The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Skaters make their way back from Korea

Yu-Na Kim's artistry has fans excited about ladies figure skating again.
Yu-Na Kim's artistry has fans excited about ladies figure skating again. (Getty Images)


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By Sarah S. Brannen & Drew Meekins, special to
(12/19/2008) - In this week's "Inside Edge," Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins caught up with all the Americans after they returned from the Grand Prix Final in Korea.

Survivor: Korea

We lost a fair amount of sleep watching the Grand Prix Final live on, but it was totally worth it. Although Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto withdrew, all the other senior U.S. entrants came home with medals, their first ever at the Final in every case. The juniors took home a lot of hardware too, making it an all-around successful trip for the U.S. delegation. We got some early reports from Korea last week.

As for the competition, it began to seem like a survival contest to us, what with people being felled with bad backs and bad tummies and cut fingers requiring stitches ... ouch! We're afraid that the stuffed animal population didn't survive, or at least it must be pretty close to extinct. There couldn't be a single stuffed animal left in the country of Korea after Yu-Na Kim's performance. It was hard to see the ice in places, and the stuffie snowfall was even deeper than that which used to bombard Michelle Kwan at her own national championships. Props to the dozen little sweepers, who spent about 10 minutes picking all the plushies up.

Meryl, Charlie, Johnny and Jeremy

We heard from lots of members of the U.S. team while they were in Korea, and we couldn't wait to talk to them when they got back to hear all about it.

Jeremy Abbott told us he didn't see anything of Goyang City: "All I did was sleep, eat and skate." Which was, apparently, a winning combination.

"My goal all season was to make it to the Final," he said. "I had no expectations of winning or even medaling."

What did he think when he saw his score come up after the free skate? "Um, I think everyone who was watching knows what I thought," he said. "I tried to stuff it back in my mouth as soon as I said it!"

Jeremy also said the crowd was very exciting to skate for. "Korean fans are not like anywhere else in the world," he explained. "They're so grateful to be at the event, and they're so loud and excited."

Jeremy says he's "for sure" putting the quad back in his free skate for the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and that it's been pretty consistent. The only reason he took it out for the Final was that he was sick the week before and hadn't really had time to train it. He also mentioned that he only slept for two hours the second night he was home, but that he has adjusted back from the time difference and he was on a normal schedule again yesterday.

Johnny Weir skated in a show in New Jersey on Wednesday night and also said he had very bad jet lag.

Meryl Davis mentioned how great it was for her and Charlie White to see their friends, Tanith and Ben, after six months.

"Competition is always much more enjoyable with close friends," said Meryl.

Meryl added that the competition seemed difficult for everyone. "The timing of the Final isn't easy after two Grand Prix events and finishing exams at school. I know Charlie still has one exam left when we get back. Thankfully, I finished before we came to Korea."

We talked to Charlie the night they got home, although he wasn't sure he was actually conscious. He did say he slept most of the way home on the plane -- a good plan. But we just talked about words that rhyme with "orange" and "purple," and you wouldn't want to hear about that.

In the Stands

Marissa Castelli, who we talked to last week, continued to share her impressions of Korea and the Final. The junior members of the U.S. team sat in the audience to watch the senior events, of course. Marissa said the crowd for the ladies event was "insane. The skaters had to sit below the fans, and we were pelted with stuffed animals, some as big as me! Most people hid and ducked for cover."

Marissa also mentioned the horrendous traffic in the city. It took the skaters' bus almost two hours to get back to the hotel. Mervin Tran and Simon Shnapir, Marissa's partner, played hackeysack on the bus to pass the time.

Marissa and her coach, Carrie Wall, went sightseeing at the Palace in Korea, where they saw the changing of the guard.

"I also saw this event in England when I went to Buckingham Palace, but there it was all roped off and such we couldn't get near. In Korea, we walked right up to them; it was just simply amazing."

Carrie told us what a great idea it was to have the junior and senior events together. This was the first time it has been done that way. She said it was fantastic for the junior skaters to get to sit in the stands and watch the senior competition. She also talked about the crowd -- as everyone has -- and particularly the excitement leading up to the ladies short program. She said you could feel the electricity building as it got closer and closer to Yu-Na Kim's moment on the ice. And then she, too, mentioned the blizzard of stuffies raining down afterward!

A very smart skater

In other, non-GPF news, Eastern senior men's silver medalist Curran Oi just got accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rather impressive, don't you think? Curran hasn't yet decided whether he'll attend MIT, but it has been his favorite college for a long time.

"I spend three days a week on the MIT campus, because I work out in the Wang Fitness Center there," he says. "It is an intense and energizing environment and has some of the most incredible science and engineering programs in the world. My interests lie in alternative energy, more specifically fusion, and MIT is one of two colleges in the country [the other being Princeton] that does a significant amount of fusion research. I am planning to study nuclear or chemical engineering."


Happy Holidays, everyone!

Sarah and Drew