Greetings from Greensboro – Day 6
Thursday, 26 January 2011

No dance competition at U.S. Nationals or Euros, so this made for a day of catching up (both on sleep and Euros photos). We did head over to the senior dance practices, and fortunately those were bloodless and enjoyable. It was unfortunate that the second two groups of dance practice were at the same time as senior pairs short, so it was a divide and conquer effort.

In the main rink, we had a live singer to perform the National Anthem, rather than a recording that was used earlier in the week. About 2/3 of the way through the song, the microphone cut out. Without missing a beat, the audience began singing loudly, filling the Greensboro Coliseum with supportive voices. It you are a sucker for “The Star-Spangled Banner” or anything patriotic at sports events, it was pretty moving. If you are extra tired from being at nationals for the last seven days, it would not be unexpected to have one’s eyes well up with tears. Um, or so I’ve been told…

Pairs was an enjoyable event, with teams skating “can you top this?” programs rather than last ones standing make the podium. The ladies event was also exciting. Love it when the ladies bring it. In past nationals, it seems like good ladies = bad men, so we’re all hoping that’s not the case.

Sat by some of the photographers from the News & Record (http://www.news-record.com/sports/skating) and helped them with captioning and skater identification. Loved getting to meet Jerry Wolford. He really looked for photos that showed the skaters at their best and most athletic. It might have come up that “jump face” is really not well received because it’s not something skaters can help, and when I looked through the online gallery from pairs and ladies (http://mm.news-record.com/legacy/indepth/11/01/skating012711), jump face was at a minimum. The Ina Bauer shot of Rachael Flatt is my favorite.
A few days ago we met Linda Williams, a writer for the Carolina Peacemaker, a newspaper that focuses on African-American subjects. She was looking for story ideas, and given that it was between the junior men’s short and free skates, we suggested Emmanuel Savary. Today, Linda came over to show off her byline and story on the front page (above the fold!). Definitely one of the coolest moments of this week so far.

The one and only Piper Gilles, here in Greensboro to support twin Alexe, was as bubbly as ever. Now a California girl, she’s been looking for work as an actress and taking gigs as a paid audience member for certain broadcast TV shows that want enthusiastic (and pretty) people in key seats. She didn’t know she was going to a taping of The Price is Right and was pleasantly surprise when she not only got called down to contestant row, but also won her way up on stage!

When she’s not cheering for Alexe, Piper is mentally choreographing programs for the skaters. Catch her on Facebook if you want some fresh ideas (or need a natural blond with a killer body for your next movie or TV show)!

Every time we took the elevator, the subject of Wednesday night’s random voice came up. A few arena employees and journalists who have the Coliseum as part of their regular beat confessed to also having the eerie telephone call from nowhere experience. The conversations were always about tickets, so we are assuming that the box office phone number and the emergency phone in the elevator are just a digit apart–or something like that. Glad to know we weren’t the only ones freaked out by a disembodied voice asking event questions!

Once again, Daphne’s Escort Service was out making people happy. Now, no, don’t be thinking that! Media shuttles from the Coliseum have been known to have their last run before the press conference is even over, so those not staying at the Sheraton are stranded. Fortunately, we have a car here, and on more than one occasion have received a late-night call to rescue one (or more) of our media colleagues. Because nothing says fun like standing out in the rain with $15,000 + of camera equipment waiting for a shuttle that never comes. So glad we have the means to help!


Greetings from Greensboro – Day 5
Wednesday, 25 January 2011

Finally got the chance to see the senior dance practice — with more than one team from each group participating. Everyone was there except for Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker.

Overall it seemed like a good practice. No major errors. One scary collision, though, when Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt and Ginna Hoptman & Pavel Filchenkov were both skating backwards and couldn’t get out of each other’s way in time. Lynn’s skate clipped Ginna’s leg, slashing her tights. Later we saw some bandages on Ginna’s leg, too, but no signs of major bleeding. Here’s hoping she feels ok. We talked to Lynn and Logan after the practice, and they felt so bad about what had happened.

Caught up with Madison Hubbell who said her face was really hot. Despite this, she showed no signs of even the tiniest bead of sweat. Asked for her secret, and Madison said she’s switched to an airbrush makeup and it really “seals” her face to keep her from looking blotchy and sweaty. So this isn’t a secret anymore, but at least we asked first if we could post it.

Tanith came in the rink wearing this “geek chic” look that most people would kill to be able to pull off. She was rocking eyeglasses, a grey poncho-cape top, and a style that was completely unpretentious. Think Olson twin, but taller and more beautiful.

In the far corner of the practice rink, they have this roped off area where the skaters can talk to media and sign autographs for the fans. When Meryl & Charlie were finished skating, they stayed for a while to sign and to pose for photos. One girl who walked past us was heard saying to her friend, “I’m never going to wash this arm again!” after an encounter with Charlie. It’s still kind of weird to reconcile this with the little novice dancer we first met in Lake Placid all those years ago.

After practice, we were heading back to the parking lot at the same time everyone was coming in for junior ladies free skate. We did pass some skating parents and had the chance to briefly chat. Jacqui White (Charlie’s mom) said that people usually confuse her for Meryl’s mother and Cheryl Davis (Meryl’s mom) for Charlie’s. They’ve gotten used to it, especially given they don’t look a lot like their children. And no, Meryl is not adopted, which is another question that comes up. She looks like her grandmother.

The night wrapped up with the oddest experience we can remember having at an event. We were taking the elevator down to the parking level, when a voice appears and asks, “Hello?” I apologize for hitting the call button (even though I didn’t think I had), but the voice keeps talking. It would appear that he thought he had reached the box office, as he was inquiring if anyone could come to the events at the Coliseum. I replied that you would need a ticket for the competition. We reached our floor and the doors opened, so that made it difficult to hear. The caller had more questions, but the elevator door kept trying to slam shut, plus I felt stupid talking to an elevator panel with no obvious speaker or phone, just a voice that sounded like it was coming from around the call button. Finally, we just had to ditch him. We told the security guards what had happened and that they may hear the elevator getting another call about event tickets. They didn’t even know the elevator could receive outside calls, and we began to wonder if we were being set up for some kind of Candid Camera joke. Nobody came up to ask us to sign releases, so we’ll just chalk this up to a Really Odd Experience and move on. But if you are here in Greensboro and the elevator talks to you, consider yourselves warned!


Greetings from Greensboro – Day 4
Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Random dance tidbits:

During novice free dance, an usher looked at the skaters on the ice and asked, “so how much money do they make?” The look on his face when I explained that the skaters had to PAY to come to nationals–words cannot describe. I kind of feel like I told him there was no Santa Claus.

At the start of the junior short dance, the female announcer explained to the audience about the elimination of the compulsory dances and the creation of the new short dance being a culmination of pieces from the old compulsory dance (in this case the Viennese Waltz) and the original dance. In a nut shell, the short dance contains required elements as well as the skating of two patterns of the Viennese Waltz compulsory dance. It’s preferred that the program not start with the two Viennese patterns, but rather the patterns are integrated more into the dance.

When the computer/scoring snafus happened and caused the delays plus an incorrect score for Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus, we were joking that bonus points should be awarded for certain situations. Like one point for a delay in score of more than 2 minutes, another point if there is a stuffy left on the ice, another for the wrong music being played, two points if your mother cried, etc.

When Colin McManus came over to see his parents after the scoring was changed, he said that one of the elements on the wrong set of scores was their combination spin (from 2010). He quipped that if he was going to get marks for something he didn’t do, he wanted to not do a quad.

Senior ice dance practice was pretty much a bust. Only one team showed up for each group. Another set of practices followed immediately in the practice rink. The Michigan skaters won’t be there, either. Talked to Maia & Alex Shibutani and they said Igor gave the seniors the day off. (Charlotte & Dean said they had Sunday off.) So Shibs sat and watched junior short dance with Charlie, Tanith, and Ben.

So while senior ice dancers have this big time chunk dedicated to them, the junior ice dancers have NO practice between their short dance and the free. They do have the warm up tomorrow morning, but no program music is played. Not sure why they didn’t use one of these senior blocks for the juniors.

Went back to the hotel to catch up on photos from Euros. Liz is braving arctic temperatures to bring you the latest from Bern (although it should be renamed Freeze, no?) so be sure to check out that gallery. Mel is trying to catch up on photos from Canadian nationals and is posting links on our Twitter. Meanwhile, we are on the lookout for one of those artists who do the courtroom sketches with pastels to see if we can figure out a way to compensate for our U.S. nationals photo void. (Not the FSU kind of void.) (Or the medical one.)


Greetings from Greensboro – Day 3
Monday, 24 January 2011

Novice Free Dance Day!

A technical difficulty caused an extensive delay in the announcement of the scores for the first team, Cassandra Jeandell & Damian Dodge, so the female announcer asked the audience who was from North Carolina – to which a large number of folks raised their hands. A group of school children were in attendance and were very well-behaved. They provided lots of applause (spins ranked highest) and gasps (dangerous lifts) and were a wonderful addition to this morning’s crowd.

The male announcer gave us fun facts on each of the competitors. I do wonder if the kids knew when they filled out this information, that it would be announced over the loud speaker at Nationals. We can only imagine what some of the older skaters sent in and can’t wait to hear Ryan Bradley’s!

We wanted to remind everyone that with both Euros and U.S. nationals happening this week, we may be a little late getting the Euros photos posted. We do have Sunday morning’s practice up already and will be working on Sunday evening’s practice and today’s (Monday’s) qualifying in the hope of having them online before bedtime.

Random: cannot wait to see the showdown for the 2018 Olympic gold between 2011 U.S. novice men’s champion Nathan Chen and 2011 Canadian junior men’s champion Nam Nguyen.

Remember to send any questions or comments to us at [email protected]! We want to hear from you!


Greetings from Greensboro – Day 2
Sunday, 23  January 2011

We forgot to mention that the front page of the local newspaper yesterday featured figures skating and stray cows. Not together. Just sharing the front page.

Our morning started with getting to the rink for the Novice Pattern Dances. One of our IDC staffers (shout-out to Mel Hoyt, who is in Victoria, BC for Canadians) enjoys the Blues and has a favorite music cuts.

Another staffer (Hi Katie!) and I have always thought that one of the Paso music selections reminds us of a song we learned in music class. We heard both today and it brought back some memories of Lake Placid – one of our favorite events.

There were no falls during the pattern dance competition.

When the event ended, we headed to the practice arena to catch our first glimpses of the junior ice dancers practicing. Once again, the convenience of having the events and the practice arena in the same place is so appreciated. It’s very easy to pop back and forth from one to the other and the LOC/arena folks seem so happy to have us here in Greensboro.

Today, we were able to catch up with some familiar faces (you know who you are) and that is what always makes every event more enjoyable.

After practice, we headed to the Four Seasons mall to make a few purchases. It’s very seldom that we are afforded the time to venture out from the rink or hotel, but this week we’ve been taking better care of ourselves (so far), while still focusing on the directive at hand, which is providing the best coverage we can.

After the mall, we returned home and caught the tail end of the Packers/Bears game (sorry Bears fans) and since my roommate is a Steelers fan, she caught the game, while I wrote the CD report. I mean, PD report. I still can’t get used to calling them pattern dances. We also got up to date on the happenings at Canadian Nationals and Europeans. Be sure to check out our photos from the 2011 European Championships from Bern, Switzerland by Liz Chastney and the 2011 Canadian National Championships by Melanie Hoyt.

For tonight’s menu, we recommend Hungry Howie’s Flavored Crust Pizza. Our front desk attendant (Iain, once again) recommended it. And, they deliver!

Now it’s off to bed to rest for another fun-filled day of skating.


 

Day One Wrap-Up
Saturday, 22 January 2011 

The Shriner’s car show and figure skating going hand-in-hand? You might be surprised. (Remember the Pheasant People from St. Paul?)

The practice arena is connected to the competition arena, making it very handy to go back and forth between venues. The complex was also hosting the Shriner’s Drag Racing & Hot Rod Expo & Volkswagon & Scion Show. People could check out restored cars and ones that had been customized beyond recognition, among other car stuff. We didn’t check it out, but spoke with a woman who was taking a break from the car people to watch novice dance practice. She had watched the Olympics on TV and was excited to see it in person. Plus the highlight of her day following her husband around the car show was finding a vendor that sold this unique potpourri, so watching four teams of novice ice dancers warm up the Paso Doble was a welcome relief.

The three groups each started with the Paso warm-up, then the various music tracks were played while the teams ran through the dance. Next, a few minutes to warm up before the free dances.

In the first group, the team who really stood out was Cassandra Jeandell & Damian Dodge. Their improvement since LPIDC was impressive. Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons had their music next, so we had our first “Firebird” of the event. They looked a little tight at times, but their skating is so strong. Their pair spin was stunning. After their official run-through, the teams worked on whatever elements they wanted for the remainder of the session. During the synchronized twizzles, Michael caught his edge on the entry and wiped out. Rachel got him up and smiling, and they nailed the next attempt.
Although most couples are in full competition dress, a few teams opt for a different look. Jessica Mancini continued the Tiffany Hyden-coached teams’ tradition of wearing black leotards. Elliana Progrebinsky & Ross Gudis had practice outfits that reflected their “Matrix” program. It’s a shame girls can’t wear pants for the free dance. Progrebinsky’s unitard is very cool.

By the last group, it was amusing to watch the end of practice (when they are just skating to random music that’s played) and see the teams who look like their choreography was designed for the song. The very “country” song “Here for the Party” was all a-twanging and the skaters looked like they were improv experts.

And yes, “Had a Bad Day” is still in the music rotation.

It’s been wonderful to see how Greensboro citizens have embraced figure skating. It’s reminiscent of the first trip to Spokane, Washington, for Nationals in 2007. Like in Spokane, there are signs everywhere promoting the event, and those we have encountered — whether it be parking attendants, hotel staff, waitresses, or others — have made us feel genuinely welcome in their hometown.

We can definitely recommend Carrabba’s as a meal destination. The restaurant was packed, and the hostess was handing out pagers (that looked an awful lot like tasers) for those willing to put in the 40-minute wait.

It didn’t seem like that long, though, before we got our table. The waiting area includes this wrap-around bench with free-standing benches inside it. People were so jolly with each other, striking up conversations like old friends.

Our hostess seated us with a “here you go, ma’am” that caused an involuntary bristle. We had to explain to her that “ma’am” (to us Northerners) is usually reserved for older adults/senior citizens, and we didn’t feel old enough to be “ma’am”ed, but we had to remember that it’s different in the South. She was very sweet and we got into a scholarly discussion about age-appropriate greetings until our waitress, Bridgette, arrived.

In addition to taking our orders, Bridgette was able to give us easy-to-follow directions to Walgreens so we could pick up some much needed supplies. Greensboro is a Pepsi town. Anyone who drinks Coca Cola will understand – Pepsi isn’t Coke. Oh, that’s another reason Carrabba’s rocked–they serve Coke.

Time to sleep off the carbs and get ready for the first day of competition! Wheeee!


Greetings from Greensboro – Day 1
Saturday, 22 January 2011 

Travel day was much less eventful than it could have been, and that is NOT a bad thing. Despite the snow in New England, flights were on time and we arrived in Greensboro safe and sound — and with all our luggage! Beds were comfy, although we were so tired we probably could have slept on the pool deck tiles. Thermostat is in the room, so we were able to turn it down for a cool night’s sleep. It’s pretty cold outside (~26 degrees) but that’s still 40 degrees warmer than St. Paul in ’08. Haven’t been inside arenas yet to check out those temperatures, but we’ll probably be warmer than those attending the European Championships. Not that it’s a big deal–we’re all here to spend time in a space whose main feature is a giant sheet of ice!

We’re staying at the Drury Inn, and so far it’s been great! Iain, the transplanted Canadian who was working the front desk, was friendly and made us feel welcome immediately. This hotel is very nice, although only two dresser drawers in a double room makes it a bit challenging to fit 10 days worth of clothes for two people. That’s probably the only complaint. Oh, the vending machines are Pepsi, not Coke, which could be a complaint for the Coke fans. Love that they have the 5:30 p.m. “break” with free food and drink (both alcoholic and non-) but not sure we’ll ever get to take advantage because of the skating schedule. Missed breakfast this morning (also free!) to go to credentialing, but that is definitely something that will be appreciated and enjoyed during the week!

Before we could go to the arena, we had to stop at the Sheraton to pick up credentials. Ran in to Terri Miller (mom of novice dance team Jessica DeMaria & Dean Miller) who pointed the way to the accreditation room.

Credentialing volunteers had a rough morning. Usually it takes about 10 minutes to be in and out, but today it was more than an hour and a half. They were having some computer issues and everything was so slow, but they were great about taking the novice skaters and their coaches who had to get to practice and putting them in the front of the line. At least this gave us the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

While in line, we were chatting with a woman who said she had three kids competing. We knew we weren’t chatting with Bonnie Gilles (although she’s down to only one offspring competing here — Alexe in senior ladies), so that left Mrs. Aaron. (Molly is doing senior pairs, Max is junior men, and Madeline is novice pairs.) Later we met Mr. Aaron. Both parents seemed remarkably calm given the crazy week they are about to experience — but of course no one had begun even the first practice.

Saw Jenni Meno checking in, and we pointed out the “express lane” for coaches. Jenni always looks gorgeous and she doesn’t age. Actually, most coaches seem to look fantastic and never older than the last time we saw them. What’s up with that? Clean living and cryogenic working conditions?

Pierre Panayi and Nick Traxler were just leaving with their hot-off-the-press credentials but stopped for a few minutes to chat.

By the time we got our credentials, we had missed the morning dance practice. Only one true option remained: Waffle House for breakfast. So nice to have hot food and sit at a table to eat. Back to the Drury to do some writing and got on a video conference with Mel via iChat live at Canadian nationals. Well, actually, she wasn’t in the arena yet, but we still caught up, had some laughs, and are now ready to begin our skating day. (Second attempt for us.)