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Cracking the Cody: Dolkiewicz blogs from U.S. JGP

Pairs skater gives readers behind-the-scenes look from Colorado Springs
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Gabriella Marvaldi and Cody Dolkiewicz are competing in their first career Junior Grand Prix event in Colorado Springs. -Daphne Backman

U.S. pairs skater Cody Dolkiewicz is competing with partner Gabriella Marvaldi in the Junior Grand Prix in Colorado Springs. He is blogging about his experiences from the event for icenetwork.

Saturday, Sept. 5

I'd like to start today's blog by congratulating all of the junior men who competed last night after I had already published my blog.

Well, everyone, this is it. This is my last blog from JGP USA in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It's been fun keeping you all up to date and giving you all my experiences here. To all of you who watched the events and supported Team USA, I just want to say thank you. I can tell you as an athlete, it's great to see the support of the country.

My day Saturday morning started nice and early at 6:45 a.m. We were at breakfast at 7 a.m. (I made the mistake of eating a little too much for that time of day and felt a little slow until we got on the ice at 8:30.) This morning session felt like it took a lot longer than 30 minutes, mainly because I was actually feeling nervous, which is very strange for me because I normally don't feel it until about an hour before the event. However, despite the nerves, we got our elements in and had a successful morning practice session.

We went and grabbed an early lunch/snack before our competition. It's never really a good idea to eat a lot or anything heavy before you compete. It will make you slow and sluggish. We hurried back to the rink to prepare ourselves for the long program competition. Upon arrival, we once again did our usual warmup and ran through our program off ice. We mentally prepared ourselves and said a quick prayer.

Then it was time. We went down stairs, got changed and put our skates on. We got on for warmup and the ice felt good. I find that my nerves tend to go away when I step out into the rink. It's like my body says to my brain, "OH! This stuff is familiar -- I got this." Once the warmup ended, we waited through the other three teams before it was our turn to take the ice. I was running through the program in my head again, and again and again. When it was our time, we stepped onto the ice and waited to be announced. Once they introduced us, we skated out and presented to the judges and the crowd right before we hit our starting pose. As always, we did our fist bump and got into position. The program was okay; a couple mistakes cost us, but I was still pleased in the end. We know what we need to fix and we will work our tails off when we get home.

After watching the rest of the event and cheering on the rest of Team USA, we went out to lunch and got some much needed food. It was nice to finally be competition-stress free. After we ate, I spent some time with my mom and we enjoyed relaxing together. For those of you who don't know, competitions are equally as stressful to parents as they are to skaters.

We met back up with some team members and cheered on the ladies event. After, my partner and I went out to get frozen yogurt before returning to the OTC for our last night. Since it was everyone's last night we (all of Team USA) met up to play some games. We started with a scavenger hunt and we had to find all kinds of thing all over the OTC. We had a blast searching like crazy all over the place. After that, we all played a massive game of ninja (we looked like a bunch of rejects for a kun-fu movie). It was funny, but it was also a great team bonding experience. Once the games ended, we headed back to the dorms.

Now the end of the day -- and the trip -- is upon us. I must now begin the sad routine of packing everything up. It's been an outstand trip and it will be a great memory forever. I hope you have enjoyed my blog posts.

Friday, Sept. 4

Today started off late again. We have been very lucky to not have many morning practices this trip, although that ends tomorrow, unfortunately, with one around 8 a.m. So, after following the normal routine of getting ready and having breakfast at the OTC dining hall, I came back to the room and chatted with friends, since our first and only practice was not until 12:30 p.m.

I got word from my coach that we were going to take the 11 a.m. bus over to get ready, so I packed up my stuff and, when the time came, I took the walk and hopped on board.

All of the Team USA pairs were on our bus and, as usual, we chatted a bit on the trip over. It's very strange to have a day off in between your competition days. It's like you have a break, but you can't really relax. Most of the time, I really don't like when this is the case, but this trip, I actually feel very fortunate that we had it. It was a good day to recoup and prepare ourselves for Saturday. 

Once we arrived at the rink, we did our normal warmups and got ready to practice. However, today we did our warmup outside. It was really nice warming up with the mountains in the background. It was a nice, clear, sunny sky, and we had a little extra time, so we did not have to rush. Once we finished enjoying the outside and getting ready, we headed inside and got our skates on.

So, there we were, standing on the ice just getting ready to start things off when I heard the announcer say that the second music to be played would be ours. Hold on a second, we are the fourth team in the draw. Well, I guess they're going in practice order, not competition order. Darn, time to kick it into high gear! 

Fortunately, we were only planning on running part of our program with the music so, in the end, everything worked out fine. The practice session seemed like it went by quick, but it usually does when you're focused and working hard. Overall, we had a pretty good practice and I'm feeling good for Saturday.

Once we got our skates off, we did a nice cool down, stretched out our muscles and had a small recovery snack before heading upstairs to cheer on the junior ladies. They were awesome to watch, I might add. Way to go ladies! The U.S. currently owns the second, third and sixth spots out of 30 skaters. 

After watching the ladies event, we headed back to the OTC to drop off some stuff, and we hit up the Team USA shop to take some pictures out front with the Olympic rings and statues. Once we finished up there, we headed over to the Broadmoor Hotel to check things out since that was where one of our coaches, Isabelle Brasseur, had her first junior worlds. It was quite a lovely place, but the rink has since been removed, unfortunately. We finished our night by going to a place for dinner called Flatirons, where I had a steak, so now I'm definitely covered for tomorrow. We enjoyed some more time with our families before heading back to the OTC to relax and call it a night.

Well, tomorrow's the big day -- and, unfortunately, the last day. Only one free skate left, and I can't wait for it. Thanks for reading guys and wish Team USA the best of luck for Saturday. GO TEAM USA!

Thursday, Sept. 3

Today started for me even later when I got up at 9 a.m. I relaxed until 9:30 a.m., then got up and had breakfast. We all went to the rink for our practice around noon. Spirits were high as we did our day-of-competition practice. The practice went by really quickly -- we did all our elements and got off the ice. It was a nice, efficient practice. Plus, time flies when you are having fun.

After practice, we went back to the OTC, and I got some lunch with my partner. Along the way, we met up with fellow Team USA pairs and hung out. We played a game with Joe [Goodpaster] and Sarah [Rose] called monkey business (it's kind of like Scrabble). After eating, the four of us went to the athlete lounge/game room and played ping pong and foosball before returning to our rooms to relax and rest up for the short program.

After a few hours, we all headed back to the arena -- this time in competition mode! All of us were focused on what we had to do; we all know our warmups and our game plans. We always stretch and do some exercises to wake our bodies up to prevent injuries. We follow that up by doing some off-ice lifts, then walk out our programs. Once all that is done, we stay warm until game time.

We were second to skate in the event, right after Joe and Sarah. We hit the ice and ran a program that we were pleased with: no falls, just a little wobble and a two-footed landing on the triple throw. The scores could have been better, and we ended up in eighth for now, but we will come back fighting for the long.

We cheered the last U.S. team on, and then went downstairs to do the draw for our free skate skating order. This time, we ended up drawing the number four slot.

We ended the day by grabbing some dinner at a nearby hotel. We all piled into a big white van and went over. This instantly became a little party, as we all were laughing and joking around since we were still running on our competition adrenaline. We enjoyed our dinner, then piled back into the party van and headed back to the OTC to call it a night.

A little side note: After skating for years, I've noticed almost every skater has superstitious habits or things that they have to do before they compete. So, I spent the day asking all the Team USA members that I saw if they had any habits or competition-day rituals that they follow. Here's what they all said:

- Ian Somerville has to wear Easton socks when competing.

- Eliana Gropman has to tie her right skate first.

- Quinn Carpenter has to have eggs for breakfast the day of the competition and has to visualize the competition.

- Tomoki Hiwatashi slaps his face before he gets into his starting position.

- Chloe Rose Lewis, Logan Bye and Sarah Rose each have to put their left skate on first.

- Joe makes sure he goes to the restroom before he skates.

- Maximiliano Fernandez has pasta the night before the program and walks out his programs in the shower.

- Joy Weinberg does a nose check before she gets on the ice.

- Anthony Boucher has to know where his parents are sitting.

- Gabriella Marvaldi has a mint with her grandmother before getting ready and punches her legs before she hits her starting pose.

- As for me, I have to have a steak the night before one of the competitions; otherwise, I will have a bad long program. I also make sure we do a fist bump on the ice before we start our program.

Wednesday, Sept. 2

Today we slept in until a much nicer 7:45. All of the U.S pairs teams had a 10 a.m. practice, so the six of us ate breakfast together in the Olympic Training Center (OTC) dining hall before catching the bus. (P.S. The food here is awesome.) On the way to the arena, we jammed to music, talked and had a good time before getting down to business.

One of my favorite things about being at this level of skating is that we get to compete in full-size arenas. When at a competition, we get to see the parts of the rink that few people ever get to see, and I always find it cool. This arena is quite large; it has a competition arena and two more rinks downstairs. The whole facility is sprawling and neat to explore.

After warming up, we got our skates on and hit the ice. We started with some stroking and then did a short program run-through. I haven't been out to Colorado since I was about 8, and I have heard stories about how hard it is to breathe at this altitude. So, despite our training, I was a bit concerned about our stamina. When we completed our short, I did feel a difference, but we pushed through a pretty good program, so our hard training paid off.

We headed back to the OTC and got some lunch with the other pairs teams. Then, we headed back to the arena for the draw. I'd say that about 90 percent of all skaters hate to go first, and I am one of them. It's kind of funny after a skater draws first; everyone else gives them a sympathetic clap as if to say, "I'm sorry." I was the one who drew for our team and was very happy when I drew my favorite place to skate: Second. The other two Team USA pairs, Sarah Rose and Joseph Goodpaster, and Joy Weinberg and Maximiliano Fernandez, drew first and last, respectively.

In our second practice of the day, we ran our long program. Again, I felt the difference in altitude, but our training kept us strong.

We ended the day by going out to dinner and spending some time with our families. It's so nice to not only be able to skate at this level but to be supported by the ones around us -- our families, friends and all of Team USA. It is such an awesome honor to be here with these other amazing and hardworking people.

Time to get some sleep. The competition starts tomorrow, and we have a short program to perform...wish us luck!                 

Tuesday, Sept. 1

Hello everyone! My name is Cody Dolkiewicz, and I am a junior pairs skater with my partner, Gabriella Marvaldi. The two of us train and live in New Jersey. I have been asked to be the official blogger for the Junior Grand Prix in Colorado Springs.

Our morning started around 4:40 a.m., and I've decided that no human should ever be up that early. We were on the plane by 8 a.m. and had a very quick flight -- I think it might have had something to do with the fact that I was asleep the first three-and-a-half hours. We had about an hour drive to Colorado Springs that was also quite nice. The scenery is gorgeous; with the mountains in the background, it almost looks fake.

Once we arrived at the Olympic Training Center (OTC), we checked in and got all of our credentials, both for the competition and for our rooms. That might not sound that cool, but the OTC credential is also our key to pretty much anywhere in the OTC. So, we dropped off our bags in our rooms and went exploring a bit, and also tried to locate the gym. Along the way, we checked out quite a few other buildings such as the gymnastic training building. We also peeked into the pool and tennis buildings. I wish I could explain how beautiful this place is. All the training centers are spotless and look like they were built last week. I feel very honored to be in this compound with so many elite athletes.

We ended up finding the gym and did a light workout just to get our legs back under us. On our way back to our rooms, we met our roommates. Mine is Anthony Boucher, a singles skater from Denver. Gabriella's roommate is Paige Rydberg, a singles skater from Chicago. They seem nice -- I can't wait to get to know them better.

We finished up our day with dinner at the OTC dining hall. (Which was quite delicious I might add.) We then came back to our rooms and chilled with our roommates until around 8:45 p.m. when we had our Team USA meeting. We received our Team USA trading pins and Team USA athlete pin, as well as a whole bunch of USA spirit gear, such as signs, fans, flags and a bunch of little nick-nacks.

It's been a busy day, but tomorrow should be a little more exciting. For one, we get to check out the arena and do some training. I'm also looking forward to meeting other competitors from other countries, so tomorrow should be fun. I can't wait to tell you all about it. Goodbye for now.