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L.A. Stories: Skater sightings, WBC and sunny skies

Navarro, Bommentre sighted; quad scandal first big story

Patrick Chan, the world's top-ranked men's skater, is a favorite to make the podium at the 2010 Olympics.
Patrick Chan, the world's top-ranked men's skater, is a favorite to make the podium at the 2010 Olympics. (Getty Images)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(03/24/2009) - As your icenetwork.com diarist, I'd like to be the first to welcome you to warm, sunny L.A.!

I'm Mickey Brown, interactive media manager at U.S. Figure Skating. Some of you know me; most of you don't. Some of you may know me simply as "the guy who takes the backstage photos," and that's fine -- everyone needs a niche.

This week I'm keeping a backstage diary for icenetwork.com. I'll try to keep the tone light, mixing in observations about the skating with amusing anecdotes. Maybe I'll even have a chance encounter with a celebrity or two. (Hollywood is, after all, just up the road).

Ahh, L.A.

The skies are clear and temperature is 70 degrees ... in other words, the weather is almost the exact opposite of what it's typically like at most of our events. The hotel we're staying at is the Wilshire Grand, about a 15-minute walk down Figueroa Avenue from STAPLES Center. It's nice to be able to walk to and from the arena without fear of getting frostbite.

Blame Canada!

The first "big" story of the week has already broken, with usually soft-spoken Canadian Patrick Chan calling out the "Flyin' Frenchman," Brian Joubert, for his campaigning that the best men's skaters in the world should have a quad in their program. Sound familiar? It should, since Joubert maintained the same stance last year when Chan's countryman, Jeffrey Buttle, beat him out for the world title despite not having a quad in either his short program or free skate.

I'm no skating expert, and I certainly don't know the ins-and-outs of the IJS, but the scoring system is what it is. You're awarded a certain amount of points for each element, and if you end up with the highest score when all's said and done, you win. How you structure your program and attempt to compile those points are irrelevant. If a skater doesn't have enough confidence or the requisite training to put a particular element in his or her program, why force it? I'm all for "pushing the boundaries of sport," but if it comes at the expense of one's medal chances, I say stick with what you know.

(End skating-related diatribe for the day)

They're more than just skaters

A great thing about my job is the relationships I form with the skaters I run into at competitions. One that I've become especially friendly with is Alex Shibutani, the U.S. junior and world junior silver medalist ice dancer (with his lovely younger sister, Maia).

Alex and I are both self-admitted sports nuts, and more often than not our conversations center around the state of our favorite Boston-based teams. It came as no surprise then that after I updated my Facebook status by mentioning that I went to the World Baseball Classic final last night at Dodger Stadium, I got a call from Alex today wanting to know what it was like.

I described the feverish passion with which the Korean and Japanese fans rooted for their teams and their countries, the coordinated cheers and chants and drum rhythms they all somehow knew and the clutch performances of Japan's Ichiro Suzuki and Yu Darvish. Alex, who is of Japanese descent, was riveted, like any 17-year-old who is mad about baseball would be.

Rarely in the 15 minutes we spoke did the discussion turn to skating or the world championships, and it struck me that while I'm here at this event that Alex would probably give his left arm to be at and to one day compete in (and, in my very biased opinion, will get to do so in the not-too-distant future ... the competing, not the giving of the left arm), all he wanted to know about was a baseball game. It reminded me that these kids are more than little skating robots, that they think about things other than tightening the rotation on their twizzles, that what gets them really revved up might not be a good practice session but getting together with their band mates for a jam session.

When you look at these people's names as often I do in starting orders, photo captions, articles, etc., you tend to forget that they're more than "skaters." They're real people, with likes and dislikes, just like the rest of us. It's nice to be reminded of that once in a while.

Skater sightings

There are a number of non-competing skaters who are here in various capacities.

Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre were flown in as "insurance policies" if anything were to go awry with Ben Agosto's back in practice. Ben's fine, the draw was held and Kim and Brent are relegated to being mere spectators.

Stephanie Kuban, who recently broke up with pairs partner Steven Elefante, is working rinkside as a competition coordinator assistant.

World junior champion ice dancers Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein were spotted outside STAPLES Center looking, as U.S. teams coordinator Julie Schmitz put it, "very Cali."