On the edge with Sarah and Drew

The dish on Sweden and Adam Rippon's hair

Scott Smith and his chinchilla, Pikachu, share a quiet moment.
Scott Smith and his chinchilla, Pikachu, share a quiet moment. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(03/18/2008) - Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins are back to bring us all the dish from around the skating universe.

Swedish Dish

We're so excited about the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships going on this week. We hope the U. S. team rocks! Although we can't be there ourselves to bring you the dish, we have our own team of skaters and a parent or two to give us the inside scoop for our next blog.

Hair to the (Junior) Throne

Adam Rippon, the new world junior champion, just got home from a trip to Holland with coach Nikolai Morozov. We talked to him yesterday about his junior worlds experience. Did he do anything special to celebrate his win? "My dad got a cake that said 'Congratulations Adam, world champion.' I asked him if, when he got it, anyone said anything. He said no, so I guess cakes that say 'world champion' are a more popular request than you would think!"

What was the funniest thing that happened during the competition? "I think this has to go to the triple flip I did in the exhibition. It was more of a suicide attempt than a triple jump!"

And off the ice? "I had a lot of fun with all of my teammates the whole week so there are a lot of inside jokes... if I told you any, no one would think they were funny and they would ask if I was okay."

We asked him if he has any special way of coping with nerves before competing? "I always tell myself that I do it all the time in practice and to relax. Easier said than done, I know. There is really no special trick. Believe in yourself and remember how hard you worked to get there."

What about any lucky superstitions? "I always travel with two stuffed animals... one from my friend that was a birthday present for good luck and the other is a Webkinz from my little sister. I just shove them in my suit case for good luck."

Now, about the hair... "Getting my hair straight took a lot of practice. I actually think it's harder than the free skate. I now have it down to a science. When I first started doing it, it took up to 45 minutes with my mom's help. Now, I can do it in about 20 minutes by myself. Before the competition my mom will help me touch it up. I have to blow dry it and iron it. The curls are so hard to get out, but Nikolai likes it straight. At home I always have curly hair. I DO NOT have the patience to straighten every day, only at competition. It's kind of a stress reliever to concentrate on my hair and stop thinking about skating while at the competition."

Adam also pointed out that he, Rachael Flatt, and Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates all wore blue for their free skates. Since they all were golden in blue, we think blue must be in this season. We'll see if the trend continues this week in Gothenburg!

Chinchilla Talk

We went out for sushi last week with Scott Smith, whom we hadn't seen since his brilliant free skate at the U.S. Championships. (It wasn't shown on NBC, but you can watch it right here.

Scott is back in Boston doing some shows and visiting friends before he moves to Salt Lake City permanently. He has been skating on public sessions, which must be an unusual experience for the usual crowd of parents with little kids on hockey skates! He spent a week on a municipal rink by the Charles River, where the manager saw him on the public session and said, "I noticed you jumping around out there. There's nothing happening here for the next three hours if you want to skate."

The rink has a roof but it's open on the sides, and having skated there we know that it's really quite an experience with the wind whistling in off the river. It is necessary, however, to keep your eyes peeled for things flying in. Leaves, birds, etc...

We spent a little time with Scott's adorable chinchilla, Pikachu, who climbed on Sarah's lap and tried to eat her shoe. Scott showed us two deep tooth marks on one of his skates: Pikachu has a thing for expensive leather.

Scott's going to pack up his car in mid-April and drive to Salt Lake City, where he'll return to training with his new coach, Stephanie Grosscup. Boston will miss him!

Test Session

We can't remember if we've mentioned that Drew coaches Sarah's niece Lizzie; she was his very first student. Sarah's going to tell this story:

On Sunday morning, the alarm went off at 7:00 a.m., which was really 6:00 a.m. because of the time change. First task: get 10-year-old Lizzie up. Second: wake up the coach. The phone rang for a long time before a very sleepy Drew mumbled "Hello." He didn't respond to my next three questions so I'm pretty sure he fell asleep again -- I didn't have to resort to screaming, but I didn't hang up until I was sure he was actually awake.

Next, packing: extra dress, extra tights, gloves, jacket, extra hair accessories, hairspray, snack, water, lip balm, Kleenex. First stop on the way to the rink: Dunkin' Donuts. Coffee!

A lot -- maybe most -- of you have probably attended test sessions before. This was my first, and it was the first time one of Drew's students had ever tested. And it was Lizzie's first test: Pre-preliminary. She had been nervous for days, that is, weeks. We kept telling her it was no big deal, but she didn't believe a word of it.

There were about a dozen girls and one boy testing on the session. The atmosphere was quiet, serious and a little tense. Coach Suna Murray radiated warmth and kindness, as she always does. Tom McGinnis requested more gossip in our blog. Drew looked tired but fabulous.

The test went in reverse order, starting with senior and going down the levels to pre-preliminary. The little girls were so cute when they got on the ice in their nice dresses, all serious and nervous. Drew is a stickler for detail, and had insisted that Lizzie wear her hair scraped into a ballet bun, and no jacket or gloves. He also trained her to bow to the judge after her test, a nice touch.

Lizzie passed, and said it was easier than she had expected. Who knows, it could be the first step on a long journey, or just a one-time experience. I'm glad I got to see it.

"The Pair Skater"

Episode 4

We watched "The Cutting Edge 3" on Sunday in hopes of getting some new ideas -- as you probably heard, it's about a male pair skater seeking a partner. In the movie, he teams up with a hockey player. Hmm. Drew hasn't gone that route. Yet.

So, you know those reality shows where you tune in to see who's getting booted, and instead it's a montage of clips from old shows? We're not quite pulling that stunt on you, but we don't really have a new episode this week. As this blog is being posted, Drew is sitting on a plane on his way to an undisclosed location for an extended try-out, which is one of the final steps in choosing a partner.

A regular try-out usually lasts for two or three days. That's just not enough time to figure out if a pair really has potential, if they're compatible both on and off the ice, and if the coach is the right match and if its the right location and training environment. So, a potential team will agree to an extended try-out, anywhere from two to six weeks, and then make a final decision. This is why you sometimes read about a new "team" on message boards, and a month later they apparently split. Actually, they probably never officially teamed up.

So, we hope to be sharing the final episode with you soon. Until then, see you around the rink!

Sarah and Drew