Sunday, January 25, 2009

It is Raining Gold Medal Olympians

I am on the concourse at the Q and I see fellow member of The Skating Club of Boston, Elin Schran, so I stop and say hello. She is with her mother, Tenley Albright. Standing to Elin’s left is none other than Sarah Hughes, so Elin introduced us to Sarah. It seemed everywhere you looked there was another Olympic Champion — Dick Button, Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Scott Hamilton — to name a few. It was U.S. Figure Skating royalty at every turn.

With the Olympics a year away, it is clear that the excitement is building. Now we have less than 12 months for that once-in-4-year opportunity to send our very best skaters to the Olympics. With surprise medalists in almost all of the events this year, it leads us to think that next year’s Nationals will be even more exciting!

But let’s put this into perspective.

Last year at this time I wrote about dreams, and how for some skaters, they would come true. Well, it is really no different this year at Nationals. All that is different is that the faces change, but in general it is the same. I think that if you were to take any sport where athletes train at the highest level, you will find that dreams are more vocalized by the family and friends than the athletes themselves. You rarely here skaters talk about their intent to win, or dominate, or sweep a competition. You are more likely to hear that from the rumor mill that is Sports. It is the skaters at nationals that I have met who epitomize what a true champion is. They are a unique breed — those who push themselves so hard as to skate through pain and injury to pursue the highest value they can achieve. For some, that may indeed be the Olympics or Worlds. But for most it is about just qualifying for Nationals or skating beyond their expectation — with the key being THEIR expectations. Certainly every parent would love to say “my kid is a national champion or Olympian.” But to find true pureness in the sport is to talk to a skater and realize that it really is just about the next skate.

Kudos to these gifted athletes and their ability to put everything into perspective. If only some fans and parents could live in this world too. But when you really think about it, the parents are really doing what every proud parent does. They are dreaming, and without dreams we would not push forward and succeed.

So from one parent to another! Feel free to dream — but, learn your lessons from the skaters! They always have it in perspective!

posted by IDC Staff at 3:27 PM

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Goose bumps moments

There have a few performances this week that brought the audience to their feet before the skaters even finished their programs. It is a rare connection between the skaters and spectators when their performance rises above all expectations. Even after hundreds of run-throughs in practice, there is no comparison to having the atmosphere of Nationals in place when you execute a flawless performance.

These are each skater’s own personal hall of fame moments!

Yesterday I toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a must-see in Cleveland. The best part of the day was being able to do the tour with my youngest daughter, Casey. It was wonderful to see her learn about the music history and share with her my favorite bands. She was more than embarrassed during one of the films that showed past inductees to the HOF because I was singing along too loudly! I was rockin’ along to U2, the Police, and the Eagles. Casey was surprised that I was so excited about seeing Michael Jackson’s white glove and his “Thriller” jacket, but I told her I watched the live performance on MTV of Thriller — so this was cool.

So if I had to compare our week long experience at the competition to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame it would be like this”

Alissa Czisny’s short program rocked the house! No one in the rink was sitting by the time she finished. Ross Miner’s cowboy short program blew the top of the roof off the house. He is just a true entertainer, and those jumps where enormous!
Michael Chau & Tracy Tanovich’s long program was powerful and graceful. It was like watching ballet on ice. The audience was up on their feet before they finished this gold medal-winning performance. And this after Michael had already skated his junior men’s long program just a few hours earlier.

There have been many more memorable skates for each of the athletes this week as well. But as much as we look forward in this sport, it is even more important to take these memories with us. That is what it is really all about!

So to those of you who were at the Rock and Roll hall of Fame on Friday, I apologize if I was singing along to the music too loudly! But it was a priceless moment for me to be able to share with my daughter, even if I was a bit off key!

posted by IDC Staff at 7:00 PM

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Friday, January 23, 2009

1/7th of an appetizer

Let me apologize up front. I have not posted a blog in a few days. I have discovered that being a parent of a junior level ice dancer at Nationals is much tougher than it was last year at novice. Last year we competed on back-to-back days, and it was over by Monday. This year, juniors competed on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, so I tried to just focus on being a parent the last few days.

From a blog perspective, competition days are really boring. Each day, the skater has a practice or two and/or a competitive event. Before and in between these tasks there is quiet time to stay focused and get in the zone, so not much to report for the last three days other than the junior dance events were fantastic. What an incredibly deep field of competitors. Those seniors should be looking over their shoulders at this group!

Also included in the last few days was a lot of eating. That is what we do. We wake up, eat, the kids skate, eat, rest, snack, go to the rink to warm up, compete, and then we eat again. One of the more memorable meals was at the House of Blues. We went to dinner there with all the ice dancers and parents from University of Delaware. We had a great time and the food was excellent! What was even more amazing was the waitress figuring out how to divide the cost of each of the appetizers on our bills by 7 families. That was the first time I remember enjoying a 1/7th of an appetizer.

I must also mention that I have again watched an INCREDIBLE amount of skating to this point. Our club (The Skating Club of Boston) is truly blessed to have 22 skaters from competing at Nationals this year. It has also been my quest to see as many of them skate as possible. This has been somewhat like the Monty Python’s quest for the Holy Grail! Back and forth from the hotel to the rink. I have discovered it is faster to take the walkway via Tower City as opposed to the bus. When in a hurry, I clap two coconuts together to make it seem like I am galloping on a horse across the Cleveland tundra towards the Q! OK, not really, but that is the thought that goes through my mind anyway!

I do have one concern. It is that the wait staff in the hotel lobby bar now knows me by name and I know them by name as well. Hmmmm… But, the excuse is that my wife and I have been able to catch up with other parents of skaters to share stories of the past year, discuss the trials and tribulations of skates, blades, costumes and skating bills. So we are really just being social — but, a nice Bailey’s on the rocks at night does help you sleep better! And with that said, I am off to sleep.

More updates to come! So far though I can say that Cleveland Rocks!

posted by IDC Staff at 2:18 PM

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Don’t you just love a good nap?

Having survived our travel day, we took advantage of our nice comfy beds and the whole family slept in this morning.

My wife spent late last night and early this morning sewing buttons, snaps and anything else looking Spanish onto my son’s Paso Doble outfit. Thanks to Sandy Gibbons for pulling together the outfit for us. All we were missing was a red cape and a bull!

After breakfast it was time to venture out into downtown Cleveland in search of a grocery store or a place to pick up some Gatorade and snacks. It was snowing and cold, but it was good to get out into the fresh air. We didn’t find the store right away, but we did enjoy a nice walk that took us by the House of Blues and then a combination bowling alley and Martini bar. Now that is my kind of place!

Along our walk we ended up at the Q (Quicken Loan Center) where all the competitions will take place this week. We stopped inside and watched the novice dance and novice pairs practices. We met up with Daphne and Michelle and they were getting settled into the media area. Then we took the walkway back to Tower City to get some lunch.

Back at our room we all took an unplanned nap! Naps are awesome! We underestimated how long of a day our travel day was yesterday — and how tiring it can be. But we awoke refreshed, and then it was back to the Q for my son’s junior dance practice. I decided to take the walkway while the rest of the gang took the bus, but I got there first!

After practice it was back to the hotel and dinner in the lounge. They have an excellent chicken Caesar pizza. We watched the last few minutes of the Steelers/Ravens game, and it was time for bed.

Tomorrow starts the competitive events. An incredible amount of time and effort culminates with just a few minutes on the ice at Nationals. But having watched the skaters in practice, I can only say that the judges will have the hardest jobs in the Q this week.

posted by IDC Staff at 12:01 PM

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

It was a Planes, Trains and Automobiles kinda day!

It’s a travel day. The family woke up at 4 a.m. to drive to the airport for an early flight. It was a morning reminiscent of our trip to Nationals last year. The temperature was below zero, so memories of St. Paul came to mind. We got a bargain on our flights, but the only drawback was that instead of a direct flight to Cleveland from Boston, we had to switch planes in Philly. I had an issue with this because, as a Red Sox fan, I was having World Series withdrawal and jealousy was in the air. But before we could actually get in the air, we had to get on the plane (or puddle jumper). The plane was tiny! It looked like a toy. The walkway could not be attached, so we had to walk on the tarmac and climb up the four steps into the plane. Once inside, it was obvious that the only item that would fit in the small over head compartments was a mini pack of junior mints. I guess planes are also adverse to cold weather (go figure).

Sitting on the runway the pilot announced that the computer was too cold to work, so they had to wait to take off. This was comforting. . . Finally, we were able to take off–only to discover that the only toilet on board was also too cold to flush. Well, at least the engine and wings and all the other important parts were not frozen. I just wish I had not had a venti mocha and bottle of water! I sat cross legged the rest of the way. 🙂

The rest of our connecting flight was smooth, and we arrived on time in Cleveland. We met up with my son and some of the Delaware Crew who arrived around the same time, and we hopped on the RTA train and it was a quick ride to the Tower City and our hotel.

We went to get our credentials. After last year, I learned to make sure I was better prepared for getting my picture taken for the credential. In St. Paul, I had taken off my hat, and my hair was sticking straight up. This time I was all “handsome.” We then unpacked and went for lunch at Houlihan’s where my wife’s favorite stuffed chicken was on the menu. Then we ventured on the “Gold” bus to the Hoover rink for official practice. This year’s group of juniors looked very strong. It was a windy and snowy ride back to our hotel, but once we arrived, we had a quick dinner and it was off to bed. It was a very long day! But we are here and many of the skaters were arriving! Here we go! Ready or not!

posted by IDC Staff at 2:47 PM

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears … Oh My!

Truth be told, I was in a dream state when Daphne asked me to blog again this year. Last year, I tried to give a view of Nationals from the experience of a newbie parent attending for the first time. So, when Daphne asked me to blog again, I was very excited. Let me share with you this dream state:

In a dream world I would compare getting to Nationals for most competitors like the trek to the Emerald City. I can imagine that in the early days of their skating careers, everything seemed to be a big mystery. We practically need a strange man from the traveling circus to look into his crystal ball to give us all the answers! Then the wind picks up — and more ice time and higher skating levels happen — and the tornado of coaching bills causes you to go over the edge (rainbow)!

Although, the parents feel like a house was dropped on them, the skaters merrily skip down the yellow brick road of competitive figure skating. Along the twists and turns you find that you need to be like the scarecrow to do a level 4 anything! And after many training hours your body feels like the Tin Man waiting for a little oil! And who wouldn’t be a little cowardly like the lion when faced with a panel of technical specialists and judges!

But all of this is really worth it when you make it to our pinnacle of competitions: The U.S. Figure Skating Championships! Along the way you MAY encounter a Wicked Witch or two or three. Or a band of Flying Monkeys. But, all in all, no one can prepare you for the excitement of meeting the grand OZ of skating — NATIONALS! Preparation is much like in the movie, with costuming (sequins galore) and grooming and parading about at your local sendoffs. But once the big doors open and you face the mighty Oz, the excitement begins.

NATIONALS may seems like OZ to some, but in reality it is really a great opportunity for hard working and dedicated athletes to compete against the best in the country. My trek this year as a parent was filled with change, unknowns, and excitement nonetheless. My son has a new skating partner, he graduated high school, moved to another part of the country to train, has new coaches, moved up from novice to junior, and in the chaos of it all, he is having the time of his life and has made a bunch of new friends. On the other hand, my wife and I had to adjust to not having him home! It has not always been easy, but getting back to Nationals for my son is very exciting! So, with no contribution from me other than moral support, I, too, find myself going back to Nationals as a parent. We arrive in the land of Oz (Cleveland) on Saturday. I have to get packing!

This year my blog will be with a different view, one towards just really enjoying being here again. I look forward to returning to Cleveland. We went there for the 2007 Junior Nationals, so we are a bit familiar with the area. I hope to get to see some of the city and explore the West Side Market Place. My real goal is to visit the house from the movie A Christmas Story. One of my favorite movies! I am hoping I will not shoot my eye out!

I am hoping the journey for all the skaters this year will be exciting. In order to achieve their goals they may be asked to melt a wicked witch and bring back the broom, but I am sure they will be able to endure! That is far easier to pull off then most of the amazing tricks they do on their thin blades!

I hope you find the upcoming blog entries to be informative and entertaining. If there is anything you would like to hear about, just let me know. I will try and post an update just about every day. By the end of the week I hope we all have smarter brains, more courage, and a happier heart! I will be clicking those ruby slippers and waking up from the dream, I am sure! But, with this blog it will be like you were all there with me! 🙂

Cleveland, here we come!

posted by IDC Staff at 4:38 PM