The Inside Edge: U.S. championships greetings!

Sarah and Drew share their excitement as they arrive in Omaha

Christina Gao (left), Doug Razzano and Caitlin Fields being silly in the hotel lobby.
Christina Gao (left), Doug Razzano and Caitlin Fields being silly in the hotel lobby. (Sarah S. Brannen)


Top Headlines
By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/22/2013) - We're here!

We're very excited to be in Omaha for the 2013 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships for the sixth time as a team. As ever, we'll try to find all the interesting behind-the-scenes stories of the championships.

Drew made the short flight from Denver this morning, along with some other members of the Colorado contingent. Alex Johnson and his coach Tom Dickson were dressed in matching black ensembles and wild, wavy haircuts. Drew shared a taxi to the Hilton with another person from the flight, who oddly enough was in town for business, not for the figure skating. He asked Drew all about the championships and the skating world in general. He told us that he recognized "the man with white hair and a world team jacket" on the flight, and we told him that was the fabulous Frank Carroll.

"I've seen him on TV before, and I was in Vancouver to watch the Olympics, so he looks familiar to me," he said.

Carroll, by the way, looked baggage-claim chic in jeans and Prada sneakers. A Louis Vuitton work bag slung over his luggage completed his look.

After a very quick photo shoot at accreditation, we ran over to watch the junior pairs short program. We spotted Ashley Wagner, who was hard to miss. Her radiant beauty lit up the arena stands. Wagner was wearing a wonderfully edgy look, with a denim shirt, skin-tight maroon jeans and black heels.

We flagged her down to tell her how great she looked, to which she replied with a smirk, "Thanks, I just got over food poisoning!"

In the lobby, we saw Christina Gao hanging out with Douglas Razzano and junior pairs skater Caitlin Fields. Gao got in on Monday, after a trip made four hours longer by a canceled flight. Razzano made it in this afternoon after a two-hour flight.

"Worst two hours of my life," he said.

It turns out there was nothing wrong with the flight; Razzano was just referring to his jangled nerves. He finished fifth at the 2012 U.S. Championships.

The Shibutanis try pairs?

Siblings Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani started off their pre-event teleconference with a little silliness.

"We're really excited to be in Omaha next week," Maia said. "Alex has been having some trouble with his landings, but I think if I throw him high enough, we should be able to do it."

"We've been talking with Marina [Zoueva] and we think we're going to go with the quadruples in the short and the long," Alex added.

We expect beautiful dancing, if not quad throw jumps, from the Shibutanis. We'll also be hoping for another in their series of backstage "Shib Sibs" videos.

"We don't currently have anything planned for nationals, but the way most of these have gone, we don't really have a plan," Alex said. "They often happen spur of the moment. It's usually a big rush and then me editing, with Maia looking over my shoulder."


Laney Diggs, who hasn't competed at the U.S. championships since 2010, will skate in the ladies event as a last-minute replacement after Vanessa Lam withdrew due to injury. She only found out that she'd be making the trip to Omaha on Saturday afternoon.

"I was at the rink, coaching, when I heard," Diggs told us. "I haven't been skating much since sectionals. I started doing programs on Thursday. I'm just here for the experience. I came back this season kind of on a whim, because I love skating and I missed it a lot. I'm looking forward to not making a fool of myself!"

Diggs is a junior at the University of California Berkeley, where she is pre-law, majoring in media studies.

"I love it," she said. "I enjoy school so much. I'm actually sad that I have to miss this first week of school, but it's so worth it."

Winter Weddings

Michelle Kwan married Clay Pell at the First Unitarian Church in Providence, R.I. on Jan. 19. Dick Button, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano, Tom Collins, Donna de Varona, Paula Abdul and Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee were among the guests. The bride wore Vera Wang, of course, in a lovely cream color.

Kwan's sister, Karen, stunning in red, was one of her attendants. Pell, a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, wore his dress uniform and the couple walked under the traditional "saber arch" of swords raised by four officers as they left the church.

Haydenettes coach Saga Krantz married law student and Haydenettes assistant coach Sam Mortimer on Dec. 22 in Turku, Finland. Three of her former skaters, all of whom now coach at Hayden, were in attendance.

The bride wore a beautiful lace-up back white satin gown with a gauze sheath spangled with snowflake-like lace appliqués. As she left the church, she was protected from the Finnish winter by a short white fur jacket.


We do hope you all got a chance to play the little video game Google posted on Jan. 16 in honor of the birthday of Frank Zamboni, Jr. If you got past the hockey-game level, you got to clean the ice after cute little figure skaters in a rink surrounded by mirror balls. Er, so we heard.

Olympic gold medalist sightings: 0, so far.

We have to assume there won't be any Michelle Kwan sightings this year, since she is presumably on her honeymoon. Maybe next year!

Sarah and Drew
Follow us on Twitter @SarahandDrew