Drew Meekins, are back with another installment of "The Inside Edge."" />


The inside edge with Sarah and Drew

Mohawks, algebra and the SC Boston

Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell coaching at the Skating Club of Boston.
Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell coaching at the Skating Club of Boston. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(09/05/2008) - Icenetwork.com's intrepid backstage reporters, Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, are back with another installment of "The Inside Edge."

The return of the Mohawk, modern algebra, and no fluff

We pulled Tim Goebel away from his mathematic studies -- modern algebra and differential geometry at Columbia -- to chat about politics, the Olympics, and past and future hairstyles.

Tim had a hard-working summer, doing lots of coaching and taking extra classes. "It was not a summer of luxury," he said. (He is going to do an internship next summer, so he needed to get some classwork out of the way in advance). He did manage to see a lot of the Beijing Olympics, though, thanks to a new DVR.

"It was very exciting," he said, "And the coverage was better than in previous years, with more actual sport and less fluff. It was nice to get to see more of the competition."

Like most of us, Tim particularly enjoyed the swimming, gymnastics and diving, but he said a highlight was Usain Bolt winning the 100-meter dash. "He basically stopped running halfway through, he was so far ahead. I was struck by the number of real phenomenons this time, so that the competition was essentially for second place. I don't remember such big gaps before."

We couldn't help wondering what it's like to watch the Olympics when you are an Olympic medalist yourself. "When you're in the competition, it's just a competition -- the same short and long as all season," explained Tim. "It's just doing your job, but the Olympics means so much more. The timing has to be perfect, in gymnastics and skating particularly. People that peak now, in 2008, might be on the downhill side by Vancouver."

We wondered if Tim was following the political drama going on at the moment. He said he had tried to watch the conventions but hadn't been able to see much of either the Democrats or the Republicans. Also, "I just can't get past wasting all this money on nothing," he said. "We know who the candidates are already, let's just get to the election and get it over with."

As for skating, Tim says he's not going to perform again, "ever." He is looking forward to doing more coaching though, and he really enjoys his work as a technical specialist. He mentioned working with video and Dartfish -- "The technical things you see in high-resolution video are so revealing. For younger skaters who haven't developed body awareness yet, if they can see it, it really helps."

And, finally, we had to ask what his plans for his hair (currently a buzz cut) were. "I'm going to let it grow back for a while, get through the winter, and then do something crazy again. I might do another Mohawk, not blue though. I'm thinking red."

Has he seen Suede, a contestant on Project Runway? He has the identical blue Mohawk Tim was sporting last spring. "Yes, Suede stole my blue hair!"

Side by Side

"Right arm up! Right arm up! Not that much!" The Skating Club of Boston was humming, as always, and Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson stood side-by-side at the board, as always. Mark is the lively one, laughing, shouting encouragement and advice, hopping on the ice to chase Stephen Carriere through a footwork sequence, coaching a much younger skater on her jump landings. Peter is intense and quiet; he speaks to his students in a low voice and watches them like a hawk.

Mark and Peter's skaters have dominated recently at local and regional competitions, on the junior international circuit, and at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Meanwhile, the coaches have racked up awards of their own, having been named the Developmental Coaches of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2006, and by the Professional Skaters Association in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

They came to coaching after impressive eligible careers. Both went to the world championships more than once, and Peter represented Sweden at the 1988 Olympics. He planned to compete in Albertville in 1992, but he wasn't able to recover from a 1990 injury.

Peter taught in Sweden until he moved to Boston in 1995 to join Mark, who had competed until 1994.

"I did professional stuff for a couple years until my knee was bad, and I had surgery, and that was that," Mark said.

Mark had started his coaching career doing choreography. When he was young, he used to make up all his own show numbers and sometimes choreograph for other kids as well. After he stopped competing, he started choreographing for some of the skaters in Boston.

1995 was a transition year at the Skating Club of Boston. "All the coaches left," said Mark. "I had been here doing programs, and [coach] Suna Murray had a lot of kids, and she asked me if I would take over her business." Mark suggested that Peter could join him. "We inherited a whole business. We were really lucky."

"We were pretty busy right from the get-go," added Peter. "We were at nationals that first year."

"We had four kids at nationals that first year, believe it or not," said Mark. "We had a baptism by fire!" He laughed and shook his head. "Those first few years were so hard; It was hard for the kids, it was hard for us. We had big plans, and we couldn't do what we wanted to do here."

Along with the more advanced students they "inherited," Mark and Peter began training young skaters who were just beginning. "It was that next generation that got good," said Mark, "Our own kids that we 'grew' from the beginning. Jason Wong was one, and then Juliana Cannarozzo, Carriere, Curran Oi... those were all the kids that we started with."

Stephen and Curran came to Mark and Peter when they were only eight or nine years old, just starting to work on single Axels.

We asked if they can see future talent in skaters that young? "Every single kid has some kind of talent," they said. "Some have the physical talent, some have the mental talent, some have desire, some have artistic talent... they all have it, and that's why we always say you can never rule anybody out. Just physical talent is not enough."

After the talent comes the hard work, of course. Everyone at the club does full run-throughs. "You warm up, you put the music on, you do the whole run-through. Nobody would ever think of stopping. And we don't have to yell and scream to get it done, either. They're used to doing programs, they're not afraid of it, and it's not a big issue."

The coaches have skaters in competitions almost every weekend throughout the fall. Along with Carriere and Oi, they currently coach Katrina Hacker, Ross Miner, Gretchen Donlan, Brittney Rizo and Dana Zhalko. Mark says that their schedule is planned minutely in advance.

"We have a master calendar. So if one of us is going to be home, we have it all planned -- who's going to get lessons -- some weeks, we're at two different competitions, but it's all planned out."

Cannarozzo, who is now in Europe with Holiday on Ice, had this to say about her former coaches: "We're like family. They're like our parents, in a way, and I think that we all look up to them and respect everything they have to say, and we have a lot of fun with them. I love them!"

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