Ice Network

Five questions with Champs Camp rookies

Bell enjoys bonding with roommates; Kayne, O'Shea push boundaries
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Mariah Bell talked about the 'incredible' experience of being at Champs Camp with her fellow Team USA skaters. -Sarah S. Brannen

Amy Rosewater tracked down five skaters who were new to U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp and asked them each five questions.

Mariah Bell started skating when she was 4, following in the steps of her sister, Morgan. She had a breakout year in 2014-15, highlighted by a sixth-place finish and a strong showing in the free skate at the 2015 U.S Figure Skating Championships. She trains with Kori Ade and Rohene Ward in Monument, Colorado, which is about a half-hour drive from the Colorado Springs World Arena.

Rosewater: I was sitting by Rohene Ward during your first practice at Champs Camp and heard him tell you, "Enjoy this." Did you?

Bell: Yes! I did. I really did. Champs Camp is sort of one of those things you hear about when you're younger, and to be here is absolutely incredible. Kori asked me, "Do you feel like you're in it?" and I did. The top U.S. ladies are all on the ice and the judges and officials are there, and this was just the first practice, to work out all the kinks. It's been fun to be at the Olympic Training Center, and Jason Brown showed me around. It's fun having Hannah and Karen [Chen] as my roommates for Champs Camp.

Rosewater: Jason lives at the Olympic Training Center. Is there anything he told you about it specifically?

Bell: Mixing ice cream with peanut butter! He introduced me to that, and I'm a little upset with him for that.

Rosewater: What was your reaction to being invited to compete at Skate America?

Bell: I knew that Skate America was a possibility, but I thought I'd get the TBA spot -- I didn't expect to get it first out. To be in the United States for my first Grand Prix is going to be really, really fun.

Rosewater: Who are three skaters you admire?

Bell: Right now, I'd say Jason. Getting to train with him has been amazing. I also like Joannie Rochette, and have liked her since the [Vancouver] Olympics, and I've always loved Scott Hamilton.

Roswater: Your sister, Morgan, has toured with Disney on Ice presents Frozen in one of the lead roles as Anna. How has she liked that role, and what is it like seeing her on tour?

Bell: It is absolutely incredible to see her perform, when I can. She has totally found what she was meant to do, and I could not be more proud of her. Plus, it's cool to say my sister is Princess Anna.

Karen Chen arrived in Colorado Springs from her training center in Southern California. She was the surprise bronze medalist at the 2015 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. She trains with Tammy Gambill and Justin Dillon.

Rosewater: You were invited to Champs Camp and are set to compete on the Grand Prix all for the first time in your career. How does that feel?

Chen: I'm very excited, and it feels a bit surreal to me. I have always wanted to come to Champs Camp. I remember as a kid looking at pictures of Champs Camp and hoping one day I could go. The senior Grand Prix will be different. It's bigger and more exciting, and I'm looking forward to meeting some of the skaters.

Rosewater: You wear a necklace on a red chain. Is there any special meaning to it?

Chen: There is. I was born in the year of the rabbit, and the jade is supposed to be for protection. It was a gift from my mom. She gave it to me when I was 9 years old after I broke my foot.

Rosewater: What did you take away from hearing Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie's keynote speech, particularly about overcoming the odds?

Chen: He was amazing. I really related to what he said. I thought about how I had struggled when I was in intermediate. I was at junior nationals, and I wasn't planning on doing a triple toe, but then I went ahead and did it, and I nailed it.

Rosewater: Why are you wearing black men's skates?

Chen: I have been wearing them for the last week. They are my younger brother's old skates. My previous skates broke down, so I decided to try his.

Rosewater: Are they comfortable?

Chen: Well … I really have no other choice.

Hannah Miller had a busy offseason, as she uprooted herself from Michigan, her home state, to train in Los Angeles. She now works with coach Rafael Arutunian but will continue to have Kirsten Miller-Zisholz, her aunt and coach of 15 years, rinkside at competitions. Miller made her senior debut at the U.S. championships in 2013, finishing 10th, and has placed ninth the last two seasons. She will represent the United States at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup.

Rosewater: You come from a skating family. Your father, Kevin, played on the 1988 U.S. Olympic hockey team and also in the NHL. Your cousin, Ryan Miller, plays in the NHL and was the starting goaltender for Team USA's 2010 Olympic silver-medal-winning hockey team. Were you wearing skates in the womb?

Miller: Yeah, basically! There's a picture of me with my dad on the ice when I was about two months old. I was about 4 or 5 when I started to take some lessons. When I was 8, I knew figure skating was my sport.

Rosewater: What is it about figure skating that you enjoy?

Miller: Thinking back on it, being on the ice has always been an escape from reality for me. When I'm on the ice, I can forget about school; I can forget about everything else. It's a stress reliever.

Rosewater: You've spent your life in Michigan and trained with your aunt for 15 years. Why did you decide to move west and train with Rafael Arutunian?

Miller: It's been quite a big change, leaving the nest, so to speak. I graduated from high school in June (as the valedictorian), and for the last two and a half months, [Rafael] has been kicking my butt, but I'm loving it. Every day has been a lot of fun. I knew that I needed to make a move to move up in the ranks and knew it was best for me, too. Keeping my aunt involved was a big part of my decision, and Rafael has been great with that.

It was really hard to leave my family. I have grown up in that rink, and leaving them was horrible. I think I cried for days. I got the call that I was going to compete at a Grand Prix when I was at the rink (in Michigan) the morning I was heading out to the airport to go to California. It was almost a sign that I needed to do this. It was hard, but there has been a lot of excitement. I never would've pictured my life would be quite like this.

Rosewater: How much have you been able to see in Los Angeles, in terms of the touristy sites?

Miller: I've seen the Hollywood sign and did the Walk of Fame with my mom, and I've visited a lot of the beaches. I just chill there at the beach. Skating uses up all of my energy.

Rosewater: How have you adjusted to living away from home?

Miller: I live with (pairs skater) AJ Reiss, who rented me a room in his house. I met him when I first went out to California, and he told me he had a room to rent. I have four sisters, and we always had something going on, so I knew I didn't want to live in an apartment by myself. I cook and do my own grocery shopping and laundry. I did call my mom the first time I did laundry and told her I was going to ruin something. I'm still getting used to the traffic in L.A. I can drive now and not worry about cars cutting me off anymore. I'm adjusting!

Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea took the pairs bronze medal at the 2015 U.S. Championships. They hope to make their mark in their Grand Prix debut this season, competing at Skate America and Rostelecom Cup. The two train in Florida with Jim Peterson, Amanda Evora and Lyndon Johnston.

Rosewater: After missing out on international competition in 2014-15 because of your hip surgery, what are you most excited about this season?

Kayne: Really, I'm most excited just to get there to the Grand Prix this time. Just the fact that I am finally going to represent the United States in a Grand Prix is really exciting, too.

O'Shea: And it's very nice to get a Grand Prix on home soil.

Kayne: Initially, we didn't think about Skate America. We just thought about what dates would be good for our schedule, and also, we were thinking which countries we'd like to visit. Getting Skate America was a happy surprise.

Rosewater: You and Danny added a lot of new elements to your programs this season, including a throw quad salchow and a throw lutz. Can you tell us how you are transitioning this season with those difficult maneuvers?

Kayne: I think the amount of newness we have this year is exciting. We are really pushing the boundaries of what anyone has seen us do before. The throw lutz has actually been an easy transition. Even though we ended up going for a more intricate entry (where she is flipped over his shoulder), it really works for us.

Rosewater: A handful of teams, including Canadian world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Russia's Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, have performed the throw quad salchow in competition. You have worked with Kavaguti and Smirnov's coach, Tamara Moskvina, this summer on the element. Are you a visual learner or do you learn more by doing the elements yourself?

Kayne: [Kavaguti and Smirnov's] throw is one of my favorite things to watch. I watched it over and over and over again. Watching it made me think I could do it, too. I kept watching her takeoff.

O'Shea: Tarah's wonderful in that she brings in the video.

Rosewater: How often do you spend time together off the ice?

Kayne: We're pretty different as people. I love going to the ballet, and I'm not sure Danny loves going to the ballet, but he definitely will accompany me. We go and watch a lot of movies together. And we do agree on food. That's one thing we definitely agree on. Danny really likes barbecue, and I really like Indian and Thai. The only thing I won't eat is seafood.

Rosewater: How do you like the training environment in Ellenton, Florida?

Kayne: It's been great. We really like training with Gretchen Donlan and Nathan Bartholomay, and we really have a great team of coaches.

Mervin Tran is in his second season skating with two-time U.S. champion Marissa Castelli. He previously competed for his native Canada, and also for Japan, winning a 2012 world bronze medal with Narumi Takahashi. This is the first season he and Castelli, who placed sixth at the 2015 U.S. Championships, can represent the United States in international events. The couple trains in Montreal with Bruno Marcotte and Richard Gauthier.

Rosewater: You are a rookie at Champs Camp but not exactly a rookie when it comes to elite-level skating. What is it like to be in this environment here as a member of Team USA?

Tran: I'm a rookie here, but I've been doing this stuff for a while. I am happy to be out here. I took a year off (from international competition in 2012-13 when Takahashi had shoulder surgery) and a year off (from international competition in 2014-15) after Canada. You only get to do this for so long. This Champs Camp is a lot like the way Canada does things.

Rosewater: You are in kind of an unusual spot, since you have skated for a while and achieved success, but you're still pretty young. What's that like?

Tran: I'm 24, which is still young. I was 21 when I won bronze. I was still junior eligible then!

Rosewater: Since winning a world bronze medal, your career has been a bit of a roller coaster. How hard has that been?

Tran: Finishing third is definitely a part of me. When I get down and low, I just reach back and tell myself that I've done it before. But sometimes with success comes complacency. I remember my coach (Bruno Marcotte) telling me, "You're not third anymore," and that really helped me, because it's a lot easier to be the underdog. I'm excited to get on the circuit.

Rosewater: Who came up with the idea to skate to music by Journey in the free skate?

Tran: We started talking about music and thought about rock and rock opera. We talked about Queen, but people have skated to Queen, and then someone said Journey. The first thing I said is, "We are not using (the TV show) Glee!" I mean, I love the Glee version, but it was a little…cliché. I love the way the music and the program have turned out. When we skate to it, it's so much fun. There's a lot of energy, and it's a great note to end on.  

Rosewater: What would it mean to make the world team and compete in Boston? Marissa trained there for so much of her career and you both skate at the Skating Club of Boston when you aren't in Montreal.

Tran: It's definitely on our minds. We usually get to Boston about once a month (with Bobby Martin and Carrie Wall). It's a wonderful city…a great city. I'm looking forward to it.