The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Dec. 21

Sarah and Drew talk pearls, umbrellas and familiar faces

Drew, Caitlin Yankowskas, roomie Steven Elefante, and John Coughlin talk to Sarah on Skype.
Drew, Caitlin Yankowskas, roomie Steven Elefante, and John Coughlin talk to Sarah on Skype. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(12/21/2010) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins bring you a holiday edition of The Inside Edge.

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin drink coffee, shop for pearls and get legit
It took a while to find a good time for an interview with Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin. This is pretty ironic given that Drew and Coughlin were roommates until recently, and Drew and Yankowskas are close friends! But Yankowskas and Coughlin are both so busy that Drew had to lure them to Skype at his place early on a Friday morning with promises of coffee.

"Literally, if we're not on the ice, we're running somewhere," said Coughlin.

Once everyone had mugs in hand, we could finally talk over the events of the season so far. Yankowskas and Coughlin made two trips to the Far East this fall, for the NHK Trophy and Cup of China. How was Japan?

"John looked like a giant over there!" said Yankowskas, laughing.

"I think we were more stressed in Japan because it was our first Grand Prix [this season]," said Coughlin. "We performed well at Indy so we know what we were capable of, but we wanted everyone to see we were legit."

Yankowskas and Coughlin won their first Grand Prix medal in China, a bronze, but they wanted to talk about sightseeing just as much as about skating.

"Dalilah [Sappenfield] organized a trip to the Great Wall," Coughlin told us. "In a minivan that seated about sixty-five people. I'm really claustrophobic but I stupidly went to the back of the bus, in the middle seat."

"We kept stalling in the middle of the freeway," Yankowskas went on. "If we put our hands out the window we could touch the van next to us! The good news is, after that bus ride we weren't nervous to compete at all."

Yankowskas was impressed by the competition arena.

"The rink was absolutely huge," she said. "It was fun to be in a Beijing Olympic venue -- that was pretty amazing. And it was very exciting to win a medal!"

Most of the U.S. team made the obligatory visit to the famous pearl market in Beijing.

"The pearl market was fun because we divided and conquered," said Coughlin. "Caitlin went with Ross [Miner] and his mom. They were haggling over pearls. I went with Ross's dad and we were just hustling people. Pretty soon they were throwing in extra stuff and I felt like I was winning!"

Yankowskas and Drew used to be training-mates back in Boston ("I've known Drew since the womb," she joked) when Yankowskas skated pairs with Daniyel Cohen. Funnily enough, the three Boston friends all train together in Colorado now; Cohen competes in senior pairs with Molly Aaron.

"Dani was my first partner; we paired up in 2004. We got silver at Junior nationals in intermediate in 2005. In Spokane in 2007 we got second at novice. We're still really, really good friends. I dog sit for him. I'm the dog's godmother!

"Seeing him doing well with another partner is great. We support each other on the ice. It's great to have another senior team on the ice -- they push us to do well. It's great that he and Drew are here. I'm not as homesick as I was."

Off the ice, Yankowskas teaches Learn To Skate classes, and Coughlin is also doing some coaching, helping Sappenfield with some of her younger pairs. He currently works with Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton, Mandy Garza and Brandon Frazier, and Madeline Arron and Max Settlage.

"I really enjoy teaching lifts," said Coughlin. "I enjoy working with teams that just got together, teaching them the first fun variations, that they're so proud of. I kind of live all their programs with them now that I'm coaching!"

"You should see John on the sidelines," added Yankowskas.

Yankowskas and Coughlin are in a position new for them, being one of a very few teams favored to win the national title in North Carolina. We asked them what that feels like.

"We're not really thinking about winning the national title..." started Yankowskas. Coughlin looked at her with a shocked expression and blurted out "I am!" and everyone laughed.

"All year long Dalilah has been talking to us about focusing on the components, and we've been able to train the best we have in four years together," Yankowskas went on.

"This is the first year that, through the stress of the Grand Prixes and Champs Camp, we have stuck to the plan we had in March. In past years, as the stress built, we would modify what we did. We did pretty well at Indy, did a good job at the Grand Prixes, and that has built our confidence," added Coughlin.

Speaking of nationals, Coughlin broke the news that fans should be on the lookout for some fun photos in North Carolina -- many of the pair skaters in Colorado Springs took some silly pictures for a "text to donate" campaign for the Memorial Team.

How silly?

"I whipped my hair back and forth!" said Coughlin.

Quad on the sea
Shaun Rogers, who competed through last season, has moored his competitive career and taken to the sea, skating on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship "Allure of the Seas." We caught sight of a very debonair photo of the cast and checked in.

"I'm loving life on the ship," Rogers wrote. "It's a lot of fun and it's a completely different experience from competing, so it's exciting for me. I'm in the cast with Christopher Mabee -- he's the Ice Captain for our cast -- so it's nice to have someone from a similar background to mine. Plus it's nice to finally be making some money doing what I love and traveling without too many expenses."

Rogers said his future plans were uncertain, but he's still doing quads, even though the ice surface he performs on is only 20 feet by 40 feet.

"While I don't miss the training aspect of competitive skating right now, I really miss actually going out and competing. I've been keeping the consistency on all my jumps up in case I decide to come back, and I've discussed with Priscilla the possibility of representing another country if I want to make a run at an Olympics. I've gotten to the point where I can do quad toe on the small ice, so if I can keep that up going back to arena ice should be cake. And the show skating is really helping my performance level."

Although there were no new invisible accessories on display during the Grand Prix Final last weekend, we have to give Tomas Verner a special award for his "Singin' in the Rain" short program. We see delightful new details in it every time we watch it, and we particularly love the sit spin shaped like an umbrella with the rain pouring off the sides. Bravo Tomas!

Born to skate
We noticed a lot of familiar names competing at this year's 2011 U.S. Junior Championships. Olympic champion Viktor Petrenko's nephew Daniel finished sixth in intermediate men; Olympic champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko's son Anthony won the bronze medal in juvenile dance; Isabelle Brasseur and Rocky Marval's daughter Gabriella finished twelfth in juvenile pairs; and Rory Flack and Ralph Burghart's son Remington won the bronze medal in juvenile pairs.

Happy Holidays to all,
Sarah and Drew
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