Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Nagasu flits toward classic opera

Observations from Barrie; Buntin gets analytical; MKYAS enters final stage
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Mirai Nagasu with fellow skaters Agnes Zawadzki, Adam Rippon and Takahito Mura, and her host family "siblings." -courtesy of Mirai Nagasu

Mirai Nagasu, who will compete at Skate America this week, has been getting ready for the Grand Prix season with a lot of competitions, including the Broadmoor Open, U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and Japan Open. She says she has been training hard and breaking in new boots.

"Usually, I'm really good with breaking in new skates, so I thought I could break in a new pair before Skate America," she told us. "But they aren't ready, so I'm in my old skates, but they feel really soft."

A few days after Nagasu returned from Japan, Frank Carroll came to Colorado Springs in his new role as mentor for Team USA coaches and athletes. Carroll was Nagasu's coach until early 2012.

"It was nice to be able to work with him again," Nagasu said. "There were no hard feelings when I stopped working with him; it was just that I couldn't make the drive out to Palm Springs. We have a good connection. Frank made a few suggestions, and we're working to incorporate them."

With current coach Tom Zakrajsek, Nagasu says her main goal for the season is to clean up her jumps and improve the program quality as a whole.

"When I'm under pressure, I tend to cheat my jumps," she said. "I want to get those jumps so I can do them anytime, anywhere. The move out here (to Colorado) was the best thing I could have done. It's really motivated me to work harder. The people I skate with are really good skaters, so it's been a good change."

Although some of her jumps at the Japan Open were called under-rotated, Nagasu delivered a moving and beautiful free skate and declares that she was happy with how the competition went.

"I think I skated really well, and I think I'm on the right path," she said after she got back. "I've been working really hard. I'm not used to incorporating simulations, but we do them all the time in Colorado, which I think really helps."

Adam Rippon choreographed both of Nagasu's programs this season. The two have been getting together when they can to fine-tune the programs.

"I really admire his skating," she said. "I love the way he moves. I'm able to put aside my friendship with him and see him as a choreographer. We choreographed my program while everyone was at the Olympics (in February). It was kind of hard not to compete there, so to take our mind off things, I asked him to choreograph a program for me."

Nagasu didn't want to skate to Madame Butterfly at first, thinking the piece was overused.

"As I've gotten older, the meaning of music has become really important to me," she said. "I used to look at tragedies like Romeo and Juliet and just cringe, but now I think it's really beautiful. I didn't relate to Madame Butterfly at first, but he kept pushing it, and I ended up falling in love with the music and the story."

Pat Pearsall made both of Nagasu's new costumes; the Madame Butterfly dress wasn't ready for Japan, so Nagasu wore her violet short program costume.

"The short program dress is amazing, so I have full confidence in the [free skate] dress," Nagasu said. "I wanted to stay away from the kimono look, so it will probably be more in the butterfly direction."

Nagasu made the most of her five-day trip to Japan, doing plenty of shopping when she wasn't busy on the ice.

"I love Japan, and I always get some good shopping in," she told us. "I bought some Uniqlothing for Chase [Belmontes], and I got some for myself, too. And I'm obsessed with this store called Muji. They have everything: household appliances, suitcases and clothes."

Nagasu says she really likes being so close to the Olympic Training Center, with all of its facilities and specialists. She is living with a host family in Colorado and enjoying the family atmosphere.

"I love the family that I live with," she said. "They are so amazing. It feels like I have siblings. It can be a lot, at times, because I feel like I really have to be a role model. But at the same time, to see them grow up and have fun with them, it's nice to come home to. And they let me adopt a dog out here."

The dog, Lincoln, is a "Puggelier," a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel-Pug mixture that Nagasu got at the pound.

"I've had him three months now," she said. "He was really skinny, but now he's gotten to a healthy weight. He's still really young, so we had to potty train him, and he's chewed on some shoes, but we all love him.

"I actually wanted to get a ferret, because they're legal in Colorado, but the dad (of her host family) took us to the pet store, and he was like, 'Smell that? That's the ferrets,' and I was like, 'Oh, I was just kidding.'"

Barrie bits

Drew spent last week in Ontario coaching Andrei Rogozine at the Autumn Classic International. He had a great time at the event, although he was busy! Here are a few tidbits...

We were pleased to see Ross Miner win his first senior international title. Miner has been recovering from an ankle injury all year, so it was exciting to see him land a quad again.

"It felt great to go out and enjoy the whole process of competing," he told us. "I left a lot of points on the table, but there is definitely an upward trend. I know that the work I'm doing at home is starting to connect to my competition performances."

And the gold medal was nice, too.

"I've collected quite a share of the other colors," Miner added.

You may have seen pictures on Twitter of Jeff Buttle filling holes before ice makes. He would skate out nonchalantly to work on the ice; as the crowd realized who he was, they cheered for him. Buttle, who was volunteering at the competition, looked very collegiate in glasses, a tan sweater and dark blazer.

It was funny to see German pairs superstar Robin Szolkowy in a Russian team jacket. Szolkowy was in Barrie with Vasilisa Davankova and Alexander Enbert, as part of Nina Mozer's coaching team.

We were watching from the upper-level off-ice warm-up area as Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford skated their free program; the men, who skated next, were warming up above the ice. From our angle, the Canadian champs landed their throw quad Salchow right in front of a sign reading "You Are Now In Quadruple Country."

When Duhamel and Radford skated, all the men stopped warming up and went over to watch them, since they knew they were going to try the quad. When they hit it, everyone started cheering.

Statistics

While in Barrie, we talked to three-time Canadian pairs champion (and Duhamel's former partner) Craig Buntin about some fascinating new technology he is developing called Veriskate. The software analyzes broadcast footage and measures precisely how fast a skater is skating, his or her height and speed in and out of jumps, and step sequence patterns. It can also recognize different spin positions, as well as how many revolutions the skater did in each position.

Buntin and his team will be working with the CBC at Skate Canada in two weeks; they'll analyze the short programs, and the broadcasters will use the information leading into the free skates.

"We had some videos from Skate Canada last year, and we were able to measure how fast Patrick Chan skated into his quad," Buntin said. "He actually skated at 25 kilometers per hour into the quad toe-triple toe. On the final step into the quad, at 25 kph, he actually accelerated."

Buntin hopes that fans will be able to compare, for instance, all the quads in a competition, or step sequences from a birds-eye view.

"I'd like to keep working with broadcasters through other Grand Prix this season, maybe even do my own set of blogs, comparing skaters leading up to the world championships," he said. "I'd like to change the dialogue around the technical mark, so you can really break it down and see, on a graph, who jumps the highest, who came out of a jump with the most speed."

Buntin started the company nine months ago, with a team of four, including, he says, three PhDs. He hopes to approach the ISU to see if it wants to incorporate the technology into judging, but he is more focused on making skating accessible and interesting to fans.

"It's a full-time job," he said. "Beyond full time. Especially over the next four years, my hope is we'll see people who are more casual fans, saying, 'OK, I understand judging again.' I hope it keeps drawing new viewers."

Young Artists Showcase, Take 5

MK Blades Young Artists Showcase will hold its live finals Sunday, Nov. 30, at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Washington, D.C. The show, founded and run by Audrey Weisiger, is the culmination of the online choreography contest that selected the two finalists, Anna Cobb and Katie Stewart.

The contest, now in its fifth season, ran from Aug. 15 through Sept. 12. Judges included Robin Cousins, Kurt Browning and Sarah Kawahara.

We are glad to see that MKYAS will have a female winner for the first time; in fact, this is the first time a woman has made it to the final round. Stewart was a former U.S. junior competitor, and Cobb, a former competitive skater, is a coach and choreographer.

Former winner Zabato Bebe will perform a piece by both contestants, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will also skate. Macklemore's choreographer, Anna Matuszewski, will perform, Doug Mattis will emcee, and Kawahara, Doug Webster and Matuszewski will judge. The winner receives a $2,500 prize and the opportunity to have her work performed at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Watch for lots of Inside Edge coverage, including video, after the event.

Follow us on Twitter @SarahandDrew during Skate America, and tell us what you think of the competition!

Sarah and Drew