Sunday, January 30, 2011

US Figure Skating and Me

So, the US Figure Skating Championships were held in my hometown, and I bought tickets months ago. Months and months ago. My husband spent an hour online fighting with Ticketmaster to get us 2nd row seats to the Pairs and Dance Finals. Then, my brother in-law's work offered up seat for the Ladies Short and Long programs, 5th row seats to the Ladies Short and Long programs. Score!

My friend Mandy, me and my friend Kristen. This is how close we are to the ice!!! Yay! I brought my camera, of course, and I took almost 700 pictures over the three events. Not all of them are winners, because photographing sports is difficult and figure skating is beautiful, but sometimes the positions are really awkward.

Our seats were in the corner of the arena near the NBC announcement booth, where Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic were doing the commentary. I was so excited, although most people were excited about Scott, but I was excited about Sandra. She is a long-time choreographer and is an excellent announcer. If you watch figure skating on TV, you've probably heard or seen her. She just isn't a face that everyone knows, but I recognized her right away. At one point on Thursday night during the short program, I yelled out to her and she looked over and smiled and said I was sweet.

Then, on Saturday I spotted her walking down the hallway in the arena and got her autograph and picture. I told her I was the one who had yelled and she said she remembered. I think she was excited that someone wanted her autograph too...she was very nice and charming. We almost got Scott Hamilton's autograph...but...

see how close we are? There were maybe three more people in front of me when the tv producer pulled him away. Sad.

Danielle Kahle. Look how close we are to her! Well, I do have a powerful zoom lens, but we were close! During the warm up sessions the skaters kept coming over to the boards and talking to their coaches and it was prime picture taking time. I have lots of photos with skaters drinking water, but Danielle was funny. They had Beyonce's Single Ladies on in the arena and she was doing little pieces of the dance while she warmed up. And she is really pretty, huh?

During the Short Programs, there were jumps:

This is Agnes Zawadski, well, most of her. Like I said, taking pictures of sports is difficult and while I knew she was going to jump, I didn't pull in my zoom enough in time as she came closer to me.

There were falls. This is Alexe Gilles. She is actually a lovely skater, but I did catch this fall on camera, because they do get back up very quickly.

Mirai Nagasu waiting in the tunnel to skate. Isn't she just about the prettiest thing? Her costume was so beautiful and sparkly, and I think it was one of my favorites. I like the ones that are dresses with accents instead of the ones that look like costumes to go with the music, like tavern wenches with laces up their backs.

I think is the prettiest thing I saw over the three days...Mirai doing her layback spin. I don't know how people stay upright doing this on skates, but I guess it works somehow. I don't even want to know what the skaters see when they are upside down like this!

Our event on Saturday was the Pairs and Dance Long Programs, and this event was very exciting because of how the men throw the ladies across the ice. Sometimes that turns out well, other times not so well. And the lifts. Oh...the lifts.

They are Caitlin Yankowskas and Johnny Coughlin, the pair that won the gold medals. This performance was really cool because Caitlin's parents and grandparents were sitting in the row behind us! Every time he would go to lift her or throw her, or they would go to jump, her mom would hold her breath and then screech when they landed it. When they found out that they won, there was jumping and screaming and celebrating. It was cool to be part of that!

This pair skated to some music from Avatar and the program was very well done! This couple was fun to watch during warm up and their program was even better. Sadly, I don't remember their names! I'm so sorry.

Included in our ticket was the finalists for the Ice Dance competition, which was cool, but not as exciting. Although, Meryl Davis and Charlie White had just competed and won the silver medal at last year's Olympics, so seeing them was neat.

Very flexible, isn't she? This was during a spin. Let's just say you have to be very comfortable with your partner in order to be in pairs or dance. The weird thing is that there are many brother/sister teams and that freaked me out a little when they were trying to show emotion between each other. The pair that won the dance silver medal were brother/sister and were very cute, but it is still strange.

We did bring some stuffed animals to throw onto the ice for the skaters. I brought a little chicken that had been in my Easter basket this year and Mandy brought this little frog to throw.

After the Pairs and Dance Finals, we had to exit the arena and then come back in with our other tickets for the Ladies Long program. We had time to grab some dinner and then find our next set of seats, which were in the 5th row this time. The Ladies event was very well attended, with some VIPs as well. Evan Lysacek, Sarah Hughes and Vera Wang among a few. I tried to get Vera Wang's autograph, but the arena guard would not let me into that section. Sigh.

Anyway, at this point, Mirai Nagasu was first, Alissa Cizny was second and Rachel Flatt, the defending US champ was in third. I am not the biggest Rachel Flatt fan, because I think her posture is a little slumped, but I loved the music she chose, and her choreography is pretty.

This picture is not the best example of that, but her short program was nice. She made two mistakes during her long program, and I thought it wouldn't be enough for her to win.

Alissa's program was wonderful and brought the crowd to their feet. She skated to a lovely piece of piano music from George Winston and was calm and elegant and beautiful. At this point in the evening, the arena was full and people we really enjoying the skating. The people sitting next to us were not huge skating fans, but were enjoying themselves and asked me a lot of questions about things. It was fun answering them and teaching a little bit about skating.

When Mirai skated, she fell once, and she had to be really upset about it because she looked angry when she finished skating. She skated to music from Memoirs of a Geisha and the costume was lovely, but it was sad that she fell. I think competitions are better when everyone skates clean, and their is still a clear winner, but falling is part of skating. I mean, I can barely stay upright on skates, much less jump and spin.

Alissa won! Gold medalist of the US Figure Skating Championships!

We stayed for the Medal ceremony and it was neat to see the girls get their medals. Of course, since all the skaters are American, there aren't any flags raised or anthems played like at the Olympics and so that seemed to be missing.

There is more to tell, of course, and show. I have hundreds more pictures and a couple more stories to tell, but all in all it was a fantastic couple of days. It was so neat to go to the national competition here in my own home town and see all these skaters. I don't know all the newer ones, but some of the more famous skaters I recognized. I mean, Scott Hamilton was there and I ran into Todd Sand (a pairs skater) at the souvenir table. When I thought about getting tickets, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money, but then I thought to myself "why wouldn't you go?" I love skating and have since I was little. Why would I miss this?

I had a great time. Here's hoping that Greensboro gets to host the Championships another year!