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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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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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Stars on Ice Review for Figure Skaters Online

When the 2018 Stars on Ice tour stopped at Chicago’s Allstate Arena, I covered the show for Figure Skaters Online. We arrived nearly three hours before showtime, and got an exciting window into what happens behind the scenes on the tour — preshow rehearsals, autograph sessions, and Q&As.

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2014 Olympic Ice Dance Champion Charlie White led the group through preshow rehearsals, hearkening back to his captain role on the 2014 Olympic team, and emphasized their choreography and timing.

I was also thoroughly impressed by 2018 U.S. Ice Dance Champions Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue. I already loved their skating, of course, but they have great coaching and mentorship skills, too. They led a group of local skaters in a rehearsal for their number at the start of Act II, then participated in a Q&A with the group, discussing everything from their journeys in skating to the challenge of being a male skater in a female-dominated sport, with thoughtful, genuine answers from both (Hubbell drawing on the experience of her brother and former ice dance partner, Keiffer). I’ve watched videos of their coaching seminars on ICoachSkating.com and enjoyed their coaching style — perhaps someday they’ll be a dynamic coaching duo much like their current coaches, World medalists Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

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I also had the chance to interview Maia and Alex Shibutani and Bradie Tennell — stay tuned for future articles on FSO based on those conversations! It was a treat to meet and speak with them all, and I appreciated them taking time out of their show prep to talk with me.

Check out my thoughts on the show performance in my review for FSO. Overall, I thought the skaters performed with much more freedom and energy than last year’s show, with the pressures of the Olympic season off. Plus, seeing many of their Olympic programs in person was a treat! Read more here:

Review: Stars on Ice Celebrates Olympic Season

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(All photos are my own.)


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Olympic Figure Skating Viewer’s Guide

I’ve been glued to my TV watching the Olympics since last week, and, most especially, the figure skating events. I’ve also been working with Cosmopolitan to write some articles about Olympic figure skating!

Cosmo Article Headline

So here are some links that amount to a handy viewer’s guide that I hope will be helpful to seasoned fans and new viewers alike:

7 Things That Make Ice Dancing Different Than the Other Figure Skating Disciplines

All the Figure Skating Lingo You Need to Know Before the Olympics

All the Best International Figure Skaters to Watch for at the 2018 Olympics

Everything to Know About How Olympic Figure Skating Gets Scored

10 of the Biggest Figure Skating Controversies of All Time

I also broke down the scoring controversy in the men’s segment of the figure skating team event for The Boston Globe.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to my editors at Cosmo and the Globe for the opportunity to share my surplus skating knowledge with the masses!


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2018 U.S. Nationals Debrief: The Good & The Bad

The good, the bad, the happy, the sad…that’s me singing some Al Green after a crazy 2018 Nationals. Despite all the drama, I’ll stick with skating forever.

Watching the 2018 U.S. Nationals was more of an emotional viewing experience than I bargained for. I needed some time to digest, hence, why this post is coming almost two weeks after the event. I was so excited for the senior events to get started, and then was emotionally exhausted by the time it all wrapped up on Sunday night. Here’s why:

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Impressions: Cup of China 2017 and Backloading Programs

I have a lot to say about Alina Zagitiva’s victory in the ladies event at the 2017 Cup of China, and I’ll go from trivial to serious. Firstly, those tights:

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Image Source: The Daily Mail

Either go fully over the boot, or just wear regular tights. Please. This in-between look is messy and distracting.

Another distracting thing? How ridiculously backloaded her long program was. I actually got bored watching the first two minutes, waiting for jumps. Then I checked the time in disbelief, because I couldn’t imagine that she did two minutes without jumps. But she did, which made the second half a jumble of skating from jump to jump, without any transitions or interesting movements. I was watching on YouTube without commentary, though I noticed in watching later on NBC that commentator Tara Lipinski pointed it out at the start of the program and said she liked the buildup. I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum.

One of the requirements of the program components mark is proportion in choreography and composition of the program. How does a program like this fit that criteria? With this judging panel, her scores ranged from 8-9.25 in composition. That’s out of 10. And that’s absolutely ridiculous. Beyond that, you need to have the skating skills of someone with the last name Kwan, Cohen, or Kostner to keep my attention for two minutes without jumps.

Proportion requires a balanced program. That means she needs to jump in the first half, no question. I understand putting a majority of jumps in the second half to take advantage of the bonus points, and they are deserved bonus points in most cases. However, the component marks in the composition category should not have been as high as they were. Sure, give her the bonus on the jumps and contribute to her overall TES score of 76.09, but the imbalance needs to be reflected in the components score.

The ISU is considering all sorts of crazy rule changes, and Claire Cloutier of A Divine Sport did an excellent analysis that I highly recommend reading. The changes range from reducing the length of free skates for men and pairs to creating separate artistic and technical programs. They all seem unnecessary and unfounded, and Claire does a great job of explaining why. I’d rather see proposed rule changes that confront issues like this backloading problem, or the fact that people will purposefully rotate and fall on a quad over a clean triple jump, because it gets them more points (More on that from the great Jackie Wong of Rocker Skating). Or maybe the ISU could spend less time on rule changes and more time educating judges and making sure they are handing out marks that reflect the requirements.

The one redeeming quality of Zagitova’s program for me? She included a Charlotte spiral, one of my favorite moves to watch and to do. Here’s the original, performed by Charlotte Oelschlegel, after whom the spiral is named.

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Image Source: AHistoryBlog.com

Thoughts? Anybody love the backloaded approach and care to share a counterargument?