It’s really difficult to write a post-event blog, especially when one’s mind is still a blur from the activities. Upon checking in at Art Devlin’s (our home base for LPIDC 2006), my first order of business was to insure that the wireless internet was working – it was! (During the event last year, a terrible thunder and lightning storm wiped out the internet in Lake Placid for several days.)
After Michelle arrived, we proceeded to hit HoJo’s for a late lunch (it has become a tradition). Eckerd was our next stop – Michelle purchased a relatively inexpensive photocard reader there in 2005 and we were hoping to get a second one – but much to our dismay, we found that they no longer carried the product. The supermarket next door had gone out of business. Rest assured, an Eckerd cashier pointed us in the direction of a new store and we soon stocked up on snacks. We then decided to travel to the neighboring town to see if Radio Shack had card readers – no luck. We headed back to Lake Placid to arrive just before closing time to make a few purchases at the Olympic Store.
I headed to Gap solo, and upon returning to the hotel answered our yearly “who will we run into first” question – Stephanie Nieminski & Jon Lauten. Michelle was conducting a training session with Dee Eggert, one of our photography volunteers.
After an exhausting day of travel and shopping and knowing it would be one of our few full nights of sleep, I was happy when my head hit the pillow. I was not happy, however, when I heard the passing thunderstorm overhead. I sprang from my bed to make sure all of my equipment was unplugged and THEN remembered how a freak storm wiped out the internet during the 2005 event. I thought outloud about it happening again, and then went back to sleep.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 1ST
I was grateful on Tuesday morning when I found the (wireless) internet was still functioning. Posting photos and other items online in a timely fashion was an important part of our coverage and I was relieved it wouldn’t be delayed – by technical issues anyway.
Getting up and 9 am was technically “sleeping in” when compared to the remainder of the week. Michelle would be heading off to do a photoshoot with Trina (Pratt) and Todd (Gilles) for part of the day and I would hangout at the hotel until the novice free dance practice started at 3 pm (truth be told, a late morning nap was in my plan).
After Michelle left, I was reminded that plans change quickly. Ann Greenthal called to let me know I could come to the rink at any time to pick up the media credentials and to scope out the area. I was there by 11 and spent the remainder of the time in between my arrival and the novice practice verifying the arena’s wireless access, prepping pages for photo posting, uploading the latest Mombo #9 and watching unofficial practice in the 1980 arena. Teams had purchased blocks of ice time, so I got a pre-official practice preview of some elements and programs from those practicing. Michelle had lent me a camera (she brought three) and I decided to test out my photography skills – to see if I was ready to go to the next level or if I should return to my point-and-shoot and capture opening and closing poses and other “standing still” program highlights. I failed on Tuesday. Of course, my knowledge of camera settings is limited. Ooops.
Volunteers Ben Cohen and Sarah Goldberg dropped by to check in during the practice. Sarah will be editing photos, while Ben planned to cover a few events. Ben also agreed to participate in a “Life Beyond the Blades” feature.
I met up with Michelle, Bonnie (Gilles), Trina, Todd and Piper (Gilles) for dinner after Novice Free Dance practice. We had pizza (surprise – my diet of choice in Lake Placid) at Mike’s which was near our hotel. It’s amazing what a little food will do for your mind and body. I felt re-energized.
Returning briefly to the hotel, Michelle noticed a small woven basket – containing clover – had been left in our room. Mombo had struck and left it with a card saying “we make our own luck”. (Post-event update: The clover basket now sits on my window sill at work, keeping my jade plant company, while they have a clear view of Congress Street in Portland).
It was back to the rink to watch the practices for the open compulsory events. The open compulsory dance competition showcases new teams who were not yet prepared for the full event, in addition to students partnered with coaches in the attempt of catching the eye of a potential partner. It also includes teams who prefer to skate in the open events rather than the full compulsory dance competition at their level. Athletes may be ready for 1-2 dances, but not quite ready to perform the 3rd (which is included in a full CD event). Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and Lynn Kriengkrairut had been together just three weeks, but were able to prepare for the open Starlight Waltz and Midnight Blues. From practice, they looked like a good match. Siblings Katy Hill and Augie Hill were competing (and testing) the Golden Waltz. Vitaliy Novikov seemed to be the busiest coach on the ice, partnering with many of his students in various opens.
Back to the hotel by 11.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 2ND
I spent the novice free dance with our “crew” on the judges side, ‘dumping’ Michelle’s photo cards onto my laptop and selecting a photo of each team for ice-dance.com’s page. I then would pass the photos (via jumpdrive) to Danna Thelen our ‘photoshop wizard’. It was during the novice free dance competition that I saw the large green alligator for the first time; thrown onto the ice for the Canadian ice dancers Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill. More on that later.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 3RD
Michelle and I started our day – no matter how early or late – with a morning dose of CNN and hot tea. It helped us stay in touch with the world outside our small Lake Placid bubble that was the 1980 arena. If it was an early day, we were able to get more straight news, whereas a later start might mean more fluff features including Martha Stewart. I also clicked over to ESPN to check out the baseball scores (Go Red Sox!).
Tim Bennett (aka Mr. Crafty) created a beautiful sign spelling ‘ice-dance.com’ in pastel letters, which we hung over the Ben & Jerry’s cart that had become our home base. Normally Section 20 is where I spend most of my time, although this year the bulk of it was spent in Section 8.
In between the groups, I ran into two skaters I didn’t expect to see – Nora Hoffmann & Attila Elek. Hoffmann & Elek were having programs choreographed by Nikolai Morosov, and had come up to watch the free dances. There were more unexpected sightings throughout the week.
Afterward, while Michelle headed back to the hotel, Laura and I went to Bazzi’s. This was my first visit there this week, which is odd since normally it’s my hangout every post-event evening. It’s amazing how exhausted you are, but then you perk up after having something to eat that isn’t candy, soda or chips. At Bazzi’s, Laura and I ran into Elena Grushina. I haven’t had the chance to see her since before the Olympics, so it was good to catch up. I think Laura enjoyed having dinner with the reigning Olympic bronze medalist. Coincidentally, Michelle reminded me that at her first LPIDC she met Ruslan Goncharov at Bazzi’s, while they were both waiting for their take out orders. You never know who you’ll run into in Lake Placid!
I dropped Laura off and returned to the hotel for additional ‘shopping’, ‘cropping’ and posting.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 4TH
For some reason, I thought the OD’s started later on Friday morning. I was wrong and found I needed to function on approximately 5 hours sleep. Not good, especially for a non-morning person. I am the quintisential non-morning person. Ask anyone who knows me. Ask anyone I work with. After the 45 minute commute to work, I will crawl, half-asleep to the elevator and make my way to my office. I realized that caffeine and adrenaline are your best friends at LPIDC. Not that I didn’t already know that, but let’s just say it was re-enforced. Some drink coffee, but my drink of choice for a caffeinated jolt – is a 20 oz bottle of Coke, and that is how I started my day.
Friday was the first day I actually wore a jacket when I left the hotel. It had finally cooled off enough that I thought – finally the cool weather I’ve been waiting for. Before Friday, some of the skaters had commented that they felt hot even on the ice. The rink felt cooler and much more to my liking. Maine, my home state, had been hot before I left and I gloated at the office telling everyone that I was spending my week off in a nice, cool Lake Placid. Though they all questioned, “How do you know it will be cool?” Smugly, I had answered, “In an ice rink, it’s always cold.” Needless to say, I was pleased on Friday when the rink temperature was finally living up to my expectations.
We arrived at the rink to set up during the novice group b compulsory dance final rounds. Michelle dispensed equipment and checked in with photographers. I headed to the opposite side of the rink to watch OD’s. Via jumpdrive I have additional photos to add to ice-dance.com. On my way, I see Ashley Foy and Benji Blum. Ashley is from Connecticut, but lives and trains in Germany. Ice-dance.com hosts her website (Jen is the designer). I wish them good luck in their upcoming Junior Grand Prix event. You never know who you’ll run into here!
Tango OD’s are great in small-medium doses. For today, the music choices ranged from Astor Piazzolla to more modern selections. Bosley and Corona used one such modern selection. I’m not sure of the exact name of the piece, but it is familiar to me because it’s used on a commercial featuring animals (a giraffe helping a telephone repairman by giving him a wrench). After the junior original dances, I headed back to Section 8 to pull photos and prep them for editing while watching the senior OD’s. Before I leave, I am given a special thank you card from my ‘fan club’. A concerned parent offers to bring me lunch – which I graciously accept. On my way back, I ran into Dianna Deavers. She explained that she was unable to get her photos off her camera and was quickly running out of space on her cards. I told her to stop by and I would try to get them off the camera and onto my laptop and then burned onto a CD. In appreciation, she’d gladly trade one of her extra card readers – a luxury item for us.
I stop to grab Michelle a salted pretzel – her food of choice.
I continued on my way and was stopped by several parents to talk about the NJS (new judging system) and the limits on blade-to-head lifts. Despite the limit on the lifts, there are still a great number of skaters cutting their fingers, hands, hair and heads while pulling their bodies into biellmann positions. This was a recurring topic of discussion over the rest of the week.
I took my place at my station and began dumping photos onto Michelle’s laptop and then using my laptop to update the website. After the group a skaters had finished, she needed a break and asked me to shoot the group b skaters. Remember my first foray into on ice photography? Not so good. I’m hoping for better results this time. I’m nervous and it takes me some time to get used to the equipment – it’s the massive, beastly Canon camera. Wow. I try standing up. I try moving to another seat. Various things that don’t work. Finally, I find a place that I feel comfortable and keep shooting. Michelle tells me that I take too many photos for compulsories. I tell her that I need to warm up.
I get through the Starlight Waltz. My photos are ok. It’s a hard CD to photograph with not many visible highlights. Michelle reviews some of my work and tells me good job. It means a lot coming from her as I consider her to be one of the best and she’s as particular as I am. On to the Samba where I RULE! I had such a great time and I build more confidence when I review my work. Wow, not bad. I laugh when I view a photo of Tomarchio & Sinchak where I managed to shoot just Nick’s head.
Seniors are about to take the ice when Dianna stops by. We successfully transfer all of her photos to my laptop and I then burn them to a CD for her. We chit chat while watching the senior compulsories and I upload more photos.
Bazzi’s x 2! We wrap up everything at 9 and head to Bazzi’s for pizza. Yum! Laura Fawcett joins us (Michelle, Laura and I) and we enjoy pizza and garlic bread with cheese. The Rugby players have arrived in full force, despite news that the event had been postponed. A couple of rowdy locals start making noise. One of them references “We ain’t scared of Big Papi”. I chuckle. Everyone is afraid of Big Papi aka David Ortiz, home run king of the Boston Red Sox. Of course I say nothing. I am a rogue in Yankee country. I drive both Laura’s back to their hotels and on the way back, Michelle gasps as I nearly run over a foursome wearing identical clothes.
By Friday, I’m pretty well mentally and physically spent. I go through a mental checklist and devise a plan for Saturday, hoping to check in with anyone I haven’t yet seen. I put up more photos.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 5TH
Saturday was a partial sleep in day. I was thankful to have the extra rest. Saturday brings the end of the event. In some ways, it seems to have gone by quickly and in others, it seems like we’ve been here for several weeks. The exhaustion sets in and sleep deprivation becomes a factor.
We get to the rink and I help Michelle get set up, check in with the volunteers and head to the otherside of the rink. Laura (volunteer) is heading for home after watching some of the junior compulsory dance finals. She’s going to Italy with her family for two weeks. Danna is at work editing photos and Sarah drops off solo photos from the past few days. Still, I’m unsure how Michelle is keeping track of everything.
I watch the junior compulsory final rounds in Section 22. I’m still impressed by the improvement in so many of the teams and the debuts of the new teams. I stop and chat with friends on my way back to Section 8. My ‘fan club’ brings us lunch from Jack Frost’s – it’s delicious and much appreciated. Michelle continues to shoot the novice compulsory super final while I return to Section 22 and continue to upload edited photos. The novice teams have performed beyond my expectations. On paper, it looked to be highly competitive and on the ice it did not disappoint. I began to wonder what good luck charms the University of Delaware novice teams had brought with them as their teams had quite a successful week. Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring finished first in all of the compulsory dance events and second in their free dance group. In addition to Bailey and Herring’s 1st place, UDel teams finished 2nd (Anastasia Cannuscio and Dean Copely), 3rd (Isabella Cannuscio and Ian Lorello) and 5th (Genevieve Deutch and Alexander Lorello) in the CD superfinal. 6 of the teams competing in the superfinal were new partnerships with Deutch & Lorello and Maia and Alex Shibutani as the only returning teams to qualify. Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, Ilana Morse and Justin Morrow and Megan Evans and Nathan Truesdell also qualified.
We gained the assistance of Maia and Alex (Shibutani) after the novice event concluded. They helped us with on and off ice photography, photo editing and costume notes on the competing teams.
At the conclusion of the junior superfinal, I receive a message delivered by Evan (Bates) and Keiffer (Hubbell) that I’m needed by Michelle to shoot the juvenile free dance, so she can complete her off ice shoots with both Ann Arbor teams. I comply and think that photographing the juvenile free dance might be fun.
It was so much fun to shoot this event – comparable to the Silver Samba from Friday. Though I may have taken more photos than necessary, I finally felt at ease with the camera and was able to capture the highlights of the programs. It was fabulous! I am pleased with my progress throughout the week. Of course, it’s helpful to have the best equipment and a good teacher.
Michelle came back in time to take over for the intermediate free dance. I was ready to give up the camera. Though exciting, it’s hard work and I have even more of an appreciation for those behind the lens than I had before. She reviewed the photos from the shoot she had just completed with the kids and parents while I finished downloading my juvenile free dance shots. I was pleased. I was ecstatic. It was a great accomplishment as there were many usable photos.
The intermediate free dance finished up, and Michelle went off in search of quotes while my mission was to shoot the awards ceremonies. I was surprised as Mombo delivered a bag of gummy bears and a rice crispy treat for the road.
We met up at Section 8 and began packing up the equipment for the final time. I double checked in between the seat rows to make sure we hadn’t lost any memory cards, jump drives or peripherals. I detached our pastel sign from the wall and we left the arena for the last time. We said goodbye to our much appreciated volunteers. As we walked out, arena personnel began cleaning up and across the rink I noticed a few family members reviewing photos at the kiosk. As we headed to the elevator, we passed the folded registration tables and totes containing information from the week’s events. A few parents and athletes were walking out behind us. We’re all stragglers, possibly trying to hold on to the final bits of Lake Placid magic before we begin our journeys home.
We’re starved. I order a pizza for delivery from a local store while I pack and Michelle reviews more photos. The pizza arrives. Edible, but not the best. Not Bazzi’s. At this point, we don’t care as we’re hungry. I am packed and Michelle and I take turns showing each other photographs that we had taken during the day.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 6TH
I often use the ride home as a sort of deprogramming from the week. I compare it to defragmenting my hard drive. There is a lot to process from the week and and trying to combine all the ‘fragments’ and creating a mental ‘to do’ list is a priority. It normally will take me several weeks to catch up (posting the remaining photos, reports, and other items) before I can begin to work on any new projects. The event as a whole lived up to my expectations – it always does. It showcased wonderful performances of programs (and some partnerships) in their infancy.
The audience at Lake Placid is always supportive of all the teams – no matter where they are from. Of course, it’s easy to differentiate the sections – for example, University of Delaware, Ann Arbor FSC, SCOB, Detroit/Canton and Canadian parents to name a few – but at the end of each performance, each section showed support for the teams; a unified applause. I think it is because each parent knows the amount of time, training, money and effort involved in getting to this point in the season and can appreciate each others sacrifice; and it’s only August.
Tim Bennett, photographer
Ben Cohen, writer
Jordan Cowan, photo editor
Dee Eggert, photographer
Laura Flagg, writer
Sarah Goldburg, photo editor
Angie Goldman, photographer
Brenda Lauten, photographer
Kara Lingenfelter, special assignment photographer
Lynn Rutherford, writer
Alex Shibutani, special assignment photographer/assistant
Maia Shibutani, photographer/assistant
And finally, special thanks to those who submitted postcards (you can still submit them), our fan club for their support, and of course, Mombo #9. We could not have covered this event without all of your hard work! It was very much appreciated.