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Access Grant-ed: Hochstein blogs from Milan

U.S. skater shares experiences while competing at Lombardia Trophy
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Grant Hochstein is in Milan, Italy, to compete at the Lombardia Trophy. -Jay Adeff

Grant Hochstein is representing Team USA in Milan, Italy, for the Lombardia Trophy. He is keeping a blog from the event for icenetwork.

Sunday, Sept. 21

Since it's super late, this blog entry might be a little short. As you know, though, I've said that before, and it means nothing!

Today my long program didn't go quite as well as I had hoped. I did, however, do some things that I'm quite proud of. This is the first international competition where I have gotten full credit for my triple Axel; I landed one in the short and one in the long. I also tried my quad toe for the first time in competition this season and got full credit for that. I'm proud of myself for pulling it together after making two mistakes in the first half of my long. I'm obviously not happy to finish fourth, but fourth isn't too shabby, I guess.

I'm really happy with how my short program went. I know I didn't write a blog entry Saturday, and I apologize for that, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself and get distracted. I was glad that I kept my consistency up and was able to do another clean short program this season. The (triple Lutz-triple toe) combo wasn't perfect, getting an edge call, but my triple Axel and triple flip were both solid. I wasn't expecting to be third in the short, given how strong the field was, but I knew I was going to do a good program.

On that topic, I decided to give myself no placement goals for this competition. I've finally realized that thinking about the placement becomes such an external goal and distracts me from what I really should be doing -- skating well.

After the competition today, most of Team USA went out to dinner with Team Australia. We had a blast! I'd never met most of the kids on their team, but we all got along really well. They are such a lively bunch of skaters, and it was really great to get to know them. We all -- skaters, coaches and parents -- hung out at an outdoor pizza place for about 2 1/2 hours. It was really nice to meet new people and learn things about them, and share things about ourselves. You realize that we're all really not that different. It was a lot of fun.

Now, off to Rome! I'm so excited to get back to Rome for a little 10-hour trip. We are flying in and out on the same day, which is going to be a blast. Just a fun, quick trip which I'm sure is going to be so memorable. It's going to be great because I made my confirmation in the Catholic Church this spring. To go to the Vatican as a fully immersed member of the church will be such a wonderful, spiritual experience for me.

Who knows, maybe I will write a blog for you all tomorrow when I get back! If I don't, it has been a pleasure writing for you all from Milan at the Lombardia Trophy. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Take care and talk to you soon.

Friday, Sept. 19

Today was a pretty fantastic one for me. Like I told you all yesterday, today was the day I got to see The Last Supper. Peter and I got there pretty early, so we went to a cafe to sit and wait.

We ended up talking to an older Italian man who spent a few years of his life living in California. We probably talked to him -- or should I say that he spoke to us -- for about half an hour. It was actually fascinating, though, to listen to a native Italian speak about his feelings on Italy and the direction the country is headed, as well as his perspective on America. He made a point of telling us that Naples, where he is originally from, isn't as dangerous as people make it seem. He said the city is beautiful, as long as you know where to go. So there it is: My plug for the city of Naples from our new friend.

Then came time for our guided tour of The Last Supper. We had to go through two airtight rooms in order to prevent pollution from entering and slowly destroying the fresco. Then, we finally came to the room which houses da Vinci's famous work.

Wow!

I was literally blown away. I know that it is one of the most famous artworks on earth, but I wasn't prepared for its magnificence. I was under the impression that it wasn't that big or as impressive as everyone made it seem. I was definitely wrong.

My heart was racing as I walked towards it. Sure, there is damage and some restoration work that is needed, but I was so taken aback by its beauty. It occupies an entire wall of what used to be the dining room of the convent. It is not located inside the church itself, but in the convent where the nuns reside. There is so much history behind it, and I'm trying to get it all down. If I miss something, or am starting to bore you, please forgive me -- I can't help myself!

Da Vinci started this fresco in the mid 1490's, and continued for four years. The 1490's -- that's crazy! There were issues almost immediately with deterioration. It was frescoed on a wall, which, on it's opposite side, is shared with the kitchen. The heat and moisture caused serious problems. However, for me, the most amazing part, and perhaps literally miraculous aspect of the history of this fresco, took place during World War II. The church and surrounding convent were all but destroyed. Everything, however, except The Last Supper and the painting of the crucifixtion by Giovanni Donato, which each survived. Talk about a miracle. Again, I'm not sure if I can put into words how impressive this experience was for me. If you haven't already seen this, I would highly recommend doing so. It's a life-changing experience.

After this, we took the metro home. Strangely enough, we ran into the girls and their coaches on the way back from practice at a different rink. In all the subway cars, on all the different trains, I thought it was funny that we saw them. I also spent about 10 minutes chatting it up with an Italian girl who needed directions. She started speaking to me in Italian and I was like, 'Umm, I don't speak Italian,' and she proceeded to start speaking to me in English. Apparently, the 25 percent Italian side of me is coming out on this trip. Of course, though, I would find time to talk to all of these random people while I'm out of the United States. I do it at home, why not abroad?

We got back to the hotel, had some lunch, and then I went up to my room to rest for a bit before practice. My practice went well; I ran a short and worked on some free sections. The competition begins tomorrow and I skate third, followed directly by Ricky Dornbush.

That's all for now! Talk to you tomorrow!

Thursday, Sept. 18

Ciao da Milano! I'm so excited to be able to say hello to you all from such a beautiful city! Since it's getting late here and I haven't had much sleep in the past two days, I'm going to make this blog entry short and sweet.

It's so nice to be able to blog for you all again. It's been a little while since I've done one of these, and I'm excited to get this thing going.

I left my house at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, flying from LAX to JFK and then JFK to Milan's MXP. It's pretty crazy how long it takes to get to Europe from the West Coast. My first flight was five hours and my second was a little over eight hours, with a two-and-a-half hour layover.

Hannah Miller, her coach Kirsten Miller-Zisholz and her family were on the same flight as me from New York, which was really nice. I know them from way back, when I used to skate in Detroit. Our seats were close by, so we got to catch up a bit on the plane and on the shuttle to the hotel from the airport.

Also, I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do this, but I'm going to anyway: I fully endorse the film The Other Woman for anyone age 13 and older. It was one of those movies where I was literally laughing out loud. I mean, you would think it would have been embarrassing since I was on a fully crowded plane, but I'm cool with it. Such a funny movie! OK, OK, back to the point -- I thought this was going to be brief?

I got to the hotel between 9-9:30 a.m. and hung around, waiting for my coach, Peter Oppegard, to arrive. When he did, we decided that we were going to go to the Duomo District of Milan. As most of you probably know, I consider myself to be a pretty good Catholic, so any time I have a chance to see a cathedral, I'm all for it.

While I was doing my research on the city, I was actually pretty surprised when I discovered that the cathedral is the fifth largest cathedral in the world. It is such a beautiful and magnificent building. The attention to detail is just astounding, especially when you consider construction began in the 14th century.

Not only did Peter and I go inside -- and this is not for the faint of heart -- we also decided to climb the stairs all the way to the roof of the cathedral. From there, you actually get to walk on top of the roof. The view is amazing -- the gargoyles and statues on the top are so numerous. It was so cool to be able to walk all the way up onto the roof and know that we were some 300 plus feet above the church floor with nothing but open space below us!

After we came back, we had a group meeting to go over all of the important details about being here in Milan as part of Team USA. I also have a team picture that I can try and upload somehow. After that I went to my room and rested up, since my sleep has been nonexistent.

Practice went pretty well for me today. The rink is a little shorter than I'm used to, but with some minor adjustments, things will be fine. There is another practice tomorrow, before competition begins Saturday, which gives us plenty of time!

Tomorrow, my plan is to go and see "The Last Supper" by Leonardo da Vinci. Tickets are super hard to get and I have Caroline Zhang to thank for this. She surprised me and put in some serious work for me to have these tickets. So, Caroline, thank you! I don't think we are allowed to take pictures in there, so I won't be able to have any to post, but maybe I can do some of the outside.

Anyways, no more rambling. Again, this has become a not-so-short blog and I apologize. Hopefully you feel as if you got your time's worth by reading this.