Nicole Bobek has been testing the waters to request a medical bye to make the World Team without skating here at Nationals - due to a sore ankle that has been troubling her since December. It seems unlikely USFSA would support such a move.
Scott Davis has been battling episodes of vertigo for the last 6 months. He has been experiencing occassional episodes of dizziness and has been taking medication for the condition.
Amy Webster dislocated her right shoulder during a practice today at 12:30 AM. She will be skating the compulsory dances tonight with a fair bit of discomfort, epecialy in the tango romantica which requires overhead arm positions on the injured arm.
The trade show opened today. Not many skating or skating related vendors to be seen - mostly unmanned boots from corporate sponsors. We question whether the average 12 year old skater and their parents care about booths by the local corporate sponsors who have nothing to do with skating. According to sources, the skating industry vendors are not here this year because the local organizers did not accept their requests for booths. Booth rates have roughly triples over previous years and are now $3,000 to $5,000 each. We take this as another indication that USFSA is currently more interested in pursuing corporate dollars than nurturing the skating community.
Both the junior and senior ODs were today - the Paso Doble. Derived from bullfight and flamenco music every guy is a matador, every girl a flamenco dancer dragged around the ice like a cape. Can't someone get a new idea for this? (OK, maybe that's too much to ask considering the rules.)
Novice and Figures competitors are done and are only allowed in the main arena to watch. They have a limited credentials that prevents them from getting near the "big" skaters. For whose benefit is this competition anyway?
Controversy continues over the Russian/American team of Eliazova and Tchernyshev. The special dispensation they received to skate at Easterns still has many skaters annoyed, some of whom are skating under protest.
Jered Guzam pulled from Novice men as a result of knocking loose a few teeth after eating ice while practicing triple toe loop. Afterwards, at a junior pair practice he went down in a twist leaving his partner Natalie Vlandis in the air. She crashed, and he ran over her right thumb - slicing and dicing it. The thumb and the tendon had to be sewed up. Eleven stiches on the outside, an unknown number on the inside. They are scheduled to compete tomorrow and were considered the favorites to win by many.
According to ABC sports, Bereznaia of the Latvian pair team Bereznaia / Shliakov has been in intensive care for several days as the result of being kicked in the head by her partner while practicing side by side camel spins. Reportedly she was comatose and has lost, or partially lost, the ability to speak, hopefully only temporarily.
Sound bites from Todd Eldredge:
On figure skating being so popular: "I think it is great to see it. Although an unfortunate situation (Detroit) pushed it even further into the forefront. I do think it is good for the sport. It also forces all of us to work harder, train harder and manage our time even better with all of the outside opportunities."
On his figure skating goals: "The Olympic gold medal has always been at the top. It is a dream of mine and has been for a very long time. I had one chance in 1992 but didn't achieve it so I am working toward it in 1998."
On winning a fourth U.S. title: "I would be honored to be considered in the same sentences with Brian (Boitano) and Scott (Hamilton). I think all of us want to leave some sort of mark on this sport. Being considered with many of the greatest is definitely a start for me. It would be exciting to win it again."
On watching skating as a fan: "I do like to watch it like a normal fan or someone who is outside of skating. I look for good clean skating; and of course I look at someone and think 'Wow, bad outfit", but I think everyone has been there. I sure know I have been."
Sound bites from Scott Davis:
On being considered the underdog: "Actually, I really kind of like being considered the underdog. It takes some of the pressure off of me during the competition. It allows me to go out and do my job while the attention is on others."
On rivalry between he and Eldredge: "I actually think all of you (media) make a bigger deal out of it than we do. We toured together this summer and we really had a great time together. I think Todd is a great skater. I think it is good competition and good for both of us to stay on top and compete hard. We both benefit from that."
On turning down opportunities: "I like to train and stay close to home. When fall comes I feel like it is time to work on new things to get ready for the season and the U.S. Championships. I do not find it hard to say no to shows and tours because I like to stay close to home and get prepared."
On the U.S. Championships: "I am feeling really well and everything is going pretty normal. I have a lot of good training at home and I think I am very prepared for this competition. Probably even more prepared than I ever have been."
The buzz in the Press Room is that Bereznaia has required head surgery following her training accident. Details of the incident and her condition remain unclear.
According to her mother, Lori, best guess is that Natalie Vlandis sliced open her thumb on a shard of ice while sliding over the ice following a fall in a twist lift. A knicked tendon received three stiches to promote healing, and eight stiches were used to close a 1 inch cut. In the short Program today Vlandis and Guzman placed first.
Prior to the start of the competition, it appeared that Nicole Bobek had resigned herself to losing her National title this year, and had set a goal of skating clean enough and well enough to make the World Team, after which she would focus on rehabilitating her ankle in the time remaining before Worlds. Today she appeared more confident, and determined to fight for the title, pain or not.
The audience and the judges had a strong disagreement on the placement for Rudy Galindo in the short program tonight, and we tend to agree with the audience in this case. This was a fabulous performance. Be sure to catch it on TV and decide for yourself.
Sound bites from Nicole Bobek:
On her injury: "My (right) ankle was sore this morning at practice. When I come down hard on it when landing jumps it puts pressure on it and hurts. But I am not changing my programs and I am going to do it as planned. I am going for everything. Physically I am good and mentally I am strong, but there is pain in my ankle."
On changing coaches: "I just felt like I needed a change and that things were just not clicking. You have to go down a few wrong paths to find the right coach. It was easy to make the adjustment back with her (Barbara Roles Williams) because we maintained a good relationship throughout the years I was with other coaches. I skated with Barbara from the ages 9 to 11."
On her goals: "I want to win Nationals again and earn another medal at Worlds. I do not plan on shifting into show skating from competition skating, and if there were conflicts I would not have done the show (Nutcracker). The tour (Nutcracker) was a great experience because I got a lot of stamina training and I loved the role. Going through the show every night is a kind of training."
On being consistent: "Everybody has ups and downs. You cannot be perfect all of the time. You have to learn from a bad performance and then erase it out of your head. You have to then get your head strraight for the next competition. The tours help me because I can see how the audience responds to my program. It actually helps reduce pressure."
On being the defending champion: "There should not be any extra pressure and it is not like you have to win. It is like any other competition - you just do the best you can. I try to not think about it (pressure). I just go out there and skate and concentrate on what I have worked for. I think about what is good about myself and give 100 percent of myself every time I go out, and what happens, happens."
On growing with the sport: "I feel like a woman even though I am only 18 years old. I remember when I trained at the Broadmoor (Colorado SPrings, CO) and Jill Trenary was there. Here I was this little girl just wipping the jumps off and skating around while Jill was pushing herself and working very hard. Now I can see how she felt. It is so hard to watch the younger ones coming up with no problems. There are just more things on your mind now and you have a lot more responsibilities out there. But it's still as much fun or I would not be doing it."
How to find a pair partner
Following the 1994 Nationals, Brian Wells began a seach for a new pair partner. Following leads from coaches, and others, he spent the two months following that Nationals crisscrossing America in his car "trying girls east of Colorado" he says. In the process he had about 11 tryouts and put about 9,000 miles on his car. In May of 1994 his journey took hin to Oswego, New York to meet Laura Murphy, who was then 12. Murphy had never skated pairs before, and after convincing her parents to let her give it a try he spent the next 3 months teaching her himself. Following this trial period, the Lyons family relocated to Colorado Springs where Lyons and Wells now train with Kathy Casey and 1981 World Pair Champion Irina Vorobieva. Lyons is now 14, Wells is 25, and together they are the 1996 National Pairs bronze medalists, and members of the 1996 World Team.
Update on Bereznaia: Reports, again unconfirmed, say she is now awake and speaking. Their season, obviously is over, and her recovery is expected to take at least three to four months.
Kyoko Ina pulled from the ladies event prior to its start. She injured her right knee before Nationals and it has been bothering her during the week. She decieded to forego the ladies event to rest her knee in order to be ready for the World Championships where she will be competeing in pairs.
The third place finish by Chalom and Gates in senior dance is the best finish by junior dance champions in their first year at seniors since 1958, when Claire O'Neill and John Bejshak placed second the year following there victory as junior dance champions in 1957.
Derrick Delmore was forced to withdraw from the men's free skating after a fall in his warm up group resulted in damage to the heel of his right boot that could not be repaired.
Nicole Bobek skated the warm up for the ladies' free skate, but pain in her ankle and swelling prevented her from competing. On the advise of an orthopedic doctor who examined her following the warm up she decided to withdraw. Following the ladies event the International Committee of the USFSA named Michelle Kwan, Tonia Kwiatkowski, and Tara Lipinski to the World Team. It was thought by some that Bobek might be named to the World Team contingent on her ankle being rehabilitated before Worlds, along the lines of similar decisions made in the past in the cases of Christopher Bowman, Todd Eldredge, and Nancy Kerrigan. In this and the prior cases, the skaters involved were defending National Champions who had won bronze medals at Worlds the previous year, and thus had earned the U.S. its third World Team slot. According to James Disbrow, Chairman of the International Committee, these situations were not considered identical, the precidents were not even considered by the committee, and the committee felt that the team named was the one best able to represent the U.S. at Worlds. He would not elaborate on how the committee came to these conclusions. He also denied that Bobek's decision to tour in "Nutcracker" in December, instead of preparing for Nationals, played into the decision. According to Mory Stillwell, President of the USFSA, it was his sense of things that the committee felt that Lipinski had earned her slot on the team by placing third, and that was all there was to the decision.
According to reports received from Sofia, Bulgaria (site of the European Championships) Bereznaia received a two inch wound in her training accident. It is not clear if this meant a two inch deep puncture or a two inch long gash, although the former was implied. It was further reported that she has undergone a second surgery, has fluid in the brain, and infection.
Alexei Urmanov has withdrawn from the European Championships. The reason for this is not know at this time.
Despite the fantastic skating, behind the scenes Nationals is coming to a close on several sour notes. Throughout the week discontent has been building ever the heavy handed way various groups have been treated here by the USFSA, local organizers, and the arena staff. These include the vendors in the skating industry, coaches, skaters, and skating media. When Mory Stillwell was introduced to present medals at the final awards ceromony this evening a small amount of booing was heard, some even coming from event volunteers. We will explore some of the issues involved here in future editions of ISIO.