When and how did you each start skating (age, reason & location)?

RACHAEL: I started skating when I was three years old. I skated in the Snow Plow Sam classes in my hometown at the Berkley Ice Arena ( Berkley, MI). My Grandma Richardson wanted me to skate. She thought it would be fun for me to spend an hour or so on the ice each day, and because I had so much energy, she thought the exercise would be good for me.

My first coach was Rachel Bauld-Lee. She took me to my first competition when I was five years old at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, which, of course, is where I now train with Brad. It was the Ann Arbor Springtime Invitational. Rachel Lee was my coach for eight years.

BRAD: I started skating at eight years old in Houston, Texas. I went to a friend’s birthday party at the local ice rink (Texas Ice Stadium) and loved it so much that I started taking skate school classes. I took skate school classes for about six months and then started to take private lessons.

When I was ten years old, I started ice dancing with my coach Elise Lamb and instantly loved it. After I had learned a few dances and taken some dance tests, I decided I wanted to find a partner. My coach set up a few tryouts, and at eleven years old I decided to quit freestyle when I found my first partner.

Tell us about how your partnership was formed:

RACHAEL & BRAD: In March of 2006 we were both looking for a partner. Rachael noticed that Brad was on IcePartnerSearch.com. Rachael’s coach, Tatiana Deych, called Brad’s Mom and, coincidentally, Brad was coming to Detroit for try-outs. We had a try-out in Detroit in March, we both knew immediately that we had found our partner, but we both had other try-out obligations. Then in April, Rachael traveled to Plano, TX for the 1st Annual IcePartnerSearch Try-outs. Here we skated together again, and that was it. We just clicked, and we both wanted to become a team. “We both have similar goals in skating. We are both very determined. We just knew it was right.”

When you narrowly missed qualifying for Nationals in 2007, how did this motivate you for the 2007/08 season? What changes did you make?

RACHAEL & BRAD: It was very hard to miss going to Nationals by such a close score, but when it happened, it did motivate us to re-evaluate how we train, and what we wanted for the next season and beyond.

We decided that we needed a change. We decided to move to Ann Arbor and train with Yasa and Iouri. We loved the way Yasa and Iouri worked and loved the atmosphere with all of the hard working teams. It was the perfect place for us to train.

What do you feel were your biggest improvements since Sectionals 2007?

RACHAEL & BRAD: With a lot of help from our coaches, I think our biggest improvement since Sectionals 2007 is our synchronization. I think we are much more together than we were our first season together.

You had a strong debut in the original and free dance events at LPIDC in 2007, but you placed lower in the compulsory portion. How are you working to improve your compulsories?

RACHAEL & BRAD: When we received the second highest scores for our free dance, we were very excited. Then came a fourth place in our group for our original dance — great! But when it came to compulsory dances, we just didn’t get the scores we wanted. We are spending more time on our compulsories and are also working on improving our speed and power.

What are your goals for the 2008/2009 season?

RACHAEL & BRAD: We want to come back strong at LPIDC. We want to improve as much as we possibly can and place well enough at Lake Placid to earn JGPs for the upcoming season.

Brad, can you talk about the injury to your knee?

BRAD: I first noticed I was having problems with my knee in June of 2007. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it kept getting worse and worse. I went to see a doctor in July, and they suggested that I get an MRI.

After reviewing the MRI results, they realized that I had torn my meniscus, and that the tear could only be fixed through surgery. They suggested I get surgery right away because they were worried I was going to damage the cartilage and then we’d have some serious problems.

Because we had already worked so hard preparing all of our programs for the upcoming season, I didn’t want to ruin it [before it even started]. I decided to postpone the surgery until our season was over.

How did this hamper your training over the past six months?

BRAD: After Lake Placid my knee continued to give me a lot of pain. It seemed like every week it was getting worse and worse. When I would skate, it started to pop and would lock occasionally to where I couldn’t bend or straighten it without excruciating pain. Towards the end of a long section or run- through my knee would give out on me to where I couldn’t support myself on my right leg.

I went to the doctor again in September and they suggested I try physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles around my knee, which was supposed to help relieve some pain.

After a month of physical therapy my knee was in even worse condition than it was before. My physical therapist once again recommended I get surgery right away in fear that I would damage more of my knee than just the meniscus.

I stopped physical therapy and just continued to skate with the symptoms. I wasn’t able to skate the full amount of time that I had been skating before my injury, so we had to prioritize and use our time wisely on the ice.

What exactly was the injury? How long will you have to be off the ice?

BRAD: I just had surgery on January 30th. Going into the surgery, the doctors weren’t sure how bad the damage was. Only so much can be seen on an MRI. The only way to really find out what is wrong is to go inside and look.

We were all kind of up in the air, not knowing what was going to be fixed or how long the healing time was going to be, until I woke up. Well, when I woke up they explained to me that what I had wasn’t a torn meniscus, but a bone spur on my tibia and some “roughening” on my kneecap.

They also had to do a Lateral Retinacular Release, which is when they cut the ligaments on the outer side of my knee to allow normal tracking of the kneecap. Unfortunately, the healing time for a Lateral Release is a little longer than that of a torn meniscus. They also had to insert a drain in the knee, which was removed a few days after surgery.

Total recovery time for this operation is about 2 to 3 months until it’s completely healed. I’m doing physical therapy three times a week, and I should be able to start skating gradually soon. I’m just happy it’s all over with!

Brad, you trained in Dallas for most of your career. How is training in Ann Arbor different?

BRAD: The atmosphere is so different in Ann Arbor. We have such a good relationship with everyone we train with on and off the ice, constantly pushing and supporting each other to do our best. Our coaches are so professional and hard working, I just can’t say enough about them. I know this is the right place for Rachael and I.

What do you like best about skating with each other?

RACHAEL: “Brad is a terrific partner. He is a true friend. We are respectful and considerate to each other. Because of this positive attitude in our relationship, I feel that we are able to accomplish a lot on the ice. I feel very comfortable expressing my ideas, and I also feel comfortable listening to Brad’s ideas and concerns. I think that Brad is an excellent ice dancer, and he motivates me every day to be better.

I want to say that I am also very proud of Brad. This was a very difficult season for him. He went through a lot of pain with his knee, but he never complained. He worked hard each day. I think that says a lot about who he is!”

BRAD: “Rachael is an awesome partner. She has been very supportive of me this season, and I don’t think I could’ve gotten through these past 7 months without her.

We get along great on and off the ice, and we communicate very well with each other. I’m so lucky to call her my partner and my friend. I can’t imagine skating with anyone else.”

What do you feel are the biggest benefits of skating in a major training center like Ann Arbor with Coaches Yasa & Iouri and other experienced teams?

RACHAEL & BRAD: We are motivated by all the teams we train with and especially by our coaches Yasa and Iouri.

We would say the biggest benefit is the motivation we get from training side by side Emily and Evan, Lynn and Logan, Madison and Keiffer, KK and Karl, Anastasia & Jordan, and Elyse & Patrick. When you train next to these hard working and successful teams, it does motivate us to be better each day.

Yasa and Iouri are great coaches. They are very dedicated to us and to all of their teams. They have a great system for training, and it is just a very positive environment to be in.