2017 Minsk Arena Cup Blog by Avonley Nguyen

September 19, 2017

Our trip to Belarus started with a red-eye flight from Detroit. For first time, Vadym and I arrived at the airport with time to spare, so we were able to have a quick dinner before boarding. Being somewhat of a meticulous planner, I had mapped out in my mind what our schedule for the week would be. I knew that I needed to sleep during the evening flight out so that I would not arrive in Minsk exhausted. I brought my favorite pillow and my comfy sweatshirt to sleep in.

For weeks, I had been successfully practicing the meditation and relaxation techniques that our dance teacher Veronique had showed us, but no matter what I tried, I could not slow down my thoughts on this flight. I was simply too excited!  It would be our first international competition as a team and my first trip to Europe! It would be the first time Vadym got to see his family since coming to Michigan to train. I closed my eyes, but my mind raced as the growing list of exciting first experiences pushed away any possibility of sleep. Vadym was able to doze a bit but after about 5 hours in our seats, we were both restless. Luckily ,we found the perfect solution by watching some quality TV: The Real Housewives (Potomac)!  Neither of us had watched the series before (honest!). We found it entertaining as we could actually watch (no earphones needed) and had fun guessing and substituting our own dialogue for the show 🙂 It worked for us, as we arrived  in Amsterdam in good spirits despite little sleep.

Our connection was delayed 3 hours, so by the time we arrived in Minsk, got through passport control without major hassle (yay!), and picked up our luggage, we were feeling kind of grumpy. Luckily, we were traveling with our coach Igor, who along with being a fantastic teacher and motivator, is a captivating storyteller as well. His travel tales kept us entertained for the duration of the bus ride to the hotel!

~ Avonley


September 20, 2017

Today was our first full day in Minsk. The morning was chilly and rainy, so Vadym’s dad drove us and our team leader to the Minsk Sports Arena. We had our first practice at 9am, in the practice rink which is one of two ice surfaces inside a giant speed skating track. After our practice, we explored the ins and outs of the sports complex, which seemed to be an endless series of subterranean corridors connecting the main competition arena to the practice arena. As I made my way around the same corridor for the third time, I consoled myself that I had met my PE quota of 10,000 steps for the day!

We spent a few minutes relaxing in the skaters’ lounge before heading to the draw.  It was the first time all of the dance teams were together in the same room. Seeing everyone there in their federation jackets was really an awesome moment for me. More than anything, it really impressed upon me that we were at an international event and that we were privileged enough not only to skate, but to represent Team USA.  I was feeling really positive and maybe that was the trick because we got lucky ? in the draw!

After our second practice session, we headed back to the hotel. It was late afternoon and finally a good opportunity (with the time difference) to chat with my friends and family from home. I was able to do some schoolwork before dinner time.  We all got together quickly for some Team USA pictures before getting ready for bed. It’s been a packed day for us and as excited as I am for tomorrow’s short dance, I know I won’t be needing to do many of Veronique’s relaxation techniques before I fall asleep ?!.

~ Avonley


September 21, 2017

I woke up this morning very excited. While I wasn’t particularly hungry, I quickly ate a cereal bar while my mom helped me with my hair. Despite the countless hours watching makeup tutorials on YouTube, I haven’t mastered the task of doing my competition hair and makeup. So, of course, I was running late again as I struggled to find the right combination of mousse and hairspray to keep my very thick hair in place.  As I reapplied the correct mix of foundation and powder, I was feeling a little envious of Vadym who doesn’t need any makeup to look as great as he does.  When I finally made it down to the lobby, I found Vadym sprawled on the furniture taking his usual catnap. One thing I’ve learned about Vadym is he can nap anywhere and anytime!

We had a good practice session and rushed back to the hotel famished, just in time for the breakfast buffet.  The food included pastry, toast, cheese similar to what we would find at home with some Belarusian selections. I was really interested in the salted sardines, savory soup, and Belarusian omelet (looked more like quiche) but decided to wait until after competition to try these 🙂

After breakfast, we returned to our room as we had about an hour to relax before our SD event.  I got a chance to retouch my makeup and it was time to go back.  We arrived at the rink just in time to watch our training mates Christina and Anthony perform. They were phenomenal and seeing them really gave us an energy boost! We quickly ran through our warm up and as we got on the ice, our coach reminded us to just enjoy the moment.  While we waited for our names to be announced, I could see our teammates and families cheering, waving American flags and that made me feel really proud and happy.

Our program flew by and before I knew it, we were in the Kiss and Cry. While waiting for our scores, I was really happy that we skated clean (and that my hair stayed in place).  Although we did not get all our levels at this competition, it is something we can work on we we return home.

After a quick lunch at the rink with Christina and Anthony, we all joined our other teammates on the stands for the ladies event. We got to watch Tessa (Hong) skate a beautiful short program and it was just fun just to hang out with everyone!

~ Avonley

September 22, 2017

Today was the first day since arriving in Minsk where I woke up from a full night’s sleep.  After our morning practice, we stayed at the rink to cheer on our teammates who were competing in the pairs short program. Vadym picked a good row where our flag could be seen by our teammates and we were joined by Nicholas. It was the first time we got to see our pairs teams (Audrey/Misha and Eli/Jonah) and I was really impressed with their lifts and throws!

After the pairs event, we went back to the hotel for lunch. Vadym and I were a little tired of our daily sandwiches so we decided try traditional Belarusian cuisine. My dish was a grilled chicken with cheese and potatoes and it was delicious. Unfortunately Vadym’s selection did not turn out as well, so he ordered another portion of what I was having. We left the restaurant satisfied and went back to our rooms to rest before our event.

I was able to get ready more quickly today and we arrived at the rink without feeling like we needed to rush through our stretching and exercises. Before they announced our names, I quickly located my mom and Vadym’s family in the stands and my nerves settle. There were more people in the arena this evening than there were on Thursday morning for our short dance, so I was feeling pretty comfortable with the energy from the crowd. Perhaps I was feeling too comfortable because out of the blue, I felt my blades slipped from under me during our step sequence. Fortunately, Vadym helped me up quickly and we continued through the rest of our elements. The adrenaline from the fall must have been what carried me through because I had nearly forgotten about the fall until our bow when Vadym whispered that it was ok.

To say that the disappointment of that free dance was the worst I’ve ever felt does not fully describe my misery that evening. I wish I could somehow redo that moment. I felt deeply embarrassed and ashamed that I had let down my partner, coaches and our families and that is how I went to bed that night.

~ Avonley


September 23, 2017

Nguyen & Kolesnik in MinskWhen I went to bed last night (actually early this morning), I thought I would feel better upon waking, but I still wanted to hide from the world and couldn’t find my way out of the hurt. Fortunately, Vadym’s family had planned a trip into the city for us and I had to get myself out of bed. By the time we all got together at the hotel lobby, I wasn’t feeling as devastated. And for sure, all the hugs from both our families helped. Although Vadym’s dad does not speak English, I looked at him this morning and remembered the huge support banner he had made and brought from Ukraine. And, I heard more clearly the words of love and support that both of our moms had spoken, but that I couldn’t hear last night. We had both given this competition our best effort, came in 5th overall, and finished our first JGP satisfied with that.

We all spent the afternoon together and got to go watch a Belarusian car battle. My little brother Alex would love this show as he does  similar things with his Hot Wheels! We had a quick afternoon snack and I was able to squeeze in time for more homework. In a little while, we will head out to the skating exhibition followed by the skaters’ party which caps off our stay in Minsk.

Thank you for reading this blog!

~ Avonley