Ice Network

Karelian Hot Pot: Brown's grace second to none

U.S. hopes to land two pairs spots in PyeongChang; Cizeron cuts hand
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After delivering a beautiful short program, Jason Brown appears to have an even greater hop in his step as he prepares for Saturday's highly anticipated free skate. -Getty Images

Figure skating is a crazy sport. But it might be perfect for you if you wish to explore the moon, have your facial hair removed during an online live stream or become immortalized in dots, among other interesting things.

From broadcast booth to judges panel

If you can find your way to the backyard of Hartwall Arena and make your way around a pile of TV equipment boxes, you might be able to see a blue-colored container. This is the volunteers lounge, where everyone with an event credential gets to enjoy their well-deserved meals each day.

Queuing for lunch with volunteers Friday, we spotted the ever-popular Kiira Korpi, the three-time European medalist who is one of the official ambassadors of the event. She is also working as a commentator for Finnish television.

We managed to exchange a few words with the busy Finn while scooping salad onto paper plates. Korpi has another TV appearance later this week, as she is a member of the judging panel in this season's Finnish Dancing with the Stars program. The show runs on a different TV channel than worlds, so she also needs to replace the sign around her neck.

"Oh yes, I'm a turncoat," Korpi said with a laugh. "But luckily that won't happen until Sunday. The producers of the show prefer us judges to not see the contestants before the live broadcast."

The schedule suits Korpi perfectly. Dancing with the Stars is broadcast Sunday evening, so she will probably only need to skip the gala exhibition because of the switch from skating to ballroom dancing. 

Complete package

The men's short program pitted the "quad musketeers" against the skating "packagers," who may not possess an array of quads but who do hold command in the areas of speed, edges, transitions and composition. The final scores seemed to give the advantage to the "packagers" Thursday in Helsinki, as Javier Fernández and Patrick Chan both cracked the 100-point bar.

"That's the question of the year!" Fernández said about how each program is scored. "The judges know what is a good skate or a good transition or interpretation. They value that, in a different way from the people, who don't have it. It's the right thing to do when you can separate technical elements from the skating itself.

"If you can create something and combine both, then you should be the world champion," he continued. "But if you have great jumps and you don't have the skating, then you shouldn't be. If we are losing skating, then we lose everything. Patrick (Chan) says he only has one quad in his short program, but everybody in this room knows how good he can skate. When he gets it working, then everybody is happy, because it's fair."

To the moon and back

Why did coach Alexei Mishin take his student, Carolina Kostner, all the way to Reykjavik, Iceland, to compete at the Nordics last month? Italy is not a Nordic country, at least the last time I checked.

The Nordics, or the Nordic Figure Skating Championships, is a yearly competition with a history reaching as far back as 1919. Originally, the event was for skaters from the five Nordic countries: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. In the past few years, the competition has been opened to other countries as well in a Nordics Open format.

Now, to 2017. The Russian coach offered quite a simple explanation for the trip to Iceland.

"I haven't been in the moon, and I wanted to research the moon landscape," Mishin said.

I thought that maybe it had something to do with the competitive strategy leading up to worlds!

Well, I'm glad I asked him and got this matter straightened out.

Point taken

Not being an official member of the German team, Aliona Savchenko's husband, Liam Cross, watched his wife's practices from the stands wearing a chaperone pass. He is a professional artist and illustrator who, in the past couple of years, has been inspired by figure skating for his artwork. No surprise there.

"For my colored works I use professional color pencils, and in my pen work I use a style called pointillism," he told icenetwork.

"Everything is completely made of dots," he continued. "So my skating works in pen are all dots, which takes 60 hours to do a piece the size of an A4."

If an A4 sheet of artwork takes 60 hours to finish, how long would it take to create a life-size figure skater, complete with all the necessary sequins and sparkles?

Well, Cross works out of his own art studio in Oberstdorf, Germany, and as for larger paintings, those carry a few limitations.

"I don't paint so often because I don't have much space," Cross said. "I work with the space I have and do a lot of small illustrations."

Coming from outside figure skating, a new world opened to Cross since he was dragged into the sport a few years ago. He often travels to competitions together with Bruno Massot's girlfriend to support the skaters. Cross and Savchenko were engaged in 2015 and married in August 2016.

Cross says he was surprised at one thing in particular with figure skating.

"One of the first things I noticed was how political everything seems to be," he said. "At times, it doesn't seem to be fair. But what can you do? They do the best that they can, and they continue to pursue their career alongside the politics."

Samples of Liam Cross' art can be found on his website,

Cuts and needles

In the dressing room corridor inside Hartwall Arena, a costume repair team is available for emergency situations.

Sometimes they may only have 10 or so seconds to fix the costume before the skater enters the ice, which is why their first aid equipment -- consisting of needle, thread and safety pins -- hangs on their neck straps.

Canadian ice dancer Scott Moir was one of the clients earlier this week. The seams of his trousers for the short dance were ripped at practice and needed immediate attention. Once the problem was fixed, he and Tessa Virtue went on to win the short dance, breaking their own record in the process.

Stitching is also done in the nearby medical room. Moir's training mate and main competitor, Guillaume Cizeron of France, suffered a cut to his hand in the short dance and was taken to the doctor for medical attention. A bit later, he showed up at the small medal ceremony and press conference.

Despite needing two stitches, Cizeron says he's good to go moving forward.

One or two spots?

The discussion went on late Thursday night after the pairs free skate: Would the 10th-place finish by Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim open two spots for Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang?

Considering that Haven Denney and Brandon Frazer didn't qualify for the free skate, Team USA totaled 28 places (10 + 18, according to Rule N. 378), which should entitle the team to two spots. But Rule N. 400 states that the number of entries in the pairs division must be 16 -- no more. So, the number of spots actually depends on how many pairs from other countries qualify.

For the time being, Team USA has qualified only one pair for the Olympics, unless of course other countries neglect to use all of their entries.

A lesson in excellence

Was it the phenomenal short program score that gave Jason Brown some extra pep in his step Friday morning?

Perhaps, and his practice for the free was nothing short of stellar. In less than a minute, he successfully landed his quad toe, a triple axel-triple toe combination, another triple axel and a triple loop. The generosity Brown gives himself, along with the heart and soul he puts into each element -- even in practice -- is phenomenal.

Every one of his jumps was crystal clear.

Brown's quality is simply the best type of quality!

Goodbye, moustache

After completing Friday's short dance, it seemed that most of the questions addressed to Canadian ice dancer Paul Poirier were about his moustache -- and many wanted to test it to see if it was real. Earlier this week, Poirier announced that he'd be shaving his moustache, and invited everyone to tune in on Facebook Live to watch it happen.

But not before the free dance.

"I'll just trim it on the sides a little bit, but it will still be there tomorrow," Poirier promised.

According to Piper Gilles and Poirier's Facebook page, the final goodbye to the moustache will be said on Sunday between the gala exhibition and the closing banquet, at 10:45 p.m. ET, to be exact.