Ice Network

Inside Edge: Munger cherishes 'I, Tonya' experience

Dolensky keeps expectations in check; Oi balances skating with school
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Eastern Sectionals competitor Heidi Munger spent four weeks in Atlanta earlier this year as one of Margot Robbie's two skating doubles for the movie 'I, Tonya.'. -Sarah S. Brannen

With the 2018 Eastern Sectional Championships taking place in Boxborough, Massachusetts, Sarah S. Brannen stopped in each day to catch up with skaters and coaches.

Dolenksy loves Dallas

Tim Dolensky won the senior men's event at the 2018 Eastern Sectional Championships by nearly 45 points, performing his new Ryan Jahnke-choreographed free skate to "Faux" by Novo Amor and Ed Tullett. Dolensky said he has been working on getting a consistent quad salchow, but he opted to leave the jump out of his programs last week.

"The whole year I've had a little bit of tendinitis on and off in my left ankle, so I had to be careful how many quads I try each day," Dolensky said. "It's kind of a constant balance between wanting to work on it and be consistent, and keeping my body healthy."

Dolensky won the Philadelphia Summer International in August, but things went awry at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City, where he finished sixth.

"With what I had to do, I couldn't afford that this year," Dolensky said. "I learned something in particular at that competition, and I'm taking that forward with me."

After competing at Skate America last year and Skate Canada in 2015, Dolensky wasn't selected for a Grand Prix event this fall.

"It was a little bit frustrating; I did feel a little left out," he admitted. "I feel like I'm always on the bubble. I feel like if I had had another chance, I think I would have done really well, but it wasn't in the cards."

Despite the setback, Dolensky said he's in a good place now. In March, he moved to Texas to train with Darlene and Peter Cain.

"I love training in Dallas. It's a really great atmosphere," Dolensky said. "My overall outlook is better."

Going forward, Dolensky has a realistic goal for the U.S. championships: to finish higher than he has in the past (he was seventh each of the last two years).

"Realistically, I know the Olympics are not really in the cards for me," he said. "But I would love to finish well enough to be sent to worlds or Four Continents. I feel like those are more possible. And I'm going to keep going next year. I'm kind of taking it one year at a time."

Munger on film

Senior ladies competitor Heidi Munger spent four weeks in Atlanta earlier this year as one of two skating doubles for actress Margot Robbie. Robbie plays Tonya Harding in the movie I, Tonya.

"They had two of us, just because there was a lot of filming and long hours," Munger said after the short program in Boxborough. "They would tell you, 'Get your skates on, we need you now!' And then, two hours later…"

Robbie is almost six inches taller than Harding, which made the tall and willowy Munger a good match for her.

"They ended up not using me for many of the jumping scenes, because the body discrepancy was just a little too much," Munger said. "I'm actually more similar to Margot's measurements. It was kind of scary how similar the costumes looked to [Harding's] actual costumes. For the hair, we had a wig. It took, like, two hours just to get the cap on to cover your hair, and then the wig, and then to style it."

Filming took place during the 2017 U.S. Championships, for which Munger was the first alternate following a fifth-place finish at Easterns.

"I was having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it was definitely worth it," Munger said. "It was a different way to view the sport, to take what I've spent so much time doing and do something different with it."

Munger will go to New York City to see a pre-screening of the movie Nov. 29.

"I'm super excited!" she said.  

Oi finds balance

Curran Oi is still pursuing a PhD in biophysics at Yale, although the direction of his incomprehensible-to-the-layperson research has shifted.

"I'm still in the same department, the molecular biochemistry and biophysics department," Oi said. "The way people generally do things in my department is, you work on a thesis project and basically try to do a lot of good science and try to publish the papers, and you put those together into a thesis. So, the thesis isn't really the focus -- (the focus is) more on doing good science."

Oi makes trips to Boston for lessons with Matt Savoie, who has coached him since the skater returned to competition at Easterns three years ago.

"I'm not skating as much as I should be, maybe," he said. "I've been doing four or five hours a week; I've never been able to get past that."

Oi qualified for the U.S. championships in 2016, but this year he ended up in fifth place at sectionals.

He said the balance skating brings to his life is more important than the results he achieves in the sport. 

"I'm much happier when I skate than when I don't skate," he said. "Sometimes I've got a very busy week in lab, and I'll just not skate for a week, but then I start to feel kind of worn out very quickly. There's a lot of burnout in PhD programs, I feel like, but I think I've mostly avoided that by having skating as a constant distraction."

Double duty

Julia Biechler and her partner, Damian Dodge, won the senior dance event in Boxborough. Biechler then competed in junior ladies the next day, trying for the rare double. Competing at the U. S. championships in singles and pairs doesn't happen often; competing in singles and dance is even more uncommon. (Charlie White pulled it off in 2006, winning the junior dance title and finishing ninth in junior men.) It takes an astonishing amount of work.

"On a daily basis, I train about four hours for dance and then I train about four, 4 1/2 hours of freestyle, so I'm on the ice about eight hours total every day," Beichler said. "If I'm ever competing two events in the same day, it can be a roller coaster of emotions, because you get your adrenaline all the way up for one, and then it goes all the way down, and then you have to get it all the way up for the second event. I think I welcome it!"

Biechler just missed making it to the U.S. championships in singles this year, finishing fifth. She plans to continue training in both disciplines, though, and will move up to senior ladies next year.

Savary injury

Emmanuel Savary finished fourth in senior men's to qualify for the U.S. championships. His free skate included a quad salchow, although he struggled with some other jumps. He has been dealing with a left ankle injury and said he hadn't competed since June.

"I had tendinitis in my ankle, and then I sprained the part in the front, and then I slightly tore my ligaments," he said. "I was off the ice for about a month, and then I got back on, and I still wasn't feeling great, so I was off for another week or two.

"I'm a lot better now, so I'm looking forward to nationals."

Savary said he plans to include both a quad salchow and a quad toe in his free skate in San Jose.

Busy coach

All of the teams in the final group of junior dance had the same coach: Alexei Kiliakov. He looked cool and calm, in spite of holding lots of pairs of skate guards and spending the event walking back and forth from the skaters entrance to the kiss and cry for each team -- and he should have been cool, with his teams finishing one-two-three.

Was it hard having all the skaters in one group?

"No, easy!" he said, laughing.

"He has good stamina," second-place finisher Ian Somerville said.