The Inside Edge: U.S. Championships week

A number of familiar faces are missing from San Jose

Doug Razzano and his mother, Arlene, at the Phoenix airport.
Doug Razzano and his mother, Arlene, at the Phoenix airport. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/24/2012) - The week leading up to the U.S. Championships is always filled with tension, drama and general freaking out. And that's just from deciding what to pack -- and trying to keep it under 50 pounds. In the last few days, our Twitter feed has been blowing up with skaters tweeting their pre-nationals #fail moments. We won't even get into haircut drama -- it's much too traumatic.

Drew found himself called on to act as style adviser for a number of competitors and at least one international coach. Some people actually invited him over to help them pack for San Jose. More on this later in the week.

We finally managed to get everything in our suitcases and get on planes, and here we are! We can't wait to bring you all the news and interesting stories, gossip and fashion that we can track down this week, and of course we are thrilled to have the chance to see some fabulous skating. So check back for daily updates.

Checking in: Sarah changed planes in Phoenix and found Doug Razzano and his mother waiting for the flight to San Jose. We had a long wait, due to a slow cleaning crew. Razzano, clutching a mandatory Starbucks, reminisced about a recent flight when the plane had come in from Alaska, and they had to wait for the bathrooms to defrost before they could take off again.

Luckily, it was a beautiful, sunny day in Phoenix and, hooray, also in San Jose. Razzano said he had skipped the obligatory pre-championships freak-out in Greensboro.

"Last year, I was cool as a cucumber," he said.

He felt tense last week, but added "Now, I'm in the zone."

Razzano scored an exit row seat and was ready to man the escape hatch. We were in good hands.

Missing: A number of familiar faces are missing from San Jose this week. Several extremely talented skaters didn't make it out of deep fields at their sectional championships. In addition, senior men Parker Pennington and Jason Wong decided not to compete this season.

We called Wong to ask what prompted his decision and found him roaming the aisles in Home Depot.

"Well, one, I bought a house, which I just finished renovating yesterday," he said. "Two, my back never really healed from last year. Lastly, I'm really happy with teaching and how it's going, and I want to push it a little further. I'm happy with the decision."

Has Wong retired from competition for good?

"I know I'm done," he said. "I hate saying it though. It's hard to see everybody all excited and amped up to go [to San Jose, and I'm like, 'This was me a year ago.' I'll watch on, for sure. I love seeing everybody do well. I still skate because I love it."

Unlike Wong, Pennington has not ruled out a return to competition.

"I have not retired," he told us. "I decided not to compete this season because of the commitment of building our 'Skate Dance Dream' shows. I knew I wouldn't be able to dedicate myself to training. In the meantime, I'm still skating, doing pretty much everything on the ice, not training like I was, obviously. I'm not ruling out a comeback entirely yet -- it comes down to if I can compete at the level I would like to. But Skate Dance Dream is my first priority at this time. I hope through our shows we'll be able to inspire skaters throughout the country."

Pennington will be in the stands in San Jose, taking in all the action on the ice. Does he find it hard watching his friends compete?

"It's been interesting, not necessarily hard," he said. "Believe it or not, I've watched all the competitions as much as I can. I'm definitely keeping up to speed with everyone. I'm going to stay Wednesday until the last event on Sunday. It should be exciting -- I'm really looking forward to it! I think there will be plenty of surprises."

We're off to watch the junior men's free skate -- more tomorrow!

Olympic champion sightings: Zero so far

Michelle Kwan sightings: Zero

Sarah and Drew

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