2005 US Nationals

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Disclaimers

Reports and photos will be posted during the week as I have time, and after I get home again if I don't have time. Don't expect to see any competition photos this time (at least for the senior events) since my seat in the arena is too high up.

Photos are Copyright (c) 2005, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

Tuesday's report

Today I watched senior men and ladies free skate practices sandwiched around the senior compulsory dance and junior OD. I didn't take any notes on the dance events, just sat back and enjoyed the skating, so I don't have anything to post about those events.

Senior men practice

I took photos during this practice rather than jump notes, so just a few impressions.

Tim Goebel didn't have a good practice at all -- I didn't see him land a clean triple axel or attempt a quad. Unless he was just having an unusually bad day, I'm not sure he's going to be much of a factor here. Johnny Weir landed some jumps in isolation but didn't do much of his runthrough when I was trying to take photos of him. :-P Evan Lysacek looked very sharp, lots of good jumps and really attacking his program. Ryan Jahnke managed to miss both lutzes in his runthrough but by the end of the practice was pulling off a lot of good jumps, including a number of clean triple axels. He looked happy and confident, I thought. Parker Pennington was also landing a lot of jumps before Tom Dickson spent a good part of the practice working with him to refine some of his positions. (It's always amusing to watch Tom at work because he always tries to demonstrate the positions and gestures he wants from behind the boards.)

I don't think anybody landed a clean quad, although I saw a single failed attempt at one from each of Lysacek, Weir, and Savoie. I don't think any of those guys are really planning to include one in their programs.

No-shows included Michael Weiss, Jordan Brauninger, and Shaun Rogers. Dennis Phan wasn't able to do much jumping in this practice and later withdrew from the competition because of an ankle injury.

Senior ladies practice

Any doubts about Michelle Kwan being "lazy" were certainly dispelled if you were paying close attention to her practice session this afternoon. She worked her butt off the entire time she was out there, skating full out almost the entire time. First she warmed up (zooming around the ice at approximately twice the speed of any of the other skaters in her group) and then she did a whole series of jumps in isolation. Then she did a full runthrough of her long program while another skater's music was playing, went back and re-did a couple jumps she missed, then immediately skated another partial runthrough (more choreography than jumps) when her music was playing. Then more jumps in isolation, and what seemed to be a large part of her short program choreography. Finally sections of what I guess might be an exhibition program, then more zooming around the ice before she took her bows and left. Yow. That was some exhibition of skating. I'm finding it hard to believe that this isn't going to turn into another edition of the annual Michelle Kwan Nationals Lovefest.

Sasha Cohen was a no-show, as were Angela Nikodinov and Kimmie Meissner. None of the other skaters seemed to be having a stand-out day.... lots of missed jumps and splats all over the place. I don't have my hopes up for a really high-quality ladies event again this year, unfortunately.

Wednesday's report

Senior men practice

I was busy with my camera again at this short program practice, so I have no jump notes or other details on specific skaters' runthroughs. Just some general observations:

Matt Savoie was definitely the star of the first group; IIRC, he did a clean runthrough. I don't care much for his new long program but I like the short (set to the Barber "Adagio") a lot. I guess Tom Dickson is entitled to a dud now and then, but he's definitely redeemed himself with this program.

Ryan Jahnke had an off-day, with more uncharacteristic trouble with his lutz, and I don't think he landed a clean axel, either. He looked pretty frustrated by the end of the practice.

Jordan Brauninger didn't have much luck with the jumps in his runthrough but did some nice ones later on. All of his jumps are impressively huge. I noticed he was drinking coffee throughout the practice and I suppose it took a while for the caffeine to kick in. ;-)

Johnny Weir is back to his old practice habits of not doing very much and only doing parts of his runthrough. But what he did do, looked very, very good. My recollection is that Nick LaRoche had a good practice, and Parker Pennington is looking pretty good. Lots of discussion about his Tom Dickson makeover.

I was told that Tim Goebel landed a few quads before he did his runthrough, but I didn't see them myself. It seemed like he was concentrating on just presenting the choreography in his runthrough, and I was extremely impressed; wow, at long last he is *finally* getting a clue! I am not sure if he will ever be able to fix his posture and/or some of his other bad habits, but this a huge improvement over anything he's ever done before.

Michael Weiss seems determined to prove that the reports of his demise were premature. He landed several clean quad toes in this practice; it was about all he seemed to work on. It seemed that all the ones he rotated and didn't fall on were landed on one foot. OTOH, in his runthrough he took a splat on his axel again, and the lutz was one of those scratchy barely-held-on variety jumps.

I don't remember much about what Evan did, but my general recollection is that he was still looking pretty good. It's kind of annoying that he's using the same short program for the 3rd year in a row, even though it's a good program and gets the audience going every time. Speaking of which, Braden Overett's new "Fiddler On The Roof" program is also going to be a big hit with the audience if he can hit his jumps.

Junior ladies free skate

This was really a depressing competition -- one of those events where almost nobody skated anywhere near their true ability. You hate to see someone win with only two clean triples, who isn't even a particularly great skater otherwise, either, but that's how it ended up.

Caroline Miller (12): Spanish guitar in turquoise and blue. 2x, 1f, 3s, flying camel, 3t fall, 2r overrotated and awkward fall, sirals, layback, 3s fall, spincombination with corkscrew sit, pop z, straight-line steps.

Crystal Shum (8 in FS, 9 overall): Extra-sparkly red outfit with gold fringe, strange medley of disco "Also Sprach Zarathustra" and "Firebird" with a chunk of "East of Eden" in the middle. 3s/2t, 2x, 3t/2t, 2z/2t, spirals, layback, 2f, 3s with a hard check, spin combination, circlar steps, 3t, flying camel. Not much in the program besides jumps, and little or no expression.

Danielle Shepard (7 in FS, 8 overall): Movie music in black and red. 3r, 3z way underrotated/1t, death drop, 1f, "Shepard sit", spirals with a change-of-edge, 2x/1t, 3s, 2x, circular steps, 3t/2t, spin combination. Not much expression.

Melissa Telecky (11 in FS, 10 overall): Teal dress with an asymmetric cut-out across the chest (actually, my favorite outfit of the competition), new age crooning. Fast skating into 3t hands down, 3s/2t, flying camel, 2r looked like an obvious popped triple, 2x fall, straight-line steps, layback, 3t fall, 2f, ina into 2x, spirals, 2z/2t two-footed, spin combination.

Margaret Wang (10 in FS, 11 overall): "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" in a pale blue sparkly outfit. 2x/2t, 3t/2t, 3r fall, flying camel into a Y spin, spirals, 3s, waxel, layback, 3t, straight-line steps, 2z in sequence with a 2f, split jump, spin combination. She has some posture issues and seemed to approach all her jumps very cautiously and deliberately.

Juliana Cannarozzo (5 in FS, 6 overall): "Dr. Zhivago" in a backless white dress. (After commenting on how cold that outfit looked when I saw it earlier this season, I was amused to see that this time she kept her sweater on until the very last moment.) 2z in sequence with 3t, circular steps, 2f step out, 3r, layback, 3t step out, 3r/2t step out, flying camel with no fly, split jumps into 2x/2t, spirals, spin combination.

Molly Oberstar (9 in FS, 7 overall): Rachmaninoff medley, smoke-colored dress with a lot of crystals on it (reminded me of something AP's mother would have made). 3s/2t, 3t not much height, walley into 2z, flying camel into sasha spin, 3r, 2x, 2f, bendy spirals, biellmann spin, straight-line steps, 3s ground out, 2x/2t, spin combination, ended after music.

Megan Oster (3): Weird arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue" in blue and pink. 3t/3t, 3z step out/2t, butterfly sit, 3f fall, 1r, extra-bendy layback, walley(?), pop z, 2x, circular steps, 3s/2t, spirals, spin combination with a back corkscrew sit.

Tenile Victorsen (4): Orange, middle-eastern music (with stereotypical choreography). 3s/2t not pretty, 3t, 2x, flying camel, spirals, 3t/2t, layback(?), straight-line steps, Bobekian 2 flutz, 3s fall, split jump/2t/2f sequence, spin combination. Not much power in her skating.

Christine Zukowski (2): "Samson and Delilah" in purple. layback, 2x landed on toe, 3z/2t crammed into the corner, 2lip, 3t/2t, change sit with variations, spirals, 2r, 3s, 3z fall, straight-line steps, flying camel/sit/scratch. Not anywhere close to her performance level at Easterns, sigh.

Sandra Jean Rucker (1): "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" in a loud, asymmetric-cut black and white dress. 3r, 3z, 3f fall, 3s step out, flying camel, 3z hand down and steps into 2t, layback, spirals, 2x, circular steps, spin combination. Doesn't skate with as much power as you'd expect from someone her size, plus she seems a little gawky as if she's still trying to get used to her body.

Anna Peng (6 in FS, 5 overall): "Four Seasons" in a dark blue sparkly outfit. 3t/2t, flying camel with hops into a sit spin, 2x, spirals, 3s fall, lovely edge work into 2r, 2x with a scary takeoff, layback, 3t fall, walleys into 3s fall, spin combination. Her basic skating quality was the best of the field, but all those falls were really painful to see.

Junior men short program

Traighe Rouse (11): "Winter" in a black outfit with gloves and some white trim on the shoulder. Spread eagle into 2x nice, change sit onto an inside edge, straight-line steps, 3r fall, flying camel onto an inside edge, pop z (totally missed the pick), serpentine steps, camel/broken leg sit/back sit/scribble/cross-foot.

Stephen Carriere (8): Gray shirt, "Shaft". 1z/2t, 3r nice, spin combination, circular steps, 2x, flying camel, straight-line steps, change sit. Too bad about the lutz.

Princeton Kwong (7): Fast, busy music in a black-and-white tux outfit. 3z/2t, 2r step-out, flying camel, 2x, change sit with ugly scrunched-up positions, straight-line steps, circular steps, spin combination. The choreography was fast and busy, too.

Casey McCraw (5): "Phantom of the Opera" in a black asymmetric outfit with dangly bits on the sleeves. 3z fall out/steps/3t, good steps into 3r, change sit, circular steps, 2x, flying camel, straight-line steps had little to do with the music, camel/sit/back camel/sit kind of wobbly and slow. He had fairly good flow over the ice but his jump mechanics and air position seemed kind of sloppy-looking to me.

Tommy Steenberg (10): "Hernando's Hideaway" in a red and black shaded shirt. 3 flutz/2t, good footwork into 3r with a wild landing and quick step out, change sit with position variations, circular steps, 2x step out, serpentine steps, flying camel not enough rotations, spin combination. Disappointing after his good performance last year.

Geoffry Varner (4): spider web outfit with gloves, percussion music. 3z/2t scratchy, 3r hung on, 2x, spin combination, circular steps, flying camel, straight-line steps. Presumably he did the change sit in there somewhere and I just forgot to write it down.

David Weintraub (9): blue shirt, music with a heavy beat. 3x hand down/toe axel, circular steps, change sit, 3r step out, flying camel, 2x, straight-line steps, spin combination. All three of his jump elements were crammed up against the boards in the corners of the ice.

Michael Peters (6): Jazzy tango and samba music in red. 3z/2t, 3r, flying camel fast with 10 rotations, circular steps, 2x, change set straight-line steps had mostly CCW turns, spin combination.

Douglas Razzano (2): "Kalinka" in a black vest over a cream peasant shirt. 3r, 3z/2t slightly flutzed, flying camel 9, straight-line steps, 2x, change sit, circular steps, spin combination. I thought he was somewhat overmarked on presentation -- he did a good job of interpreting this familiar music, but his posture is hunchy and he needs to work on his extension, too.

John Coughlin (12): "Caravan" in burgundy and black. 3z/2t foot down (too close to the boards), 3r wrong foot landing, change sit, straight-line steps, 2x, flying camel didn't fly, circular steps, spin combination. John's program had some real choreography but he still needs to work a lot on his carriage and body awareness to pull it off successfully.

Craig Ratterree (3): "Zorro" in burgundy. 3x overrotated step-out/2t, 3r, flying camel, 2x, change sit with hunchy positions, circular steps to the music, straight-line steps, spin combination. I didn't understand the 4.1 for presentation at all, BTW; Craig is quite a good skater and this was a well-choreographed and well-presented program.

Jeremy Abbott (1): Jazz arrangement of the "Aranjuez" adagio, black outfit with blue trim. 3x/3t of Johnny Weir quality in terms of ease and flow, change sit great, circular steps, 3r great, expressive straight-line steps, flying camel with gorgeous stretched line, 2x fall (groan!), spin combination. In spite of the fall, Jeremy's spins and basic skating are by far the best of the field, and this was really a great program for him, too. I think he should have been ahead of Doug on the second mark by quite a bit more than the 0.1-0.2 that the judges gave him.

Thursday's report

Junior free dance

I didn't take any notes on this event, but a few impressions....

Pratt & Gilles were clearly the class of the field with their Tom Dickson-choreographed "Romeo & Juliet" free dance, but Mallory & Holdburg also delivered some excellent skating. I was especially noticing how silent their blades were, and he in particular seemed to show a lot of influence from their coach Sergei Ponomarenko. I found it a little ironic that they skated to "Scheherezade" which was the controversial music of K&P's rivals Blumberg & Seibert back in 1984!

McCullough & Dear also did a great job but their 3rd place in the free dance still left them in 4th overall. IMO, there should have been a bigger gap between the top 3 and Lauten & Hill, who seemed to have a relatively content-free waltz dance with some awkward transitions to boot. I'm not sure why the judges are giving them such a push (but heck, maybe I just don't really know anything about dance anymore, with all the new rules). Koob-Doddy & Antonelli still look very young but they're really a charming couple and their free dance had a lot of character and showed them off well, so I was not surprised to see them pull up over Summersett & Pennington who unfortunately had a couple of glaring errors in their dance, such as a collision on a dance spin that brought them almost to a complete halt.

Senior men short program

Scott Smith (7): Elaborate blue velvet outfit with a bird applique' and flappy fabric scraps. 3x, 4s hand down/2t, change sit, straight-line steps, 3r with a kind of tight landing, death drop, spin combination, circular steps. He looked very happy at the end of the program.

Jordan Brauninger (11): Mustard and burgundy sleeveless outfit, techno music. 3x, serpentine steps, 3f, change sit, 2z/3t (big oops), flying camel, straight-line steps, spin combination. The crowd seemed to like his program OK but the judges apparently hated it. :-P

Evan Lysacek (3): Same old "Hispana Cani" in the same old suit of lights. 3x with a flawed takeoff, 3z/3t, butterfly sit, circular steps, 3lip, change sit, straight-line steps, spin combination. Another happy-looking skater. The problem with Evan's axel is that he is skidding the entrance so much he is doing a half-turn before he ever gets off the ice -- it's very clear from the tracing, and as soon as I saw it in person I realized why the caller at Cup of Russia downgraded all his axels to doubles. The judges here don't seem to care with the 6.0 system, but he's going to get murdered at ISU competitions under CoP unless he can fix this.

Nick LaRoche (8): "Time to Say Goodbye" in gray. 3x, 3z/3t step out, change sit, 3f landed too far on the toe with a kind of quick step out, straight-line steps, death drop possibly short on rotation, circular steps, travelly spin combination. Another happy skater leaving the ice.

Michael Weiss (5): "Henry V" in black with red and green. 4t fall, 3x, flying sit with an inside edge variation, 3z, change sit with variations both front and back, straight-line steps really slow, spin combination, circular steps. Too bad about the quad since it seemed to have been working better for him in practice than I'd seen in quite a long time. At least he got the axel this time.

Matt Savoie (4): Barber's "Adagio" in a blue-gray shaded shirt. Flying camel with a layover and then onto an inside edge, 3x landed with great flow, 3f/3t, circular steps, change camel with a bent knee variation, 3z out of a spread eagle and brackets, straight-line steps, spin combination with an inside edge sit, hydroblade to end the program. My listing of the elements of this program doesn't do it justice; it's a beautifully-choreographed program, Matt presented it with deep feeling and understanding, and I was literally moved to tears. It got my only standing ovation of the night.

Braden Overett (15): "Fiddler on the Roof" in an outfit with a blue shirt, vest, and boots. Straight-line steps full of character, 3x fall, flying camel, 3z hand down 2t, change sit travelled on the back half, serpentine steps, 3r fall, spin combination. Sigh, what a bummer of a performance. The crowd loved the program and it probably would have scored really well if he'd skated clean, but no such luck.

Jason Wong (18): Techno-latin mix in black with neon orange. Started out with a random trip in his opening, 3x fall out/2t, flying camel with a bent leg, 3r fall, spin combination slow and travelly, straight-line steps, besti squat into 2x, circular steps, change sit. If you are one of the younger skaters in the competition and in your first year competing at Nationals as a senior, I'm not sure it's such a good thing to remind everyone how juniorish you are by doing your short program with the junior elements instead of a more typical senior program.

Derrick Delmore (9): Black sparkly outfit. 3z, 3f/3t cheated and not much flow, death drop, 3x landed on the toe and maybe not quite fully rotated, straight-line steps, change camel, circular steps, spin combination with an inside edge sit (seems like a popular element nowadays).

Jordan Wilson (12): Spanish music in a red shirt and cream vest. Spread eagle into 3x, 3f/3t, 3z with an ugly landing, change sit, circular steps, spin combination pretty weak, straight-line steps, butterfly sit. Another happy skater leaving the ice, and with good reason, too, because this is probably the best I've ever seen him skate.

Wesley Campbell (13): Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise" in a black outfit with some blue cut-outs on the chest. 3x cheated step-out, flying sit, 3f/3t, serpentine steps, 3flutz, change sit with inside edge again, easy-looking straight-line steps, spin combination travelled. I haven't seen Wesley land a fully-rotated axel yet; even when he stands up on them, there's an obvious 3-turn or hook on the landing tracing. Still, this was a better performance jump-wise than I'd expected from his practices.

Parker Pennington (16): Funky music, light blue outfit with a multicolored ribbon design on the shirt. 3x, 3z bad lean splat, change sit, straight-line steps, flying camel with a freak fall and then he stupidly tried it again (earning an additional 0.5 deduction for an extra or repeated element on top of the deduction for falling on the first attempt), circular steps, spin combination, ended after his music. Sigh, what a disaster. :-( He's a much better skater than this.

Pierre Balian (19): Techno "Four Seasons" in black velvet. 3x fall, 3t, back-to-front change sit that should have gotten a deduction for recentering on the change, straight-line steps, 1x, flying camel wobbly and short of rotation, circular steps, spin combination that travelled.

Tim Goebel (1): Rachmaninoff cello piece in a navy blouse and matching velvet pants. Straight-line steps, 4t/2t, 3x, butterfly sit, change sit with only basic positions, 3f, circular steps, camel/sit/back camel/sit/catch-foot/cross-foot spin combination. He left the ice in tears. This is a much better program than anything Tim has done before and for once he has earned the high presentation marks he got for it.

Daniel Steffel (14): "Nightmare" in a black outfit with cutouts across the shoulders. 3z hand down/2t, 3f nice, change camel, serpentine steps, 2x, flying camel not stretched enough, straight-line steps, spin combination.

Shaun Rogers (6): Silver vest over a blue shirt. 4t landed in a crouch with a touchdown of the free foot/2t, 3x, change sit very fast, circular steps, 3f a little scratchy, combination spin, serpentine steps, butterfly sit. An amazing skate for Shaun given that he finished last at his only previous senior Nationals two years ago.

Johnny Weir (2): "Rondo Cappricioso" in black and red. Lots of speed into a 3x landed with a hard check, 3z/3t placed in the middle of the rink instead of the corner or end, change sit, circular steps in a very large oval pattern, 3f with a scratchy landing, butterfly sit, straight-line steps, spin combination. None of his jumps were landed with his usual flow so it wasn't a great performance for him.

Mauro Bruni (17): Spanish program in a red shirt. 2x nice, 3z/3t, 2f (oops), circular steps, spin combination with a variety of nice positions, change sit with an inside edge (see, I said this was a popular variation), straight-line steps, butterfly sit. Mauro has some of the best programs and choreography in the competition. He's just here to enjoy himself and show off the things he does best this year, and the crowd seemed to be getting into the spirit of things.

Ryan Jahnke (10): Jethro Tull in plum velvet with ruffled collar and cuffs. 3x barely hung on, 3f/3t also barely held on, change sit, circular steps, 3z two-footed, flying sit neither flew nor sat in the air, straight-line steps, spin combination. On top of that, he looked tentative and slow throughout the program. I was kind of afraid that if Ryan competed as sloppily as he had been practicing, he would end up getting buried in the standings, and that's exactly what happened. :-(

Senior ladies short program

Emily Hughes (9): Gershwin "Concerto in F" in blue. 2x, 3z/2t, 3f cheated, spread eagles outside/inside, layback with a change of position, spirals in a circular pattern, flying camel a little slow, straight-line steps, camel/layback/back sit/upright. She wuzrobbed, IMO; very fine basic skating.

Danielle Kahle (12): Hernando's Hideaway in hot pink and black. 2x, a lot of posing in front of the judges, 3r scribble out, 3z/2t, flying camel travelled, layback, spirals very slow with no power, spin combination, straight-line steps.

Erica Archambault (13): Secret Garden with odd music cuts, pink ruffly dress with an asymmetric hem. 3t step out/2t, 3r landed at a dead stop step out, flying camel, spirals, 2x, layback with bendy sideways position, circular steps, spin combination.

Yebin Mok (17): "The Swan" in a black dress with a fluttery hem and white underskirt. 3t/2t big smile, pop s, flying camel kind of fell out trying to switch edge, waxel, spin combination, straight-line steps, spirals, impressive layback. She's obviously not anywhere close to where she was before her injury.

Amber Corwin (7): Sorry, I had to take a bathroom break. I was told she did 3t/3t, 2z, and scratchy 2x.

Beatrisa Liang (5): Light purple with a ruffle on one arm. Layback beautiful with a catch foot, 3z maybe two-footed/2t, 3f, spirals, spin combination, 2x, circular steps, death drop to a twist spin. Very strong skating and lots of attack; I was impressed by the transformation since last year.

Alissa Czisny (8): "The Mission" in bright fuchsia. 3z/2t, layback with catch foot, 3f bad cheat, 2x underrotated fall, flying camel/donut, spirals, circular steps, camel/layback/sit/back camel/biellmann.

Jenny Kirk (3): "Chicago" in the same beaded dress. 3flutz/2t, 3f, layback, spirals, 2x, flying camel, serpentine steps, spin combination. Good for her, but the performance level was a step down from last year, I thought.

Katherine Hadford (15): Teal with red sparkles. 2z no combination, 3f, 2x, flying camel, straight-line steps, spirals with a change edge biellmann position, bendy layback, spin combination with camel/sit/scribble/biellmann/back biellmann/layback/catch foot.

Megan Williams-Stewart (10): "Out of Africa" in a pale pink backless dress. 3z/2t, 3r hung on, flying camel with a bent leg, spirals, spread eagle into 2x, spin combination, circular steps, layback. She looked thrilled at the end. I certainly never would have predicted this kind of performance after seeing her at Easterns.

Kimmie Meissner (4): Pale peach, "Reverie" with an odd music cut to something else. 3z/2t, 3f, slow skating, layback, wobbly spirals, spin combination, 2x, straight-line steps, flying camel that didn't fly into wobbly illusions. Eh. Not sure how she ended up in front of either Bebe or Emily.

Angela Lien (16): Repetitive new-age music in hot pink with black. Layback, pop z, spirals, 2x, 3t, spin combination, straight-line steps, ended with the flying spin that I forgot to write down.

Stephanie Rosenthal (14): "Pink Panther" in pink, of course. 3t/2t, 2s, 2x, flying camel, straight-line steps to the music, layback, spirals, spin combination travelled. Her usual fun choreography got the crowd on her side.

Sasha Cohen (2): Red with black net overskirt, "Dark Eyes". 3flutz hand down/2t, 3f, flying camel, slow, 2x with a wobbly landing, spirals with another big wobble on the vertical split at the end, layback, straight-line steps, spin combination. Sasha's lutz no longer looks exactly the same as her flip, but it's still a flutz.

Shanell Noji (18): Cirque du Soleil music in a purple sparkly halter-top dress. 3z underrotated and two-footed step out/2t, flying camel, 3t, spirals, layback, straight-line steps, 1x, spin combination.

Jane Bugaeva (11): Teal outfit. 2x nice, 3flutz step out/2t, 3f, layback, spirals, back-to-front combination spin, circular steps, death drop.

Katy Taylor (6): "Rhapsody in Blue" in what else, blue. straight-line steps, 3f, spirals, 3z/2t, spin combination, layback, ina into 2x, flying camel onto inside edge but not a particularly stretched position. From the jump notes it probably looks like a better performance than it actually was, because she still lacks power. Was kind of scratching my head over her placement.

Michelle Kwan (1): Dark orange with gold belt, "Spartacus". 2x, 3z/2t, butterfly sit, 3f, spin combination, spirals to the crescendo of the music, circular steps, layback. When I heard she was going to skate to this music I kind of cringed thinking it was going to be all pretty-pretty, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her turn it into a power program.

Friday's report

Junior men free skate

Traighe Rouse (10 in FS, 11 overall): gray sparkly short sleeve outfit, sounded like movie music. 2x, 3z/2t overrotated turn-out, 3t, big splat on 3f, spin combination very slow, 3z another painful-looking fall, MITF, 3r step-out, 2s, very slow flying camel, straight-line steps, 2x hops 2t step-out.

Stephen Carriere (6 in FS, 7 overall): cream peasant shirt, "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Samson and Delilah". 2x, 3f, flying sit didn't, 3z fall, 3r with a messy landing, 3z/2t, MITF, 2x, spin combination, straight-line steps on one foot (impressive!), 3s, walleys and hops into 3t/2t, circular steps, butterfly sit wobbly.

David Weintraub (8): 3x underrotated and fell on butt, 2z, flying sit, 3lip/2t, 3s, 3r, MITF, 3x fell out on two feet with hands down, flying camel, straight-line steps with a slight trip at the end, 3t, circular steps with leaps, butterfly, spin combination travelled and recentered. I forgot to write down any music or costume notes for him.

Princeton Kwong (5): black and blue outfit, movie music. 3z step out 3t, 3f steps 2t step out, 3s/2t, 3z, MITF, 3r, flying camel, 3f, 2x, death drop, slow two-foot skating, straight-line steps, 2f from steps, circular steps, spin combination. He seems like a good skater all-around, with nice carriage and flow and good spring on his jumps.

John Coughlin (12): blue outfit with red stripes. 3z/2t, 3f step out, 3t/2t, flying camel didn't fly, three turns into 3r underrotated step out, 3z fall, 2x, straight-line steps, 3s underrotated fall, camel/hop/back sit, circular steps, change sit.

Tommy Steenberg (9 in FS, 10 overall): sparkly navy, Rachmaninoff. 3z/3t fall, flying camel not stretched, 3r, 2x, 3f fall, 3r hand down/1t, camel/sit/back sit/upright spin not terribly fast, 3f, 3s, 2x, circular steps, sloppy butterfly spin.

Douglas Razzano (4): Navy and light blue outfit like Yagudin's "Tosca" outfit, and yup, he's skating to "Tosca" too. 2x, 3t/3t fall, 3z/2t/2r, flying camel not held, 3f, spread eagle and spiral, 3r fall, spin combination with no energy, 3s/2t, 2z step out, straight-line steps, walley/2x didn't look clean, death drop.

Craig Ratterree (3 in FS, 2 overall): Tchaikovsky 6th symphony in a white shirt. 3x nice, 3r, 3z, 3s fall, straight-line steps, flying camel, 3f, 3t, serpentine steps, back camel sin, pop z, 2x hand down, spin combination. A lot of stroking in this program and not much energy or speed.

Casey McCraw (11 in FS, 9 overall): "Peer Gynt" in brown tie-die. 4t fall (looked more like an overrotated triple), 2x, 2z step out, 3r, butterfly sit, straight-line steps, 1f, very slow skating, MITF section, 3s/2t, circular steps, 3t, flying camel/sit. Another performance without any energy or life to it.

Geoffry Varner (7 in FS, 6 overall): "Turandot" in a black vest over light blue shirt with black gloves. 3z/3t sequence, 3f step out/2t (I think), change sit, 2x, 3r step out, camel/sit/back sit/upright, straight-line steps not full length of the ice, 3z hand down, 3s, walley into 3f fall out, circular steps with good speed, 2x step out, butterfly sit. Overall a pretty sloppy performance.

Michael Peters (2 in FS, 3 overall): Another Yags-like blue outfit, "William Tell". 3x nice, 3r, 3z fall, flying camel to crossfoot spin, spread eagle and spiral, elaborate posing and two-foot skating, 2x/2t, crawling into 3f, change sit, 3t/2t, straight-line steps, skating with more energy, 3s, spin combination.

Jeremy Abbott (1): black with silver and red ribbon-like trim, Safri Duo. Lots of speed into 3z/2t, 3s, circular steps, 3f, flying camel/sit/twist very fast, MITF, 3r, waxel (was supposed to be a triple), 3s step out/2t, death drop, straight-line steps, 3t/2r, 2x, spin combination. This wasn't as commanding a performance as his short program, but his first place was still deserved in spite of him missing his triple axel just because of the quality of the rest of his skating.

Senior men practice

Tim Goebel had the same kind of practice as on Tuesday, struggling with his triple axel again, not attempting any quads, and just concentrating on choreography in his runthrough. Michael Weiss landed some good jumps at the beginning of the practice but by the end he was trying quads and axels over and over again and not having any luck at all with either one, with many popped attempts and falls. It would have been smarter to let it go but he was obviously getting frustrated and wasn't going to give up. Shaun Rogers had a respectable runthrough (popped the quad but hit at least one axel, IIRC, along with a fair number of other jumps), but given his past history of inconsistency and nerves I'm guessing there's at least a 50% chance he will have a total meltdown on live TV on Saturday.

In the next group, Jordan Brauninger and Matt Savoie both had good practices, while Ryan Jahnke had a very bad one with more troubles with his axel and lutz. Some of us were wondering if he might have injured himself at some point.

In the third group, I'm blanking on the details of what Johnny Weir did, but IIRC he did more of his runthrough than is typical for him. I did come away from the practice thinking that he is definitely the best US man at this point and will probably win. I don't like his long program as much as his short because the music is so totally blah and repetitive and depressing, but it's still better than Tim's Queen horror that he brought back from last year (talk about a program that deserves to have a wooden stake driven through its heart!). I'm not sure anyone else both has the goods to challenge for the title and is in a position to do so after the short. The other notable incident in this group was that they had to restart poor Mauro Bruni's music from "The Mission" about 5 times before they got it to work, and at one point while he was waiting, someone in the audience started to whistle the theme for him, which gave everyone -- including Mauro -- a good laugh.

No photos from this practice, BTW, since it was held in the dark hole of the Memorial Coliseum instead of the main competition rink.

Senior free dance

No notes here, just a few impressions from memory.

It was a foregone conclusion that Belbin & Agosto were going to get a boat load of 6.0's unless they splatted all over the ice, and the only question was how many! Turns out the magic number was 9.

Gregory & Petukhov continued to struggle in their free dance, with a big error by her on a twizzle. Same as last year, I found all the flapping hair and chiffon so distracting that it was hard to appreciate what they were doing with their feet.

I was shocked by how good Manon & O'Meara were, and I thought they reasonably could have (and perhaps should have) been placed second in this part of the competition. Their music for the free dance was very, very weird -- but they still managed to give the impression that they were actually dancing to it, and it held my attention all the way through.

Both Goodwin & Bommentre and Stiegler & Magerovskiy made the mistake of skating to music from "Evita". I thought both programs were pretty weak from a technical point of view, and the judges concurred. Tiffany Stiegler has the "look" of an ice dancer, but the technical difficulty just is not there yet.

Matthews & Zavozin managed to pull up a spot in the free dance from having to skate in the next-to-last group, although I thought it looked unlikely to happen after she fell out of a twizzle in their program and they were appropriately dinged by the judges for it. I still don't care for their program at all, but maybe that's just me. BTW, they extended it from the junior version by adding a new section about a minute long on the front. The music and choreography seems somewhat more dancey than the piece that follows that opens the junior version so maybe overall it makes it a better program.

Saturday's report

Senior men free skate

Mauro Bruni (18): "The Mission" in a purple velour shirt. 2x nice, 3z/2t, 3r looked two-footed, flying camel/sit/catch-foot spin wobbly and slow, walley into 3z, straight-line steps with an inside axel, 3f/2t, 3s/2t, death drop, MITF section, 3t, spin combination. Mauro never skates particularly fast and his spins were all below his usual level in this performance, but it's a lovely program and good for him for rotating all his jumps.

Pierre Balian (19): classical mix in a white shirt with a diagonal hem and sheer sleeves. 3z hand down, 3x fall, 1f, flying camel, circular steps, 3t, back-to-front sit spin recentered on the changed, 2s/2t, spin combination very wobbly, slow two-foot skating, straight-line steps, 1x, spin combination, scratch spin. Not sure what the judges who put him ahead of Mauro were thinking; in addition to the lack of jump content, I counted too many spins for the new well-balanced program rules.

Jason Wong (14 in FS, 15 overall): techno "Romeo & Juliet" in a red outfit with sequinned ribs on the back. 3x held on, 3t/3t, flying camel/upright/sit/cross-foot spin, 3z very wild but managed to hold on, straight-line steps, butterfly camel/sit/catch/back sit/scratch, slow two-foot skating and posing, 3r/2t, pop f, 3r, camel, 3s, steps, some kind of spin I blanked out on, 2x fall.

Parker Pennington (16): Cirque du Soleil music in a navy outfit with lighter blue stripes on the chest and sleeves. 3x fall, 3z, flying camel kind of wild, sloppy 3x/2t sequence, circular steps, 3z fall out, back camel to a kind of catch-foot sit spin, spread eagle, 3r fall, spiral, 2x, death drop, walleys, 3f, 3s fall, spin combination. Sigh. Parker's a much better skater than this, and he was skating much better in practice, too.

Jordan Wilson (12): "Phantom of the Opera" in a blue vest over a white shirt with a big ruffly jabot. 3x/3t, 3f/3t, 3z, circular steps, spin combination, ina, 3r, upright spin forward and back, spread eagle into 3x, death drop, straight-line steps, 3s, eagle, butterfly upright spin. Wow, this must be the best he's ever skated! He had a huge smile on his face by the end of the program and got a partial standing ovation from the crowd.

Wesley Campbell (15 in FS, 14 overall): plain black shirt with a little red at the collar and sleeves, "On The Waterfront". 3r fall, 2x/3t, 3t, camel to outside edge, straight-line steps, butterfly sit/upright not held, 3s/3r with a bad cheat on the back half, twisted sit spin, 3x either two-footed or cheated or both, 3f, 3flutz/2t, circular steps with split jumps, 2x fall out, camel/sit/back sit/scratch.

Daniel Steffel (17): "Carmen" in a a black vest embroidered with red flowers over a white shirt. 3f/2t, 3z fall, flying camel, 3t turn out, bad spiral, posing in place, change sit, 3r, 3flutz fall, serpentine steps, 3s, 2x with some sort of hitch on the landing, death drop, straight-line steps, camel/sit/back camel/sit/catch foot.

Braden Overett (8 in FS, 10 overall): "Freedom" in a navy bellhop outfit with white gloves. 3x underrotated fall, 3t, very fast skating, change camel/sit/upright spin, 3f, 3x no combination, 3r/2t, spin combination with a lot of positions, serpentine steps, split jump, 2x, death drop, 2z, 3s/2t, spread eagles, flying camel with layover/sit/catch. Braden delivered his program excellently well, as usual, with very crisp and musical skating, but after 3 years of this I hope he shows up with something new next year.

Derrick Delmore (6 in FS, 7 overall): Spanish medley in red vest over a white shirt. 3 flutz/3t, 3x, 3s/2t, change camel to donut spin, connecting steps, spread eagles, 3s, spiral/3f maybe two-footed, 3r, flying camel with a layover to upright spin, straight-line steps, 2x, butterfly sit, circular steps, 3t/2t, camel/sit/side layback/back sit/forward scratch. Yay! This is Derrick's best performance at Nationals in years.

Jordan Brauninger (10 in FS, 11 overall): "Pirates of the Carribean" in an outfit with a red vest over a cream shirt with brown velvet pants and a sash. 3x hand down/2t, 3z/3t had to fight for it, big deathdrop not held very long, circular steps, 3x fell out, MITF into 3f, change camel, 3r, straight-line steps continuing about a third of the way back down the ice, flying camel, 3s, split jumps, 2x, camel/sit/back camel/sit/catch-foot/upright spin. Aside from the misses on the axels, the skating overall was kind of sloppy and lacked the crispness in presentation of the guys who finished immediately above him.

Nicholas LaRoche (9 in FS, 8 overall): Classical mishmash in a black outfit with tons of rhinestones on the top. 3x/3t, 3r ugly, 3z/2t, 1x, hydroblade, death drop, 3 lip ugly, 3s landed on the toe, flying camel, circular steps, flying sit spin, back lunge into 3z, camel/sit/half layback/back sit/scratch spin. Not his best performance, either.

Scott Smith (11 in FS, 9 overall): "The Prophet" in a black karate-type outfit. 3s, 3x step out, lots of stroking, 4s fall, spread eagle into 3z, butterfly sit into mushroom-type spin, 3t/2t, 3r, back sit spin, posing and slow two-foot skating, 3x fall out/2t, 2f, flying camel, camel/sit/catch/back mushroom spin, straight-line steps very slow, outside spread eagle to end the program.

Ryan Jahnke (13): Grieg piano concerto in a tight blue velvet outfit with different shades of blue in a wavy pattern and some dangly net bits on the top. 3x hand down, 3t/2t/2r, 3z barely ground out, camel/back donut/camel wobbly and slow, 3x fall, back spiral into 3s, hand-down pivot and hop into a sit spin, circular steps, 3z landed it and then fell (probably thinking too hard about having to turn this into a combination), 2f, straight-line steps, butterfly sit, 3r fall, spin combination. Sigh, what a disaster. :-( On top of the jump errors, he was slow and lacking in energy in presentation of the program. Ryan really didn't look much like himself the whole week.

Michael Weiss (5): Rock medley in ugly tattoo shirt with dog collar and baggy pants. 4t two-footed/3t turn out, 3t, 3x/2t, very slow, upright spin front and back, walley, 2s, 3r bad lean and fall, flying camel, walley into 3x saved, circular steps in a very small pattern, 3f, change sit to inside edge, straight-line steps, camel/sit/back camel/sit/upright/scratch, 3z. Michael's speed and ice coverage really seem to have deteriorated lately -- I noticed that in practice as well so it's not like he was just skating cautiously in this performance. I would have put him behind Derrick but I didn't really think any of the judges would do so.

Matt Savoie (4): Cirque du Soleil music in a tight burgundy outfit with sheer bands on the chest and hips. Very fast skating into a spread eagle and 3z, 3x/2t, walley into 2s, butterfly sit/front catch foot, straight-line steps, slow edgy steps, back sit spin, flying camel with a bent leg, two-foot skating and some stroking into a 3x landed with great flow, 3f/2t, serpentine steps, spread eagle into a 3r with delayed rotation, back lunge into 2z/2t/3t sequence. I can't say I care much for this program and I think he had to skate it clean to get any respect from the judges.

Shaun Rogers (7 in FS, 6 overall): "The Matrix" in a black outfit with some green on it. Crouching moves on two feet, 4t fall, 3x fall out/2t, 3z, death drop, more two-foot crouching, 3x, circular steps very simple with a small pattern, 3r, change sit, walleys in both directions into a 3s, 3f, droopy camel/sit/back sit, straight-line steps, 2t/2t sequence, butterfly upright spin. Lots of two-foot skating throughout the program, simple footwork, and even simpler spins, but good for him for keeping his head together after the initial mistakes. Definitely ought to have been behind Braden Overett in the free skate, though.

Tim Goebel (2): Queen dirge in a black shirt with a lot of red ruffles and flappy fabric on the sleeves. 3s, 4t two-footed/3t, 3x fall out, 2x, death drop to cross-foot spin, flying sit didn't fly with a change of foot, standing around posing, 3x turn-out/2t, spread eagle, 3f, straight-line steps, 3 flutz, circular steps didn't go with music, hydroblade into 3r, death drop, spin combination. Personally, I would have had him behind Matt, but I guess some of the judges must have decided to give him credit for the quad and the second axel (and under CoP he would get more credit for his mistakes than Matt would for his popped jumps).

Johnny Weir (1): "Otonal" in a blue outfit with ruffles and other stuff on it. 3x/3t good, 3t, catch-foot spiral into 3z, flying camel wobbled and travelled, 3x, circular steps, change camel, 3r from turns, 3s, 3f with a scratchy landing, death drop changing to an inside edge, straight-line steps with a trip, camel/sit/back sit/mushroom/catch/slow upright spin. Not his best skating, but by far the best in this event.

Evan Lysacek (3): "Singing in the Rain" in a black vest over a white shirt. Paragraph loop, 3x/1t, back spiral into 3f/3t, 3x, 3z/3t, flying sit, serpentine steps didn't look very difficult to me, 3s, flying camel, very slow into 2r, butterfly sit, straight-line steps, 3z, camel/sit/catch/droopy back camel/mushroom/upright spin. Not his best skating, either -- slower skating, spins not up to his usual quality, carriage more floppy and movements less crisp.

Senior ladies free skate

Yebin Mok (16): Gliere harp concerto in the black/white/yellow outfit from last year. 2z/1t, 3t, 3r two-footed, flying camel, 2t, spread eagle, 2x, 2s, layback, spirals fairly slow, camel with catch leg into back upright spin, aborted flip, straight-line steps, 2x, death drop to back scratch spin.

Shanell Noji (17 in FS, 18 overall): halter dress in black shaded to light green, movie music. 3s/2t, 2z fall out, 3t/2t, flying camel, 2x, layback, back bend on two feet, 3z fall, change sit, spirals, 3t fall, 1x, split jump, straight-line steps with an obvious loss of balance halfway through, camel/sit/layback/back sit/upright.

Stephanie Rosenthal (14): Latin program in black with a gold print on the skirt. 3t/2t, steps into 3z underrotated/2t scribble, 2s, flying camel with a weird position where she grabbed her knee, 2x, flying camel, 2s landed on wrong foot/2t, 3t, spirals including a skid spiral in a vertical split, layback, straight-line steps, 2x step out, camel/back camel/mushroom/upright. Once again her choreography got the attention of the crowd.

Katherine Hadford (18 in FS, 17 overall): Four Seasons in a red dress with illusion on top. 3r fall, 3z hand down step out into 3t, flying sit with a change of foot, 1f, 1s, bendy laback, spirals with a biellmann change edge, 3f underrotated fall, 3z underrrotated fall, 2x cheated, straight-line steps, camel/hop/back camel/donut, spin combination with biellmanns both front and back. This was one of those unfortunate performances where you can tell the skater just wants to get off the ice and go cry for a while.

Erica Archambault (13): "Scheherezade" in a purple illusion-midriff outfit. (Purple is always the color of choice for any Middle-eastern themed program, it seems.) 3s/2t, 1x, 2t/2t, death drop, 2r, flying camel, 3s, 3t, spirals, 1x, ina, layback to sideways-leaning spin, hop into 2f, straight-line steps, spin combination. If Erica could get her jumps together she'd be a stunning skater.

Angela Lien (15): purple shading to white on the top, music I recognized as what Chen Lu used in 1993 but don't know the name of. Camel spin, 2z, 3t fall, spirals, 3s turn out, layback, ina, 2r, fying camel, circular steps, 2f, spread eagle into 2x/2t, 3s/2t, camel/layback/back sit/crossfoot.

Amber Corwin (8): "Polovitsian Dances" in fuchsia with gold. 3t/3t step out hand down, 3r cheated/2t, 2r, 3s cheated, 3f cheated/2t, layback, slow spirals, spin combination, 3z cheated, 1x, death drop, circular steps, camel/butterfly back sit/upright.

Megan Williams-Stewart (9 in FS, 10 overall): cream dress, slow generic pretty music. Broken-leg sit, 3z hung on, 3r/2t, 3f, flying camel, straight-line steps, spread eagle, 2x, layback, spirals not held very long, another 3z with no combination, 2x, 3s fall, spin combination, butterfly to end the program. Amazing competition for her.

Danielle Kahle (11): "Mack and Mabel" in black and white with a fringe skirt. 3t, 3z hand down, spin combination travelled, straight-line steps, 3s/2t, 2x, spirals, 3f steps 3t fall, layback, 3r/2t, 3f, camel wobble illusions, aborted spin then butterfly sit, finished after music. Looked like a loss of focus at the end of the program and she forgot what she was supposed to do there.

Emily Hughes (6): "Sleeping Beauty" in light blue. 2x with lots of power, 3z/2t, 3f cheated, flying camel/illusions, a lot of stroking, spread eagle into 3r, ina into 3t, spirals in a circular pattern, layback in the classic position changing to drop leg crossed behind, 3z, death drop, straight-line steps, walley, 1-foot axel/pop s, spin combination. The crowd was really behind her and I sensed a standing ovation building until that popped salchow at the end.

Jane Bugaeva (12): James Bond medley in pink. 3f/3t sequence, 3flutz/fall, camel/back camel/sit/crossfoot, 2s, 2.5r, layback, spirals, walleys into messy popped flip, broken-leg sit spin, straight-line steps, back shoot the duck into 2x, split into 3t, death drop/mushroom/scratch. Where did that nice performance from Easterns go?

Alissa Czisny (7): "Swan Lake" in black. 3z/2t, flying camel/donut, 3f, 3r from turns, butterfly sit, bird steps and arm-flapping, 3s, spirals, 3z fall, 3t fall, bendy layback, straight-line steps, 2x maybe cheated, spin combination with biellmann and vertical split. I'd heard she'd been ill with the stomach flu during the week so it's not surprising her program kind of fell apart at the end.

Kimmie Meissner (3): "Daphnis and Chloe" in blue. 3f, 3z/2t, spirals, 3x! but probably a little cheated, change sit to back crossfoot, 3r, 3s, butterfly camel/sit/upright not held very long, layback, 3z, circular steps in a very small pattern, 3lip/2t/2r, spin combination. She obviously still needs to work on the power and ice coverage, but what a great senior debut for her.

Beatrisa Liang (5): Tango in a black outfit with an unattractively large illusion cut-out on the front. (OK, so the competition is in Portland, do we really need to be reminded of Tonya Harding's worst fashion mistakes?) 2x, cross-foot spin, straight-line steps, 3z/2t, 3f/2t, circular steps, death drop, spiral, pop s, layback, more spirals, 3f, 3z, split into 3t, camel to inside edge/back sit/vertical split.

Katy Taylor (10 in FS, 9 overall): "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" in black and fuchsia. 3r almost fell, circular steps, pop z, a lot of stroking, 3t with a hard check and touchdown, camel/layback/sit/back sit/crossfoot, spirals holding foot, 3s fall, 2x, layback, 3f, flying camel to inside edge, 3z at the very end of the program. Katy has decent speed over the ice but she has to do a lot of quick stroking to achieve it.

Jenny Kirk (4): Beatles muzak in a white dress with a lot of blue stones on it. 3flutz/2t, 3f/2t, 2x, flying camel, standing around posing, stroking, 3r fall, spiral, 3f fall out, 3t, straight-line steps, layback, 3s, spirals, death drop, camel/sit/back sit/Y spin. Why does Jenny always seem to have such problems with coming up with a decent long program? This music was a total snooze and there didn't seem to be much she could do with it.

Sasha Cohen (2): "Nutcracker" in pink. 3flutz/2t, 3f/2t, 3r hand down, flying camel to inside edge with catch-foot and scribble, 3z fall, then 3t, 3s, 2x one after the other, layback, spiral with a feeble attempt at a change of edge but that never really got on either edge at all, forward charlotte, circular steps, death drop, camel/sit/layback/back sit/sasha spin.

Michelle Kwan (1): "Bolero" in a dress with a lot of gold beads over beige fabric. 3t/2t, 3z/2t, 3f, 2x very deliberate approach, layback, 3s, flying camel/crossfoot/crossfoot sit, spirals, camel/sit/back sit/upright spin on inside edge, 2z, 3t, death drop, straight-line steps, ended several seconds after her music. It wasn't a great performance by any means; the program was really bare in terms of connecting steps, she lacked the speed she had in practice to make up for it, and how did she get so far behind her music? I wondered, could she have been *nervous*? After Sasha's skate it was obvious that even an average performance from Michelle would be enough to give her the win again. Of course some of the judges even presented her with candy 6.0s in spite of the mistakes, too.

General comments and competition wrap-up

This seemed to be one of the least hassle-filled Nationals in recent years, thanks in large part to the convenience of the venues. The arena staff were pretty unobtrusive and well-behaved as well. The one bad thing that happened was that early in the week they were trying to kick people with practice passes out of the 20-minute warmups because they were not supposed to be "official" practices. Fortunately, they got that straightened out by Wednesday or Thursday.

I really do not understand the recent policy of restricting admission to practices at Nationals to all-event ticket holders instead of selling practice admission at the door. They first did this at 2001 Nationals with practices at the SC of Boston rink due to the very limited seating in that venue, and I understand that there might be security concerns nowadays with practices held in ordinary rinks where the skaters can't be segregated from the spectators. But at this event all the official practices were held in the competition venues. The policy of restricting admission to practices makes life difficult for families of skaters (such as the novices) who are only there for part of the week and don't want to spring for an all-event ticket. Besides, if they offered cheap or free admission to practice sessions, it could serve as a "hook" to get the public more interested in the competition and skating in general.

Speaking of skaters' families, it seems that they are continuing to get the shaft from the Nationals organizers. Aside from the usual complaints about the chaperone seating area being way up on the third level of the arena and parents being booted out of seats closer to the ice during their skater's event, they've gone back to providing only one free chaperone pass per skater instead of two, and they've completely eliminated chaperone hospitality at the venues. This year's batch of complaints about the official hotel included the fact that they charged extra to use the gym; you'd think the LOC could have negotiated a deal with the hotel so at least the skaters could get free use of the facilities, especially since once again this year they only got one practice session on the ice per day. Finally, there was a lot of grumbling about the cost of the official videos -- they were charging a whopping $210 even if you just wanted one skater, and apparently the quality was not all that great.

From my perspective as a spectator, the most annoying thing about the event was the way they seemed to be trying to drag the competitions out with random fluff. Not only are they showing dumb music videos on the jumbotron during zamboni breaks, but they've now started trying to "entertain" the audience in the pauses while skaters are waiting for their marks by playing background music, putting stupid video games on the jumbotron, having people go around the arena throwing sponsor merchandise into the audience, and putting shots of random people in the audience on the jumbotron with embarrassing captions. I have to think that is all pretty distracting to the skaters on the ice who are preparing to compete, and I wish they'd just focus on the competition and try to move it along a little more quickly. I'm not too happy with the recent pronouncement of the USFSA's new executive director that competitions need even more of this kind of crud.

I also found the skycam (video camera suspended on cables) really distracting, and while it was zipping back and forth over the ice within my line of sight I was getting nauseous just thinking about the kinds of shots it was producing. I haven't watched any of the TV coverage yet myself but it sounds like that's exactly the reaction many other people had to it. Sounds like a losing idea to me, and let's hope we've seen the last of it.

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