Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skate America Nostalgia: Reading 2007

Reading, Pennsylvania served as the site of 2007 Skate America, and the trip was an adventure from the moment I left home. I had to connect in Charlotte on my way to Philadelphia, and my plane sat on the runway for six hours due to storms in the Northeast. We didn't get to Philly until 10:00pm (I left home in Louisiana at 8:00am), and then I had to get my rental car and drive in the rain and fog to Reading. I'd never been to the area before, so luckily I memorized my Google directions while I was sitting on the plane for six hours. By the time I pulled into the Sheraton at midnight, I was ready to kiss the ground. I remember Stephen Carriere was the only person in the lobby, and I'd never been so happy to see a skater!

Thankfully, the stress level came down and the fun ramped up when practices started the next day. One memorable moment from ice dance practice was when Charlie White put on his hat for his and Meryl Davis's "Kalinka" original dance. Everyone in the immediate area burst into laughter, which probably wasn't the reaction Charlie was looking for. But he looked like Fievel from An American Tail!

There was another funny moment involving ice dancers - this one during the free dance. My seat was in the second row, and as Federica Faiella/Massimo Scali skated past us in a lift, all of us near the ice got a close-up view of a huge run in Federica's black stockings. It was hard to contain the laughs, which weren't really appropriate during the Yentl program.

Besides seeing unwanted images, another danger of sitting close to the ice was getting hit in the head with stuffies thrown toward the ice. Mark Ladwig was sitting high above me in my section, and he bopped me in the head a couple of times. I didn't know it was him until he apologized to me at the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast. Of course, I forgave him :)

The roster in Reading was one of the best I've seen. In ice dance, we had Tanith Belbin/Ben Agosto (who debuted their awesome Chopin free dance), Meryl Davis/Charlie White, Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat, Faiella/Scali, and Kim Navarro/Brent Bommentre.

The men's event was also full of stars with Evan Lysacek, Daisuke Takahashi, and Patrick Chan (who'd just come out of juniors). Daisuke put on a show with his techno Swan Lake short program. I'm not a fan of Nikolai Morozov's choreography in general, but Daisuke rocked that program like nobody's business. Evan threw it down with his Tosca free skate, but Daisuke was too tough to beat.

The big shocker in pairs was that Jessica Dube/Bryce Davison beat Qin Pang/Jian Tong. Other than that, I don't remember much except a lot of us swooning over Ondrej Hotarek at practice.

In the ladies event, I was of course ecstatic over Kimmie Meissner's victory. Much of the buzz among everyone else was about Caroline Zhang's bronze medal. The new senior skater made quite the splash in her first Grand Prix event.

2007 was the year of "Sexyback" at the Exhibition as Tanith/Ben, Kim/Brent, and Stephen Carriere all used the song for their programs. Despite the repetitiveness, the show was one of my favorite galas I've attended. I loved Evan's "Boston" and Meryl and Charlie's "Beyond the Sea" programs.
video

Next up is 2008 in Everett! Evan and Johnny finally faced off at Skate America, Tanith and Ben unveiled their new look under their new coaches, and I got a backstage tour with Craig Buntin as a surprise guest.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Skate America Nostalgia: Hartford 2006

Continuing with my Skate America nostalgia series, let's move on to 2006 in Hartford, Connecticut! The arena-hotel setup there was even better than Pittsburgh because the buildings were connected by an indoor walkway. That was great since it was very chilly outside. We ventured out to get lunch one day and were almost blown away by the gusty winds.

In the ice dance event, I was mesmerized by Albena Denkova/Maxim Staviski's tango original dance. I thought they had more power and passion than any other couple by far. Melissa Gregory/Denis Pethukov had a great free dance that year, and we also got to see Kim Navarro/Brent Bommentre's fun Beatles program. That was also the first time I saw Natalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat skate, and I didn't quite know what to make of their Four Seasons free dance!

In pairs, Naomi Nari Nam and Themi Leftheris were the team I was most excited about (another failed American pair for which I was an uber). They finished with the bronze medal, a great result for them at their first Grand Prix event. I loved Annabelle Langlois/Cody Hay's long program to the soundtrack of The Notebook, and I wish more skaters would use that music. Annabelle and Cody have been the only ones I can find over the years.

The ladies event was all about Kimmie Meissner and Mao Asada for me. I was a huge Kimmie fan, and I thought her flamenco program was fabulous. And it was so exciting to see Mao in person. I kept a close eye on her during all the practices so I wouldn't miss her beautiful triple axels.

Evan Lysacek was there as part of the U.S. men's team - not surprising since Evan was at every single event I attended between 2001 and 2010. He was bested by Nobunari Oda, who was quickly becoming a new power. Alban Preaubert gave us a lot of laughs with his kooky style, and it was great to see Scott Smith skate to a sixth place finish.

Off the ice, the big drama was the fire alarm at the hotel early one morning. Upon the blaring of the alarm, I threw on a jacket and shoes and shoved my camera and laptop in my bag. My mom, my sister, and I were on the 21st floor, so we had a long way to travel down the stairs. Lots of people streamed into the stairwell on our way down, and I remember seeing Ryan Bradley at some point. When we got outside, it was freezing and raining. We huddled under the overhang of the hotel and watched numerous skaters pass by, some half-disguised with baseball caps, some carrying their skates. We had to stay outside for a long time, and then it was a mad rush to the elevators when we got inside. I couldn't get back to sleep at that point, so we hit up the restaurant for breakfast not much later.

Next up will be 2007 in Reading, Pennsylvania. Reading was one of the most entertaining Skate Americas I've attended, and it had one of the best rosters. I also met a great friend there who would share many more skating adventures with me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Skate America Nostalgia: Pittsburgh 2004

I had a lot of fun doing my U.S. Nationals and Worlds nostalgia series earlier this year, so I thought with Skate America coming up, I'd do one for that event, too. I started attending Skate America in 2004 and have missed only one year since then. The event doesn't have the intensity and special feel of Nationals, but it's always a fun competition!

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!

Michelle Kwan dropped out of the event, which greatly disappointed me, but we got to see Alissa Czisny's coming-out party. I'd seen her skate at Nationals and loved her balletic style, and it was such a treat to witness her beautiful, clean short program to The MissionAngela Nikodinov won the ladies' event, and I remember the medal ceremony was delayed until Sunday because of the tragedy in the pairs competition. More on that in a minute...

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.

In the men's event, I remember Ryan Jahnke skated well and Evan Lysacek performed his Singin' In the Rain long program, which is my favorite program of his. Joubert won with his 1492 free skate for which he wore a rather garish costume (it looked like pleather).

In ice dance, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto showed they hadn't lost any momentum from their fifth place finish at Worlds. Their gypsy free dance was one of the highlights of the competition for me. I could tell it was going to be a special program for them that year. Kendra Goodwin and Brent Bommentre had a big crowd of family and friends present since they trained in Philadelphia. I loved their Evita free dance, and I often wonder what would've happened if they'd stayed together after that season.

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!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Monday

Since this is the big Fall TV premiere week, I thought I'd spotlight a couple of TV songs. The first is from the soundtrack to my favorite show right now - Once Upon a Time. It's the theme music of the love story between Snow White and Prince Charming, a totally fabulous story that I can't get enough of!

"Snow White and Prince Charming's Theme" from Once Upon a Time by Mark Isham

The second song was played on Pretty Little Liars during Season One. It was played during one of Toby's pivotal scenes, and I thought it was so powerful and emotional. Matthew Perryman Jones is an artist I'm going to keep my eye on.

"Out of Reach" by Matthew Perryman Jones







Saturday, September 22, 2012

U.S. International FS Classic-Saturday Wrap-Up

I just realized I never posted my thoughts on the rest of Saturday's events, so I'm going to take care of that now! After the Novice Free Dance (which was again too much adorableness to handle) we had a lunch break and then were back at the rink for Senior Pairs practice.

The practice group included Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch, Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers, and Danielle Montalbano/Evgeni Krasnopolsky. M-T/M were looking very, very secure on their jumps and throws. I'm not sure how they fell off the pace last season, but they seem to be back in fine form this year.

I was amazed by one of Lawrence/Swiegers's press lifts, where Paige ends up with both arms extended outward, not holding on to Rudi at all. Somehow she slides her hand out from his grip and he's just supporting her by holding her stomach. This photo shows the transition of Paige removing her hand. So cool!

I missed Montalbano/Krasnopolsky's run-through because I had to step outside to meet a friend, but I heard Dylan Moscovitch was having fun singing along to their music from Phantom of the Opera.

The super convenient practice rink-competition rink setup made it very easy to hop over from practice to the Senior Free Dance. In the first group, Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus went all out with their bluesy/rock and roll free dance. I don't know how they had a chance to breathe! I really liked Anastasia's dress. I think the length of the skirt works better than the longer skirts she's often worn.

Madison Chock/Evan Bates started off the second group, and I thought they had some beautiful moments in their Dr. Zhivago program. I would like to see them connect with the audience more, as they did in their short dance. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier followed them with a technically impressive free dance. I preferred the other Canadian couple of Alexandra Paul/Mitch Islam's program, however. I just love their lightness and the romantic quality to their skating. And I adore their music and choreography. Following them were Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, who ended the event with a bang with their Adele free dance. I could see choreographer Stacey Tookey's influence especially during the opening section of the program. Like Chock/Bates, they have some gorgeous lifts and highlight moments. I'm so looking forward to seeing this free dance again at Skate America!

After a quick run back to the hotel, we returned for the conclusion of the Men's Free Skate. Timothy Dolensky gave my favorite performance of the afternoon. His music was a mixture of Meryl Davis/Charlie White's tango music and the instrumental part of "Mi Mancheri" by Josh Groban. I'd never seen him skate live before, and I was really impressed with his speed and his connection with the music. It was fun seeing the American guys sweep the podium with Max Aaron, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, and Ross Miner taking all the medals. I'd like to see Max put more oomph into the performance side of his program - something to add some personality.

That was the end of the skating weekend for me! On Sunday, my sister and I drove to Park City and toured the Olympic Park and the 2002 Olympic Museum. There was some great memorabilia there! I've included my photos from the park and museum at the end of my album below.

Overall, I thought Salt Lake City did a fantastic job hosting the event, and I'm looking forward to returning next year! It's a great low-key competition, and everything was so easy with the hotel just minutes from the rink. There were lots of dining and shopping options within close driving distance, and on top of all that, the area is beautiful. If you're looking for an inexpensive low-hassle skating event to attend, this one's for you!

2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

Sunday, September 16, 2012

U.S. International FS Classic - Saturday Events

Saturday was another full day of events at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and Challenge Skate. I started at the Senior Free Dance warm-up this morning and stayed at the rink for the Novice Free Dance. The skaters were so adorable! Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko (son of 1992 Olympic champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko) took home the gold with a program to Cats. I wish I could be at Nationals for Novice Dance, but since it's always early in the week I have to miss it. It's an event I'd love to see again!

I'll come back and add some thoughts on the other events later, but I wanted to post my photos first. Pictures from the Sr. Dance warm-up, Novice Free Dance, Sr. Free Dance, Men's Free Skate, and awards ceremonies are included in my updated photo album:

2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

Saturday, September 15, 2012

U.S. International FS Classic-Friday Events

There was a little bit of everything to enjoy on Friday - Senior Ice Dance, Junior Pairs, Senior Ladies, and Senior Pairs. I started off the day at the Sr. Dance practice at 7:30am, which was nothing compared to the 6:00am practices I've attended at Nationals! I caught the second group, and the teams all did partial run-throughs of their free dances. LOVED what I saw of Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and Madison Chock/Evan Bates' free dances. They both have some very cool lifts and highlight moves. I also loved Alexandra Paul/Mitch Islam's program. I'm so excited they're using the score from The Legend of 1900.

After practice it was time for a little breakfast and then back to the rink for the Junior Pairs Short Program. I really enjoyed the sophisticated choreography of Alexandria Shaughnessy/Jimmy Morgan's program, and I thought Caitlin Fields/Jason Pacini were a lot of fun to watch. They did a great job selling their high-energy program.

The 2002 Olympic cauldron and Rice-Eccles Stadium (site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies) are in walking distance from the Salt Lake Sports Complex, so I checked that out during my next break. Since the 2002 Olympics were featured in my book Life on the Edge, I had to see the spot where my characters walked into the Opening Ceremony!


Back at the rink, I got to see a bit of the Senior Ladies Short Program, where we were treated to some old standards like Requiem For a Dream and "The Feeling Begins." Agnes Zawadzki skated the best program I've ever seen from her, and Gracie Gold impressed me with her speed across the ice. I think she's definitely maturing artistically. 

Senior Pairs was the final event for me, and my fandom of Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers continues to grow. I saw them skate live for the first time at Four Continents this year, and I immediately became a fan. They're so smooth and lyrical.
Lindsay Davis/Mark Ladwig had a good showing for their first international event. I think their styles have meshed well together and they have tons of potential. And I could listen to their short program music all day long (Beethoven's Five Secrets by The Piano Guys). Their training mates Felicia Zhang/Nate Bartholomay keep improving every time I see them, and I think there's lots of potential for them, also.

Tomorrow brings another packed morning and afternoon at the rink! First up will be Senior Free Dance warm-up and the Novice Free Dance followed by the Senior Free Dance and Men's Free Skate. I've updated my album with my photos from Friday's events:

2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

Friday, September 14, 2012

U.S. International FS Classic-Practice Videos

Here are a couple of videos from Friday morning free dance practice at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates - Dr. Zhivago partial run-through



Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt - "Turning Tables" and "Rumour Has It" partial run-through


Thursday, September 13, 2012

U.S. International FS Classic

Greetings from Salt Lake City, Utah! I arrived this morning just in time for the Senior Short Dance. This is my first trip to Utah, and the scenery is so beautiful  with the mountains surrounding the city.

The Short Dance started with Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam skating to Edith Piaf. They have such a lyrical style, and I'm happy to see them with two lighter programs this year that help them play to the crowd.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates were next, and they also had fun with the crowd and with each other. I loved their facial expressions and how they maintained the theme throughout the entire program, even during the Yankee Polka patterns.

Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus didn't have their best day technically, but their waltz was classy and elegant, and they always have wonderful connection with each other.

It was my first time seeing Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier skate live, and I think it's going to be a great battle for Canada #3 between them and Paul/Islam. I haven't seen Kharis Ralph/Asher Hill yet this season, but they're probably in the mix, too. I appreciate that Gilles/Poirier used mostly instrumental Mary Poppins because the version with lyrics that Justyna Plutowska/Peter Gerber used before them was a little grating on the ears.


Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti-Schmitt looked too cute in their Western wear, and they brought great energy to their country-themed program. I loved the slide move Logan did and their straight-line lift was another highlight.

The Aussies Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman continue to improve, and they kept the cowboy theme going with a fun dance to "Cotton-Eyed Joe."

After the Short Dance, I caught most of the Senior Men's Short Program. My biggest takeaway from the event was in no universe should Armin Mahbanoozadeh have lower component scores than Max Aaron.

Here are my photos from the Senior Short Dance and Men's Short Program:

2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic

Tomorrow I'll be at early dance practice, the Junior Pairs Short Program, some of the Senior Ladies Short Program, and the Senior Pairs Short Program. And between events - sightseeing at Olympic Park!

Monday, September 10, 2012

EDGE OF THE PAST Teaser

It's about time for another EDGE OF THE PAST teaser, don't you think? :) If you haven't heard, the sequel to LIFE ON THE EDGE will be out this winter! Here's the official blurb:

Emily's skating career and personal life have never been more golden. She and her partner Chris have won every competition they’ve entered this season, and she’s found the man of her dreams in her coach Sergei. But when one of the biggest competitions of the year takes Emily and Sergei to Russia, Sergei’s past explodes into the present and makes Emily doubt everything in their future.

And here's an excerpt with Emily trying on her wedding dress!


****

I went inside the small room and pulled the curtain shut. The ivory satin dress hung on the wall. The first time I’d tried on the gown, we all ended up in a mess of tears–me, Mom, Aunt Debbie… even Aubrey, who was the least sentimental person I knew.
Stripping out of my clothes, I stepped into the dress and peeked around the curtain. “Mom, can you help me?”
She maneuvered around the dress’s long train as her fingers carefully made their way up the long row of delicate buttons. When she finished, Mom held my skirt and we moved out into the shop and in front of the huge mirror on the far wall.
My chest tightened as I stared at my reflection. Louann’s final alterations made the dress fit my petite curves perfectly. I ran my hand across the off-the-shoulder neckline and down the draped bodice to the A-line skirt, sliding my fingertips along the cool, silky material. I hadn’t wanted any frills on the dress, so the gown had a simple yet elegant look with only a touch of beading. It was everything I’d dreamed, just like I’d thought my life with Sergei would be. The tightness in my chest rose to my throat, creating a painful lump.
“It’s so beautiful,” Mom said. “I know I say that every time I see it, but it’s true.”
I nodded and attempted to speak, but no words came. Only tears. I tried to breathe them back with quick gasps, but I couldn’t stop them as they seeped from my eyes.
Mom brushed my hair away from my face. “Sweetie, those don’t look like happy tears.”

****

I'm so excited to share the rest of this story with you in a few months! If you haven't read LIFE ON THE EDGE yet, check it out to learn about Emily and Sergei's romance from the very beginning. You can get all the details on the book here!

Music Monday

This week's Music Monday includes two songs I'll be hearing at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic this weekend. The first is "Turning Tables" by Adele, which is part of Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt's free dance, a program I am so excited to see!

"Turning Tables" by Adele

The second song is "Beethoven's 5 Secrets" by The Piano Guys. This piece is being used by Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig for their short program. I love the original song "Secrets" by One Republic, and this mixture with Beethoven's 5th Symphony is fantastic!

"Beethoven's 5 Secrets" by The Piano Guys

I'll be in Salt Lake City for the competition starting Thursday with the Senior Short Dance. It's going to be a great field of dancers with Americans Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt, Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus, Canadians Alexandra Paul/Mitch Islam (whose free dance I'm very much looking forward to seeing!), Aussies Danielle O'Brien/Gregory Merriman, and more!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Romancing the Hop Winners!

Congratulations to Books Are Sanity, the winner of the $10 Amazon gift card! Check your email for your prize!

Also congratulations to the winners of the Grand Prizes:


Kindle Fire Winner:
Laurie Goudge
(from It's the Journey that Counts's Blog)

$130 Amazon Gift Card:
Ellie
(from Carrie Ann Ryan's Blog)

Swag Pack:
Cassandra
 (from Dana Delamar's Blog)

Thank you so much to everyone who participated! Coming next week on the blog - coverage of the inaugural U.S. Senior International Classic in Salt Lake City, Utah!!!!