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Youngest Reed makes mark for Georgia

15-year-old ice dancer is the youngest skater at the Vancouver Olympics

Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze are in Vancouver skating for Georgia.
Allison Reed and Otar Japaridze are in Vancouver skating for Georgia. (J. Barry Mittan)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(02/18/2010) - Back in the spring of 2009, Allison Reed was just another teenager, attending Watchung Hills Regional High School and skating one or two sessions a week at the Ice House in Hackensack, New Jersey, where her older siblings, Cathy Reed and Chris Reed, train under Nikolai Morozov.

Now, the 15-year-old ice dancer is the youngest skater at the Vancouver Olympics, participating in only her fourth competition with her first-ever partner, Otar Japaridze.

Allison is competing here for Georgia; Cathy and Chris, former U.S. novice ice dance champions, are representing Japan. The siblings' mother, Norika -- who is here watching from the stands -- is Japanese, and their father is due to arrive later this week.

Amidst the celebration, there has been tragedy: before the Games even opened, 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died after crashing during his final practice run.

Reed and Japaridze have been wearing black armbands in practice.

"It casts a shadow," Allison said. "It's been a very emotional time."

How the youngest Reed got to Vancouver is a story of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right connections ready to give a helping hand.

Before Japaridze, Allison could never find the right partner.

"I passed my gold dances and my senior moves when I was 10," she said. "All the boys in my age group were too small and too young. My ability was too much for men my height and age."

Meanwhile, Japaridze -- who placed 14th at the 2008 World juniors with Isabella Tobias -- was searching for a new partner. His coach, Evgeni Platov, got together with Morozov. Both men thought Allison and Japaridze might be a good fit.

The tall, talented Japaridze had had no trouble lining up tryouts, but nothing quite clicked until Reed came along.

"It was hard to match the technical skating, plus the mentality," he said. "With Allison, everything felt so comfortable right away."

The two, who train under Platov at the Igloo in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, qualified an ice dance spot for Georgia at the Nebelhorn Trophy last September. They placed 19th at the European Championships last month.

To compete in Vancouver, though, there was still the issue of Allison's citizenship. Japaridze's father, Irakli, the head of the Georgian Skating Federation, enlisted Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president -- a huge sports fan -- for help speeding up her passport.

"We really appreciate all his help," Otar said. "When we qualified a spot for the country in Nebelhorn, we applied for Allison's citizenship and passport at the Georgian Consulate in New York City in October. By the end of November, we had the citizenship."

Otar and Allison had a chance to say thank you in person at the European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.

"[President Saakashvili] was in Estonia on other business during Europeans, and he watched [Georgian lady] Elene Gedeshvanishvili's short. After the original dance, we had a little meeting with him; we even got to skate with him for about 15 minutes at a rink outside of Tallinn. He's a pretty good skater."