Day Three with Sarah and Drew

More gossip from Cleveland's inside edge

Ross Miner gets a congratulatory hug from Mark Mitchell after his first-place short program.
Ross Miner gets a congratulatory hug from Mark Mitchell after his first-place short program. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/21/2009) - Sarah Brannen and Drew Meekins report on all the behind-the-scenes happenings at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland.

Pair talk

On the long bus ride home from the Hoover Arena yesterday, Stephanie Kuban told us that a while ago she had just bought some tickets by the hockey rink in Colorado Springs. As she walked past, a hockey puck flew over the plexiglass, ricocheted off the wall and hit her smack in the middle of the forehead. "It swelled up instantly," she said. "I had a huge lump in the middle of my face for three days. All the pair guys were making fun of me."

Hockey practice was going on throughout the dance and pair practice yesterday, in the next-door rink. "The artists are over there," said a guard, gesturing at the Hoover West ice surface. "The rough guys are in here." Some little kids, in the arena for the hockey, had their noses pressed to the glass watching the pair skaters from the upper concourse. Each throw and lift elicited a big "WHOA!" from them.

Amanda Evora had an overly exciting plane trip to Cleveland. She had trouble bringing her skates through security, and the guards made her go through again, [forcing her to miss her plane]. Instead of being on a non-stop, she had to change planes to get here and got in around 1:00 a.m. -- sans luggage! She had to make yet another trip to the airport yesterday morning to get her bags. And her skates.

Skaters' Anatomy

We made our way to the medical room today, not because we needed assistance, thankfully, but because we were curious about what goes on in there. We sat down for a chat with Dr. Robert Dimeff, the medical director for the event. He told us that the Cleveland Clinic is donating $220,000 worth of medical care to the event, which is being staffed by 75 medical personnel, including 15 doctors.

There is medical staff at three sites: the Quicken Loans Arena, the Hoover, and the official hotel. A doctor is present at all times, including overnight at the hotel, and there are sometimes late-night calls from skaters! "Any time there is a skater on the ice, there is a medical person rinkside," said Dr. Dimeff. The staff in the medical room is also watching the events and practices on video at all times.

So far, Dr. Dimeff said, they have treated about 50 skaters, mostly for minor cuts, bumps, bruises and sprains. "What we worry most about are the pairs," he said. "Particularly the novices."

So far, we've only witnessed one on-ice accident, to Shannon Wingle in the junior original dance. It caused a bit of a delay to the next skaters, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, as the ice needed a little cleaning up. Shannon was tended to rinkside, and we hope the cut on her hand was minor.


We are really starting to wonder why so many singles skaters are wearing gloves with their costumes these days, and we're going to ask them. The first Gloved One we ran into had an excellent answer. Curran Oi wears gloves in his short program to Phantom of the Opera, each with a half-mask on the back. When he puts them over his face it's supposed to look like he's wearing a mask. Andrew Gonzales also wears a themed glove, blood-spattered in this case, in his short program to Sweeney Todd. It's appropriate, if a little stomach-turning. As for everyone else... we'll let you know if we find out anything.

Texas Hold'em

We knew Ross Miner's cowboy short program was a winner the first time we saw it in a show last fall, and so it proved to be. Ross not only won the short, but the crowd as well, portraying both a sheriff and an outlaw in a program complete with gun shots.

In the press conference after the event, third-placed Armin Mahbanoozadeh gave a U.S. Figure Skating official a big thumbs-up for pronouncing his name correctly. About the triple Lutz, he commented ruefully, "I thought I had landed it when I had actually popped it, and I only realized a few seconds later." Ross said his morning practice "wasn't so great because I was still sleepy." He had a nap before the competition and that did the trick, just like it had at Easterns.

A reporter asked whether there's much rivalry between the top junior men, and second-placed Keegan Messing said that whatever happened on the ice, "Later we just go up in someone's room and play poker."

Who wins?

"Me," said all three.

We had to hear more so we grabbed Keegan after the press conference. Texas Hold'em?

"Oh, of course," said Keegan. "I usually bring the chips. My coach gave me a really nice chip set a few years ago for my birthday."

He hastened to add that he doesn't play for money. Smart boy.

We'll be back with more stories from backstage soon!
Shuffle up and deal,
Sarah and Drew
Sarah and Drew