Sunday, 11 January
Nationals closed with the exhibition which started at the unusually early time of 12:30 PM and was over in a flash, with minimum chatter from the announcers (thank God) and no encores from the gold medalists. Maybe everybody had to rush off to the airport for early flights.
This Nationals was fairly well run, with no major problems other than a false fire-alarm in the official hotel mid-week. Philips arena is a rather strangely designed building, but the staff were helpful, cooperative and far friendlier than what you typically find in large urban sports arenas today. All-in-all we rate this a better than average Nationals, though financially the buzz is the organizers are going to lose their shirt.
Saturday, 10 January
Michelle Kwan comes through again, with seven marks of 6.0 in her free skate!
Friday, 9 January
Tim Goebel cries No Mas and withdraws from the men's event. Also withdrawn are Parker Pennington and Ye Bin Mok. Goebel earned a lot of respect after the short program by not making excuses for his troubled performance in the short program, and then lost it all today when withdrawing by saying his body was out of alignment. That comment has led to a number of jokes that cannot be repeated here.
Thursday, 8 January
Activities at Gwinnett Center concluded today with the Junior Men's short program and the Junior Dance original dance. Attendance was as poor as the day before, with about 300 spectators again on hand for the events. In the evening, the men's and ladies short programs were held at Philips Arena. Attendance was about 5500 with the lower bowl barely filled. Those on hand got to see a handful of fine performances in each event mixed in with a dozen or more sub-senior programs. The number of marks below 4.0 seemed unusually large for national championships events, with a few marks dipping down into the twos. Twenty-two men and twenty-one ladies are competing here for the national titles.
Wednesday, 7 January
Today was devoted mostly to Junior events, with the Senior Pairs short program closing the day at Philips arena. The junior events were poorly attended, with about 300 spectators at Gwinnett Center during the day, and about 1000 at the Philips center. Later in the evening, the senior pairs drew about 2500 spectators.
Tuesday, 6 January
The Junior Pairs led off the day at Gwinnett Center, with their short programs. About 600 spectators were in hand for the 13 pairs in the event. In the evening, Senior Dance began at Philips Arena with the skating of one compulsory dance and the original dance. The CD is the Razensburger Waltz while the rhythm for the OD is swing. This is the first year at the National Championships the couples have skated just one CD, and the first year the CD and OD have been performed on the same day. One final difference from the past is that the starting order for the OD was pre-determined based on the placement in the CD, with the following order having been drawn prior to the CD: 11th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 4th, 1st, 6th, 8th, 5th, 3rd, 2nd, 7th.
The big shocker of the day was Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev withdrawing during the Original Dance. Lang & Tchernychev placed second in the Compulsory Dance -- a result which many questioned and was taken to mean that they had no chance to beat Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto in this competition. At the end of Lang & Tchernyshev's OD warmup the two skaters had an animated discussion that appeared to be Tchernychev attempting to talk Lang out of withdrawing. He did not look pleased as Lang skated to the referee. The buzz has it he was extremely unhappy about this turn of events and there has been some speculation Lang made her decision more because of the placement in the CD than for medical reasons. One also wonders why Lang did not have the surgery on her Achilles tendon immediately after Worlds given the lengthy period of time they were off the ice after last season.
Monday, 5 January
The Novice events wrapped up today with the free dance and all three free skates. About 600 people were on hand at the start of the activities, which began with the free dance. By the late afternoon the numbers had swelled to about 1000. The quality of the men's event was excellent for the novice level with several men attempting triple Lutz's and Daisuke Murakami landing six triple jumps.
Sunday, 4 January
The 2004 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships began today with the novice events, held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, a rural area about 25 miles northeast of Atlanta. The novice compulsory dances and the three short programs were all held back-to-back in this first day of competition. The facility is a modern, mid-size sports arena that has been open for about a year, and is a great venue for these events. About 900-1000 spectators were on hand to enjoy the day's activities.
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