2008 Midwestern Sectional Championships – Rochester Reflections Blog


by Katie Weigel

Greetings from Rochester, Michigan! Today marks a few firsts for me. Not only is this my first time to the state of Michigan, but this is also my first sectionals competition and ice-dance.com blog! I’m also attempting to cover this event solo for the time being (Melanie Hoyt will join me tomorrow) and I must say that I have a new found gratitude for how Daphne and Michelle handled the Lake Placid Ice Dance Competition this year. It is definitely a challenge to prepare for a large event. I knew I was bound to forget one thing along the way, and in this case, it was forgetting that time zones exist. I left Chicago this morning around 8:00 am and planned to arrive at the Detroit Airport at 12:30 to pick up a friend. Two hours into the drive I look at the clock and panic. Why was it so late? Then it dawned on me – Michigan is on Eastern time. I was an hour late to the airport, but thankfully my friend is patient and we were able to get to the rink in time to see the junior dancers practice.

The skaters in the junior dance practice group were Maia and Alex Shibutani, Piper Gilles and Tim McKernan, and Rachel Dickinson and Kurt Lingenfelter. I spent most of this practice tweaking my camera, deciding on which settings to use. So unfortunately, I wasn’t paying that much attention to what the skaters where actually doing. This will change tomorrow when I have the settings all worked out and I can shoot and think about the actual skating. After practice Maia and Alex stopped by to say hello. I was very happy they recognized me from Lake Placid. They seemed very relaxed and happy to be there. I asked what they were going to do between practice and the competition tomorrow and Maia said, “Just relax!” but then Alex interjected with, “A LOT of homework.” Ah the glamorous life of a competitive figure skater.

I had time after the Junior practice to edit photos and catch up with a few other skaters. I spoke with Mauri Gustafson for a while and she is just as enthusiastic in person as she is when performing! She and Joel seemed to be in good form during their senior practice, which was great to see. They are very well matched on the ice and they are definitely a striking pair. The senior dance practice was after the senior pairs practice, which I shot for fun. I also got to see some new pairings that were debuting at mids this year. One funny thing I noticed was that for the senior pairs practice, everyone wore comfortable practice clothes. In dance, however, everyone was dressed as if they were ready for the competition. One of the male pairs skaters even made a comment to one of the dancers, “looking nice today!” to which the dancer replied, “Yeah, we get dressed up for our practices!”

It was during the senior dance practice that I had my first “famous” citing of the day. Anjelika Krylova was there coaching Jennifer Wester & Daniil Barantsev. Since I speak Russian, I was able to hear some of their conversation and noticed that Jennifer speaks Russian extremely well for a non-native speaker. The three of them seem to have a very good working relationship. Jennifer and Daniil mostly worked on their OD to “Cotton Eyed Joe.” Mauri and Joel also spent most of their time working on their OD, which was to a variation of Hava Nagila. Jonathan Harris showed up without partner Stacy Kim. He ran through some step sequences but didn’t do a run through of their program. He did a lot of stroking and edgework as well.

A few random observations from today:

1) Skaters should not wear white. Ever. Please? If there are bits and pieces of white that is fine. But when there are big chunks of white or all white it makes photographing them extremely difficult.

2) I am always amazed at how many well-known skaters and coaches are at these events. Besides seeing Anjelika Krylova, I have seen Carol Heiss-Jenkins, Richard Callahan, and Natalia Mishkutionok.

3) I have often thought that IJS has killed pairs. But there was a sign of hope today in the pairs practice. Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger did a spectacular lift during practice that caused the crowd to gasp. From a forward lunge, Steven lifted Kendra into a press lift, then stood up and began rotating. It was so smooth and effortless. Watch for it in their program this year!

4) Rohene Ward landed a few quads.

5) The award for funniest skater of the day goes to Jonathan Harris. As I mentioned earlier, Jonathan skated in practice today without his partner, Stacy Kim. When he left the ice with the others, someone asked how his practice went. He remarked, “God, I wish Stacy would have skated better!” Ha ha!

6) I am really excited about the food at the Onyx. There is more than fried food! They even have Seattle’s Best coffee! Living the high life! I can’t wait to grab a hot cider tomorrow morning.

7) Vitaly Novikov did not show up at practice. I hope we can hold on until tomorrow!

Well, it is getting late and I hope everyone enjoyed my first attempt at a blog! I should be able to post another one tomorrow night or if I can’t, I know Mel will step in. Good night!




by Katie Weigel

Today got off to a great start when I awoke at 7:05 and I had to be at the rink at 7:20 to start shooting the Juvenile CD! Yikes! I hurriedly rounded up all of my gear and ran out the door. I arrived just in time to catch the 14-Step. I always love watching the Juvenile skaters as they are just so wet behind the ears. Sage and Malcolm Kelner easily won the CD portion with a score of 32.62. They were also very nice to shoot with their striking blue costumes. They looked out into the audience and at the judges, which resulted in some great shots.

Immediately after the Juvenile teams left the ice, the Intermediate CD began. This one went really quick as there were only three teams. Laura Perry (whose smile reminds me of Tara Lipinski’s) and Joshua Leggett came in first with a score of 39.25. These dances are all in a blur as I write this after a long day. I wish Mel would have been here earlier to take notes! See her reports for the Junior and Senior CD’s that were performed today – she does a tremendous job!

I had quite a bit of time after the Intermediates before the Novice teams took the ice. I must say I used this time quite well – I edited photos (which unfortunately I couldn’t send to Daphne as there is no wireless here at the Onyx) and I spoke a little Russian with Natalia Mishkutionok. She is here coaching the novice pair team of Ashley Cain and Sergei Sidorov I heard from a few people that her pairs are very strong in their basic skating skills. I am not at all surprised! I have always loved and will continue to love the great Russian pairs that came from the St. Petersburg and Moscow schools. But I could go on and on about that subject, so I’ll save it for a different time.

Back to ice dancing. I chatted with Jonathan Harris, who was my “funny skater of the day” yesterday. His partner, Stacy Kim, did arrive safely today. Jonathan said that as he took the ice last night for practice, Stacy was boarding a plane to come here. I think Jonathan still holds the title for funniest skater today as he kept coming up to me after his practice sessions asking, “Where were you? I actually had a partner this time!”

One thing I noticed about many of the ice dancers here was how friendly they are with each other. Specifically, I noticed how the senior teams talked and joked around with each other warming up outside the rink. I really love to see that kind of relationships between teams. Lots of hugging and well-wishing going on with all of the ice dance teams throughout all the levels.

As I am typing this Richard Callahan has been walking back and forth for the last half hour. I have probably seen him twenty different times today! Aside from those notable skaters and coaches I mentioned yesterday, I saw Jason Dungjen here coaching a few pair teams. Jerod Swallow also showed up later. Igor Shpilband has been all over with the numerous teams he has here. I was hoping to see (and maybe talk to) Marina Zoueva, but then I remembered there is this thing called the Senior Grand Prix in Paris.

And….Keiffer Hubbell just did a one-handed hand-stand. They should incorporate that into their program! I wonder if the rules allow that. Probably not. So I’ll wait for them to do that in an exhibition someday. I was so happy to see the Hubbells healthy and ready to compete here. They skated their Cha Cha Congelado very well, coming in first with a score of 30.91.

Mel arrived just in time to see the Junior CD, and was I glad that she came! This gave me a chance to breath a little bit, and also allowed me to take off in search of a wireless internet connection. I ended up at Panera and had some nice, warm, soup. Being in an ice rink all day leaves me craving soup, cider, and hot chocolate. When I came back to the rink, Mel had already edited my Junior photos. The Cha Cha Congelado is one of my favorite CDs to shoot as there are a lot more open positions – meaning I get a lot more faces in the shots. After a full day of compulsories, I’m so happy to be shooting the two original dances and a free dance tomorrow. I’m already sad I’ll miss the rest of the free dances on Saturday.

The scariest fall of the day happened during the Novice CD. Lauren McKernan and Matt Kleffman were warming up their pattern for the Kilian – they tripped each other and went flying into the boards. Lauren hit her forehead hard upon impact. They didn’t continue the warm-up, but thankfully they were last up in their group so by the time they were due to skate they were ready. I was very amazed that Lauren managed to skate after that. I can’t imagine the kind of headache she has tonight!

Before I sign off I should mention that Vitaly Novikov was a no-show for the Senior CD. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised. I was really looking forward to seeing him again. I saw him skate at Russian Nationals back in 2005 and I have this picture of him that I recall in my mind every time I hear his name. It looks as if he is growling at the camera. Quite priceless, really.

Well, I better pack up my gear and head back to the hotel. Just a few more photos to edit and I should be all caught up for the day. Hopefully tomorrow I wake up on time! In fact, I think I’ll go set my alarm right now…..




by Melanie Hoyt

6:12 a.m.
Drag my sorry self out of bed. Total sleep time: 5 hours, 4 mins. Not bad, for a weekday.

6:23 a.m.
Check weather. Mix of rain/snow today, changing to snow for the afternoon commute. Not…what I wanted to hear.

7:09 a.m.
Almost ready to head out the door. I usually leave at 7:05. Haven’t peeked out the window yet. Hope that snow thing hasn’t started yet.

7:58 a.m.
Turns out that I leave at 7:05 so I can be 15 mins early to class. Classmates decide that I look like a journalist. Sweet.

9:52 a.m.
Walk triumphantly out of Meijer, having purchased a digital voice recorder, AAA batteries, a bag of ranch rice cakes, and a bottle of Cherry Coke. Total shopping time: 11 minutes.

9:53 a.m.
Near collision with a white minivan in the Meijer parking lot while noting the time for blogging purposes. Thinking that the minivan was probably filled with adorable, innocent children, resolve to drive better today.

12:12 p.m.
Most of my assignments for the day are done. Scheduled departure from school is 2 p.m. Why does that seem so far away?

1:45 p.m.
John, my 19th Century Lit prof, just announced that the class is only meeting for half the time today, so I’m not even missing anything by leaving early. Fabulous!

2:18 p.m.
Sprint to my car as class ends. Pray that the weather holds out – there’s been light snow and a little bit of hail off and on all day.

3:15 p.m.
Hit construction in Flint. There’s been construction on I-69 in Flint for as long as I can remember, and I’m losing hope that it will ever be done.

4:19 p.m.
Arrive at the Onyx. Pull into the first parking space I see. Sprint for the door. Before I even decide whether to pick up my credential or find Katie first, Katie appears!

4:42 p.m.
Start taking notes on the junior CD – the Cha Cha Congelado, which is, for the record, one of my favourites. If only I knew how to skate, I’m pretty sure I could do the steps.

4:53 p.m.
Uhhh…Madison Hubbell got tall! They look pretty good, and I’m glad they were able to recover in time to compete here!

5:13 p.m.
Katie bids me farewell in search of wireless internet so she can send in photos from the morning events. She leaves me with her memory card so I can edit junior CD photos.

5:21 p.m.
After about ten minutes, I finally realize that the familiar person standing eight feet in front of me is Jason Dungjen. It’s been a long day!

5:28 p.m.
Jerod Swallow strolls into the rink.

5:36 p.m.
The former-skater sightings just keep on coming! Ryan Jahnke starts heading straight towards me. I avert my eyes, then realize that he probably doesn’t have a clue that I’m the one that waved first at 2004 Four Continents. That’s a story for another day, though.

5:46 p.m.
Someone near me wonders what the music playing is. “Turandot,” I reply, without missing a beat. “Vanessa-Mae’s version.”

5:52 p.m.
Carol Heiss Jenkins sighting!

6:10 p.m.
The Burberry percentage is high. Some of it is more real than others.

6:30 p.m.
Junior compulsory dance report is complete, Katie is back, and the junior ladies are taking the ice. I just looked at the schedule and realized that staying for junior men might not be the best idea, since I have an hour and a half drive ahead of me.

7:46 p.m.
It’s almost time for the senior compulsory and still no sign of Vitali Novikov. I really hope he doesn’t Silverstein & Forsyth this.

8:36 p.m.
Senior compulsory is already over. There were only three teams, since Novikov no-showed. Their names were not announced in the rink at all. Much disappointment abounds. I mentioned to Katie that I don’t think I could pick him out of a lineup, so I really can’t identify the draw.

9:09 p.m.
I just finished writing my senior compulsory dance report, and it’s time to head home. It starts again tomorrow!




by Katie Weigel

Since I have to take off early tomorrow morning for a wedding, this will be my last blog from Mids. I want to say a special thank you to all the dance teams, parents, and volunteers who made these few days in Rochester worth the trip. Without Mel there to help I couldn’t have done it. Daphne and Michelle provided some much needed support today – thanks for the calls and text messages! I’m going to mention a few highlights from the day, but will definitely make this short as it is almost 1:00 am and I have to be up and driving in a few hours.

1. Some of the coaches have been reading our blogs! And let it be known that they listen to our comments! The coach who spoke to me about this was really happy with the way ice-dance.com treats the skaters. The comments were truthful and respectful, the coach said.

2. Many were on-hand for the Senior Pairs SP, including Alisa Czisny, Steve Hartsell, Keauna McLaughlin, Rockne Brubaker, and Jason Dungjen.

3. The time it took for the Novice placements was soooooooooooooooo long. The event ended around noon and we didn’t get the results until 3:00? Maybe even 4:00? There was a computer glitch which didn’t throw out the high and low numbers, so scores had to be re-calcuated. For a while it was a unclear who was in 4th. What a torture it was on the parents and teams! All I could do was sit there, edit my photos, and lament along with them. I think the officials came out and posted different results three times. It reminded me of music small group contest…waiting to see if my clarinet solo received a 1 or 1+….but this is obviously way more important!

4. One day, Mauri, Joel, and I will be on a party bus. That is all I can say for now. 🙂

5. My heart dropped when Piper and Tim fell on their last lift. Their OD is so beautiful! But then we realized it was because the strap on Tim’s pants had come loose and tripped him. They were able to re-do the lift and received no deductions.

I hope everyone enjoyed our coverage of Mids this year! We were all so excited we could provide sectionals news and photos for everyone. Mel will be taking over the photo duties tomorrow. I’m sad to leave all the wonderful skating behind. Until next year….



by Melanie Hoyt

What a day!  Again, I had class through the early afternoon, but I made it to Onyx just before the Junior OD started.  This time, I brought Jules, my best friend and notorious partner in crime with me.  We had a great time watching the original dances, and I think that I’ve finally warmed up to this set of rhythms.  At first, I was wary of the variety, but now I kind of like it.

I had an “oops” moment when Piper Gilles and Tim McKernan began their OD.  I’d been raving all afternoon to Jules about how I love their “New Orleans Blues” dance, and I’d even written about it in my preview for this event.  Within about five seconds of their dance, Jules informs me that they’re skating to Irish music.  Uh…oops!  When I talked to them later, they told me that they changed it right after their last event, so I guess I couldn’t have known, but I still felt a little sheepish!

After the juniors finished their original dances, I broke in my new digital recorder and talked to the teams that I could track down.  My first interview ever was with Madison and Keiffer Hubbell, who were just glad to be able to compete here, after missing the Junior Grand Prix due to Keiffer’s injury.  I was giggly and embarrassed at my inexperience, but they didn’t seem to mind.

Next, I talked to Piper Gilles and Tim McKernan.  He was getting his pants fixed, so I chatted with Piper (and giggled) while they made some adjustments, and then I conducted my second interview ever.  I was still giggly and kind of embarrassed, but they didn’t seem to mind either.  Both teams were great sports!

On our way back to the stands, we ran into Lesley Hawker, who is one of the nicest people around. I was so surprised to see her that I just exclaimed, “Lesley!” before I realized that I didn’t have anything else to say. Thankfully, she recognized us from our constant presence at Canadian events, and introduced us to her husband before admitting that they were late for their volunteering job. We promised to catch her later on, and went in to watch the seniors.

After the seniors finished their OD, Jules and I set up shop with Katie in the lobby and started editing photos.  As much as I would love to sit and watch all of the events, we also want to get information to Daphne as soon as possible so she can post it online.  Once the photos were almost done, Jules and I ran out to get some dinner, resolving to be back in time for senior pairs.  I really didn’t want to miss seeing the new teams.

Katie, Jules, and I settled into the packed stands for the senior pairs’ short program.  During warm-up, I tried to play it cool while I played “name that skater” with my head twisted halfway around behind me, which isn’t easy, let me tell you.  It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to develop a good “skadar.”  Katie took notes while I announced the presence of the Alissa & Amber Czisny, Steve Hartsell, Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker, and “umm…a lot of people from Colorado Springs.”  Watching the pairs with so many enthusiastic friends and family members was incredible, and the pairs really shone.  Wehrle & Kole looked ecstatic after a close-to-clean short, and Yankowskas & Coughlin followed it up with some of the best skating I’ve ever seen from a brand-new team.  Their short was beautiful, I really think that they can challenge for the podium if they skate like that at Nationals.  Moyle & Pottenger skipped all of their jump elements – I later heard someone say that she had a slight injury, but that it wasn’t going to affect their training for Nationals too much.  I hope that’s true, because they had a nice, fresh look.

Between pairs and men, Jules and I made a dash for the concessions to get some cider.  “Do you want small or large?” one of the workers asked me, after I’d already paid.  I asked what I’d paid for – it was $1 per cup.  “Small and large are the same price,” she replied, like that was the norm.  “Uhhh…large?”

Ten minutes later, our hot cider was still too hot to drink, and Lesley and Jamie, her husband, ran into us while they were heading inside. We took a few moments to gush about Meryl and Charlie being in medal position in Paris, since she is a known fan.

The senior men’s short had some surprises, including the part where I think the judges got the top four exactly right.  Rohene Ward did land a quad, yes, but even aside from the technical problems that he had, he seemed detached from his performance. Eliot Halverson had a great performance, but it was Braden Overett, who really wowed me when he skated second in the second group. If the event had stopped at the ninth skater, I would have had Overett in first, regardless of his fall.

But the event went on to include a tenth skater, and that skater was Wesley Campbell. His clean short was incredible, and in front of an extremely supportive home crowd. For the rest of his program after his last jump, I could tell that he had to keep fighting back a grin.  As soon as the music ended, he pumped his fist and I leaned over to Jules and said, “I love it when a hometown kid does well!”  Someone behind me even had noisemakers. What a great moment for him, and I hope he has a great free tomorrow!

There is no truth to the rumor that Jules and I played a game of Dance Dance Revolution and closed the place down. I have no idea how that one got started.



by Melanie Hoyt

I arrived at the Onyx on Saturday at 9:15 in the morning, clutching a mocha from Starbucks with a melted candy cane at the bottom of it. The informative young man at Starbucks had informed me that they were all out of peppermint syrup. By “they,” he meant all of the Starbucks in the area. I was crushed, but I accepted the offer of a teensy-weensy little candy cane and dropped it in my mocha. It’s just not the same, though.

But peppermint mocha or not, I had a job to do.  Katie had to drive back to Chicago for a wedding, so I was flying solo for the day. During the juvenile and intermediate free dances, I kept a notebook and pen on the bench next to me and scribbled notes in between teams. This turned out to be a lot of fun when it took three days before I had a chance to write my juvenile and intermediate reports, and I had no idea what “vr smth but too bad slsjkls” meant.

Between the intermediate free dance and the junior free dance, I started going through pictures of the first two events. I’d barely made it through the first team when one of the local volunteers came over to me and asked me to step in and shoot the medal ceremonies, since the official photographer had to leave. I was happy to help, but my busy day got even busier!

The junior free dance was my favorite event of the day. All of the teams skated so well, and it was wonderful to see Madison and Keiffer coming back so strong after Keiffer’s injury. I couldn’t believe it when they told me that this had only been their fourth run-through of the free dance!

After the junior dance was over, I knew I needed to charge my laptop and my camera battery, so I commandeered a power outlet behind a bench in the lobby area. This power outlet was located right next to Mrs. Shibutani, who was sending Charlie White (in Paris for the Grand Prix) a text message with the score from the Michigan-Ohio State game.  Striking up a conversation about college football, I started chatting with them right as Alex walked over. The three of us talked for a while, and then I realized that I had a question for Maia. Since she was still changing, I started to ask Alex if he knew on his sister’s behalf, but before I could finish, he gave me a perplexed look and pointed to my left.

Do you know how embarrassing it is when you’re talking about someone who’s standing right next to you? Sometime during our football conversation, Maia had walked over and parked herself right next to me, and I never even noticed.  She made a joke about being too short, and I apologized profusely, but I still felt like a power tool. Fortunately, the Shibutanis didn’t appear to hold my blunder against me, and I vowed to pay more attention to my surroundings.

While I was waiting to photograph an awards ceremony, I watched juvenile dancer Olivia Oltmanns latch onto Piper Gilles’ left arm. Olivia dragged Piper into the arcade area and asked her to try winning a stuffed animal from one of those machines with the cranes. Piper was unsuccessful, but I think that Olivia and her friend were just thrilled to be hanging out with the very-cool older girl, prize or no prize.

As the day made a distinct turn to afternoon and I inhaled a turkey sandwich between events, I found myself agreeing to photograph all of the senior events, not just the dance events. The rest of the evening was a blur. I remember a lot of sprinting, some level two memory card switches, and one particularly impressive split leap (with a change of edge) as I maneuvered between Ryan Jahnke and someone’s skate guards to grab my extra camera battery from the charger.

After the free dance awards, I had a chance to finish interviewing the remaining dancers. I only needed to ask Mauri Gustafson and Joel Dear two quick questions, but they made me sit down at a table with them and talked at top speed for two full minutes. That may not sound like a lot, but when you’re transcribing quotes, two minutes was like a dissertation on their partnership and the evolution of their free dance thus far. I’m not complaining, though! I felt like I could have talked to them for an hour – I just had to get back inside the rink.

By the end of the night, after shooting for almost eight hours, 90 percent of my photos were not blurry – a definite improvement. However, about 40 percent of my photos were at least ten degrees tilted. I really need to invest in a swivel mount for my monopod before I attempt to shoot the long days at Canadians in January. Either that, or my very own massage therapist.

It ended with a bang. One minute, I was positive that I’d get at least two articles written before the day was over. The next, Rohene Ward was finishing his program, the audience was standing, and I’d only written about eight words all day. Whoops. That’s what the rest of the weekend is for, right.



by Melanie Hoyt

Jeanette was a volunteer who was a huge help to me on Saturday. Since I was shooting both on-ice action and off-ice awards ceremonies, which often overlapped, she would come and grab me from the rink when they started getting the kids organized for awards. She held the tray of medals for most of the presentations and when I was fading quickly as the night went on, she saved my sanity with a Nestle Tollhouse cookie. While we were waiting for the senior ladies to assemble for their awards, we had a few moments to chat. She’s not an employee at the Onyx, “just a mom,” she said. Her daughter was supposed to compete, but she broke her leg a couple of weeks ago. Both of them spent the weekend helping out wherever they could.

Molly Oberstar won the senior ladies’ title, and Angie Lien came in fourth. Half an hour after they found out that they were going to St. Paul, they were scheduled to get their awards. We tried to give out the awards during the warm-up for the second group of senior men, but not everyone was ready in time. We managed to squeeze in the speediest awards presentation I’ve ever seen between the first and second skaters, because Angie wanted to watch Braden Overett, and Molly needed to see Eliot Halverson.

Keiffer Hubbell had only been back on the ice for a month. He and Madison had only done full run-throughs of their free dance three times before the competition. All they needed was a decent effort to secure a place in the top four and make it to Nationals, but they gave far more than that. Of 42 GOE marks given in their free dance, five of those were a base mark of zero. The other 37? All ones and twos.

Wesley Campbell didn’t qualify for Nationals last year. He didn’t make it the year before, either. The last time that he skated in a major competition, it was Junior Worlds in 2005. He was an alternate to the U.S. team and finished twenty-fifth in the short program, missing the cut for the free skate. Long overdue for a comeback, he finally had his moment this weekend. Enchanting the audience in both programs, he vaulted to the top of the podium and earned a trip back to Nationals.

The biggest spotlight this weekend was on Rohene Ward. As famous for his inconsistency as he is for his unbelievable talent, he won the battle against his own mind on Saturday night. Despite early mistakes in his free skate, he fought back and kept his composure. When he finished, he clenched his fist, looking up at the audience that was giving him the only standing ovation of the weekend. It would be another fifteen minutes before it was official, but we all knew that he’d done enough.

I’m wrapping up a full week’s worth of work on my first sectionals event. I researched and put together a preview article, wrote eight event reports, blogged four times, and conducted my first interview – actually, my first eleven interviews. By the fifth one or so, I could even get through them without giggling. There are over eleven gigabytes of photos on my computer. And I’m only one member of the team that worked for ice-dance.com this weekend! Working with Katie at Mids was so much fun, and the best part was knowing that we’re part of an incredible team. Michelle had plenty on her plate already, since she was covering Easterns, but she fielded my frantic phone calls and didn’t laugh (at least while she was talking to me) when she advised me to put my camera on “portrait mode” for the awards ceremonies, and I asked if “portrait mode” meant “the one with the face.” Daphne always does an amazing job with this website, but the way she coordinates everything for big weekends like this is just plain inspiring.

When Jeanette and I were chatting, and after she told me about her connection to skating through her daughter, she asked if I ever skated. I replied that I never had, and she gave me the same surprised expression that most people do when I admit that my involvement in skating is due to a freakish obsession with the Olympics that began at age seven. “I’m just here because I love it,” I explained.

I guess that’s why we’re all here.