Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Ge toughs through injury at worlds

Fashion aficionado battles ankle pain, personal loss; Rabbitt hops to Japan
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Misha Ge said that he didn't finish working on his short program costume until five hours before his flight left for Boston. -Sarah S. Brannen

Last year, Misha Ge had a dream season, culminating in a sixth-place finish at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships. This season was more like a nightmare for the popular skater. He struggled with a left ankle injury, caused and exacerbated by working on quad jumps. Ge's grandfather also died, bringing the warm-hearted skater and his family a lot of sorrow.

Speaking with me in between the pairs and ladies free skates at the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships last Saturday, Ge said his grandfather was the first skater in his family. Ge, who is coached by his father, Jun, spends part of the year training in China, where his grandmother still lives. However, he spent the last several months training in Los Angeles with Frank Carroll's group.

"We spent probably three months just on basics, to make the body much stronger," Ge said. "We even canceled a few competitions just to work on quads. Finally, we did them; we land the quad toe and it looks good, but then, after a while, the inside part of my ankle starts feeling some pain and then slowly it became more and more painful, like even on triple jump takeoffs."

Not only was the quad causing pain, but Ge's triple axel became a problem.

"Because triple axels have a twist motion, it started hurting even more than quad toe," Ge said. "I had some strain in the inside muscle, and the layer between the joints was a bit worn out. I don't know what we haven't done -- so many vitamins, pills, pain relievers. I was skating on Advil. It was not that big of an injury; it's small, but it caused a lot of difficulties."

Ge withdrew from the 2016 Four Continents Championships, and he wasn't sure he would make it to worlds until about a week prior to the competition. Even after arriving in Boston, he didn't know whether he would be able to skate more than the short program.

"The life things, the training things, they all get together. It's really hard to keep going and move forward, especially when you're injured," Ge said. "So it was really tough from all aspects. It feels like problem after problem this year -- it's like, harder than the Olympics."

In the end, Ge skated two very good programs, finishing 15th. Many skaters in the audience were particularly impressed with his Rachmaninoff  short program, which he choreographed himself. However, even his costume, featuring many long ruffles in different shades of blue, was a source of stress. Ge changed his program two months before worlds, and the hand-painted costume wasn't finished until five hours before he got on the plane for Boston.

"We were using the hair dryer to dry it quicker," he said. "We finished around 1 a.m., and my flight was already at 6. Crazy! Thank God we made it in time."

Ge was very involved with the design, which he said was inspired during November's Rostelecom Cup.

"We were on the bus at night for the free program," he said. "I put my headphones on, I closed my eyes and I turned the classics on shuffle. After 15 minutes, I opened my eyes and we were passing Moskva River; there are beautiful bridges and lights reflected on the waves. There was a beautiful moon, too. In my ears were Chopin and Rachmaninoff. So, I wanted people to feel like [they were] in front of a lake, playing beautiful piano music and watching the moon."

Aesthetics of all kinds are important to Ge, from his choreography, to his costumes to the clothes he wears.

"I always try to experiment with fashion," he said. "Same with the art I'm doing, with choreography, with my gala number. I'm just a person that like never stops creating."

He puts great care into selecting all of his outfits, which earned him the best-dressed award from the Inside Edge at worlds. (We had planned to go shopping together for a feature article, but there wasn't enough time, unfortunately.)

"I try to keep it nice, clean, classy," Ge said of his outfits. "I'm multi-continental, worldwide. I love so many different kinds of fashion. I like Hollywood fashion, I like Korean fashion, I love European fashion, Japanese fashion -- they are so different!"

Ge says he looks at style and design and doesn't just go for expensive designer labels.

"I prefer expensive looks on the cheap price," he said. "Which gives people a very nice look, but you're still smart and saving money. You can go to places like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and those places. You go there, you might find some unique looks for low prices, then you're win-win!"

Ge turned up for the closing banquet at worlds in a white brocade jacket over a black shirt and pants, with a white hat -- very, very 1920s, as per the theme of the party. He posted a lot of pictures on Instagram, many with members of the Russian team, whom he knows well.

"The Russian girls went shopping by themselves -- they didn't ask me," he said, laughing. "They bought some leather bags, and I was like, 'Girls, that's overpriced. That can be discounted. Have you been to that store? Have you gone there?' And they were to me like, 'Why didn't you tell us earlier?' They were really sad, and they were like, 'That's it, after competition, you're coming with us. We need some shoes and leather bags.' They will find the time. For shopping, girls will find the time."

Rabbitt in Japan

Sean Rabbitt's love of Japan comes to him from all directions, starting with his grandfather, who adored the country. When Rabbitt and his brother were little, they got into Pokémon, and were particularly fascinated by the Japanese Pokémon collection of a boy from Japan who lived across the street. Rabbitt's brother eventually married a woman from Japan.

Rabbitt studied Japanese at school and has kept on studying it on his own, for five or six years now. He got the chance to put it to practical use this week, teaching a skating seminar in Nikko, a couple of hours north of Tokyo.

"It's like Lake Arrowhead, except it's not as elite. It's really cool," Rabbitt said during a Skype chat Wednesday. "A group of coaches and skaters from the Utsunomiya Figure Skating Club had been to California, to the rink my brother works at. After my success in Canada (Rabbitt won bronze at the Autumn Classic International), they asked if I'd be willing to come out and do a seminar for them."

This is Rabbitt's seventh trip to Japan; he plans to spend about 10 days sightseeing, in addition to the four-day seminar. He is working with 26 skaters with a wide range of abilities, from single jumps to triple lutzes.

"This is the first time I've been able to teach internationally," said Rabbitt, who admitted being surprised at how well his teaching in Japanese is going.

"If I'm having a conversation about food or the weather, I can do that, but I've never had to put my Japanese to the test with skating-related terms. I was a little nervous at first," he said. "I have new respect for any coach that's come from another country and taught me. But I've been able to communicate about 90 percent of what I need to say, and the rest I can demonstrate."

Rabbitt has been using creative analogies when he doesn't know how to explain technical or physical things.  

"When it gets to nitty-gritty things, like explaining how to put more pressure into the ice, that got more difficult," he said. "But I found that using food terminology helps. Like when I wanted them to pull in their stomachs, I said, 'Think like you're eating ramen, sucking in,' and everyone got it!"

Quality

The sizeable audience watching the opening ceremonies for the 2016 World Championships on March 30 probably noticed a high level of skating, well above the norm for such a production. Some very familiar names performed, including U.S. ice dance pewter medalists Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus, two-time U.S. bronze medalist ice dancers Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre, former senior men's competitor Wesley Campbell, and other national and sectional competitors as well.

For most of the program, three skaters portrayed bronze statues on platforms. They were impossible to recognize through the makeup, but former competitor and judge Kathaleen Kelly Cutone was one of them.

Adam Blake choreographed the show, Melanie Lambert directed and Kate McSwain was the assistant director. Nathan Birch and Tim Murphy choreographed the all-men number, and Doug Webster created a piece in which the women portrayed flowers. The show ended with a rowdy group number to the Dropkick Murphy's "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," which got the crowd very revved up. The group reprised the number to open the exhibition on Sunday.

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