Article by Karen Frank
Timing is everything. And in ice dance, the best time to find a new partner is in late winter or early spring, in order to have enough time to put together programs for the Lake Placid Competition in August. Find your partner in late Spring, and things become a little stressful. Partnerless in July? No hope of getting assigned to any international events. Partnerless by September 1? You’ve missed the deadline to register for the qualifying events for U.S. Nationals. . . and your season is over just as the Junior Grand Prix events are beginning. So when Logan Giulietti-Schmitt’s partnership with Mauri Gustafson ended in late June 2006, there was a very real chance that the next time he got to compete at Nationals it, would be 2008.
“I was of course worried at first,” Logan said, “but after a couple of long discussions with my coaches and parents we all knew that I had to start looking for a new partner immediately if I wanted to salvage my season.”
Time was not on his side. . . but luck was. A couple weeks after beginning his search, he had a tryout with Lynn Kriengkrairut. “My parents and I drove the 18 hours to Ann Arbor looking forward to a 3-day tryout (Saturday, Sunday, Monday). However, on Sunday, we agreed to a partnership,” Lynn said. Not only did they agree to a partnership, they agreed to start it that very moment, and Lynn stayed in Ann Arbor, even though she only had with her enough clothes for the weekend tryout. “Fortunately, Karl Edelmann’s family offered to have me stay with them until I got my own apartment. My parents, on the other hand, had to drive home and go back to work. I was left with my three different outfits to wear until my parents shipped my other clothes.”
At that point, the Lake Place Ice Dance competition was less than a month away. The new team didn’t have enough time to put together an original dance or a free dance, and barely enough time to get to know each other, but they entered some of the open CD events anyway. “It was very difficult training our compulsories for Lake Placid given our new partnership and the stress of the competition being so close. We, however, did what we could to become comfortable with each other and prepare as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” Logan said. Lynn didn’t even question whether or not to compete. “It’s always difficult to adjust to a new partner and new coaches’ styles and techniques alone. But, I was excited more than anything else, even though there were only three weeks until Lake Placid. I actually wanted to get one of the programs started or compete the junior compulsories instead of doing the open events, but our coaches didn’t want to add any stress, so they encouraged us to just do the open compulsories.”
From an agreement to be partners to their first competition in three weeks. Time moves quickly.
Then. . .
Just about six months after the Lake Placid competition, Lynn and Logan were standing on the National podium wearing bronze medals. Not bad for a team that had only been together seven months. As Lynn puts it, “I was ecstatic to even be going to Nationals! We weren’t looking for a finish on the podium. We wanted to skate well and clean, with no major mistakes. Though we weren’t too concerned about the placements, we were expecting to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, maybe rounding out the top six.” “Well, our goal was to be on the podium,” said Logan, “but mainly we just wanted to skate well and show that we developed into a strong team in a short time.” He continued, “We always strive to reach our highest goals and knew this was a definite possibility. It was exciting to know that this was within our grasp; however, we didn’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves so we put this in the back of our minds and just focused on performing well.”
While Lynn may have dreamed of finishing in the top three, it was not a result she would have predicted. “I suppose anything is possible, but making the podium and the Junior Word team was unexpected.”
“When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
What Lynn and Logan achieved at 2007 Nationals was not impossible. As long as a team competes in all phases of the competition, it’s possible to finish anywhere in the field. Given the field, certain placements are more probable than others. This may explain how a new team might have the goal of finishing on the podium, but still feel that particular result was unexpected. Unexpected, but thrilling. “Words couldn’t possibly describe the feelings and emotions I felt at that time,” Lynn said. “It was one big overwhelming wave of shock and happiness.”
The USFSA then named Lynn and Logan to the Junior World team – certainly a major event for an international debut. “I felt that we were a little less experienced because we hadn’t had the chance to compete internationally,” said Logan. “However, in a way, being in this position was a good thing because there was less pressure on us.” Lynn agrees: “I didn’t feel that we had a lot of pressure to place well; most of the pressure came from our desire to just skate well for ourselves.”
With little pressure on them Lynn and Logan finished 11th at their first international event (and finished 9th in the Freedance).
How does a team go from “zero to sixty” in a little over half a year?
It helps that they train in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at what has become one of the top training centers in the U.S. When Lynn and Logan finished third at Nationals, their training mates, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, and Madison and Kieffer Hubbell were ahead of them in first and second. Coaches Iaroslava Netchaeva & Iouri Tchesnitchenko seem to have found the secret to success.
“Our coaches are phenomenal. Yasa and Iouri are extremely passionate, dedicated and fair to all their students. They compliment each other perfectly and devote all their time to bettering our skating skills and performances,” said Logan. Added Lynn, “It’s a great place to be and I love it! The training is intense–you won’t find any team giving less than 110% each session every day, and our coaches wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s an extremely motivating environment with a great program. Yasa and Iouri, are incredibly dedicated to making their teams the best they can be. They work so hard and have developed a very structured program that helps us in all areas, on and off the ice. We always know what we need to do everyday; keeping that consistency in our training has helped things almost become ‘habit’.”
Having several competitive teams train together intensifies that environment, and Lynn and Logan consider their training mates to be part of the formula that makes Ann Arbor such a great place to be. “It’s very motivating and inspiring to be skating with them,” Lynn said. “When I first came, I was in awe–I kept thinking about how I read about them in the U.S. figure skating magazines and online, and now I was skating on the same ice as them. Now that we’ve become great friends, I don’t find myself as star-struck! (haha) They are such hard working teams and I feel that in our training environment with so many hard working teams, we all feed off of each other and push each other every day.” Stated Logan, “having them on the ice is one of the reasons that Ann Arbor has become a successful training center. They are wonderful people and great skaters, which helps motivate everyone at the rink. We all motivate each other to do better and work harder.”
Even beyond Ann Arbor, there’s a substantial amount of depth in U.S. Ice Dancing these days. Several American-born skaters with dual citizenship (and some without) have chosen to compete for other countries. Since Lynn is of Thai heritage, it would be natural to at least ponder the possibility of skating for Thailand. “Yes, we have briefly thought about it, but it was never seriously considered. Lynn and I have always wanted to represent the U.S. and are proud that we do,” said Logan. “We are happy skating for the U.S., added Lynn. “Representing the U.S. internationally is a great honor.”
And this spring, this new team achieved another improbable. Having aged out of Juniors, Lynn and Logan were hoping to use the 2007 Lake Placid Competition to show they were ready for a Senior B assignment. “We were mainly hoping for a good debut on the senior level at Lake Placid and Nationals and hoping for possible senior international assignments for the 2008-2009 season, Lynn said. “Getting a GP never really crossed my mind.” But when the Grand Prix assignments were released, Lynn and Logan learned they were being sent to Cup of Russia. Both of them were amazed.
“When I got the call from Yasa informing me that we had received a Grand Prix assignment I didn’t believe her at first. It took me days for it to settle in and actually realize that it was true,” said Logan. “It has always been a dream of mine to represent the US internationally at the senior level so it was even more unbelievable for me when I got the news.”
As Lynn stated, “I recall saying, “Excuse me? Are you serious?” over the phone to Yasa who was informing me of this exciting news. I was jumping off the walls; I was extremely excited. I was convinced I was in some sort of dream for a while..haha. It took some time for the news to soak in.”
All this and the team hadn’t even been together a year yet. Maybe what may seem like not enough time, is really just enough time to achieve the improbable.
“We’re always trying to step up our training and move our skating to the next level,” Lynn said. “We hope that with our hard work we will continue to improve and earn additional assignments in the future.”
With that said, their goals for the future seem a lot closer to possible.
To learn more about this team and keep track of their season, check out their website, http://www.ice-dance.com/lynn-logan