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Vincent Zhou Interview: Figure Skaters Online

It’s almost time…U.S. Nationals starts next week! The competition is earlier than usual this year, since the Olympics kick off on Feb. 8. In the remaining days before the competition begins in San Jose, the stars of U.S. skating sat down for interview calls with the media, and I got to participate in a few of them with Figure Skaters Online.

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Image Source: Figure Skaters Online

Here’s an excerpt from my story on Vincent Zhou, defending silver medalist in the men’s event:

Vincent Zhou was riding high at the end of last season. The 2017 U.S. silver medalist and World Junior Champion, 16-year-old Zhou was turning heads with his arsenal of quad jumps and sparking talk of an Olympic berth.

But that momentum didn’t quite carry over into his first full senior season. His Grand Prix showings were inconsistent, with a fourth place at Cup of China followed by a ninth place finish at Internationaux de France. He was second in the free skate in China, climbing back from eighth place after the short. But overall, it wasn’t the strong, consistent Zhou we saw at the end of last season.

“We didn’t obsess over what went wrong, because that can lead to negativity and lots of stress,” Zhou said in a U.S. Figure Skating media call on Dec. 27. “We just discussed with a clear mind changes to make based on how I was feeling. We realized we were pushing too hard.”

Read the rest of the article on Figure Skaters Online to hear how Zhou has adjusted his training going into Nationals and his goals for the competition:

After an inconsistent Grand Prix campaign, Vincent Zhou retools training for Nationals

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Tara Lipinski Interview: Figure Skaters Online

“Going into this Olympics in South Korea it feels very surreal [to be on the prime time broadcast team], but it’s also my 20th anniversary and feels like the start of this career that I’ve always wanted,” said Tara Lipinski, 1998 Olympic Champion. 

She was answering my question about her transition from skater to broadcaster, and the sometimes-difficult path that elite and Olympic athletes have when their competitive days are over. More on what Lipinski calls her second career, and which legendary commentator she looks up to, in my piece for Figure Skaters Online:

On 20th anniversary of her Olympic gold medal, Tara Lipinski looks ahead to new chapter


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Impressions: 5 Thoughts from Skate America 2017

The Grand Prix series wrapped up this weekend with Skate America — which usually kicks off the series. While I thought the timing was weird at first, it was definitely exciting to close out the series with an event broadcast live and in primetime on NBC here in the U.S. I’ve got five thoughts on five Americans at their home-country competition:

  1. Bradie Tennell! I’ve been watching her since this summer, when I worked on her website for Figure Skaters Online, and am such a fan. I remember watching her at previous Nationals and enjoying her skating, but she has kicked it up a notch this year. Her poise and confidence at this event were excellent. I know some are cautioning against anointing her as the next great American hope after one good performance, but it hasn’t been just one. She has been delivering consistently since July, and built on those successes to deliver two clean performances here, under pressure, and grab the bronze medal. If she continues on this trajectory, I predict big things for Nationals. (And just maybe…the Olympics!)

    Skate America Bronze Medalist

    Bradie with her coach, Denise Myers (left), and choreographer, Scott Brown (right). Photo Courtesy Figure Skaters Online

  2. You can always count on Maia and Alex Shibutani to be prepared and deliver clean, consistent programs. But here at Skate America, they looked even stronger and sharper than their last event, Rostelecom Cup. It particularly stood out to me in their short dance, where they brought such energy while still being precise in their movements and nailing the technical content. They are gunning for that third U.S. title — there is no resting on the laurels of success with these two.
  3. Speaking of no rest…who else loved it when Adam Rippon said that his trip to the Grand Prix Final was his reward for his excellent Skate America performance? His work ethic in this Olympic season — while also coming back from his broken foot — is incredibly impressive. If I were picking the U.S. men’s Olympic team, Adam would be on it, no question. He dislocated his shoulder on his opening quad lutz and gave no thought to giving up. He delivered a clean program from there. Johnny Weir and some of the other commentators have mentioned it, but the way that Adam takes his time and breathes through each element is so refreshing and easy to watch. Some of the guys attempting record-breaking quads look like they are gritting their teeth through these programs, but Adam is performing while nailing his jumps.
  4. It was sad, and somewhat shocking, to see Adam’s BFF Ashley Wagner withdraw mid-long program. People from the Twitterverse to commentator Johnny Weir were chattering about the timing of the withdrawal (should she have done it mid-program? toughed it out? withdrew after the warmup?) to the severity of the injury. Whatever you think, it was tough to watch someone who is so synonymous with being a fighter end a competition like that. In the last Olympic cycle, Ashley made her case for the Olympic team with her international successes in the fall, then faltered at Nationals. This time around, she has given herself no choice but to rise to the occasion at Nationals, after low scores at Skate Canada (even though she ended up with the bronze) and withdrawing here, plus some struggles internationally at the end of last season. Before she withdrew from the competition, her focus in comments to the media was on getting enough training time before Nationals, so even if she pulled out a win here and qualified for the Grand Prix Final, it seems unlikely that she would have gone. Hopefully she can buckle down and get the training and preparation in before heading to San Jose for Nationals at the end of December.
  5. The throw jumps by Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim are absolutely breath-taking, in the long program especially. They are timed perfectly with the music, she lands them with such strength and excellent posture, and he throws in a nice little flourish with his arms on the landing as well. Yes, they are still struggling with the side-by-side jumps, but they are maxing out points in their strength areas, like these throws and their huge triple twist.
  6. Ok, I have to do a bonus #6, on a non-American. Can’t help myself. How lovely was Satoko Miyahara? I loved her a few seasons ago and honestly, all her injuries and time away from the ice made her slip from my radar. Her subpar showing at NHK Trophy didn’t help, but, wow, was she great here. She skated with such emotion and heart, and her in-between skating is just stunning. I know her jumps aren’t the highest, but the way she puts together the full package of jumps, spins, and choreography is so appealing. Much like Ashley Wagner, she is a mature skater and genuine performer, which I’ll take over a jumping bean any day.

Between now and the Grand Prix Final (which is Dec. 7-10 in Nagoya, Japan), I’m going to take a look at some of my favorite elements (spins, lifts, etc.) in programs this season!


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Bradie Tennell Interview: Figure Skaters Online

My latest piece is up on Figure Skaters Online: an interview with Bradie Tennell, 2015 U.S. Junior Champion and my pick for a dark horse spot on the U.S. Nationals podium this year (maybe even the Olympic team…?). Her consistency so far this season is the best of all the American ladies. Hear more from Bradie about her goals and approach in:

Bradie Tennell looks ahead to Grand Prix debut at Skate America

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Photo Courtesy Robin Ritoss, via Figure Skaters Online

 


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Kori Ade Interview for Figure Skaters Online

I have a new article up on Figure Skaters Online this morning!

From Forensic Science to the Olympics: Kori Ade’s Coaching Journey

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Photo Courtesy Kori Ade, via Figure Skaters Online

It was a complete thrill to talk with Kori, best known for coaching the incredible Jason Brown, who is competing at Skate Canada this weekend. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Kori Ade thrives in high-pressure situations.

The Colorado-based coach, who was named the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating/Professional Skaters Association’s Developmental Coach of the Year, doesn’t wallow when faced with a problem or a challenge. In her words, she “just keeps rolling” and works to find a solution.

In 2013, she decided to move to Colorado from Chicago to further her coaching career. The day before her moving truck arrived, the phone rang and she learned that she didn’t get the coaching job she had been counting on at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. She was also seven months pregnant with her second daughter.

Ade hung up the phone and sprang into action, calling Colorado Springs-area rinks. The man who picked up the phone at Monument Ice Rink in Monument, Colorado, was willing to give her a chance.

“He told me that they basically turned off the lights and locked the door of the rink during the day,” Ade said. “So I said, just leave a couple lights on and I will build you a program. Give me a year.”

So the next day, she packed up the moving truck and headed west.

That was in March 2013. By February 2014, she was by the boards at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, coaching American Jason Brown to a bronze medal in the team event and a 9th place finish in the men’s event.

For more on how Kori built her program, 7K International Skating Academy, her coaching philosophy, and her approach to this year’s Olympic season, read the rest of the article on Figure Skaters Online.


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What I’ve Been Up To

After a quiet summer on Twizzle Talk, I want to share some exciting news: I’m writing for Figure Skaters Online!

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If you don’t know it, FSO is an awesome news site for skating fans. They also provide websites for some of today’s top skaters — including 2015 U.S. Junior Champion Bradie Tennell, whose site was created by yours truly.

I have grand plans to revive this little space as well, but in the meantime, here are links to what I’ve been working on for FSO:

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Rostelecom Cup this weekend!