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Jason Brown Stars on Ice 2019 Interview

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Photo by me; Enthusiasm by Jason

When I went to the Chicago stop of the Stars on Ice tour in May, I had the chance to chat with both Ashley Wagner and Jason Brown. You can check out my interview with Ashley here, and today I’m sharing my Q&A with Jason:

2015 U.S. Champion and 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist Jason Brown took some time out of his pre-show warmup at the Chicago stop of the Stars on Ice tour—his hometown show—to catch up with Figure Skaters Online. He only appeared in one weekend of shows on the tour to maximize his off-season training. Read on for more about his first year training with his new coaching team of Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser, and his friendships with other skaters at the Toronto Cricket and Curling Club.

Check out the Q&A interview on Figure Skaters Online!


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Ashley Wagner Stars on Ice 2019 Interview

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Photo by Robin Ritoss for Figure Skaters Online

I chatted with Ashley Wagner before the Chicago performance of Stars on Ice and got all the details on her new podcast, launching this summer! I was at the show reporting for Figure Skaters Online, and wrote a story for the site about our conversation:

Ashley Wagner doesn’t know what she’s doing.

She’s busy—coaching at seminars and the Skating Club of Boston, performing in Stars on Ice and other shows, commentating skating events for the Olympic Channel, documenting life on her new website and her Instagram account—but she doesn’t have a plan like she did when she was training for the Olympics.

It’s an unfamiliar spot for the three-time U.S. Champion, 2014 Olympic Team Bronze Medalist, and 2016 World Silver Medalist, but she says it is still an “exciting” time.

“I love writing, and documenting the transition from being a professional athlete into being whatever I’m going to be—people don’t talk about that enough and it’s a really scary, uncomfortable transition,” Wagner said during a pre-show interview before the Chicago performance of Stars on Ice in May. “I feel like in the past, for athletes, it’s kind of a shameful thing to talk about, but everyone goes through it. The more I talked to retired athletes about what it was like, the better I felt.”

So she’s launching a podcast exploring that concept, inspired by a quote from actress and comedian Gilda Radner, who said these types of transitions are full of “delicious ambiguity.” Wagner plans to launch the podcast this summer, after wrapping up the 2019 Stars on Ice tour.

Read the rest in the full story on Figure Skaters Online for more on Wagner’s podcast plans, new life in Boston, and commentary gigs. And there is more to come from my day at Stars on Ice – check back later in the week for a Q&A with Jason Brown!


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Ting Cui Rides Nationals Momentum to Four Continents: Figure Skaters Online

What a privilege it was to attend the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a member of the media with Figure Skaters Online. One of my top moments (of which there were many!) was watching Ting Cui, ladies 5th place finisher, deliver an incredible free skate after a tough short program. I caught up with her in the mixed zone after her performance and wrote a story about her for FSO:

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Photo by Robin Ritoss for Figure Skaters Online

 

Ting Cui rides momentum of stellar Nationals free skate to late-season assignments

Ting Cui is going to have a busy second half of the season. She’ll be competing at the Four Continents Championships and attending U.S. Figure Skating’s 2019 World Junior Team Camp, plus she’s the first alternate for the senior World Championships team.

Such an outcome seemed all but impossible on Thursday, Jan.24, when she fell twice and failed to complete a combination in the women’s short program at the U.S. Championships. She was in 12th place heading into the long program.

But she climbed up to fifth place with a near-flawless free skate that earned a standing ovation from the crowd at the Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit.

Read the rest of the story—including how this performance will help her throughout the rest of the season and her connection to 2006 World Champion Kimmie Meissner—on Figure Skater’s Online!

And some bonus links:


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Hawayek and Baker 2019 U.S. Nationals Preview

The 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships kick off in less than a week, and I’m counting the days until I head to Detroit to cover the event with Figure Skaters Online.

Leading up to the event, I called in for Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker’s media teleconference and wrote a preview piece for ice-dance.com.

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Photo by Robin Ritoss, courtesy of ice-dance.com

Hawayek and Baker Aim to Continue Breakthrough Season at U.S. Nationals

When American ice dancer Jean-Luc Baker suffered a concussion during preseason training in August, his season with partner Kaitlin Hawayek could easily have gone off the rails. They lost training time and weren’t able to compete before their first Grand Prix event of the season, NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

But instead, after a careful recovery, the team went on to have a breakout season on the Grand Prix, winning gold at NHK and qualifying for their first Grand Prix Final.

“Once we were able to start training again, it was training as quick as possible to get ready for NHK, then we had [Internationeaux de] France a week later, and the next thing you know, we made the Final,” Baker said.

For more on their year of firsts and the team’s goals heading into Nationals, read the full article on ice-dance.com!


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Four Favorites: Internationaux de France 2018

Well, somehow the 2018 Grand Prix Series has concluded. Anybody else feel like the Olympics were about two minutes ago? I fell off of posting a bit last week due to the holiday, but did have plenty of time to soak up the Internationaux de France and determine my four favorites from the event:

        1. In the ladies event, I liked Alexia Paganini’s rocker-rocker entrance into the triple lutz-triple toe combination in the short program. It not only added difficulty, but also highlighted the strong outside edge on the takeoff, which not everyone in this field has mastered. It was the opening element of the Swiss skater’s program:

          Honorable mention goes to the closing moments of Rika Kihira’s long program, with it’s beautifully paced choreography. I’m trying to stick with only four favorites, for alliteration and organization, but sometimes I can’t help myself.
        2. In the ice dance event, I loved how Team USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker enter their stationary lift directly out of the curve lift in the free dance. A difficult setup that shows strength and control, and helps blend the elements seamlessly into the program, rather than telegraphing them.
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        3. On the pairs side, champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres stood out in more ways than one, but I particularly liked their unique entry into the side-by-side salchows:
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          Setting aside that she doubled the jump here, I love this entry, choreographed by Olympic Ice Dance Champion Charlie White. They are doing different movements leading into the jump, but still have perfectly synchronized timing. Plus, this is more visually interesting than simply entering the jump by skating next to each other, as many pairs do.
        4. My favorite part of the men’s event was seeing the International Judging System as its best self. The ISU implemented a lot of changes since last season, including some that controversially devalued quads, especially quads that are underrotated or where the skater falls. I had hoped it would be a positive change, without entirely discouraging skaters from still pushing the sport forward with quad jumps. As I watched Jason Brown’s short program last Friday, I was loving it as usual, and then noticed how high the score was ticking up in the box in the top left corner of my screen. “Is it possible…is he about to win this short program?” I asked myself (aloud, as I often do when watching skating, even alone). Given that he wasn’t trying a quad, I assumed he would end up behind programs with quad attempts, even with a clean program. Not in this newest iteration of the IJS! It was great to see. And in the end, Nathan Chen, the Quad King, won the event, showing that clean quad jumps will still rule the day. But it was so heartening to see a complete program—clean skate, presentation, spins, everything Jason Brown does so beautifully—properly rewarded. Here it is:

 


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Four Favorites: NHK Trophy 2018

I’m watching the short programs at Rostelecom Cup while I type out this post, as I’m sure many of you skating fans are as well. In the time between the shorts and tomorrow’s long programs, let’s take a brief look back at NHK Trophy last week, for my four favorite costume looks.

Admittedly, this is a very U.S.-centric post, but I have to say that the American skaters brought their fashion game to this event!

  1. Kaitlin Hawayek’s dresses in both the rhythm dance and the free dance were gorgeous. I especially loved the open back on the red rhythm dance dress (but sadly couldn’t find a good photo of it!), and the sheer sleeves on the free dance dress.
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    Rhythm dance dress; Image via TSN

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    Free dance dress; Image via AFP on enca.com

  2. Alexa Scimeca Knierim’s long program dress is stunning, and pulls off the piecey skirt look without it seeming like the dress went through a paper shredder. Tough to find a good full-length image of this one, too, but the skirt and pretty, paint-like details are visible here:

  3. On the men’s side, Alexander Johnson was the clear fashion standout of the group. I loved the color of his short program outfit, and the architecture of the long program top was unique and minimalist.
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    Same short program costume, different event; Image via Johnson’s Twitter page

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    Long program; Image via YouTube

    This was his first Grand Prix event, and he prepared for competition this summer while balancing an investment banking internship—major kudos there.

  4. I’ve already mentioned my love for Mariah Bell’s short program dress this year, and the long program dress is also lovely. It reminds me a bit of Ashley Wagner’s first dress for her Muse long program. I like the addition of the rope-like detailing on Mariah’s version. For some reason, the only images I could find of her dresses at this event are blurry YouTube screenshots, but Mariah posted great shots of each dress from Skate Canada on her Instagram:

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    Skate Canada 2018💜

    A post shared by Mariah 🔔 (@mariahsk8rbell) on

Did anyone else have any fashion faves from this event or the rest of the season so far?