Robin & Daphne do Evening with Champions

Or “How not to get lost in Boston”

by Daphne Backman

I left for Boston at around 1:45 p.m. I wasn’t meeting Robin Ritoss until 5:15, but I wanted to do some shopping in Saugus before picking her up.

I didn’t get lost on the way to the airport, but after picking Robin up, we managed to get lost going to the arena. This happens to me EVERY time I go to Harvard, except for last April when I went to Ice Chips. It is easier to be lost with someone in the car with you, rather than getting lost on your own. We had plenty of time, so we did eventually find the way and got to the arena at 6:15.

I have to say that this show was much better organized that ones I had attended in the past. We were able to get our passes and go in before the doors opened. We had to wait for the media seating person to arrive to let us know where we could sit, but getting our passes was no problem. Sometimes they end up being lost somewhere.

While we were waiting, Sarah Brannen came over to say hello before heading to the press area. When we were walking to our seats, I saw Michael Buckley there with Sarah – AHA! Her secret guest blogger. They went down to ice level before the show. Robin could have shot on the ice, but she sat with me in the last row because she could get more photos. She was using the fixed Canon 200/2.8 lens that at ice level doesn’t give you a lot (see my Ice Chips photos). Mark Jahnke came over and told us where our seats were going to be. He and his partner, Roxette Howe, were only skating in the Sunday show.

After the skaters performed the opening number, Paul Wylie explained how long he has been waiting for a top skater to attend Harvard so he could share the spotlight with someone. He’s thrilled to have Emily Hughes as his co-host. I think they did a good job, overall. Emily seemed nervous at times, but it was nice to have her there for the perspective of she has actually competed with some of the performers (YuNa Kim, Rachael Flatt, etc.). I think Emily looked in the best shape I’ve seen her in awhile.

They talked about EWC showcasing local talent (i.e. Team Excel and Jessica Lin on Saturday, but it changed for Sunday’s line-up).

I started to think we were going to have an ‘”Adele” night that started with Jessica Lin skating to “Turning Tables,” then former ice dancer Blake Rosenthal (who attends Harvard and still looks the same) a skater or two later performing to “Someone Like You.”

A month or two ago, I had read on Jason Wong’s Facebook that this might be one of the last times to see him skate as (I think) he has or is focusing full-time on coaching. He skated to “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once. I saw it at Ice Chips in April. His skating seemed to engage the audience.

Charlotte Lichtman & Dean Copely skated to music from Austin Powers, which suits them 100 times more than “Dark Eyes,” which was their free dance at LPIDC. The program looked rough, but a much more “Dean & Charlotte-y” program. The audience liked it a lot.



I had forgotten how much fun Braden Overett is to watch. The quality of skating is just so apparent. He skated to “Carmen” but it was more of a comedic performance. He wore a black wig and held a rose and skated back and forth to different sides of the rink trying to impress someone (whom he ended up not impressing). At one point, he put the rose down and skated around (lovely double Axel right in front of our area) and finished up the program as if to say ta-da.

Yasmin Siraj performed to “Sway” and skated well.

I finally saw the infamous “Mad Hatter” program of Shawn Sawyer’s. TERRIFIC! I wish he had worn the hat. This program was really quite wonderful, and I now know what all the fuss was about with it.

I noticed a change in Rachael Flatt’s skating already. She skated to what sounded like something from Secret Garden, but I’m not sure. She seemed more relaxed in the performance. Hopefully the change in training location will continue to be a positive thing for her. Plus, I think she is someone who thrives by being in school and having a more well-balanced life.

The Haydenettes skated to something Spanish that I believe is their short program, but I’m not sure what the music is called. They set the bar high in U.S. Synchro skating.

Oksana Baiul closed Act I. She skated to an oriental piece of music, and I don’t think she’s been back training very long as there wasn’t a lot of stretch to her spiral. The program started with her in an oriental printed silk wrap and she carried two feathered fans, then she took off the wrap and dropped the fans and skated in what looked like a gold sack, which made for very bizarre photos. 

At intermission, I talked with Charlotte Lichtman’s mom and sister and told them I think the program is a MUCH better choice for them as it showcases their personalities much more than “Dark Eyes.” We chatted about the reduction in Grand Prix assignments including how luck plays into it. Charlotte & Dean (who are in the running for a second assignment) are very unlucky since the teams that have withdrawn so far from the GP have been skating at Skate America (where no other U.S. team could be assigned) or Cup of China (their assigned event). I explained to her, too, that had the team who had retired or split prior to the selection actually taken their names out of consideration, there would have been GP assignments for a few teams who have ended up being bypassed all together so far, like Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus.

After they left, Miss Katie Katherine Copely stopped by to say hi. I told her how much we miss her competing and her blogs. She misses it too, but I think she’s settled in the college life now and is happy. She said she now lives her skating life through Dean.

The only other media person I saw was a guy who sat next to me. He kept tweeting on his phone through the first half. He left at intermission to go and get a few quotes. When he came back, I introduced myself to him. He is Brandon Penny and he has been writing articles for Figure Skaters Online for a while. He is covering this event for Jamie since he lives in Boston. He also writes for on occasion.

After intermission they introduced their 2011 executive team responsible for putting the event together. It included TWO ice dancers — Mark Jahnke and Sam Rashba. I told Robin to be sure to get a photo of them.

The Protopopovs started Act II and received the first standing ovation of the night. They could skate around doing whatever they wanted and people would watch in amazement. They are 75- and 79-years-old and skating royalty, after all.

I heart Gretchen Donlan & Andrew Speroff <3. I hope their jumps get solid because they are just exquisite together. They skated to “Time to Say Goodbye” and their lifts are spectacular. They did everything but jumps in the program, and the audience gave them a partial standing O at the end.

It was cute to hear Paul Wylie talk about Alex Aiken being his student. He’s quite a proud coach of the 2011 U.S. junior bronze medalist, who skated to music by Michael Buble. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a rough skate. 

Christina Gao skated to what I think was her short program from last year — a violin piece. She always looks so happy when she’s on the ice.

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir performed to Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good,” which I had also seen at Ice Chips in April. Great tricks as always, even if Castelli two-footed the throw.

Stephen Carriere has reinvented his skating. I have seen “Mr. Cellophane” three times, and this time he really sold the character better than the two previous times. There were a few jump issues, but I am really interested to see how he does this season.

Ah, Adele. Emily Hughes skated to “Rollin’ in the Deep,” which I love. Paul Wylie said that she is taking this semester to write her thesis on the impact of sports on inner city youth.

 After Emily finished, she made Paul do a spread-eagle for the audience — what a treat!

I hadn’t watched all of the Finlandia videos, so I didn’t see the Shibutanis’ free dance yet. I actually really like this one a lot. The technical part of it is amazing, but something in the presentation still makes me see junior. Then again, I saw that with Meryl & Charlie for a season or two after they moved to the senior ranks, so we’ll see. Alex Shibutani is a Boston sports fan — it’s all over his Twitter and Facebook — and he wore a Lucic Bruins t-shirt for the opening.

Ross Miner is only listed for Saturday’s show. I was surprised since he’s not competing until Skate Canada, but maybe he had a prior commitment. He skated to “My Song” and the crowd loved his cantilever.

YuNa Kim closed the show and was lovely as always. She can really dance! After her performance I realized she didn’t do a single jump at all — and I didn’t care. The audience seemed at a loss at first as to what to do during it, but she got wonderful applause at the end. The music is “Fever” and she wears her hair down. For a Glee reference – GREAT hairography.

While Robin was buying an Evening with Champions vest, I talked to Dean and told him pretty much what I told Charlotte’s mom. He said that he couldn’t speak for Charlotte, but even during the creative process for “Dark Eyes,” he wasn’t feeling it as a program like he does with the Austin Powers medley. 

This is the first year that I didn’t go to the reception. With Robin flying out so early, I thought it was better just to get back to the hotel (if we could get there without getting lost) and go grab some dinner. I only took one wrong turn on our way to the hotel — YAY! We had two choices at 11 p.m. – Dominos pizza or this place called Kouloons which served Chinese/Thai, etc. which is where we ended up. It was OK, but neither of us ended up being big fans.

I don’t think Robin slept last night. She said she hasn’t been sleeping much anyway. We got back to the hotel at 12:30 a.m and her shuttle left at 4 a.m. I slept OK until about 4:30 when I thought someone was trying to break into the room. I’m now certified to handle anything — I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night 😉