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The Inside Edge: Shnapirs enjoy time in Sochi

Lysacek, Flatt spread good word of sport; Kwan graces Rhode Island club
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The Castellis and Shnapirs with Kristi Yamaguchi at USA House. -Boris Shnapir

We've been following along with all the athletes' Olympic adventures on Twitter and getting email updates from some of their parents at the same time. (Check out the gallery for pictures by Simon Shnapir's parents, Inna and Boris, and Jeremy Abbott's mom, Allison Scott.)

The Shnapirs have been spending most of their time with Marissa Castelli's parents, Lori and Tony, and Castelli's brother, Anthony. Boris told us that they had visited the Olympic Village and eaten lunch in the dining room with all the athletes.

"We have not met any famous athletes yet, except we saw Evan Lysacek on our flight to Sochi," he said early in the week.

That changed, of course, and the family met Kristi Yamaguchi before the team medals ceremony at an event at USA House.

"This was very interesting!" he said. "Inna's cousin from Crimea is here with her family, my cousin from London has arrived yesterday to watch the team event, and Inna's uncle from Moscow is coming in a few days to watch the main pairs event."

Boris said the atmosphere in the Iceberg arena was very pro-Russian during the team event, something that was apparent even on TV.

"The Russians were chanting 'Rossiya' very loudly, which means Russia," he said. "And it was barely half full. It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time."

After their children won medals in the team event, Boris said all the parents were, understandably, very moved. We asked if the moms cried.

"Yes, they were very emotional," he said. "Even the dads were."

Scott arrived in time to see her son receive his bronze medal for the team event. She told us about the event before the ceremony, posting a video of Jeremy presenting his coach, Yuka Sato, with the Order of Ikkos medallion, given by each Olympic medalist to the one coach he or she feels is most responsible for his or her success.

During the pairs free skate, some lucky elementary school children in the Shnapir's little hometown of Sudbury, Mass., got to watch live.

"They were ooh-ing and ahh-ing," a teacher said. "They were very excited and amazed that one of the Olympians is from their town."

Envoys

Lysacek and Rachael Flatt are in Russia as figure skating sports envoys, part of a U.S. Department of State program. Sports exchanges are part of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission's efforts to strengthen relationships between the people of the United States and Russia. Lysacek has traveled as a sports envoy in the past, most recently in Belarus and Sweden in 2012.

Flatt and Lysacek will be in St. Petersburg from Feb. 12-15, holding clinics with local athletes of all skill levels. They will also speak about healthy living, the spirit of the Olympics and the ability of sports to bring people together.

First Lady

Back on Jan. 25 -- bear with us -- the Smithfield Figure Skating Club in Rhode Island held a "Celebrate Sochi" event. The club wanted to generate some buzz for the Olympics and hopefully attract some new members. Coach Sheryl Franks, an Olympian herself, organized games and activities, and the club flew Paul Wylie in to work with some of the more advanced skaters. There was a short exhibition by Wylie, former pairs skater Kylie Duarte and senior Easterns competitor Brad Vigorito, who is Castelli's former pairs partner.

And there was a rather well-known surprise guest: Michelle Kwan, who has recently moved to Rhode Island with her husband, Clay Pell. Kwan stopped by to see the fun and say hello to her old friend, Wylie. The two talked about their upcoming trips to Sochi, posed for pictures and signed a few autographs.

"She was so nice," Vigorito told us. "She said, 'I'm new to the area!' She said she hadn't skated since she moved and didn't even know where her skates were."

A few days later, Pell announced that he was running for governor of Rhode Island. Some of the coaches from the club went to the announcement, to support Kwan and thank her for coming to their event. Pell started his speech by saying, "I'm Michelle Kwan's husband."

"It was a small room," Vigorito said. "Michelle spoke -- just walking in, she looked like a fashion icon. She talked about being in Providence for the 1995 nationals. We talked to her afterward, and she said she had found her skates and Bunga Pads. She said she might come skate with us, but that she would need a session by herself first in case she'd be falling on crossovers."

Pell is only 32, but his candidacy is being taken very seriously by local political pundits. Not only is he the grandson of a famed senator, the late Claiborne Pell, but, well, he's Michelle Kwan's husband. We will be thrilled if Kwan becomes the first lady of Rhode Island.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics. We are beyond excited by the figure skating events so far. We will, of course, have something to say about the on-ice fashion in our next Inside Edge.

Sarah and Drew
Follow us on Twitter @SarahandDrew!

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