The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Jan. 18

Laughs abound in Olympic press conference

The U.S. men's Olympic nominees had a good time at their press conference.
The U.S. men's Olympic nominees had a good time at their press conference. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/18/2010) - Press conferences in an Olympic year are an order of magnitude bigger and more intense than in other years. The men's press conference was jammed, with photogs jostling for position and a battery of TV cameras as well as a mob of journalists. Jeremy Abbott was calm and radiant, and Evan Lysacek seemed relaxed and happy, and funnier then we remember him being in previous years. As for Johnny "GaGa" Weir, he was his usual diva self.

Evan kept making jokes and cracking up the reporters. Answering a question about the men's chances against the international field, he assessed the situation and then started to boast that the rest of the world would have a tough job beating them. Then he cut himself off mid-word and said, "No, I'm not going to say that," and he reached out and turned his mike away so he wouldn't be tempted. Johnny talked at length about whether he would or would not do a quad in Vancouver, and finally Evan leaned over and said, "C'mon. Just do it."

And Johnny shot back, "Oh, hon, don't start with me."

Later, Johnny was answering a question about his preparations for the Games, and he mentioned that he wasn't sure exactly how long he had to prepare. He said he didn't even know when the men would compete in Vancouver. After he finished his answer, Evan leaned in and said, "It's thirty days until the men's short program, Johnny."

The best moment of the night was when the men were interrupted by an official of U.S. Figure Skating. She said she had an announcement, and then told the boys they would soon be getting a text message. Even before she spoke, all three started grinning, because they knew what was coming: the official invitation to compete in Vancouver!

After the presser, the men got grabbed and scooped away to a plethora of obligations. The drug-testing agent practically had ahold of Jeremy, trying to pull him off for doping. But Jeremy needed to do a TV interview, and he needed to answer a few extra questions, and everyone needed him to do something right away, and he needed to get to Fanfest for the second medal ceremony (he hadn't even realized that they were doing that.)

And he said to everyone, "Ok, I just need to go hug a couple of people first!" Keeping his priorities straight.

We decompressed from the excitement by doing a little light shopping. When we walked out of the mall, we found a mob of people surrounding the men's medalists, who were on stage at the Fanfest doing a question and answer session. The boys were flanked by nearly 30 members of security, while talking to the fans, who were living for their every word. Rock stars! Johnny said something that cracked up the whole audience and had Evan and Jeremy in stitches, but we couldn't hear what it was... if you caught it, email or Tweet it to us, please!

We got on the bus at the arena last night and found it occupied by one person: Paul Wylie. We hadn't seen each other for a while so it was nice to have a bus ride to chat! Paul is here mentoring Jeremy, so needless to say, he was beaming. Paul skated to the same piece of music as Jeremy when he won the silver medal in Albertville, "Saint-Saens' Symphony No. 3." Paul used the end of the last movement, where the organ comes in with a triumphant flourish, and he wanted Jeremy to use the same cut. Jeremy was steadfast in using the earlier movement though, and Paul thinks it may be that he didn't want to duplicate Paul's music choice.

(Before you start thinking that Paul's program was to Henry V, it was... the Saint-Saens came in at the end. Sarah remembers this quite vividly because she was actually the person who gave the music to Paul).

If we talk about Jonathan Cassar any more, he's going to get scared, so let's just say that Paul mentioned that the men's event was bracketed by two really wonderful programs, the first, and Jeremy's, the last. Paul is going skiing with his father tomorrow, so he declined to go out with us last night. Bummer.

Before the bus left, Nathan Chen got on, fresh from winning the novice men's short program. It's very hard to talk about Nathan without cooing about how cute and tiny he is. Paul asked him a lot of questions, and 10-year-old Nathan answered cheerfully. He told Paul he'll turn 11 on May 5.

Last night after all was said and done, we dished with Brian Boitano about, well, dishes. You probably know that Brian hosts a show on The Food Network called What Would Brian Boitano Make? Drew works as a cook in a Colorado Springs restaurant, Nosh, so Drew and Brian were excited to share cooking stories. Brian also told us about some things he has in the works for his show, including a rooftop pig roast and an evening of salsa dancing with friends. We know that Brian can skate and cook, but can he dance?

We hung out with Judy Blumberg in the room for a long time last night, rehashing all the competitions of the past two days. Judy is so nice, and of course she's an expert analyst as well. She also told us a sweet story: Rockne Brubaker told Mark Ladwig that he and Keauna McLaughlin and their families had rented a house in Vancouver for the Olympics. He sought out Mark to tell him in case he and Amanda Evora and their families wanted to take it; housing is hard to find at the Games.

"I think it's so nice that he did that," said Amanda on Saturday. She was still on Cloud 9, or possibly Cloud 11. "I'm so excited and honored," she said. "I've only slept two hours since the competition ended!"

Round two
Amanda Dobbs, Felicia Zhang and Daniel Raad are doing double duty this week, competing in both singles and pairs. Amanda is the only one who is competing in two championship events, though. We talked to Amanda and her mother about how much more demanding it is to compete twice at the senior level.

"The physical demands of the different elements are much more demanding. You have to be that much more finished," said Laura Dobbs. "She usually trains singles first at home, and then pairs. You have to be able to separate them."

"I tried to just focus on pairs this week, and today was the first day I became a single skater," added Amanda.

We're writing this in the official hotel lobby and the ice dancers are starting to arrive.

Bring on the drama,
Sarah and Drew