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Travels in Tokyo, Part 3
The trouble is, sometimes there isn't much to write about. Wednesday was a packed day just from the work standpoint, with 42 men's short program (no, I didn't watch them all!) and the pairs free skate. Oh, and the obligatory stop at McDonald's.
I found out I'm not the only one starving. Lisa Herdman from “Spotlight on Skating,” who questioned the presence of bananas as well, said she was shaking. I rode the bus to the arena today with assistant team leader John Millier, who told me that on average his first meal has been around 2 or 3 p.m. When you are working 18 hours a day, that's not good.
I need to talk to Kimmie about the Subway sandwiches here. Subways are everywhere, which means Kimmie's daily regime won't have to change. But I found that the quality of meat in the sandwiches here is way better than the Subways in America. And, they have these fabulous wedge fries that they flavor with cheese or basil for you.
Speaking of food, a very nice skating person sent me an e-mail about how to find food in Japan … how great is that? Thank you fan! I think he/she felt sorry for me.
Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov just finished their original dance, and they received all level fours. One nice thing is they told us they were always happy to see Lindsay and me … we're kind of the first people they see when they leave the kiss and cry … first Lindsay, who then brings them to me. I think what they mean is they see us and know it's over. It's still nice. At least they don't dread seeing us.
They spent their day off sightseeing and eating sushi.
“We went to Ginza,” Melissa said. “It's a nice little shopping area. We didn't buy anything because the prices were like ‘Wow!' It was nice to get out and walk around. The day was beautiful. We hope on the weekend to go to the Imperial Palace, Imperial Gardens.”
Lindsay and I also finally noticed that Melissa's original dance outfit has a red glove and a black glove. Just random … you think you see nothing new and little details keep showing up. Melissa said she was glad it was the last original dance of the season because the costume is on its last legs.
Switch to the States! Air Force men's basketball beats DePaul 52-51 and advances to the NIT Final Four! Those of you who know me are aware I worked at the Air Force Academy for four years in sports media relations before coming to U.S. Figure Skating, so their sports team still hold a special place in my heart. It's weird that the world actually continues without you.
Back to Japan.
I have never seen so many people afraid to use the Japanese style toilets. I am not kidding, there are women who will wait and wait and wait in line to get the Western style when all the Japanese ones are open. I just don't have that much time in my life.
Getting to the nitty gritty here at the original dance with the final two groups coming up. Then it's the men's final, which will be interesting, of course. Ryan Bradley kicks it off, and later in his group will be Slovakia's Igor Macypura. I remember Macypura from the novice competition at the 2004 U.S. Championships in Atlanta, if memory serves me correctly. Back then he was Egor Matsipura. I think in between then and now he was also Igor Matsipura. He's not fooling me … I still remember him.
Tanith and Ben had some interesting tidbits in the mixed zone which I included in my event story. Apparently she cracked a rib and had food poisoning before coming to Worlds. The cracked rib had another meaning for Ben.
“I have a spot to go after if she's mean,” he said, jokingly poking at the cracked rib area.
At the small medals ceremony for dance, Tanith and Ben went up to receive theirs and of course kissed the other winners after acceptance. One of the officials standing near the medalists said something like “I feel left out with everyone getting kisses.” Ben promptly went over to kiss her, too. The woman laughed and said “no, no” and then gave him a pointed look and said. “Later …”
In the men's event, Daisuke Takahashi really did provide the goosebumps for the night. It didn't matter that he wasn't perfect. The pressure he was under was unimaginable, and to come through was remarkable. It's unfortunate for Joubert that his first World title was overshadowed a little by Takahashi, but it's not the first time that kind of thing happens in sport.
You know by now Evan and Johnny didn't have the performances they wanted. But to quote Johnny, I think they are both “at peace” with their skates. Both trained hard for this event, but it wasn't “the day” for either of them. All sports stars can relate to that feeling.
Evan talked often about how many of the U.S. skaters feel as if they have had two straight seasons without a break, and there is a sense of relief to have it over. For both, this is another step toward the 2010 Olympics. They both planned quads in the free skate – Evan landed his, Weir said he had problems on the takeoff and knew in the air he couldn't hold four revolutions, so he tripled. Both know that if they want to win, they unquestionably have to have that jump, so starting to try it now, even at Worlds where the stakes are high, is a good idea.
Back at the hotel Thursday night, I witnessed something I have never before seen in figure skating – fan pandemonium akin to American teenage girls screaming for Justin Timberlake.
The subject? Stephane Lambiel. The place? The Akasaka Prince Hotel.
Lambiel rode the bus with us back to the hotel a couple hours after the men's free skate. Waiting outside the hotel were dozens and dozens of teenage girls squealing with delight. He was immediately mobbed as the hotel attendants tried to scramble to protect one of their guests (and I must give them props for handling an unexpected situation very well.). The gaggle followed him inside toward the elevators like a moving amoeba, screaming “I love you, I love you!” the whole time.
Once he got into the elevator, the door refused to close, and an attendant spread-eagled in front of the door to prevent girls from cramming in.
Really, Lindsay and I had never seen anything like it. I was so stunned I failed to get my camera out to record the moment.
Later we met Jeff Schneider, trainer extraordinaire (here with the Kimmie Meissner camp) for a late night dinner. He had a funny story, something about a cab ride and the Meiji Shrine …