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On the edge with Sarah and Drew

With guest blogger Jeremy Abbott

Sarah and Drew cover Rockne Brubaker in stickers at a local Chuck E. Cheese.
Sarah and Drew cover Rockne Brubaker in stickers at a local Chuck E. Cheese. (Drew Meekins)

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By Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(02/21/2008) - It's time for another installment from icenetwork.com's blogsters, Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins. This week, they get a little blogging assistance from Jeremy Abbott.

Mini Hamburgers in Korea

We've been flitting around the country since the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, to New York and Los Angeles and back to Boston. We didn't make it to Korea for the Four Continents Championships, but we watched parts of it live -- the parts that weren't on at 3 a.m. -- and we were blown away by Daisuke Takahashi's record-breaking performance. This week's guest blogger Jeremy Abbott shared a few random observations:

"The rink had a great atmosphere. The practice rink was actually below the competition rink, like in the basement, but it was cool! The competition rink had a massive blue wall on the 'kiss and cry' side. I felt like I was at a pool.

"The food in the dining hall was good, but lunch and dinner were the same every day. There were only so many mini hamburgers one can eat. There was a Starbucks half a block from the hotel, so I got to feed my addiction daily!

"The driving was ridiculous ..."

We're not completely sure what he means by the last comment, but it's possible that this blog entry by Kim Navarro might cast a little light on the subject.

Stars On (and off) Ice

The new Stars on Ice tour is underway, and while the "stars" aren't exactly new, the show is. This year's version, which we caught in Anaheim, California, is very theatrical and flows cohesively from one number to the next. It has as its theme, a variety show with plenty of props, and lots of interviews on the Jumbotron. Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon's incredibly sexy and passionate number was a highlight. Sasha Cohen did a mesmerizing program with Lauzon, John Zimmerman and Michael Weiss in which she played the part of a ballerina or music box doll, wearing toe shoes rather than skates. The men carried her in all sorts of interesting dance and pair lifts. They also dragged her on the ice, which sounds weird but looked intriguing. It was more of an acrobatic piece than a skating number, but it was refreshing and really different. Ilia Kulik tried an impressive triple Axel in his program. Ten years after his Olympic win, he doesn't disappoint! Yuka Sato was great too, landing a beautiful triple loop and triple Lutz.

Lots of stars were seen off the ice as well. Skaters in the audience included a very glam Katia Gordeeva, Jason Dungjen, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand (with their son Jack) and Evan Lysacek, who was looking diva-esque in, of course, all black. We also met Jef Billings, who directed the show and designed the super-sparkly costumes.

New York

Shortly after the championships, Sarah went to New York for the Chinese New Year (is anyone else still writing "Monkey" instead of "Rat" on their checks?), but she didn't see any skating. She was schmoozing with children's book luminaries, including the editor of Harry Potter (a fervent Johnny Weir fan -- the editor, not Harry) and Linda Sue Park, winner of the 2002 Newbery Medal, who couldn't stop talking about the men's competition, in particular Johnny, Evan and The Tie.

Meanwhile, Drew's partner search continued, so it's time for:

"The Pair Skater"

Episode 2

Drew writes: When I left off two weeks ago, I was just beginning the search for a new partner. I'll pick up the story at the end of November, when I decided to go to Colorado for Thanksgiving. It was a spur of the moment trip -- I had just broken up with Julia, and I wasn't sure what direction to go. Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches at the Broadmoor, emailed me and invited me to come. Also, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin are two of my best friends and they train there. I wanted to see them, and I wanted to get away from Boston for a while too.

I had thought of Colorado immediately because it's such a big training center for pairs right now. I'm lucky enough to know Dalilah from international competitions, and I have a lot of respect for her coaching. Of course her teams have performed really well, too! Caitlin and John had also recently gone through the experience of looking for a new partner, so it was good to spend some time with them and get their perspective on things.

It wasn't a tryout trip; I really just wanted to get away and I also wanted to check out what life would be like living and skating in Colorado. I had some freestyle lessons with Dalilah, and I borrowed Keauna McLaughlin for some lifts, death spirals and spins, so I could learn Dalilah's technique. Her teams are particularly known for their great lifts and twists -- Dalilah teaches her girls to take responsibility for a lot of the workload in lifts and twists, and it helps a lot. It was really fun and interesting for me to work with another coach after having the same one for so long.

The whole Colorado crew went to Chuck E. Cheese one night to celebrate Stephanie Kuban's 21st birthday. I suppose its not the most conventional way to celebrate a 21st birthday, but we all enjoyed the good clean fun by engaging in highly competitive ski ball games, and by covering Rockne Brubaker with stickers.

Back in Boston, I skated every day, and kept skating pairs with Tuffy Hough. Actually, I've been skating pairs with a lot of people at the Skating Club of Boston, just for fun. Juliana Cannarozzo and I practice side-by-side jumps, Ross Miner and I have a pretty bangin' death spiral, and Mark Mitchell and I are working on our pair camel spin.

In January, I spent a week at the University of Delaware working with Jeff DiGregorio. I had two tryouts in Delaware, one with a girl who had pair experience, and one with a girl who didn't. A tryout with a pair girl and a tryout with a freestyle skater who wants to do pairs are very different things. If the girl had done pairs, we'd have to evaluate what we're like together as a pair team, and see whether our timing would work together. Sometimes timing just doesn't work and it's too hard to change it.

With a non-pair skater, I'd be looking at the potential in the easier elements. I'd be looking for someone who jumps really well, with a really pretty style and good skating quality. A girl with no experience can be a good thing! Building our timing from scratch would make it much less likely for us to have timing issues.

On the way back to Boston, former pair skater Ron Biancosino and our friend Taylor Toth drove with me to New York City. We spent the night gabbing with Tim Goebel about math (yes, mathematics!), and life in the city.

I had one day at home before I left for Saint Paul. I actually had another tryout during the week of championships. Less than a week after I got back from Saint Paul, I was off to Los Angeles. But that's enough for now... to be continued in Episode 3!

Until then, stay vertical,

Sarah and Drew