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Kriengkrairut, Giulietti-Schmitt can taste Sochi

Inspired duo reflects on incredible ride, knows importance of new season

Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Championships.
Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt finished fourth at the 2012 U.S. Championships. (Tom Briglia)

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By Amy Rosewater, special to icenetwork.com
(09/12/2012) - Growing up in Bismarck, N.D., Lynn Kriengkrairut rarely got a chance to watch much in the way of live skating performances.

"I mostly saw it on TV," she said with a laugh. "Not a lot of skating stars come to Bismarck, North Dakota."

Today, she is one of the nation's top ice dancers, along with her partner of six years, Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, and lives and trains in Ann Arbor, Mich., a state loaded with skating stars. Yet Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt often look to television for inspiration.

This season, the couple turned to Stacey Tookey, a Canadian dance choreographer who is best known for her work on the FOX television hit, So You Think You Can Dance. Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt knew that Tookey would be extremely helpful for their free dance, which is an Adele medley to "Turning Tables" and "Rumour Has It," since she was an Emmy nominee for her own Adele number.

For Tookey, it was her first time working with dancers on ice.

"Stacey came to work with us the week before Champs Camp and spent eight hours with us on a Sunday," Kriengkrairut said. "We started with our programs on the floor and then transferred them onto the ice. She really helped us pay attention to the details and nuances that really help the story unfold.

"A lot of times, we get so caught up in the technical aspects of skating. It was cool to hear her perspective on things."

The couple, who finished a career-high fourth at the senior level at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, Calif., will see how well they think they can dance (on ice, that is) this week in Salt Lake City at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. They will be joined by Madison Chock and Evan Bates (who placed fifth at the 2012 U.S. Championships) and Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus (sixth).

Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt said they often watch dance shows on TV to gather creative ideas for programs, as do their coaches, Yasa Nechaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko.

"You never know where you might get an idea," Giulietti-Schmitt said.

Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt have had other experiences working with stars from So You Think You Can Dance through their performances with Parker Pennington's Skate Dance Dream shows (see more here). The ice dancers skated in two shows in Ohio and had planned on performing in a third this weekend, but then were invited to the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

"What Parker is doing is really incredible," Giulietti-Schmitt said. "He's bringing together the stars from skating and dance into one show and allowing the participants to freely interact with us. I know how much I looked up to guest stars at ice shows. In Skate Dance Dream, the kids can feel like they're one of us."

Unlike Kriengkrairut, Giulietti-Schmitt was raised in the Chicago suburbs and brushed shoulders with several of his skating idols over the years. He recalled meeting Elvis Stojko at a seminar and watching Paul Wylie and Kurt Browning in live performances. He also belonged to the same club as Evan Lysacek and skated on a few of the same sessions with the eventual Olympic gold medalist.

Now Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt are trying to reach that star status themselves. And they know this is an important season for them. Following the competition in Salt Lake City, they will skate in their only Grand Prix assignment of the season, Hilton HHonors Skate America, Oct. 19-21 in Kent, Wash.

The stakes will continue to rise during the run-up to the next Olympic Winter Games, in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. During Champs Camp, they received some information about Sochi, and the impact wasn't lost on this pair of skaters.

"They presented information about Sochi, about the area and the city, and that was motivating in and of itself," Giulietti-Schmitt said.

"It's been a dream of ours for so long, and the mere fact of discussing the details right now has woken us up and made us realize how close it is to becoming reality," Kriengkrairut added.

Who knew this couple would even get this far? After all, their beginnings were not exactly ideal.

Kriengkrairut was preparing to go to college closer to home and was considering competing as a singles skater in collegiate competitions. She had put her name on icepartnersearch.com, but more as a lark than a hope for a new partner. She went on a shopping trip with her parents to the Mall of America and got a voicemail message from someone named Logan. The only Logan she knew of was the skater.

She recalled months before receiving the call when her parents asked her who she would want to skate with if she could choose anyone, and she said Logan. But at the time, it was all hypothetical.

As it turns out, Giulietti-Schmitt's partner had suffered a career-ending injury, and he needed a partner quickly. Kriengkrairut came for a three-day tryout with just three days of clothing. Three weeks later, they were skating compulsories together at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships. Six months later, they were the national junior bronze medalists and represented Team USA at the 2007 World Junior Championships, where they placed 11th.

"Our maturity has grown every year," Giulietti-Schmitt said. "We have tried not to burden ourselves with things we have no control over. We really have started to command our own performance and our thoughts are less cluttered.

"Before, we were so worried about the outcome, our competitors and getting too overwhelmed with other aspects that we can't control," he added. "Now, we feel confident and comfortable with our skating. We trust ourselves and focus more on being in the moment."