The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Brezina, Bates and regattas

Evan Bates chats with one of his doctors about his recovery.
Evan Bates chats with one of his doctors about his recovery. (courtesy of Evan Bates)


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By Sarah S. Brannen & Drew Meekins, special to
(10/26/2010) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins deliver another edition of The Inside Edge.

Time Out
Michal Brezina, who finished fourth at the 2010 World Championships, had surgery eleven days ago for a varicose vein in his abdomen, which necessitated withdrawing from the Cup of China competition.

"The doctors said that I can start skating in about two weeks," he emailed. "I feel okay, actually much better then I did before the surgery. I will try to be ready on my second Grand Prix [Trophée Eric Bompard] but I will see how quick I will get back to my jumps and my programs. For sure I'll be okay for nationals."

Brezina mentioned that he is keeping his An American in Paris free skate from last season, and that he'll be skating to Japanese Kodo drum music for the short program.

Evan Bates is on the road to recovery after a fluky accident severed his Achilles tendon. He had surgery on Sept. 30, and he told us he has started rehab and is doing water therapy.

"They cut off my cast on Tuesday and I saw my stitches for the first time," he said. "I'm in a walking boot with a 20% heel-raise in it. I'm walking with a cane and kind of limping around. I was surprised how much motion I had right out of the cast, pretty good toe-point for an ice dancer. Gradually stretching it out is painful, but that's the whole therapy process. It only hurts if I stumble and put too much weight on it."

Bates' doctor told him that he might be able to get back on the ice three months after the surgery.

"They only had to make one incision," Bates said. "I don't know what happened in the operating room, I was knocked out, but I guess it went well. It was my first time being drugged and it was the most bizarre thing. It was freaky. They shaved my leg and cut me up and put me back together and I have no recollection of it."

We asked Bates to describe the accident to us, although we felt bad asking him to relive it.

"It was such a fluky, quick accident, one swoop of the blade, one movement," he said. "It was just a normal generic lift. The blade caught me right above my skate, a really high cut. I felt a kick, put Emily down, and then I looked at Emily and said, 'What's wrong with my skate?' It felt like a cross-country ski, with the heel that comes up. It felt so creepy, really weird, not even painful. It wasn't painful until hours later when it became pretty agonizing. I thought maybe I had hit a muscle, I didn't think it was a torn Achilles tendon, that's like a worst-case scenario."

We asked how his partner Emily Samuelson is doing.

"Emily is good. She's so dedicated. She hasn't taken a day off from skating at all. She's up at 7:00 a.m., skating many hours by herself, as though we were still training."

Bates' main challenge at the moment, apart from physical therapy, is finding something to occupy his time. We offered to come up with some ideas, so stay tuned.

Tommy Steenberg told us that he started feeling under the weather at the end of July, and he ultimately decided not to skate at his regional competition.

"Two days after the Young Artists Showcase finished, I came down with a 102-degree fever that lasted through the majority of August. I was very disappointed to not be able to compete at Collegiates, but it wasn't an option."

Steenberg was finally diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, a form of mononucleosis.

"Since it lingers for so long, I was wasn't cleared to skate until just recently during October," he said. "I enrolled for the fall semester at George Mason University. I have been working on getting two degrees, a B.S. in business and a B.A. in dance, so I decided to take advantage of the extra time I would have without skating. The dance program at GMU is amazing, and I am so glad to be a part of it."

Steenberg has skated occasionally, and has done a bit of jumping.

"I've skated about four or five times since the beginning of August and was able to do some triple-triples and all my spins!" he said. "However, I tire very easily, as mono can last four to six months. I do miss skating and plan to perform or compete next year or in the future, and I definitely plan to choreograph programs for students next season."

He wishes all his fellow skaters a successful season.

Austin Wagner, Ashley Wagner's younger brother, is taking the season off to concentrate on school; he's a senior at Brandywine High School. "Balancing school and skating became too difficult for me and for now I am just focusing all my skating attention on supporting my sister and helping her achieve the best she can this new season," he wrote to us.

Partnerships ending and beginning
Amanda Dobbs and Joseph Jacobsen, who made such a splash at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, recently ended their partnership. A hilarious rumor surfaced on the internet that Jacobsen was going into the military, so we talked to both skaters to set the record straight.

"I'm just taking some time away from competitive skating," Jacobsen said. "I'm going to explore some show skating and I'm more focused on my coaching right now. I'm going to take some time and see how I like more professional-type skating. I'm not saying I'll never go back to competitive skating, I'm definitely open to it because I love skating and I love competing."

He explained the origin of the army rumor. He said a friend had compared skating with a tour to joining the army. "And, I cut my hair really short and the rumor really took off," he said, laughing.

We asked Dobbs about the decision.

"He decided a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to take a break from competitive skating, which is kind of disappointing and sad for me," she said. "I really enjoyed skating with him. I already miss pairs and it's only been three weeks. After nationals I want to see what I can do and if the opportunity presents itself I want to try it again."

Dobbs is going to concentrate on her singles skating for the rest of the season. She competed at the Finlandia Trophy earlier in October.

"Finlandia went really well," she said. "It could have gone better, but it gave me somewhere to work from. It was a lot of fun -- the team was great and the area was great, it was just really cold. I'm a SoCal girl!"

At the moment, Dobbs is preparing for her Grand Prix debut at the Cup of China. She told us that she has always wanted to go to China, because her great-grandfather was born and raised in Beijing. She doesn't know if she'll have time to look for his house though, given the limited free time of a competitor.

"I'm trying to decide whether to go shopping or go visit where he lived," she said, "And the Olympic village is there too."

Wesley Campbell has been skating at the Colonial Figure Skating Club this fall, where he is training both singles and pairs. He said he came to the Boston area for a tryout with Jocelyn Sierra last June. It went well, so he decided to relocate. Don't look for them on the ice together this season, though.

"Our decision was to go ahead and learn the basics of pair skating over the course of this year," said Campbell. "Our coaches, Garrett Lucash and Morgan Matthews, felt it necessary to really take the time to build timing between one another rather than rush through tests. Neither of us had ever done pairs before, so it was not unusual for us to spend several hours a day just working on timing and stroking exercises."

"I have always wanted to skate pairs but thought it would be very difficult to find a partner because I am tall and jump lefty," Sierra told us. "I was thrilled to try out with Wes. I admire his skating and respect him so much as a person."

In the meantime, Campbell will be competing in singles, with new coach Julie Graham-Eavzan and choreographers Robert Mauti and Elin Gardiner-Schran. He is aiming for a new dimension in his skating.

"Julie really helped me fix some holes in my technique and she has given me a lot of good training tools in order to improve consistency and stamina," he said. "Robert Mauti came to me with the idea of Man on Wire for my long program. It's about a man who walked a tightrope between the two World Trade Center towers in the '70s. I was inspired by the artistic possibilities of the theme. I am dying to compete it."

Campbell will debut the program at the Eastern Sectional Championships next month. He said he loves the Boston area and particularly the drive to New Hampshire, laden with fall foliage. Wait until February...

On the water
Among the hundreds of rowers at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston last weekend was at least one figure skater, junior man Harrison Choate. He told us he rows for his school, Buckingham Browne & Nichols, every spring. They came in 24th out of 74 boats in men's youth fours.

Sarah and Drew
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