The Inside Edge: Serenades, lettuce and chicken

Quirkiness abounds as seniors prepare at U.S. Championships

The tables turned when Massimo Scali choreographed a lettuce wrap for Pasquale Camerlengo.
The tables turned when Massimo Scali choreographed a lettuce wrap for Pasquale Camerlengo. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/26/2012) - Current U.S. pairs champion Caitlin Yankowskas arrived in San Jose on Wednesday night, and the pretty quotient of the city rose by several points. We went out for lunch with her and asked her about skating and life in Detroit.

"I skate five days a week, Monday through Friday," Yankowskas told us. "I'm not training with a partner right now, so I'm going to take my senior freestyle test. I'm working on a senior ladies free skate program that Marina [Zoueva] choreographed. It's pretty easy -- I do a triple toe and double Axel. It's just to keep me busy on the ice."

Yankowskas says she is enjoying her new home and training environment. In a funny coincidence, her roommate is related to Evan Bates, although she's not a skater.

"It's my fourth month living in Detroit, and I'm finally feeling comfortable," she said. "I know my way around. Ann Arbor is a great little college town to live in. I have lots of friends in the area. The environment and the whole lifestyle is so different from Colorado. I really love it there."

We asked Yankowskas to tell us what happened with her tryout with Italian former world roller skating champion and supermodel Matteo Guarise.

"Matteo and I were trying out together," she said. "We skated together for about seven and a half weeks, and we were also dating for over a year. He and I were going to skate together, but it came down to citizenship issues and what country we were going to represent; it was too complicated for us to skate together. He's back in Italy, [skating with Nicole della Monica] and we're still very close. We talk all the time. I was sad to see him go, but we did what was best."

Yankowskas will be watching all the senior events this week.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the pairs event, and I can't wait till I'm out there again!"

Men at work

Many of the senior men were in the hotel lobby this morning getting ready for their practices at the HP Pavilion. We saw Jeremy Abbott heading out to the bus with his coaches Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, on his way to his first practice -- without a coat.

"I love this weather!" he said.

Wesley Campbell, who trains in Massachusetts, was also basking in the balmy temperatures but having trouble with the time change.

"I keep waking up at 5:30 a.m. and I can't get back to sleep," he said.

On the bus to the arena, everyone laughed at the sight of a chicken randomly standing in the middle of the road.

"I want to ask it why it's crossing the road!" Campbell said.

Jonathan Cassar sat down with us last night to tell us all about his Pagliacci free skate, which he and David Wilson choreographed.

"I had never skated to an opera before," he said. "David and I listened to it all the way through -- of course we wanted to use the big aria, 'Vesti La Giubba,' but there's lots of other music in the opera. The program starts out with a big dramatic moment, and then there are some comedic nuances, and then a love theme, and then it ends with more drama and a big moment."

The big moment, of course, is highlighted with Cassar's signature spread eagle, which, as we saw in practice today, looks even more spectacular than ever.

At Last

One more story from the junior pairs competition from silver medalist Matt Blackmer:

"I was in the locker room right before the long program. My skates were tied and everything. I was in the zone, and then all of a sudden I hear the door open and I hear Etta James' 'At Last' being serenaded to me. I don't think he realized I was in there, and I walked out, and I see Colin [Grafton] staring in the mirror singing. And I'm like, 'Colin, I'm sufficiently calmed down now!'"

How were the acoustics in there?

"Beautiful!" he said.

Italian cooking

We were joined at lunch at a Chinese restaurant by Italian dance stars and coaches straordinari Massimo Scali and Pasquale Camerlengo. Scali urged Camerlengo to order the lettuce wraps, but Camerlengo was mystified by the plates of lettuce leaves and filling. Scali obliged with a lettuce-wrapping lesson, delivered with finesse and style. We were impressed and suggested Scali start his own cooking show.

We all love Italy, and we asked Scali if he missed his home country, and since we were at lunch, particularly the food.

"No, because I cook really well," he said. "So if I want to eat Italian, I just buy fresh stuff and cook it. The only thing I miss is the pizza. I love pizza in Italy. My favorite is four cheese with porcini mushrooms."

Scali said that he had left home at the age of 21 and he is used to life in the U.S.

"I still love Italy," he said. "I don't miss it, but I love it."


We were happy to see two devoted fans from Japan who often attend the U.S. championships. They came loaded down with gifts, including a bag full of Pocky, Drew's favorite Japanese sweet. Drew passed on the almond ones (he's allergic) to Johnny Weir. Johnny, who had just arrived this morning, was sporting a glorious -- and very sparkly -- diamond wedding band. He told us about an equally sparkly pair of gold Louboutins he's planning on rocking later this week. We'll have to keep an eye out for them for our "best shoes" award.

Olympic champion sightings: 3. Natalia Linichuk, Gennadi Karponosov and Scott Hamilton.
Michelle Kwan sightings: 0

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