Ice Network

Hannah and her teammates: Miller blogs from Graz

Lombardia Trophy silver medalist checks in Ice Challenge in Austria
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Hannah Miller and teammate Douglas Razzano pose for a picture outside the competition rink in Graz, Austria. -courtesy of Hannah Miller

Team USA's Hannah Miller was in Graz, Austria, for the 2014 Ice Challenge. She chronicled her experiences in a blog for icenetwork.

Sunday, Nov. 16

Today was non-stop excitement from the minute I woke up. I couldn't ask for a better day to wrap up the trip. 

My day started off with an early morning practice. When I returned to the hotel, my teammates were at breakfast. Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani and Douglas Razzano gave me a great pre-competition pep-talk. Having supportive teammates comes in handy when tough situations come around. Their words of advice were inspiring. 

A little later I headed back to the rink to compete. Because of my disappointing short, I was determined to fight for every point in my free skate. Skating out onto the ice I felt nervous, per usual, but also confident. I didn't skate the best program possible but I was happy I fought for everything. My free skate score pushed me up from fourth to first! This was my first gold medal at an international competition, which was part of three gold medals won by Team USA at the competition. 

There is a gala at the end of the competition that some competitors are invited to participate in, and the entire entire U.S. team was selected! We rehearsed the finale an hour before the show and then it was showtime.

The Shibutanis skated two programs that were absolutely beautiful. Douglas skated a fun number to Pitbull and I skated to "Skinny Love" by Birdy. The crowd was huge and very lively. Participating in the gala was a lot of fun and a great experience. 

After my long day, I'm ready for bed. I spent 11 hours at the rink today and I am exhausted. Graz was an amazing trip, and the Ice Challenge was a success for Team USA. This week was unforgettable and I was glad to share it. Thanks for following!

Saturday, Nov. 15

Today was my first competition day. I was up at 6 a.m. for an 8 a.m. practice session, and I finally got to skate in the competition rink. I competed my short program around noon. I was not pleased with my performance. I expect more out of myself, but as a result I am more determined for the free skate. As a figure skater, I have learned it is important to forget the past and move on to the next goal. 

We walked around old town in the afternoon and evening because today was our last day to sight see. We saw the Mur river which cuts through Graz. It is very large and flows rapidly. I tried fresh roasted chestnuts served in a newspaper cone, and they were tasty. The area where we were is called the Burmuda Triangle of Graz because it has so many restaurants and bars, people can get lost in it for hours.

The Shibutanis competed this afternoon and won! I am so excited for them and can't wait to see how Douglas does this evening. I'm sending him my good vibes from my sleep. I have to get to bed early because of another early day tomorrow. I'm coming for you free skate! 

Friday, Nov. 14

Competition started today for everyone except the ladies, and I am getting very excited to start tomorrow. I was able to sleep in again this morning, but my roommate, Maia Shibutani, had to get up at 4 a.m. for an early practice. I savored sleeping in because I will be up early Saturday and Sunday for practices.  

We are all learning to go with the flow here because of a few unforeseen schedule changes. I had a nice, long warmup when my practice was pushed back a half hour today. It was nice outside, so I warmed up by the outdoor rink. I ran a short program to prepare for short program competition tomorrow. Practice is feeling great. 

I watched the Shibutanis and Douglas Razzano compete their short programs. I was mesmerized by their facial expressions and speed. They were great and have their free dance/skate tomorrow. 

For lunch, we ate at the rink. They were serving Styrian pumpkin seed oil salad dressing. Pumpkin seed oil is known as the "Black Gold of Styria." It is made in this region, and it is delicious and healthy. While I was eating lunch, I met Trixi Schuba. It was an honor to be introduced to the 1972 Austrian Olympic champion. She was kind enough to take a picture with me. 

I'm super excited to skate my short program to "Firebird" tomorrow, and watch my teammates skate! I'm going to bed early because of my 5:30 a.m. wake-up. 

Thursday, Nov. 13

Sleeping through the night last night was easy. I thought I might wake up in the middle of the night because of jet lag, but I was out like a light and slept until 9 this morning! 

All the athletes had practices at different times today, so we were all on our own schedule. Since we have one short practice each day, we are doing more off-ice training. I went into the hotel hall to do some exercise and found Douglas [Razzano]. The area by the elevators is spacious enough for some jumps, so I went down one floor and got to it. 

I had practice again this afternoon at the open-air rink. It's fun to be outside and be able to lace up my skates right in the hockey boxes, and then step right onto the ice. Practice was short, just 25 minutes, but it went really well. In addition to being in fresh air, there was only one other competitor on the ice. I was feeling more acclimated, and everything went smoothly.

My coach, mom, grandma and I headed into the city center for some shopping and dinner. It is interesting to see shops I am familiar with, such as Claire's, amongst the beautiful and ancient architecture.

One of the great things about Austria is the chocolate shops; the chocolate is made fresh here. I will definitely bring my three sisters a chocolate souvenir.

As we continued walking, we spotted out of the corner of our eyes a walkway to a restaurant called Restaurant Pronto. It was down a flight of stairs, below the street, and had beautiful decorations -- along with delicious food. It was a great find, and I may have to bring my teammates back to eat there. 

After we finished dinner, we started to wander around, but everything was closing. We returned to the hotel early to get extra rest for tomorrow.

Competition starts Friday for all team members except me. Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani compete at 8:00 a.m. (local time), and Douglas competes at noon. Send them good vibes! 

Wednesday, Nov. 12

My adventure to Graz, Austria, for the 2014 Ice Challenge is underway. Here comes Team USA!

I always dread the long flights, but my trip to Austria was pretty easy. My first flight yesterday was from Detroit to Frankfurt, Germany. I was pleasantly surprised when I boarded the plane and found multiple rows still open. I quickly grabbed an empty row so I could stretch out to sleep. Although I had a whole row to myself, I only slept three hours. I've never been one to fall asleep easily.

We took off at 4 p.m. ET and landed at 6 a.m. in Germany -- an eight-hour flight.

After a short layover in Frankfurt, we arrived in Graz. We were surrounded by mountains as we descended into Graz. It was beautiful. After that, we took a quick shuttle to our hotel and our travel was finally over! 

I am rooming with Maia Shibutani. As soon as I reached the room, I took a two-hour nap before my first practice. 

I practiced with the men today in an outdoor rink. The top is covered, but all the sides are open to the outside. Douglas Razzano and I used this practice to get our feet underneath us. This is Douglas' fourth time here, so he is our designated tour guide. He helped us get familiar with the tram system.

Our draw was in the evening, and all the senior events drew together. I drew lucky number 13. We then went to dinner as a team.

For dinner, we went to the top of a mountain. We rode an elevator halfway, then walked up the steep hill the rest of the way. The restaurant we ate at is called "Schlossberg 7." It was delicious and had a great view of the city. We took the funicular car -- which was mostly glass -- down the mountain so we could really see the beautiful and historic city of Graz. Everyone was exhausted from the long day, so we're off to bed. I'm looking forward to a full night of sleep and more excitement tomorrow.