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The inside edge with Sarah and Drew

From Patti Weir's top ten to Danny O'Shea's new puppy

Juliana Cannarozzo and Drew get glamorous at the Skating Club of Boston.
Juliana Cannarozzo and Drew get glamorous at the Skating Club of Boston. (Sarah Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(06/04/2008) - It's time for another edition of the Inside Edge with our roving backstage reporters, Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins.

Patti Weir, Stephanie Rosenthal, Tai Babilonia, and the Skating Club of Boston

In honor of skating moms everywhere -- the ones sitting in cold rinks, day after day, year after year, watching their children learn how to master the toughest sport in the world -- we've come up with little feature we'd like to run periodically celebrating them. This is not to ignore the valiant skater dads out there, but for the most part, it's the mothers who drive the kids around and wait for them every day. That's just how it is! We'll be talking to a few skating moms this summer.

Patti's Top Ten

Johnny Weir's mother, Patti, is truly devoted to her son's skating. She has been there every step of the way, through good times and bad. We've been wanting to interview her all spring, and we finally caught up with her long enough to talk a little about what it's like to be Johnny's mom.

Our first question:
Do you get nervous when you're watching Johnny compete?
I am one parent that watches every time. There are a lot of parents that can't watch, but I do. I don't really breathe correctly during Johnny's programs; I talk to him the whole time. I have been known to bruise my arms when he skates from crossing them and squeezing, and I know that I move around in my seat the whole time he is skating (my apologies to anyone who has had to sit beside me during the short or long).

Patti always spends a moment with Johnny right before he goes down to skate, although she won't share what she tells him.

Since she has so much experience traveling to international competitions, we wondered what advice Patti has for parents going abroad with their children.
Always take an umbrella. Always take plenty of reading material, because in most countries, the TV is not your friend. Always go to practices, because that is where you see the best skating.

Patti has had many interesting experiences with life being a little different in foreign countries. "I have taken a shower on my knees in a bathtub MANY times overseas due to the showers not working properly, so be prepared."

And one last piece of great advice: "Always go to the grocery when you are out of the country, just to see what goodies you can find, even if you can't read the labels. Some of the best cookies are in Slovenia!"

Patti has a lifetime of funny stories about skating -- we wondered about the funniest thing that ever happened to her during a competition.

"I was sitting next to a woman in Portland at nationals, in the handicapped section. She was the grandmother of an [unnamed] senior man, and she was also on oxygen with a portable bottle. She was telling me all about her grandson and how great he was, and how he was going to win, and how nervous she was.

"He came out to skate and skated very well. I was very happy for her -- she was just beaming. Then she wanted to talk, and it just so happened Johnny was skating next. She had no idea that I was Johnny's mom, so she went on talking.

"Well, by then I was a wreck. The next thing you know, her oxygen bottle fell and rolled down at least three rows in front of her. I was trying to concentrate on Johnny, and now I was running after an oxygen bottle. I did manage to get the bottle and get it back up to her, but she just would not stop talking, so after checking and making sure her bottle was secure, I stood up and watched him skate."

What about the worst thing that ever happened at a competition?
Two things really -- I ended up in the hospital at 2005 Skate Canada with a kidney stone. PAINFUL. And, in one word: DALLAS."

Patti still finds it hard to talk about the 2003 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Dallas, where Johnny hit the wall at the start of the free skate, stopped, and ended up withdrawing in the middle of his program.

"ABC had given me seats. My mother was there for the first time, so I thought it would be nice for her to sit in good seats. It was the worst mistake, since after the wall incident, the cameras knew exactly where to find me -- not a moment I wanted to share! We also lost a very dear friend at that competition, who fell at the arena and didn't survive. It was just a horrible trip all around."

And finally, Patti's tongue-in-cheek Top Ten list of advice for skating parents:
10. Your child does not need custom boots just because someone told you they do or because other kids have them.
9. Your child does not need to be coached on every session they are on the ice.
8. Don't sandbag your child at a certain level if they are good enough to move up. Everyone ends up together eventually.
7. Don't hang out in the lobby during the juvenile girls event at regionals when the marks are posted. It is heartbreaking.
6. If you have a problem with another skating parent or coach, handle it yourself. It saves time and headaches (and truly your coach does not have the time to worry about it).
5. Not all skaters need a sports psychiatrist -- you will know.
4. If your skater whines, loses interest and does not want to practice, get out now. It is too expensive, and heartbreaking at times, to stay in and force them to do it.
3. Your child should have a say in their music and costume. You are not skating to it or wearing it, they are!
2. Your coach should be working with you and for you, not against you or your child. You should not pay someone to harass or be mean to your child. Shame on you if you let this happen!
1. Don't compare your skater to others. If they could do what their competitors were doing, they would.

"My truthful advice is just to be the positive reinforcement to your child. This sport is full of negatives, and your child, no matter what age or level, needs that. That is a parent's job; you pay a coach to coach."

Rosenthal keeps rocketing

Most of us who saw Stephanie Rosenthal's "Rockit" short program at the 2006 U. S Figure Skating Championships are still wondering where she conjured up all that energy! Stephanie just finished her second year at Yale University, and she hasn't slowed down a bit. In fact, we think she's still accelerating into her undoubtedly exciting future.

We caught up with Stephanie just after she finished taking her final exams in May. Once we heard what she's been up to, we felt both inadequate and lazy.

Back in 2006, Stephanie had planned to finish competing and go to college in the fall. She had a really successful year, which made the decision hard to stick to, but, she says, "Yale is a great school, and it was a really wonderful opportunity. I just finished my second year -- halfway done, for better or worse! I have a double major in literature and film studies. I really, really enjoy film. I think it's overwhelming how powerful it is."

Stephanie talked about how both film and literature are art forms based on narrative.

"I have a really cool overlap between my classes. In terms of future jobs, I would love to do something with film. It's very tough to get into that business but I would absolutely love to."

This summer, Stephanie is trying to teach herself Russian. As in most arenas these days, she is surrounded by Russian-speakers, and she says she can follow conversations a bit but not participate very much, yet. She says, "It's very tough to learn!"

As well as a double major at one of the top universities in the world, Stephanie coaches at the Newington Arena and dances with the Yale Dancers.

"Coaching is fun," she says. "It's kind of a new medium for me to explore. It's very intellectual, it's very personal, and I'm having a blast with it. My students are young, starting out -- most of them are working on their Axel. I team-teach with Denys Latyshev. Because I'm in school, having a team-teaching situation has made it possible for me to coach, and coach well, not as a side hobby but to really put my effort into it, the way the kids deserve."

Last summer, Stephanie was also in the ice musical Cold As Ice, with Oksana Baiul.

"They tracked me down somehow and called me at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, when I was in Utah for spring break last year. I was like, 'Excuse me, who are you?' As it turned out, their rehearsal schedule was going to be happening during my finals schedule. And I said, 'I just have to keep my priorities in place, this isn't going to work out, I'm sorry.'

"But they couldn't find anyone they were satisfied with to play the part, and they called back a month and a half later, so that's how I wound up doing the show. It was very difficult, but ultimately really rewarding. I had a really wonderful time doing it."

Stephanie says she would love to do more shows. "You know, I'm a performer, I always have been, so shows are one of my favorite things to do. I would love to help produce a show too; it would be amazing."

Tai phones in

When the phone rang late the other night, we never expected to hear Tai Babilonia's bubbly voice on the other end, although we were delighted! Tai had seen our latest edition of "The Pair Skater" on icenetwork.com and called to check in on how things were going with Drew's search and offer her help and advice. We also had a long chat about pair skating in the U.S. today.

"I wish I could tell all these teams, 'stay together'!" said Tai. "Back in '74, '75, I started to grow, and Randy [Gardner] didn't, and people told us to forget it. But Mr. Nicks thought we should keep trying to make it work. And Randy grew another inch, and we worked it out. We were never going to have the triple twists, but we had other things."

Tai was at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Saint Paul and watched the pair competition closely.

"I really like Keauna McLaughlin and her partner Rockne Brubaker. I think they could go all the way and do it for us. I just hope they stay together! Even if she grows a little, I would tell their coach to work it out and make it work, because they are excellent. Excellent."

Puppy

Before the 2008 championships, Danny O'Shea's father Don promised that if Danny won the novice title, he would get him a puppy. Danny won, and on June 1, Don gave him a seven-week-old golden retriever puppy named Zoey. There's a picture in the gallery. Adorable!

Cupcakes on ice

Since Drew was in Boston last week, we made a trip to the Skating Club of Boston for a visit and some practice. It was busy and fun, as always. Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson's students have been making steady progress since the end of the season, and it was very interesting to see what everyone is up to in terms of jumps and programs.

Between sessions, Stephen Carriere was running around with a box of cupcakes that Juliana Cannarozzo had made for Katrina Hacker's birthday and showing them off like a proud father! "Juliana is an amazing baker," he said. "I make good cupcakes, but hers are the best!"

Later, Drew did some pair skating with the movie star -- and baker extraordinaire -- Juliana, and also of course with Tuffy Hough, who still looks ready to jump on the ice and compete internationally. Stephen was working on quads and a rocking triple-triple-triple combination, and Ross Miner and Curran Oi were both nailing triple Axels.

We snapped a few pictures of the cupcake madness and the on-ice action. Check out the gallery, and don't miss Drew's spiral!

Watch for our special Friday the 13th blog, and stay flexible.
Sarah and Drew

To contact Sarah and Drew, email them at sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com