2008 U.S. Nationals: Outside Edge by Jim

Monday, January 28, 2008
Farewell Blog

The McManus family did not want the week at Nationals to come to an end! Our family had such a great time. Thank you to the wonderful city of St. Paul for being very gracious hosts. I know that Mother Nature decided to give us a bitterly cold blast but the people of the city and the volunteers were all the warmth we needed.

I think the only event I missed for the entire week was the Junior Pairs Long program, so I apologize to the skaters that I missed, but that is a LOT of skating. I also missed the senior men’s long program only because I was flying home at the time–otherwise I would have been there! To the credit of these gifted athletes I can say that the quality of the skating was just outstanding. From the novice skaters to our seasoned seniors–across the board–you can see the pure passion and dedication to this sport.

Things I will Miss about St. Paul:

*As I mentioned, the people!

*Liz the Omelets Girl from the Crowne Plaza Hotel Restaurant 11: She makes great Omelets!

*The Sky Walk: Although it was confusing at times, it is kind of neat and warm!

*The Mini Donuts at the Xcel Center: All I can say is YUM!

*McGovern’s Tavern: HOT Turkey Sandwich. Double YUM!

*The Pheasant Hunters: Where else would I meet them I guess? They were very nice (for being armed)!

*The Mall of America: Where else can you see a shark, ride a rollercoaster and shop retail all in just over an hour?

The ONLY thing I will not miss about St. Paul:

The COLD! Well by cold I mean FREEZING! I know, I am a big baby!

Our trip to the airport and flight home were uneventful. I had the very LAST seat on the back of the plane. We got home and were greeted very loudly by our cat! I guess she missed us quite a bit. We had a cat sitter, but she prefers her family. She meowed at us for hours! We were home in plenty of time to see the senior men’s long program. I could not believe there was a tie score! How strange is that? I was most happy for Stephen Carriere. I have had the pleasure of knowing Stephen for many years and have also worked with him at our skating club on a few events. I can truly say that he is not only a remarkable skater, but he is also a remarkable young man off the ice! He is very dedicated and professional and will be a wonderful representative for our country at the World Figure Skating Championships. Go Stephen!

My mission at the beginning of the blogs was to capture the experience of what it would be like for a parent of a first time skater at Nationals. I hope that I have done that for you. I have had fun sharing my experience. The most memorable part of this week was watching my son enjoy himself! Yes, we as parents do a lot to provide the support, but to see the culmination of many years of hard work, dedication, and passion come together is very fulfilling. Regardless of placements, having a great skate or a challenging performance–the U.S. Championships are the place to gain the experience and be a part of history. All of these participants are national competitors and no one can ever take that away from them. Congratulations to the skaters on a job well done. Congratulations to all of the parents as well!

Now we look forward to getting ourselves organized for the upcoming year. Lake Placid will be here before we know it! One thing for sure–I am packing much different clothes for that trip in the summer!

There are a few people I would like to thank:

*My family for letting me share their experience as well as my own. I probably embarrassed you, but you are used to that anyway!

*Daphne for not only the opportunity to do the blog, but for everything she does for all ice dancers all over the world. She has provided incredible support for so many ice dance families. We appreciate her more than she could ever know!

*Michelle Wojdyla for posting the blog entries and adding the awesome pictures. I know you were very busy and I appreciate your help!

Last but not least, thank you to those who read the blog! I appreciate your time and a special thanks to Sara and Cheryl for posting comments!

(no longer a) Newbie Parent at Nationals,
posted by IDC Staff at 10:59 AM

Saturday, January 26, 2008
“if I were to leave you for another person…”

I realized on Saturday that “We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave!” (Everyone sing!) Yes, take off those earmuffs and gloves! The temperature is up to 20 degrees. We actually got to go out and enjoy some of beautiful Saint Paul. There were more ice sculptures up in Rice Park, and we also went into the infamous hot dish tent to check out the soups and casseroles. U.S. Figure Skating brought some Hall of Fame items, and we were able to view Paul Wylie and Todd Eldridge’s competition outfits.

We then walked OUTSIDE to McGovern’s tavern for another tasty hot turkey sandwich. It was great to be out in the fresh air without having to think you had just scaled to the top of Mt. Everest.

In the arena to watch all the senior events, we were able to get seats pretty close to where NBC was broadcasting. I did this for a reason. You see it goes like this: for those of you who are married, you may have had your spouse say to you at one time or another “if I were to ever leave you for another person it would be…” Well my wife Tammi (who is a big sports fan) told me years ago that there was one person she would leave me for–Bob Costas. OK. So, as you know, Mr. Costas is here at the event doing some announcing for NBC. So I told my wife that now was the chance for her to meet the famous sports man. But, as we were sitting there, I pointed out to her that Bob was in his chair applying his own make-up. Hmmm… Hoping that would change her mind about him! Well, she did think he was cute, just a little too short. Lucky for me I guess!

Back to the skating.

All of final senior events were amazing, and there were good crowds as well. The dance event was incredible. My favorites were actually Nick Traxler and Charlotte Maxwell. Really strong interpretation of the music.

The senior pairs were also excellent. Some of the lifts and throws were thrilling and defied gravity. Rockne Brubaker & Keauna McLaughlin were excellent but my favorites were Mark Ladwig & Amanda Evora. Finally, the senior ladies put on quite a show. I lost count of the triple-triple combinations! As in the short program, the younger ladies handled the pressure and put out strong performances. Caroline Zhang’s skate was one to be remembered for a long time.

After the skating had finished, we went back to the hotel to pack. Colin is off to the competitors’ party to enjoy and celebrate a wonderful week at nationals. The McManus family has enjoyed every minute of this experience.

I will send in a wrap up blog entry soon after we make it home and unpack!
posted by IDC Staff at 11:17 PM

Friday, January 25, 2008
The De-Nosing of Snow Plow Sam

Starting the day was exciting for my daughter Casey as we happened to end up sitting in a booth right next to Johnny Weir and Victor Petrenko and the rest of the entourage. Casey thought it was very cool, and she still managed to eat as well.

By Thursday and Friday the amount of skating I had watched was monumental. I had this feeling like I just could not get out of the arena, because there is even more skating hour after hour. I will again refer to the movie European Vacation when Chevy Chase is in the car in traffic in London going around the rotary and cannot get his car out of the circle and every time he goes around he says, “There’s Big Ben, kids!” For me the saying was “There’s the Zamboni, kids!!”

By now the senior events are mostly underway and there is a great deal of excitement. At the hotel you can certainly tell most people have arrived due to the increasingly long wait for an elevator. But, once in the elevator, you get all the best gossip by just listening. I mean, you could just ride the elevators for the entire week and not miss a thing. But, that would just be creepy.

Back at the Xcel Energy Center there was an assault! Not exactly the bat to the leg of Nancy Kerrigan incident but… From what I heard there was a de-nosing of Snow Plow Sam. Yes, you heard it right. Some little kid punched poor Snow Plow Sam in the nose (by accident of course) and it fell off. A quick repair down in skaters’ services was needed to sew it back on. I must say he looks a few years younger with his new nose. I can confirm from a reliable source inside skater services that no Botox was used during the procedure.

The most amazing event to watch was the senior ladies short program. Everyone in the audience was going crazy with excitement. We had great skating combined with unexpected results and placements. At the end of the night, I could not believe the leader board. Good thing I am not into gambling, but if you had decided to bet on the pack of 14 year olds, it would have been the jackpot. Upset was in the air — along with your typical smell of popcorn, barbeque and beer. Congratulations to Katrina Hacker on her beautiful skate.

As has been the theme, we ended the evening in the “Port O’ Call” lounge at our hotel. As has also been the theme, the bar is understaffed with just one person behind the bar. Because of this, we had to strategize as to how to not only get a drink, but also order something to eat. Michelle (Kate’s Mom) figured out that if you went to the lobby and ordered room service from the lobby house phone and had them deliver the food to the bar, it was faster than waiting for a waitress. It worked like a charm! When there is a will (or empty stomach) there is always a way!

posted by IDC Staff at 11:06 PM

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Mall of America McManus Style

On Wednesday we had a quick breakfast and then walked over to the bus stop to take catch the number 54 bus to the Mall of America. The only thing missing from are arctic walk were penguins and polar bears!

Ok, I know you have heard, but this Mall of America is enormous! We headed right for the rollercoaster rides. My daughter Casey insisted I ride with her. I did not argue, as I love riding rollercoasters. Other than thinking we were going to bump our heads on the roof of the building, it was a blast. We then shopped and ate, ate and shopped etc. Casey tried to convince my wife to buy her a Coach bag, and I tried to convince my wife to let me buy the Ferrari that was parked in hall. Neither Casey nor I was successful. The Mall was so big it even has an aquarium. Casey and my wife, Tammi, had enjoyed the aquarium the previous day. Their favorite part was walking under the shark tank. I would have been lost finding Nemo.

We then took the bus back to the arena to watch the junior men short program and the senior pairs short. Curran Oi and Adam Rippon both skated great in the men’s event! Curran’s “Phantom of the Opera” number was incredible. The Boston crew was holding up the bright yellow “Skate with Passion” and “Light the Fire Within” banner that hangs in our rink back home. This has been a good luck charm for all of the SCOB kids this week. The senior pairs were excellent as well.

To top off the night we walked in the balmy -13 degree temperature to see the ice sculptures in Rice Park. Yes, it might be crazy to go out in the cold, but, St. Paul is a beautiful city, and it was nice to see the park lit up at night. I tried not to blink too much as I did not want my eyes to freeze shut.

All in all it was a great day!

posted by IDC Staff at 12:59 PM

Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Seminar Day

Tuesday was seminar day for the novice competitors, parents, and coaches. Tai and Randy were the guest speakers, and they did a great job talking to the skaters about what their experience was like in the early days. All the novice skaters got their 2014 team pullovers. After breakfast, the skaters got their team photo, and then it was off to our 1st class of the day. We went to classes on nutrition, IJS judging system, athleticism, and media/interviews. It was a full day!

My only embarrassing moment is when later on I was at the Starbucks counter ordering my venti mocha with whipped cream. See, the nutrition specialist had listed a number of items and their calories. I guess my favorite venti mocha has 490 calories. I was thinking about that while I ordered. Then I turned around and realized the nutrition guy was standing right behind me. Oh well, I am not a quick learner I guess.

The novice dancers rushed over to the arena after all the classes were over to trial judge the junior original dance event. We parents went over as well. Seeing all the “folk” costumes was fun. Especially the lederhosen. All I could think of was Chevy Chase in the movie European Vacation. I was waiting for Keiffer Hubbell to just go over slap someone as part of the dance. But, he did not!

We also watched the junior ladies free skate. Our own favorite hometown skater Britney Rizo lit up the ice with her energetic Malaguena program earned her a bronze medal. The Boston crowd went crazy!

The best part of the day was meeting up with our dear friends Katie Crugnola and her daughter Jacki who traveled from Massachusetts to volunteer here. They lived here in Minnesota previously. Jacki coached Colin when he was competing and testing in free style. We enjoyed a few laughs and it was nice way to end the evening.

posted by IDC Staff at 12:57 PM 

Monday, January 21, 2008
“I have a dream”

I awoke to look out over the grand Mississippi river to a light snow falling. Today is Martin Luther King day and the famous “I have a dream” speech comes to mind.

Today is the finals for the novice events. For some, I am sure dreams will come true, and for others it may not be the fulfillment of a dream. But skating at this level and competing in the event is for all of them a HUGE achievement.

I had been dreaming as well, but my dream was of a personalized omelet! Liz, the chef at the 11 restaraunt at the hotel, was able to make my dream come true! A delicious western omelet! But, I will warn others that Liz told me she is not doing the omelets again until Thursday, so you will have to just wait until then if you missed this morning.

After eating, we went to the arena to enjoy the novice pairs and ladies finals. Good crowds today with lots of kids in the audience. SnowPlow Sam was even in the audience leading the crowd in cheers. The excitement of the event for me was watching Simon and Marissa win the bronze medal to their Gladiator program. Nice job!

In the afternoon we stayed away from the room so my son could rest and get in the zone for tonight’s free dance. My wife and I ventured into the sky walk in search of food, but nothing was open as it was a holiday. We did find a Chinese food place that was open, so we were saved. Then it was practice time, and it was quite a wait for the bus to the arena. We did get there in time to watch the practice sessions for the novice men. Then the novice dancers skated their warm up. And then you guessed it – back to the hotel to rest until competition time. Back and forth we go!

While on the bus I noticed the city setting up for the winter carnival. There was a bonfire by the outside skating rink and there were some men with their chainsaws carving ice sculptures. The trees are covered in lights. The snow is still falling from this morning. It certainly looks like a wonderland out here.

When we arrived at the hotel it was obvious that nationals is underway. Quite a few senior skaters had arrived. Waiting for the bus when we got off were Joel Dear and Mauri Gustafson. It was great to see them again. We miss Joel back in Boston, but he looks very happy to be competing again. Then we walk in the lobby and we see Charlie White & Meryl Davis and Nick Traxler & Charlotte Maxwell. The girls were very happy to see Charlie! (But, I probably didn’t need to tell you that!)

I got some dinner for Colin, and then we wait for competition time. Let the nerve games begin! Finally, the time had come for my son and his partner to take the ice. A special thanks to Kelly Cannuscio for sitting with us and keeping us calm while our kids were skating. I did remember to keep breathing this time. Holding your breath for a 3:09 program is not good for you!

I could not have been more proud of Kate and Colin. They skated a good program, and they looked like they were having fun too! That makes all of this worthwhile. All of the competitors did a great job! Congratulations to all of the medalists! Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of the week.

Off to the bar to have a drink and celebrate a great season.
posted by IDC Staff at 11:43 PM

Sunday, January 20, 2008
Sunday was a very busy day…

Sunday was a very busy day. We started with the reason we came to this wonderful winterland–the competition itself! Luckily for me I did not have to get up for the 6:40 a.m. warm up practice for the compulsories. Colin and Kate were fine going over there without us parents dragging along. So, the rest of us had a light breakfast and before we knew it the time had come to head to the Xcel Energy Center. It was incredible to be sitting in this big arena and seeing your child up on the Jumbotron. All the novice skaters looked so professional in the Tango outfits! There was a nice small crowd that had come to watch and the audience was very generous with their applause for all the teams. It was also fun to watch the kids in the kiss and cry area with their coaches after they skated. After all was judged and placed, I thought the event went well and it looked like all the skaters enjoyed the experience. I know I did!

So, it was off to find food. We actually ventured outside and went to the famous McGovern’s Tavern. We got a good a tip that if you leave from gate 2 of the arena you will be closer to the bar. Well we did and it was still breathtakingly cold outside. Now, I read the comment on my last blog entry from Sara and she was right! The hot turkey sandwich was incredible. So was the Guinness! Yes, I finally had the drink I was looking for. Sara, you win a million dollars for being both the first to comment on the blog and second for giving the great tip about McGoverns. However, trying to collect your prize from a skating parent will be like getting water from a stone!

After lunch it was back to the arena to watch the novice ladies. My favorite, Gretchen Donlan, had a great skate! She is just so smooth on the ice!

Then back to the hotel to catch the Pats game. They WON! Off to the Superbowl again! We New England fans are just very lucky. Had a few beers and got to meet some of the moms from the Delaware crew. They are really nice and it was fun to compare notes and share stories as parents of skaters.

Off to dinner and Kate’s Mom, Michelle, found a great bistro that we could get to from the sky walk. We were able to watch the beginning of the Giants/Packers game. Dinner was great and then we were off to the arena again to watch the novice men’s short program. We did walk outside and guess what? It was still cold. Go figure!

It was an interesting dilemma that the U.S. Figure Skating staff had. Between events they had put the Giants/Packers game on the Jumbotron. Now, the men’s event was due to start and all the judges were announced. There was only 4 seconds left in the game, so they decided to wait until the game was over. The game was tied 20-20 and the Giants were about to kick a filed goal. The whole arena was one the edge of their seats!

Then the Packers called a time out!

Oh no! The skating had to start so they turned off the game! Immediately all the men in the crowd sprinted to the bar. What a difference in these two sports. Imagine if in figure skating you could call a timeout with 4 seconds left in your program?? I am sure the skaters would like to sometimes.

Anyway, the Giants won the game in overtime, and I still was able to cheer for Ross Miner who skated an awesome surfer dude short program.

Well the day was over. Back to the hotel and a late night dip in the hot tub with–of all people–the pheasant hunter guys. Yup! They were there talking about the migration patterns of quails vs. pheasants. All I know is that I could not track these birds even if I had the TomTom GPS–or a TomTom turkey for that matter.

Gobble gobble!
posted by IDC Staff at 11:57 PM