The Long Ride Home…

My roommate headed out at 7:15 this morning; I chose to sleep just a bit longer. The keys were dropped off at Art’s front desk and I was then on my way.

I took a little time to look once more at the mountains and the Lake Placid surroundings. So much changes between visits, that you never know what you’ll find the next time you arrive.

The next event I attend will be US Nationals in January; it’s months away. In between are many junior and senior internationals and sectional championships. Though it seems months away, it always flies by so quickly – both for me and for the athletes who are back at home perfecting their programs and preparing for whichever event is next. For the long season ahead – I wish everyone Good Luck!

I hope you enjoyed my coverage from the Junior Grand Prix event in Lake Placid. Each time I attend an event, I try to keep my blog more up-to-date during the event and each time I think I’m improving.
Special thanks to USFS and Icenetwork for allowing me to be part of their first event of the season and to Michelle Wojdyla for the use of her equipment.

See you in St. Paul!




It’s Over

The final two events – pairs and ladies free skates – have ended and all the awards have been dispensed. I enjoyed shooting the podium as the dancers were all smiles and you could tell they’re happy to have gotten the first event under their belts.

It was a (mostly) calm event and no one was carried off the ice on a stretcher. There were moments of joy and tears of sadness, amazing skates and disappointing finishes, and only a few cuts and bruises along the way.

For me, it was different to see pairs and singles skating in the 1980 rink, which has for the last five years been an ice dance hub during the first week of August. I’m glad that those who had never been to Lake Placid, had the opportunity to see how beautiful it is.

After packing everything up for the last time, I (along with my roommate and a few friends) stop by the Hawaiian Luau (aka the closing banquet for the skaters, coaches and officials). They’ve turned the Lussi rink into a beach volleyball court, smoothie stand and disco. It looks wonderful; though I think next time the US hosts the JGP, they should do “Mardi Gras”.

A trip to Lake Placid is never complete without a trip to Bazzi’s or at the very least – delivery of one of their delicious pizza pies to your hotel room. It’s time for final chats and packing before heading back to our regular lives.



Zombies in Herb Brooks Arena

Ok, not literally. Most may watch the live feed, so I’m not going to be detailed here.

Canada’s Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill drew first to skate in the free dance and performed really well. their final lift – straight line with Hill on one foot and pulling his other leg up behind him – is creative and strong. I hope Skate Canada will assign them to another JGP event. Big hugs for them from their coach, Carol Lane. After a disappointing compulsory dance, they came back strong in the OD and FD.

Second to skate were Anastasia Galyeta and Semen Kaplun of Ukraine. I believe this is their first season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and they look younger than most of the other teams. They did ok – skating wise – for their first JGP, but are not up to the caliber of the teams closest to them standings-wise. Parts of the program were sloppy. There really wasn’t much information available on this team prior to or during the event, so I’m not sure if they’re a veteran team or if they formed their partnership recently.

Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring (USA) are up next. I loved 300 (the movie) and am glad that a team picked the music for their program. Kyle is expressive; Sara looks like she is feeling better, but not quite 100%. They had a problem on their twizzles. Overall, they skated ok for their first JGP. Their performance at LPIDC was better in some parts, but kudo’s to them for giving all they had today.

France’s Maureen Ibanez and Neil Brown are the last to skate in group 1. Neil’s parents are Scottish and British, but he was born in France. I don’t think I mentioned before that they are a last minute replacement for Scarlet Rouzet and Lionel Rumi who had to withdraw due to injury. Ibanez and Brown are coached by Muriel Boucher-Zazoui and train in Lyon. Their free dance is to music by Cirque Du Soleil and they had a nice performance. I’m interested in seeing how they progress once they’ve been skating together longer.

Group 1 ends and Group 2 takes the ice. Samuelson and Bates look like the class of the field – they should as they’re the reigning silver medalists from last year’s JGP Final.

Charlene Guignard and Guillaume Paulmier of France start us off. I’m not sure I like their costumes, but the program is an interesting concept. Music is Zombie by The Cranberries (hence the title of my blog). Problems on twizzles and one of the lifts; the program still looks like they’re working on it. I tried to find out more about them this week, but still don’t know where they train or who their coach is.

USA’s Pilar Bosley and John Corona are up next skating to “Still Loving You” by the Scorpions and Berlin Orchestra. MILES better than LPIDC. Lifts and twizzles were good; they looked more confident as the event progressed and in the free dance skated well. I think they can give even more in the performance. Third place overall earns them a second assignment.

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates follow Bosley and Corona, skating to “Luna” by Alessandro Safina. They replaced training mates, Madison and Keiffer Hubbell. As I said earlier, this is a fresh, mature look from them. The program is full of choreography that showcases their unison. A few stumbles near the end hurt them score-wise, but through most of it they were selling it and skated well. They look back on track for the season. Looking forward to reports from Austria on how they skate it there.

The final team of the event is Joanna Lenko and Mitchell Islam of Canada. I saw the program at LPIDC and they’ve been working on perfecting it since then. It’s a latin theme and the music includes Besame Mucho (rhumba) and Tango Tango (samba). The performance was better than LPIDC – both in performance and expression. They’re at a good point with the program for this early in the season. Good job!




At the final dance practice, several others in attendance voiced their opinions on the JGP LP soundtrack. I guess I’m not alone.

Sara Bailey is starting to feel better. Though the Bailey/Herring family groups had decided they might not wear their all-American shirts today, I encouraged them to. I think it does Team USA good to see them in the stands dressed in colors of support. Kyle is supporting Sara through their free dance practice – signs of a good partner.

Samuelson and Bates have an elegant, beautiful program to “Luna” by Alessandro Safina. Their coach told me that he saved this music for a time when they would be mature enough to present it well. Even at 8:30 am, it’s lovely and shows a more grown-up side of Emily and Evan. The costumes are also different than what I’ve seen them wear. I think they’ll fit in well at Nationals at the senior level. Bosley and Corona look more confident in their practice – a medal is within their grasp. Pasquale Camerlengo built their free dance to highlight Pilar and John’s strong skating skills and it works for them. I think this type of program and music suits them very well and it’s the best free dance they’ve had.

Ralph and Hill are skating their “Rainforest” program that helped them win a Canadian National title at the Novice level in 2007. They have a good practice.

Again, I’m making mental notes of program highlights.

After practice, I have a great breakfast a diner on Main Street. I ordered two biscuits and bacon – not knowing the biscuits were about three times the size I expected. Leaving the rink during the timeframe between practice and the free dance competition was a great idea. I feel more refreshed and ready to tackle the remainder of the event.


The Very Short Soundtrack

For some reason, whoever is managing the music at the rink (during practices when no one is skating their run-throughs or when groups are warming up) has an extremely short list of songs to play. At this point, I’ve become tired of these songs:

“It’s Not Over” by Chris Daughtry
“Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5
“Shut Up and Drive” by Rihanna
“Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows



Original Dance & The View from Here

Prior to the OD, I developed an intense migraine headache. Lack of food or caffeine and dehydration causes them, at least for me. Two bottles of water and a hamburger later, I’m ready to go.

Emily had stitches at a local hospital after the practice ended this morning.

The original dance competition was very enjoyable and you can see quite a bit behind the camera lens. Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring presented their Greek original dance minus the head scarves they wore at LPIDC. Sara has been nursing an extremely sore throat which is unfortunate. Ibanez and Brown’s (France) program to folk music from India is entertaining. Though they are still working out the new team kinks, they appear to be a good physical match. Their countrymen, Guignard and Palmier, do not receive a music deduction for their country OD, which surprises me, though it is a fun performance.

I thought Kalinka might be the most over-used piece of music this season, but it suits Samuelson and Bates. Though it contained some mistakes, the performance was not lacking in presentation or enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to seeing how this program develops over the season.

Bosley and Corona’s Turkish OD was much improved from Lake Placid. John’s costume had been reworked and Pilar added a head scarf. When I had seen it earlier in the week, I wondered if it would get in the way of the performance, but it didn’t. I think there is potential in the program, but at least the second half of the spin needs to be changed as it’s much slower than the beginning part. The Ukrainians, Galyeta and Kaplun appear young and new to international competitions, but give a respectable performance to Armenian folk music.

My favorite original dance of the event is Ralph and Hill’s African folk program. They skated it well, and with great expression. Their 3rd place result helped them inch up to 5th overall which to me is a better indication of what they are capable of in their first season on the JGP. Lenko and Islam’s Russian folk OD was well skated. I like their costumes, including his hat/head scarf.

There is just enough time between the OD and ladies short program for me to pull photos for Ice Network. I then realize that men’s awards will be that night and devise a plan for the podium shots – I’ll be on the ice (or rather on a carpet on the ice).

After the ladies short program, I went to Nicola’s with a few friends for a much needed break and some dinner.

The men’s free skate was eventful and I felt more comfortable behind the camera. When I go back to the media room to switch to a shorter lens for the podium shots, I find out that Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox has a no-hitter going into the 8th. Baseball news is one little connection to the world outside Lake Placid. The Sox lost the four previous games, including three against the Yankees and the race for the division is getting too close for any Sox fan to handle.

Being on the ice in the 1980 rink is quite an experience. I have even more respect for the athletes for what they accomplish on such a slippery surface. It’s a different perspective looking up at Section 8/9, our LPIDC home base. The medallists receive their awards and look extremely pleased with their medals. The presentations go quickly and with a quick victory lap it’s soon over.



Twizzles and Folk OD’s

Each day, the dance practices start earlier, with today’s starting at 8am. I photographed the original dance practice from opposite the judges side to view programs in a different perspective. Though most dance choreography places highlights facing the judges, there are also some elements that are either too close to the boards or facing opposite the judges side. I took mental notes during this time as well. With there being only eight teams, it wasn’t too difficult to remember specific elements of interest.

Not long after practice started, I noticed Emily had left the ice. Turns out, Evan had accidently cut her while they were working on their twizzle sequence. Evan proceeded to skate the run-through of their program on his own, and Emily returned later in the practice with a bandaged knee.

Prior to the event, I had told a few attendees about Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill’s ‘African Folk’ OD. It was one of my favorites from LPIDC. They had a good practice and didn’t show any signs of looking defeated after their CD mistake. Maureen Ibanez and Neil Brown from France are skating to folk music from India – the costumes and choreography match the theme very well. I (as well as several others in attendance at the practice) wondered if the music Charlene Guignard and Guillaume Paulmier chose for their “American Country” OD would receive a deduction. There has been a lot of emphasis on authenticity of music and costuming and we wondered if the Dixie Chicks would count as authentic. They also used a ‘techno’ sounding country piece that reminded me of “Cotton Eye Joe”, but wasn’t.

After the morning dance practice, I worked on my blog and photos. Even though I’m not able to post as much or as often as I would like, I try to get my thoughts down. The pace at the JGP is much more relaxed than LPIDC.



Elegant Waltzes…

The Viennese Waltz is an elegant dance. Although I’ve seen some teams skate it so agressively that the expression looks more like a Tango. This was not so in the CD event on Friday. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates performed like the classy skaters they are. Their waltz was light, but powerful and expressive. Bosley and Corona have strong compulsories and it appeared as though they were floating across the ice from beginning to end. Canada’s Lenko and Islam finished 3rd with a solid performance. Their teammates Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill had a stumble which cost them points and placements – they are in 7th.

USA’s Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring are soaking in all of the experience at their first Junior Grand Prix event.

My reports will most likely be brief impressions as doing double duty makes it difficult – I’m used to taking notes.



Photography 101 …

In case I failed to mention, I’m photographing all of the competitive events for USFS/Icenetwork. This is one of the reasons my reports and photos are not more timely. Michelle graciously offered to UPS her equipment to me for my first big gig. It’s a different type of pressure when you’re taking photos for someone else. This is also my first time photographing non-dance events. I’m still in the learning process, but so far I think it’s going pretty well.

CD Report and Photos coming after this morning’s practice.



Fun on Friday!

The media room is a quiet little place. I stopped in for a few minutes before taking a spot to shoot the compulsory dance practice – the room was empty.

The room where medals are handed out for some of the LPIDC events is now home to the press conference and draw room.

It’s strange to be walking around here and expecting to know more people than you do.

I said to another media person earlier that I love that ice dancers dress like they’re going to the Oscars when they come to practice. The dresses were beautiful. It makes it fun to watch. Even if you don’t enjoy watching compulsory practices, it’s always intriguing to see what the dancers are wearing. It’s normally either their competitive costumes, or some scaled down version.

I took a break to have some lunch and came back to type this blog. Unfortunately, it’s now 2:30 and I have 15 minutes until the first event. Shooting practice is one thing, and an event is another…. wish me luck!




Thursday’s Catch Up Blog

Having missed the morning practice, the afternoon practice was the first opportunity I had to view the teams and their programs; well most of them. It was interesting to see the little nuances that have been added, the changes that have been made and prior mistakes that are now more perfected since I saw them less than a month ago. It was also an opportunity to see the French, Ukrainians and the season debut of Samuelson & Bates.

Though you get to see tidbits of programs in the practice sessions, they tend to come alive during the competitive performance. In group one, Samuelson and Bates were working on their original dance, set to Kalinka. On of the French teams is skating to “Zombie” by the Cranberries. Lenko and Islam chose to work on their free dance. In group 2, Bailey and Herring and Ralph and Hill practiced their free dances, while Bosley and Corona worked on their original dance set to Turkish folk music. Bosley and Corona’s original dance costumes have been revised since LPIDC.

My sincere apologies to Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill, Joanna Lenko & Mitchell Islam and Maureen Ibanez & Neil Brown. Due to a camera problem, I was unable to take any photographs of them at Thursday evening’s OD/FD practice.

I’ve noticed an increase of free time at this event versus the LPIDC. Last night, all practices were over 6pm. I went out for dinner with some friends to a nice restaurant on Main Street called “Steak & Seafood”.

My roommate and I returned to the hotel by 8:30. I edited some photos was in bed by 11.



I’m here!

Special thanks to the Yankee fans who were screaming under my window last night. It was hard to get any sleep.

I left the hotel at 7:15 and had an uneventful ride to Lake Placid. I stopped by the Hilton to pick up my media credential and then headed back to the Olympic Center. I started in 1932 arena as that was where the dance practice was supposed to be, but ended up in 1980 watching the end of ladies practices. The dancers were in the smaller rink next to the 1980 and since I was still adjusting settings on the camera, I watched some of the practice from the window and then got back to work tag teaming via cell phone with Michelle. We made good progress and the photos look better already. It’s amazing what adjusting aperture and shutter speed will do.

Back to work.



Ice Dance Preview

Glancing over the roster after it was released earlier this month, I did a double take while reading the list. Out of the then 9 teams, I saw 4 at LPIDC, so I’m familiar with some of the programs I’ll see again this week.

The names Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates stand out as favorites. Emily and Evan won both of their JGP events in 2006 and won a silver at the Junior Grand Prix Final. Although they have had setbacks this season, recovery time for Emily’s hand injury from 2007 Jr. Worlds and Evan’s back, it’s expected that they will arrive in Lake Placid well-prepared for the event.

Joanna Lenko and Mitchell Islam won a silver medal on the JGP circuit last season and were second at the junior level at 2007 Canadian National Championships. They are definitely in the medal hunt. The team medalled in several events at the recent Lake Placid IDC.

Pilar Bosley and John Corona had a rough outing at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, but came back strong in their best event – compulsories – winning the silver medal in the Championship round. Their free dance to “Still Lovin’ You” by the Scorpions has a great deal of potential and they relate quite well to the music. Pilar and John finished 6th at the 2007 US National Championships at the junior level.

Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring will make their junior international debut in Lake Placid. Sara and Kyle won the silver medal at the 2007 US National Championships at the novice level and have a powerful free dance to music from 300 and The Chronicles of Narnia. Though in the second year of their partnership, it’s obvious the duo continues to push themselves.

Kharis Ralph and Asher Hill, who train in Scarboro with Carol Lane’s group, have been an up-and-coming team in Canada that I’ve seen the past three seasons at LPIDC. Each year, they continue to grow and their programs showcase unique and enjoyable to watch choreography. Their African original dance was a highlight for many who saw it earlier this month.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any information on the Ukrainian or French teams that will compete. I’m hoping to learn more about them this week.



Over the River and Through the Woods…

Travelling to Lake Placid can seem like you’re driving to Grandma’s house in that old holiday song. Actually, you could change the word “river” to “mountains” and it would make more sense, I guess; oh and there isn’t any snow. In fact, it’s quite warm.

I am halfway there and chose White River Junction as the pit stop. After adding notes to this blog, I’ll be familiarizing myself with camera equipment in preparation for tomorrow. I’ve never photographed anything with professional equipment beyond ice dance, and maybe some pairs, so it should be an educational experience. Of course, like anything I do, I’m taking the bull by the horns.

Due to my photography commitments, my reports from the event may not be as detailed as normal.



Ice Network’s Coverage of JGP Lake Placid USA

IceNetwork.com will broadcast FREE streamling of live and on-demand video coverage of the 2007 JGP Lake Placid event.

Although Friday’s coverage will be ‘on-demand only’, live coverage will be available for all events on Saturday and Sunday. See schedule below and tune in to watch junior athletes debut their programs at the first international of the season.

Friday, Aug. 31
On-demand only: Compulsory Ice Dance
On-demand only: Men’s Short Program
On-demand only: Pairs Short Program

Saturday, Sept. 1
11:30-12:30 p.m. ET: Selected performances from Friday
12:30-2:00 p.m. ET: Original Ice Dance
2:15-6:15 p.m. ET: Ladies Short Program
7:00-10:00 p.m. ET: Men’s Free Skate

Sunday , Sept. 2
11:30-1:10 p.m. ET: Free Dance
1:30-3:30 p.m. ET: Pairs Free
4:00-8:30 p.m. ET: Ladies Free Skate/Victory Ceremonies



And Then There Were 8…

Russian team Elizaveta Tchetinkina & Denis Smirnov’s names have been removed from the Lake Placid JGP competitor’s list, reducing the number of dance teams to eight. Information behind the removal has not been released, though it’s not uncommon for names to be added or removed at this early stage of the Junior Grand Prix series. Hopefully, there will be no additional withdrawals.

In other news: Icenetwork.com has unveiled their newly revamped website complete with many new features. Ice Network will broadcast JGP Lake Placid this weekend.



Lake Placid II: Return to the Adirondacks
Wednesday evening, I’ll begin my trek to Lake Placid. This marks the second time in a month that I’ve headed to the Adirondacks and I’m hoping that this commute will be less eventful than the last.

Lake Placid is one of my favorite places. Ice-dance.com covers the Ice Dance Championships each year, so when it was announced that Lake Placid would play host to the Junior Grand Prix, I enthusiastically added it to my event calendar.

Herb Brooks Arena (1980 rink) and Jack Shea Arena (1932 rink) are full of Olympic history; Sonja Henie’s second consecutive gold medal in 1932 and “Miracle On Ice” in 1980, just to name a few. It’s hard not to feel nostalgic when you’re you’re in the Olympic Center.

Art Devlin’s will serve as my home base once again, but this time is without Michelle as my sidekick. Stay tuned for reports & photos starting Thursday…