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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Skaters ready for an exciting time in Spokane

Leann Rimes and skater Nick Laroche pose in Los Angeles in December.
Leann Rimes and skater Nick Laroche pose in Los Angeles in December. (courtesy of Nick Laroche)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins
(01/13/2010) - Well, we're finally here in Spokane! It was near torture seeing everyone Facebook and tweet about leaving for Spokane on Monday; we couldn't wait for our turn! But we're here now and thrilled for what is shaping up to be one of the most exciting national championships in a long time. It's great to be back as well, because pretty much everyone agrees that the last time Spokane hosted was one of the most fabulous championships ever.

In 2007 the city was so welcoming, and it was surprising how excited everyone was. Everywhere we went people knew we were "with the skating" and treated us as if we were Miley Cyrus: VIP tables, tons of swag, and non-stop autograph signing.

Every event appeared to be sold out or at least full. Even the practices were well-attended. The audience was so supportive of every skater and the atmosphere and energy of the fans was awesome.

So clearly, we are really looking forward to the next ten days! One or the other or both of us will be here on hand as your diva media for the whole thing, and we'll try to give you a good look behind the scenes of the 2010 AT&T US Figure Skating Championships. So if you're here, be on the lookout for us, and wear something pretty.

Airport
We changed planes in Minneapolis, and at the gate we found Adam Rippon and his mom, Jonathan Cassar and his mom, Tommy Steenburg and Grant Hochstein (possibly with their moms although we didn't see them). And we saw a man riding a bicycle up an escalator.

A smooth flight later, we all schmoozed while waiting for our bags. At that point we also saw Jeremy Abbott's mom, sans Jeremy. Adam said that he had gotten up at 4:30 this morning for an 8:30 flight, due to the extreme security measures in place when flying from Canada to the US. He said it took two hours to get through security and everyone got a pat-down.

We asked what things have been like in Toronto, and he said that it has been pretty quiet; Brian Orser organized all the media frenzy for Yu-Na Kim into a single day, so they won't have to deal with constant cameras. Smart guy.

Jonathan told us that he was feeling much better than in November, when he hurt his back ten days before Midwestern sectionals. The doctor told him he wouldn't risk damage by skating, if he could stand the pain, so he did! And he's so glad that he did and that he's back at the championships.

No Ross
We were happy to hear from Ross Miner on Tuesday afternoon, and then sad when he told us he was withdrawing from the championships. We wrote up a lengthier piece about it here. Ross said that he was okay, although disappointed. He said the worst part was the uncertainty of the past week, as he desperately tried to heal fast enough to compete. But it was not to be.

"It was just poor timing," he said. "I'll be back on the ice in a week, and I'll be back to full training in two weeks."

Wake-up calls
With the championships just about underway, The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has been waking up a lot of skaters recently for an, um, bathroom break. We've been amused at the number of skaters complaining about this kind of wake-up call in the last week. The agents had their work cut out with Simon Shnapir the other day, and had to hang around for hours. One of these days, Drew has promised to give a detailed description of the entertaining process.

Auction
Looking back for a moment, recently-retired skater Nick Laroche is having an online auction for his non-profit foundation, www.USAthleticfoundation.org, which helps support athletes in need of financial assistance in training. There are lots of good skating-related items; the link is on his web site.

Nick sent us some pictures from a tree-lighting he skated in last month with singer LeAnn Rimes.

"The ice surface was on 70 ft x 50 ft which is very small," wrote Nick. "I had never skated on a small surface like this, and it was an amazing challenge. I'm not really sure how I accomplished two triple jumps, but I had to only take one small back crossover turn forward and tap for the jump."

Nick said Sheila E opened the night playing Little Drummer Boy on drums and bongos with members of her family. He was thrilled to perform with LeAnn Rimes, since she was the first concert he ever went to, and he was a big fan when he was 12.

"I can truly say I was obsessed with her. My cousin Amber and I would always write to her fan club."

Fan Mail
And speaking of fan mail, that reminds us: a few days ago at the World Arena back in Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor Figure Skating Club secretary was handing out fan mail. When she passed some out to Ryan Bradley, he acted surprised and joked that it must be a bill! When Ryan found out it was in fact fan mail, he said without missing a beat, "Oh I get it, my fans must want their money back after my performance at Trophée Bompard."

Ryan never misses a chance to make a joke, and has a great sense of humor!

And on that note, we're off to watch Ryan and the rest of the senior men, as well as the senior pairs, practice. We'll report tomorrow, hopefully with some good pictures. We took a bunch at the airport so those will be up tomorrow too.

Back in a bit,

Sarah and Drew

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