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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Sept. 8

Halverson to sit out the season with back injury

Eliot Halverson's back problems will cost him a chance to compete this season.
Eliot Halverson's back problems will cost him a chance to compete this season. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(09/08/2010) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins bring you the latest from around the world of skating.

Bad back
2007 U.S. junior champion Eliot Halverson has been absent from the competitive scene for a while, struggling with an ongoing back injury. We talked to him Tuesday about the prognosis for his back and his skating. He told us that the injury had been better, and he was skating again and had been preparing for Skate Detroit with a new short program by Pasquale Camerlengo and a more consistent triple axel.

"I got too motivated and excited to get going, so I didn't ease into jumping slowly enough," he told us. "Two weeks before Detroit my back got worse than before. I've been off the ice since and am planning on taking a year off the ice. I definitely plan on coming back if my back is completely healed by next spring."

Halverson said that one of his vertebrae is out of alignment by an inch, and it's pinching a nerve. "Once I started going numb in my left leg, I knew I needed to stop."

Halverson is an exceptionally flexible skater, and years of Biellmann spins have led to an even more painful problem.

"The ligaments that connect my tailbone to my hips so loose (from being Gumby my whole skating career) that they're now being pulled away from my tailbone. I was bed-ridden for about two weeks, couldn't walk. It was pretty scary for a while. As much as skating means to me, and how badly I want to be the skater that I know I can be, being able to walk in thirty years is kind of taking the top priority right now."

We wish him the best possible skating recovery, and we'll hope to see him on the ice again next year.

Three Sisters
Skating moms and the occasional skating dad get plenty of press. For this edition of our blog, we talked to three devoted skating sisters.

Jeremy Abbott's older sister Gwen, herself a former X-Games competitor, can always be seen at competitions wearing a pink knit pig hat. Jeremy started skating when he was very little, and Gwen supported him from the start.

"When he first started skating he had a real talent right off the bat, and I think not a lot of people saw that," she told us. "I've always been very protective of my brother. I just want him to be successful at whatever he does, whether he continues to compete or not. He's been so much fun to grow up with and watch -- he's amazing. I talk about him constantly."

"My sister has been a really great support system for me," said Jeremy. "She's a great buffer between my parents and myself when they start to get nervous. Growing up, I used to look up to my sister so much. I wanted to do everything that she did, and I would brag about how cool she was to my friends. Now, she is the one who wants to do everything that I do and brags about me to all her friends. It's a very weird role reversal. Especially since I still look up to her like the little kid from years ago."

Gwen said that her moment of greatest pride in Jeremy was the Olympics, hands down.

"That's a title that no one can take away from anyone, whether you win a medal or not; you're an Olympian for life."

Gwen has started a fundraising project to benefit Jeremy's training fund for young male skaters. Sales of "Jerwear," available at http://www.pcfclub.com, go directly to the fund.

"Jeremy is at a point where he doesn't need the money to help his training, so I thought I would donate the money to his fund," said Gwen. "Through the sales of the merchandise, Jeremy will be donating $1,000 from last winter's sales. He wants to give back, and me doing this helps him raise a little bit more money than he could during the season."

Gwen also runs contests through her Twitter, http://twitter.com/AbbottSis, where you can win a piece of Jerwear.

"I have a whole new line this season: jackets, windbreakers, tops, shirts, wristbands, all kinds of things."

2010 U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner is, of course, more famous than her younger brother Austin, who finished 5th in the novice competition. But she is his biggest fan and greatest supporter.

"Austin and I are really close," she said. "Moving around so much when we were younger meant that when we were re-stationed, at first we'd be the only friends that we had. I consider myself Austin's number one fan, bordering on über-fan! Years down the road if Austin's career is still moving along, I would support him no matter what."

We wondered how nervous Ashley gets when she's watching her brother compete.

"One thing that a lot of people don't know about me is that I hate watching Austin compete. It is in no way an enjoyable experience for me, because I'm so nervous for him that I'm miserable the whole time. Of course, I put myself through the misery, because I want to support him, but I'm more nervous for him than I am for myself when I'm competing."

Like Abbott and his family, Nick Laroche and his sister Tricia also raise money to benefit skaters. They started the U.S. Athletic Foundation, http://www.usathleticfoundation.org, in 2006 to support financially challenged athletes by managing donations on their behalf.

"We were looking for a way to give back to the athletic community as we are very thankful for all the support Nick received throughout his career," said Tricia. "We manage the financial aspects of training, providing athletes the opportunity to focus their passion and energy on training and utilizing their talents to their fullest potential. Our synchro team, Fusion, had great success at the ISU World Championships in Boston this summer, winning for the 3rd year in a row!"

Tricia was a sophomore in college when Nick started skating, and although she isn't a skater herself -- she says she can barely stand up on skates -- she has been a devoted supporter of Nick's skating from the beginning.

"I definitely always made the qualifying competitions -- Regionals, Sectionals, and nationals, and I even had the chance to travel internationally with him. Boy, am I one lucky sister."

Tricia says some of her favorite memories from Nick's competitive career include a notorious fire during the 2004 U.S. championships.

"We had to come down from, like, the 47th floor and all the athletes, coaches and people were in robes and towels with bed head and shampoo head," she said, laughing.

On a more serious note, she remembers crying with joy with Nick and her parents when he won the 2002 U.S. junior title.

"And last but not least, the courage, strength, and passion that Nick showed in 2009, getting on that national ice one last time after the death of our parents," she added.

Sale
Both of us have been doing some running lately, which, as Adam Rippon will tell you, means there's either a fire or a sale. In this case, it was a U.S. Olympic Committee sale at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and Drew got to go while Sarah sat at home feeling jealous.

Athletes' gear dating back at least to the 1988 games in Calgary was on sale at 75 - 90% off, and on the last day, prices were slashed by a further 50%.

Athletes are showered with clothing and memorabilia at every Olympics, and there are bound to be extras. The sale included U.S. team jackets from games prior to 2006, and most of the opening ceremony gear from 2006 and 2008. Almost all the gear from 2010 was on sale, including boots, shoes, socks, sweaters, polos and even engraved silver picture frames.

Drew saw Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband loading up on souvenirs from their dream games of 2010, in which they coached the gold and silver dance medalists. Evan Bates was shopping for Torino gear, and most of the skaters from Champs Camp dropped in at some point.

Drew picked up three items and left with a grand total bill of six dollars! Our kind of sale.

Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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