2003 US Nationals

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Photo Notes

Photos are Copyright (c) 2003, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

I tried to take lots of shots of all the competitors at the events where I was taking photos. Unfortunately, not all of them came out well. Lighting was good in the AA Center, but not so good at Reunion. My camera has a disconcerting tendency to try to focus on the ads on the boards behind the skaters.... especially a problem when the skaters are wearing light-colored clothes that don't contrast with the ice, I found. So, I'm sorry if I didn't include a lot of photos of your favorite skater here. I also apologize for the crummy white balance on some of the photos I took at Reunion Arena, I did not always remember to reset it when going from one venue to another. :-(

Photography geek stuff: My camera is a Sony F707 digital. At Reunion, I was shooting mostly at F2.8, ISO 400, 1/250 second. At the AA center, I was shooting at F2.8, ISO 200, 1/250 second. I was using 960x1280 resolution for almost everything, and most of the photos here have been cropped but not resized. (This isn't enough resolution for high-quality prints, so please don't ask if I can provide them.) I tweaked the brightness and saturation a bit in software.

Monday report

Novice men free skate

I was trying to take both detailed notes *and* photos at this event, and probably didn't end up doing a very good job of either one, so I apologize for omissions or inaccuracies.....

By the way, for those having trouble with my abbreviations: t = toe loop, s = salchow, r = loop (rittberger), f = flip, z = lutz, x = axel.

Daniel Raad (8 in FS, 9 overall): 3z two-footed with a step out, 3s/toe axel step out, flying camel/sit, 3t/toe axel, 2x, 2f(?)/half loop/2s, 3r with tight landing, change camel, spirals, 2x, 3s, pop t, camel/sit/back sit.

Charlie White (10): 2x/2t, 3s with a tight landing/2t with an even tighter one, back camel/sit spin, 3f fall, 3r fall, camel/sit/sit variant/back camel/sit, 2z/2r with a double 3, 3s, 2x, flying camel, circular step, 2t, camel/butterfly back sit/scratch. Good speed and footwork in this program.

John Coughlin (11): edgy 1-foot turns, 2x steps 3(?)t, camel/sit/back sit, 3t/2t, 3s fall, flying sit that went wrong, 2z/2t, 2x, flying camel that immediately went to an upright spin instead of holding the camel position, 3 turns into a 2r fall, fall on 2z with arms overhead, 2f, scratch spin.

Michael Novales (7): 3s fall, pop z, 3t fall, camel/sit/butterfly back sit, 2x, 3s/2t, 2x/2t, death drop, 2f, circular steps, spread eagle, camel/sit/back sit.

Mark Bernardo (12): 2r, 2z step out, 2x/2t, flying camel to toller sit, 3s fall, 2f step 2t, 2x, spin combination, 2z/2t, 2f fall, death drop/back scratch then step into forward scratch spin. Looks very young and the jump content was lacking, but I thought he had a nice quality to his skating.

R.J. Westfall (9 in FS, 8 overall): 2x, 3t turn out/2t, camel/back camel/sit, spread eagle into 3s, 2f(?), 3r fall, 3z fall, flying camel not held very long, straight-line steps, 2x, very brief sit spin and finished well behind music.

James Hanley (3 in FS, 4 overall): flying sit nice, 2x/2t, 3t/2t, straight-line steps, 3r/2t, flying camel, 3s, camel/sit/catch-foot/back sit, spread eagle, 2t, 2f, 2x, butterfly back sit into very fast scratch spin to end the program. Really nice clean program with good quality spins; he impressed me very much.

Jon Nuss (6): 3t/2t, flying camel didn't fly, "very slow" (not sure if I meant that to apply to the camel or to his in-between skating after that), 3s/2t step out, 2x/2t, serpentine steps, 2f, spread eagle into 2x fall, 3t fall, steps into 2z, wimpy flying sit.

Colin Pennington (1): 2x, death drop, 3z (surprise!), 3f, pop r, flying camel, 3r step 2t, 2x, 3s/2t, circular steps, 2f/2t, camel/sit/back sit.

Geoffry Varner (4 in FS, 5 overall): camel/sit/back sit, 2x, 3t, 3f, 2t, 3s, death drop, straight-line steps, 2x step out/2t, change sit, 2x step out, 2z/2t.

Tommy Steenberg (5 in FS, 3 overall): 2x, 3z, 3f fell out very crooked, camel/sit/upright catch, 2r, 3t hand down, camel/sit/back sit, MITF, 1.5 flip(?), straight-line steps, 2x(?) step out, 3t/2t, 2f, flying sit oops.

Daniel Weintraub (2): 3t/2t nice, 3z fell very crooked, 2x/2t, camel/back camel/sit, circular steps, 3r/2t hung on, spread eagle into 3s, death drop, straight-line steps, 3t, split into 2f, 2x, stars into butterfly back sit and then forward scratch spin.

Novice ladies free skate

Stephanie Dal Porto (9 in FS, 10 overall): 2f/2t, 2x/toe axel, 2s/2t, layback, 2x, 3r fall, 2x, camel/sit/back camel/illegible scribble, straight-line steps, 2flutz, slit, death drop with a lot of air.

Natalie Malone (5 in FS, 7 overall): camel/sit/back camel/sit/attitude, back spiral into 2f, 3r, 2t, layback, spread eagle, 3s, spirals wobbled a bit, waxel then stepped right into 2x, 3s/2t tight, circular step, 2z/2r, flying camel/grafstrom/illusion/back scratch. Really nice performance.

Tosha Hanford (11): 2x, 3r fall, 2z/2r, flying camel that didn't fly, 2s, layback, pop t, ina, 2r, spread eagle, pop z, split/split/2f sequence, camel/sit/layback/back sit/scratch.

Felicia Gostisbehere (4 in FS, 5 overall): donut spin, 3s/2t, 3r, 2x spin out steps into 2t, 3t fall, camel/sit/layback/back catch, 3s, 2x, 2f, 2z/2r, straight-line steps, flying camel with illusions. Really big jumps and skates with a lot of attitude that reminded me of Sasha Cohen.

Kimmi Jeffers (12): 2x fall, 3s fall, can't read my scribbles, some kind of spin, spirals, 2x fall, 3s fall, layback, 2f/2r, 1z, 2t, death drop. In spite of the jump errors, I enjoyed her program and choreography which were kind of unusual for a novice lady -- it was a modern cello sonata, I think. Cello and piano, anyway.

Katrina Karpowitsch (8 in FS, 9 overall): 2x/2t, 3s cheated/2t, 2r, layback, spiral into 2f fall, flying camel with no fly, 2x, 2z, back half sit spin, steps into 2f, camel/layback/back corkscrew sit spin. I noted that she's a reverse jumper.

Lauren Hennessy (10 in FS, 8 overall): waxel that didn't get off the ice, 2z with arms overhead, 3s with delayed rotation, flying camel, 3r cheated or skidded on the landing, 2x/toe axel, 3s fall, layback, straight-line steps looked pretty basic, 2f, scribble, 2z/2r, camel/sit/back sit/catch.

Katy Taylor (2): 2x/2t/2r, sit/layback/back sit, 2z/2t, 2s/2t, flying camel, spirals circular step, 3r with free foot down quickly, camel/back sit/toller sit, 2x, 2f, layback. Very young and perky-looking, reminded everyone of Tara Lipinski, I think.

Jessica Houston (3): 2x, 3t/2t, flying camel/sit, 2z(?)/2r, layback, spirals, 3s, 2f, straightline steps to music scribble, walleys into 2x, 3t fall, camel/sit/back sit/variation. She had a great program going until that fall on the toe loop at the end.

Jessica Leatham (7 in FS, 6 overall): 3t/2t, 2x/2t, back spiral into 2s, 3t hands down, camel/sit/back sit, 2x with hand down, flying camel with illusions, 2z, 2r, butterfly.

Brianna Perry (6 in FS, 4 overall): 2x, 3t fall, 3s/2t, 2f/2r, layback, 3r fall, camel/sit/back sit, straightline steps with an inside axel, death drop(?), walley, 3t fall, splits, back scratch. Strong in-between skating, but she had the same kind of melt-down on the jumps at New Englands.

Kimberly Meissner (1): 3z(!!), 3t, spin combination ending with Y position, 3s, flying camel, edgy straight-line steps, 2x, layback, 2f, pop s, split, 2x/2t/2r, butterfly.

Junior compulsory dance

I only saw the first compulsory dance (the Westminster Waltz), and I was busy taking photos and no notes, so I can't offer any really detailed commentary on the skating. I wasn't in a particularly good position to see the cleanliness of the turns and who was really doing a correct rocker and counter, but I could have picked out the top 3 couples on the basis of speed alone. At the other end of the spectrum, several of the lower-ranked couples were having real problems with the turns and tripped or fell, and I remember seeing one team who went into the turns already on completely different lobes and pulling each other in opposite directions, which was really scary. And Wester & Harris managed to fall in a heap right where the pattern starts to repeat and they weren't doing anything but a progressive, I think. Anyway, I probably missed some timing problems and other details, but the judging looked more or less correct to me.

Photos

Tuesday report

I spent the day doing nothing but watching practices, starting with junior men short program practice at Reunion Arena bright and early at 7am. :-P Actually, the quality of skating made it worthwhile -- I didn't take notes and my memory is a little hazy by now, but I recall that at least Jordan Brauninger, Wesley Campbell, Mauro Bruni, and Dennis Phan were all doing triple flip/triple toe and triple lutz out of steps with reasonable consistency and control. Pierre Balian is going for a triple axel combination but I didn't see him come close to landing one in this session. Adam Aronowitz was the only no-show.

After that, it was off to watch senior men's free skate practice at the rink in Duncanville.

Shepherd Clark did a runthrough with no jumps and didn't seem to be doing much jumping otherwise, either. Ryan Bradley had a messy time of it with multiple falls in his runthrough. Scott Smith looked pretty good, landing the triple axel in his runthrough but two-footing his quad salchow. I can see improvements in his upper-body carriage, but he still needs to work on skating deeper in his knees and using his edges more. Derrick Delmore did a partial runthrough and I don't recall seeing him landing either an axel or a quad in this practice.

Tim Goebel was hot and cold, starting out his runthrough by falling on the (f)lutz and axel, landing quad toe and salchow, missing the second quad, and getting in a triple salchow and loop at the end. Going back to his old program seems like a smart move, or a least I got the sense that he was comfortable executing actual choreography between his jumps and not just wandering around aimlessly, which is what it seemed like with his newer program. Johnny Weir did a partial runthrough, but I loved what I saw of his "Dr. Zhivago" program. 3x/3t squeaked out, two-footed second 3x, popped the quad. Evan Lysacek's axel is still a quarter turn underrotated, but he is standing up on it more often than not, and everything else looks very sharp. His long program seemed a little more extroverted than it did at Midwesterns, too.

Ryan Jahnke is now landing his axel with good consistency, and it's fully rotated and not two-footed at all; ditto for his triple lutz/triple toe and triple flip/triple loop combinations. I've never seen him skate this well ever, much less on the first day of competition practice. Matt Savoie, meanwhile, injured himself about 10 minutes into the practice (doing what I think was intended to be a quad) and left without doing his runthrough, and also skipped the evening practice. Third-hand word is that he's been having some kind of twinges in his knee and he aggravated it again, and wanted to have it looked at instead of risking making it worse. Michael Weiss did not show although we saw him in the hotel restaurant so he is definitely here.

After the men, I sat through all three groups of ladies free skate practice, but I'm afraid my mind is kind of in a fog about it all. I do remember that Louann Donovan and Beatrisa Liang both looked really impressive. Kwan, Cohen, Hughes, and McDonough were all no-shows. Amber Corwin made an impression just because of her practice attire -- an asymmetric one-sleeved purple beaded unitard, yowza.

I went back to Reunion for the evening senior men's short program practice. Shepherd Clark once again did no jumps, and neither did Derrick in his runthrough, but afterwards he landed a quad toe. Dunno if he ever got a triple axel in or not, though. Scott Smith had another good practice, and Ryan Bradley looked a little more under control than in the morning practice. Nick Laroche was on fire, landing a huge triple axel in his runthrough.

Tim Goebel had a clean runthrough. This was the first time we've seen his new short program to "Montagues and Capulets", and I'm not sure yet whether such strong music helps or hinders him. Shaun Rogers was kind of messy, doubled everything in his runthrough. Braden Overett was having better luck with his axel in this practice than the morning one. Danny Clausen, who'd missed the morning practice, showed up for this one, but did no jumps. He spent an awful lot of time just doing MITF and footwork patterns, and then another big block of time working on spins.

The third group was just Ryan Jahnke, Parker Pennington, and Michael Villareal, and I confess I was paying no attention at all to Parker and Michael. Ryan's music was the last in the rotation to be played and he did a lot of just stroking around to stay loose and kill time, but along the way he unleashed another 3 perfect triple axels. At the end of the practice, after his runthrough, he also made a few attempts at a quad. It's still about a quarter turn short but it doesn't look bad at all. Anyway, the rest of Ryan's skating is of such high quality that it's great to see that something has finally "clicked" with his jumping.

Wednesday report

Junior men short program

During the early-morning 20-minute warmups before the competition, they were having a problem with sand coming up through the ice at one end of the rink. At least one competitor (Jordan Brauninger) had to get his skates re-sharpened. The ice crew had that area coned off and were working on it while the junior ladies were warming up, and then they worked on it some more and delayed the start of the competition about half an hour. I didn't hear about any more problems after that, so I guess the repair must have been satisfactory.

My notes are sketchy, I was mostly only noting jump elements while concentrating on taking photos.

Jordan Brauninger (1): Well, no saving the best for last at this event. 3f/3t, 2x, 3z from steps. Step sequences were serpentine and circular. His clever "fly" program did not seem to me to be as convincingly presented as at Midwesterns, where I remember watching in stunned delight, but there's no arguing with a clean program.

Luis Hernandez (10): 3r step out/2t, 2x, pop z. In spite of the jump problems, he's a very stylish skater with excellent carriage.

Mauro Bruni (7): pop x (sigh), 3f/3t fall, 3z. Another skater with strong carriage and excellent choreography. Whatever was Hugh Graham thinking to place him last, with a presentation mark a full half point lower than he gave to anyone else?

Jason Wong (4): 3z wild landing, 3r/2t, waxel. This is Jason's first year in juniors and he still "skates young" compared to most of the other guys.

Nathan Evancho (12): 3z fall, 3t two-footed/toe axel with step out, 2x step out, flying camel not enough rotations, gave up in middle of straight-line steps. More or less a complete disaster, sigh. Like I said, what planet was Hugh Graham on?

Dennis Phan (2): pop x (I've never seen such a rash of axel-itis in one competition), 3f/3t fall, 3z. Also had a glitch with the camel spin at the end of the program. I was surprised by how high his marks were given the errors -- some of the judges obviously did not take the full 0.8-0.9 in deductions -- but he's another stylish skater with good carriage and flow. Still, very lucky to be this high after such a messy program.

Ben Woolwine (9): 3z hung on, 3lip fall, 2x. Ben's kind of rough around the edges still, and the judges were pretty merciless on him.

Adam Aronowitz (5): 3f/2t, 2x fall (yup, another one), 3z hung on.

Dusty Brinsmade (8): 3f fall, 3z possibly two-footed, 2x. Really got a mixed bag of ordinals from the judges.

Pierre Balian (11): 3x fall/2t, 2z, 2x ground to a halt on the landing. High-risk strategy with the axel combination probably wouldn't have paid off even if he'd landed it.

Christopher Toland (3): 3f/2t, 2x, 3z fall out. Another mixed bag of ordinals; he doesn't have the same performance quality as some of the other skaters in this group, but he more or less got the job done.

Wesley Campbell (6): 3z fall, 3f step out/2t, 2x. My notes say "edges!!", and indeed I think his edge quality, flow, and ice coverage are the best of the field. But the jump errors just killed him.

All in all, a very disappointing event, with Jordan Brauninger delivering both the only clean program and only triple/triple combination of the bunch. I had hoped for a lot better after having watched practices.

Junior ladies short program

Stephanie Rosenthal (5): 2x, 3t/2t, 2z. Very cool program to music with interesting rhythms. She also had some unusual spins.

Jane Bugaeva (8): 3f fall/2t, 2x landed on toe, 3z also on toe with a hop out.

Danielle Kahle (7): 2x, 3f fall/2t, 3z with a messy step-out. She's the smallest and youngest-looking competitor in the field, I think.

Alexandra Patterson (4): 3z, 2x, 3t/2t, but the effect of the whole program was less than these jumps might indicate. One of the oldest and tallest competitors here.

Shanell Noji (6): 2x, 3t/2t, 2z. Her program was a crowd favorite.

Kristina Olson (13): 3f fall, 3z fall, 2x.

Natalie Mecher (1): 2x, 3f/2t, 2z. Fast secure in-between skating.

Emily Hughes (12): 3t fall, 2x, 2z very scratchy. Trying to be conservative on the jumps backfired.

Katie Stewart (14): 2x fell out, 3s fall, 2z.

Erica Archambault (2): 3s/2t, 2z, big 2x. Definitely the strongest in-between skating of the entire event; looks like she's improved a lot since I last saw her compete at New Englands, where she looked decidedly tentative.

Megan Williams-Stewart (10): 3r with hands down/2t, 2z, 2x.

Lisa Dannemiller (11): 3t/2t, 2x, popped lutz (sigh). I like the quality of her in-between skating, but she either needed harder jumps or to skate cleanly.

Adriana DeSanctis (3): 3z hung on, 3s/1.5t landed forward, 2x barely hung on. You can tell she's the most accomplished athletic skater in the event, but she didn't seem like she was in her comfort zone.

Sandra Rucker (9): 2x, 3f/toe axel, pop z. Looks like she's had quite a growth spurt since I last saw her.

Practice notes

I spent the afternoon watching senior men practice their long programs at the rink in Duncanville. Most of the guys were not doing full runthroughs and were kind of hit and miss on their jumps. Neither Tim Goebel nor Michael Weiss showed up for this practice, but Matt Savoie did. I was told he skipped the morning practice and was going to make a decision whether or not to withdraw after this one. He actually looked OK to me -- his jumps were hot and cold like everyone else's, but I think he skated all the way through his runthrough, which was nice to see. I still haven't seen Derrick Delmore land a triple axel this week, but Nick LaRoche landed several this afternoon. Braden Overett landed a few axels also, but is still having consistency problems with his lutz. I think Ryan Jahnke only landed one clean axel this afternoon but I was told he did better with it in the morning practice. Ryan Bradley did a surprisingly disciplined runthrough of his program and hit the axel in it after having done nothing but a gazillion pops and falls while warming up. Scott Smith continues to have better luck with his axel than his quad salchow this week. Johnny Weir seems to have left his quad back in Delaware, as I haven't even seen him doing any serious attempts at it.

I actually arrived out in Duncanville while the last group of ladies was still on the ice, and got to see Michelle Kwan's run-through. Wow. She missed the second lutz, but she's such a pro and is skating with such freedom and confidence that she makes everyone else in this field look like a wanna-be. This was enough to convince me that this is really her competition to lose. Mme. Tarasova was sitting in the next section of bleachers over from me watching intently, and then left abruptly as soon as Michelle was finished. Heh.

I decided to skip the senior pairs short program and veg out at the hotel for a while instead. Last year's pairs were so painful to watch that I really could not stir up much interest in them again this year, and I needed a break to eat real food. I ended up going over to watch junior men practice after dinner -- hard to resist that after one of the competitors more or less directly ordered me to attend when I ran into him as I was leaving the hotel restaurant!

Photos

Thursday report

Junior free dance

I came into this competition late after having been at the men's and ladies' short program warmups in the morning. I wasn't taking either notes or photos, and to tell the truth, I don't remember much detail about any of the performances after this amount of time (I'm writing this over a week later). About the only thing I can say is that I didn't think any of the dances I saw were up to the same quality as Ralph & O'Meara's winning free dance from last year. Oh, and Augie Hill had quite a fan club in attendance! Good for him and Flo to skate so well in front of a home-town audience. Hard to believe he is only 17. I'd guess Frisch & Bommentre and probably Matthews & Zavozin will move up to senior next year, and we'll see Steed & Hill and Donowick & Ungar duking it out for the title next year. They're both strong young teams with a lot of potential.

Senior men short program

Since I was concentrating on taking photos, my notes on this event are rather sketchy and consist of jump elements only, except where I noted some obvious problems with other elements. I've filled in some other stuff from memory, here and there.

Shepherd Clark (17): 3x splat, 3z/2r, 3f splat. Change camel was especially slow (Shep's normally a better spinner than that).

Danny Clausen (11): 2x, 3f/3t hand down, 3z hand down. Very good spins -- the sit spin that sped up in time with the music was especially cool.

Derrick Delmore (12): 4t splat, 2z, 1x. Slow, flat, and tentative throughout; after having watched him in practice earlier in the week, I was sure that something was wrong. He withdrew immediately after the short, before the draw for the free skate.

Tim Goebel (1): 4s/2t, 3x step out, 3f. Spins looked fine, with good fly on the butterly spin. OTOH, he looked pretty stiff and slow, and his outfit didn't help; it reminded me of Todd Eldredge's infamous "Amish Klingon" suit, so stiff and bulky that it wore him instead of vice versa.

Evan Lysacek (9): 3z/2t, 3x underrotated and two-footed with a step-out, 3f "lipped" as usual. This Paso Doble program is a lot more audience-friendly than his free skate, but he was pretty sluggish through the circular footwork and didn't really start to sell it until the straight-line steps.

Jordan Wilson (18): 3x step out/2t, 2f, 2x. His big goofy grin lets you know how much fun he's having and invites you to share.

Nick LaRoche (8): 3x step out, 3f/2t, 3z. Shredded shirt with a lot of fake flesh that made you wonder if he'd gotten the worst of an encounter with a large, hungry tiger.

Johnny Weir (2): 3z/3t, 3x, 3f. I wrote "slow" in my notes, before the 3f. I didn't care much for the over-the-top costume.

Ben Miller (10): 3x, 3z hand down/2t, 3f. Another skater with an effective straight-line footwork section. I also loved his costume -- gloves, ruffles, sequins, *and* sparkly pants, yet somehow it didn't seem overdone!

Scott Smith (5): 3x, 4s/2t, 3r with a skidded landing. Unfortunately, I found his program pretty forgettable.

Ryan Bradley (15): hopeless waxel, 3f, 3z fall, and really slow spins. Oh dear. But this was the way he was practicing for much of the week. He seems to run hot and cold much more than most of the other guys.

Parker Pennington (7): 3x hung on for dear life, 3z/3t looked cheated or two-footed on the back half, 3f.

Michael Villareal (13): 3flutz/3t, 2x, 2f (oops). He's looking a lot more seniorish this year.

Ryan Jahnke (6): 3z/3t, 3x fall, 3f. Too bad about the axel after he'd been landing it in practice, but the triple/triple is much more secure for him now than it has been in the past. Best part of this program, IMO, is the CW circular footwork (reverse direction for him), with about half the circle done all on one foot. Based on the feedback he got last year, Ryan was deliberately trying more mainstream, accessible, and audience-friendly program styles this year, and while it's definitely been working with the judges, I can't say either of his programs this season strikes me as being close to his best work from a creative point of view.

Kurt Fromknecht (16): 3x fall, 3f/3t fall out of back half, 3z. I can't get over how much his in-between skating has improved in the past few years; a very enjoyable program in spite of the jump mistakes.

Matt Savoie (3): 3x, 3f/2t hung on, 3z. Fast and powerful, he was really giving everything he had into this program, knee injury or no. I was really struck by the tremendous ice coverage on each stroke.

Michael Weiss (4): 4t two-footed/2t, 2.5x with messy forward landing, 3z. Spins seemed slower than normal to me, but the choreography was fast and aggressive and he sold it well. To tell the truth, I was somewhat surprised the judges put him behind Matt because of the base mark thing, and in the past they've always been pretty generous with giving him credit for two-footed quads.

Braden Overett (13): 3x with hand down and step out, 3z fall, 2f (I remember he popped the last jump at Mids, too). Sigh. Pretty much a total loss for jumps, but still a musical and funny program full of personality.

Shaun Rogers (19): 2t (after having landed a quad in warmup!), 3x fall, 2z. I understand he's been dealing with a nagging injury for some time, and it seems to have affected his confidence and consistency. He's been pushing hard on the jumps for the past year or two and his choreography has suffered a bit in consequence.

Senior ladies short program

Sketchy notes again, sorry. It's hard to take both good photos and good notes at the same time.

Amber Corwin (7): pre-rotated 3t/3t, 3z looked cheated, 2x. Death drop was huge. I've got to give her credit for skating about as well as she possibly could.

Kim Ryan (16): 3r fall, 2x, 3t. Really strong edge quality and basic skating, though, and her spiral sequence included an incredible upside-down position that she entered with an almost languid movement and seemed like she could hold forever, if she wanted to. We were all wondering if she is too tall to do pairs.

Kelsey Drewel (17): 2x, 3z fall, 3t. Very perky, energetic program.

Alissa Czisny (14): 3z fall, 3f fall, 2x. Ouch on the jumps, but she got the crowd's attention with the extension on her spins and spirals. Sasha Cohen often projects an "I'm gonna get that leg up there if it kills me!" look on her extension moves, but Alissa manages even more extreme positions without making it look like it's a struggle for her.

Joan Cristobal (18): 3f two footed, 3z fall out, 2x, wild combination spin that she was unable to center.

Tricia Mansfield (20): 2x, 2z, 3t/2t step out. It's nice to see a grown-up in this event. As others have pointed out, this is a very sexy woman, but in a powerful rather than a coy kind of way.

Lindsey Weber (12): 3f/2t, 3t, 2x. Good for her. But talk about a polar opposite from Tricia -- tinkly little girl music that made you think of a music-box ballerina.

Kailee Watson (21): pop z, 3f fall, 2x fall. Besides the jump errors, the in-between skating was sluggish and tentative-looking.

Louann Donovan (9): 3z/2t big smile, 3f, 2x hung on. More "little girl" pretty music; I thought the attack of last year's "Bolero" short was a lot more suited to her style.

Angela Nikodinov (11): 3z step out/2t, 3f two-footed, 1x. Like somebody else said, the shoulder bone is connected to the head bone. She withdrew from the competition prior to the free skate, and speculation was running rampant that this was surely the end of her competitive career. The focus and desire just don't seem to be there any more.

Jennifer Kirk (4): 3z/2t, 3f, 2x. I see that they've been working on her speed and power, but she still couldn't sustain the speed through her spirals.

Jennifer Don (10): 3t/2t, 3s, 2x. This is the same short program (and same jump content) she's had since she was a novice. A strong clean performance, and her marks drew loud boos from many in the audience, who didn't understand the concept of a "base mark".

Krissa Miller (19): 2x, 3z probably two-footed/toe axel, 3f fall.

Ann Patrice McDonough (6): 3z/2t, 2x fall, 3f. AP seemed to be having major problems with her axel this competition.

Sarah Hughes (3): 2x, 3 flutz very wild/2t, 3f also with a bad landing. I liked the music and construction of the program, but Sarah's jumping seems to have regressed about 3 years.

Michelle Kwan (1): 2x, 3z/2t, 3f. The crowd was going nuts by the time she entered her straight-line steps. Fast, confident skating with an "attack" we hadn't seen from her in a couple of years. I didn't think this performance could have been beaten even if her competitors had skated cleanly.

Beatrisa Liang (8): 3z/2t, 3f step out, 2x. I thought her speed through the first two jumping passes was greatly improved since last year, but she slowed down noticibly in her footwork.

Andrea Gardiner (13): 2x, 3flutz with a hand down/2 toe, 3f fell, and then completely blew her flying camel. Sigh. Andrea has such a classy presence on the ice that I hate to see her making so many mistakes.

Amber Czisny (15): 3s fall, 2x, 3t very wild. Good spins and spirals, at least.

Sasha Cohen (2): 3 flutz wild/2t two-footed, 3f, flying camel travelled all over the place, 2x. Yikes. She looked unprepared to live up to all the hype surrounding her this season.

OK, now I have to rant for a bit. As soon as Sasha's marks came up, people started streaming up out of the arena towards the exits -- including, embarassingly enough, most of the people seated in the USFSA VIP section right in front of me. I can sympathize with people who get delayed and have to arrive late for an event, but I thought it was exceptionally rude and disrespectful that these folks couldn't stay in their seats just 5 minutes longer while the last competitor of the evening skated. I know how hard all of the skaters work to make it to Nationals to begin with; they are all deserving of our respectful attention. And it especially ticks me off that all those USFSA people left, because the last skater isn't exactly a nobody in the sport, and those USFSA folks are the same people who are in a position to make decisions about funding and international assignments that can have a critical impact on her future career, and they couldn't even trouble themselves to watch her skate. Hello, what's wrong with this picture?

Yebin Mok (5): glorious huge pure 3z/2t, 3r from turns, 2x. Great spins with lovely positions. Yebin doesn't skate with as much speed or external expression as some of her competitors, but her technique is astonishingly good and she obviously has an inner vision of what her skating is all about. I'm so glad to see her have this breakthrough performance! What was left of the crowd gave her a standing ovation -- I think the only one of the night except for Michelle Kwan? Mutual friends who spoke with her afterwards reported that she said her face hurt from smiling so much. :-)

Photos

Friday report

Junior men free skate

Ben Woolwine (10): 3z hands down, 3lip/3t underrotated and two-footed, 3s, walleys(? can't read my scribble) into pop z, 3z fell, 3t, 2x.

Pierre Balian (9): 3x step out, 2f, 3s, pop r, really bad change camel, 3t/2t wild, 2x. Looks to me like the judges gave him partial credit for the axel.

Dustin Brinsmade (8): 3t, 3z, 3f/2t, 3s hands down, 2z, 3s no combination, 1x. Really got into the vampire thing in this program -- you wouldn't have had to recognize any of the music to know what character he was trying to portray.

Nathan Evancho (12): 3f steps into 3t maybe two-footed, 3r fall, 3z fall, 2x, 3f fall, 3t, split jumps.

Mauro Bruni (7): 3z/2t, 2f/3t fall, 3r, 3z, walley into 3s, 3f fall, 1x then 2x. Too bad about the flip, otherwise this was a very respectable performance. Mauro's "Miss Saigon" program is, I think, the single most effective piece of choreography I've ever seen from a junior-level skater, full of detail and deep emotion. Everyone who sees it seems to draw immediate comparisons to Paul Wylie.

Luis Hernandez (11): 3r step out, 2z/2t, 3t, 2f, 2x fall, 2s, another 3t, 2x step out. In spite of the light jump content, he strikes me as being a good skater, very enjoyable to watch.

Christopher Toland (4): 3t/2t, pop z, 3r, 3f, 3t, 2x, 3z, split flip, 3s. As in the short, a fairly workmanlike performance without a whole lot of excitement, but he got the job done.

Adam Aronowitz (3): 3f/2t, 3z steps into 3t, 2x, pop r, 3z, 3s wild, 3t steps 2t. Effective, well-presented Rachmaninoff program. With this finish, he might move up to senior next year, but he obviously hasn't hit his growth spurt yet and I think junior would be a better place for him.

Jason Wong (5): 3t step out 3r, pop z, 3f, looked like he tripped a bit, inside axel, 3r, pop z, 2x, 3s. Personally, I'd have put him behind Mauro Bruni, because of the second mark. Jason definitely needs another year in junior, but he did really well for himself considering that not only was he just up from novice, but he missed a big chunk of the summer/fall season due to injury as well.

Jordan Brauninger (2): 3f, 3z/3t, 3r/2r, 3s from turns, 3f/half loop/2s, 3z. Absolutely no doubt in my mind that this should have been the winning performance; it's the strongest technical performance I've ever seen from a junior man at Nationals. I thought I knew what to expect after having seen Jordan skate at Mids and in practices here, but he seemed to crank it up another notch here and I was once again utterly blown away by the performance level. The jumps were gigantic and done with absolute security of technique, his fast strong in-between skating seemed to fill the entire arena, and I was stunned by how suddenly *adult* he had become in his skating, even compared to the short program 2 days earlier. Some people have been saying unkind things about Jordan's spins and presentation, and while it's true that the rest of his skating is not up to the same level of his jumps yet, it's really not at all deficient for a junior skater. To tell the truth, when I first saw Jordan skate as a novice, I was much more impressed by his edge quality and ease of movement than by his jumps at that point, so I have no fear that he's going to turn out to be another Tim Goebel or anything like that.

Wesley Campbell (6): 3r, 3x fall, 3z really bad fall, 3f, 3s hand down, 3z, 2x/2t. Once again, the strongest in-between skating of the event marred by too many mistakes on jumps. This is Wesley's first year in junior, so it wouldn't be amiss for him to stay back another year, but he'd probably do OK in senior too if it weren't for the already incredibly deep senior men's field at Midwesterns.

Dennis Phan (1): 2x, 3z, 3f/2t, 3r/3r tight landing with step out, 3z/2t, 3t, big split jumps, 3s. A very fine and well-balanced performance, but without the electricity of Jordan's skate, or (for me, at least) the deep emotion and thoughtfulness of Mauro Bruni's program.

Count me among those who were shocked by the judging and final result of this competition. It was frustrating to me, too, that the skater who delivered the best short and long programs, taken together, did not win. Dennis was very, very lucky to be in 2nd place and still in position to win after making two huge jump errors in his short program. People who know me and my tastes may be surprised to see me taking the part of the "jumper" rather than the "complete skater" in this competition, but trust me, this one is something special. :-)

Junior ladies free skate

Kristina Olson (10): 3f/2t, 3z step out/2t, 3t/2t, 3s fall, 2x right into another 2x, 2r.

Lisa Dannemiller (12): 3t/2t, 3t hand down,, 2s step out, 2x/2t almost waxeled, 1x, 2z, pop r, 2f. One of the highlights of her program was a really great change-edge spiral -- never seen anyone other than Michelle Kwan do one this well.

Katie Stewart (13 in FS, 14 overall): 2x, 3s underrotated and two-footed, 2f/2t, 3t underrotated and landed on the wrong foot, 2r, 2flutz, 2r, 2x fall. I noted "spins in both directions".

Emily Hughes (11): 2x, 3t/2t, huge split jump, 3z fall, 3s, 3r fall, 3f cheated, 1-foot axel with a three-turn and step up directly into a 2x (very cool!). Well, this time she went for the harder jumps and that didn't pay off, either.

Jane Bugaeva (4 in FS, 5 overall): 2x, 3z step out, 3r turnout, 3f/2t, 3s/2t, 2.5t, 2f/2r kind of wild. I wasn't too impressed with her presentation, and she needs to work on her extension more -- not in the sense of showing off bendy moves, but of stretching her body more on ordinary in-between skating.

Danielle Kahle (3): 2x, 3f, 3t, 3z, 3t/2t, 3r, 3s/2t, 2x. Wow, what a performance; I think she probably would have won the free skate had she skated in the final group. The only thing I could fault her for is that she is still somewhat lacking in power due to her small size.

Shanell Noji (6): 3t/2t, 2x, 3r fall, 3s, 2x/2t, 3t two-footed with hand down, 2f.

Megan Williams-Stewart (14 in FS, 13 overall): 3r/2t, pop z, 3s fall, 2x, 3r fall, wimpy spirals not held at all, 3z fall, 2x hands down, 2f. Odd that there was no triple toe in the program.

Sandra Rucker (8 in FS, 9 overall): 2x, 3z fall, 3f tight and maybe two-footed, 2x/toe axel, 3s, 3r, 2z/toe axel, pop r. Another skater without a triple toe? And what's with those toe axels?

Erica Archambault (1): 3s steps into 3t, 2z from footwork, 3r (has she ever landed this in competition before?), 3t, 2x/2t, split, 3s/2t. Hmmm, I never would have expected her to win this event after seeing her at New Englands, but looking at the ordinals she was a rather unanamous second instead -- Mecher and Kahle both had more first-place ordinals. I remember seeing Erica for the first time as an intermediate at regionals -- little did I know then that she would achieve this level of success, but even then that terrific layback spin of hers was what made her stand out from the others.

Natalie Mecher (2): 3f/2t, fast skating into 3z, 3t/2t, 2x/2t, "boring spirals" according to my notes, 2r, 3s, 3t. Not much expression in her skating, unfortunately; she lost the competition on the second mark.

Adriana DeSanctis (7 in FS, 6 overall): I got distracted by having to change my camera battery and didn't get any detailed notes on her, just "lots of falls and pops". It must have been pretty bad to drop her that far in the standings. Like I said in my notes for the short, you can tell the athleticism is there, but she just didn't look comfortable with her jumps this time out.

Stephanie Rosenthal (9 in FS, 8 overall): 3s fall, 3t/2t, 2s/2t, 2z, 3t fall, 3s fall, 1x. Eeek.

Alexandra Patterson (5 in FS, 4 overall): 2.5r step out forward, 3t/2t, 2x, 3f, 3z tight with a step-out, 3t, 2f/half loop/2s. Ended way after her music did.

Senior dance and pairs

I hadn't caught any of the other senior dance events earlier in the week because of being busy watching men practice, so the free dance was my first look at these teams. I showed up about midway through the event, in time to see Nussear & Gates. Definitely the highlight of the afternoon for me was Navarro & Shmalo's free dance. Too bad they had buried themselves in the compulsories.

As for the top group, after they skated I thought there was no way Lang & Tchernyshev could possibly win this event. Their dance had too much hand-in-hand skating, they seemed to slow down on every transition, and they stumbled their way through the straight-line step sequence. Then Belbin & Agosto came out and blew their opening lift and had an even bigger disaster on their circular step sequence, not just stumbling but missing a quarter of the pattern entirely. And then Gregory & Pethukov skated, and it was obvious that their dance didn't have the content to pose a serious challenge. Oddly enough, I missed the full extent of Gregory's costume problem -- guess I was too busy looking at their feet instead. :-P Beyond that, it sure seems like Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell are getting a push from the judges this year; I'd have had them behind Navarro & Shmalo for sure. I enjoyed Moxley & Kirsanov's quirky dance with all the funky head holds, but I can see why it didn't score well.

I had still been reluctant to go the pairs competition, but with everyone raving at me about how good the short programs had been, I figured I could handle sitting through the last two groups. Boy, was that ever a mistake. Yeccchhh! The only team I found remotely impressive were Don & Hunt, who I thought were undermarked as the teams who placed above them crashed and burned. Jennifer Don still has some irritating posture issues but Jon Hunt doesn't make her look as bad in that area as Jered Guzman did with his strong upright carriage. I'm pleased for Orscher & Lucash managing to stay vertical (have you all seen Katie's cool frog page, BTW?) but they looked very slow and tentative going into several of their elements. Anyway, I ended up wishing I had just gone to bed early instead.

Photos

Saturday report

Senior men free skate

Once again, I was concentrating on photos, so my notes are mostly about jump elements.

Ryan Bradley (9): popped axel, 4t/2t couldn't tell if the quad was completely clean or not, 3r without much flow, 3z/3t, 3s, 2x, 3f on toe/2t, 3z. Spins still very slow, and this program has really empty middle section where he does nothing but rest, but I'd say he redeemed himself after his disaster of a short program.

Shaun Rogers (16): 4t fall, 3x step out/2t, 3x turn out, 3r, 2z, 2f, inside axel, walleys into a 3t, 2s.

Shepherd Clark came out when his name was announced, but immediately skated over to the referee and withdrew. No melodramatic bows this time. I think his "Cats" program must be cursed, BTW. It's the same program he had been intending to skate when he had to pull out in 2000.

Kurt Fromknecht (15): 3f maybe two-footed, 3x maybe two-footed too, 3z, 3r maybe two-footed/2t, 3t, 3s. In spite of his placement, he should be proud of himself for this performance. I've never seen him come closer on the axel, and this was an exceptionally cool program with choreography by Chris Conte.

Braden Overett (10): 3x great!!!, 2f, 3s, 3z (yay! his nemesis jump), 3x step out/2t, 3r hand down, 2z into 2t (I think), 3t, 2x. Another skater who redeemed himself with a good long after a disappointing short and who should go home feeling proud of himself. Braden's in-between skating and choreography are way up there. I'm hoping his finish here will put him on the list for a B international next fall.

Jordan Wilson (14): 3x/3t huge!!, 3f, 3z, 2r, 3x fall, 3t, 3s. I noted his spins were incredibly slow, but all in all his basic skating has improved quite a bit since last year, when it seemed he had the axel and not much else. He should be happy with this performance, too.

Parker Pennington (5 in the free, 6 overall): 3x! 3x/3t!! Then 3f, 2x, 3r, 3s, 3z. A fine clean program with a well-deserved standing ovation. To tell the truth, after last season I had pretty much given up on him ever getting his axel, but it seems like he's completely changed his entrance on it so that it's an entirely different jump for him now. Presentation is still a bit juniorish, but this program is miles better for him than either of last year's. After this skate, it was obvious he was going to move up in the standings if any of the guys above him gave him the slightest excuse.

Michael Villareal (11): 3 flutz/3t, 2x, 3r, 3f, 3flutz, 3s hand down, 3t/2t, 2x. The program didn't make much of an impression on me, I guess.

Nick Laroche (8): 3x fist pump!, 3z/2t, 3r, 3f looked "lipped", 3s, 3z hand down, hydroblade into 3t with a step-out, missed spin entrance and looked ready to collapse by the end of his program. He charges around the ice with so much speed that it's not surprising he seems to have problems sustaining control all the way through until the end of the program. Nevertheless, another satisfying skate and one he should be proud of. I'm really pleased to see that he's got his triple axel at last. His double has been so huge for years, that I knew he'd get it sooner or later.

Ben Miller (13): 3x fall, 3z hands down and spun out, 3f, 3z/3t two-footed, 3s wild, 3r. I noticed that he doesn't seem to get much height on his jumps. Costume was not a success this time, a very loose black shirt that disguised his body line and ballooned out on his spins.

Danny Clausen (12): 2x, 2f, 3s, 3z/3t two-footed, 3r fall out, 3z from amazing rockers(?) in both directions on one foot(!!). Fun jazzy program with a lot of expression, and very dancey musical skating with every step done right to the beat, it seems. I just love Danny's skating. His programs this year were a lot more mainstream than the Philip Glass (etc) he did last year, but it seems he can do anything and make it interesting. He could be a great show skater, given a chance.

Evan Lysacek (7): 3x underrotated fall, 3z/3t, 3r, 3lip/half loop/3s/2r combination very cool!, 3z, 3z, 2x. Once again, I had trouble distinguishing Evan's flips and lutzes -- I know one of those last two lutzes must have really been intended to be a flip. I like Evan's skating a lot, but I'm looking forward to him getting a new long program next year.

Scott Smith (4): 3x, 4s step out, 3z, 3r, 3x/3t not sure if it was entirely clean, slow skating into 3f two-footed, 3s, 3t. His upper-body carriage has improved, but in this performance he seemed even more stiff in his knees than usual, and noticibly lacking in extension and power on his stroking. Personally, I would have been with the judges who placed him behind Parker Pennington just for that reason.

Johnny Weir: tentative opening moves to program, hard fall in the kiss-and-cry corner, got up slowly holding his back, referee allowed him to restart where he left off, then 3x step out/3t, 3s, very slow skating into 3x with another huge fall and this time he's out for good. Eh. Even before the first fall, he really looked fragile and hesitant, and I had bad feelings about whether his mind was in the right place to give a good performance. He never did anything like a full runthrough of this program in practice during the week, as far as I saw, either. I confess to being a bit ticked at him because the bits and pieces I did see were quite beautiful. If Johnny wants to come back next season, I think he needs to compete early and often and get some more milage on his programs so that he has some experience and confidence to draw upon when he finds himself under pressure in the big events again.

Matt Savoie (6 in free skate, 5 overall): Matt had a good morning warm-up so I was feeling positive about his chances here, but as with Johnny, lack of practice left him with nothing to draw upon in the stress of competition when things started going wrong. Pop x, 3x, 3s fall, 2x, 2r, 3f/2t into boards and his pants strap came loose and then he did 3z and 3t before the referee finally got his attention with the whistle just as he was going into his closing spin. Restart with the 3z step-out and 3t. I'm sure he wanted to crawl out of the K&C and hide, but then he had to sit there for what seemed like ages because the accountants goofed and put his marks up under Michael Weiss's name, so that the judges all had to re-enter their marks in the computer before they could be displayed. My heart really went out to this brave man. Sigh. I hope he takes time to rest and let his body heal.

Michael Weiss (1): 4z hopeless fall, 4t/3t that was probably only slightly two-footed, 2x, 3r, 3f, 3s/2t, 3z. No triple axel in sight, and I think he ought to re-think the strategy of trying that quad lutz, because he seems to be nowhere near to landing it and it chews up a pretty big chunk of his program when he could be doing something else that he could get credit for. In spite of the weak jump content, excellent basic skating and presentation, and I don't really have a problem with him being first. Mike's stupid remarks to the press and tacky publicity propaganda irritate me to no end, but I have to admit that I still like his *skating* very much.

Ryan Jahnke (2 in free skate, 3 overall): Oh happy day. I had been raving all week that Ryan's axel was for real, and I was full of confidence for him, especially after he landed both axels perfectly on the first try in the 6-minute warmup. But from my seat in the arena, I could see back into the tunnel where he was waiting to skate, and the entire time all that weird stuff with Johnny and Matt and Mike was going on out on the ice, ABC had a TV camera stuck about 6 inches from his face. Yikes, hardly conducive to keeping one's composure and focus. Anyway, by the time it was his turn to skate, it was obvious that he would finish third if he skated anything like the way he had been doing in practice all week. So he comes out, 3x great! but this was the one that was supposed to be in combination, 3f/3r step out, 3z/3t, 3x fall (sigh), huge 'tano 3z, 3s, 2x. About 4 years ago I said that when Ryan got his triple axel, he would become an instant medal contender because of the overall high quality of the rest of his skating, and sure enough, it only took one axel in the best possible place and best possible time to do it. :-) I think if he'd gotten either the second axel or landed the flip/loop combo cleanly, he probably would have won the free skate outright, but, well, I'm not complaining. He did take 3 first-place ordinals from Mike, but the thing that really pleased me most were the 5.8's for presentation. His skating has had that quality for years, but he's never gotten full credit for it before now. (Actually, this wasn't even Ryan's best performance ever; I thought he skated a better overall program 3 years ago when he placed 5th.) But I think he's gonna do just fine now that the axel monkey is finally off his back. :-)

Tim Goebel (3 in free skate, 2 overall): I'm afraid my notes for Tim are pretty worthless. I was sitting there trying to concentrate on taking photos and found that I was still so distracted by what had happened to Ryan that I didn't even notice that Tim had missed all his quads and failed to get off a clean combination of any kind in his program until it was all over and I asked the person sitting next to me what he'd actually landed, which was apparently only 3flutz, 3x, 3s, 3f with a bad 2t, 3r. On top of that, Tim's basic skating looked especially unimpressive, coming right after Mike and Ryan. I suppose lost training time and inadequate preparation were a factor here, too, but I worry that Tim is going to find himself in trouble before much longer, because as soon as any one of the younger guys comes up with a consistent quad, he's going to lose the only real competitive advantage he has right now.

Well. In the immediate aftermath of the competition, I was inclined to think that it would have been the worst men's competition ever except for the final result (whee! Ryan is going to Worlds!!), but when I looked back it was really only the bad stuff in the final flight that made it seem that way. There were quite a number of skaters in the first two groups who gave personal best performances (at least at Nationals), and the overall level of skating was higher than I've ever seen before at a Nationals -- plenty of triple axels and triple/triple combinations, and even a quad landed by the first skater of the night! Thanks to all the competitors for such an enjoyable week of skating, and I hope everyone who was ill or injured makes a speedy recovery and comes back healthy next year.

I'm generally quite hopeful about the future of the US men's program, too. I'm guessing that Mike is probably nearing the end of his competitive career, but there are plenty of younger guys coming up. Scott and Parker are coming along nicely and Evan and Nick are not far behind, and the junior men coming up this year were setting a very high standard as well, with the top 4 landing 7, 7, 6, and 6 triples respectively.

Senior ladies free skate

It took me a while to settle down after the men's event was over, and I realized I had to get something to eat or I'd never make it through the rest of the evening, so I'm afraid I missed the first flight (out of four) of senior ladies. After that I concentrated on just taking notes, and didn't take my camera out again until the podiums at the end. So I have better notes for this event, but no photos.

Andrea Gardiner (12): 2s, 2x, 3flutz hung on and probably cheated, 3t, flying camel, edgy steps, back catch-foot spin, 3f, 2s, spiral, 3flutz hung on again and not in combination, layback, 3t with hands down and step out into 2t/2r, straight-line steps, camel/layback/back sit/catch foot spin. Andrea seemed to be making progress on fixing her flutz at last year's Midwesterns, but it seems worse than ever now.

Alissa Czisny (9 in FS, 10 overall): 3z/2t clean but not of particularly high quality, flying camel, 3t/2t step out, 3f cheated, death drop to a vertical split spin, 3s fall, spirals, 3r, biellmann, 2x, 3t fall, split jumps, camel layback/back sit/vertical spin.

Kim Ryan (14): 3r somewhat overrotated but she held the edge, pop f, waltz jump (argh!)/split/2t fall sequence, spin combination with a "sasha spin" position, , 3t, back sit/vertical split spin, ina, 3r fall. Picked up speed for spirals, travelly layback, tripped in steps, 2f, 2z, flying camel/back catch spin. In spite of all the jump errors, I was once again impressed by the quality of her basic skating.

Amber Czisny (20): Oh dear. Layback, 1x, 2s, 2t, death drop, 3 lutz underrotated and landed on two feet with a step out, spirals nice and fast, 3r fall, ina and spread eagle, 3t two footed, reverse camel/sit and then a camel/sit in her normal direction, pop s, pop x, split, 2f, camel/layback/biellmann/back sit/mushroom spin. Quite an unhappy reversal from Mids, where she skated a great program and Alissa was the one who had the melt-down.

Lindsey Weber (13): 3f/2t, 2s, layback that didn't really lay back, 3s step out, fying camel, 2x/2t, 3t fall, 3t fall, spirals, camel/sit/catch/back sit/crossfoot sin, scratch spin.

Amber Corwin (8): 3t/3t, 3z/2t, 3s/2.5r landed forward, flying camel, 3f, layback, circular steps, 3z, death drop, spirals, 2x, camel/grafstrom/back sit/catchfoot spin. A pretty good performance, and gutsy for her to go for the second triple/triple even if it wasn't really close.

Jennifer Don (11): spirals, 3t/2t, 3s, spread eagle into 2x, death drop, circular steps, very fast skating into 2z, spread eagle and spiral into 2f, 3t fall, layback, spirals including a vertical split position, flying sit spin with a big wobble, split jump, 2x, camel/sit/layback/back sit/Y spin. Generic pretty music not as effective as the stronger music in her short program.

Beatrisa Liang (7): 2x, 3z/3r!!, 3f fall, wimpy flying sit/mushroom/scratch spin, 3r, layback, spirals, circular steps, 3s, death drop, 3z, 3t, charlotte, spin combination ending with Y/back scratch. Once again she started out strongly (good for her to get that triple/triple, in particular!), but her speed and ice coverage deteriorated quite obviously by the end of the program, and she was also sloppy about not extending fully or holding her positions.

Louann Donovan (9): Powered into 3z/2t, 3t/2t, flying camel not held long enough, 3f fall, 2x, circular steps, butterfly sit also short of rotation, 3r fell out, another way-too-brief spin, spirals, 3 flutz from short entrance two footed, walleys into 2s with a touch down, ended with a spin combination. It looked to me like she just completely lost it mentally after the first two jump passes. A real let-down compared to the practice runthrough I saw earlier in the week, and a real shame because I like this program for her.

Michelle Kwan (1): Got a partial standing ovation even before she started to skate! It's kind of embarassing because the rules strictly forbid skaters from bowing or acknowledging applause as they take the ice. There were also many flashes going off all over the arena which would have been terribly distracting to a skater less experienced than Michelle. 3r, very fast into 3z/2t but then too much stroking around as she set up the 3f (I hope she puts some real choreography here before Worlds), 2x, flying camel pretty slow, 3s, camel/sit/back sit/crossfoot/scratch spin, stag jump, spiral, 3t/2t, 3z, straight-line steps so free, split jump and spread eagle, death drop, layback. I have to admit I started crying around the spread eagle. She seemed to be skating as if a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders since last year, and it was obvious that she was really psyched up about her performance instead of just going through the motions as I felt she was doing much of last season. Once again, I was immediately certain that this was the winning performance even though her competition had yet to skate.

Jenny Kirk (5): 3r, 3flutz with no height fall, layback, 3t/3t maybe cheated on the back half, 3f two-footed/2t, sit/Y spin, spirals done mostly on flats, spread eagle, flying camel, 3f fall, 3s, especially scary 2x, camel/sit/back camel/catch-foot spin. It's obvious that Callaghan is re-working Jenny's lutz and flip technique and these jumps have become very problematical for her. Interesting that the loop was really the best jump in the whole program, since it used to be her worst triple.

Yebin Mok (6): 3z/2t, 3t/2t, 3r, flying camel, 2.5f, ina and spread eagles, charlotte, 2x, 3s, super-duper layback(!!), pop z (too slow), death drop, faster music and skating with more attack into the straight-line steps, 3t, split jump, camel/sit/biellmann/back sit/catch-foot spin. She probably would have placed ahead of Jenny if she'd skated with a little more speed, but this was still an excellent performance for her at this point in her career, first time on live TV and all that.

Sasha Cohen (3): When she came out to skate, I told the friends I was sitting with, "I'll bet she makes a SashaSplat (TM)." Sure enough. 3flutz/3t two-footed, 3flutz, 3f/2t, flying camel, 3r cheated, SashaSplat(TM) on 3t (see?), eagle, layback, ina, 2x really bad landing, pathetic attempt at change-edge spiral that never really got onto either edge (if you're going to try to copy somebody else's trademark move, you'd better make sure you can do it at least as well), 3s two-footed, straight-line steps not as fast as Michelle's, camel/sit/layback/back sit/SashaSpin(TM)/scratch. Crowd reaction was subdued, deservedly so -- this performance was a mess from start to finish, and on top of all Sasha's jump errors, I'd have to say Michelle skated about twice as fast all the way through her program.

Ann Patrice McDonough (4): 1x (big oops), 3z/2t, 3r, 3t, death drop, 3lip/2t, 3s fist pump! (it's her nemesis jump), layback, spirals, flying camel. Very slow skating and no expression at all at this point in her program. 3z, split/mazurka/3f sequence, camel/sit/layback/back camel/sit/Y. Standing ovation, and good for her for landing all those triples after popping the axel, but I felt the whole was less than the sum of the parts.

Sarah Hughes (2): 2x, 3 flutz with a really bad cheat/toe axel, split falling leaf, 3r, back camel/half biellmann, posing in front of judges, 3s cheated, turns, 3f cheated, illusion, circular steps, camel/layback/back camel/sit/Y, layback, 3t even more cheated than the other jumps (on the one she did in warmup, I could clearly see a 3-turn tracing on the landing), spirals very wobbly, illusion spin. Well. I was really horrified by all those cheated jumps; it seems like all the progress she'd made last year on fixing them had been undone. You could make a really good case that this program deserved to be placed fourth, or even lower than that, but none of the judges had the guts to do so. I don't think the judges at Worlds are going to be so generous, though.

Photos

Random other things

After my horrible experiences in Los Angeles last year, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to go to another Nationals again, and if I hadn't already ordered my Dallas tickets by that time, I probably wouldn't have done so at all. Overall, though, this was a much more enjoyable event. The arena staff were actually friendly and polite instead of behaving as if they thought they were the Gestapo, and the security was no big deal -- I was able to smuggle beanies and food into both arenas in my coat pockets. Best of all, there were none of those stupid yellow Chevy things that ended up all over the ice in LA! Instead, they were selling cute stuffed armadillos that were just the right size, shape, and weight to throw to the skaters. (What do you call a group of armadillos, anyway? An army of armadillos?) We were amused to find that all the armadillos were female, with a baby tucked under a velcro flap on their tummies.

Well, it was an exhausting week, and I came down with my inevitable post-competition cold as soon as I got home again, but all in all it was a successful competition. I had a great time and wouldn't have missed this Nationals for anything. Just a few small rants....

Minor annoyance #1: The senior men had one less day of practice than has been typical at past nationals, and I was unhappy that their only two "official" practices in the big arena conflicted with the junior men's competitive events. I wish they could have scheduled things a little more efficiently, for those of us who like to follow the same discipline at both the junior and senior levels.

Minor annoyance #2: The bus system. One day I ended up waiting nearly an hour for a spectator bus back from the Duncanville practice rink, while the competitor buses were coming and going. Both days I went to Duncanville, I was the only passenger on the bus, which seems very wasteful. Frankly, I think the security concerns aren't worth the hassle and additional expense of running separate bus lines since there is basically *no* security at the practice rink anyway. Or at the skaters' hotel where they get on the bus, for that matter. Besides, I've never seen any fan behaving inappropriately to a skater on a bus at any of the past nationals I've attended. In particular, people who are going to early-week practices at a distant rink are, by and large, either knowledgable enough to know that bugging the competitors is a no-no, or else skaters' family members, sponsors, or other people who already have some inside connection to the sport.

Minor annoyance #3: At Reunion arena, they were only allowing people to sit on one side, and the first five or six rows were all blocked off and reserved for officials, and remained mostly empty through all of the events. It didn't really bug me very much to sit a little higher up, but I heard some people who paid extra for the expensive front-row VIP tickets complaining about not being allowed to sit in the seats they thought they had paid for. And maybe the skaters would have liked to have had an audience at ice level instead of up high, too? A consequence of having the lower seats blocked off is that people who were throwing things to the skaters kept missing the ice and hitting the judges instead, until finally they started announcing that if you wanted to throw things, you should go over in the corner by the kiss-and-cry area to do it.

BTW, I thought it was kind of a bummer that the juniors did not get to compete in the big arena at all this year, but Reunion was really convenient to the Hyatt and not nearly the dump that the secondary arena in LA was. It still had pigeons inside, though.

Food was reasonably adequate this time around. The restaurant in the Hyatt was decent and not too expensive, although by the end of the week I was definitely wishing for some fast-food alternatives. One evening I had them fix me a sandwich that I ate in my hotel room while I was uploading and editing my photos from the day, and another day I went exploring on foot and found a cafe in the West End where I enjoyed a quiet lunch. There was nothing I wanted to eat at Reunion arena, but I managed OK at Duncanville and at the AA Center. They did have a food stand open during all the practice sessions I attended at both arenas, too.

Worst skater trend this nationals: what is it with these kids that they can't keep their hands off the peroxide bottle? Not only are some people never meant to be blonde to begin with, some of the dye jobs were really terrible, with streaky fake-looking colors. You know who you are! Hello, this is *not* flattering. Add to that Johnny Weir's hair that was not only dyed some color of burgundy not found in nature, but "styled" as if he'd stuck his finger in the socket. Yikes.

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