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Coach Michelle Hong’s social media channels support skaters during the coronavirus pandemic

Coach Michelle Hong

Coach Michelle Hong; Photo by Lisa Kimura

Hey skaters and skating fans – I know I’m not alone in missing the ice these days (though it’s a small sacrifice to stay home so we can keep people safe and support essential workers). In looking for ways to stay in shape off the ice and add some variety to my workout routine, I found the fantastic Instagram account of Coach Michelle Hong (pictured), who you may know already from her videos with on-ice tips and off-ice workouts and stretching. Her video on stretches for spirals has become a favorite for me.

With so many people at home and off the ice, I asked her if she’d do an interview with me for Figure Skaters Online and we sat down to chat over Zoom. Here’s the story:

Coach Michelle Hong’s social media channels support skaters during the coronavirus pandemic

The rinks started closing in March, mandated by statewide shelter in place orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With spring competitions and ice shows cancelled or postponed indefinitely, coaches and skaters alike searched for ways to stay in shape off the ice.

Some were scrambling—creating new off-ice programming and offering lessons or workouts on Zoom—but not Michelle Hong, a coach based at the Oakland Ice Center in Oakland, CA. Hong has been sharing skating-specific tips, exercises, and workouts online for four years, since 2016. She has a website, YouTube channel, and Instagram account called Coach Michelle Hong, where she shares free skating content for all ages and ability levels.

“Figure skating is notorious for being one of the most expensive sports, which excludes a lot of people who genuinely love skating and want to compete,” Hong told Figure Skaters Online in a Zoom interview. “Reflecting on how much harder and smarter I had to train just to remain a contender amongst my peers who had daily lessons and more training resources overall, [that] lit the fire behind my idea to be the first person to ever create a free online platform dedicated to empowering all generations of figure skaters and athletes through full tutorials and tips.”

Read the full story at Figure Skaters Online for more from Michelle about how skaters are reacting to her videos and what she’s doing to make skating more accessible for everyone. Thanks to Michelle for taking the time to chat with me!


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Bradie Tennell Interview: She’s “living day to day” amid coronavirus pandemic

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Photo by Robin Ritoss, Courtesy Figure Skaters Online

Last week, I talked with 2018 U.S. Champion and Olympic Team Bronze Medalist Bradie Tennell for Figure Skaters Online. The story is part of an ongoing series catching up with skaters as they, like the rest of the world, adapt to the current circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bradie Tennell’s suitcase was up in her room, half-packed for the 2020 World Championships in Montreal, when she heard the news that the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was literally like somebody kicked me in the gut. I was shocked. We found out four days before we were supposed to leave,” she said. “Obviously, it was the right decision, but it was very hard for me.”

It was an anticlimactic end to Tennell’s season, which had included a silver medal at Skate America, an appearance at the Grand Prix Final, and a bronze medal at the 2020 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Now, at home in suburban Chicago while Illinois is under stay-at-home orders, Tennell says she is “living day to day.”

Read the full story at Figure Skaters Online for more from Bradie, including how she’s keeping busy at home these days and why she supported the recent Blades for the Brave fundraiser for health workers like her mom, who is a nurse.


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Tim Dolensky Q&A

I helped the team at Figure Skaters Online with this Q&A with U.S. national competitor Tim Dolensky, who spent part of this year performing on cruise ships. Hear all about the life of a skating performer on board a Royal Caribbean cruise, from what it’s like skating on a smaller ice surface (at sea, no less!) to what the performers get to do on their days off.

Read the full article at Figure Skaters Online:

 


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Gilles & Poirier Ice-Dance.com Interview: 2020 Canadians

The 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships kick off next week, and I got to sit in on the pre-competition media call with ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer – the favorites to take this year’s Canadian title. Check out my article for Ice-Dance.com to hear how they’re using a 5th-place finish in the Grand Prix Final as both motivation and confidence booster, and the changes they’ve made to their programs for the second half of the season.

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Photo by Robin Ritoss, Courtesy of Ice-Dance.com

Gilles & Poirier Use Grand Prix Final as Motivation for Second Half of Season

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier returned to the Grand Prix Final this year for the first time since the 2014-15 season, propelled by their most successful Grand Prix campaign to date: a first-time Grand Prix victory at Skate Canada and a silver at Rostelecom Cup.

While the duo saw it as a milestone, they ultimately weren’t happy with their fifth place finish in the six-team field.

“We were really pleased to be back at the Final. It’s something that has eluded us for several years and we’ve been very close many times, so it was really nice to be back there and really feel a part of the top echelon in the world,” Poirier said on a Skate Canada media call ahead of the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ontario. “As much as we didn’t quite get the result that we wanted there, we really feel like we were in the mix, especially with coming fourth in the free dance. I think that did build our confidence. We really feel that we are in the mix, that we’re competitive, that we can really challenge for the podium at the World Championships.”

Read the rest of the article on Ice-Dance.com, where we’ll be following all the action from the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships!


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Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier Interview: Duo Takes New Approach to Choreography for 2019-20 Season

Practice ice starts today at Skate Canada International in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the competition kicks off tomorrow. Last week, I joined the pre-competition media call with Canadian ice dancers Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier to hear about their goals for this competition and the season ahead. Check out my article for Ice-Dance.com for all that, plus the different approach they took with choreography this year:

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Photo by Robin Ritoss; Courtesy ice-dance.com

Gilles and Poirier Kick Off Grand Prix Season at Skate Canada

Read the full article at Ice-Dance.com, and check out their awesome Reference section if you want to learn more about ice dance terminology and competition requirements!


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Interview with Frank Carroll

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Photo Courtesy Carroll Private Archive

I had the chance to speak with the great Frank Carroll for a story about the Ice Theatre of New York, which is honoring him with a lifetime achievement award on Monday. Carroll has always been one of my dream interviews, because of his incredible coaching expertise and longevity in the sport. It was so much fun to talk to him about his decades on the ice, as a skater, performer, and coach.

Check out this Q&A for how Carroll approached big competitions, the advice he gives other coaches, his thoughts on Gracie Gold’s comeback, and why he never makes predictions in figure skating:

Legendary Coach Frank Carroll Talks Skating with Figure Skaters Online

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Photo Courtesy Carroll Private Archive