2004 US Nationals


Official information, schedules, etc

Venues, transportation, local info

Other Nationals pages


The event hasn't even started yet, but this is already showing signs of being probably the worst-organized Nationals ever. Just to summarize some of the problems:

As a long-time attendee at Nationals and supporter of figure skating, I must say that I am getting really sick and tired of forking over hundreds of dollars every year for the privilege of being jerked around, harassed, treated as a criminal, and lied to. I thought very seriously about not attending at all this year, but in the end decided to go only to support the skaters who are my friends. But I'm not going to ride the criminal-free bus, and I think I'm going to end up missing a lot of events this year. (Sorry, novice competitors.... it's just not going to work for me to get to your events this time.)

After this fiasco, I'm certainly going to think twice about advance-ordering tickets for future events, and I think I'm not alone in this. If the USFSA is concerned about declining attendance at Nationals, they have only to look at the ever-increasing ticket prices and ever-increasing hassles for spectators. And, oh yes, judging corruption and the inability and unwillingness of the USFSA or ISU to do anything about it is sure taking the edge off the sport, too.

Photo notes

Photos are Copyright (c) 2004, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

For those who are curious..... my camera is a Sony F707 digital. I've been shooting at ISO 400, F3.5, 1/250 second, and using the 960x1280 resolution (in other words, these photos are not print quality).

Tuesday's report

Senior men practice

The men's field looks amazingly deep this year. Do not be misled by the meltdown of some of the skaters in the final group that was televised last year. This year I think that all but 4? of the 22 guys are at least attempting triple axels. Many different skaters were landing them today, too.

Michael Weiss was a no-show today. Tim Goebel seemed to be struggling a lot. I didn't seem him even attempt a quad on this practice, and he didn't do his runthrough, either. (He was working on his flutz instead, and goodness knows it needs working on.)

Ryan Jahnke missed both axels in his runthrough but was landing nice ones in isolation both before and after. His new triple lutz/triple loop combo looks very consistent.

Matt Savoie did a decent runthrough but you can tell he's not entirely comfortable with his skating. I wasn't paying too much attention to Johnny since he was in the same group as Ryan Jahnke, but it seemed to me that he was not doing very much. Parker Pennington did a jumpless runthrough and I don't recall him doing much otherwise, either. Evan Lysacek did skate his runthrough -- his triple axel seems pretty consistent, but he later took several nasty falls on quad attempts in isolation.

Ryan Bradley and Braden Overett were both landing huge triple axels in their runthroughs but missing most of their other jumps. Ditto for Rohene Ward. Jordan Brauninger had to skate first and did only doubles in his runthrough, then went back and worked on the jumps later. His axel is still kind of hesitant-looking and not yet landed with much flow, but he *is* landing it and it looks fully rotated now.


I did stay to watch the compulsory dance, but didn't take either photos or notes. Only one dance this year, the Ravensburger waltz. I did think both Belbin & Agosto and Lang & Tchernyshev looked a little sloppy. I skipped the OD, though; I didn't think I could sit through that, edit my photos from practice, *and* make it to the 6:30am men's practice on Wednesday.....

Wednesday's report

Senior men practice

I sure have to feel sorry for the guys who had to be there at 6:30am for their only short program practice this competition. I only got there about halfway through the first group myself, and missed most of the runthroughs. I was a little surprised to see that Ryan Bradley was there but Matt Savoie was not. Ryan's axel was not working so well today as it was yesterday, and in fact none of the guys in the first group looked like they were quite awake yet. I missed Tim Goebel's runthrough, but I saw him working on his quad toe at the end of the practice and it didn't look good. I haven't seen him attempting the quad salchow at all.

Derrick Delmore was the only no-show in the second group. Ryan Jahnke landed the axel in his runthrough but then jammed his pick on the lutz, so no combination. His flip was giving him a lot of trouble earlier in the season but it looks pretty solid now. Rohene Ward is going for a quad toe combination, and he landed two or three clean ones in a row at the end of the practice. I don't know how many people in the arena even realized what he was doing. He's also got impressive one-foot turns (brackets? rockers?) into his lutz out of footwork. Evan Lysacek is doing his junior short program, with the triple axel in combination and a double for the solo axel, instead of the triple as the solo axel and a lutz or flip combination. I honestly can't remember what Scott Smith or Johnny Weir did in their runthroughs. A lot of the guys were doing jumpless runthroughs today. Oh, I did see Dennis Phan landing some triple axels towards the end of the session -- he hasn't landed one in competition before this, but yes, he does have the jump now.

Michael Weiss showed up for practice today. His axel is still looking really wonky but he was able to muscle through and stand up on all the attempts I saw. In the runthrough his intended combination came out as a triple toe. If he worked on the quad toe at any point I missed it, but he did make several attempts at a quad lutz at the end of the practice; the best I saw was heavily two-footed. Jordan Brauninger was having more trouble with his axel today than yesterday, with several that came out underrotated before I saw him land a good one. Parker Pennington finally got a couple good axels at the end of the practice. Also saw Ben Miller do one, but it's not a good jump for him -- imagine Tara Lipinski doing a triple axel, and you'll get the picture. No height, very "spinny".

Just a note on the three new seniors in the field this year. In some ways, Mauro Bruni looks the most at home in seniors -- his presentation is the most polished, with thoughtful choreography and very beautiful positions. But he and Justin Dillon are clearly the weakest jumpers in the field. No triple axel, and it took him many attempts to get a clean triple lutz/double toe combination today. OTOH, Jordan Brauninger looks like what he is, the youngest competitor in the field, full of raw athletic talent but still in need of "seasoning" and maturity. His short program (choreographed by Tom Dickson) is definitely a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, except for the addition of the triple axel to his repertoire, Dennis Phan looks pretty much the same as last year. He's even doing the same two programs.

Finally, it's time for the all-important senior men's hair report! Mauro Bruni wins the hair award hands-down this year. He looks like a shaggy sheepdog. Some of my friends have been wondering how he manages to see where he's going. I've been watching Mauro skate for many years now, and it really amuses to see how he's gone from being a good-looking boy to a really handsome and sexy adult.

As far as the other guys go, Jordan Brauninger has discovered the peroxide bottle. Rohene Ward is sporting cornrow braids. Ryan Bradley has long hair, and was wearing a bandanna in practice yesterday. Daniel Lee's also gone for the long hair look. Dennis Phan has abandoned the short, spiky do, and I think the longer hair makes him look younger than last year.

Senior ladies practice

I was not taking either photos or notes in this practice, so my report is going to be pretty sketchy.

The first group was the Sasha Cohen group. She looked fine, although IIRC she did a jumpless runthrough. She showed up in a skirtless leotard for this practice -- looked like she borrowed one of AP's old costumes! Stephanie Rosenthal was also in this group; her program has really impressive and unusual choreography. Looks like Andrea Gardiner is going for scaled-down jump content, with a loop and salchow as her triples. Later she was working on a salchow/loop combination, so who knows.

We had three "Chicago" programs skated back-to-back -- Felicia Beck in the first group, and Jenny Kirk and Danielle Kahle in the second. This music suits Felicia just fine, and I was also pleased to see she has lost that horrible "Beckian" flutz from two years ago. Now she just has an ordinary flutz instead. :-P Jenny had a sensational runthrough with a triple toe/triple toe combination and a flip? lutz? can't remember out of steps. She looks really on. Danielle looks like a Tara Lipinski clone and this music is just all wrong for her at this stage of her development.

Also in the second group, AP McDonough seemed to be struggling. She looked really unhappy and was having a lot of trouble with both her axel and lutz. I'm wondering if she's still skating in pain from her injury. It also looks like she has put on some weight and isn't in the best of shape. Angela Nikodinov, another one of the skating wounded, was in this group too, but I honestly don't remember much of what she did. At least she looks comparatively happy on the ice.

The final group was all Michelle Kwan. We had heard she was going to be using last year's program again, but when the music came on, no, it was Tango de Roxane instead, and she cracked up laughing and skated over to her coach and then went back and started skating her program from the top while ignoring the music. You could hear the crowd buzzing about this, as people thought she'd pulled a switch and had a new program after all. But I thought the choreography she was skating looked like last year's program and not a new one, and that she'd just turned in the wrong tape to the music people.

In any case, Michelle is skating like she still owns this competition, and I'm convinced -- as I was last year -- that it's hers to lose at this point. She didn't miss a single jump in the entire practice, she looked relaxed and happy and confident, and the ease and power of her skating are still unmatched by anyone else in the field. Michelle and Nationals is always just a great big love-fest, and she was looking like she'd already won.

Junior men short program

A kind friend with a rental car offered to ferry a group of us out to Gwinnett Arena for the junior men's competition. It is a very nice facility, but it's sure a haul from downtown. I took notes but no photos at this event; what follows is in skate order.

Just a reminder, this year all the juniors have to do a double or triple flip out of steps, a camel change camel, a flying sit spin, and a double axel.

Tim Wright (8): black vest over white shirt and red tie, "Untouchables". 3f, spread eagle into 3z/2t kind of slow, camel slow, Russian-style straight-line steps, flying sit spin OK, serpentine steps with more spread eagles, 2x looked almost waxeled but was muscled out, spin combination. It was pretty much a clean program, but nothing he did was really of the highest quality.

Igor Matsipura (1): Fussy Russian-style costume resembling Alexei Urmanov's volcanic eruption outfit. "Hungarian Rhapsody". Very slow skating into 3x/2t, 3f with a big hesitation after the preceding steps, camel recentered and slow, straight-line steps footwork the music accelerates but the steps were really simple and it didn't go end-to-end, solo axel looked like something halfway between a double and a triple -- he fell on it, anyway -- spin combination. I must have missed his other step sequence. Well, I thought his marks were a joke. Other than the axel combination, nothing he did was of good quality, he was slow, he skated with no expression at all, and he looked down at the ice a lot instead of presenting.

Tommy Steenberg (2): Masquerade Waltz in a sparkly red shirt. 3z/2t nice, 3f nice too, camel good with 6/6 rotations plus at least 3 more in a catch-leg position, 2x, straight-line steps, flying sit OK, circular steps, stars into spin combination that travelled a bit. He looked thrilled with this, and deservedly so. He needs a lot of work on the second mark but the quality of all his elements was quite good for a junior.

Michael Peters (9): sequinned tabard with a cross on it, and a techno version of "Carmina Burana" with lyrics that I'm told he got a deduction for. 3x fall out/2t, camel OK, straight-line steps, very high 2x landed a bit on the toe, flying sit, 2f, circular steps, spin combination.

Jeremy Abbott (10): classy dark blue outfit with bright turquoise collar and cuffs, a jazzy piano arrangement of Concerto de Aranjuez. Camel 6/6 with great stretch and speed, 3z fall, circular steps, 2f, straight-line steps to the music, terrific flying sit, 2x, spin combination. Definitely the best choreography of the field and, along with Wesley Campbell, the most developed and senior-ish presentation -- but he was totally trashed by the judges on the second mark because of the jump errors. He is a far better skater than his placement here indicates. OTOH, I'm told that he is happy just to have made it to Nationals at all, after losing 15 weeks of training over the summer to a back injury.

Ben Woolwine (5): "Truman Show". 3z with a hand down into 2t, flying sit very high on the flying part but not particularly impressive on the spinning part, camel, straight-line steps, 2x, spin combination, circular steps. Decent choreography, I thought.

Christopher Toland (3): Spanish-style program in an outfit to match. 3z with a strong check and long hesitation into a 2t that was underrotated with a step out, 3f right out of the steps, camel OK but the back half was noticibly weaker than the front half, 2x, circular steps, flying sit didn't sit in the air, straight-line steps, I think, spin combination. A lot of detail in the choreography and I can see an improvement in that aspect from last season, but he still needs to work on the extension and positions.

Jason Wong (6): techno latin program in dark red and black. Pop f, 3z/2t, camel only 5/5, circular steps, 2x, another flying sit that didn't really sit in the air, straight-line steps, spin combination. When I see Jason by himself at events in the Boston area, I think he's coming along fine, but in a deeper group of men I can see that he still looks comparatively "juniorish". I think he needs to work on power and extension, primarily.

Adam Aronowitz (11): Tango in an outfit with a busy-patterend black-and-gold top. 2x, flying sit one of the best in the competition, 3z fall, camel to donut spin on the back half, 3f fall, circular steps nice, straight-line steps with leaps, spin combination. On top of the jump errors, he seemed slow and didn't really cover the ice the way he ought to. I'm told Adam is still suffering from his hip injury (it's his landing leg) and is skating in a lot of pain, and I wouldn't be surprised if he withdraws at this point. He was bronze medallist last year and clearly is not in any condition to repeat that this year.

Wesley Campbell (4): Dark red and black, the same gentle cello music program that he used last year. 3z/2r neat, flying sit, 3f fall (ouch), circular steps soft and flowing, serpentine steps, 2x fall, spin combination with unusual positions. Well, it beats me why the judges were willing to hold him up on the second mark, but not Jeremy Abbott.

David Sanders (12): Jazzy music in a blus shirt with a black vest. 3z/2t, camel very slow on the back half, 3f fall, flying sit didn't, 2x with no height, spin combination. I neglected to write down either of his spep sequences, hmmm.

Traighe Rouse (7): new-age type music, black short sleeve costume with blue sparkly trim around the neckline and sleeves, pants that were baggy enough in the crotch to interfere with his body line. 2x high and landed with great flow, 3z/2t, camel good, 3f seemed to land it and then fell, flying sit, serpentine steps, spin combination.

All in all, a pretty messy competition, much like last year's splat-fest. Tommy Steenberg, the first-year junior, was really the only one who delivered the goods this time, while all the more experienced and "seniorish" skaters all had major troubles.

That's it for today. After such an early start to the day, I was feeling pretty burned out and I needed some down-time away from the rink. Pairs is my least favorite discipline nowadays, and the US pairs are all so mediocre that even under better circumstances I thought sitting through 5 groups of them would probably be more than I could handle, so I ended up giving my ticket away.

Thursday's report

Ugh, this was a really long day. I sat through both the men's and ladies' warmups and then 43 short programs without a break, and it was just too much. I apologize if my notes for the later groups of ladies are kind of sketchy, because I was getting really tired and crabby by that time.

Senior men short program

In skate order:

Michael Villareal (22): jazzy music in a blue outfit. 1x/2t, 2x, camel/sit/back sit/upright, slow skating, straight-line steps, death drop, 2z, circular steps, change sit. I didn't know whether to think this was just nerves, or whether he's sick or injured. He was much better than this last year.

Matt Savoie (2): burgundy with gold accents around the hips, vaguely bluesy/rock music. 3x great, 3f/3t, straight-line steps, flying camel into a layover position with a bent leg, back-to-front sit spin, circular steps, 3z, spin combination. The elements were fine, but I felt the entire performance was kind of slow and deliberate.

Daniel Lee (21): kung-fu type music in a black sparkly outfit. 3x fall, 3f fall, flying camel, circular step, 2z, change sit, straight-line steps, spin combination. Another skater who is much better than his performance would indicate.

Jordan Brauninger (12): slow version of "Summertime" in a blue outfit with an asymmetric design. Hip wiggle into slinky straight-line steps, slow and big hesitation into 1x, 3z/3t fine, spin combination, circular steps, flying sit, 3f hand down, change camel. I think this is my favorite of the short programs choreographed by Tom Dickson this year (the others belonging to Matt Savoie and Ryan Jahnke).

Derrick Delmore (8): gray outfit with white cuffs, "Fever". 3f/3t, 3x, 3z fall, flying camel, change sit, circular steps, spin combination. I guess I missed his other step sequence in my notes. Like Matt Savoie, he's coming off an injury, and looked a bit slow and tentative, and the spins, in particular, were not up to his usual standard.

Dennis Phan (15): "Pearl Harbor" in a spiffy white jacket. 3z/3t fall on the second jump, slow entry into 3x fall, change camel, circular steps and spread eagles, 3f very close to boards, flying sit, straight-line steps, spin combination with big wobbles on both the entry and exit.

Jordan Wilson (19): Burgundy vest over a cream shirt, Spanish music. Spread eagle into 3x splat (sigh), 3f/2t, change sit, 3r underrotated fall, spin combination, straight-line steps, butterfly sit.

Johnny Weir (1): overdone black and white outfit with unflattering sequinned trim on his butt, Sibelius "Valse Triste". 3x/3t, 3x, flying camel with a bent leg, circular steps, 3f, straight-line steps, change sit, spin combination. Best choreography and footwork of the event -- can he just lose the costume?

Tim Goebel (10): Prokofiev "Romeo & Juliet" in a leather vest. 4t fall, 1x, change sit, 3f fall, circular steps, butterfly sit with an ugly position, straight-line steps not end-to-end, mediocre spin combination. Well, this wasn't a total shock given the way he had been practicing, but I didn't really expect him to miss all three jump elements. It was obvious that the judges were really trying to do all they could to hold him up -- one judge even gave him a higher presentation mark than Matt Savoie (huh). I think I would have had him a few places lower myself, since some of the skaters who finished behind him actually did land some jumps and had respectable presentation.

Rohene Ward (16): Gypsy Kings in black with silver sequins. 3x fall, 4t fall, change sit, serpentine steps, flying camel seemed to be short of rotation, amazing footwork with brackets(?) into 3z fall, straight-line steps, spin combination, back-to-front sit spin. Sigh. I think Rohene had high hopes coming in this year, but once again nerves got the better of him.

Justin Dillon (14): Warsaw Concerto in blue/grey velour. 2x, 2flutz/3t, spin combination lacked energy, 3f, change sit, circular steps, flying camel. Seemed kind of slow throughout the entire program.

Mauro Bruni (20): Spanish music in a red shirt. 2x nice, 3z fall, 3f with a quick step out so that the judges may or may not have taken a deduction on it, circular steps, spin combo, change sit, straight-line steps with lunges, flying camel slow. Some of the best choreography and musical interpretation in the event, very much in character. Shaggy hair has been slicked back with some kind of goo for competition, BTW.

Evan Lysacek (3): Espana Cani in an appropriately flashy suit of lights. 3x/2t, 2x, death drop where he might have tapped the free foot, circular steps, 3f, change camel, straight-line steps with a lot of arm-thrashing and macho strutting appropriate for the music, spin combination. Definitely the most energetic performance of the group. While Weir's program drew you in in a more subtle way, this one had the "wow!" factor going for it. If Evan had skated the same program with senior elements (the 3x as the solo axel and a 3z/3t combination) I would have put him first, but as it was I felt that 3rd place was appropriate given the lesser difficulty.

Nick Laroche (13): Secret Garden in light blue. 3z/3t fall almost into the cut-out in the boards in front of the kiss&cry area, 3x fall, change sit, 3lip with a quick step out that the judges might or might not have deducted for, death drop, circular steps with a pattern that was too small, spin combination. I might have the lutz and lip confused, or else he did two lutzes on purpose. I confess to being somewhat mystified by the 7th and 8th place ordinals he received.

Ben Miller (18): tame black & silver outfit, Rach #2. 3x no height fall, 2f/3t, circular steps, spread eagle into 3x fall, some flavor of flying spin, straight-line steps, change sit, spin combination travelled a lot.

Parker Pennington (17): Secret Garden in sparkly black. 3x fall, 3z/3t underrotated step out, circular steps, change camel maybe short of rotation, 3f fall out, very slow skating, flying camel, straight-line steps, spin combination.

Michael Weiss (4): "Henry V" in an elaborate outfit with leather collar and cuffs and trim over his butt. 4t slight two-foot/3t, 3x sideways in air fall, flying sit spin neither flew nor sat in the air, 3z, change sit, straight-line steps, spin combination, crisp circular steps to end the program.

Scott Smith (7): "Time" in burgundy and black. 3x, 4s slightly cheated/3t, death drop, circular steps really slow, spread eagles into 3r step out, change camel travelled on the front half, straight-line steps really slow, spin combination. It must have been pretty frustrating to him to land both the axel and quad and not make it into the final group, but the lack of speed killed him. Interesting to note that in spite of the deduction at least on the loop, two judges still gave him higher marks for required elements than presentation.

Ryan Jahnke (6): classical mix in a black outfit with white collar and cuffs. 3x, 3z/2t slow on the landing, straight-line steps, change camel with position variations, 3f step out (sigh), nifty spin combination with outside edge and lots of position variations, circular steps, death drop got wild. I noticed the hand and head movements in the choreography were crisper and more emphatic in this performance than they had been on the Grand Prix.

Ryan Bradley (5): tux and greasy hair, cheesy "New York New York" arrangement. 3x, 3z/2t very forward on the toe, spin combination, circular steps, 3f, change camel, straight-line steps, butterfly spin. What gets the crowd going is his over-the-top acting ability, not the skating itself.

Braden Overett (9): Mexican Hat Dance. 3x fell out, 3z overrotated step out 2t, spin combination, circular steps, 3f, death drop, straight-line steps. Clever comic choreography.

Matt Lind (11): some piece by Michael W. Smith in blue and white. 3 flutz wild/2t, 3f, death drop, 2x, change sit, straight-line steps, circular steps with leaps, spin combination ended a bit after the music. This was a lovely, introspective program.

Senior ladies short program

Ann Patrice McDonough (6): Spartacus in a red dress with an asymmetric sash on the back. 2s, 3z fall, flying camel to donut position, 3f maybe two-footed, layback with catch-foot position, spirals, straight-line steps, spin combination. She looked pretty unhappy.

Erica Archambault (20): I'm afraid I only caught glimpses of her performance on the TV monitor when I was standing in line getting some food. (As soon as the ladies started, I suddenly realized I was starving.) I know she has been injured all season and hasn't been skating as well as she would have liked for her senior debut.

Jane Bugaeva (11): Tango program. I was still distracted by eating, so my only notes on her are that she fell on her lutz but landed 3f and 2x.

Beatrisa Liang (7): Little-girl Carmen. Still eating my quesadilla. 2x landed on toe, 3z fall, 3f.

Sasha Cohen (1): Malaguena in the yellow dress with the ruffly skirt. OK, I was done eating by this time. 3 flutz/2t, 3f, flying camel to inside edge, 2x, layback, spirals rearranged again to the same pattern as in the original version of the program, with the charlotte on the flat down the center of the ice and no attempt at a change-of-edge spiral, straight-line steps, spin combination. This was probably the best I've ever seen her skate.

Angela Nikodinov (4): Same old program in a new bright blue dress. 3z leaning and two-footed/2t, 3f, 2x, flying camel, spin combination, circular steps, spirals, layback held for at least 13 rotations.

Alexandra Patterson (10): Weird tango in a red dress. Good steps into 3t, 2x hesitant, layback, spirals, 3z/2t, flying camel, straight-line steps, spin combination. Although she landed the jumps, none of them were of the best quality, and she is a little stiff.

Amber Corwin (5): "Moon River" in a black sparkly dress with long gloves. Ugly layback, 3t/3t with the first jump so prerotated that it looked like a double to me, 3z badly wrapped on the landing, death drop, spirals not held very long, 2x, circular steps, spin combination. Again, nominally clean, but none of the elements were of particularly good quality.

Michelle Kwan (2): "The Feeling Begins" in a dusty blue/gray dress with asymmetric straps that didn't seem to fit very well (it looked like it was either pulling and gapping on the top all the time). Double axel with a scary landing, 3z/2t, flying camel, 3f, layback, spirals, straight-line steps (I noticed this section of the program was different than last year's version), spin combination. Given the way Sasha had skated, perhaps Michelle knew she was skating for second place after the crazy landing on the axel, because the rest of the program seemed kind of flat and slow and lacking in "punch" and intensity compared to her performances from last year. Or maybe it was the dress that made her uncomfortable?

Felicia Beck (21): "Chicago" in black -- the first of three skaters using this music. 3z only mildly flutzed fall, layback, 3f likely two-footed, flying camel, 1x, straight-line steps, spirals with a change-of-edge holding her skate in biellmann position, spin combination. Too bad about the jump mistakes because she really sold this music -- very showy with good jazz dance ability.

Louann Donovan (16): Wanderer/Fantasia in a very dark red dress. 2z/2t, 3f fall, layback, 2x, flying camel, circular steps, spirals, spin combination. This is a beautiful program with choreography by Lori Nichol, but Louann seems to be not entirely in her body this season.

Jennifer Don (9): Cirque du Soleil in a red dress -- she finally dumped the Tchaikovsky violin concerto program she had been using year after year since she was a novice! Straight-line steps not end-to-end, 3t/2t, 3s fall, flying sit spin, spread eagle into 2x, layback with catch-foot spirals, spin combination.

Aanya Reiten (12): Raspberry-colored dress, no music notes. 3t fall, 2x, layback, 3r not directly from steps, flying camel, circular steps, spirals, spin combination.

Andrea Gardiner (13): "The Mission" in a cream-colored dress. 3flutz landed tipped forward/toe axel, 3f two-footed, flying camel, 2x two-footed, spin combination, spirals, layback.

Stephanie Rosenthal (15): Grey and white. Layback, 2x, 3t step out/2t, 3s, flying camel, spirals, serpentine steps continuing back up center ice to the middle of the rink, spin combination. She seemed to have something choreographed to every note of her music, very cool!

Natalie Mecher (19): Black, no music notes. 3z two-footed and fall out, 3s fall out, death drop, circular steps, layback, spirals, 2x, spin combination.

Danielle Kahle (14): "Chicago" in red. 2x, 3z fall, death drop, 3f fall, spirals off balance, layback, circular steps, spin combination. Oy, I'm glad she skated before Jenny Kirk instead of after. As the youngest and smallest competitor in the field, she looked like little girl lost in this program.

Jenny Kirk (3): "Chicago" in fancy beaded dress. 3t/3t good, spirals slow, 3z looked cheated to me, layback, 2x, flying camel, serpentine steps, spin combination. She really looks comfortable in this program.

Alissa Czisny (8): "The Mission" in a fuchsia dress. 2.5z/2t, layback, 3f, 2x, flying camel with a loss of balance on the exit, spirals, circular steps, spin combination. I wonder if she'd have better luck with the lutz if she changed her pattern so it wasn't crammed so close to the boards in the corner.

Suzanne McDonald (18): movie music in a white dress. 2x, 3z/1.5t landed on wrong foot, 2f, flying camel, spirals, spin combination, circular steps, layback.

Yebin Mok (17): "Bolero" in a black dress with white and yellow accents that was probably the best of the competition. 1z/2t, flying camel with a bent-leg position, 2t, 2x fall, super layback spin, spirals, circular steps, spin combination. The jump problems were due to her back injury, but everything else in this program was of superior quality. Probably a smart move for her to withdraw after the short, as she had nothing to gain by trying to continue and winding up as far down in the standings as she was obviously going to.

Friday's report

I found out later in the day that there was a fire in the kitchen at the official hotel mid-morning, and everyone had to evacuate. Of course it's one of the tallest buildings in Atlanta and one skater I spoke with went down 50+ flights of stairs carrying his skate bag -- talk about giving your knees and quads a workout! Apparently some of the junior men from the second flight evacuated without their skates or costumes and they and their parents and coaches were in a panic about getting to the rink on time. Maybe that explains some of the really ragged performances in the second group -- what a disruption to the skaters' normal pre-competition routine.

Junior men free skate

In skate order:

David Sanders (12): black outfit, I have no music notes. 3z/2t, 3s maybe two-footed, steps into 3f step into 2t? 3t? something like that, 2x, spin combination, 3t, 3z, MITF, 2x, 2f, death drop, 3f, some kind of spin. I thought he was undermarked and probably would have placed higher if he had not skated first.

Adam Aronowitz (10): Tchaikovsky violin concerto. 3z hand down 2t no flow, 3r, 2x, sit spin, 3f fall, half loops into 3s, flying sit spin, spirals, back camel/donut, 1z in exactly the same place as the earlier triple, straight-line steps seemed to lose balance, flying camel to sit spin, steps into 3t step 2t sequence, stars into spin combination. Sigh. He's obviously really injured.

Tim Wright (8 in free, 9 overall): Sheer blue shirt with flappy scarves, Warsaw Concerto. 3f/2t, very fast, 3z/1t, 3t, flying camel, 2r, 3z nice, 2x/1t, change sit, straight-line steps, 3s fall, spin combination. About halfway through his program I started thinking that he reminded me of Alexander Abt or Ivan Dinev from his stroking and some of his movements, and then I realized, yup, he's being coached by Rafael Artunian.

Michael Peters (11): bloody vest and shredded sleeve, music identified as Jekyll & Hyde in the program. 3x overrotated fall out, 3f two-footed, forward sit spin, 3z/2t, 2x, spin combination, I notice the stirrup on his pants is loose, 3t, MITF, 3r fall out, flying camel/sit/scratch spin, 2z, straight line steps, 3s landed forward, death drop.

Jeremy Abbott (4 in free, 7 overall): black outfit with bright ribbon patterns. I'm told his techno music is Safri Duo. 3z/2t, 3x fall, circular steps, 2f, flying camel/sit, MITF, 2x. 3r fall, 3s, death drop, straight-line steps, 3t/2t, 3s/2t, spin combination. Very fast skating, good ice coverage, interesting choreography. After badly undermarking him in the short program, now the judges came back and rewarded him with presentation marks up to 5.2!

Traighe Rouse (5): black sparkly outfit, unknown music. Spread eagle into 2x, 3z/2t, spin combination, 3s, 3f/2t, spin combination, 1z, MITF, 3t, 1f, flying camel, straight-line steps, leaps scribble, 2x fall, death drop. I found myself being annoyed by his hunchy posture, especially evident when he was entering his jumps. It's been a while since I last saw him skate but I don't remember that from before.

Christopher Toland (2 in free skate, 1 overall): grey velour outfit with gloves, "On The Waterfront". 3z/2t, 3f, 3r, straight-line steps, flying camel, 3s, change camel, 2x/2t, MITF, 3z hand down and almost sat, 3t, death drop into back scratch spin. Fast powerful skating, big jumps, and a lot of dramatic expression making eye contact with the audience. He's really improved a lot on the second mark since last year, and I would have placed this first. I think he's ready for seniors.

Tommy Steenberg (7 in free skate, 4 overall): sparkly black outfit, Spanish music including Zorro. 3z turn out, fell on something I missed while looking down at my notes, 3f step out, some flavor of spin in the corner blocked by a TV camera, straight-line steps, 3z heavily two-footed, 3s landed on toe, camel, 3r fall, spin combination, 3t/2t, MITF, 2x/2t, upright spin, flying camel to scratch spin. Not bad for being just up from novice last year, and I think he has potential to improve.

Wesley Campbell (3): plain black outfit, another "On The Waterfront". 3r, 2x/3t, walley, 3z/2r, flying camel wild, straight line steps, death drop into crossfoot spin, 3s, twisted spin, edgy steps, 3f fall, spirals, 3z fall, spin combination. Chris Toland's program to the same music was powerful and dramatic, while Wesley's had a more lyrical quality to it that reminded me of Mark Mitchell's version from a dozen years ago.

Jason Wong (1 in free skate, 2 overall): Spanish guitar music in dark red. 3f, 2x, flying camel, 3z/2t, 3r, into the Aranjuez adagio with effective MITF, spin combination, 3z, upright spin, 3t, straight-line steps, 3s, death drop into a fast scratch spin. Jason's grin got bigger and bigger as the program went on, and in the kiss&cry he finally collapsed into happy tears on coach Mark Mitchell's shoulder. Really a delight to see, and I was thrilled for him. Nevertheless, I would still have ranked this performance second. Chris Toland's program was less perfect in terms of jumps, but I felt he had both more athleticism in terms of speed and power, and more senior-level presentation.

Ben Woolwine (6): Rachmaninoff in a red shirt. 3z, 3lip with a weak landing into 2t, camel/hop/back sit spin, 3s with another weak landing into 2t, spread eagles, some flavor of spin, 3z fall, flying sit spin, straight-line steps, 3s fall, 3t, 2x fall, I think a spin at the end of the program. He got really slow by the end of the program.

Igor Matsipura (9 in free skate, 8 overall): "The Bolt" in a Plushenko-inspired black/gray/white outfit with gloves. 3x landed on toe step into 2t, 2f step into 3t, 3z fell out, spin, 3x fall, 2r fall, upright spin, circular steps, 3t, straight-line steps, 3s hand down, spin combination. Excruciatingly slow, no presentation, seemed to spend most of the program looking down at the ice, really a painful performance overall. I guess the judges got a clue after over-marking him so badly in the short program, but even 9th place was a bit of a gift here, I thought.

Senior men practice

Thanks to my friend with the car, I was able to get out to the Ice Forum to see all three groups of men practice. Because of the reduced practice schedule for the skaters this year, I've really missed being able to watch the skaters in the more intimate rink setting before this. It's a dark rink and they had the hockey glass up, so instead of trying to take photos I was enjoying just watching the skating.

Johnny Weir only did about a third of his runthrough. There were so many other skaters in his group that I wanted to watch that it was hard to pay full attention to him, but what I saw looked pretty good. Ryan Jahnke had a great practice, landing both axels in his runthrough as well as the triple lutz/triple loop combination. In fact, I don't think he missed an axel in the entire practice. Evan had a pretty good practice, too, although I remember that he missed at least the first axel in his runthrough. I'm having a mental block about what Scott Smith did in his runthrough -- I was paying more attention to the choreography than the jumps. Rohene Ward was looking a little deflated after his meltdown in the short, I thought. Derrick Delmore didn't show up.

Michael Weiss was in the next group but I wasn't paying much attention to him since he rarely does very much in his practices, and you never know what he's going to do in competition based on his practices anyway. Parker Pennington still seems to be struggling -- I haven't heard any details, but I have to think he's injured in some way. Jordan Brauninger was having trouble with his lutz, of all things, but finally got it back by the end of the session. He did land a couple triple axels, too, but they weren't real pretty. Mauro Bruni was having all sorts of jump troubles, but his free skate choreography is so awesome that it hardly matters to me if he hits the jumps or not.

Tim Goebel was a no-show for his practice. I don't know if this means he has decided to withdraw, he was practicing privately elsewhere, or if he's decided it's just not going to make any difference if he practices or not. Matt Savoie looked really great -- he did what he needed to do, and then left early. Ryan Bradley showed up late and somehow managed to get his music re-played at the end of the rotation. His jumps were kind of all over the place. Daniel Lee did pretty much a full runthrough and hit quite a few jumps this time, but he's another one of those guys I enjoy watching regardless of the jumps. I got delayed out in the lobby and missed half of Braden Overett's runthrough, but he was hitting some very high triple axels later in the practice. (I can't decide who has more height, him or Jordan Wilson.) Matt Lind also landed a couple clean axels, although he also missed or two-footed a number of attempts.

Senior pairs free skate

I took an extended dinner break during the first part of the pairs competition and wandered back to the arena in time for the final flight. Given how dreadful the skating was among those four pairs, I'm really relieved I didn't have to sit through the entire five groups of them.

I didn't take notes, but a few impressions.... I spent most of Orscher & Lucash's performance being amused by the sight of their coach Vadim Naumov at the boards clutching Katie's security frog. When these two teamed up it was Garrett's pair experience that was carrying the team, but now my sense is that Katie has improved to the point where she is more comfortable doing the pair elements than Garrett is, and I'm not sure if Garrett has already peaked.

It was strange to see that Jennifer Don was the one making the obvious mistakes when it was her partner Jonathan Hunt who had been ill and missed so much training in the fall. But the real problem was the lack of training as a pair, I think. There were a lot of missed connections, timing and unison errors, that sort of thing. Unlike the other teams I saw, for this one I actually have some hope that their problems are transient and not the result of limited ability. I was wondering if Jennifer might be convinced to throw in the towel on singles skating to in order to concentrate on pairs, but since in singles she moved up 3 places from her finish last year, that probably won't happen.

In spite of the errors on elements, I thought Inoue & Baldwin demonstrated the best sense of "pairness" of the teams I saw. I'm greatly amused by the thought of John Baldwin finally winning another national title (to go with the figures title he won in 1995).

The less said about Scott & Dulebohn's performance, the better. I think part of the trouble is that their "Les Miserable" free skate just doesn't seem to show them off well at all, compared to the programs they had in previous years.

Senior free dance

I didn't take notes on this event either, although I did see the entire field this time. Again, just a few random impressions....

Goodwin & Bommentre seemed to me to be the only team that actually *danced*. I could see that their tango program had various deficiencies, particularly in terms of power and ice coverage, but it held my attention in ways that the other programs I saw didn't.

I still think "West Side Story" is not a good idea at all for Belbin & Agosto, but they did skate it well. I hope that next season they can come up with something a little more original and coherent as a program, instead of one that seems like a pastiche.

I was so distracted by Gregory & Petukhov's hair-flinging and yards and yards of flapping chiffon that I found it entirely impossible to concentrate on trying to appreciate their dance as a dance. At least she did not fall out of her dress this time, as far as I could see.

Last month at the SC of Boston show I came away thinking that Gibbons & Pekarek were better than Galler-Rabinowitz & Mitchell, but this time I was not so sure. G&P clearly have better lifts but in this performance they seemed a little slow. GR&M showed more power but it came off as being a bit ponderous. I hope that with both teams training at the same place, they'll push each other to improve.

Saturday's report

Senior men's warmup

So Tim Goebel *has* withdrawn. I have to give him a lot of credit for the classy way he's handled the situation; first of all for not making any excuses for his poor performance in the short, and secondly for making it clear that he considers that his season is over instead of asking the USFSA to give him a free pass to Worlds. I've had the increasing impression all during the fall season that Tim is more or less completely burned out on skating right now, mentally as well as physically, and I think taking some time off is the smart thing for him to do in the long term.

But I must say, Tim's oddly-worded statement about "changes to his anatomical structure" has provided fuel for a lot of merriment. As I passed a coach I know (not one who is here with any of Tim's competitors, BTW) in the concourse earlier today, she asked me, "How's your anatomy this morning?" :-) (Uh, it's still there, I guess.)

Parker Pennington has also withdrawn; I've heard his trouble is also some kind of boot/ankle issue. I suppose that there's going to be inevitable controversy about the world junior team selections now, no matter which way the international committee votes about whether to send him.

Anyway, on to the warmups. Since I was taking photos it was really hard for me to keep track of what all the different guys were doing, but a few things I remember: Rohene Ward was a no-show, so who knows what's going on with him. Jordan Brauninger looked great, nailing his jumps one after the other. Ryan Jahnke looked good; everything else was fine, but it took him a few tries to get the axel. (But I think that's better than leaving his best performance on the practice ice.) Matt Savoie and Ryan Bradley were also a bit hit-or-miss with the axel. I know Michael Weiss landed at least one axel, but he spent most of the warmup trying both quad toe and lutz but never even getting the four rotations on either one, just a lot of pops and triples. Johnny Weir didn't make much of an impression on me, all I recall now is seeing him do some flavor of triple/triple/double combination right in front of me.

Junior ladies free skate

I ended up watching this event from high up while visiting with friends and not taking either notes or photographs.

Katy Taylor and Kimmie Meissner both gave really great performances. Katy skated first, and while I think I remember that she missed one of her jumps or something like that, she had enough content that her program would definitely have been worthy of winning on its own. I was especially impressed by the second triple lutz right at the very end of the program. But then Kimmie came out and you could see right away that she was just a better skater, more power and more polished in everything she did.

Brianna Perry ended up finishing third with a performance that was quite nice but definitely a couple notches below Katy and Kimmie's. During her skate I was still puzzling over why she didn't do a layback spin at all in this program, not even in the spin combination. (I'd noted this when I'd seen her at the Cranberry Open in August.)

Julian Burns, who had been in third place after the short program, had a really miserable free skate, with mistakes on spirals, spins, and footwork and not just the jumps. It's really too bad because I had caught one of her practices earlier in the week and liked what I saw from her.

Senior men free skate

Ha! I've been saying all along that the people who were bashing the entire US men's field, and complaining that it was a sign of how awful the situation was when Mike and Tim were upset by a bunch of nobodies in the short program, were on the wrong track. I've been really excited about the depth of the field and the talent coming up among the younger skaters ever since last year's nationals, and they sure did not disappoint. Last year there was some amazing skating from the lower-ranked groups who were not shown on TV, and it was only some of the skaters in the last group that was televised who had troubles. This year, there was great skating all the way through the event, and every one of the skaters in the final group delivered a performance they could be proud of.

So many things to be happy about: Johnny Weir and Ryan Bradley coming back strong after poor performances last year; Matt Savoie making the world team again when he had probably despaired of being ready to compete at all this season after his knee injury and surgery kept him from training much of the past year; Ryan Jahnke proving wrong all the doubters who kept saying the medal he won last year was a fluke; Michael Weiss overcoming a string of bad performances and lousy practices all week long to do what he had to do; all of the first-year seniors turning in fine debut performances; and fine skates from veteran competitors like Braden Overett and Justin Dillon.

In skate order:

Michael Villareal (19 in free skate, 20 overall): loud-patterned black & white shirt, "On The Waterfront". 3f/2t, 1x, 3flutz, camel/sit/back sit/upright spin, 2r, change sit, edgy steps, 2f, flying camel without extension, straightline steps, 2s, 3t, butterfly sit, back scratch spin. Is skating first just bad luck for him, or is there something wrong with him?

Mauro Bruni (16 in free skate, 17 overall): "Miss Saigon" in black with a sequinned squiggle pattern on one shoulder. 3z/2t, 2t/3t maybe two-footed, 3r, flying camel to attitude spin, grafstrom spin, blows a kiss, spiral, 3z fall but he's smiling, spin combination, straight-line steps, circular steps with leaps and a sequence of three turns in attitude position, spread eagle and spiral, 2x, 2f, butterfly spin to upright. He looked relaxed and happy throughout. This was a wonderfully choreographed and presented program. Since this was most likely the last time he'll use it (he carried it over from last year), I'm pleased that he skated it so well this time.

Jordan Wilson (15): Grand Canyon Suite in a brown vest over a cream shirt. 3x/1t, 3f step out, 3z hung on, spread eagle timed to the music, camel/sit/catch/back sit/scratch, 3r, flying sit spin, 3x, ina, 3t, death drop with wild travel, straight-line steps, 3s step out.

Daniel Lee (18): Rachmaninoff's greatest hits medley in a black shirt with flappy chiffon bits on the back. 2x, 2f, 3z, sit spin, spread eagle and edgy steps, 3r fall, more MITF, flying camel, 2z, 3s, 3s fall, circular steps, death drop, 3s/2t (yes, I really have him down as doing 3 salchows), straight-line steps tripped on a turning lunge move, spread eagle and more steps into another lunge, butterfly, and a very fast spin combination to end the program.

Ben Miller (20 in free skate, 19 overall): plain black outfit with just a stripe around the shoulders, the same Fellini music that Ryan Jahnke used for his short program last year. 3x way underrotated fall, 3f/2t, edgy steps into 3r fall, sit/upright/back upright spin, spread eagle into 3z fall, change camel with a big wobble on the back spin, straight-line steps with a happy face, 3s, another spread eagle into 3z fall, death drop, ina bauer and spread eagles, spin combination. Very disappointing performance; he's better than this.

Rohene Ward (17 in free skate, 16 overall): "Glory" soundtrack in a tight blue and white outfit that really showed off his upper body development. 3x, attempted quad came out as overrotated 3t fall, wild flying camel with a lot of travel, serpentine steps, 3x fall, 2s from steps, 2z step out, ina, spread eagle, spiral camel/layback/back sit, 2r, reverse direction camel/half biellmann spin directly into a layback in his normal direction, spirals with change of edge and V position, 2f, straight-line steps with split leaps, camel/side sit/scratch. Another performance far below the level of ability of the skater.

Dennis Phan (14): "Three Musketeers" in an outfit with a lot of gold embroidered trim, same program that he used to win as a junior last year. 3z, 3x step out, 3f with almost a delay in the rotation, flying camel to sit spin, spread eagle and ina bauer, hesitant entry into 3r/3r step out, edgy steps, 2z, camel/sit/back camel/sit, 3f step 2t, change camel, 3t, more spread eagles, split jumps, 3s, death drop. Very deliberate and careful skating throughout the program; I think he skated this with more speed and attack last year.

Nick Laroche (12): "Dragonheart" in a purplish sparkly outfit. Half axel, 3z/3t, 3r, 3lip fall, circular steps, 3s, change sit, standing around, walley and split flip, camel/sit/back sit spin, slow edgy steps at center ice, 3z, straight-line steps continuing around the end of the rink with a split jump, low hydroblade, death drop. Nick seemed a lot slower than usual and at times seemed to be visibly struggling for breath, so I was wondering if he might be sick. It was also very strange that he didn't include an axel in his program -- last year he did land a triple, this year he didn't even try a double.

Justin Dillon (11): "Sorcerer's Apprentice" in a burgundy and blue shirt. Sideways layback, 2x with a scratchy landing, 3flutz/3t, circular steps, 3s, camel/layback/back sit, 3r, flying camel with a bit of a bobble on the landing, 2f, steps into 3flutz with a hand down, split jumps, 3t, stars into arabian and back scratch spin. This is about as good as it gets for Justin and he was really pumped as he finished his program.

Matt Lind (13): Tango/flamenco medley in black with flappy red bits on his shoulders. 3flutz/3t, 3x underrotated and heavily two-footed, 3f into a couple of half loops into a 3s, flying camel, MITF with spread eagle, ina bauer, and spirals, very slow into 3r and barely held the landing, layback, 3flutz ground out the landing, 3s, death drop, more MITF with an ina bauer, ballet jump, spread eagles and a besti squat, hops, circular steps, spin combination. Generally good musical interpretation, but I felt he was skating cautiously and focusing more on getting through his jumps.

Braden Overett (7): Michael W. Smith music in a blue bellhop outfit and white gloves. Spiral, 3x/2t, 3t, good spin combination, slow edge steps and lunge, 3f, 3x step out, 3r, another lunge and spread eagle, camel/sit/back sit/butterfly sit, serpentine steps with a split jump into 2x, death drop, slow posing, 3z two-footed, 2s, spread eagles, flying camel into scratch spin. Very good performance quality and the jump errors were not disruptive.

Scott Smith (10 in free skate, 9 overall): Kamen saxophone concerto in a black outfit with a blue sparkly belt. 3x/3t, pop f, 4s overrotated step out, flying camel/sit, 2z, straight-line steps, 3r from steps, posing section, camel onto outside edge, 3x with hand down, 3t, death drop, spread eagles changing edges and into 3s, spin combination with hop transitions. This is a beautiful program with a lot of potential, but Scott seemed too stiff to deliver it properly this time. I wondered if all the travel he did in the fall (5 internationals!) left him too tired to focus on preparing for Nationals.

Derrick Delmore (8): James Bond medley in a black asymmetric outfit. 3f, 3s/2t, flying camel to upright spin, edgy moves, 3x step out, camel spin kind of wild into a back donut spin, 3z, 2x, straight-line steps, death drop, 3s, 3r, big smile, spread eagles, 3t/2t, spin combination, fist pump at the end of the program. Good for him, after being injured for much of the past year or more.

Jordan Brauninger (9 in free skate, 10 overall): "Patton" in a purple and green outfit that looked a lot more attractive than it sounds. Humungous 3z/3t probably the best of the competition, 3s, 3x almost had it but fall, flying sit spin, 3r, edgy steps, 1x, spin combination a little wild, circular steps, change camel, 3z, 3f/2t step out, sequence of split jump into 2x into another split, death drop and scratch spin. It's too bad he couldn't get the axel at this event after having landed one in both the short and long at the JGPF, but this was entirely respectable for his senior debut. He looked very excited in the kiss & cry.

Evan Lysacek (5): Rachmaninoff in a sparkly red shirt with a diagonal sash-like drape. 3x fall, 3x no combination, 3r, flying camel, 3z/3t, change sit, arm flailing, spin combination, circular steps, 3s, more arm stuff, spread eagle and besti squat, death drop, 3z (or was this a lip?), still more arms, straight-line step, butterfly. Good for him! I predicted before the event that I thought this would be the year he'd make his move, and he came through. Hopefully next year he will show up with better choreography. The Russian-influenced arm-flailing probably goes over OK with international judges, but I'd like to see him a bit more under control.

Matt Savoie (4 in free skate, 3 overall): "Ragtime" in a blue outfit with a vest. Camel on outside edge to a forward crossfoot spin, 3x step out with a grimace, 3t, straight-line steps, 3s, butterfly sit, slow edgy moves, MITF with nice spiral, semi-pivot on his knee into a spread eagle and hydroblade into 3x step out, 3r, slow and deliberate skating in this section, flying camel, 3f/3t, steps into 3z, back split, spin combination. Too bad about the axels since he seemed to be landing them consistently in practices, but on the whole this was a much better competition for Matt than I was expecting given how much training he lost in the past year due to his knee injury and surgery. I honestly thought for a while that the knee problem might turn out to be a career-ending injury, and maybe he did too, so what a bonus for him to make the world team again!

Ryan Bradley (6): Hillbilly medley in a red and white checked shirt and blue jeans. Huge popped 1x, 3x at other end of the rink, flying sit, circular steps, 2z/3t, spiral nice (do hillbillies really point their toes?), lunge, very slow skating in this section, back spiral illegible scribble, 3r, flying camel, a lot of stroking into 3f step 3s, death drop, straight-line steps, 1z, 3t, butterfly camel/back camel/sit/butterfly. The audience went nuts for his music and his ability to sell the footwork sequences, but I thought the program as a whole was poorly constructed and sloppily performed. It restored my faith somewhat that the judges paid more attention to the latter than the former. OTOH, I have to give Ryan credit; a year or two ago, I would have thought he'd *never* get his triple axel because he was so totally out of control on his attempts.

Ryan Jahnke (3 in free skate, 4 overall): Brazilian medley in a festive purple and brown outfit with loose multicolored sleeves. 3x with a slightly sticky landing, 3t, sit spin to side sit, 3z/3r landed with no flow so that he had to hop to check out of it, serpentine MITF and footwork section, spin combination with many changes of edge and position, 3x/2t perfect, spread eagle with a head twist timed exactly to the music, 'tano 3z, 3f, 3s, camel to upright spin, straight-line steps, footwork into 2x, butterfly spin. I've never seen him so pumped at the end of a program. What vindication for him, when so many people had dismissed his bronze medal last year as a fluke! Even though he ended up one place lower, this was a far better performance than last year. And how many people would have predicted that Ryan would land all 3 triple axels he attempted at this competition? BTW, unlike most of the skaters who competed on the Grand Prix, Ryan kept this program almost exactly the same way it was for the Code of Points, with the complicated spins, the back-loading of jumps in the program (5 of the 8 jump elements are in the second half), the extra double axel at the very end as his 8th jump element, etc.

Michael Weiss (2): Patriotic medley in a blue military outfit. (While Ryan Bradley was clearly trying to pander to the southern audience with his music choice, I'm not sure what Mike was thinking to skate to "John Brown's Body" in a blue outfit in Atlanta.) 3z, 3t, upright change-foot spin, slow posing and edgy steps, 3x/3t two-footed on the back half, 3r, flying camel to upright spin, very slow in this section, spiral and pivot, walley into a 3x barely hung on, 1.5 salchow(?), circular steps, 3s landed on toe, 3z/2t, "Mike Pike" (shriek!) into 3f, straight-line steps, spin combination. Eh. Well, he did what he had to do with the jumps, but the program and performance level were a notch or two lower than Ryan's. I didn't notice the problem with too many repeated jumps until someone else pointed it out later, so maybe the judges missed that, too. In any case, my faith in the judging took a hit again when all but one judge put him above Ryan.

Johnny Weir (1): "Doctor Zhivago" in a light blue icicle-inspired outfit. Slow opening, 3x/3t, 3s, 3x, flying camel with a bent leg position, 3z/3t, death drop, 3f, circular steps mostly three turns, camel, 3r, more standing around, straight-line steps again very simple, spiral and MITF, camel/sit/back sit/mushroom combination. A deserving victor with the most secure jumping of all the men and good speed throughout the program, but I don't think this performance was worthy of a 6.0 -- it was certainly not up to the standard of his short program, for instance. I hope that before Worlds Johnny takes the time to re-work the footwork sequences, at least, because they are so far below the level of what he can do. It also doesn't help with the excitement level of the program when the music is so monotonous and doesn't really build to a climax. I got the impression more that he was just serenely checking off the jumps and other elements instead of looking on the program as a performance, if that makes any sense.

Senior ladies free skate

After the too-long day of sitting in the arena on Thursday and my bout of hunger as soon as the ladies short program started, I knew that I had to take a break and get out of the arena and eat real food between the men's and ladies' events. The food court in CNN Center was a zoo with people sitting on the floor because there were no tables left, so I ended up walking off some of my excess energy after the men's event until the crowd thinned, and missed the first flight of ladies while I was eating and walking some more.

Here's my notes on the rest of the field, in skate order. Alas, the ladies didn't live up to the standard set by the men, and this turned out to be a pretty major splatfest.

Louann Donovan (17 in free skate, 16 overall): "On The Waterfront" in black. 3z fall, Russian split, 3t/2t, 3r, camel to catch-foot position, pivot, layback, full-body movements to music, 3f fall, 2z, spirals not held very long, 2s, butterfly sit/catch-foot, straight-line steps, 1x, camel/layback/back camel/sit/scratch. Again, great choreography by Lori Nichol, but you could sense her giving up on the performance. Really too bad, I would have liked to see her at least perform the choreography full out even if the jumps weren't working.

Stephanie Rosenthal (12 in free skate, 13 overall): "The Mission" in a red dress. Straight-line steps into 2x, layback, 3s/2t, camel with position variations, 3t/2t, 3s, 1z, split, death drop, spirals including back change of edge while holding her free leg, 3t, more straight-line steps into 1x, circular steps with a fall, unique spin combination. She looked very happy with this performance, and deservedly so.

Aanya Reiten (14 in free skate, 15 overall): Grieg piano concerto in red. 2x/2t, 3t maybe two-footed, 2z, flying camel, 3f/2t, layback, 1r, spirals, charlotte, straight-line steps, 2s, 3r maybe cheated, camel/back sit, very fast camel/layback/back Y spin. A bit "juniorish" in terms of power and in-between skating.

Andrea Gardiner (13 in free skate, 14 overall): Turandot in red. Edgy steps down center of rink, 3flutz maybe two-footed/2t, 2s, some flavor of spin, circular steps, 3t/2t, flying camel, 3r, 3f heavily two-footed, layback, very slow skating, spirals, 2x, 3t fall, ina bauer, split jump, stars into butterfly upright spin, spin combination.

Danielle Kahle (9 in free skate, 10 overall): Tara music in pale blue. 2x, 2f overrotated step out, 3s/3r nice, circular steps, 3z came to dead stop on landing, tripped and fell while doing nothing(?), flying camel, spirals, 3r, layback, 3z fall, death drop, 3t/2t, spin combination.

Beatrisa Liang (7): "The Mission" (yet another one) in black and silver. Pivot, 3z/2t step out, 3f/2t, split, death drop, 3t on toe with a hop out, illusions and upright spin, spread eagle, 3s, layback, spirals, 2.5f splat, charlotte, 3z another splat, straight-line steps, 2x, spin combination.

Jane Bugaeva (10 in free skate, 9 overall): "Les Patineurs" in turquoise. 2x, 3z fall, flying camel, 3f step 3t hand down (this was intended to be a triple/triple combination), spirals, 3r/2t, layback, 3t hand down, 2s, spin combination, serpentine steps, split jump into 3t, spin combination.

Jennifer Don (8): Sounded like movie music to me, black sparkly dress. 3t/2t, very fast, 3s fist pump, spread eagle into 1x, death drop, circular steps, 3t, 2r, spirals, flying sit, 2z, another 1x, camel/sit/scribble scribble, layback with catch-foot.

Alexandra Patterson (11): Peach-colored dress, Spanish music. 3s/2t, 3z/2t, 2x with wild landing, camel/sit/back camel/sit, slow edgy steps, 3s, camel/layback travelled, spirals, 3f, straight-line steps, 3t, 2r, flying camel, forward scratch. As in the short program, a nominally clean skate, but she's a bit stiff in her presentation and the elements were not of the highest quality.

Alissa Czisny (15 in free skate, 12 overall): "Swan Lake" (yes, another one) in white. 3z fall, flying camel, 3t fall, circular steps, 1r, death drop to vertical split spin, ina bauer not held very long, 3s fall, layback, charlotte and spirals, 1f, split, 3z two-footed, straight-line steps, 3s, spin combination. Her flexibility moves are even more extreme and eye-catching than Sasha Cohen's, but what a mess in terms of the jumps.

Sasha Cohen (2): "Swan Lake" in a black and white dress. Really takes her time getting to her start position. 3flutz/2t, 3f/2t, 3r, flying camel/sit/vertical split spin, 2x, spiral, 3s/2t, upright spin with arm variation, vertical split on flat, spread eagle, 3t fall, 3flutz two-footed, 3s, layback, slow skating, straight-line steps, camel/sit/back catch foot spin. Up until the fall, I thought she was on track to win, but once she made the mistake it was obvious that her concentration was gone, and it was like letting the air out of a balloon. Kind of an obvious "what the heck?" reaction from the audience when the 6.0 for presentation came up. A 6.0 for a program with a fall, from the first skater of the flight with the competition yet to come? That's the kind of bad judging that convinces casual viewers of the sport that it's all crooked.

Amber Corwin (4): Middle eastern music in burgundy. 3t/3t (again, the first jump so pre-rotated that it looked like a double), 3z maybe cheated, 1r, layback, spirals, 2x, 3f/2t, camel/grafstrom/back camel/donut/crossfoot spin, 3s step out 2t, straight-line steps continuing around end of rink and back to center, spin combination.

Angela Nikodinov (5): pink sparkly dress, same old "Giselle" program. 3z two-footed, 3f, 2x, hops, 3t fall, flying camel, slow posing section and really crawling across the ice, speeds up with plain stroking into 2r, layback, spirals with no energy, more stroking into 2z, straight-line steps, 2t, spin combination, upright spin. Ugghhhh. Pretty pathetic that this snooze of a program with only one clean triple was good enough for 5th place! But going down the list, I'm not sure who really deserved to be placed any higher; Liang, maybe, but that's still a stretch.

Michelle Kwan (1): Tosca in a new peach dress with criss-cross straps on the back. (As soon as she came out for warmup I had to laugh at all the uberfans who had brought purple pompoms to match the dress she was wearing earlier in the season.) 3r cheated, 3z/2t, 3f, 2x, flying camel slow, building speed into 3s, layback, camel/sit/back sit/crossfoot, spiral, 3t, spread eagle, 3z, back spiral with hand down on the ice, straight-line steps and the crowd starts screaming, split falling leaf and people are already standing, death drop, and the screaming is so loud I'm flinching and covering my ears from the pain. Well, after Sasha's mistakes it was obvious that all Michelle had to do was stand up and she would win and we would have yet another installment of the annual Michelle Kwan Nationals Lovefest, and that's what happened. But was this performance really deserving of all those 6's? Not really. The choreography was really empty and I thought the program lacked the triumphant confidence and emotion of last year's. OTOH, I do have to give her a ton of credit for pulling it off when the pressure was on. 8-time national champion! She truly is the Kween.

Jenny Kirk (3): Die Fledermaus. 3r, 3t/3t good, layback, spirals, 3z, 3f step out 2t, two spin combinations in a row, spread eagle, 3f, 3s fall (and this is usually her best triple!), straight-line steps, 2x, flying camel. Very nice performance, and it can't be easy to skate right after the Kwan mayhem.

Ann Patrice McDonough (6): "Swan Lake" in overdone white outfit with a swan on the front. Flap flap. 2x, 3z maybe two-footed/2t, 3r maybe cheated, 2t, flying camel, 3f fall, 2s, spiral, labored stroking, 2z, layback with catch-foot position slow, split hop into 3t fall, spin, arm-flapping toe-stomping straight-line steps, camel/sit/layback/back camel/sit/catch-foot spin. Like Nikodinov, she gave the impression of not really wanting to be there. I'm told she has a painful foot injury and it really can't be much fun for her to skate right now.

Competition wrap-up

Thanks to all the skaters for making this event enjoyable! I'm sorry that I didn't get to see more of the events this year -- I particularly regretted not being able to see any of the junior dance event due to conflicts with practices I wanted to watch. I hope next year the LOC goes back to giving the skaters the usual two practices a day, both for their sake and for my own, since it makes it easier to pick and choose which events to go to so that I can see at least a little bit of all the events I am interested in.

This would have been a really nice event from a logistics point of view if the LOC had stuck with their original plan of having practices in the convention center adjacent to the arena. I was happy to discover that there was healthy fast food available in the large food court in the CNN Center, connected to the main arena. They were allowing outside food into the arena during practices when the concessions were not open, although it took them a couple days to put up a sign with that policy so that people would know it was OK. The concessions inside the arena were not bad either, although everything was overpriced compared to the food court.

The one thing that caused a big problem for spectators in the main arena was the no re-entry policy. It not only meant you couldn't go out to the food court to eat between events that were on the same ticket (like between the men's and ladies' short programs on Thursday, or the pairs and dance finals on Friday), but I also heard of more than one instance of people who had to leave the building to take care of an errand or emergency, were not allowed back in on the same ticket, and could not even buy another ticket because the box office was closed. I also heard of someone who went outside just to the box office to resolve a ticket problem and was not allowed back in! And one of my friends wanted to skip the free dance and come back later for the hall of fame ceremony, but that wasn't possible, either. Hint for future LOCs: at some past Nationals, they have had a deal for all-event ticket holders where you could turn in your tickets for the day and get a wrist band or hand stamp that allowed you in and out as you pleased.

From the participants' point of view, aside from the practice ice fiasco, one more complaint that reached me during the week was the shabby hospitality arrangements for the chaperones -- running out of food, no bottled water, and so on. The skaters' parents are the ones who have to pay all the bills so I'm all for giving them a few perqs during the competition to make their life easier.

Finally, one little note.... one of the competitors told me that he never got his bag of teddy bears and other goodies that were thrown onto the ice for him. I'm not sure if this was the result of carelessness on the part of the backstage people or whether someone just made off with it. As a warning to fans, though, if you really want to make sure your favorite skater gets a gift from you, this isn't the most reliable way to deliver it.

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