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Davis finds joy, value in being technical specialist

Winner of two U.S. men's titles relishes different perspective

Scott Davis (left) poses with Anett Potzsch (center) and Sally Rehorick (right).
Scott Davis (left) poses with Anett Potzsch (center) and Sally Rehorick (right). (Courtesy of Scott Davis)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2012) - When two-time U.S. men's champion Scott Davis was approached by U.S. Figure Skating to become involved in the international judging system (IJS), he was intrigued. It was 2004, and with IJS set to debut at the world championships the next year, there was a need for technical specialists.

"I didn't really know what it was all about," said Davis, who was told there would be training held in Vancouver, British Columbia. "As a coach you want to stay up on all the information, so I went and did the training. It was interesting. It was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things to do that test. The specialists' examination is pretty intense and hard."

Davis, who lives and coaches in Calgary, Alberta said he is a big believer in the IJS.

"The technical panel is an important job. It's a job for the benefit for the skaters. You want to do really good work so it's fair and the public and media think it's judged properly.

"I really enjoy it," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity from the ISU (International Skating Union) and from U.S. Figure Skating to give back to the sport. I obviously love figure skating. It's a huge part of my life."

Davis has served as a technical specialist at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships only once, in 2007. He has, however, done it three times at the world championships (2005, '06 and '08) as well as a couple European championships. These days, he's doing it a little less frequently due to ever-growing coaching work and family demands. He and wife Stephanie LaRiviere have a 5-year-old daughter, Maggie.

"It's hard to juggle schedules and fit everything in," Davis said. "Back in 2004-05, I wasn't quite as busy with my coaching. I had a little bit more opportunity to travel."

He did work the singles events at the recent Grand Prix Final with 1980 Olympic gold medalist Anett Pötzsch.

"We saw all the singles skaters that week -- the juniors and the seniors," Davis said. "It was kind of fun to watch because some of those little Russian girls were amazing.

"As a coach, you're always trying to see what the rest of the world is doing. It's a great opportunity to see some of those junior ladies that are doing these triple-triples and are amazingly flexible."

It's also a good opportunity to observe what kinds of warm-up exercises skaters do and how they prepare. Such observation is strictly for practice. During the competition, Davis said he has tunnel vision.

"It's a different way of looking at things," he explained. "As a specialist, your eyes are glued to every movement because you want to make sure you're noticing landings. If there's a little bit of a hook, you can review it. Or a takeoff edge. You're watching that on flips and Lutzes. Spins, you're counting revolutions.

"You try to focus. At some competitions, it gets really loud and people are cheering. You're trying to zoom in on what the skaters are doing. You don't want to miss anything. If you go as a spectator or a coach, you watch in a different light. You look at the big picture. You can read body language. They look a little tense or tired. The face tells a lot. Their reactions are slowing down. There are things you watch as a coach, but as a technical specialist you're zoomed in on what they're doing."

With the 2012 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships soon to take place, we asked Davis to offer a few thoughts about two-time U.S. champions Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny.

"Jeremy is an amazing artist," Davis noted. "His programs this year are outstanding. Choreographically, they're brilliant, as they always are, but I think this year is even better.

"He seems to be on the right track. Building toward nationals coming up and hopefully after that. He's a huge talent. As a former athlete, you relate to that pressure and how you handle it. For him, it seems like just putting it all together and staying relaxed and confident."

Although Czisny was injured at the Grand Prix Final, Davis still appreciated her progress.

"Beautiful spins and nice programs. Getting consistent has been everyone's issue," he said.

Davis will not be at this year's U.S. championships as he's taking his student, Polish men's champion Maciej Cieplucha, to the European Championships that week. He will also miss the Canadian championships. Coaching colleague Jeff Langdon will accompany their student that is competing.

On the day he returns home from Europeans, Jan. 29, Davis will turn 40. His wife is currently planning birthday festivities, which he hopes will include a trip to their cabin in Montana, where Davis grew up. Although he will miss the U.S. championships, he recalls them fondly.

"When I felt prepared and ready, I was really excited to go to nationals," he said. "That was such a great event and such a family affair."