The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - June 23

Skating stars take the ice at "Skate for Hope"

Johnny Weir poses with fellow "Skate for Hope" participant Emily Hughes.
Johnny Weir poses with fellow "Skate for Hope" participant Emily Hughes. (Leah Adams)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(06/23/2010) - Cancer-survivor Carolyn Bongirno's annual benefit show for breast cancer research and awareness, "Skate for Hope," took place last Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio. 3,000 enthusiastic fans filled the Nationwide Arena for the seventh annual show.

Johnny Weir and Rachael Flatt headlined the show, which also starred Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker in their last public performance as a team. Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, Emily Hughes, and Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin rounded out the list of guest stars. Ryan Bradley had been scheduled to perform, but he's still on crutches after foot surgery last month and he had to miss the show.

"I think it was our best show yet," said Bongirno. "The energy in the building was incredible. The show opened with 'I've Got a Feeling' and closed with 'One.' Rachael Flatt and Johnny Weir skated together in the closing number and did a 'Tai and Randy' Ina Bauer. Johnny's grandfather had passed away hours before he was supposed to leave, and he honored his commitment and skated."

All of the guest skaters donate their time. Bongirno joked that they are paid with fifty cents and a caramel apple. "The apples are Rockne's favorite thing!" she added.

"This was actually my sixth year there," said Hughes, "And it keeps getting bigger every year. All the proceeds for "Skate For Hope" go to breast cancer research, which is very close to me and my family. I feel so fortunate that I can raise money for a great cause by doing something I know how to do well. I've also been able to meet so many amazing people through this show -- Carolyn, who puts the whole show together, is an inspiration. And, of course seeing Johnny is always a highlight."

"Caitlin and I always look for shows that benefit foundations or charities," Coughlin told us, "And cancer has touched people in both of our lives so we thought it was a chance to give back a little bit."

Coughlin confirmed the story about the apples.

"Rockne and I were very motivated by the caramel apples that were part of the gift bag," he added. "We were going around soliciting caramel apples from everyone. They were amazing! Rock told me about them from years before. When I knocked on the door of his hotel room he had caramel all over his hands and face."

To date, Skate for Hope has raised more than $280,000 for the cause.

Dancing up the Incline
Earlier this month we sat down for a chat with the reigning U.S. junior champion and world junior silver medalist, Agnes Zawadzki. Drew and Miss Zawadzki hang out a lot, at the rink and in dance class. If you ask Zawadzki what she does for fun, she answers: "I dance!"

Zawadzki moved to Colorado Springs a week after Drew did in the spring of 2008. Between that and the dance, she and Drew are obviously soulmates. Drew is besotted with contemporary dance and takes class as often as he can.

"I used to dance before I came here; tap-dance, I guess, when I was really little," Zawadzki told us. "This is my first year trying contemporary."

We were sitting outside, and the June sun was intense. Zawadzki put on some oversized red sunglasses. "Rachael [Flatt] gave these to me," she said.

She mentioned that she'll turn 16 at the end of July, and she's going to get her learner's permit. "I can't wait!"

How does she feel about moving up to senior next season?

"I'm excited about it, competing against all the big names. I kind of want people to notice me! We've added double axel-triple toe to the long, and triple toe-triple toe in my short."

What are her goals for next season?

"I really want to get top six at nationals; that would be nice for me. I just kind of want to skate my best at each competition. I'm excited to get Grand Prix assignments. I think we find out tomorrow." (She was assigned to Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup).

Amazingly, the only international competition Zawadzki has ever participated in was the 2010 World Junior Championships, where of course she won a medal.

We asked what else she likes to do, apart from skating.

"Having fun with my friends! I'm a very social person. I like being with people. We go to the pool a lot. Shopping is always fun, but I don't go on huge shopping sprees. I always want to go up to the mountains with people but nobody ever seems to want to go. I want to do the Incline."

We told her to be sure to do it when she has a day off afterward: It's the old funicular line running up the base of Pike's Peak in Manitou Springs, and it's basically a mile of stairs, ascending 2000 feet up. Rockne Brubaker can do it in about forty-five minutes, but triathlete Mark Fretta has done it in sixteen minutes.

We asked Zawadzki if she liked animals and she said "I like dogs, lions, dolphins, turtles... I like a lot of animals. I have a dog, a Chihuahua mix named Sammy."

She held her hand about two feet above the table to show how big Sammy is, then dropped it to about nine inches.

"This big."

We saw some great run-throughs of Zawadzki's programs. Both the short ("Gopher Mambo") and long (Hungarian Gypsy music) are upbeat and lively, which she says is her favorite kind of music to skate to. "I wanted to do something different for my long, which was why I chose the gypsy music.

She said she hasn't seen any sketches for the costumes yet. "I love costumes. I can't wait to see them. I'm thinking the short will have bright colors.

Zawadzki will debut her new short program at the Broadmoor Open this weekend.

On the run
Adam Rippon, Brian Orser and Jeff Buttle will all be running in the Pride and Remembrance Run in Toronto on July 3. Rippon will be running for Orser's team. To donate, go to and type in either "Brian Orser" or "Jeffrey Buttle" under "Pledge an Athlete." It's for a good cause: donations benefit the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at The University of Toronto and Fife House, a provider of housing and services for persons with HIV/AIDS.

"I'm actually conducting a provincial camp in Kitchener July 2-4," Buttle emailed, "But I managed to book off the morning of the third so that I can drive to Toronto on the Friday evening, run in the race, then drive back right after to continue the camp. We're all very passionate about this event."

More music
A few more skaters have shared their music selections for next season:

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig have chosen "The Mask of Zorro" for their new short program.

Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth will be skating to "Clair de Lune" for their short program, choreographed by Tim Murphy. Irina Romanova choreographed their long program, to "Miss Saigon."

Jeremy Ten is keeping last year's long program to "Queen Symphony," although he says he and David Wilson have re-choreographed the entire program.

Cindy Stuart choreographed Amanda Dobbs' new short program to "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and re-choreographed her long program, last year's "Concierto de Aranjuez."

Dobbs and her pairs partner Joseph Jacobsen will be keeping last year's short program, and Renée Roca has choreographed a new long program for them, to "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Richard Dornbush told us he will be keeping his short program, "Elena," by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. His new long program will be to music from the movie Sherlock Holmes; both programs were choreographed by Cindy Stewart.

We're already working on our next blog, which will include plenty of dance and choreography and some news from up north.

Until then,
Sarah and Drew
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