The Inside Edge: When skating meets football

Ge opens new doors in China; Skaters set for 'Skate for Hope'

Skater Brianna Hatch and football player Aaron Lesué on the ice together.
Skater Brianna Hatch and football player Aaron Lesué on the ice together. (courtesy of Brianna Hatch)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(05/28/2013) - Brianna Hatch, a former competitor who is now coaching in Utah and attending Brigham Young University, was on her way to take her last final of the semester on April 24, driving on I-15 between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. A car drifted into her lane and she swerved to avoid it.

"I lost control of my vehicle and hit the barrier at 70 miles an hour," Hatch told us. "I rolled three times and broke through another barrier, and then the car caught fire."

The car came to rest upside down, with all the windows broken and the passenger compartment filling with smoke. Hatch, semi-conscious, was hanging suspended by her seat belt.

"The car was so full of smoke, I was suffocating," she said.

Aaron Lesué, a wide receiver for the Arena Football League's Utah Blaze, saw the accident.

"I was just driving down I-15 when I saw her car flip over and end up upside down," he said. "I immediately pulled over to the side of the road and ran over."

Lesué and two other passersby looked in the car and decided that they couldn't wait for emergency responders. One rescuer had a fire extinguisher in the car, and Lesué sprayed it on the fire. Together, the three crawled in the car, undid Hatch's seat belt and got her out of the car.

"I was in shock and shaking so much," Hatch said. "I didn't know who he was. He was talking to me. I reached out and grabbed his hand and held it until the ambulance came."

Hatch said she ended up with hairline fractures of her ribs and clavicle, a separated shoulder joint and bruises to her sternum and ribcage. She is recovering and back to coaching, although she says she is just standing in her skates for now.

Hatch coaches at Peaks Ice Arena, Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University, where she is the team captain. As a competitor, she trained at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. She went to the U.S. junior championships three times and also competed internationally three times in Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Lesué had asked the emergency responders where they were taking Hatch so he could check on her later. He found her on Facebook, and the two have become friends.

"He wrote me a beautiful letter, asking how things were going," Hatch said. "We've been in contact every day since and we've become close friends. We're both athletes, so we understand each other."

"I wanted to reach out and make sure she was OK," Lesué said. "It was just one of those experiences that meant a lot to me that I was able to be there. It was an unexpected reminder of how important and fragile life is."

Lesué invited Hatch and her family to the next Utah Blaze game. After he scored a touchdown, he ran across the field and gave the ball to her.

"He told me I have tickets for life," Hatch said. "The games have been really fun because we wave to each other in the stands and support each other. He's got a huge heart."

Lesué has Olympic dreams in addition to his football career. Jimmy Shea recruited him to try out as a pusher for the U.S. bobsled team, and he's also interested in trying to make the U.S. rugby team. Rugby will be contested for the first time since 1924 at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

If Lesué ends up on the bobsled team in 2018, competing in Korea would have an added significance.

"My father died when I was 2, in a parachuting accident in Korea, serving in the U.S. military," Lesué said.

Figure skating might not be in his future, but he did join Hatch on the ice recently.

"I told Bri that she's going to have to get me on the ice and teach me a few things," Lesué said. "The skates hurt my feet pretty bad. I don't know how they do that. It's a tough sport."

Ge on Ice

"Citizen of the World" and fan favorite Misha Ge is spending some time training in China, partly to spend time with his grandparents in Beijing. He is also hoping to expand his career beyond skating.

"A Shanghai TV station invited me to be on the Chinese version of So You Think You Can Dance," he told us, "But unfortunately, I had to compete at Four Continents at that time. Later, they asked me about joining their ballroom program, which I realized later was the Chinese version of Dancing with The Stars, but again I had a competition (the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships).

"This time, they want to put me on next season of So You Think You Can Dance in a few months, but we will see, because it's hard to combine them with my training schedule."

Meanwhile, Ge says he has choreographed his own programs for next season, although he is keeping mum about the music. All he would tell us is that the free skate will be "serious," unlike last year's comic Charlie Chaplin program.

Skate for Hope

The 10th annual "Skate for Hope" (SFH) benefit show, organized by cancer survivor Carolyn Bongirno, will take place on June 15 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Performers include Ashley Wagner, Max Aaron, Jeremy Abbott, Adam Rippon, Rachael Flatt, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Christina Gao, Emily Hughes, Emily Samuelson, Alexe Gilles, Dan Hollander and Lee Harris.

"'Skate for Hope' has raised over $430,000 for breast cancer research and hopes to reach $500,000 with our 10th anniversary production," Bongirno said. "I am honored beyond measure and ... in awe of the talent that so kindly extends itself to SFH. Grateful is an understatement. The athletes give three days of their time, and many bring their moms who are cancer survivors. The athletes are not just performing; they are participating in the mission of SFH."

We asked Bongirno to tell us her favorite memory from 10 years of shows.

"[The] father of a local cast member called me after one show and said SFH brought their family together to positively face his wife's (the skater's mother) cancer diagnosis," she said. "'Skate for Hope' helped his daughter feel empowered at a terrifying and chaotic time in their lives. This is why I started SFH, to help children and young adults better cope when cancer affects someone they love."


We did some belated email inbox excavation and found a report on a "fan meeting" in Tokyo for Abbott and about 70 Japanese fans. It's too late to report details, but we noted that the event was held in a sushi restaurant.

Yummy. Count us in.

Abbott told the fans his free skate next season will be an "Exogenesis" reprise and that Robin Cousins is choreographing his short program. We saw from pictures that the choreography session with Cousins has taken place, and we are snooping diligently to find out more.

"It was truly an amazing time," reported Minori Yanagishima said. "Jeremy was super sweet to all the fans who came to the fan meeting. Most of the fans said that they felt like they were in a dream, not the real world."

Sarah and Drew
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