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Kaugars brings 'blow by blow' from beautiful Bled

Colorado-based skater enjoying his time in picturesque Slovenia

Lukas Kaugars enjoyed the scenery of Bled and the hospitality of his Slovenian hosts.
Lukas Kaugars enjoyed the scenery of Bled and the hospitality of his Slovenian hosts. (courtesy of Lukas Kaugars)

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By Lukas Kaugars, special to icenetwork.com
(09/25/2012) - Lukas Kaugars finished fifth in junior at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and won the junior title at the 2012 Gardena Spring Trophy. He is blogging this week from Junior Grand Prix Slovenia.

Saturday, Sept. 29

As all good things must do, this trip has come to an end. What an experience in one of the most memorable and breathtaking places I think I've ever been. It will be a sad morning having to leave this place.

When we woke up, we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine, a great way to start the day. Finally, Josh [Farris] and I had time to take a trip up to Bled Castle, which we had spent all week hoping to go see.

And WOW.

I'm not sure there is a sight more beautiful than the one from the top of the castle. As far as the eye can see, there is a spectacular view: from the church on the island, to the Alps, to cattle grazing in a luscious, green field. Coming down from the castle, we got the chance to finally walk around the lake, which was about an hour-and-a-half trek. Worth every second, though. There were countless photo ops.

Back from our morning excursion, we got to see the American ladies put down some amazing long programs. Barbie Long skated an absolutely amazing long to give her the silver medal. Courtney Hicks also skated a memorable program, and ended up third in the long program and a very respectable fourth overall.

After the ladies, Josh and I had a delicious Chinese dinner. I think Josh was especially happy, since it was his first hot meal of the week.

We ended the competition with the ice dancers. Elliana [Pogrebinsky] and Ross [Gudis] skated themselves into a commendable 11th place. Alex [Aldridge] and Daniel [Eaton] danced their way into a second gold medal for the Americans at JGP Slovenia. We're all proud of what we did here.

Well, that's it. We all had a great time here in beautiful Bled. I had fun writing this blog, too. I hope everyone enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. I hope this isn't goodbye, and I get to blog for you guys again sometime in the future. Goodbye for now.

Friday, Sept. 28

Friday has come to an end. I, once again, got to start my day by having breakfast while listening to Enya. It's really come to be tradition I guess...

After that, all the team had practices, so it was off to the rink for us. Not having rain last night, we didn't have fog at the rink today, and I think I speak for the entire team when I say it was nice to be able to see where the rink physically ended instead of having to guess because of a thick layer of fog enveloping the rink.

When practices were over, Josh and I had 12 hours to kill, so we got to walk around the side of Bled that we hadn't been to yet. We got to see how the residents live, and wow, they live in beautiful farm-style homes. If only there were houses in America with that type of culture.

Also fun to add: Damon [Allen] managed to lock himself outside on his balcony today, and Josh and I had to come to his rescue. It was probably one of the funniest things to happen at this whole event.

Finally, we get to the time of competition. For me...it just wasn't my day. I learned a lot from my experience here, though, and I think the experience is priceless.

Then, there was Josh. He skated absolutely phenomenally, and I'm proud to have him as a friend and roommate. HOWEVER, as much as I love him, he took forever with drug testing. We got to spend a solid extra hour after the event ended at the rink just to wait for him. What can I say? I'm a good friend. ;)

Tomorrow, we have the ladies free skate and the free dance. I can't wait to see how the rest of the team does. Talk to you tomorrow, or as the Slovenians say, "Se slišiva jutri!"

Thursday, Sept. 27

What a wonderful Thursday! The day started with a little rain, but it cleared up and got beautiful. I sat outside on the balcony in my room, which has a very nice view. I sat and played guitar for a good hour, which was extremely relaxing and calming before getting ready to compete. It's nice to be able to see the surroundings and, literally, stop and smell the roses for a bit.

After the practice this morning, I walked around Lake Bled, which, in the sunlight, is unbelievably stunning. My roommate, Josh; my coach, Damon; and I took a stroll around a pretty road that surrounds the lake and just took a few moments to breathe and take in more than just competition -- the ambiance of the town, if you will.

All three of us also went into old town Bled and into a beautiful church situated up on one of the hills encompassing the lake. Going into European churches is one of my favorite things to do overseas because of how artistic and architecturally intricate they are. Finally, to wrap up our lake trip, we sat down at a restaurant and enjoyed some of the most tart fresh-squeezed lemonade I think I've ever had in my life -- very good, nonetheless.

The singles short programs were today. Josh and Barbie both skated two beautiful clean short programs. Courtney and I fought our way through our programs, and both agree that we will go out there and knock 'em dead in our free skates!

As a whole, the team doesn't waiver in confidence. Both of our dance teams are looking tough and can't wait to step on the ice for tomorrow's short dance. Right now, I'm wrapping up the evening with Josh enjoying some quiet time out on our balcony with some snacks and music. Can't wait to go out tomorrow and own the ice. Again, GO USA!

Wednesday, Sept. 26

Happy Wednesday! The team finally woke up refreshed and ready to go. We were all VERY ready to go to bed last night.

Today was a successful practice day for the whole team. Looks like everyone has been training hard, because all of our practices are going great. But BRRRRRR! That rink is chilly! The ice feels really good, though. Toward the end of practice, the rink got super foggy, but it was really a good prop for my "Hallelujah" short program. It added that emotional flare ;). There was a warm tea that the rink provided that was phenomenal too, and Josh and I agree it was to die for.

The team also had the draws today. It was a pretty cool experience seeing all these skaters that I'd heard about come and be part of the draw, just like anyone else. I can't wait to have the chance to compete with everyone. Meeting new people and finding out they're so friendly makes me feel really at home at my first JGP ever.

It's been raining all day, so I haven't had the chance to go sightseeing at all. Although, from my balcony, there's been a gorgeous view of the fog circling around the mountains that I've been able to enjoy. Hopefully, it clears up tomorrow so I can go see some more of the country. There are hot springs close by that I really hope I sneak away to sometime and catch some relaxation.

Here's hopes to a warmer, sunnier tomorrow so we can enjoy some sunshine before we compete. Good luck to everyone tomorrow! Let's go Team USA!

Tuesday, Sept. 25

Today, all of Team USA arrived in Bled. It seems like everyone's flight was a bit bumpy, but nevertheless we all got here, so it was a successful travel day.

We got to walk around beautiful Lake Bled today with the free time we had, and we even got to take a hand-rowed boat out to an island with a beautiful church on it. It's amazing to see how all the area has been preserved in classic and ethnic ways.

Once the team was all in, we had a team meeting and all went out to dinner. We went to a restaurant that was really classic in European style, as is appropriate for the first day of the trip. It was awesome to see the whole team bond as quickly as it did; I feel like this Team USA will be a good group that will make some lasting friendships.

We all have our official practices tomorrow, and hopefully in between all the time for skating, we can find some free time to squeeze in a trip to Bled Castle, a beautiful castle built right at the top of a steep cliff by the lake.

Good night, for now!