Rings and rinks: Flatt, Nagasu and Zakrajsek

Behind the scenes at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver

Team USA's Rachael Flatt (left) and Mirai Nagasu (right) are back in Vancouver to get ready for the ladies competition.
Team USA's Rachael Flatt (left) and Mirai Nagasu (right) are back in Vancouver to get ready for the ladies competition. (Mickey Brown)


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By Linda Przygodski and Lynn Rutherford
(02/20/2010) -'s team on the ground in Vancouver, Linda Przygodski and Lynn Rutherford, pen all the tidbits from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

I want to be alone
Yu-Na Kim was at ladies practice at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver this morning, but coach Brian Orser made it very clear that they are not speaking to the media.

Update: (Apparently, at afternoon practice she did speak with a few Korean reporters).

Flatt, Nagasu return to Vancouver
Rachael Flatt returned the Olympic Village yesterday and had her first practice at the Pacific Coliseum this morning.

"I love the ice here," she said. "I had a really chilling moment, when I skated over the [Olympic] rings. It's amazing."

Flatt watched the pairs short competition; it helped her prepare for the noise level in the building, especially when Canadians and Americans perform.

"It was good to see how excited the crowd gets; at the same time, that wasn't even a full audience," she said.

Watching Evan Lysacek win gold has inspired the 17-year-old to kick her own skating up a notch.

"He really broke through," she said. "That's what I want here, two break-through programs. I want to focus on my performance, not just the technical [elements]."

Flatt, who is rooming here with good friend Emily Samuelson, hasn't heard from any other colleges after getting her acceptance letter from Stanford University.

"I doubt I'll hear until the end of March or the beginning of April," she said. "I only applied everywhere regular decision. But just hearing from Stanford, that was exciting for me."

The U.S. champion practiced triple Lutz, triple loop, but coach Tom Zakrajsek said she'll likely wait until the 2010 worlds in Torino next month to put the combination into her free skate.

"Its part of our strategy this season," Zakrajsek, who trains his skaters in Colorado Springs, said.

"She did a beautiful one today. It's one of her goals. Whether or not she does it here, we'll know in a few days."

Mirai Nagasu, too, had her first practice after returning home to the Los Angeles area for several days.

Not surprisingly, the 16-year-old was thrilled by training partner Lysacek's gold medal performances.

"I definitely see him train every day, really hard," she said. "I felt, watching him at home, he could feel the gold in his hands."

Lysacek did full run-throughs, no breaks, during most of his practices here. Nagasu said she's ready to emulate the Olympic champion -- if that's what their coach, Frank Carroll, wants.

"I'm just here to do whatever it is Frank tells me to do," she said.

Seen and heard
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier playing with son Jesse in front of their hotel here in Vancouver. Proud Dad Pelletier was roaring like a lion and chasing Jesse as the toddler squealed with delight.

They sure are green
We're not fans of the Olympic bouquets they are giving the medalists in Vancouver made of green mums and hypericum berries. Give us some roses or hydrangeas any day.

Torch passed
Man, The Russian Federation is really peeved about their performance at the Olympics.

They even have Vladimir Putin weighing in on their poor medal count so far.

Forget about Plushenko, Russia's hockey team lost 2-1 to Slovakia.

Боже мой!

Bradley ready if and when needed
There's been speculation -- but no official announcement -- on whether or not Lysacek continues on to worlds, and the Olympic and world champion may decide to try to cap his career with yet another title.

But just in case, first alternate Ryan Bradley, who placed fourth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, is hard at work training in Colorado Springs.

"He took a week off after [placing fifth] at Four Continents, then he was right back in the gym at the Olympic Training Center," Zakrajsek, who coaches Bradley, said.

About Bradley's plans to continue past this season, Zakrajsek said, "So many people have told him how much he has improved. It's been easy for him to train this year. He certainly could go another year, if that's what he wants. I think he is going to wait until this season is finished to decide."

The 26-year-old skater has been consistent with the quad toe loop this season, hitting two in his free skate at the U.S. Championships. It's the triple Axel that has let him down from time to time.

"Since he's come back from Korea [the site of Four Continents] the Axel has been easy for him, so go figure," Zakrajsek said. "So if -- and it's a big if -- we do go to Torino, I don't think it's going to be a bugaboo jump."

Quad v. no quad: depends on strategy

Zakrajsek weighed in on the quad v. no quad, or Lysacek v. Plushenko, controversy.

"The men's event here was great, the most exciting, I think, except for Salt Lake City [in 2002]," he said. "I think it was next best, in terms of the top four laying down great performances.

"I'm a big supporter of doing the quad in a program, if a skater can do it, but Evan won; he delivered his program. To me, Evgeni [Plushenko] looked tight, but what a great competitor. Certainly, if he had done a second quad, that would have made a huge difference. Even if he had just [tacked] the double loop on to his quad, triple combination, it might have put him over the top. I'm sure he's kicking himself now."

The coach's top two senior men, Bradley and Brandon Mroz, both usually include quads in their programs. However, he said the International Judging System (IJS) requires skaters to be strategic.

"It's just not black and white; it's not if you can do it, you always do it," he explained. "As a coach, you have to work out the best strategy with your athletes to maximize points. My belief is never to impose upon an athlete; for example, at Four Continents, Brandon didn't do the quad in his short.

"Patrick Chan has been training at our rink for ten weeks and I've certainly seen him do quad, triple combinations. He's very capable, but it's not just about that."

Reporters' exploration of the quad v. no-quad story is getting ridiculous. Even European bronze medalist Elene Gedevanishvili was asked to weigh in.

"I think men should do quads, because they are men," she said.

Tweets of the day
Fam's @ P&G house. They mauled Lysacek and made my 7 year old cousin do the splits for Nastia Liukin. I reassure them I'm not embarrassed.

Stretching on the bus, on my way back to the village.

Twit Pic: The Flatts: Rascal and Rachael