Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Dramatic skates leave fans in awe

Hamilton laments restrictive IJS scoring; Shnapir happy to be spectator
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Scott Hamilton and Jeremy Abbott pose for the camera. -Sarah S. Brannen

It's hard to believe we've reached the last day of the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Saturday lived up to the hype, with electrifying winning performances by the dance, pairs and ladies gold medalists. Even better, Gracie Gold, and Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea were last to skate in their events, maximizing the drama.

From the stands, Paul Wylie was mesmerized by the last group of free dances. As the Shibutanis came down the ice, doing their amazing twizzle sequence, Wylie gasped, "I just got chills." And it was, indeed, goosebump-raising, the way the crowd leapt to their feet and went insane when the scores were posted.

Apples, bananas and warriors

Scott Hamilton always has plenty to say. Between the pairs and dance competitions Saturday, a question about what it's like to switch from competing to show skating got him going.

"I went from first steps on the ice to last competition in 16 years, and then I toured for 20," he said. "Tell me which is more fun? You get to be anything you want."

Hamilton loves watching the competition, of course, but he admits the rules can be chafing.

"This is a very restrictive environment," he said. "Under the international judging system, it's apples to apples; they need people to be similar so they can compare them. A banana is worthless! They only want apples. It's like, who's bringing a banana to an apple party?"

The 1984 Olympic champion is excited by the current crop of men's competitors, even the ones who won't be on the ice Sunday for various reasons.

"There's no one like Jeremy [Abbott]; there's no one like Jason Brown. You look at Joshua Farris, who's now coming into his own, it's kind of great to see somebody that has a great ability and now has kind of a trophy chest," Hamilton said.

Meryl Davis joined the conversation and talked about the intensity of competition.

"There's a desperation that the audience can feel," she said. "In competition, you have that warrior mentality; the audience can feel your desperation."


Kristi Yamaguchi was in the the house watching the men's free skate. She said she loved the ladies competition Saturday.

"That was a great event!" she said.

Asked to pick a favorite for the men, Yamaguchi wasn't sure.

"I'm thinking about the quads, what would be best for worlds," she said. "I really love Adam Rippon's skating, and it would be nice to see Nathan Chen get in there."


Many skaters who have recently competed at the U.S. championships were in the stands Saturday for the pairs free skate, including two-time U.S. pairs champion Simon Shnapir, U.S. silver medalist Felicia Zhang and Daniel Raad. Shnapir was happy to be sitting in a seat rather than skating on the ice.

"I'm very content sitting right here in the stands, on the other side of the wall, so to speak," Shnapir said.

Shnapir, who competed last year with DeeDee Leng, says he is now entirely in the mindset of a coach rather than a competitor.

"I still have a competitive heart, no matter what I do, whether I'm playing golf or anything, really," he said. "I'm still very competitive, but as far as skating goes, I've put my competitive career behind me. I'm totally at peace with my decision to move on and I'm much happier up here right now, actually, watching these guys work through these four-and-a -half-minute programs."

From a social standpoint, Shnapir is having fun attending the U.S. championships.

"I'm having a great time, seeing so many people that I haven't seen all year," he said. "It's fun to catch up. To experience this whole competition from this perspective is actually kind of cool. I actually prefer this, to be honest, after having done it for so long as a skater. It's a lot less stressful, that's for sure."


Curran Oi may be in 18th place after the short program, but it's kind of amazing that he's here at all. As we mentioned last November after the New England Regional Championships, Oi only trains four or five hours a week, and he has one lesson per week with coach Matt Savoie. Apart from that, Oi is just working toward a PhD in biophysics.


The trouble with going to the gym each morning in workout clothes and bed hair is the risk of running into someone gorgeous and famous on the elevator. After your trusty columnist got away with it all week, this morning the doors opened and in walked Sasha Cohen. Even on her way to catch a morning flight to snowy New York, she looked wonderful.

"I'm hoping to get to New York," she said. "I hope the flight is OK."

It goes without saying that the gym is off limits for photos. However, many people have been observed excelling at the special skater skill of texting while working out.

More fashion

Project Runway designer Nick Verreos and partner David Paul were in the stands for all the events from Friday through Sunday.

"We were in town for a home shopping show on Monday," Verreos said. "And I knew the championships were happening this weekend, and we just had to come."

We'll look forward to getting Verreos' thoughts on the on-ice fashion. He likes to see colorful costumes on the men, so let's hope he gets his wish. One of the groups in the short program was entirely decked out in gray and black.

Olympic champion sightings: Holding at seven. We heard that Dorothy Hamill was here and, of course, we hope to see her.

Michelle Kwan sightings: One! Kwan presented the ladies awards last night, wearing a cute dress and great shoes.

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