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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - June 30

Bradley goes out in style, Brown a rising star

Ryan Bradley (center) was surrounded by friends and family at his retirement party.
Ryan Bradley (center) was surrounded by friends and family at his retirement party. (Drew Meekins)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(06/30/2011) - (6/30/2011) - We both saw 2011 U.S. champion Ryan Bradley in the past week, in different states. Drew went to Bradley's retirement party in Colorado, and two days later Sarah had dinner with him at a skating camp in Massachusetts.

At the party, friends and family gathered to celebrate the close of Bradley's career. Bradley and his friends played pool, watched old videos of his skating performances and looked at photos and newspaper clippings. Near the end of the evening, Bradley spoke eloquently about his career and all the people who had been a part of it, in particular his coach Tom Zakrajsek.

"My sister was Tom's first student," he said. "I started skating because of Tom. We followed Tom to Colorado so my sister could skate, and then she got injured. All of a sudden I was surrounded by so many great skaters: Damon Allen, Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells, and Kathy Casey. It changed what I considered skating. It went from something I did to something I lived."

Zakrajsek coached Bradley for his entire 22-year career.

"He was there from the beginning to the end," said Bradley. "I don't think you'll ever see that again. It's fashionable to change coaches now, and kids don't compete for that long."

Zakrajsek and others at the party, including Rachael Flatt and Max Aaron, roasted Bradly, telling their favorite stories about him; truth be told, since Bradley is well, Bradley, we can't print most of them! However, Zakrajsek started with a story about the first time he met Bradley, as a very young boy.

When Bradley's mother first invited Zakrajsek to interview for a position at their rink, she put four-year-old Ryan onto a patch session so the rink would look busier, even though he had no idea how to do figures. Zakrajsek was giving a lesson when he was suddenly whacked in the leg by a flying scribe. When he looked down, he saw Ryan, cluelessly waving it around.

For the rest of the session, Zakrajsek's eye was drawn to little Ryan. He watched as he marked his center for his patch and then did a waltz jump on it. He raced around the rink, and drew pictures on the fogged-up glass. When the session was over, Zakrajsek sat down with Mrs. Bradley and asked, "Who was the little boy who was out there on that session?"

"That was my son," said Mrs. Bradley with embarrassment.

"I want to coach him! That kid is a daredevil!"

Bradley is still glowing from his dream win at the U.S. championships in January.

"This season was very special to me," he said. "I wanted to be successful enough that I could retire, not quit. Right after nationals I woke up a different person. I'm content."

Rising star
2010 U.S. junior champion Jason Brown was also at the camp, and we got a sneak peek at his new long program, set to "Flow Like Water" from The Last Airbender. Rohene Ward did the choreography.

"The movie is like the four elements of life: air, earth, water and fire," explained Brown. "It's all about your chi; the chi that I'm doing is water. It's a tough program. That was my second time running through the entire thing."

Watch for some shapes of water droplets in the program. It's filled with complex and interesting transitions into almost every element. The music for Brown's short program is "Grand Guignol" by Bajofondo Tango Club.

"It's a tango, but it doesn't sound like a tango," Brown said.

We asked what the sixteen-year-old has been doing since January, and the answer seems to be: growing!

"From nationals to now I grew three inches, which was really freaky," he said. "In the process, the triple Axel became more of a struggle, so that was upsetting. But looking back at it I feel much stronger as a skater, and I feel faster."

Brown said he plans to try the triple Axel every time he competes, starting this summer.

"I'll be working on it and getting stronger and stronger so it cleans up and it's there," he said. "I feel like it's getting to its last hump, and it will come soon and show up one day! It's a jump I really need to fight for, it's definitely not easy in any way. I believe I will get it."

Grassroots
The Grassroots to Champions Extreme Super Camp in Walpole, Mass., included 76 skaters ranging in age from six to 18 and 26 coaches.

Audrey Weisiger, who started the G2C seminars, told us that after the U.S. championships in January she decided she was through coaching at elite competitions. She's now enjoying traveling the country, running seminars with a few coaches, and then the Supercamp once a year, where all the coaches and skaters from the seminars come together.

"My mission is to mentor coaches," she said. "I call myself the grandma coach! My vision is to take these camps and offer them to athletes in other sports as well, like speed skating and hockey."

Among the coaches at the camp were Doug Mattis and Liudmila Nelidina, who was renowned for her triple Axel as a competitor. She is now coaching in Moscow and hopes to teach the triple Axel to some of her students as well.

Doug Mattis told us hilarious stories about his days training with Frank Carroll alongside Christopher Bowman. He reminisced about doing figures side by side with Bowman on patch sessions, where the two would gossip each time they passed each other on an eight or a loop. Carroll forbid them to practice on adjacent patches because they talked too much! And he told us about the day he first met Bowman, which involves a bucket of ice being thrown off a balcony.

We'll have that story, and much more about Mattis, in our next blog.

Many of the male coaches mentioned that they had gotten into skating because their older sisters were skaters.

"Like in 'I Can Do That' from A Chorus Line!" said Mattis.

"My first six pairs of skates were white, painted black," remembered Bradley.

There's more information about the seminars and camps at comgrassrootstochampions.com.

Jump, jump, jump
The Broadmoor Open, which took place last weekend, is one of the rare competitions which includes a jumps event. We attended the event, and it was a blast! If you've never seen one, here's how it goes: after a six-minute warm-up, each skater in turn does three jumps. They get two tries for each jump. There's no music, and the men just wear practice clothes; the ladies, of course, wear competition dresses. The audience is lively and enthusiastic, yelling to the skaters and cheering loudly. The skaters, for the most part, are very relaxed, laughing and playing with the crowd.

Patrick Chan won, naturally, and in style. He landed two great triple Axels and two extremely cool triple flip-half loop-triple flip combinations. For dessert, he did a couple of quad toes; he fell on the first and nailed the second. Max Aaron, who did a great quad salchow with a slight two-foot landing, Paul Parkinson, who landed his first-ever triple lutz-triple toe-triple loop, and Alex Johnson rounded out the top four. We had a great time and we think USFS should consider adding this event to nationals -- a special event, like the NBA 3-point shot competition or Major League Baseball's home run derby. The audience would love it!

Single Ladies
The annual Skate for Hope benefit went off with a flourish on June 18 in Columbus, Ohio. Carolyn Bongirno, a cancer survivor who organizes the show every year, said they raised over $75,000 this year, making it their best ever. Headliners included Bradley, Flatt, Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker, Johnny Weir, Sarah Hughes and Emily Hughes.

We heard that a highlight of the show was a fun group number choreographed by Kate McSwain and skated by Caitlin Yankowskas, Emily Samuelson, Flatt and Alexe Gilles to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies." Yankowskas and Samuelson are of course, currently "single ladies," but we hope they both find new partners soon!

Baby
Jennifer Wester and her husband (and dance partner) Daniil Barantsev are expecting their first child, due on Christmas day.

"We don't yet know if it's a girl or a boy," wrote Wester. "Daniil and I are both very excited -- we found out we are expecting on our fifth wedding anniversary last May."

Congratulations!

Sarah and Drew