The Inside Edge: Championships send-offs for all

Skating clubs nationwide host events for their U.S. championships competitors

Jordan Moeller hanging out with a statue in Oak Lawn, Ill.
Jordan Moeller hanging out with a statue in Oak Lawn, Ill. (courtesy of Jordan Moeller)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/17/2013) - Many clubs held send-off events this past weekend, giving their skaters one more chance to perform their programs before Omaha.

There's an incredible contingent of senior men at the World Arena in Colorado Springs right now. At the "Fire and Ice" event on Jan. 11, Max Aaron stole the night with a nearly clean short program, just putting down his hand on the quad Salchow-triple toe combination. He did a flawless triple Axel and a huge triple Lutz out of footwork.

Josh Farris skated a perfectly clean, gorgeous and expressive short program filled with interesting transitions, including a lunge into his triple flip and brackets right into the triple Axel.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh also did his short program, and, after landing a fabulous quad toe, had what can only be described as an unusual mistake on his triple Axel. He finished his program and got off the ice laughing, throwing his arms up in a puzzled and amused shrug.

Agnes Zawadzki looked svelte and "diva-licious" as she skated her free skate. Her dress is a knockout. Zawadzki is definitely on our radar for best-dressed next week.

Junior pair Britney Simpson and Matt Blackmer skated a nearly clean free skate, as did Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage. Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim also did a great, clean free skate and are looking strong and ready to challenge for one of the top spots in Omaha.

Buddy System

Highlights from the Skating Club of Boston send-off Jan. 11 included a fantastic triple toe-triple toe from Christina Gao in her short program, and a clean and high-energy short program by Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir. Added to a very good free skate by Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, these two teams look to be very much in the mix, with Scimeca and Knierim, for spots on the world team.

After the show, Castelli posed for a picture with her championships "buddy," juvenile pairs skater Jade Esposito. Castelli told us that senior competitors who signed up for the program have been paired up with juveniles, to help them manage at the big competition and explain things as only a veteran competitor can.

At 11 years of age, Esposito is the youngest club competitor headed to Omaha and, at 4 feet, 4 inches, the shortest. Simon Shnapir, 25, is the senior member and, by far, the tallest, a full two feet taller than Esposito.

Bring Him Home

At the Jan. 12 send-off at the Detroit Skating Club, which we watched online, Jeremy Abbott did a beautiful and basically flawless short program. We love how dynamically Abbott uses his tempo, starting slow and then accelerating into full speed.

Abbott is skating to "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables for his free skate. He went to see the movie the day it opened.

"I went on Christmas Day," he said during a recent teleconference. "When I left the theater, I was reflecting on it in my own head and thinking how I could put my own emotions in it."

Abbott gave the film a rave review.

"The movie was phenomenal, and it's a little embarrassing, but I cried like a baby through the whole thing," he said. "I saw it twice ... to see the performance of the song gave me a new perspective on how to perform it. Every time I do this program, I have an emotional reaction. The more comfortable I get with the program, the more I can explore a different emotional direction with it."

Not at the send-off, because she was competing elsewhere, was Alissa Czisny. As you know by now, Czisny was injured during her free skate at the Fox Cities Invitational and has withdrawn from the U.S. championships. We have been hearing from dozens of heartbroken fans wishing her well, and we are also very sad for Alissa. We wish her the very best as she recovers.

One skate at a time

Jordan Moeller didn't qualify for the 2012 U.S. Championships, but he goes into 2013 as one of the medal favorites in the junior men's event. Moeller won at the Midwestern Sectional Championships decisively. We got on Skype to ask him how his preparations for Omaha are going.

"So far, so good," he told us. "I just got back from [Colorado] Springs, for altitude training and all that. My endurance has been good, running good programs, feeling good."

Moeller, Kori Ade and some of her other students, including Jason Brown, spent 11 days in the Springs over Christmas and New Year's. Moeller revealed that he has made some changes in his free skate since the sectional competition.

"I changed around the order of my long a little bit," he said. "I'm going to do the triple Lutz-triple toe combo in the second half, and I have one extra jump in the second half, a triple Lutz."

Moeller says he is hoping for a podium finish in his event.

"Hopefully, on one of the top spots," he went on. "It's been a goal for the last couple of seasons, and I'm starting to feel like it could happen. Going to junior worlds would be awesome, but it's not up to me."

As for his long-term goals, Moeller is naturally thinking about the Olympics -- the 2018 Games, in his case.

"Every skater has that dream of going to the Olympics and representing their country," he said. "That's been a big dream of mine. That's one of my big goals, but I don't think 2014 is happening!"

Moeller skates a bit like Abbott, and he skates to the music Abbott used last year, too, Muse's "Exogenesis Symphony." He told us he had the music before he knew Abbott was using it, though.

"I had the music last year; that was a total coincidence," he said. "I had picked it out before the season started, and Pegg Hislop, the president of our club, came back from a show Jeremy had done and told me he was skating to it. Last year didn't go how I had hoped, so I wanted to use it again."

Moeller is a senior at Richards High School in Oak Lawn, Ill. He works with an organization called the Beyond Sports Foundation, which helps student-athletes in the greater Chicago area.

"We'll do tutoring sessions, help out with classwork, and then, from there, we'll go over to EFT (Executive Fitness Training), which is where we have our workout. I'm being tutored; it's been a great help to me."

Moeller goes to school in the mornings and then heads to the rink for two or three hours of skating. After that comes an hour of tutoring and sometimes a workout; some days he doesn't get home until 8:30 at night.

"It can be pretty strenuous at times," he admitted.

For the past two years, Moeller has added the extra work of organizing a benefit show for "One Step at a Time," a camp for kids who had or are living with cancer. The first show, called "One Skate at a Time," happened last April, and Moeller and his mother are putting together a second show, planned for this coming April at the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Ill.

"The show featured a lot of different skaters like Jason Brown, Olivia Oltmanns and Josh Santillan, and several skaters from the Chicago area," Moeller told us. "All of the funds went to Children's Oncology Services. I got hooked up with that organization through my algebra teacher from freshman year. Her niece had cancer when she was younger. This teacher has done a lot for me throughout my career, being supportive of my training."

We arrive in Omaha on Jan. 22, and we can't wait! We'll do our best to bring you daily dish from the championships.

Until then,
Sarah and Drew
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