Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Gao chooses books over blades

Miner re-energized by new Queen free skate; Flatt graduates Stanford
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Christina Gao has decided to end her competitive career, which included appearances at all six Grand Prix events. -Getty Images

Following retirement announcements from Samantha Cesario, Douglas Razzano, Stephen Carriere and Jeremy Ten, 2012 Skate America silver medalist Christina Gao has also decided to end her competitive career.

Gao, who competed at the U.S. championships at the senior level six times, will enter her junior year at Harvard University this fall. She says she wants to concentrate on her academic career going forward.

Gao said she considered retiring after the 2014 U.S. Championships, where she finished eighth, but after helping out with U.S. Figure Skating's Program Components Camp, she realized she wasn't done. Her coaches, Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, were supportive of her decision.

"I was going to Shanghai for the summer for an internship, and I couldn't change those plans, but I found a nice rink in China to train at," Gao said. "I also got two Grand Prix [assignments], in China and Japan, and Japan was the last Grand Prix I needed to have done all six. I knew it was most likely going to be my last season, and Mark picked a beautiful piece of music and choreographed it in August."

Gao said the season was hard for her, and she didn't skate well in China or Japan.

"I really didn't feel like myself," she said. "I was always a strong competitor, so it didn't really make sense to me. But I went to nationals, and I was in 18th place after my short. I was in the first warmup group for the long. You can't find my long program on YouTube -- it's hard to find online -- but it was really special to me. I finally felt like myself again."

The program (which you can watch here) put her eighth in the free skate in Greensboro, and she finished 11th overall.

Gao is doing an internship at Opus Bank in California this summer before returning to Harvard, where she is an economics major. She says she will continue to be involved with skating; she coaches one day a week at the Skating Club of Boston, and she'll help organize the annual An Evening with Champions show.

"I want to thank Mark and Peter, because they were really my pseudo tiger dads in Boston," Gao said. "I love them so much, and they've done a lot for me.

"I want to thank my parents as well as the entire skating community of people and friends who have supported me all these years."

Kids' Choice

Ashley Wagner has been nominated for a Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports award in the "Sickest Move" category.

"Whatever that means, I will take it," Wagner said. "This thing is a very big mystery to me, but I'm so excited to be a part of it, and to be recognized for having sick moves is something I'm very proud of."

Wagner says she will take her BFF Adam Rippon with her to the ceremony, if his schedule allows. And what will she wear? The Kids' Choice Awards are notorious for dropping buckets of neon-green slime on presenters and award-winners.

"It's supposed to be a pretty casual event," Wagner said. "It was actually written on the memo that there may be slime on the stage and not to wear high heels, but that's what I'm going to do. I will proceed with caution. If they slime me, I will be furious, because I am a lady, and I am 24 -- way too old to be slimed."
 
Wagner says she appreciates the support from everyone who votes for her. Online voting is open, and the show airs live from the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on July 16.

Miner skating to Queen

Ross Miner will debut two new programs at the Lake Placid Summer Championships, which take place June 26-27. His short program, choreographed by Jamie Isley, is to Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind." The free skate, to a medley of songs by Queen, was choreographed by Lori Nichol in early April. Miner says he went out to California for the choreography sessions without a clear idea of what he was looking for.

"It was Easter Sunday, and Lori and Lenore [Kay] were nice enough to make some time for me," Miner said. "I think I probably sat in Lenore's basement for seven or eight hours listening to music."

Nichol and her longtime music editor, Kay, came up with a choice for Miner that he initially liked.

"I thought I loved it," he said. "But really, I had just listened to it for seven hours and I think I felt like I had to choose something. But the song 'Too Much Love Will Kill You' had been in my head the whole time."

Nichol was skeptical at first, but Miner was sure he knew what he wanted.

"I came in the next day, and I was like, 'Lori, I can't not skate to it. This other music is fine, but I have to skate to that,'" Minder recalled. "It had been in my head for a year, and I had to skate to it."

Mitchell, who is also Miner's coach, helped find other music that fit with the slow Queen song. The program starts and ends with "Who Wants to Live Forever."

"We were a little worried that it would sound dated, but I really think that if I can show how much I believe in my program, it will work," Miner said. "I don't think I've ever believed in a program as much as I believed in that long, so that was really special for me. At this point in the season, I've never been able to keep the choreography and do the jumps as well as I've been able to this year. Even when I'm tired, I still want to do the choreography. It's still fun to skate and perform it."

The program is passionate and dramatic, and the second step sequence is a highlight; Miner says it is his favorite part. He says he and Nichol spent 12 hours over two days working on it.

The program will include a quad salchow, two triple axels and two triple-triple combinations, although Miner says he will only do one triple-triple in Lake Placid.

"For right now, we're still figuring it out, and the emphasis is on training the program, not so much maximizing points," Miner said. "It would be great if I could add another sal in later."

(Incidentally, Adam Rippon will also use "Who Wants to Live Forever" for his short program. The two skaters will have to have a battle of the '80s bands at the U.S. championships.)

As for his own short program, Miner hopes to show off his relaxed, casual side.

"It's allowing me to loosen my skating up a little bit, in a good way," Miner said. "I've worked really hard to have really good skating quality, but I think sometimes in the past that's been a little bit stiff. I think my programs this year allow me to keep that quality, but not necessarily that stiffness than can come with that. I don't look as much like a 1990s ice dancer doing a compulsory."

Flatt graduates

Rachael Flatt graduated from Stanford University on June 14 with a bachelor's degree in biology and a minor in psychology. Flatt plans to stay in Palo Alto for the next year, coaching skating, doing research and applying to medical school. She'll continue to do research for a program that focuses on nutrition and physical activity.

Flatt says she will be applying mostly to medical schools on the West Coast.

"I'd love to stay in California," she said. "I completely fell in love with the Bay Area."

Flatt says Stanford's commencement includes a tradition called "the wacky walk." Students get their degrees with their department, and wild outfits are the order of the day.

"People dress up in hilarious costumes," Flatt said. "There was a group of girls dressed as the toys from Toy Story, and some people were dressed as the Golden Gate Bridge. A bunch of friends and I were Klondike bars."

Saying farewell to friends and roommates was emotional, of course.

"It was hard to say goodbye to some of my friends," Flatt said. "One of my roommates, for all four years, is going back to Atlanta, and we got all choked up. I'm so happy that the work is done, though. I had an incredible experience at Stanford."

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