Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not So Typical Kids

Yesterday and today we've been watching the even younger skaters perform - the Novice division. Not that the divisions are restricted by age but rather defined by the performers actual skill level regardless of age.

Case in point - yesterday's MEN'S Novice finals and the free skate. The 1st place winner was Nathan Chen, a 4-year veteran of this competition who has achieved (among many other accolades) the ripe old age of TEN YEARS! (However, if you would have told me he is only 6 or 7 I would have believed it since he is a rather adorable little guy.) His performance to Peter and the Wolf was mesmerizing! And the "old man" of 11 who came in second (Emmanuel Savory - who kind of reminded me of "Kenny" from the Cosby Show) performed a crowd (and judge) pleasing skate to music from "The Simpsons". (Emmanuel & Nathan are the little guys at the left side autographing programs.)

The Novice Pairs Free Skate and Novice Ladies Short program were also something to see. Though I was expecting to see some nerves (I mean aren't there any kids here for the first time?), these kids were amazingly poised and mature given that some of these competitors are barely in their teens. During breaks between events, Margo and I would wander the concourse chatting up the kids and getting autographs. It was wonderful to see that in addition to being remarkably talented youngters, they are still just basically kids - surprised that anyone wants their autographs and wondering if they will have time to find some nachos before they head to the stands to cheer on their fellow competitors. It was incredible!

The younger kids weren't the only "stars" we've seen. Here I'm getting Evan Lysacek's autograph before he took 2nd in the Men's Senior skate.

~later, tw

Monday, January 18, 2010


Okay so the three men expected to represent the USA in the Vancouver Olympics all made it - no big surprise there. Johnny Weir (the "d" is apparently silent) turned in a pedestrian performance, just enough to secure the #3 spot, not even attempting a quad. His costuming resembled something more likely to be seen on American Idol. Evan Lysacek, probably our best shot at a medal, fell on his opening toe-loop quad but was solid, if lackluster, after that. Jeremy Abbott gave a flawless and exciting performance (nailing the very same quad jump that Evan had not) but questions remain as to the status of his nerves and whether he will be able to skate anything like that on the international stage.

But the day really belonged to Ryan Bradley, who unfortunately did not do well (enough) in the short program to be able to completely overcome that score. His performance was the skate of his life and encompassed all elements of the skate - the music, the costuming, the techniques and choreography. It was an electrifying performance that had the entire arena on our feet before the conclusion. (Small wonder that Johnny Weir took the safe option for his skate - the scores were that close.) This was his 11th national competition (he finished 2nd here in Spokane in 2007), Ryan recognizes this might be his last competition - not that he doesn't appear much younger than his 26 years, but the thought of maintaining this level of training and grueling pace of competition probably means it was his last opportunity to make an Olympic team. I would hope not, but if it is, what a way to go out on such a high note.

There are definitely some others on the horizon (since our current Olympic team are 26-Weir and 24-both Abbott and Lysacek): 23-year-old Jonathan Cassar, who skated first in the Free Skate with an excellent performance, 20-year-old Adam Rippon and nearly 18-year-old Keegan Messing (from Girdwood, AK).

The evening was spent watching the Free Skate of the Junior Men. I think we saw the final skate on this level for several performers and expect them to graduate to the Senior level soon. They definitely have youth on their side: 15-year-old Jason Brown took 1st with a perfect skate to the Nutcracker Suite; recently turned 15-year-old Joshua Farris (from Renton, WA) gave an amazing performance from one so young capturing 2nd place; and 3rd place finisher Max Aaron, the "old man" of the three who will turn 18 next month. These are definitely guys to be watching for the next Olympics.

~later, tw

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Preview of Things to Come

We're here - in Spokane at the US Figure Skating Finals where the US representatives to next month's Olympics in Vancouver will be determined.

The opening ceremony was a bit lame and Gerry was really wondering why he had been dragged to this. But then the men took the ice for their short program. There was amazing skating but at the end of the night the top three were no big surprise (though maybe the order was: Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir).

Yesterday morning we saw the Pairs Free Skate (final competition). Though there were certainly some excellent pairs, there was nothing reminiscent of the 1980-90's Russion duos. The throws were good though most pairs received a deduction for at least one fall. (Gerry said he would be most impressed if a girl got to throw a guy for once and having seen all those ladies hit the ice, I concur...maybe if the guy hit the ice once or twice like that he'd have more incentive to give a bit more elevation to the throw so his partner could land it!) Regardless by the third set we'd pretty much seen the same routine a few times and by then Margo (my sister) and I were judging the costumes and trying to decide if the line for those delicious made-right-in-front-of-you donuts was worth it.

Then the final set of skaters to0k to the ice. Amazing, incredible, fantastic...not enough adjectives here folks. First up, Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig who skated nearly flawlessly. The next pair up proved that "near flawlessly" wasn't going to get the job done. Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett performed the skate of their life - an absolutely perfect performance, landing every single jump, spins in perfect unison. The death spiral was hold-your-breath as she fully extended herself with her entire body only inches from the ice! Their coach was in tears and the entire audience on their feet by the end of the performance. I only hope they can repeat this performance in Vancouver!

But we weren't done yet. The next pairs up were 33-year-old Rena Inoue & 36-year-old John Baldwin. We had seen them skate together in 2007 in Spokane and were surprised at their ages then. Now we were simply flabbergasted to see them together again. They too gave an amazing performance - their final skate and they went out in style. Their 3rd place finish was no "sympathy" vote. They would be a tough act to follow and Caitline Yankowskas & John Coughlin scored high with our group on costumes and choice of music (Pearl Harbor) but had difficulties landing jumps (I think she fell twice) and ended the night in 4th place.

So with Denney-Barrett in 1st and Evora-Ladwig in 2nd we will be well represented in Vancouver.

The evening session was spent watching the short program of the Junior Pairs. There are definitely some up-and-comers to be watching (including Caydee Denney's younger sister, Haven). The "women" were all under 20 - including one 13-year-old. There were some solid performances and some harrowing falls (including one who appeared to fall literally on her face and slide across the ice on her chin but miraculously suffered no apparent injury).

We are off now this morning to see the conclusion of the men's skate...and maybe get some of those donuts!

~later (with photos), tw

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wow - that's some braid!

A woman in Texas is fighting her local school board because her 4-year-old son wants to wear his hair long...really long. Though the pre-kindergartner has been on "in-school suspension" since NOVEMBER (he sits alone with a teacher's aide in the library), the school board is willing to compromise: He can wear his hair long so long as it's kept in a braid and remains above his ears.

The mother says she will take him to school with his hair in a pony-tail (which she acknowledges will keep in him suspension) since braiding his hair will "make his scalp bleed."

Parents of suspended child reject compromise saying his scalp will bleed
Now we used to braid our daughters' hair when they were small and I'm sure that they would both tell anyone who asked that nobody braided hair tighter than their father. (It was the equivalent of a "face lift.") But there was never any danger of scalp bleeding. I'm not certain that the school board should be holding firm at the length of hair of a child - certainly not to the extent of keeping him in "in-school suspension" at a time when the only serious learning of a pre-kindergartner is socializing. I would think keeping him with a solo teacher's aide for the day totally undermines that learning and keeps the school's limit resources (namely a teacher's aide) tied up with one child (now for months) at a time. The school board should lighten on this issue (Don't they play football down there? Haven't they seen the really, some would say dangerously long, hair of those athletes?)
On the other hand, I think the parents proposing ridiculous rationale for allowing their son to be different is not helpful. For once, I would just like to see the right thing done for the right reason and have sanity prevail.
~later, tw

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I promise to go thru my holiday photos soon and post about that (I do have the cutest grandchildren on the planet!) but I couldn't resist this one.

Woman sues gym over pole-dancing injury
I find it amazing the amount of embarrassment and humiliation a person will subject themself to in order to either a) get $$$; or b) achieve their "15 minutes of fame." This lady, who apparently can rule out "exotic dancer" as a career opportunity, is suing because she quite literally fell off the pole. This is a lot like the 60+ granny who sued McD's because the cup of hot coffee she put between her legs so she could grab her McMuffin spilled and burned...well, I don't even want to think where that burn was.

At some point aren't at least some of these individuals willing to keep their ineptness and stupidity to themselves? Must they brag about it in the news, on reality tv and in our courts? I so want to be a judge!

~later, tw