Around the Adult Championships

by Lexi Rohner
Triple jump legend Larry Holliday (along with Phoebe Binginger) is back.


I look forward to being at the U.S. Adult Championships each year. I am nervous flying, but the excitement takes care of the nervousness. The adrenaline rush I used to get competing is a close second. As the competition began this morning with the gold ladies III event, I felt it all over again. As a coach, I am watching my skater warm up and feeling the tension. As a former skater, I am watching and wondering how I would skate. As a writer, I am watching the process through which each individual goes and knowing what this sport brings out in people.

Interesting spiral positions. Some very good ones in gold ladies III. Throughout the day, skaters arrive, everyone is looking around, searching for friends they have not seen for possibly a year. There is a lot of catching up that happens in the first couple of days. Then the stuffed animals begin to fly!

It's Maggie Harding's birthday, and she started it off as an ice monitor. Volunteers are so vital to a competition's success. This year is no exception. John Liptak has done a great job, along with Les Ascher and the whole LOC, of coordinating help. Thanks LOC!


All the adult interpretive events begin with another cold day in Chicago. Yesterday, we experienced a blizzard. It's a sad day when the inside of the ice arena is warmer than outside! It's now no longer snowing, but it is very, very cold. The arena is quite pleasant at 10:20 a.m. So far, we have seen a “Twister” number, a Mrs. Santa Claus, a cowgirl and an angel. On the west rink the masters novice and junior ladies are hard at work.

Seen around the arena . . . well rested and happy spectators Judi Madey and her mom; Leslie Amacker and Liz McGlauflin preparing for their master novice free skate; Wanda Guntert observing the skaters; Rhea Schwartz on the podium; Lots of instrumental Beatles music being used this year; the color peach/coral/pumpkin (as described by April Chiang) appears to be popular this season.

I spoke to pairs team Tara Cioppa and Tim Mizerak a little while ago. Due to the snowstorm, their flights were delayed from New Jersey. Tara's flight was able to depart, Tim arrived several hours later – minus his skates. Waking up every 30 minutes to check with the airline, they anxiously and unsuccessfully attempted to sleep. Knowing they had a 6 a.m. practice and an early gold pairs event, Tim's skates finally arrived at 4:30 a.m., with no time left to rest. They managed to arrive on time and skate, and placed.

Jason Spicer moved up from gold to masters novice this year, and was pleased and surprised to win his event. He sees it as a warm-up to the championship men's event, which will take place Saturday evening.

Larry Scibilia and partner Lauren Yahiro were thrilled to discover they had won their silver pairs event. Scibilia's eyes were wide and smiling as he and Yahiro posed for photos near their results.

Larry Holliday, the first competitor to land a triple at this competition, has returned after two years away due to an injury. He and Phoebe Bindiger were all smiles as well, as they chatted animatedly in the arena lobby.

The registration desk has been bustling each day from sun up until sun down. The volunteers are hard at work providing much needed skater information, badges and of course, directions to Mamma Maria's Italian restaurant. The 77-year-old restaurant owner Biaggio is happily accommodating skaters and their entourages for lunch and dinner daily.

Previous U.S. Adult Championships have seen a small amount of media interest. Though a press release is sent to all local media each year, the occasional newspaper or small cable channel is all that will show. This year however, through the combined efforts of the Adult Skating Committee and a very thorough and organized LOC, the media turned out in a much bigger way. The local NBC channel arrived to do a segment, which was subsequently picked up by the Today Show – the events first national media spot. It was very exciting as the camera crew followed and interviewed four skaters. They were so interested they will return on Saturday for the championship events.

The American Medical News also came out to interview skaters who are doctors. There are many of them, including Chicago's own Larry Scibilia, Robin Griffin from Boston, Cheryl Bushnell, and the adult skating committee chair, Tony Conte.

Yvonne Dowlen

Chicago's Daily Herald followed Yvonne Dowlen through her free skate event. Dowlen, 81 years old, competes in masters junior ladies. Opening with a sassy hip sway, Dowlen immediately captured the crowd's attention and held it through her 2:30 program to huge cheers. Completing six jumps and a Charlotte spiral, Dowlen saluted the judges in her curtsey to a standing ovation. Downlen's daughter Sherry also competed a short time later in masters senior ladies.

Nisma Zaman continues to develop her documentary on adult skaters. She has been following Andy Schell, Lelsie Amacker, Tara Cioppa, Jason Spicer, Gilbert Chiang and Shannon Keeler. This film will eventually head toward independent film festivals as Nisma and her partner Brigitte Altenhaus finalize the editing.

Skaters from Portland, Ore., were overheard in the arena lobby yelling, “Portland rocks!” (Terri Levine, Marilu Campbell, Shannon Conroy, Lauren Zell & Michael Barsotti).


Friday the 13th ... superstitious?? Perhaps, but the day is off to a sunny start here in Chicago! Marty Lieberman was spotted with a red rose in his teeth having “Teat for Two” ... and we have proof ... Elizabeth Risberg was caught on camera eating cookies ... Lori Fussell was very nervous before her silver free skate but held up well and had a good time ... Debbie Leung skated a strong program to Santana ... Erica Kaplinsky performed to a very loud hometown crowd cheering her on ... Shere Everett is everywhere – accounting, announcing, though no giraffe this year ... On the East rink in men's interpretive, Thom Mullins skated a heartfelt program to “Perhaps Love” . . . Gilligan was also spotted, along with a very entertaining Captain Stubing from the “Love Boat,” but we call him Scott Stewart.

Larry Scibilia and Marty Lieberman lounging in the stands ... Elizabeth Finn landing two great Axels in her silver ladies I program ... Cheryl Morrison's energetic performance in silver ladies I ... Robert Brown's outstanding James Bond program in silver men's V ...

The adrenaline in the arena is building as the events continue. Finals rounds for bronze, silver and gold ladies offered some good skating for spectators. The media continued to turn out to cover events, and the local newspaper the Daily Herald ran stories covering Elizabeth Chase and Yvonne Dowlen.

Stuffed animal projectiles are a common occurrence at the U.S. Adult Championships. Each year they get larger. This year was no exception as we saw three-foot frogs and even a four-foot horse. Other goodies are tossed out for a skater as well, some of the cotton and liquid variety!

The officials cannot go without mention. Working as many hours as they do, it is much appreciated that they are willing to sit rinkside day after day. Judges, accountants, announcers and music make up the list of officials and without them, the skating would not be complete. Thank you!

Charnell Evans is in championship masters men. This is his first U.S. Adult Championships, and he could not be more pleased. His smile is wider than the Mississippi Fiver as he described his joy at being here. He will compete Saturday.

The Adult Skating Committee meeting took place this afternoon. Held at the competition each year, this meeting covers updates from the committee on the previous year's activities, and any potential changes for the upcoming year. Future information and decisions can be found on the adult skating page on the web site. Check for updates after Governing Council in May.

Sketch artist Emil Sauer is creating a 50-piece masterpiece in pastel of figure skaters. Previously on display at the Rocket Ice Arena in Bollingbrook, Ill., Sauer realizes that skaters must let go to be creative.

“Figure skating brings a lot of joy to me, just to see the human creativity of the figure skater,”Sauer is quoted as saying in a 2005 Herald News story about him.

His pieces have been shown worldwide, with most created in series formats, and in many mediums including pastel, metal and wax.


What a day! I can't believe it's already the last day of competition. After day one it seems like the week will stretch out ahead of us. Then all of a sudden it's Saturday and only a few hours left. The championship gold ladies and men's events just finished to a thunderous applause, with the championship masters men's and ladies events still to come. Watching the masters skaters warm up is a treat. Double jumps are everywhere with Abba's “Take a Chance on Me” playing fast in the background.

Coach Derek James is spotted rinkside with master men's skater Bryan Rabin and friend Amber Corwin, while Larry Holliday and Davin Grindstaff prepare their jumps and spins. Triple jumps are expected from all three later tonight. No U.S. Adult Championships would be complete without Ted Gradman, who is all smiles as always as he warms up. “Hi, Hilary!”

Members of the Adult Skating Ambassadors Network (ASAs) are hard at work covering events with SKATING editor Troy Schwindt. Many thanks to Cheryl Morrison, Terryl Allen, Thom Mullins, Carolee Purdie, Kelly Purdie and Denise Hendershot for all your hard work!

Championship gold ladies ended with a great deal of enthusiasm from Cindy Crouse. After a fall at the start of her program, the referee called her over, and she had a chance to begin again. She then completed a clean program and finished second with a huge smile. Ninotchka Aschow looked as beautiful as ever when she skated to her second championship gold ladies title. Lauren Day finished fourth and was proud to be the first adult skater to achieve a level four in a spiral sequence. Congratulations, Lauren!

As the championship masters men begins, the stands are filling up. Ann Dougherty is running everywhere as usual, and we could not do an adult championships without her. Thanks Ann!

In the championship men's event, Charnell Evans was seen hamming it up with the audience. Skaters have extra time on the ice as they wait for their scores to be announced. To ease his nerves, Charnell flashed his million-dollar smile at the crowd and performed a few tricks. Responding in kind, the audience applauded him as he entertained. While he was skating, he flashed “the smile” again, shrugging his shoulders when he missed a jump and just having a great time out there. That's what it's all about.

Ever present was Leslie Amacker, sailing through the arena lobby with a grin on her face…seen chatting with George Spiteri at the SP-Teri booth was Olympic bronze medalist Lloyd Eisler…also seen coaching championship men's competitor Bryan Rabin was Amber Corwin…Judge and adult committee member Mary Ann Wilcox was very busy, but never too busy to pose for a photo with skater Terri Levine…Diane Stewart and her mom, Sylvia, had a booth where Diane announced, “We'll sew blades on anything!” Diane celebrated her birthday on April 11, the first day of competition…skaters from Western Michigan had a huge banner on display every time one of their own took the ice.

Then there was the competitors' party Saturday night…feather boas were everywhere…someone's mom was seen “shaking it” around the dance floor (“It's your birthday, it's your birthday!”)…Tatiana (aka Jay) elegantly wore a pink boa…Marty Lieberman showed off his dance expertise, spinning me around the floor until I was dizzy…Ted Gradman was seen throwing his hands in the air to a Bon Jovi tune…Nancy Hughes was amused watching the action from her table…Paul and Michelle Harvath were as animated as always and fun to be around…the hotel closed the party at 12:30 a.m. to the groans of all in attendance…no one wanted to leave, though everyone was flat-out exhausted…off to sleep.


It's hard to believe yet another U.S. Adult Championships has come and gone. I have been to most of them, and Julie Gidlow tells me she counts only eight remaining people who have attended all 13. It is always a blast to see people you only see once a year, to meet new people and just run non stop for those few days. The adrenaline high is fantastic. Personally, I keep so busy that I hardly have time to make a phone call home. I wonder if they remember me back there? (Sigh) We will all return home soon, and it will be time to start preparing all over again.

Congratulations to everyone who skated. Keep it up! Same time next year in Lake Placid, April 8-12. See you there!