Ice Network

Torun tales: Carreira blogs from Junior Grand Prix

U.S. ice dancer takes readers behind the scenes from historic Polish city
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko are angling for their first career JGP medal in Torun, Poland, this week. -courtesy of Christina Carreira

Christina Carreira is competing at the Junior Grand Prix in Torun, Poland, this week with partner Anthony Ponomarenko. She is keeping a blog for icenetwork.

Saturday, Sept. 26

I don't know where to start…I'm so happy!

I had a good night's sleep last night, finally.

I got up and went to breakfast, and then I got ready for our last practice. We got to the rink and started warming up while watching the men's competition. Everything seemed to be OK.

We went down to the locker room, put our skates on and suddenly, the lights went out. There was an electrical failure, and from what they were telling us, the blackout wasn't just at the rink but also the entire town. The men's event was stopped because the main rink went completely dark. As for the practice rink, power came back a little while after, so we were able to complete our practice. We were told the free dance would be delayed 45 minutes.

As we were walking outside to take the bus to the rink, we came across an advertisement for a Goran Bregovic (the artist for our free dance) concert, and we thought it would be cool to take a picture of it.

We spent the afternoon resting, writing and watching TV shows. I needed a Scandal update badly! Then, it was time to get ready.

Our free dance is very energetic and fun to do, but I wish we didn't have to wait so long after the warmup to perform. Lorraine [McNamara] and Quinn [Carpenter] did a brilliant free dance and earned 97.21 points! We did OK -- it might not have been as energetic as we are capable of, but it was a clean program and we earned 85.02 points and finished second behind our teammates. So, Team USA is bringing back gold and silver! We are very happy with the whole competition and look forward to heading back home and working hard on getting even better.

We were surrounded by great people in Poland. Lori Dunn, our team leader, was so kind -- so full of energy and always there for us. She organized a team dinner and it was a lot of fun. Dee Hodge, our team doctor, made sure we were always taken care of and took a lot of pictures during the competition! Thanks to both of you for a great week. And a special thanks to our coach, Greg.

So that's it -- time to pack and go back home.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to blog for you!

Best of luck to all of Team USA during the last two Junior Grand Prix events!

Friday, Sept. 25

The night can be so long when you can't seem to fall asleep…

Maybe it was because I couldn't wait anymore. I love to compete.

I got up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready. I decided to do a ponytail instead of my regular bun. (A bobby pin this early in the day is torture.)

I had a lot of energy and couldn't wait to meet Anthony. The 6:30 a.m. bus is not very popular: The only people on it were skaters assigned to the first warmup group, plus Greg [Zuerlein] and Elena Novak.

As we got to the rink, we saw that the arena lights were not even on yet! The heating system was also definitely off. We did our off ice warmup to get those long legs working and we were ready to go. Practice went well; my legs felt a little stiff.

I did my hair and relaxed a little in the skaters lounge with Anthony, and then it was time to warm up again to get ready for competition.

I just love performing our short dance. Getting into those characters is really fun -- we just get so into it!

The competition went great. We made little mistakes, but we earned our season's-best score. You can't really ask for anything more. Lorraine [McNamara] and Quinn [Carpenter] are in first place, and we're in second! Great job, Team USA.

The draw for the free dance followed, and we will close out the competition.

That was it for the day; it was only 1 p.m., but it felt like it was time for bed. We went back to the hotel, ate lunch and relaxed in our room, catching up on the pairs event. Chelsea [Liu] and Brian [Johnson] finished fifth, while Joy [Weinberg] and Maximiliano [Fernandez] placed seventh.

Later on, we went back to old town. Remember, we didn't climb all the way up the tower last night, so today was the day! We made it to the top and the view was just breathtaking. Old town is so much bigger than what I had imagined, and seeing it from the top of the tower gave us a totally different perspective.

We walked around town, stopped for dinner, went shopping for small gifts and decided to go back to our hotel to get some rest and watch the ladies event.

Tomorrow will be a very long day.

Good luck to my roommate, Akari Nakahara!

Thursday, Sept. 24

Everything is going great so far! The food is good and fresh, the people are really nice, and we are enjoying our time here.

As we were warming up before practice today, we had the chance to watch the ladies short program. We were there to cheer for my roommate, Akari Nakahara, who did pretty well for her first JGP. She is in 10th place, and our other teammate, Megan Wessenberg, is in seventh.

Today we only had one practice, in which we did a short dance run-through and some parts of our free dance. Anthony and I are getting excited to compete...the wait is too long!

After practice, we decided to go have dinner in old town with our coach, Greg [Zuerlein]. Old town is beautiful!

Torun is located in the northern part of Poland and is one of the oldest cities in the country. Old town is, in fact, a medieval town, and UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site. It is full of history. As we walked around, we were brought back to the Middle Ages, when the Teutonic Knights established a fortress back in 1231! The town is full of gothic houses and churches, like the Old City Town Hall and the beautiful Church of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. Torun is also the birthplace of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. There is a university here in old Torun named after him.

After dinner, we decided to climb the town hall tower…we needed to burn some fat! The stairs are quite narrow and the ceilings are so low (probably because people back then were shorter than they are now). We made it halfway up and then got stopped by a lady who we thought was asking for our tickets. We had none, so we went back down and decided we would come back some other day.

There was a lot of action in old town. There was a big screen showing a basketball game, loud music and a shark mascot on a stage entertaining the village.

We came back to our hotel and checked our teammates' results in pairs. Chelsea [Liu] and Brian [Johnson] are sixth, and Joy [Weinberg] and Maximiliano [Fernandez] are in seventh. The men's competition is going on as I'm writing, and Alexei [Krasnozhon] and Tony [Lu] are sitting in third and fourth, respectively.

I need to get ready for bed now…we've got to be on the 6:30 bus tomorrow morning.

Do jutra! (See you tomorrow!)

Wednesday, Sept. 23

Our second day in Torun began for me after getting an amazing night's sleep of 12 hours. Anthony, however, woke up by the sound of construction outside of the hotel.

Construction sound aside, our hotel is beautiful; the rooms are big and everything is good! I would say it's one the best places I've stayed in so far.

We went down for breakfast after getting ready and took the 11:30 a.m. to our first practice. All skaters had two practices scheduled for Wednesday, in addition to the draw for the short programs and short dance. The bus makes two stops before getting to the rink: The first is to pick up the chaperones and coaches who stayed at the Hotel Bulwar and the second is to get the officials staying at Hotel Mercure.

The arena facility is called Lodowisko Tor-Tor, and the complex includes two rinks that are nice and cold. But nothing compares to the rink in Riga, Latvia.

Our first practice went well, although it's always a bit crowed when four teams that are not used to training with each other start to do their programs. It's almost like we're all fighting for the same spot on the ice; it can get scary at times.

After practice, we did some stretching and watched the ladies practice in the main rink while we waited for the major event of this day -- the draw!

As usual, Anthony is the designated person to draw for our team because I get way too nervous. But I'm there for moral support.

He did OK -- we skate fourth in the short dance!

Because we were tired and starving, we decided to head back to the hotel for some food and rest before our second practice in the main rink. When we started the second practice, we noticed that the ice was soft and felt like it was kind of melting; the feeling of pushing was awkward. Hopefully the ice will be harder by the start of competition.

We are still tired and need to get some energy back. When we got back to the hotel, we didn't have the energy to go and explore the old town.

We had a quick dinner in the skaters' lounge, and I went back to my room to write! 

Thursday is the beginning of competition for everyone except for the ice dancers. We still have one more official practice before the short dance, so the plan for tomorrow is to work out, practice and then go visit the beautiful medieval town!

Tuesday, Sept. 22

Travel days are always very exciting. As usual, my partner, Anthony Ponomarenko, and I went for our regular training sessions before heading to the airport later in the afternoon.

It wasn't easy to find a fast way to get to Poland.

As suggested by my best friend Chloe [Rose Lewis], I decided to time the duration of our journey to Poland. The timer started at 3 p.m. as we headed to Windsor Airport. (Windsor is a Canadian city just across the U.S. border, 30 minutes from Novi, Michigan.)

We were all in the car about to cross the Canadian border, and then the official started asking us questions...

"Where are you from?"

That seemingly simple question can get very complicated for us, because Anthony and his mom are from California but live in Novi, and I'm from Montreal and also live in Novi. We all hesitated and must have looked a little (or completely) lost in the eyes of the agent!

Then he asked, "Why are you going to Canada?

(Crickets chirping)

Can we really say that we're going to Canada to take a flight to Poland, or will that make us look bizarre? So, we had a moment there.

We finally made it to Windsor Airport. This is seriously the smallest airport in the world -- it has all of three gates! It didn't even have a Starbucks to keep us awake while we were waiting.

Our first flight, from Windsor to Toronto, was quick. After having dinner, we boarded our second flight, from Toronto to Copenhagen. That flight went well...plenty of room for our long legs. On the plane, we watched movies and the show Scandal, and caught up on sleep.

We arrived in Copenhagen at 10 a.m. Copenhagen's airport is smaller and nicer. We met our training mates, Simon-[Pierre Malette-Paque] and Payten [Howland], and our coach, Greg [Zuerlein], and hung out with them during our three-hour layover.

Our last flight, from Copenhagen to Gdansk, Poland, was only 40 minutes long. We all fell asleep as the plane was going up.

A nice surprise was waiting for us at the Gdansk airport. My roommate and training mate from two years ago, Justina Plutowska (she used to be a competitive ice dancer for Poland with Peter Gerber), was there working for her federation for the JGP! It was really nice to see her again.

The last part of our trip was a nice two-hour bus ride to Torun. I thought we'd never get there!

Total travel time: 21 hours.

We finally arrived at our hotel, Hotel Copernicus, got our credentials and went to our room to change. We came downstairs for a short workout, then ate, showered and got ready for our team meeting with Lori Dunn, our team leader.

Now, I'm here in my room. I'm exhausted, but it was a great day.

I can't wait for tomorrow, when we have unofficial practice and go walking in old town!

Good night from Torun.