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Rings and rinks: Fleming, Hamill and photographers

Behind the scenes at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver

Peggy Fleming speaks to the press Wednesday at the Team USA house in Vancouver.
Peggy Fleming speaks to the press Wednesday at the Team USA house in Vancouver. (Linda Przygodski)

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By Linda Przygodski, Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford
(02/25/2010) - Icenetwork.com's team on the ground in Vancouver, Linda Przygodski, Amy Rosewater and Lynn Rutherford, pen all the tidbits from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Dragging to a finish
Icenetwork.com's team on the ground is breaking up after tonight's ladies free skate. Linda (Przygodski) has to get back to the New York offices to man icenetwork.com's live coverage of the 2010 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships next week. Lynn (Rutherford) and Amy (Rosewater) will stay to cover any exhibition or closing ceremonies news.

We think it's appropriate that icenetwork.com had to try and get to Vancouver after a blizzard and will now try and return to the East Coast in a blizzard... good times.

No rest for photographers
Competition for the best photography spots for the ladies free skate -- generally considered as close to the judges' panel as possible -- is as hot as the Yu-Na Kim v. Mao Asada rivalry.

Earlier this week, a photographer for The Los Angeles Times arrived at the Pacific Coliseum's press center to receive his position for the ladies' short program, only to find he was 25th in line.

Volunteers arriving in the wee hours this morning were startled to find one Asian photographer asleep on the floor. Seems he hid in a locker before the press center was cleared and locked up for the night, in order to emerge and claim the first spot in line.

Past champions
Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill are among the U.S. skating gold medalists in the stands at these Olympics, and both were mesmerized by Yu-Na Kim's "Bond girl" short program.

"I thought Yu-Na was up and above," Fleming said. "She's powerful, she has the speed, she has the jumps, and the edge coming out of jumps. It's not necessarily just about the jump and completing the turns; it's the edges going in and out. It looked so easy.

"And Mao Asada's triple Axel was pretty easy, too."

Longtime rivals Kim and Asada stand one-two going in to tonight's free skate, with less than five points separating them. Fleming likens their rivalry to the mid-90's showdowns between Michelle Kwan and Lu Chen.

"They really pushed each other," she said. "I think it's like what happened in dance [between Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White]. You need that environment.

"I like Yu-Na's style, I like her quietness, I like her elegance, and I like her speed. It just looks effortless. I was sitting next to somebody, explaining skating, last night, and I said, 'When it looks easy, it's good. If it looks hard, they're not doing so good.' She made it look very easy.

"Mao Asada has those incredible jumps; I mean, she's grown a lot, too. She used to be a little peanut and now she's really tall, and she still can do it . . . When you get older, your body changes, and that changes your timing. You start fluctuating with your weight and your technique goes out the window, because its harder to move it around."

Hamill, too, is a big fan.

"They're all different, they're all incredible, each one has a different strength than the other, and I absolutely thought Yu-Na Kim was by far the best," she said.

"The magnificence of her jumping, the height and the power, the confidence, she just exudes solidity. She told Brian Orser she wanted to be a happy skater, and [Orser and choreographer David Wilson] gave her the program for that. That is exactly what I see when I watch her -- a happy, strong, fluid skater."

Rochette's tragedy sparks memories for Fleming
Watching Joannie Rochette skate just a few days after getting the news of her mother Therese's sudden death had a deep impact on Fleming, who lost her father, Al, shortly after she won her first worlds in 1967.

Fleming and her mother, Doris, were traveling on the post-worlds' ISU tour at the time, in Moscow.

"I don't know how she could deal with all that," Fleming said. "[Her performance] was off-the-charts focused. I lost my dad two weeks after I won my first world championship. I was 17 and he died of a heart attack.

"It's a huge loss and to have it so sudden and with no warning, I don't think it's really sunk into her. She just really can't go there quite yet, but I think after all this over, it's going to be quite a bit for her to handle."

Cheering on Flatt and Nagasu
Both champions said they expected big things of U.S. skaters Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu, who sit fifth and sixth going in to the free skate here.

"These girls are very young, 16 and 17," Fleming said. "They have a lot of good years ahead of them. Rachael is a very steady, very consistent skater. She's a very strong competitor and she's going to do us proud.

"Mirai is just 16; she's more of a real free spirit out there. Her technical skills are up there with her artistry, she has the combination, but she doesn't have the experience just yet."

Hamill, who has been mentoring Flatt the past two seasons, couldn't be happier with her protégé's short program.

"She did an excellent job; I'm very proud of her," she said. "She's so solid. There's never a question on her edge take-off; there's never a question on her landings . . . She's got years to continue working on her expression and expressiveness and I think [choreographer] Lori Nichol did a terrific job pulling that out of her.

"And Mirai, she's delightful. Of course she has to work on those take-offs, a Lutz is a Lutz, not a flip. But her spins are fabulous. She's so adorable; she's really sweet, just fresh on the ice."

Tweets of the day

@Ben_Agosto
Thank you@EVERYONE for all your support and comments, you have really made my Olympic experience complete (pic w/ShaunWhite not incl :)

@RachaelFlatt
I'm so excited for the free skate tonight! Thanks for the support.

@JohnnyGWeir
Why can't we all just get along? Seriously? Love everyone like they deserve to be loved. Goodnight lovers.

@EvanLysacek
Check out this months @details magazine. There is an article about mens skating.

@caydeeandjeremy
Cool photo and great story about us in today's New York Times! http://bit.ly/cwVg0z

@Meryl_Davis
Yesterdays highlights? Amazing speed skating events @ PAC and an Agosto filled jam session at the French house! I feel slow and unmusical...