January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
tl;dr: Berkeley won, Denver can book their tickets to Michigan, and 3 UCs are fighting for 2 championship spots. Oh my.
- Colorado College, Colorado State University, UC Irvine, and Northern Colorado are eliminated from contention. Thanks for skating but they have no shot at competing in Adrian, Michigan at the end of the year.
- UC Irvine and UC San Diego have college figure skating teams? Whattttttttttttttttttttttttttt?
- Natalie McLain, Ruhan Yan, Jennifer Alfred, and Ellen Wilson put UC San Diego Figure Skating on their backs though.
- The Sunyotos send their regards to all dance competitors.
- Karen Yamasaki overcame bronchitis to do her thing in the preliminary ladies event. Lauren Montgomery came back from Scotland and did her short program. These two mainstays will help junior ladies skater Sophie Fritz and preliminary ladies skater Ana Sorenson lead the Denver Pioneers and overcome the transfer of Rylie Pepich.
- Janelle Unger overcame a difficult week off the ice to take home two second-place finishes in her novice events. IN YO FACE!
- Cal skaters who you won’t see in Adrian, Michigan: Jay Yostanto, Benjamin Yeh, Annalise Mahoney, Gina DeNatale, Katrina Phan, Kelsey Chan, and Samira Damavandi.
Passing of the Torch
- UC Berkeley hosted its competition with its best ladies skater, Laney Diggs and its best ice dancer, Teressa Vellrath.
- UC Los Angeles skated on without their top junior and senior skaters, Emily Chan and Mericien Venzon.
Because all four skaters have missed the both Tiger Challenge and Golden Bear Skate, they will not be able to skate at Intercollegiate Nationals. These four 4th year skaters have one more chance at the Pioneer Open in Denver, Colorado to clinch Intercollegiate Nationals berths and tie up their intercollegiate skating careers. Best of luck to these ladies on their studies of their final semester.
So who do the four ladies seamlessly pass the torch to?
UC Los Angeles
Pre-existing core: Joey Millet, Evan Bender, Sarah Palaich, Colorado native Maddison Bullock, and Amanda Sunyoto
Alumna/team supporter: Coral Chou
- Jillian Campbell
- Evelyn Karin
- Carol Lin
- Tyler Vollmer
- Adrian Siew
- Ai Ohno
- Elizabeth Miller
- Sarah Stegman-Wise
- Sara Villalon
- Collette Del Poso
- Rachelle Santos
- Amanda Smith
- Ashley Pournamdari
- Courtney Cruz
Pre-existing core: Sean Sunyoto, Matej Silecky, President Michelle Hong, Team Captain Janelle Unger, Kelsey Chan, Amy Nguyen and Sravani Kondapavulur.
Alumnae/coaches: Marissa Minovitz, Dani Schraner
- Aditya Nandy
- Kathleen Albert
- Sara Billman
- Audrey Phone-Chen
- Audrey Tan
- Kirsten Flores
- Claudia Nguyen
- Maryssa Ziegler
- Elizabeth Zeng
- Anneliese Tung
Most of the newcomers for both UC Los Angeles and UC Berkeley have skated for a long time but the nerves are still there. The last thing you want to do is to tell them “Have fun!” just before the longest 2 to 4 minutes of their lives. In the meantime…
- UC Los Angeles
- UC San Diego
- Colorado State University
- Menlo College/Colorado College
By virtue of their 2nd place finish in Oakland and their 1st place finish in Colorado Springs, Denver has 9 points. It’s mathematically impossible for them to host a competition at Joy Burns Arena, bring their entire team and somehow not make Intercollegiate Nationals in Adrian, Michigan.
Because Cal placed 1st, UC Los Angeles missed 2nd by 0.5 points, and UC San Diego placed 4th, we have three Universities of California with 6 points. Well, shit. If Denver has one championship spot locked up, that leaves two spots for three Universities of California.
My guess for the Pioneer Open? Denver wins while UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles take UC San Diego’s lunch money and the remaining championship spots. I may have spoiled much of the 2014 Pioneer Open in Denver for you, but it doesn’t mean the last Pacific regional of the year is any less exciting.
November 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
Sitting in refrigerator-like conditions for 7 hours will change a man. Primarily, it just makes him wish he brought a pair of gloves, a heavier-duty jacket, and a blanket to make the cold a little more tolerable.
Anyway, I caught the last 7 hours of the 2014 Pacific Coast Sectionals at Oakland Ice, where the top 4 placing skaters in each event secure trips to Boston for the 2014 US Figure Skating Championships. The junior and senior pairs, the junior and senior men, and the junior and senior ladies finish up their chance to show why they should move on. Here are the results page for the 2014 Pacific Coast Sectionals.
Depending on how many competitors are in the event, there can be up to four to five skaters on the ice for 5 minute warm-ups at a time. The first couple of things I notice from these higher-level skaters during their group warm-ups are their ice awareness and self-confidence.
Each of these skaters who have made it this far in the qualifying stages have been skating for a very long time. They don’t need to rely on their sight to know where their arms and legs are. Instead, these athletes rely on muscle memory and the feel of how they’ve practiced their jumps, spins and footwork to successfully complete their routines.
It isn’t as if the skaters are ignoring what they see completely. They just won’t keep their gaze affixed on the ice beneath them. Nope, nothing interesting down there. Instead, they will set their eyes on where they will skate next to anticipate where other competitors are going.
Speaking of where competitors are going, these skaters are fearless. They will each practice their portions of their routine, coming within a yard of each other at certain areas of the ice. These close encounters would freak out a new skater who isn’t used to such a welcoming.
These junior and senior skaters will give physical body cues that tell other skaters when a jump or spin will occur. Competitors will defer space to those jumping and spinning before navigating around them and getting ready for jumps/spins of their own. They have great spatial awareness, honed by practicing on crowded sessions at home, that allow everyone to avoid collisions and injuries altogether.
If the same skaters you see during warm-ups are feeling the nerves and the gravity of the stakes at hand, you can’t immediately tell.
At this level of skating where everyone has the same jumps, it comes down to the mental side of things to determine who lands those jumps flawlessly. When triples are necessary to get the highest possible scores, now isn’t the time to waver over whether or not you can land the jump.
“Regardless of whether everything is perfect before the jump takeoff, I will land this f___ing jump” dominates the mental thoughts. It’s what ensures that the muscle memory repeats every little detail that the skater practiced in the training sessions. The crowd cheers on successfully landed jumps, whether the skaters landed perfectly or salvaged things from going wrong. They groan when skaters just miss making all 1080 degrees of rotation.
In 7th place after the short program with 45.43 points due to a fall on a triple flip, Laney Diggs was within striking distance of making top 4 in the standings. In a ladies long program marred by falls and aborted jumps, Diggs stood tall.
Skating 5th out of 14 skaters, Diggs dug deep and produced a beautiful performance, relying on a cleaner skate than populating her performance full of triples. She successfully lands the triple flip this time, mixing in two more triple salchows (one not rotated all the way) and two double axel-double toe loop combinations.
A sixth trip to the national championships, this time in Boston sadly wasn’t meant to be. Vanessa Lam, Rachael Flatt, Leah Keiser and Caroline Zhang maintained their leads over Diggs in the short program, leaving her in 5th place and first-alternate in case anything should prevent Lam, Flatt, Keiser or Zhang from competing at Nationals.
Should she decide not to compete with UC Berkeley’s intercollegiate team this year and not continue with skating after this year, it’s a bittersweet ending to the season and career for Laney Diggs. Sure, it would have been great to see her get to Boston but if you have watched her skate as a teammate or a fan, her performances have been a treat to watch. I wish nothing but the best for her heading into her final year of college.
November 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The sport of figure skating does a terrible job at trying to expand its fan base. Before we try to fix that, let’s see why it’s hard for the average fan to be drawn into figure skating.
Jargon – Sports Vocabulary
- Basketball has free throws, two-point shots, and three-point shots. The sport has five positions: (1) point guard, (2) shooting guard, (3) small forward, (4) power forward, and (5) center.
- Baseball has runs or points. They successfully get those runs by taking a walk, hitting a single, double, triple or home run. There are 9 fielding positions where the players try to stop the opposition from scoring points in the game: (1) pitcher, (2) catcher, (3) first baseman, (4) second baseman, (5) third baseman, (6) shortstop, (7) left fielder, (8) center fielder, and (9) right fielder. An additional position, the designated hitter makes only offensive contributions for their team.
- Hockey? The bladed brethren of figure skaters score “goals”. They have six positions: center, left wing, right wing, left defenseman, right defenseman, goalkeeper.
What do figure skaters do, besides landing all 4.5 revolutions in a triple axel?
What, they do more than just triple axels?
Axels are just one of many jumps and many things skaters can and must do in competition:
Jumps like the salchow, the toe loop, the loop, the flip (no, not a somersault), the lutz, and the famed axel. Here’s a slow motion video of two skaters doing all single jumps.
Spins like the layback (where you lean back), the camel (one leg parallel to the ice, one perpendicular), and the sit spin (where you sit). Competitions at the highest level also require skaters to be able to spin in the same direction on EITHER foot, doing back spin variations of the layback, camel, and sit. Here is a video of a girl who spins counter-clockwise on her left side, changing the feet twice between the second and third variation of the spin and between the third and last variation.
As for footwork that doesn’t include any jumps or spins, it incorporates “moves in the field” instead. They incorporate things like 3 turns, bracket turns, choctaw turns, counter turns, crossovers, mohawk turns, rocker turns, and twizzles.
When everything from the jumps, spins and footwork are combined with difficult transitions, then what you have is an aesthetically-pleasing performance on par with a basketball player balletically taking it to the hoop, a baseball player patrolling the field on defense, and a hockey player controlling the puck and getting ready to score a goal.
Post-Michelle Kwan Era
When I mention some of the biggest names in sports like LeBron James, Mariano Rivera and Sidney Crosby, they elicit at the very least a “Hey! I’ve heard of that name before” response. To fans who have been following these athletes’ for the duration of their professional careers, there’s a fiery love/hate relationship with no room in between.
These elite athletes communicate through their skills, knowing whatever the opponent does, they cannot stop the elite athletes from dominating. It’s through those same skills that inspire fans around the world to see their athletes on and off their arenas. These elite athletes make it seem like anything is possible.
Who can do that as an American figure skater?
There’s been a noticeable power void that Michelle Kwan left when she finished her final international competition in 2005. The 9-time national champion, who couldn’t quite put it together at the Olympics still left a lasting impression on the imagination of every fan. With her successful triple jumps and gracefulness during her signature spiral sequence, Kwan led the way for the American ladies well into the 2000s.
The American team currently doesn’t have a female skater that can confidently dominate the rest of the field like Michelle Kwan once did but Ashley Wagner will certainly do her best. Lurking behind Wagner are Gracie Gold and Mirai Nagasu. On the men’s side, you have defending Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, though the world worries that he’ll return from injury at full strength to defend his title. If he cannot skate in the Olympics, the skaters who have looked good after this year’s international competitions are Jason Brown and Adam Rippon.
The skaters to also keep note of are Charlie White and Meryl Davis. Skating together since they were 10 years old, they are currently the top-ranked American ice dancers and 2nd ranked team in the world. If anyone is capable of setting the bar high for a discipline of figure skating, overcome their Canadian archnemeses Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and dominate the rest of the field, it’ll be White and Davis. Keep an eye out for them in February.
For a sport where skaters train daily (sometimes fit in school between morning and afternoon workouts) and pick about 3-4 competitions to skate in, figure skating competitions happen fairly regularly. The season goes from September to March, from qualifiers to World Championships and the Olympics if it’s an Olympic year.
If you have made your country’s figure skating team, then your qualifiers will take you from Skate America in the US, Skate Canada in … Canada, and Cup of China in Beijing to the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, and Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. If you are relatively unknown in the US, then you go through regional qualifiers in the Pacific, Midwest or Eastern regionals, national semifinals, then have your breakout moment on the national stage.
Attending these competitions or watching them on TV isn’t as easy as catching Sunday Night Football on NBC or the NBA Finals on ABC. NBC covers some important figure skating competitions but if you don’t live in Europe and get the EuroSports Live channel, you must rely on an annual subscription to IceNetwork/MLB Advanced Media to keep updated with your favorite skaters.
However, if you don’t mind watching things after they happen, people post clips of skaters’ performances on YouTube so you don’t have to pay the 50 dollar fee for IceNetwork or much more to attend the competitions in person. It’s just a matter of checking to see if your favorite skater(s) participated in a competition or not.
It’s a steep learning curve for you and I in order to fully enjoy figure skating but I think we can make this work. We’ll collaborate with Kenny Loggins and navigate our way out of the danger zone. Hold my hand.
P.S.: What the hell is a triple flip?
November 6, 2013 § 5 Comments
Rather than dwell on the fact that figure skating is a really expensive sport that requires a lot out of its participants financially, physically and mentally, let’s focus on something that’s less depressing about ice skating: outdoor holiday rinks. The San Francisco Bay Area region is spoiled to have two outdoor rinks, where people can celebrate their holidays and create beautiful memories of their time figure skating.
One rink is located in Union Square and despite being 50% smaller than an average indoor rink, the Union Square outdoor rink is located next to a cool four story tall Christmas tree, bright lights and Cheesecake Factory across the street. The other is located at Justin Herman Plaza in the Embarcadero, a little bit further down the waterfront from AT&T Park. This rink is significantly bigger than the Union Square one, giving you more room to take pictures, fall on the ice and imitate an ice skater.
You seem like a pretty responsible person so here are suggestions that may leave you with less bruises to your body and dignity:
Wearing jeans while skating
No, I’m not expecting you to come in on a brisk morning or a really cold evening in Lululemon or generic running pants. I am also not advocating for you to take off your pants just to go skate. Jeans restrict leg movements, making it harder to skate around, jump, spin, do crazy footwork. As long as you don’t over-exert yourself skating in jeans, it shouldn’t be too bad. I also pray that the pair of jeans you’re wearing doesn’t rip when you attempt a figure skating element out on the ice.
Instagram on the ice
I get it. Holiday rinks aren’t around every day of the year. Four story tall trees aren’t in the middle of Union Square every day of the year. I have nothing against people instagram-ing the lovers and third-wheeling friends, the Embarcadero waterfront or tall trees. At the same time, it may be safer to do this off the ice.
The people in the photo need to be stationary and lined up with the tree. Photographers are stationary trying to get a good photo. They will take multiple shots in order to get one good shot.
That’s cool and all but you’re all standing in the middle of a busy rink, surrounded by people who don’t skate all that often and have control over where they fall or skate. You’re asking to be knocked over if you’re standing in the middle of the ice rink, in the way of everyone else. It’s a little less dangerous when you take these pictures off the ice, and the image of you dazed and confused, sprawled on the ice won’t be immortalized on Vine.
Eating bacon cheeseburgers and Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes
Plenty of spots to eat during the holidays. Maybe these are the choices you’re thinking about when you want to have a good meal with friends and skate after. Perhaps there are fancier restaurants like House of Prime Rib, Prospect, or Gary Danko in mind. Really though, right before you’re about to skate?
These dinner choices may make you feel a little sluggish, so if your dinner ends half an hour before the next skating session starts, take that time to digest a little bit. If not, the wobbling on ice skates, as well as other skaters skating around in circles may induce some nausea and barfing. Take the skating slow and just have a good time.
- Each session starts at every even hour of the clock and lasts for 90 minutes.
- Check here and here in case there’s a day where some rich dude/company bought out the ice rink for a session or the whole day. Otherwise, check these sites anyway to see how much money things will cost, what time the sessions happen on weekdays and weekends, etc.
- Union Square Ice Rink allows people to purchase tickets online to avoid lines and stuff. $2.50 in extra fees but sometimes, it’s worth it rather than finding out the session you want to go to is all sold out.
- Union Square also won’t let you do spins and jumps once there’s four or more people on the ice so go early if that’s your thing. Otherwise, have fun skating in circles with friends.
- Either have someone watch your stuff to avoid theft or pay money to use the lockers provided by the rinks.
- Falling on the ice, it happens. Just enjoy the few times you skate every year.
November 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Hey, you seem to enjoy the Olympics quite a bit. Let’s play a game.
I spy with my little eyes a gold medal with something inside shaped like this. No, it’s not a jagged banana. Embedded in the medal is a piece of the meteorite that landed in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia in 2012. Gold medal winners will receive these special medals in events that finish up on February 15th, commemorating the anniversary of the meteorite landing.
Winners in esteemed sports such as alpine skiing, cross country skiing, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, and speed skating will win these cool gold medals.
Which figure skaters, American or not have the best chance at winning these limited edition gold medals? Trick question.
- The team event, where nations compete against each other in the traditional skating events ends on 2/9.
- Pairs skaters finish on 2/12.
- The individual men’s skaters finish up on Valentine’s Day.
- Ice dancers finish up on 2/17, barring any judging scandals.
- Finally, the individual ladies finish up on 2/20.
Figure skaters have no chance to get gold medals that sparkle like their outfits. In 95 days, rival skaters will settle some scores and shoot for the gold medals of the regular kind. Go Meryl Davis/Charlie White, Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Max Aaron, Evan Lysacek, Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, and Alissa Czisny (!!). USA!
November 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
My coach and I are putting together a competition piece for
the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2018 Winter Olympics a competition in the near future. But as my loyal readers, if you come out to see me practice the freeskate, make sure my body language and facial expressions match the tone of the music. If you see me skating with this game face on,
… welp, you’ll know exactly what to do.