Boardwalk Blog (#3) - Behind The Scenes at Smart Ones Skate America

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online

2005 Smart Ones Skate America News, Results and Photos

(10/20/05) - Thursday, 8:40 a.m.

I am not a morning person.

Waited for the shuttle to the arena with Julia Sebestyen, Dan Fang, and her coach. The driver was new and didn't know his way around yet. He asked me, but I'd only taken it once and wasn't paying attention. So much for helpful New Jersey girl. Fortunately, Julia took charge of the situation, directing the driver where to turn, which ramp to take, where to park. Let's hear it for the Hungarian sense of direction.

Third day in the arena and I still manage to get lost. Never claimed to have a strong sense of direction, but I partially blame the fact that the building keeps changing. Walls that were there Tuesday are gone. New barriers have magically appeared. But at least I got my exercise for the morning.

Needless to say, by the time I got settled in the arena, I had missed the first group of ladies. Saw the second, which was still minus Alissa Czisny. My shuttle partners, Julia and Dan, looked good and seemed to have an uneventful practice (in a good sense). Elena Sokolova looked really strong. Her triples were high and looked easy, like the Sokolova of 2003 Worlds. Bebe Liang was still followed by the ever-present camera crew.

I see glitter and neon. It's time for dance practice.

Thursday, 10:00 a.m.
Watched the first dance practice with the three U.S. teams, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, Tiffany Stiegler & Sergey Magerovskiy, and Jamie Silverstein & Ryan O'Meara, and the Germans, Christina & William Beier. Dance practice being dance practice, there were a couple of mishaps, with the Beiers and Silverstein & O'Meara crashing into each other and then the Beiers and Stiegler & Magerovskiy having a near miss. No one appeared injured.

This was compulsory and free dance practice. First all the teams went through multiple run-throughs of the Ravensburger Waltz. Then they had another short warmup before running through their free dances. Nice moment when Tanith & Ben were skating their free dance, their training partners (the other two American teams) stood at the boards and watched before resuming their own practices. Tanith seems to have quite the cold, spending lots of time with the tissue box and coughing.

11:42 a.m.
I was literally shivering, so skipped the last dance practice (sorry!) and went to Starbucks for some venti Awake Taso. Yum. Passed Frank Carroll and Ken Congemi on the boardwalk. This makes approximately the fifth time I have crossed paths with them today. I guess seeing FrankandKen is better than Frankenstein. While the latter is more appropriate for this Halloween season, the former is much less evil.

While sitting and people-watching the boardwalk, I see this guy waving to me. Did a double take and realized it is Kurt Browning on his way to the arena, I assume to watch the men's practice. It was one of those moments—“What's Kurt Browning doing on the boardwalk?” Fortunately, since I have now had caffeine, I figured it out quickly.

Thursday, 1:00 p.m.
Kind of a flat day for the men's practices. Kevin van der Perren is still rocking the inhuman jump combinations. Daisuke Takahashi looked strong and his quad toe-triple toe was impressive.

Although seeing triple Axels on TV is impressive, nothing beats having one done 10 feet in front of you to truly appreciate the power of the jump. The force of the landing, the speed of the rotation, it seems like a miracle that a human being can do that.

My other strong impression of the practice session is the sweet quality of Dennis Phan's jumps. When he nails one, it is so soft and floating and just sails out on a liquid edge.

Thursday, 3:33 p.m.
Pairs practice was impressive. If they all can perform the quality in competition that they've all been showing in practice, it's going to be one incredible event. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin landed yet another gorgeous throw triple Axel. I lost count of the side-by-side triples reeled off.