Ice Network

Notes from Camp: Rippon, Wagner sport new looks

Brown counsels Bell on ins and outs of Champs Camp; Chen close by
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Donning a new hair style and hair color, Ashley Wagner (right) takes a selfie with Madison Chock (second from right) and Marissa Castelli, while Adam Rippon slyly photo bombs the group in the background. -Ashley Wagner's instagram

Nathan Chen was about as close as you could get to Champs Camp without actually being there.

The U.S. skater, who placed eighth in his senior debut at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last season, wasn't on the invite list, but he was training just next door to the World Arena while the annual high performance camp was going on. Chen was in Colorado for altitude training ahead of his Junior Grand Prix (JGP) assignment in Colorado Springs next week.

Rafael Arutunian, Chen's coach, was in Colorado Springs with two of his other skaters, Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon.

Chen, 16, said his heel injury, which plagued him at the U.S. championships, has pretty much healed, but that he was dealing with blade and boot issues. He received new blades just a couple of days before he started training in Colorado and was expecting the new boots to arrive during his stay.

"Training in altitude is definitely harder," Chen said. "I have competed at the Junior Grand Prix in Mexico before (where he won in 2013) and that was pretty high, too."

Chen looked impressive in his season debut at the Glacier Falls Summer Classic, where he won both the short program (he's sticking with the Michael Jackson routine from last season) and the free skate (Camille Saint-Saëns' "Symphony No. 3"). He has quad toes planned in each program.

The two-time U.S. junior champion and world junior bronze medalist had also played hockey last season, but he is focusing solely on his figure skating for 2015-16.

"No hockey this year," he said. "It was getting to a level where it was too intense to do both. Maybe I will play a bit on the weekends, though."

Training next door was a far cry from being with the top guns. But Chen hopes to be alongside them come the U.S. championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in January. Chen sent an early message to some of his competitors with his performance at Glacier Falls, where he topped the likes of U.S. champion Jason Brown, Tim Dolensky and Grant Hochstein.

Hair check

A few skaters brought new hair colors with them to Colorado. Rippon's hair was a platinum/gray. Wagner, a blonde last season, is now a redhead. Courtney Hicks also turned heads with her auburn-red shade. 

Helping hand

Brown provided training mate Mariah Bell with some words of advice before the start of Champs Camp.

"I keep reminding her that she deserves it," Brown said. "Everything's a process and be proud of where you are in the season. Take it all in and enjoy it. It can be very intimidating being in front of all these judges and the top skaters. It's early in the season and no one's in top shape, and there's a sense of vulnerability. You have to let that go."

Bell, who roomed with fellow Champs Camps newbies Hannah Miller and Karen Chen at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, will make her Grand Prix debut at Skate America. Lucky for her, Brown will be there, too.

"There is something really different," Brown said of the close-knit operations in Monument, Colorado, where he and Bell train with Kori Ade and choreographer Rohene Ward. "We are family. When you come here, you're a new sibling. If you come, you can't be on your own."

Les Mis loves company

Hochstein is using music from the musical Les Misérables for his free skate this season, and the music was cut by none other than Caroline Zhang, Hochstein's girlfriend. Zhang also skated to the musical last season but used a different portion of it ("I Dreamed a Dream"). Hochstein opens his program to "Bring Him Home."

"After Glacier Falls, we went to New York City to see Les Mis," Hochstein said. "I had seen the movie but had not seen the musical. I want to go again before nationals."

Giving back

At least four skaters who were at Champs Camp -- Wagner, Rippon, Hannah Miller and Ricky Dornbush -- will also perform in the Michael Weiss Foundation's 13th annual show, Sept. 13 in Laurel, Maryland. Proceeds go to help skaters fund their training. Olympic champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who skate in the show for the first time, headline the event.