The Inside Edge: 'An Evening' to remember

LaRoche charity event a huge success; LeDuc teams up with Leng

From left to right: Sean Rabbitt, Bebe Liang, Adam Rippon, Tiffany Vise, Don Baldwin and Doug Razzano in the Hummer limo on the way to dinner.
From left to right: Sean Rabbitt, Bebe Liang, Adam Rippon, Tiffany Vise, Don Baldwin and Doug Razzano in the Hummer limo on the way to dinner. (Drew Meekins)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(07/25/2012) - Drew was thrilled to be able to attend "An Evening on Ice," the US Athletic Foundation benefit, last Saturday. He and founder Nick LaRoche both grew up in the Boston area, and they have been friends since they were young.

Anyone who has spent any time around Nick can see that this project is his baby. The US Athletic Foundation aids competitive skaters with training expenses. His passion and excitement for it shine through every moment. His sister Tricia shares his feelings; however, it is her love for her brother that strikes you most of all.

Nick and Tricia treated their cast of skaters like Hollywood royalty throughout the weekend, partly as a "thank you" for donating their time and talent and partly in hopes of attracting them and even more champions to next year's show. They made sure that every detail was made into a memorable moment.

On Friday night, the cast and several guests, totaling nearly 30 people, were surprised by the arrival of a stretch Hummer limo. As the limo pulled up, the excitement and anticipation on Nick's face was reminiscent of a father about to surprise his kids with a trip to Disneyland. The entire group piled in via red carpet and were taken to dinner at Beso, Eva Longoria's restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard.

The chic Hollywood restaurant was dark, with vaulted ceilings and crystal chandeliers. The cast was served modern Mexican fare in a private dining area. Everyone raved about what a wonderful evening they had.

Joannie Rochette, carrying a fabulous tan Birkin bag, looked beautiful in a white blouse and electric blue, high-waisted harem pants, with her hair down in soft curls. She and Adam Rippon spent dinner in a cozy tête-à-tête, catching up.

The dinner was something of a calm before the storm, as the cast had a long, hard day on Saturday. They were on the ice from 8:00 a.m. the next morning until 10:00 p.m., with only an hour-long break between shows. When we arrived in the morning, nearly every athlete had Starbucks in hand. The early hour didn't stop the group from enjoying the moment though, as Mark Ladwig, Sean Rabbitt and Rachael Flatt and others were all dancing to the music and laughing.

A four-hour rehearsal of the opening and closing numbers went straight into practice and warm-ups. Ladwig and his new partner Lindsay Davis were practicing a new and innovative lift with a difficult entry into a lasso lift. Both Ricky Dornbush and Alex Johnson were landing great triple Axels in the practice. (Johnson was a late addition to the cast when Alissa Czisny withdrew after undergoing hip surgery.)

"It was such an honor to be invited to the show and to fill the shoes (well skates, really) of Alissa," Johnson said. "I know firsthand how difficult it is to pay for this sport, and it felt great to give back my time to ultimately help support others in pursuing their dreams."

Rabbitt was inspired to try some throw jumps with Ladwig, and later Johnson landed five flawless throw triple loops with Ladwig.

The audience included several skating luminaries and some celebrity skating moms: Tai Babilonia, Doug Mattis and Scott Dyer were joined by Kelly Rippon, Jeremy Abbott's mom Allison Scott, Bonnie Gilles and Jody Flatt -- who was accompanied by Rachael's dad, Jim.

At intermission, Mattis and Scott went onto the ice on skates and drew the raffle winners; funnily enough, skating photographer Leah Adams won the grand prize, a trip to Hawaii.

More than one skater in the show choreographed his or her own program: Braden Overett, Flatt and Rabbitt all did, and we'll hazard a guess that Bebe Liang did too.

The day of the show was Flatt's 20th birthday, incidentally. Nick and Tricia had a purple cake and balloons for her in the dressing room, and everyone sang to her.

We asked if she had any fun plans for her birthday.

"No, I have to go back and study!" she said. "I have a final for physics next week."

After such an exhausting morning, everyone had to make an effort to rally their energy for the second show. They did not disappoint, however, skating equally well in the evening.

After the evening show was through, there was a meet-and-greet reception in a ballroom at the hotel for fans with VIP tickets. And after that, the skaters had a pizza party with family and friends that featured a very strange Mexican-style pizza which many were reluctant to try. Much to their surprise, the pizza was a big hit with Rippon and Douglas Razzano.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and we're really looking forward to next year's show!

New pair

Timothy LeDuc, who finished 11th at the 2012 U.S. Championships with former partner Cassie Andrews, had been planning to compete as a singles skater at Liberty and the U.S. Collegiate Championships if he didn't find a partner. However, we heard from him recently, and he had some good news to share.

"Two weeks ago, I partnered up with DeeDee Leng, so I won't be skating at Liberty and collegiates, but I will be skating at Indy, and we're going to skate at nationals," LeDuc said.

Leng is the 2009 U.S. junior champion. Injuries kept her off the ice for almost two seasons, but she is excited to be back as a pairs skater.

"I've been having an amazing time doing pairs with Tim," she told us. "We're working hard and hoping to be on the Olympic team in 2014."

LeDuc says the team will be coached by Sergei Zaitsev in Indianapolis.

"We've already taken tests, so we're eligible to compete senior," LeDuc said on July 14. "We took our junior test today."

Despite the short time until the Indy competition, LeDuc says the team already had its programs choreographed.

"I'm quite sore!" he said. "But it's in the best way possible. I'm really happy to be a pair skater again. It's amazing the perspective being away from pairs has given me. I have such a vision for the future now that I've had a chance to step back."

We hope you're all having a good summer!

Sarah and Drew

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