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The Inside Edge: What language barriers?

Wagner reflects happily on title; Abbott signs autographs

Jeremy Abbott, who is sitting out Four Continents with a hip injury, has time for the kids.
Jeremy Abbott, who is sitting out Four Continents with a hip injury, has time for the kids. (Drew Meekins)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(02/09/2012) - We got to the World Arena Wednesday night in time to watch the Japanese and Brazilian men practice at Four Continents. We found Misha Ge in the stands, awestruck by Daisuke Takahashi.

"Of course my idols are [Evgeni] Plushenko and [Alexei] Yagudin," said Ge, who grew up in China and Russia and competes for Uzbekistan. "But Takahashi is really special -- so smooth, so amazing."

Ge speaks fluent Chinese and Russian, which means he is able to talk to most of the competitors here.

"It's kind of funny in the locker room," he said. "I speak Russian, then Chinese, then English ... I can talk to almost everyone. Not the Japanese. I want to learn Japanese next."

Ge has been working on getting a consistent triple Axel, and he landed some in practice Thursday, although they weren't perfect. There were plenty of quads to be seen, including some from Denis Ten and Takahito Mura. We saw some pretty impressive quad-triple combinations from Takahashi and Patrick Chan. We're looking forward to seeing them, and everyone else, at the men's short program.

Happy

We were happy to see Ashley Wagner skating so well in practice Thursday afternoon (clean free-skate run-through, in sections) and looking so great, less than two weeks after winning her first U.S. title. She mentioned that it felt funny to have a competition at a rink she has trained at many times over the years.

"It's funny to be back here again," she said, "So soon after Champs Camp."

Wagner told us a lot has been happening since her win in San Jose.

"I was really busy for a week," she said. "But now I'm back to work, getting ready to compete."

Lots of people have told us how much they enjoyed watching Wagner's coach John Nicks during and after her free skate in San Jose.

"I know," she said, laughing. "He's usually so straight down to business, and then I'd never seen him so happy. It was really nice."

Autographs

Jeremy Abbott, who had to withdraw from the competition with a hip injury, was at the Sertich Ice Center rink Thursday, working on some choreography with his coach Yuka Sato (he didn't jump at all). The session was full of younger skaters and both Abbott and Sato posed and signed obligingly with everyone.

Quesadilla

Coach Priscilla Hill is here with Mexican skater Reyna Hamui. Hamui, who is from Mexico City, has been training with Hill in Delaware for two years.

Hill told us she was able to attend the European Championships this year, for the first time, with student Viktor Pfeifer. Her U.S. student, a novice man, was done in time for Hill to make the trip to Sheffield.

"I was so happy to be able to go," Hill said. "It's the only major competition I had never been to."

Hill was extremely impressed with Plushenko, who was in the same practice group as Pfeifer.

"He's 29," she said, "And I think he has never looked better. He's better than he was at either of the last two Olympics. He was in a class by himself."

Hill, a passionate animal lover, has the usual menagerie in her home at the moment, including four rescue dogs. She named one of them Quesadilla, much to the amusement of her Mexican student.

Aussie

We met Australian singles skater Nicholas Fernandez after the men's practice Thursday; he told us he has been training in Vancouver for the last two weeks, so the time change isn't a problem.

"I was here four years ago," he said, "And it was a 14-hour flight; oh my god."

The altitude here is still an issue, though, right?

"Yes -- I forgot about that!" he said.

Volunteers

A lot of skaters who train here, and a few coaches, are volunteering at the event, playing music, announcing, credentialing and doing all kinds of the jobs necessary to put on an event of this size.

You'll see Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin Thursday night, acting as monitors for the men's short program, opening the door for the skaters as they take the ice.

"I owe the club," Zakrajsek said. "They've been so supportive of all my athletes. I'm happy to help."

We're off to watch the opening ceremony!

Sarah and Drew
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