Boardwalk Blog (#2) - Behind the Scenes at Smart Ones Skate America

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating
Team USA
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

2005 Smart Ones Skate America News, Results and Photos

(10/20/05) - Pairs practice Wednesday had all but one of the 20 skaters on the ice. Russian Sergey Slavnov, who won the silver medal last year at this event with partner Julia Obertas, was unable to skate. His coach, Tamara Moskvina, explained that Slavnov's skates were still in Paris. They are hoping they will make it here sometime Thursday. Meanwhile, Obertas practiced alone, but Slavnov sat at the boards to watch.

Throw triple Axel watch: Rena Inoue & John Baldwin once again nailed the never-before-done move in practice. Much of the audience were expecting it, and appropriate cheers met Inoue's perfect landing.

Side-by-side triple Lutzes: Inoue & Baldwin also included this side-by-side jump in their short program run-through. Canadians Liz Putnam & Sean Wirtz took many stabs at it. Sean's all appeared easy. Liz was sent out to the ice to do it over and over until she finally got it.

Side-by-side triple Salchows: China's Zhang & Zhang (who also did gorgeous double Axel-triple toes) and Putnam & Wirtz.

Wednesday, 2:50 p.m.
Kevin van der Perren is inhuman.  During his practice session, he landed a quad toe-triple toe-triple loop, a triple Axel-triple toe-triple loop, and the insane triple Salchow-triple toe-triple loop-triple loop. A four jump combination isn't legal, but van der Perren said before the draw that he practices the triple toe-triple loop combination at the end of his jumps to make it more comfortable.

Wednesday, 4 p.m.
Group 1 ladies practice was short one skater with late replacement Alissa Czisny not yet in Atlantic City.

There was a scary moment for Emily Hughes during her short program run-through. Her lace broke and was hanging down to the ice. Coach Bonnie Retzkin shouted to Emily to stop because she was worried she would wipe out on the upcoming double Axel. The music was too loud, so Emily didn't hear. Fortunately, she just popped out of the jump and then realized the problem with the lace and was able to fix it. Needless to say Retzkin was relieved that their first practice session at their first Grand Prix did not end in disaster.

Bebe Liang had a camera in her face and giant microphone overhead whenever she went to the boards to speak with her coaches, Frank Carroll and Ken Congemi.  TWI, a film division of IMG, is doing a piece on Liang and has been filming her around Boardwalk Hall.

After ladies practice, the Welcoming Reception was held at the Sheraton. All the American competitors gathered for photos and had the chance to catch up with their teammates and with other skaters while they waited for the event to begin. Most of Team USA was present, minus Czisny. Emily Hughes missed the team photo, too. Not only was I taking photos, but it seemed like every skater had his or her own digital camera. A bunch of we non-competitors literally had multiple cameras hanging from our arms as we rotated through them to try to get everyone's. Then the coaches and team leaders joined in for one big photo.

I had the opportunity to get photos of all the countries' teams. Some, like Croatia, Belgium and Sweden, had only one competitor. Canada's is second largest, with 12 members. Sean Wirtz said it cost $3 a skater to take their photo, but after explaining that in the U.S. the exchange rate isn't so good for them, he relented.

Brian Joubert helped gather and position the French team. The Chinese looked very somber but finally smiled. I think it had something to do with Mark Ladwig standing behind me doing something I'm probably glad I couldn't see. I learned how to say “thank you” in Chinese, but I don't know how to spell it.

I spoke with Tamara Moskvina before the reception and she said that Sergei Slavnov's skates had not yet arrived. I asked her if it would be possible for him to borrow someone's, and she likened that to my borrowing a sweater from her. (Needless to say, I am not a sub-five foot, petite person.) As I was speaking with ISU media representative Tatiana Flade, we heard that Sergei's skates were finally in the U.S. and were on their way to the hotel.

That's all for today. Talk to you tomorrow.