The Inside Edge: Just another manic Tuesday

Scintillating junior men's battle, wild combinations rock U.S. Championships

Tim Koleto, who fell to sixth place, got some encouraging words from Armin Mahbanoozadeh.
Tim Koleto, who fell to sixth place, got some encouraging words from Armin Mahbanoozadeh. (Tom Briglia)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/25/2012) - The junior men's free skate was very exciting Tuesday night! We were awed by tiny Nathan Chen's larger-than-life performance, and impressed by Timothy Dolensky and Philip Warren too. We were sitting right behind the Boston contingent, who roared for Harrison Choate and were all thrilled as he rose from 10th in the short program to fourth overall. Ross Miner ran down to the ice after Choate skated and hurled various stuffed animals and flowers on the ice for him.

It was Miner's 21st birthday, although he was much more focused on his own competition than on celebrating. We mentioned to him that he wouldn't be able to celebrate the -- umm -- traditional 21st birthday.

"What?! Who says I can't? Kidding, kidding," he said.

We asked if Miner had gotten any good presents.

"I told all my friends to wait until after the competition," he said. "But one of my Japanese fans sent me a thousand paper cranes! Amazing."

After the event, Choate rushed by us on his way downstairs, almost hyperventilating. We stopped to congratulate him, and he could barely talk from excitement.

"I can't believe it!" he said. "I can hardly breathe!"

Tim Koleto, who dropped from third in the short to sixth overall, got an encouraging text from Armin Mahbanoozadeh after the competition. Mahbanoozadeh told him that he had also dropped from third to sixth in his last year as a junior.

"He said I've improved a lot this year, and he talked about how important it was to go into competitions without expectations," Koleto said. "It helps knowing that it doesn't end today. I'm excited for senior next year."

Koleto also got a message from a fan in Korea, who told him she couldn't eat last night because of the sad look on his face in the kiss and cry.

We saw silver medalist Dolensky in the lobby the next morning, still smiling and glowing from his achievement.

"I had trouble sleeping last night," he said. "I'm really happy."

A long way from Scotland

We found British senior men's competitor Jamie Wright waiting for the bus last night with Colin Grafton. Wright, who hails from Glasgow, Scotland, is spending a few months training in Colorado Springs and made the trip to San Jose to take in all the action. He and Grafton met at the Junior Grand Prix event in Sheffield and became good friends.

Wright, who has a sort of British boy-band rocker-chic look, says the U.S. Championships are a very different scene from his national championships in Britain.

"Oh my god," he said, in his adorable Scottish burr. "It's just totally different. We don't have big screens and stuff -- it's not as extravagant! It's quite inspirational, to see the top U.S. skaters and aspire to be as good as them. U.S. are doing really well right now."

Wright says he is enjoying the training atmosphere in Colorado.

"I have a job in Glasgow so I don't skate as much as I'd like to," he said. "In Colorado, I'm skating three sessions a day, six days a week. I can put all my focus onto my training, rather than running home and getting ready for work."

Wright is enjoying the glorious California weather, as people from chilly Scotland usually do.

"Over here, the weather is so much nicer!" he said enthusiastically. "It's always raining or snowing in Scotland. Even in Colorado, it's sunny most of the time. This is the first time that I've been in California. I love palm trees."

Scoring drama

When the unofficial scores went up for the junior pairs short program, it looked at first as though Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer had won, followed closely by Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier. It turned out that both teams had been credited with some interesting extra jump elements, though, and when the revised scores were posted, Denney and Frazier were in first, albeit with a lower score, and Simpson and Blackmer were third.

The score sheet originally showed that Simpson and Blackmer had done a throw triple loop-single Axel-triple flip combination.

"Brit and I were trying to figure out how to actually do a throw triple loop-single Axel-triple flip combination, afterward off the ice," said Blackmer, who seemed to have a great attitude about the kerfuffle. "It's my first nationals, so it's kind of crazy. But it's fine; we ended up with the score we deserved, so we're happy."


Most of the senior men arrived today and yesterday, including Keegan Messing, who flew in early today from Alaska. We asked Messing, who famously does yo-yo tricks to relax during competitions, how many yo-yos he had brought with him.

"Just one," he said. "I also have a little one that I forgot to bring. It was on my to-do list, but it somehow got left home."

Messing says he has a new trick in his arsenal that he learned from a younger skater at his rink.

"They all look up to him and want to do whatever he does," his mother Sally said.

More Thursday!

Sarah and Drew
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