Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Friends, family, freeze and fur

Chen happy to have relatives in audience; Péchalat dazzles with ensemble
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Two-time European dance champion Nathalie Péchalat of France battles the cold weather with her all-fur ensemble. -Sarah S. Brannen

Some of the senior-level skaters arrived Monday, and most of the rest are coming in throughout the day Tuesday, so the excitement level is rising! One of the first seniors we saw when we arrived at the Convention Center -- actually, he hollered at us from his car -- was Ross Miner, who stopped by to have a look at the facility.

"It's really nice," he said enthusiastically.

Miner, who lives in nearby Watertown, was enjoying staying at home yet being close enough to swing by and take in some of the events. He gave us a tip for Thursday:

"Be sure you go to the opening ceremonies," he said. "They're going to be awesome. They have aerialists!"

Fur

It was a thrill to see 2012 world bronze medalist ice dancer Nathalie Péchalat here, dressed in the most fabulous fur ensemble ever. She and Fabian Bourzat are here with coach Igor Shpilband; they can't miss any time as they train for the Olympics, of course! They just announced Tuesday that they're withdrawing from the European championships to focus on Sochi.

Cold

OK, we're going to stop talking about the weather after this, we promise. We're still hearing about lots of delays, though, and today Boston is coping with the "polar vortex" at full blast.

Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay evaded the cold by taking a cab to the local CVS to stock up on protein shakes, water and other necessities.

"It was so cold that we had the cab wait while we went into the store," Bartholomay said.

Dance

Madison Chock and Evan Bates got in at midday, only a few hours behind schedule. They were looking forward to the junior dance event Tuesday afternoon, and they made it in time. They stood rinkside and watched the whole event, cheering everyone on and hanging out with them after they skated.

Also among the spectators were the new novice dance champions, Gigi Becker and Luca Becker. Luca, 13, is thoughtful and well-spoken; we had a long chat about the history and future of U.S. ice dance. He is in awe of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, asking if we had ever met them, what were they like, are they nice, etc. He was watching the junior teams closely and looking forward to being inspired by the senior dance event.

Junior dance leaders after the short dance, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, skated early in the event and stood rinkside watching the rest. Along with a lot of very pertinent, thoughtful comments, Baker claimed not to be smart -- we don't believe that for a moment.

"My mom always says my brains are in my feet," he said.

We got to the bottom of the rumor that Baker was named after the Star Trek captain Jean-Luc Picard.

"My parents weren't fans of the show," he said, "The were going to name me Jean-Claude, but they heard about the TV character and they liked the name."

As they prepared to go out in the bitter cold, the dancers showed off some spectacular hats. Ben Jalovick had a fur hat with a Russian army badge, which he said he got at an Army-Navy surplus store.

"Just the pin," he said. "I got the hat in Russia. I mean Michigan."

Nikita Cheban, who moved to the U.S. from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, three years ago, had a crazy knit hat that he said he bought last New Year's Eve (see the gallery).

Family

Prior to skating his short program later in the afternoon, Nathan Chen was waiting at the bottom of the escalator at the Convention Center holding tickets for his sister, who works at Harvard University, and her friends.

"It's nice to know they're out there in the crowd," he said. "I mean, when I'm skating, I'm really focused and I don't think about it, but the rest of the time."

Chen has been here since Saturday, getting in some extra practice at various local rinks.

"Foxborough and Boxborough," he said. "Lots of boroughs."

BFFs

Grant Hochstein was thrilled to discover that his best friend, Caroline Zhang, had randomly been assigned to the room next to his in the hotel.

"We're going to have so much fun," he said. "She's my best friend, since the fall. When I first came to Artesia, she hated me."

Men

A big crowd of skaters watched the junior men Tuesday night, including Gracie Gold, Alexa Scimeca, Chris Knierim, Rachael Flatt, Josh Farris, Angela Wang, Lukas Kaugars, Joshua Santillan, Matthew Blackmer and Alex Johnson (here as an athlete representative; he wasn't able to compete this season due to injury).

There will be more fun and fur tomorrow!

Sarah and Drew
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