Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Champs Camp builds camaraderie

Boston pairs skater Shaughnessy takes hard fall, suffers broken jaw
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All the Champs Camp attendees got together for a group photo on the grounds of the Olympic Training Center. -Photo by Ted Gotwals

At the end of August, all the U.S. skaters headed for the Grand Prix this fall met in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Champs Camp. They had their programs evaluated and partook in workshops and seminars to help them reach their potential this season.

First-time attendee Courtney Hicks took it all in with enthusiasm.

"It was really interesting," Hicks told us afterward. "There's a lot of information that I got out of it that I wouldn't have been able to get anywhere else -- things about bone density, technical feedback, structural information."

"It was definitely a different feel this year; it was more low-key," Ross Miner said. "All the judges met before the critiques, so there was a lot more consensus. They tried to streamline some of the things, like the media stuff. Most of us know how to use Twitter!"

The judges reviewed skaters' programs in closed-door sessions to make sure everyone's elements were getting the correct levels, among other things.

"Champs Camp is always more in depth than any other critique," ice dancer Anastasia Cannuscio said. "They film your performance, and play it back and talk about it. That's really helpful, because they get down to every little part of your program."

Ashley Cain had been to Champs Camp once before, but as a pairs skater. She said her favorite part of this year's camp was watching how her fellow competitors trained, warmed up and performed their programs.

"I've had no experience with the Grand Prix, and all these skaters have been on it for years," she said. "It was nice to watch the practices and see how they work, how they do their off-ice warm-ups, to realize you're on the same level with them and you can compete with them."

After her first practice, and feeling a little overwhelmed, Cain spent some time talking to Jason Brown about the Champs Camp experience.

"He talked me through how he felt last year," Cain said. "I kind of took that advice and applied it to my next practice, and it really helped. Everyone is so open to talking with you, and telling you what they went through on their first Grand Prix."

All the skaters enjoyed the "family reunion" aspect of Champs Camp.

"I felt like one of the veterans," said Richard Dornbush, who has attended several times. "The best part is just getting together with fellow athletes. All of the guys have been there before, and we all know each other really well. We've all lived such similar experiences."

"It was so great that we were all able to come together as a group," Cain said. "It was nice to be surrounded by people who understand what you do on a day-to-day basis, to come together and be unified for a couple of days."

"Skating is such a weird world," Dornbush said. "Other skaters can understand what you've gone through, can understand that world."

Fun and games

All the Champs Camp skaters participated in team-building activities, which they seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

"Obviously, the most fun part was the team building," Stephen Carriere said. "It was … less super competitive than previous years. Brenda [Glidewell] (U.S. Figure Skating's director of skating programs) had us do a bunch of activities and then explained how they may connect to daily training."

This year there were several exercises. In one, teams had to make a sling to carry tennis balls across the floor. In another, everyone held a playing card to their forehead and treated each other according to their "rank." Then they had to guess which card was theirs, and then try to line up in order.

"We did pretty well," Colin McManus said. "I had an easy job because I was the lowest number I could possibly be."

"Danny O'Shea was a king, and so was Maddie Aaron, and Adam [Rippon] was royalty, of course," Cannuscio added.

In another exercise, each team had to get as many tennis balls as possible within a hula hoop.

"It was more of a thought exercise, to see who would figure it out first," Miner said. "The point was, you didn't have to take the balls to the hoop -- you could take the hoop to the balls. Christina Gao figured it out first, and we both sprinted to the center to throw our hoops over all the tennis balls. I think she was mad that I had also figured it out, so she laid a shoulder into me. She's tough. I wouldn't want to fight her."

In another exercise, dueling charades, two skaters acted out a topic -- a monkey eating hot sauce, an old man in a Speedo, a peacock doing backflips -- and everyone watching voted for their favorite.

"At the end, everyone chose the three people who were the funniest," Hicks said. "Danny O'Shea, Evan Bates and Christina Gao won, and they had a charades battle. Christina was good; she was hilarious."

New this year were seminars by celebrity makeup artist Robin Black.

"They had a male and female model," Cannuscio said. "They did basic short dance makeup, flamenco style. [The session] was really helpful for our free dance, to Danse Macabre. We're supposed to be rising from the dead in the beginning, and we go back into our graves at the end. It's hard to look 'dead' without being literal."

"I learned a lot from the tutorial," Cain said. "She did Polina [Edmunds'] makeup, as Peter Pan. Polina is younger, and it was interesting to see how much older she looked. She taught us about contouring, which I didn't know much about, [and] how not to become washed out under the lights. We got all this free Cover Girl makeup as well."

Miner found the men's makeup seminar interesting, although he hasn't ever worn makeup and isn't sure he will.

"I don't know if I'll do it, but [Black] did a great job," he said. "She put makeup on Jason without anyone knowing it was makeup. It's not that I have a problem with guys wearing makeup -- plenty of guys do that -- but I don't want to look like I'm wearing it. She works with a lot of male professional athletes, and it was more likely to get me to try it than a lot of other attempts."

Miner, who has been to five Champs Camps, said he always enjoys the guest speaker. This year, it was Paralympic gold medal sled hockey player Andy Yohe.

"That's one of the things I look forward to most," he said. "Usually, it's someone of merit, and they do a good job. We had Michelle Kwan once."

We were glad to hear Miner report that his ankle injury is completely healed; he says he's skating as well as he ever has.

As for Dornbush, he is going into his junior year at the University of California, San Diego, studying physics. He says he's considering a dual masters program in business and applied physics, while planning to continue skating.

"I have sort of a four-year plan," he said. "Right after nationals (in Boston), I re-upped for another four years, told myself I was going to do it right this time."

Unbroken

Senior pairs team Alexandria Shaughnessy and Jimmy Morgan will always remember August 2014 -- for good reasons and bad. First, they were delighted to be assigned to their first international competition, the Ondrej Nepela Memorial.

A few days later, on Aug. 26, they were practicing at the Skating Club of Boston when disaster struck.

"We were finishing a really great run-through of our long program," Morgan told us. "We turned the corner and did a little tango step, and we both tripped. We were in butterfly hold, so Alex didn't have anything to break her fall with, and she fell on her face."

Shaughnessy took the impact on the point of her chin, "right where it needed to be to do the most damage," Morgan said. Her jaw broke on both sides and in the middle, and she also broke several teeth and split her chin open.

"We went into emergency mode," Morgan said.

"When I fell, I immediately knew it was bad," Shaughnessy wrote in an email. "First, there was a good amount of blood, and second I could feel pieces of my teeth falling out. All I could think about were my teeth; I didn't know which ones were broken or if I had lost any altogether. My body was so numb that I had no idea I had even split my chin open and needed stitches."

Two days later, Shaughnessy had surgery at Boston Children's Hospital.

"I had eight doctors in the OR with me," she wrote. "It was a four-hour ordeal to put me back together again! Once my jaw heals, I will need to get crowns for some of my teeth, but that's for another time."

Doctors put a titanium plate into Shaughnessy's chin and wired her jaw together. She can only eat liquids for two weeks, and she couldn't talk for a few days.

"Before surgery, I was able to talk a little bit, but it was pretty sore when I moved my jaw," she wrote. "Talking with the wires was really tough, so I either wrote on a pad of paper, used some kind of charades sign language or texted to communicate. My family will be professionals when it comes to a good game of charades by the end of my recovery!"

"She's normally extremely talkative, so this is a big change for her," Morgan said. "I'm sure she'll have lots of stories built up over the next two weeks."

Shaughnessy's doctors are optimistic she'll make a full recovery, although they're not predicting yet when she'll be able to return to the ice. As for Morgan, he says he's staying busy, going to the rink every day to train.

"I want to be ready when she's ready," he said. "Obviously, she can take as much time as she needs. We have a long road ahead of us -- if worse comes to worst and we miss our first international, we have many more ahead of us."

Vise, Baldwin to wed

Congratulations to on- and off-ice pair Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin, who have announced their engagement. Vise tells us that although they haven't set a date, the wedding will probably be next August, after her sister Brittany, the maid of honor, is done touring with Disney on Ice

We'll be back in a couple of weeks with all the scoop from the great cast of "An Evening with Champions." Until then, follow us on Twitter for extra photos @SarahandDrew!

Sarah and Drew