Her tears were evident as she soared in the air on their final lift. I was one of many people in the audience dabbing at their eyes at the end of the program.

The men's competition saw another new face on the podium. Brandon Mroz skated for the first time on the senior level at Nationals but performed like a veteran. In a shocking result, he finished ahead of Evan Lysacek and nabbed the silver medal. Jeremy Abbott was sublime in the short program and rode the wave to his first national title. The men's short program event that year was outstanding overall. A special moment was Parker Pennington skating perfectly in his training town. The crowd went nuts after his performance.

Next in the series is Spokane 2010, my most memorable Nationals - dinner with Meryl Davis and Charlie White, breakfast with Maia and Alex Shibutani, adventures in the Safari Bar, and shedding tears for Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto's final Nationals skate.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 1/15/12


Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing an excerpt from my debut novel, LIFE ON THE EDGE, released this month by Astraea Press.

In this week's excerpt, Emily and Chris have just finished their free skate, and their coach Sergei is waiting for them at the boards.

As Chris and I approached Sergei, he banged our skate guards together in celebration. I hopped off the ice and threw my arms around his neck.


"Absolutely beautiful," he said.


Sergei went to kiss my cheek as I turned to speak, and his lips grazed the corner of my mouth. My already pounding heart staggered against my chest. The moment had been like tasting one crumb of the most delicious dessert imaginable and then having it taken away.


Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Spokane 2007

Spokane was an extremely successful host of the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, earning the city the nickname of "Skate City USA." Everywhere I went in Spokane, there were signs welcoming the skaters and fans, and the locals came out in droves to the events. I've never seen an arena so populated for junior competitions.

Spokane had one of the best and most inexpensive transportation systems for a skating event. They let us use their normal public transportation buses but made special routes from the hotels to the arena. Across from the Spokane Arena was Riverfront Park, which was a very pretty place to take a walk and stretch the legs between events. There was only a light snowfall one day that I can remember.

In the action on the ice, Evan Lysacek and Ryan Bradley were the talk of the men's free skate. Ryan skated the program of his life and bested Johnny Weir for the silver medal. And then he treated us to a back flip after his post-skate interview. Evan reeled off a quad-triple to start his free skate and never looked back. His perfect performance was one of the most technically brilliant programs I've seen at Nationals.

The ladies' event almost gave me a heart attack when Kimmie Meissner barely eked out the win over Emily Hughes. Pairs also had me holding on to my seat, and the results were the best I could imagine. Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski won the championship, and Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig won their first National medal, the pewter. The family sitting behind my friend and me asked if we were related to Brooke and Ben because we went so crazy when they won. After the event, I called Amanda and Mark's super fan Heather and am pretty sure I shrieked in her ear.

Ice dance had a couple of storylines that year. One was the debut of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto's brand-new free dance to music from Amelie. They skated it very well for only practicing it a short time. The other hot news was the senior debut of Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They'd turned heads on the senior Grand Prix circuit in the fall, and the 2006 U.S. Junior Champs showed their impressive athleticism in capturing the bronze medal.

For lots of additional photos from 2007 Nationals, check out my Webshots album here!

Next in the series is St. Paul 2008 - navigating the habitrail from the hotel to the arena, a ladies' event I'd rather forget, maximum Evan-Johnny drama, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White make Dick Button swoon.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: St. Louis 2006

Nationals 2006 in St. Louis had some never-before-seen moments that brought even more excitement to the already highly-charged Olympic year competition. One of those moments was the reunion of all the American Olympic champions, as seen in the photo to the left. This was a very emotional scene, seeing all the greats together for the first time.

Another moment of history came in the pairs free skate when Rena Inoue and John Baldwin completed the first throw triple axel. I almost leaped out of my seat when Rena landed the move, and my camera fell to the floor (it was unharmed, thank goodness!). I was also excited that Aaron Parchem made the Olympic team with Marcy Hinzmann since he'd narrowly missed making it in 2002 with Stephanie Kalesavich. There was a new pair team, Tiffany Scott and Rusty Fein, who I wish would've skated more than one season together. I thought they had a really unique style. Here's a photo of them after practice . . . notice Yuko Kavaguti and Tamara Moskvina in the background! Yuko skated with Devin Patrick at Nationals that year.

Ice dance had seen an offseason of shake-ups with a couple of new high-profile partnerships being formed. Brent Bommentre had parted ways with Kendra Goodwin, and he was now teamed with Kim Navarro. They had great chemistry from Day One, and their Michael Buble free dance was the performance of the night. The other new partnership was Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O'Meara. I'd been an uber-fan of Jamie and her former partner Justin Pekarek, and I was crushed when they split before the 2000-2001 season. When she and Ryan earned the third spot on the Olympic team, I screamed right along with her!

The focus in the men's event was once again on Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek, but Matt Savoie stole the show in the free skate. His program to music from The Mission captivated the audience with its sensitive choreography. Matt sat in fourth place behind Michael Weiss after the short program. Mike skated last in the free skate, and I felt like I couldn't breathe while waiting for his scores. Finally, they came up and showed Matt had finished third and made the Olympic team. Another second chance taken advantage of!

The ladies' event wasn't quite the same without Michelle Kwan, who'd withdrawn due to injury. All I wanted was for Kimmie Meissner to earn a spot on the Olympic team, and that she did. The big talk at the event was whether Michelle would get a medical bye to the Olympics. She did but of course never competed since she reinjured herself at the Games.

When I was looking through my photos from the event, I found this video I took at the men's free skate warm-up. It shows Nick Laroche, Rohene Ward, Ryan Jahnke, Parker Pennington, Michael Villareal, and Scott Smith signing autographs. And you can hear the lady next to me fangirling over Scott.

video

Next up will be Spokane 2007 - a city filled with figure skating mania, a dream pairs podium, Evan Lysacek's jaw-dropping free skate, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White make a splash.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 1/8/12


Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing an excerpt from my debut novel, LIFE ON THE EDGE, released this past week by Astraea Press.

In last week's excerpt, Emily realized she was having more-than-friendly feelings about her coach Sergei. This week, Sergei is a guest at a dinner party Emily and her best friend Aubrey are hosting for some friends.

We had long finished dinner, but everyone remained around the big patio table, talking and listening to the stereo Aubrey had set up. Sergei had eaten two helpings of lasagna, and his compliments made me giddy; I couldn't stop staring at him. His oxford shirt matched his eyes, and its opened top button revealed a glimpse of smooth, tanned skin.


Whenever my gaze roamed to Sergei across the table, I found him looking back at me. Sometimes his lips curled into a smile; other times, he quickly averted his eyes. Our evening-long tango of stares had my head spinning.


Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Portland 2005

Today's stop on the U.S. Nationals memory lane - Portland 2005, one of my favorite years! The MAX, the city's light rail system, made it easy to get around town, and it was free in the downtown area. Made hopping between the arena and the Lloyd Center mall for lunch breaks very quick and convenient.

2005 Nationals was the last year the 6.0 system was used, and the judges were handing them out like candy. However, they didn't give any to one of the programs I thought deserved it most - Matt Savoie's short program, set to "Adagio for Strings" by Barber. Matt should've been in first place after the short, in my opinion, but the majority of judges would never put him ahead of Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek. This program still gives me chills every time I watch it . . .


Someone please explain how he could get a 5.1 for tech and a 5.3 for presentation?? Sorry, rant over :)

I mentioned the Lloyd Center mall above, and one day when I was eating lunch there, Kimmie Meissner and Rena Inoue and John Baldwin showed up to practice on the mall's rink. That was such an unexpected treat! A large crowd formed around the boards to watch them. Another cool practice moment I had that week was at the ladies' practice at the Rose Garden arena. Michelle Kwan had just done an inspired run-through of her "Spartacus" short program, which no one had previously seen since she hadn't competed on the Grand Prix. The crowd gave her a huge ovation, and my friend and I were all choked up. Michelle came over to sign autographs, and we got to tell her how much we loved the program. It was the first time I'd had a chance to talk to her, so it was a very memorable moment!

Random things I remember about the Rose Garden - there was a vendor booth giving away Smuckers Uncrustables, and we kept going back for the free snacks. Also, Oroweat had a booth, and one of the prizes on their "spin the wheel" contest was a loaf of bread. My friend won a loaf, and we were snacking on that at the arena all week!

The buzz around the ice dance competition that year was the debut of Tiffany Stiegler, former pairs skater, and her partner, Sergei Magerovsky. I'd always thought Tiffany had some of the best posture in the business, so I was happy to see her trying dance. They wowed everyone in Portland, and it's a shame they didn't last more than two seasons because I thought they had beautiful lines. In other notable dance memories, the champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto made history when they earned perfect presentation marks across the board for their "Shadritsa" free dance.

A wicked ice storm hit the city on the final day of competition, making the streets of Portland very treacherous. The next morning when I left before dawn for my flight home, I took the MAX because it was cheap and seemed safer than being in a cab on the icy streets. Halfway to the airport, my fellow passengers and I were asked to disembark the train and get on buses that would take us the rest of the way to the airport. I'm still not sure what the thinking behind that was. The bus in front of mine slid off the road, but thankfully, no was injured. Everyone on that bus had to get on mine, though, so we were packed like sardines on the slow and cautious drive to the airport. I was so glad I'd left extra early for my flight!

Next in the series is St. Louis 2006 - Jamie Silverstein's comeback, a historic moment in pairs, another Matt Savoie masterpiece, and life without the Kween.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RELEASE DAY!

Today is a day I've dreamed of for a long, long time! It was a wonderful surprise when my book was released a day earlier than expected. I'm so excited to finally be able to share this story with everyone! The book is available as an e-book right now and will be available in paperback in the near future. You can purchase on a few different sites:

AstraeaPress.com

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble.com

For international readers:

Amazon UK

Amazon France

Amazon Italy

Amazon Germany

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.

Monday, January 2, 2012

U.S. Nationals Nostalgia: Dallas 2003

Today I'm looking back at the 2003 U.S. Championships in Dallas as part of my series reflecting on the past eleven Nationals. I remember the weather in Dallas being very dreary and cold most of the week. Coincidentally, there were more than a few dreary performances inside the American Airlines Center.

This was the first year I was able to stay at the skaters' hotel, the sprawling Hyatt, and I enjoyed people-watching at breakfast every morning. With security tightened, spectators couldn't ride on the same shuttle buses to the arena as we had done in the past, so that part of the Nationals experience was gone.

The crowds were sparse for some of the early senior events, and I was able to sit in the first row for the original dance. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto made me very happy when they skated their program lights-out, placing them first, ahead of the four-time champions Naomi Lang and Peter Tchernyshev. But the youngsters couldn't hold onto the lead in the free dance as they made some errors, including a costly stumble on the circular footwork. Their time to reign would have to wait another year . . .

I think everyone who was in Dallas still talks about the final flight of the men's free skate. Not for its spectacular-ness but for its pitiful-ness. Johnny Weir was in second place after the short program and had a golden opportunity to win his first national championship. But like Belbin and Agosto, he succumbed to the expectations, only worse. He fell twice and then withdrew from the competition. In another bizarre turn of events, the strap on Matt Savoie's pants leg broke and the referee had to blow the whistle for him to stop and fix it. Disappointing performances also came from Michael Weiss and Tim Goebel. The one bright spot in the group was Ryan Jahnke, who skated to his first national medal, a bronze.

The pairs event also had some not-so-great performances, but there was a new pair that caught my eye and made me a fan - Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig. I had no idea the journey they would take me on as a fan over the next eight years and counting! I loved watching them do sprints on the ice at practice, and I thought it was so nice how they always thanked the volunteers who were working at the announcer's table.

The ladies' event provided much more excitement than the men's. Michelle Kwan's inspiring "Aranjuez" free skate brought the house down, a recurring theme for her free skates at Nationals. One of the things I most enjoyed seeing in Dallas was Yebin Mok finally putting it all together and delivering two solid programs. I'd loved her fluid style when I saw her in 2001 and 2002, but she just couldn't get the jumps down. In 2003, she rose to the occasion and skated great, especially in the short program, where she earned a standing ovation.

My sister is a Kennedy family history buff, so between events we had to check out the Sixth Floor museum in the Texas School Book Depository, from where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly assassinated President Kennedy ("supposedly" because I'm a conspiracy theorist). We also walked to the highway where the presidential motorcade had passed, and we saw the infamous "grassy knoll." It was fascinating to see the site and picture how the events had unfolded back on that fateful day in 1963.

Next in the series will be 2004 Nationals in Atlanta - bright stars emerge in the junior ranks, another Michelle Kwan skate for the ages, and a little Gone With the Wind-themed sightseeing.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 1/1/12

Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing an excerpt from my upcoming debut novel, LIFE ON THE EDGE.

In this excerpt, Emily and her young coach Sergei just had a friendly night out at the Sting concert. Emily's best friend Aubrey has warned her about getting too close to Sergei since coach-student relationships are a big no-no.

A shiver sped down my spine at the thought of spending another evening with Sergei. I didn't know if I was still on a high from the concert, but being in the dark car with him was heightening all my senses. I'd always thought he was attractive. Only now did I notice how his smile softened the sharp angles of his face, how sexy my name sounded in his Russian accent, how his T-shirt hugged his lean yet muscular chest.


I gulped and set my eyes on the highway in front of us. You need to put those thoughts out of your mind right now.


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