Sunday, January 22, 2012

A bit of blathering about US Nationals

The 2012 US National Figure Skating Championships are in town this week. The last time they were here was 1996 and that was my first live "real" skating competition. It was pretty memorable for a number of reasons. First, it was the year Rudy Galindo had his big breakthrough and won. Second,  it was the year Michelle Kwan became "Michelle Kwan" (with her Salome program) and won. Third, it was the first (and last) time a reigning National Champion (Nicole Bobek) had to withdraw for medical reasons and yet wasn't put on the World team anyway. Finally, and more personally, it was this competition that launched my career as a figure skating photographer.

What a difference 16 years makes.

This time around, I'm a veteran of the live figure skating comp. I've been to two World Championships, the Olympics, 4CCs and five Nationals. I'm also pretty much not a photographer any more. I rarely take pictures any more and my good, professional camera is broken so I only have a point and shoot and my iPhone to work with. Good thing I have front row seats!

I also haven't been to see a National or International level competition since 2007 or a local club comp since 2010. I still love to watch figure skating but I no longer skate, I am on longer trying to get a judging appointment, and I am no longer a hard-core fan. This week, I am just playing at being one.

Because I have an "All Event" ticket, I can attend every official event but also all the official practices. So today that's what I did.

I had other commitments so I haven't been as organized as I usually am about a Nationals.  I didn't have as many printouts and notes. I didn't even get to the HP Pavilion until after 4:00 pm, just in time to watch the Junior Ladies run through their Long Programs (aka the Free Skate).

The first group came out and I barely recognized Polina Edmunds, who I first saw back in 2005 when she was maybe a Preliminary skater. (Or maybe Pre-pre?) I've been watching this kid skate for years but she's actually a young lady now and I wasn't expecting that for some reason. I had no idea who the rest of the skaters were because I haven't really followed the lower level skaters in years.

But I immediately found some new favorites. Here are some thoughts and impressions:

Gracie Gold - I've heard a lot about her as she is apparently a young phenom, being touted as the next great thing. Grace for Gold, they say! Gag me with a spoon was my reaction. I was prepared to be cynical and negative because of all the hype. But I really liked her! I was expecting this pre-pubescent girl because I was told she's only 14 but she looked more like 16 or 17 and she moved well. (According to her bio, she's 17.)

Mariah Bell - I noticed her first off. Who's that girl in the purple top? I asked my friends. We think that's Mariah Bell, they said. And it was and she moves like an ice dancer. I like that. New fan.

Allison Timlen looks like one of Mini-Mac's friends. Not like they could be sisters but a dead-ringer. I find this endlessly amusing and keep trying to take her picture so I can tease Mini-Mac about it.

The rest of the skaters have faded in my memory by now. Sorry about that "Rest of Junior Ladies Group A." I'll try to do better next time... maybe take some actual notes or something!

The second group contained my "friend" Gwendolyn. (We're FB friends but I'm sure she has no idea who I am.) I really didn't recognize her. I only figured out who she was because she was the shortest in Group B and Asian-looking. She now looks a lot like Michelle Ito did at the same age which also was freaky. Ins spite of having grown up while I wasn't looking, she was still the same great skater and she was clearly having a blast out there. I can't wait to see her again.

By this time, the noise was getting to me. Even with ear plugs on, my head was not good. So I can't remember pretty much anything else that happened during that practice. I do remember at the end of the practice hailing down Justin Dillion and giving him my extra tickets for tomorrow to give out to someone who needs a ticket. He said he might give the Novice Pairs ticket to Naomi Nari Nam! So, if he does, and she actually sits in that seat (for early events people tend to sit 'wherever' so she will probably sit with friends), I will be able to watch the event with former National Pairs competitor who has actually been on tv. How cool is that?

After practice, I went home and made cake pops. Making cake pops always makes my headache go away. I had a big headache so I made 8 dozen! It worked too. But now I've got eight dozen cake pops. I gave a bunch of MacBoy's friend who here playing some nerd card game like Magic the Gathering. But they can only eat so many so I'm bringing a bunch tomorrow. I've got three kinds, Apple Cinnamon, Sour Cream Brownie, and Chocolate Peanut Butter. If you are reading this and you will be Nationals tomorrow, come to Section 116, row 1 and I'll give you some. Seriously, come get some. Otherwise they'll go bad and I'll have to throw them out.
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