October 1982; Northridge, California
Born: 12 September 1981; Garden Grove, California
1st Novice Pairs, 1993 Southwest Pacific Regional
At a collective age of 27, Vlandis and Guzman are one of the youngest Junior Pair Champion teams in recent memory. They have skated together since 1990 and currently train at the Ice Castle Training Center at Lake Arrowhead, CA under the direction of Jered's mother, Jennie Walsh-Guzman
Unlike the titanic searches of mythic proportion that accompany the formation of some teams, Natalie and Jered mostly just "happened" - thanks in part to the encouragment of Jennie Walsh-Guzman. Jered was interested in skating pairs and Jennie, who had seen Natalie skate locally in singles, thought Natalie might make a good match. After speaking to Natalie's mother Lori several times, she brought Jered "up the hill" one weekend, and the two skaters met for the first time at the Lake Arrowhead Hilton's swimming pool where they tried some lifts, but mostly just played in the pool. Afterwards, Jennie and Lori discussed pair skating but Lori decided against it due to the difficulty of balancing both singles and pair skating with Jered in the Los Angeles area and Natalie's family living on the mountain. [Note: Lake Arrowhead is located in the San Bernadino Mountains about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.] A few months later, however, Jered began skating at the training center a few days a week, and in August 1990 they began pair stroking occassionaly. After a month of informal skating they decided to enter the Southwest Pacific Regional at which they qualified for the first J.I. Nationals, where they placed fourth.
In 1991 Jered began skating fuill time at the training center, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now in their 6th year together, they first competed at "big" Nationals in 1993, placing third in novice pairs. They have competed at Nationals every year since, culminating in their victory this year in junior pairs. In that event they were in complete command despite mishaps to both of them in practice sessions. Jered, also competing in novice men loosened a tooth on a fall in a practice session following the novice men's short program, and decided to withdraw from that event rather than risk another mishap and damage the team's chances, and in a pairs practice session two days before the pairs short program Natalie fell in a triple twist attempt and somehow managed to slash her left thumb open. It is still not clear how it happened, but the best guess is it was cut sliding across the ice. In any case, the injury required three stiches to a tendon, eigth stiches to the cut, and a temporary cast. As an example of how "focused" some skaters are when they practice, neither noticed the injury until the closing pose of their run through.
In the short program the team started a little hesitantly but gained confidence through the program. For the short program says Natalie, "I was in pain. I had been given some shots but they had worn off. I was nervous. It was the first competition where I was ever nervous." Says Jered, "Before the short program I felt good, really confident and in control. I was happy with the way I skated."
Before their final warm up in the long program Jeni Meno and Todd Sand infiltrated the hordes of security personnel, and made their way back-stage to encourage them and wish them well. In their long program the team looked in command, despite some performance jitters. Going into the long program, says Jered, "I felt nervous and knew we had to skate well to win." Adds Natalie, "I felt better in the long program, but I was still nervous."
Natalie and Jered are coached primarily by Jennie Walsh-Guzman. Walsh-Guzman was the 1967 U.S. National Ladies Bronze medalist, and skated pairs with Billy Chapel, passing the gold pair test. During the period she competed in senior ladies she was simultaneously a National medalist in short track speed skating. Natalie and Jered also occasionaly take lessons from John Nicks, Irina Rodnina, Segei and Marina Ponomarenko, and Phillip Mills, who set this year's programs. Their senior long and short programs are being choreographed by the Ponomarenkos.
Less than a month after the close of Nationals, the team moved up to seniors, passing their senior pair test on February 14, the eve of the 35th anniversary of the 1961 World Team plane crash. Following the test they were presented the Donna Lee Carrier Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club to club members passing gold skating tests. In receiving the award Jered follows in his mother's footsteps - she is listed on the trophy three times, as a gold test skater in figures, freestyle, and pairs.
Donna Lee Carrier was a member of the ill-fated 1961 World Team, killed in an airplane crash on February 15, 1961, near Brussels, Belgium, enroute to the World Championships to have been held in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She was an ice dancer with her partner Roger Campbell, and trained at the Polar Palace in Hollywood, CA which was the home of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club up until 1963.
Said Jennie Walsh-Guzman following the presentation, "I shall always remember Donna Lee for her caring, and the kindness she bestowed on me. I was only ten years old at the time of her passing; however, her skating charm and grace made a lasting impression. I hope the skating world will always remember her and the other team members."
Natalie and Jered have high hopes for the coming year, and have set themselves challenging goals. They are working hard on having side-by-side double axels, side-by-side triple loops, throw triple toe, and throw triple loop or Salchow ready for Nashville (1997 Nationals). They would like to have the chance to represent the U.S. Internationally again this coming season, and to compete again at Junior Worlds, for which they will be age eligible for the next 4 years.
Despite their young age, Natalie and Jered have the potential to do well in seniors this year, and according to Jered are aiming for a top five finish in Nashville. Jered is tall for his age and very strong, Natalie is gaining strength and maturity when she needs it, and both approach skating with a seriousness, dedication, and maturity far beyond their years.
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