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The inside edge with Sarah and Drew

On to the Grand Prix Final!

Lithuanian ice dancer Deividas Stagiunas kisses Meryl Davis at the Cup of Russia, while a skeptical Charlie White looks on.
Lithuanian ice dancer Deividas Stagiunas kisses Meryl Davis at the Cup of Russia, while a skeptical Charlie White looks on. (Photo courtesy of Meryl Davis)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(12/02/2008) - It's time for another installment of The Inside Edge with icenetwork.com's intrepid behind-the-scenes reporters Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins.

Costumes
Halloween may be long over -- in fact, Thanksgiving is over -- but we're still enjoying the pictures and memories of the various parties that went down at the end of October. Skaters love to play dress-up, naturally, but some people, ahem, did not wear the costumes they told us they were going to wear!

Among the highlights: Cupid, wearing wings, a little fabric and not much else; Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as he appeared in "Equus"; Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy in their "Fire and Ice" costumes; twin mimes in white-face; Superman; The Joker; the Tooth Fairy; an overgrown Bam-Bam complete with club; Various vampires and elves; and a very cute Pippi Longstocking. No, of course we can't tell you who was wearing what, but needless to say, it was very entertaining!

Meryl and Charlie in Moscow
We missed most of the NHK Trophy live coverage, seeing as it was on in the middle of the night, but we were pretty much glued to Cup of Russia. We couldn't wait to talk to Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Adam Rippon and Jeremy Abbott too, when they got back. Meryl and Charlie had Thanksgiving off but they were back to work on Friday, and they called just as they finished training for the day.

"Thanksgiving was great!" said Meryl. "We had dinner with our families, and Caitlin Mallory and Kristjan Rand, the Estonian team at our rink, all went to my house. Our families live like ten minutes away from each other, a half-hour drive from where we train."

We had been wondering what training has been like this season, since the departure of Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto? "It's been hard, obviously," said Charlie. "We were really great friends with them. As the season progresses, there's so much to focus on that we can put them out of our minds until we get off the ice, but then we really miss hanging out with them. They're great friends, always up to do cool things."

"I spent most of my time with Tanith," said Meryl. "She's one of my best friends, and it's definitely hard not having her here. We're looking forward to spending time with them in Korea, and we stay in touch all the time!"

Meryl and Charlie are excited about qualifying for the Grand Prix Final for the first time. They earned their trip with a gold medal at Skate Canada and a bronze in Russia, despite a rough original dance in which Charlie fell twice. Although we sort of hated to ask him about it, we did anyway. So what happened?

"Uhh... nothing good," said Charlie. "Just some poor skating and bad luck combined, I took a couple spills, nothing crazy, just some unfortunate accidents. I really wanted to go over there and prove to the Russian crowd that we could compete with the two top Russian teams. I think it went to my head a little bit and I didn't concentrate quite enough."

We loved their "Samson and Delilah" free dance, and we noticed that Charlie is wearing his hair very long this season to play the part of Samson. However, they don't mime the moment when Delilah robs him of his strength by cutting his hair.

"We decided not to do that!" said Meryl. "We didn't want to be the bad cliché."

Speaking of Charlie's luxurious locks, we thought his hair looked fantastic pulled back for the Paso Doble CD in Canada. "That was Marina [Zoueva]'s idea," said Charlie. "She thought it would look a little more debonair if I had my hair pulled back like that, I guess."

Hmm, we wondered if it bothers Meryl that everyone swoons over Charlie's curls, and not, well, hers?

"No, I'm down with that," said Meryl.

Meryl and Charlie did a little touring in Moscow, which they enjoyed. They had a weird experience on the subway, though. "There were a few people who weren't big fans of ours," said Meryl. "There was one lady on the subway who was really unhappy that we were there. We were with Deividas Stagiunas, the Lithuanian ice-dancer, and he speaks Russian. We were lost on the subway and he asked the lady how to get where we wanted to go, and she was like, 'That's not my problem!' But a guy helped us find where we were going. We went to Red Square and the Kremlin -- it was really fun."

What else did they do for fun in Moscow?

"We went midnight bowling on the last night," said Charlie, "Glow-in-the-dark bowling at the hotel in Russia, with the French team, and Tomas Verner -- it was fun, a nice way to blow off steam after the competition. It's always fun hanging out with the international competitors."

Who won?
"I don't remember, all I remember is that I didn't!"

Russian Roomies
We spoke to Jeremy and Adam, who made up the U.S. men's contingent in Russia, and also happened to be roommates while abroad. Jeremy will be joining Meryl and Charlie at the Grand Prix Final. He clinched his spot with a fourth-place finish in Russia, but he wasn't sure at first that he had made it.

"A reporter asked me how I felt about going to the Final," he said, "And I asked her, 'Did I qualify?' And she didn't answer me. So I really wasn't sure."

Now that he knows, he is very excited about going to Korea, and he's planning to put a quad back in his long program for the Grand Prix Final. "I wanted to make the Final, and it was clearly possible without the quad," he said. "I wanted to show that I'm a consistent skater and what I can do. The quad is actually going to be in my long program for the final. It's just one small change!"

By the way, Jeremy got lost in the subway in Moscow too. A note for a next year: A map of some sort might come in handy... We were excited that Jeremy and Adam both skated well in the men's event, but, we were almost more excited to see Adam's naturally curly hair make its debut on the ice this season.

"The only reason I got to wear my hair curly was because I told Nikolai my hair dryer caught on fire," he told us. "Of course it didn't really, it only sparked a little... But I though it would be okay to be extra-dramatic while in Russia."

It was Adam's first trip to Russia, so we wondered what he thought of it. "Whenever you go to a competition you can always tell really nice stories about what the rink looks like and that's basically it. But I got to see the Church of St. Basil and Lenin's Tomb and Red Square... the first day I was there was my mom's birthday. And she said, 'Let's try to take the subway, and we'll go see Red Square.'

"And I think we're the reason everybody got lost on the subway! Because my mom and I make it to Red Square, no problem, and we see everything. And I'm like, 'OK, Mom, I have no idea how to get back,' and she's like, 'Let's just take this one.' So we make it back, no problem. So we tell everybody it's so easy, and everybody else comes back five hours later than they were supposed to."

Has Adam picked up any Russian from his coach, Nikolai Morozov?

"You know, I am desperately trying to learn as much Russian as I can," said Adam. "But the more I think I know, the more I realize that I don't know any verbs, and I can't put anything in a sentence, and I can only point at things and say it in a really heavy accent. So my dream of speaking Russian is becoming more and more distant."

How did the skating go? We suppose that we should talk about skating...

"My biggest goal going into Russia was to make everybody forget about Skate America. I hope I did a good job of that. Because I changed my short program back to last year's program, and I changed a lot of the elements in my free program -- I took the second Axel out. I wanted to focus on how I could skate. It was a much better experience. I felt more prepared, I felt more comfortable, I know now that it's not that scary any more."

It must have been fun to be in the top three and do the press conference after the short.

"It was so much fun. Right after the short program I got off the ice and I went into the warm-up room and started stretching and cooling down. Then I went up to the skaters' lounge, and I saw Brian Joubert's program on the monitor; he was the only skater I saw.

"So then somebody came into the room and said 'Adam Rippon!' and I was like, 'Uh-oh.' Because no media was outside where you get off the ice for the first group, so I thought, 'Oh no, they caught me, I bet somebody was there and I just walked past them.' "So they said, 'You need to come with us right now.'

"And I said, 'Oh OK, I'm sorry, I didn't see anybody there...'

"And they said, 'No, you're top three.'

"And I'm like, 'Of what?'

"So I was shocked and really excited and it was a great experience."

Sleepless in Seoul
The final should be very interesting, and we would hate to miss it. Unfortunately that means getting up at horrifying hours in the morning. Oh well. Good luck to Jeremy, Meryl and Charlie, and Johnny and Tanith and Ben too!

Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com