The Inside Edge: Ge enjoying surprising successOi gets back in the rink; Russian ladies taking costumes to new levels
Patience has paid off for Misha Ge. For the last couple of seasons, he just missed competing on the Grand Prix circuit, partly due to timing issues and visa problems. This year, he not only competed at the Cup of China but finished third in the free skate for fifth place overall. Shortly after he finished skating in China, he was invited to compete at the Rostelecom Cup. He made it to Moscow in time, finishing fourth overall, missing out on a medal by just a few points.
After his program in China, Ge thanked the crowd in fluent Chinese, added in a speech in Russian and then thanked his fans in English. After a moment, he added a brief "arigatou gozaimasu" in Japanese.
We spoke to the polyglot on Skype from China, where he has been training.
"I think it's pretty amazing, really," Ge said of his results. "It was a hard season to begin; it was long work to get here. Every time you make radical changes, you always question how people will receive it. We were quite happy that people enjoyed it, and it got results and points, so we were very happy."
In past seasons, Ge had gained a lot of fans with his over-the-top programs, costumes and wildly colored hair. After disappointing results last year, he decided to remake himself in a more classical mold.
"It was a 180-degree turn," Ge said. "We changed pretty much everything, from the music picks, choreography, transitions, steps, levels. We just didn't know how it would go. But after that great feedback, I think we should keep improving in that direction."
It took Ge years of hard work to master the triple Axel, and this season he has been landing them consistently and getting positive Grades of Execution.
"There is a quote in Chinese: 'Success of today doesn't mean I started to work hard yesterday,'" Ge said. "It was the hard work of a few years. Maybe it took more time, but I hope we can keep improving. Like how a turtle is walking -- maybe slow, but more on the ground."
He is working on a quadruple jump, too, although he can't say when he might start including it in his programs.
Ge's high finishes meant he was invited to skate in the gala of both competitions. He hadn't brought a show program with him, so he had to create one overnight for the gala in China.
"Sometimes, the more you want things, the less you get them," he said. "We didn't know if we'd make it or not. If it's going to happen, I'm going to squeeze all juices from me, even if it takes all night."
Ge went on a hasty shopping trip to buy an outfit, cut his music and stayed up past 3 a.m. working on his choreography to "Bend Ova" and another song we can't name here, by Lil Jon.
"There's some freaky words in there, but we tried to cut them out," he said. "It's a very crazy American rapper. I love contrasts, the biggest possible. After my dramatic programs, so deep from the heart, I want to do 180-degree turn, skate how young people chill on the ice."
Ge wore authentic garb for the program, including very, very dropped-crotch pants.
"If you're going to do split in it, you're pretty much going to rip it!" he admitted. "Actually, that happened once in my dance class. I danced so hard, the pants ripped there. But at the end, the teacher was like, you danced good!"
Ge helps out his fellow skaters with translations at competitions. He taught Max Aaron some Russian, and some of the Russian skaters asked him how to say things in English. At the gala rehearsal, he translated the Chinese choreographer's words into English for the group number.
"Then Julia Lipnitskaia asked me to translate into Russian," he said. "I said, 'No -- English is enough!'"
Back on the ice
Curran Oi left serious competitive skating behind after a sixth-place finish at the 2009 U.S. Championships and a silver medal at the 2011 U.S. Collegiate Championships. The elegant skater has brains to match, graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year with a degree in nuclear engineering and physics. He's now working toward a PhD in biophysics at Yale. (He tried to explain what that is, telling us it's biological research using physical methods like optical tweezers. OK, then.)
While an undergraduate, Oi skated during the months that the MIT rink was open. He got nibbled by the competitive bug last summer and started training last July, aiming for the Eastern sectionals. He skates at Yale during the week and works with Matt Savoie in Boston on weekends.
"I really like skating, and I feel like I haven't spent as much time on it as I wanted to, the last five or six years," Oi told us. "It felt really good to train and feel like I had more goals. I haven't had to prepare for a competition in years, and I like it."
The rust showed a bit in the short program at Easterns, but Oi delivered a solid and lovely Battlestar Galactica free skate that included six triples, finishing in seventh place. He told us his goal had simply been to compete, not to qualify for the U.S. championships.
"I wasn't even sure I was going to compete a week or two ago because I felt so under-prepared," he said afterward. "I guess I just have pretty good muscle memory."
Now that he has gotten a taste of competing again, Oi wants more. He's still only 24.
"I haven't figured out the entire new training plan, but I would like to skate more," he said. "I would like to compete next year. Hopefully, I'll compete at some spring and summer competitions. If I plan and commit all next year, I'll be in much better shape, and I want to do that."
Back on the scene
Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea will be competing in early December at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, their first competition since Kayne underwent right hip surgery July 28.
"We haven't been able to skate our programs yet this season, so it's a chance to get back on competitive ice and get our programs out there," Kayne said.
"And get the kinks out of everything," O'Shea added.
Although the pair are training their programs, they don't yet feel back to 100 percent.
"As far as the muscular endurance, it's a little weak, and we want to make sure we don't push her too hard," O'Shea said. "We like to push the limits a little bit; we just have to be careful."
While Kayne was recovering, O'Shea used 25- and 50-pound medicine balls on the ice for twists and lifts. To keep in shape, he also skated a bit with girls at the rink who were looking for pairs partners.
"Obviously, it was nothing like skating with Tarah, but it was something," he said. "And [coach Jim] Peterson had me train my programs twice a day."
Even with the injury she coped with all last season, Kayne and O'Shea finished in sixth place at the 2014 U.S. Championships. They are looking forward to skating without pain in Greensboro, North Carolina, for this year's championships.
Designing outside the box
The Russian ladies continue to dominate the results of the Grand Prix Series, and they're also taking interesting risks in the costume department. We've noticed a number of intriguing choices this season, following on Adelina Sotnikova's daring lingerie look last season, which she changed prior to the Olympics.
Maria Artemieva skated her Trophée Bompard free skate in black boy shorts under a loose white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. We have never, ever seen a lady wear anything like that to compete, and you know, it kind of worked. Lipnitskaia is wearing a red-and-white striped sailor shirt for her "Megapolis" short program, unusual in a competitive costume.
Alena Leonova's Charlie Chaplin short program is performed in head-to-toe men's garb, which isn't entirely unprecedented but still very rare. And of course, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva's diaphanous muumuus have everyone talking. Again, we can't say we've ever seen costumes like them.
We're not sure why, exactly, the Russian designers are thinking so far out of the box for the ladies, but it's fascinating to see where costuming can go.
Olympians Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov have a new baby boy, Daxton Dale Petukhov, born Nov. 21.
"The name Dax is of French origin and means 'leader,' and his middle name, Dale, was Melissa's mom's name," Petukhov emailed. "He is a first-born boy in both of our families, so we gave him a strong name. We hope that he grows up to be compassionate and kind."