Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Miner wants to enjoy experience

Rippon changes hair color (again); Zakrajsek drops and gives 'em 25
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Adam Rippon (left) and Ross Miner after practice. (We see you, Marissa Castelli.) -Sarah S. Brannen

With the start of the senior events at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday, the hotel is full of famous skaters coming and going to practice, and the energy level is starting to peak. Many of these long-time members of Team USA were seeing and greeting each other for the first time at the championships, laughing and hugging and sharing stories.

As the men came in from their practices, Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran were sitting with choreographer Julie Marcotte, waiting to catch the bus to the arena for the pairs short program warmup. On Wednesday, Tran headed out to practice with his bag but without his skates...kind of an important accessory.

As they headed out the door, Ross Miner called out, "Got your skates?"

Sweethearts

Miner is happy that he and his girlfriend, senior lady Heidi Munger, are competing at the championships together for the first time. (Well, not together -- they're in separate events). The two have been dating for about two years.

"It's her first nationals. I'm really happy for her," Miner said. "She's really supportive, and it's fun to train with her. We work hard together."

Despite training together, Miner doesn't try to advise Munger on her skating.

"She doesn't really listen to me with that kind of stuff," Miner said, laughing. "I'm not her coach. Every time I'm like, 'You could keep your back up a little more on that takeoff,' she's like, 'Shut up.'"

Miner seems calm and confident heading into Friday's short program.

"I had to deal with an injury for a little bit, but I've been able to train really well and I'm in no pain, so it's awesome," he said.

Asked about what it's like to be one of the veterans in the event, Miner grew thoughtful.

"The last time I was here (in Saint Paul), I was novice," he said. "In some ways it gives me more of an appreciation for it; at some point in time, I'm not going to do any more nationals. When I was younger, it was an indefinite number: I'll always do nationals! I want to enjoy it a little bit more now, have a good time out there."

Miner will be competing in the free skate on his 25th birthday. Seven years ago, he won the U.S. junior title on his 18th birthday.

"I believe the new junior men's champion did that yesterday," he said, correctly observing that Tomoki Hiwatashi won the junior title on his 16th birthday last night.

Note to junior men: Be born in late January.

California boy

Being from California, Shotaro Omori doesn't even own a warm winter jacket.

"I've been trying to stay out of the outside as much as possible," he said. "I've just been trying to run to the bus, run out of the bus. It's very, very cold. California winters are really actually pretty nice."

Asked whether he was excited or nervous to compete, Omori said, "Both. I think it's good to be nervous because it motivates you a little bit more."

Drama

The draws for senior events are seeded, with the skaters who were byed through to the championships drawing for the last two groups. Max Aaron drew first and picked 18, and then Adam Rippon drew and got, wait for it, 19 -- last to skate. Rippon did a big pretend gasp and said, "Drama!" (which was funny, because that's what everyone was thinking). Nathan Chen wasn't at the draw, and the person who drew for him pretended to be nervous about the pressure.

"Drama!" Rippon said again.

Hair

Since the summer, Rippon's hair has varied in color, from pewter to silvery fuschia and CrystOmint blue. But last week, he dyed it a soft chestnut brown, which is striking and attractive.

"I had an appointment booked," Rippon said, "And I was like, we'll see what goes down. You know, celebrities dye their hair all colors, but when the Oscars and Golden Globes roll around, they go classic for the red carpet. And nationals are the closest thing we have to those events."

"And NHK!" Miner interjected.

Rippon said that the hairdresser had to dye his hair orange first, to make sure the blue wouldn't show through the brown.

"I miss the color," Rippon went on, "But I really like this. My real hair color is a sort of dusky blond, and I've never had dark brown before."

Push-ups

As he famously did once before with Rachael Flatt, coach Tom Zakrajsek bet his student Rebecca Peng that if she did a clean free skate in the junior ladies event, he would do 25 push-ups in the kiss and cry. And she did (just about), so he did. Asked whether he had any bets with his senior-level students, he said, "Not that I know of."

Fashionistas

Drew and I are watching the clothes, of course, noting candidates for the best-dressed list. Ashley Wagner and Rippon did not disappoint, looking very put-together even coming from and going to practice. Wagner was wearing a chic fawn coat.

"It's Zara," she said. "I've had it for years. It's my prize possession."

Asked about Rippon's new hair color, Wagner said she approves.

"He's a new man," she said. "He looks like GQ, doesn't he?"

Perennial best-dressed fave Mark Mitchell said he has been focusing on shoes of late. He wore a particularly stunning pair of ankle boots with little gold buckles on Tuesday, and ended up in the medical area for treatment of a stunning-shoe-related injury.

"These hurt!" Mitchell said. "Men's shoes aren't supposed to hurt! I know women always complain that their shoes kill their feet."

One skater we know is still miffed that he didn't win for "Best Use of Purple by a Man" three years ago.

"I'm still bitter about it," he said.

What can we say? These things happen.

The level of everyone's looks always ramps up as the weekend approaches...we will have our eyes open!

Olympic champion sightings: 2. Tara Lipinski was in the arena Wednesday afternoon, and Brian Boitano got in yesterday and has been out and about, including an appearance on local television talking about, of course, food.

Keep calm everyone, and carry on!

Follow The Inside Edge on Twitter at @SarahandDrew.