On (Maybe) Being a USFSA Blogger

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

Maybe, just maybe. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s a great responsibility recollecting for US Figure Skating a figure skating-obsessed nation still waiting for Michelle Kwan. But until our Olympic gold medal savior arrives and sweeps us off our feet, we’re left with the world-class skaters we do have for the 2015-16 season. Jesus, take the wheel.

We know it takes quad jumps to win senior men’s competition, but do we have enough faith in Kori Ade/Rohene Ward to take Jason Brown to the next level without a quad? Past Jason though, that requires using our remaining faith in Pretty Ricky Dornbush (nice job at Collegiates, slugger) and Max Aaron, throwing up a prayer that they each cobble together a podium-worthy (bronze, pewter, whatever) performance. We’re just all glad that Nathan Chen looks ready to go hard in the paint and represent the US at juniors after an injury-plagued season last year.
Maybe Gracie Gold breaks through and gets a medal that matches her surname. Maybe she doesn’t and the Frank Carroll crew figures out what went wrong. In the meantime, we look to see if Mirai Nagasu (sprinkles are for Collegiates winne- oh…) can make a case that she’s still one of the best American female skaters in the world. Mirai’s a lover, not a fighter, but she’s also a fighter, so no one get any ideas about taking her competition assignments. We’ll have Polina Edmunds for the rest of the decade to let us know that Sochi wasn’t a fluke and she deserves a ticket to Pyeongchang punched yesterday. If we get tired speaking about the other senior ladies, we’ll always have Ashley Wagner to remind us she’s still here.
I understand that with great blogging powers comes great responsibility.

What would Brian Boitano do?

Scratch the triple axel. Boitano settles for the triple lutz-double salchow wearing a blindfold.

Wait, did I really just Uncle Ben myself?

On My First Adult Nat’l Championship

May 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

Adult Nationals was an unforgettable week, even if the two skates themselves were forgettable. This man-child made it into Salt Lake City with an hour to spare before his first event and by the time he left, he made it back to San Francisco International a few pounds heavier, sanity intact. He now has a longer list of skating friends and family to visit in the future, some clear goals heading into April 2016, and a 4th place medal to show for his effort. Sorry slugger, 4th place medals doesn’t get you sprinkles on your ice cream cone.

3rd person references and self-deprecating humor aside, let’s see if I can put into words how weird 2015 Adult Nationals got in Salt Lake City.

If it gets a little too weird or there’s too many words,

 You’re Grounded, Young Man

Could you fault this Average Joe for sleeping in, making it to his 9:00AM PST flight to a layover in Phoenix before heading to Salt Lake City by 4:30 PM PST, all while saving 20 bucks?

The flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Lunch and layover in Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Boarding for my aisle seat from Phoenix, AZ is easy breezy. Take-off from the runway is easy bree- let me stop you right there.

Hi there, this is your captain speaking. Salt Lake City Airport is experiencing to 80 mph gust winds. Planes already in the vicinity have been in holding patterns for an hour and any flights still headed there are being redirected elsewhere. Thank you for your patience, folks.


This guy… But wait, there’s more.

Hey, uh, still your captain here. We know you’ve been waiting here in taxi for the past 20-30 minutes but Salt Lake City airport is closed for the evening. I deeply apologize for the inconvenience but we’re going to have to cancel your flight. We’re going to take this baby back around and take you folks back to the terminal.

Weather, 1. Me, 0.

It turns out the canceled flight not only strands a competitive skater, but it also strands my Salt Lake roommate’s skating coach, whose competed internationally and a skating judge who was on track to judge in this past Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It’s like a start to a bad joke.

Now grounded in Phoenix, yours truly, coach Adrienne D. and judge Richard D. waited an hour in line at American Airlines customer service to find out that due to canceled flights – weather, you only get discount vouchers to coupons, no outright free stays in hotels or free food vouchers. 10 hour drive from Phoenix to Salt Lake City or stay in Phoenix for a night and tackle the insanity of the competition the next morning?

We decide to remain hooked on Phoenix and take the 10:30 AM flight to Salt Lake City the next morning. Exit row, Group 1 boarding, my possessions aren’t gate checked. That’s the good news, the dessert. Cool, give me the the veggies. It lands in Utah at 12:45 PM, 1 hour before my first event of the week. Sweet baby Jesus, that’s cutting it close. No practice ice, no time to feel the ice prior to the competition warm-up, only enough time to get dressed, do a warm-up on the floor.

Richard D. makes sure I wake up on time and get some breakfast in my system before the flight, and coach Adrienne makes sure Uber takes us from the airport to the University of Utah campus all in one piece.


First Event – Adult Bronze Men Freeskate 1/3

Reunited with my coach, Robin White, we execute our game plan in the warm-up. Where to start, where to place everything, where to finish, the nitty gritty. Jumps look good. Spins are a little shaky but multiple attempts later, they appear fine. Footwork sequence hasn’t let me down since I first nailed it in Belmont/San Francisco in January. My 5 minutes of ice time are done and I have to wait until it’s my turn, last of the entire event. Thank Michelle Kwan I’m not going first.

Each person ends up skating for a minute and 50 seconds but that goes by warp speed when your turn’s coming up. Some people can watch other people in their group skate, some people can’t. I’m watching, pacing back and forth. No one falls, this is a killer group I’m working against here.

The judges work on a 6.0 scoring system, so they’re not giving you point values for each and every single thing you do. They look at the whole performance, how you completed (or didn’t complete) your elements, the in-betweens, out-betweens. If they need a tiebreak, they’ll decide based on shirts and outfits.

Oh shit, it’s my turn.

The announcer doesn’t butcher my name in the introduction, sweet. The music officials have my music, bingo. Get my game face on, it’s showtime.

First spin goes well, first jump, the single salchow goes well, aww yes.

Transition into the first jump combination, the single lutz-single toe. He’s on his outside edge and…

Gravity, 1. Me, 0.

I popped straight up and didn’t rotate and, splat, didn’t do the combination. Cool, let’s get set up for the next jump, a single flip and maybe another jump on the end since I didn’t do the first combo. Turns, turns a little too much and still tries to tap for the flip…


Gravity, 2. Team Cereal Box, 0.

I fell again, and didn’t do the make-up combination, but gotta keep going. One combination left, a single loop-single loop. Left foot in front of the right foot, arms checked… AND I DIDN’T FALL. It also didn’t look pretty but whatever, here comes the bread-and-butter footwork.

Salt Lake City is 4200 feet above sea level. There’s, like, not a lot of oxygen up here. Two falls into the program, I’m late in my music, with about 15 seconds to go and complete my footwork sequence. My lungs and legs are feeling a burning sensation (you should get that checked out, bro), my body’s freaking out, and I’m mentally freaking out.

Twizzle, edges, three-turns, rocker, back power threes, figure skating word, figure skating word, figure skating word, oh shit music’s ending, have to cut it short (you lose points if your music ends and you… don’t). I’m done.

There’s sweepers, these little girls who skate around the ice for you and pick up the various goodie bags strewn on the ice while you acknowledge the crowd. I’m tired and attempt to stop a bag of chocolate from getting past me like a soccer goalie … and I whiff. Splat, swan dive on the ice.


Physics, 3. Me and Michael-Bluth, 0. Let the sweepers do their job next time.

Good first skate, I guess? I’ll take a fou- Wait, how did I get 4th place?

Second Event – Adult Bronze Dramatic 1

Ladies and dudes are grouped together. It’s pretty dresses on one side and … my plain shirt and tie. This event’s not really about who can jump or spin their way out of the building. It’s about who can show off their skating skills the most.

The announcer doesn’t butcher my name in the introduction, sweet. The music officials have my mus- no, they don’t have my music. The music officials misplaced everyone’s CDs, so let’s all look for our back-up copies. Turns out, I only have one back-up copy and I didn’t have it, my coach didn’t have it. Holy crap, I don’t have my laptop here to make an extra CD and I only have it on my phone. Duh, they can plug the auxiliary cord into the phone but… will they bend the rules, forget the principle like they forgot where they placed the music, and play the music off my phone?

The ice monitor, the dude who makes sure you’re there when you’re supposed to gets the green light for me to use my phone. Phil Collins – In the Air Tonight. Was I going to do it justice? First jump and second jump…

First and second spin…


Nope, didn’t spin in circles for long enough. Didn’t fall but the judges weren’t impressed.


5th place. Sounds about right.

Life Lessons

Some takeaways from this weird week:

  • Bring 10 copies of my competition music
  • More conditioning doesn’t hurt… well, it hurts, but still have to do it
  • Get more consistency on, you know, everything
  • Expect the unexpected, especially with snow and sandstorms

I got exposed at this competition, not with any wardrobe malfunctions but with conditioning, foundation and technique. My goal for next year is the next level up, adult silver and work hard on and off the ice so I’m not the guy who brings a knife to a gunfight.

Special Thanks

  • To my roommates: Maureen and Brandy, you guys got from the hotel to the rink and back, with meals and laughs in between. Maureen, you made sure I wasn’t stranded alone in Phoenix and also made sure I survived Salt Lake City. I’m awesome? No. YOU are awesome.
  • To Coach Adrienne: Thanks for making sure PHX to SLC went as smooth as it could go. Also, sorry for eating your pizza without asking.
  • To my Skating Club of San Francisco friends and family: You ladies and dudes who see me skate in practice supported me while I skated up in Salt Lake City. I feel loved and each and everyone of you skated great.
  • New members of my skating family: Glad I met you guys. Competed against you guys and now you guys are lifelong friends. Funny how that works.


On the National Championship

April 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

National championship. Little less of this.

Little less of that.


Something more like this.

Figure skate so hard, Tonya Harding wants to fine me. But first she’ll have to find me.

We’re ten days away from the 2015 USFS Adult National Championships in Salt Lake City, UT. If you told me six months ago this is where my coach and I would be, with two more chances to bring home championship gold, I would call you crazy. But things changed for the better, skates, skating skills, outlooks and mentalities. Here’s why I feel good about doing what Brian Boitano would do and becoming a figure skating champion.

The Coach

It’s been three plus years since I got back into figure skating. It’s a love-hate relationship sprinkled with early morning practices, double runthroughs and her generally shaking her head throughout the practice. She’s put up with me skating to Monday Night Football, for God’s sake.

But coach Robin White’s confidence in me to do what she asks (jumps, jump combos, spins, edges, you know what I’m saying?) has rubbed off on me physically and mentally. Physically, in being able to do the moves. Mentally, in being sure of myself that I can do the moves. We joke a lot about this but I look like a figure skater. When I quit the sport, it won’t be because of her. The teamwork made the dream work.

The Sectionals

Pacific Coast Sectionals. National semifinals. It got weird in North Las Vegas.

I skated. I fell. Yeah. I brought home two medals. Uh huh.

Most importantly though, at my first big adult competition, I felt like I belonged. A lot of folks from San Francisco came out, either because they were skating or were cheering on fellow San Francisco skaters. It felt good to show up and have good skates in front of my friends and second family. Ran into coach/skater/skating parent Natalie Shaby, who cheers on every Cal skater. Ran into people who worked the Union Square Holiday Ice Rink. Surreal but fun experience.

I got down to Pacific Rim and Phil Collins. Looking forward to doing it again.

The Goals

As far back as a year ago, I had a crisis with figure skating.


Sure, I practiced a lot. Sure, I was jumping and spinning. I just didn’t really know why I was doing it. Ended up having a heart to heart conversation with coach Suzy Jackson, who molds figure skaters into Olympians.


Ended up being an hour long conversation talking about life, skating, then life again before the Suz came up with the magical solution: talk to your coach, your coach knows you best.

So I talked to my coach,  and it took us awhile but we came up with some concrete goals to work towards. It seemed silly then to suggest that I’d be in a position to skate for championship gold but for the past year, I’ve been skating with a purpose. It doesn’t make waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning less stupid but I know the work I’m putting in is leading up to good things.

Whether that means gold medals or making lifelong friends before this season’s over, well, we’ll see. But… ¿por qué no los dos?


On Midseason Previews: 2014-15 UCLA Bruins

December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

The United States Figure Skating Association’s Intercollegiate regular season is one-third of the way done for Pacific Division teams. Schools from California and Colorado made their way through I-70 to Edora Pool and Ice Center (EPIC) in Fort Collins to see if they could make their Intercollegiate Nationals dreams come true. It’s University of Denver, Colorado State, and University of California, San Diego who are the closest to booking their flights to the San Francisco Bay Area for some postseason glory. Lurking within striking distance are the University of California, Berkeley and University of Colorado, Boulder. Where art thou, UCLA and DO WE START FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW?

UCLA Bruins

Season Standings: Tied for 6th place with Colorado College and University of Northern Colorado, with 0 points

The real figure skaters of Westwood come back home from Denver empty-handed, edged out by pioneers, bears, rams, buffaloes and sea deities. They do get credit for sending skaters to EPIC so they don’t get a stern talking to from Katherine Specht and the USFS Collegiate Committee.

The Bruins are stoked not only to come back to final examinations and $1.75 Diddy Riese ice cream sandwiches, but also to the low altitude of Southern California, where it reportedly makes a difference to breathe and skate at 500 feet above sea level, instead of 5000 feet.

Stoked. Gruntled. Por qué no los dos?

Stoked. Gruntled. Por qué no los dos?

These may not be your older brother’s Bruins though, as the Core 4 of Joey Millet, Maddison Bullock, Mericien Venzon, and Emily Chan, plus junior college transfer Amanda Sunyoto and team mom Coral Chou sort out their post-undergraduate lives. Best of luck to their skating, their modeling and singing, their graduate school, their life endeavors. Let’s take a look at the new Core 4 or Core … 10.

2014-15 Roster

  • Tyler Vollmer, ice dance
  • Adrian Siew, free skate
  • Evan Bender, free skate
  • Ai Ohno, free skate
  • Sarah Palaich, ice dance and free skate
  • Jillian Campbell, free skate
  • Evy Karin, free skate
  • Therese Vesagas, free skate
  • Julia Feng, free skate
  • Patricia McNeil, free skate
  • Marisa Goff, ice dance
  • More members to follow once the competitions in San Diego and Denver roll around

Sunyoto Sibling Rivalry No More

Raise your beverage in remembrance of Amanda and her younger sibling, Cal’s Sean Sunyoto. This will be the first time since Amanda transferred from Cerritos College that the Sunyotos won’t be ice dancing against each other. Rather than arguments or fights though, you instead saw one trying to teach the other how to do certain ice dances five minutes before they were scheduled to compete, you saw them supporting each other on and off the ice, and you saw them symbolizing the connection made between Berkeley and LA’s figure skating teams. As Sean finishes his last year of undergraduate eligibility, the siblings will turn their sights toward starting dental school, telling people to floss, and beyond.


There’s Tyler Vollmer, who can ice dance pretty darn well and take advantage of the bonus points that come with competing at the international dance events. It could be Sarah Palaich, whose versatility in the novice free skate and her ice dancing can earn the team much needed points.

I’m still leaning towards sophomore Ai Ohno as the one who wills the team to the postseason. Skating up from novice to junior this year, the team will rely on her clean skates to keep up with everyone else.

California Love

Deadline for Pacific Division teams to sign up for the January 24th Ride the Tide Competition, hosted by University of California, San Diego is December 17th. It’s a three hour drive or a half-hour flight from LA to San Diego, so the Bruins will be skating not too far from home, which is nice. If UCLA can place in the top 3 in January’s competition, they won’t have to worry about not making Nationals.


On the Triple Axel

May 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Hardcore and casual figure skating fans know much more figure skating knowledge than they realize. They know there’s a whole bunch of jumps, many ways to spin (upright, sitting, leaning back), and that the magical footwork sequences that Charlie and Meryl, et al pull out of thin air shouldn’t be recreated at home. That said, it’s time to deconstruct and explain one of the most mystical technical elements that a figure skater can do: a triple axel.

As well-known as the Iron Lotus and Chazz Michael Michaels’ interpretive dancing, the triple axel is in everyone’s figure skating lexicon (much easier to say; most don’t want their bae to catch them slipping while dropping “salchow”, “camel”, “twizzles” in normal conversation). However, would we be able to identify a triple axel?

Bro, Do You Even Single Axel Tho?

Considered a single jump, the single axel contains 1.5 revolutions, requiring a skater to go around all 540 degrees. If landed correctly in competition using ISJ scoring, the jump is worth 1.1 points. At the lower levels, this jump alone ends up separating those who skate all the way through high school from those who quit much earlier. This jump ends up being the gateway towards achieving doubles and eventually triples.

Here’s a cool video on what a single axel looks like.

"I just want to see triple axels, not read what it's about."

“I just want to see triple axels, not read what it’s about!!1!!” Might want to skip ahead to “What about triple axels?”

You’ll recognize when most skaters are attempting an axel jump when they first prepare for the jump, starting at 0:10 of the video until 0:20. Her weight is over her right leg, her trajectory going counter-clockwise because she’s on her back outside edge (her weight is specifically over her right leg, over the right side of her right foot).

The Takeoff (Gliding, 0:24-0:29)

The skater then plants her left skate onto the ice, also bringing her arms back. She’ll pass the right leg through along with the arms and launch herself up facing forward without any excess swinging motion.

The Jump and the Landing (Pivot and Landing, 0:33-0:47)

After launching herself forward and doing the prerequisite 180 degree turn, she still needs to finish off one more revolution before her jump is considered an axel by the judges. The skater finishes off her jump by coordinating her arms and feet simultaneously. Her arms are passing forward and gather while the left leg crosses over the right leg, all to conserve angular momentum and quickly rotate before landing the jump.

Thanks, Channing.

No excess movements, an equal balance of weight. Any slight tilt in her air position would send her off-balance, making it harder to land the jump and earn a lot of points.

What about Triple Axels?

A triple axel landed correctly is worth 8.5 points and contains 3.5 revolutions. It no longer is the highest scoring jump in competition but it’s still required by all male skaters at the international level. Because it isn’t required of them to include triple axels in theirs, only one female skater routinely puts it in her competition programs. What does a triple axel look like?


Same gliding into the take-off and a badass landing to finish, just 720 more degrees to get around to count it as a triple. As for the revolutions, the skater completes one revolution on their way up, one revolution at the apex of the flight, and one final revolution on the way down before the landing.

Here’s Mao Asada of Japan, taking care of business with this triple axel.

Mao Asada, cool as the other side of the pillow.

Mao Asada, cool as the other side of the pillow.


That’s the triple axel, figure skating lexicon that you won’t be embarrassed to say because you know what’s behind it now. It’s no quad jump but it’s still the bees knees amongst figure skating fans, casual and veteran fans alike. Now you too can understand more about what Scott Hamilton and Sandra Bezic (nobodylikesSandraBezic) Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski and Terry Gannon are saying.


On Paralegal Certificate Candidacy

April 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

Happy Easter, whether you hunted some eggs, imbibed some tasty draaaaaaaaanks, or potatoed your way through a fair-weather Sunday.

On another note, it’s weird to use the moniker “thefigureskatinglawyer” when I don’t even English well, let alone have the requisite qualifications to be a lawyer. What’s up with that? About a year and a half of self-reflection, I have decided to forgo the law school route for now and get my paralegal certificate at San Francisco State University.



Weird Undergraduate-Graduate School Limbo

Woah, as a full-time student at SF State, I could theoretically check in with Katie Specht and the USFSA Collegiate Committee and set up a team here.

Looking for other figure skating, aspiring paralegals and optional objectives aside, SFSU Paralegal Studies Program is the only American Bar Association-certified program in San Francisco and one of the few certified programs in the Bay Area. It’s a program available to undergrad students looking for additional skills, working professionals looking at a possible career change, and individuals who want a cheaper method of previewing the first year of law school.

At about $825 for a three-unit course, the tuition, books, LexisNexis student subscriptions run a prospective student about 9000 to 10000 dollars to finish the 10 classes (5 required, 5 elective). It’s the student’s option to run roughshod through this program in 12 to 18 months, take the 4-year scenic route through things, or something in between. All that to gain the relevant skills of a paralegal, have the option to do internships through the school, and decide if the law school route seems attractive at that point. That seems like a solid way to save $30,000-$40,000 in law school tuition/room & board (a conservative guess on a first year’s cost) to figure out whether law school is the next time and financial investment to make.

The curriculum allows aspiring legal professionals to gain skills that they would learn and hone in their first year of law school. Performing legal research and Shepardizing cases? Drafting legal memoranda? Ethical conduct? Assisting in the prep of cases for trial? Learn about different types of software used in law firms? That’s pretty relevant to aspiring legal professionals, I suppose.

Who Can Take Their Classes

  • Create an SFSU ID (linky link here) if you’ve never enrolled at SFSU before.
  • Read up here to figure out how to get your password.
  • Fill out this form, have a check for $50 written out to SFSU-CEL and submit it along with a college transcript

You’ve done all that? Cool, you get to do early registration and swoop on classes before they fill up on a first-come, first serve basis.

What if you’re not a part of the paralegal program and you kinda want to keep the $50 in your pocket? You can still sign up to take the classes? No way!

Fall and spring semesters have additional sections of the required classes, allowing students to fit their classes around their other class schedule or their work schedule. Maybe your day allows for you to go to class from 2:00 pm to 4:45 pm. If not, maybe you can go to class from 6:00 pm to 9:45 pm. Summer classes don’t have that luxury of having extra sections but they do have interesting electives. Summer classes do have a shorter 10 week (and one Saturday!) schedule to go over 17 weeks of material so … meh. However, yay to getting ahead in the program!




At the very least, having a paralegal certificate from an ABA-certified program gives you an advantage over college graduates looking for the same job. After meeting with program director Pat Medina and going through a few interviews with prospective internship supervisors, you can gain valuable experience that would’ve been tough to get otherwise.

Through professional relationships Pat Medina has cultivated at these public and private organizations, the students have a chance to end the no job because of experience/no experience because no job Catch-22 we’ve all grown to love. The organizations get to teach some of these students how to paralegal and maybe convince them that they can get a job there. Yay!


My classmates from college are going on to do some big, money-making things. Some are investment bankers. Some are figuring out this whole top-14 law school thing and passing bars, state, patent, etc. Some are going to be the finest dentists and doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area (In looks or skills? We’ll let Yelp, Tumblr, BuzzFeed decide on that one). Some are going to be champion figure skaters who coach other champion figure skaters on the side. Some are going to be wonderful parents. Some will have a really hard time figuring out what to do with a lot of money.

Instead of being in a rush to beat others to [random accomplishment], I’m beginning to understand that my peers and I will reach our career and life destinations at different points of our lives. That said, whether or not it takes me 12 months or 4 years, I’m going to finish this rad program and become a certified, bona fide paralegal. I still have no idea which field of law I’m interested in or whether I’ll even stay in law. I haven’t completely shut the door on going to law school either. I still feel like I’ve taken a step in the right direction.



Would it be more appropriate to call myself “thefigureskatinglegalprofessional” as opposed to “thefigureskatinglawyer?” Maybe, but that seems like a cumbersome mouthful. Also, TWSS.


On Who Won the 2014 Intercollegiate Nationals

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

The championship standings came down to the wire but it’s the University of Delaware Blue Hens winning their second consecutive Intercollegiate National Championships. Your standings after this two-day soirée in Adrian, MI:

  1. University of Delaware (132 points)
  2. Boston University (115.5)
  3. Dartmouth (114.5)
  4. Adrian College (73)
  5. UCLA (45)
  6. UC Berkeley (38)
  7. University of Denver (29.5)
  8. University of Michigan (25.5)
  9. University of Miami (Ohio) (24)

Just goes to show you how the depth of the Eastern Conference teams really helps them use up their allotted 35 entries (whether they actually have 35 skaters or skaters who can skate multiple disciplines) and outlast the smaller teams on their way to the top.

Deal with it.

Deal with it.

Congratulations, University of Delaware and in realizing what it would be like in a post-Laney Diggs era, good showing, UC Berkeley.



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