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Rinkside at the U.S. Championships, Part 3

Carruthers hosts AT&T Ice Desk; Kopka-Ross packs for trip

Peter Carruthers poses in front of the AT&T Ice Desk during last year's Championships.
Peter Carruthers poses in front of the AT&T Ice Desk during last year's Championships. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2009) - Peter Carruthers is having a ball, re-connecting with old pals -- like Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi -- and talking to everyone from judges to fans to flower sweepers.

"It's great finding out how much people really love the sport," said the energetic Carruthers, who won the 1984 Olympic pairs' silver medal with his sister Kitty.

"I always ask, 'What brings you here?' Some fans are former skaters; others love the athletic emotion, packaged to music, which I think is the ultimate form of self-expression."

This week the veteran figure skating commentator is hosting the AT&T Ice Desk and acting as roving reporter at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships, crashing the skaters' lounge and interviewing a wide range of skating world luminaries. Subscribers can catch the action on icenetwork.com.

For Carruthers, who lives with his wife and sons Kenton and Kurt in Thousand Oaks, Calif., walking through Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena is like taking a trip through memory lane.

"At times, you don't reflect enough on how much the sport means -- the whole lifetime experience," he said.

"When I come back to nationals, I see people and immediately go back to moments a few decades ago. I walked in and saw Scott [Hamilton] and said, 'Can you believe it's been 25 years since we won medals in Sarajevo?'"

Getting old friends to visit with him has been easy, but Carruthers is putting out a special S.O.S. for someone he doesn't know well.

"I'm on a mad search for Vera Wang," he said. "I want her on the Ice Desk. She's being inducted into the [U.S. Figure Skating] Hall of Fame this week, and she's such a recognizable name in the worlds of skating and fashion."

Andrews, Anderson join special group

Cassie Andrews and Nicholas Anderson joined elite company when they became three-time national champions, having won pair titles in the juvenile, intermediate and now novice ranks.

Anderson, 18, is quite the comedian in the mixed zone, delivering one-liners with a poker face that would make George Burns proud.

"We had a few mental lapses with the jumps," he said of their second-place free skate. "We took turns missing."

Asked which pair they most admired, Andrews quickly offered "Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker," while Anderson replied, "I don't know; I never watch the pairs, to be honest."

"Nicholas is actually very, very intelligent, and very confident," the team's coach, Serguei Zaitsev, said. "You never see him losing control of himself. He's very self-managed; sometimes I have to push his ability to the edge."

Andrews and Anderson have skated together for five years, and Zaitsev said that experience led them to the win.

"Now they need more speed, confidence and polish," he added.

Zaitsev, who competed for the Soviet Union in the 1980's, was asked if he was any relation to Aleksandr Zaitsev, who won two Olympic pair gold medals with Irina Rodnina.

"I have been answering that question all of my life, especially in Russia," he laughed. "No, we are not related, but we are good friends. It's not a common name, but there were two of us in figure skating."

Quick substitutions

The junior men's event had two athlete withdrawals, both after practices began in Cleveland.

Roger Corvasce of Colorado Springs, Colo., bowed out after the first practice, while Richard Dornbush, who won the bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, came down with a severe case of the flu and could not compete in the short program.

"Roger fell on a twizzle and hurt his knee [at home in practice]," Corvasce's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "He rested last Saturday and traveled to Cleveland on Sunday, but after his first practice we knew it wouldn't work."

Pine Kopka-Ross, who placed fifth at the 2009 Midwestern Sectional Championships, got the call to replace Corvasce from Mitch Moyer, U.S. Figure Skating's Senior Director of Athlete High Performance, on Monday afternoon, just five minutes before the 48-hour deadline. "I'm really happy to be here. It's a great experience, even though I'm not all that prepared," Kopka-Ross, a senior at University of Michigan, said.

"When [Mr. Moyer] called, I hesitated, but I wasn't going to say no. I had been really sick and rolled my ankle, so I was off ice for three or four weeks. The first thing I did was go to the rink and see if I could get through my programs, and I could, so that's why I came."

Kopka-Ross placed second in the junior men's event at the 2007 U.S. Collegiate Championships. This is his first trip to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"It's just completely overwhelming; first, because I'm not prepared, and second, because it's my first nationals," he said. "I'm just glad to be here."