Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Dolensky delivers in the moment

Castelli's dress gets passed around; Oi off to Easterns; Pairs go rowing
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After a dismal short program at Skate Canada, Timothy Dolensky picked himself up, dusted himself off -- and gave the performance of his life in the free skate. -Getty Images

Tim Dolensky was very excited to move to the big time and compete in his first Grand Prix, Skate Canada, last weekend.

"It was really cool," he said by phone Wednesday morning. "The stage that you're on is way bigger than a senior B; it's similar to nationals, but in a way it's bigger than nationals, because the international community is watching."

Dolensky enjoyed the chance to meet some of his U.S. teammates, including Ashley Wagner and the Shibutanis (Maia and Alex). He was particularly impressed at the number people who made the trip to Lethbridge, a remote city in Alberta.

"I was struck by how many Japanese fans were there," he said. "They just love skating so much, and they want to see everybody do well."

Once it was time to skate, things didn't go so well at first. Dolensky had problems with all the jumps in his short program and found himself in 11th place going into the free skate.

"Right after the short I was mad, and I was like that all the way into the long," he said. "I was really disappointed that night and even into the morning, kind of having a pity party for myself."

Warming up for the 40-minute practice the morning of the free skate, Dolensky let the music take over.

"I had my headphones on with really good pump-me-up songs, and right then I decided, I don't want to be remembered like this. This is not how I want my first Grand Prix to end," he said. "So I made a mental decision right then and there that I was going to fight. The practice was really good, and when I went into the long I was mad, but I think I channeled the anger in the right way."

Dolensky delivered a clean free skate with eight triple jumps, starting with a superb triple axel-triple toe combination. He received nearly 84 points for the technical mark, and finished sixth in the free skate in a very tough field.

"I remember thinking one specific coherent thought before my first triple axel: that I was at the crossroads of my career," he said. "I remember thinking, I'm going to change it and it starts right here. After I did the axel combo, there was no more coherent thought…I was kind of in a trance."

Dolensky kept his free skate, to Anže Rozman's orchestral Chopin medley, from last season. A composer himself, Dolensky has skated to music of his own composition in the past, and he reached out to Rozman to let him know how well the program had gone.

"I Facebooked the composer, and he wrote me back this morning," he said. "He was so excited that I used it and said if I ever wanted to use any more of his compositions, to feel free."

Busy dress

In the short program at Skate Canada, Wagner dazzled in a fierce black dress, which actually belongs to Marissa Castelli. Castelli originally wore the dress, designed by Freida B figure skating apparel, for her short program in 2011, and she now uses it for shows. When Wagner needed help with her outfit, Castelli stepped in.

"Her dress was not ready…so I told her I can loan her mine," Castelli said. "I told Ashley I feel like some part of me won the short program."

The dress had another chance to shine when Castelli wore it in the exhibition a couple of days later. It has really been getting around; Kirsten Moore-Towers wore the very same dress for her short program, with partner Michael Marinaro, at the Souvenir Georges-Éthier competition in Quebéc in September.

Castelli and Wagner stayed with each other at Skate Canada, and were joined by a third roommate: Ryan Gosling, in the form of pillows. Castelli found pillowcases emblazoned with a lifesize photo of the actor's face online.

"I was joking with Ashley about them and then I decided to buy them," she said. "Who wouldn't want to wake up next to Ryan Gosling?"

The pillows were realistic enough to startle the skaters.

"It was funny because we would walk around the corner and get freaked out that someone was in the room," Castelli said.

Oi, Oi

Last month, Curran Oi made the trip from Yale to compete at the New England Regional Championships in Massachusetts. Oi is working on his Ph.D in biochemistry and biophysics, but he still finds time to skate. Oi said he has been training 4-5 hours a week, including a weekly lesson with coach Matt Savoie.

"I thought he did great!" Savoie said. "He has so many more demands on his schedule, and to be able to keep up his skills and find time to train is so admirable. He performed really well today."

Oi won the senior men's event and plans to compete at the Eastern Sectional Championships next. He didn't include a triple axel in his programs, but most of his other triple jumps scored positive Grades of Execution, and his triple lutz-half loop-triple salchow got a big hand from the audience. Should he finish in the top four at Easterns, Oi would return to the U.S. championships for the first time since 2009, when he finished in sixth place.

"I'm glad that I came here and did it, and felt pretty good, but I know what I have to work on," Oi said. "I'm skating better than last year at Easterns, so I'm happy about that. This feels like a step in the right direction. I'm starting to feel more solid."

In addition to competing in a U.S. qualifying event, Oi was preparing for a qualifying exam at Yale and working on his skating statistics website, statsonice.com.

"I'm pretty stressed, but if I get through the exam, everything's great," he said. "I love it there (at Yale). Stats on Ice is going well; I'm finding enough time to update results."

Pairs in an eight

As it approaches Boston, the Charles River is usually bedecked with crews rowing racing shells along several miles of its length. If you looked closely the other day, you might have noticed that one shell was full of figure skaters.

Pairs coach Bobby Martin read about Community Rowing in Olympic Coach Magazine and realized it was right down the river from him. Located in Brighton, Massachusetts, the center is dedicated to making rowing accessible to all, regardless of ability or experience.

"I always romanticized about rowing on the Charles since I've been growing up," Martin said. "I saw that Community Rowing did corporate outings; I'm always looking for ways to inspire our athletes and take them out of their comfort zone."

Martin took four of his pairs to the team-building event.

"We had eight athletes, so they were the perfect group to fit in a shell," he said. "Within an hour, they were on the dock learning how to get in the boat. With their fitness level, and they're used to being coached, they picked it up quickly. None of them had rowed before, but I think they all want to now."

"It was so fun," skater Allison Timlen said. "We picked it up pretty fast. I'm a very adventurous person, so anything outside of the box I love to learn."

The partners all sat together, with Alexandria Shaughnessy and Jimmy Morgan leading the boat.

"We talked a lot about rowing being a very full-body sport, starting from your feet and your legs," Timlen said. "They had us do some drills two at a time or four at a time, so we would focus on the unison of the four of us. It was a lot about watching the person in front of you and adjusting to their timing."

Timlen used to compete as a singles skater, finishing 10th in junior ladies at the 2012 U.S. Championships. After dealing with some injuries, and going through hip and shoulder surgery, she and Sean Marshinski teamed up and plan to compete in junior pairs this season.

"Our focus for the season is all about learning," Timlen said. "We want to learn to be a team, to work together and have fun. I'm very, very excited, I've been waiting a long time for this."

Timlen and Marshinski train with Martin as part of his new Skate Pairs program. Along with coach Carrie Wall and trainer Mike Cook, the team has several hours of pairs-only ice every weekday at the Nashoba Valley Olympia in Boxboro, Massachusetts.