On Pacific Coast Sectionals

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.

Ice Awareness

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.

Self-Confidence

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.

Translation: She did really well.

Translation: She did really well. She’s sitting in first place for now.

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.

thefigureskatinglawyer

On Expanding Figure Skating’s Fan Base

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.
CAUTION: SLIPPERY SURFACE

CAUTION: SLIPPERY SURFACE

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.

All three revolutions of a triple flip.

All three revolutions of a triple flip. Boom.

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.

Competition Schedule

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.

Yeah... 50 bucks? NOPE.

Yeah… 50 bucks? NOPE.

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.

No seriously, hold my hand.

No seriously, hold my hand.

thefigureskatinglawyer

P.S.: What the hell is a triple flip?

On Olympic Figure Skating: A Preview

November 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

Repeat after me: “In 70+ days, I will understand singles figure skating.”

Both you and I wish we could be American broadcasters Dick Button and Scott Hamilton, equipped with a psychic power to know what jump, spin or footwork a skater just did and will do. If you have been involved in figure skating as an athlete, an official or a parent, then you have been immersed in the figure skating game for years.

However, if you are in the majority who skate once a year and watch skating competitions even less, then it doesn’t help at the moment to identify a triple axel and not explain why. Your figure skating hero completes a triple axel and the duo of Dick and Scott assist you in identifying that it’s a triple axel. It’s a noble, admirable gesture of the American commentators but really, you politely clap for a jump well done or you let out a sigh of frustration for a jump gone wrong.

Let me assist you in learning the important knowledge necessary to fully enjoy Olympic figure skating.

Knowing the Rules

Two events determine which of the 40+ elite skaters from around the world receive gold medals and bragging rights as Olympic champions for 4 years: the short program and long program. How long do the skaters have to fit in all the required elements, maximize the points they earn from each element, and mesmerize their fans watching around the world?

  • Senior ladies’ and men’s short program: 2 minutes and 50 seconds max
  • Senior ladies’ long program: 4 minutes (+/- 10 seconds)
  • Senior men’s long program: 4 minutes and 30 seconds (+/- 10 seconds)

Each link below details the requirements for both the senior short and long programs.

Senior short requirements

Senior long requirements

If a skater does more jumps or spins than allowed or you repeat a specific element (jump, spin, footwork) already done, the judges will not give them points for the excess effort. The skater also wastes precious time and energy that could be used to highlight other aspects of the performance. If the skater skates after their music ends and goes past the time allotment, judges will subtract points and possibly ruin a competitor’s chance at Olympic glory.

These guys know a bit about Olympic glory.

Chazz and Jimmy know a bit about Olympic glory.

Knowing the Routines And What’s Coming Next

No, no, it’s not a psychic sense or a photographic memory that allow TV broadcasters to know what comes next. For skaters who attempt to qualify for their country’s national championships and international competitions, they must submit Planned Program Content Sheets (PPCS) before the qualifying competitions occur.

Linked just above is an explanation of how to fill a PPCS out, while understanding a judge’s score sheet (example: NHK Trophy Men’s LP scores). The sheet of paper with all the planned elements allow judges to have an idea of what the performance will be like so they don’t miss a jump, spin or footwork.

Broadcasters of TV stations will also receive a copy of the PPCS, knowing when a skater improvises their routine by changing a jump combination to just an individual jump or the order of the jumps around.

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

“No triple axel. Boitano settles for the triple lutz-double salchow wearing a blindfold instead.”

As for the order of jumps, spins, footwork and transitions, choreographers will tailor the beginning and middle parts of the program to the selected music, as well as the abilities of their skaters. You may see more jumps in the second half of performances. Skaters will automatically earn a 10% point bonus for the increased difficulty of attempting jumps when tired. Most skaters will constantly end their performances with a spin, which allows them to gracefully end up in their finish position.

Prior to the 2014 Olympics, elite skaters already had opportunities at international-level competitions to showcase what they will do in Sochi, Russia. In case you missed it, here are US champion Ashley Wagner’s SP and LP from this year’s Skate America, as well as Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi’s SP and LP from this year’s NHK Trophy Grand Prix. After watching these four performances, you have an idea of what you’ll see from these two skaters in Russia.

Knowing Who To Root For (in no particular order)

The Russians:

  • Elena Radionova, her first season as a top-level skater
  • Julia Lipnitskaia, 15 year old skating phenom
  • Evgeni Plushenko, 2-time Olympic silver medalist, 2006 Olympic gold medalist

The Japanese:

  • Daisuke Takahashi, 5-time Japanese champion, 2010 World Champion, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist. It is his last season on the world stage.
  • Yuzuru Hanyu, defending men’s Japanese champion
  • Mao Asada, 6-time Japanese ladies’ champion, 2010 Olympic silver medalist
  • Akiko Suzuki, 2nd-ranked senior ladies skater in the world
  • Miki Ando, 3-time Japanese ladies’ champion, 2-time world champion, back from a 2 year retirement/maternity leave

The Spaniard:

  • Javier Fernandez, 3-time men’s Spanish champion

The Korean:

  • Yuna Kim, defending ladies’ Olympic gold medalist

The Canadians:

  • Patrick Chan, 6-time men’s Canadian champion, 3-time World champion
  • Kaetlyn Osmond, defending ladies’ Canadian champion
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, defending Olympic ice dancing gold medalists

The Americans:

  • Ashley Wagner, defending ladies’ US champion
  • Gracie Gold, 18 year old skating phenom
  • Alissa Czisny, 2-time US champion, beloved by many, could’ve made the Olympics had her injured hips not lied
  • Max Aaron, defending US champion
  • Jeremy Abbott, 3-time US champion
  • Adam Rippon, another capable American senior skater
  • Evan Lysacek, defending men’s Olympic champion
  • Meryl Davis/Charlie White, 5-time US dance champions, 2010 Olympic silver medalists

ohboy

Knowing When They Skate

DATE EVENT START (ET)
Thurs., Feb. 06 Team: Men’s SP, Pairs SP 10:30 AM
Sat., Feb. 08 Team: Ice SP, Ladies’ SP, Pairs FP 9:30 AM
Sun., Feb. 09 Team: Men’s FP, Ladies’ FP, Ice FP 10:00 AM
Wed., Feb. 12 Pairs FP 10:45 AM
Thurs., Feb. 13 Men’s SP 10:00 AM
Fri., Feb. 14 Men’s FP 10:00 AM
Sun., Feb. 16 Ice SD 10:00 AM
Wed., Feb. 19 Ladies’ SP 10:00 AM
Thurs., Feb. 20 Ladies’ FP 10:00 AM
Sat., Feb. 22 Gala Exhibition 11:30 AM

West Coast figure skating fans, better wake up early. Everybody else, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

More to come on what the different jumps/spins/footwork are, who is who, how judging works, and any other potential storylines leading up to the biggest event of the season.

Who are you rooting for?

Which skater will you miss or miss already?

thefigureskatinglawyer

Holiday Skating

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.

*Insert generic complaint about figure skating here*

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.

GSP learned that firsthand.

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.

Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

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.

Other advice

  • 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.
Have fun out there.

Have fun out there.

thefigureskatinglawyer

On Some Special Olympic Gold Medals

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!

thefigureskatinglawyer

On Not Having A Proper Game Face On

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,

I wouldn’t wish rental hockey skates on the worst of my enemies.

… welp, you’ll know exactly what to do.

What did the five fingers say to face?

What did the five fingers say to face?

thefigureskatinglawyer

Precision Skate Sharpening, Peninsula Edition

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Whether or not you choose to wear that skimpy or potentially offensive costume, whether or not you are fine with taking candy from strangers, thefigureskatinglawyer wants to make sure you have a fun time on October 31st. Meanwhile, tonight marks the beginning of the Golden State Warriors’ basketball season. By the power of Stephen Curry’s glass ankles, I hope to see the local Bay Area basketball team succeed in Jim Barnett’s last season as Comcast Sportsnet’s color commentator.

Is that what Brian Boitano would do?

 Good costume, Brian.

*** 

My previous post regarding skate sharpening touched on one of the baddest motherf[- shut your mouth] in the North Bay in Warren Glass and the East Bay go-to sharpener, former Salt Lake Olympian ice dancer Charles Sinek. Sometimes, Novato is too far for you and other times, you don’t need to have an Olympic presence be graced upon your figure skates. What if you are a short drive away from a sharpener who has sharpened skates for 10 years and a family that has made figure skates for 60? I’m recommending Aaron Spiteri, a third-generation skate maker of the SP Teri family.

What If I Just Don’t Want To Sharpen My Skates?

Welp, no one can stop you if you don’t want to get those blades sharpened. If you are dedicated to your craft and you are preparing for a competition or qualification test, you may need to jump and do some tricky footwork. Can you do so on dull blades? Certainly. However, you risk your blades slipping during any element that requires strong edges or going from backwards to forwards/forwards to backwards in a very quick amount of time.

That’s not to say you won’t be able to compensate for crappy edges but best case scenario, you start acquiring these bad habits that may not affect any low level elements or simple step sequences. Worst case scenario? You will increase the chances that you fall and seriously injure yourself, be it a broken ankle or a torn knee ligament that requires a long recovery time.

Why SP Teri Though?

Each skate sharpening at the South San Francisco headquarters of SP Teri is 20 bucks. If you live in San Francisco, you pay no toll and less money for a Warren Glass-like quality sharpening. What else are you getting in the 20 dollars you’re paying?

In father and son combo George and Aaron Spiteri, you get professionals who know not just about blade sharpening but how to maintain the boots and blades (what if the boots smell?), how your blade should be aligned on the bottom of your boots, and how sharp to sharpen your blades. They are authorized retailers of all name-brand blades and they know which blades to offer based on your USFSA skill level and your coach’s preferences, but they will focus on the blades you already have. They’ll give you an honest assessment about the quality of steel on your blade and how much life the blades and the “rocker” (the part which you jump and spin on) is left. Those are the two main factors that determine how often you can wait until you need to spend too much money on blades.

As for the famed SP Teri boots, here’s a detailed post by Ask Mr. Edge about the benefits of the boots. As for which boots are right for you between Harlicks, SP Teri, Riedell, Edea or any other skate companies, you need to try a few of the brands out to figure out the best fit, the heaviness of the boots, the fit around the ankles, the width of the boots, the different colors of the boots, and other factors that go into your next purchase of figure skates.

Like Warren Glass, the Spiteris want you to try out your skate sharpenings to make sure everything works out. They are open to any and all feedback and will do any re-sharpenings free of charge.

MADBUMFFFF

The SP Teri store is open from 9-5 but give the store a call to see when Aaron or George are available to do skate sharpenings. They too will help you follow your sparkling, triple axel-filled figure skating dreams.

thefigureskatinglawyer

On the 2013 Tiger Challenge: Postmortem

October 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

If the 2013 Tiger Challenge is running on time, there’s about 15 minutes left of events in the first Pacific regional competition. Da Bears brought four to Colorado Springs while the rest of the team takes care of midterms, Sectionals training, and… not wanting to fly to the high altitude of Colorado just yet. You four ladies are good girls and you know it.

Team Captain Janelle Unger with new additions Kristen Flores, Sara Billman and Audrey Tan. Hey, Coach Minovitz!

The four ladies fulfill half of their 2 required regionals quota, while also helping the team show up to the first of 3 competitions. Not showing up to one of the competitions is a big no-no in college competitions, so good on the ladies for not leaving it up to college competition chairs Kristin Zinsmeister and Cal FS alumnus Katie Specht to determine the team’s postseason fate.

From the looks of the schedule, the figure skating gods were nice to Janelle Unger this year, making sure she skated at a reasonable time of 10:45 AM. It beats skating at 7:30 in the morning, you know? Also, Sara Billman skates in her first intercollegiate competition, taking on integral roles in the senior short and championship freeskates. Audrey and Kristen are going to skate their events and get the team some points in their individual and maybe the Intermediate Team Event. Maybe Coach Minovitz can convince everybody she still skates for the team…

Da Standings

University of Denver, despite not hosting the competition will still have home-field advantage as they send 20+ girls to Honnen Ice Arena. Colorado College hosts the competition but they’re bringing a small team. The Powder Blue Men Group led by Joey Millet and Evan Bender won’t bring everyone but have enough firepower to place in the top-3. Colorado State will bring a decent amount of ladies from Fort Collins down I-70 towards a strong showing in the standings, but not if New Mexico finishes their six-hour drive from Albuquerque and have a say about that.

Here’s an educated guess of where everybody ranks after the first competition.

1. Denver Pioneers

2. UCLA Bruins

3. Colorado State

4. New Mexico

5. Da Bears

6. Colorado College

Da Outlook

Welp, your California Golden Bears start on the bottom and don’t plan on staying there. They look to dominate the competition they’ll host in Oakland, as well as the competition in Denver. There are at least 10 skaters who need to skate in the last two competitions just so they can skate at Championships. The team itself will be alright if they can win both competitions.

Maybe. Ladies, just be safe on I-70 and hold on, you’re going home.

thefigureskatinglawyer

On the 2013-2014 Intercollegiate Skating Season

October 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are going for one of the best engagement and wedding parties of all time, all time. Kanye, Brian Wilson will be pissed if you don’t let him be the ringbearer though. Kim, hope that 15-carat diamond ring doesn’t break your arm. According to reliable sources…

hey… your sources aren’t all that reliable…

Hey! That’s a convenient amount. It’s like it’s just enough for a contract savvy Brian Sabean handed out not too long ago.

Kruk loves the contract. "TIM LINCECUM'S BACK, BABY."

“TIM LINCECUM’S BACK, BABY.”

***

All Tim Lincecum contract jokes and elaborate proposals aside, a new figure skating season is here and you want to cheer for a team that wins, a team that doesn’t know how to lose, and a team that does triple axels. I’m going to do my best to let you know the week before the first competition what’s going on with the California Golden Burrrrrrrrs. Here’s what’s on tap:

The Schedule

According to USFSA, these are the dates when you can catch UC Berkeley’s competition performances if they’re in an area near you.

Date

Competition

Where Is It, Brah? Host School

10/26

Tiger Challenge Colorado Springs, CO Colorado College

1/25/14

Golden Bear Skate Oakland, CA UC Berkeley

2/22/14-2/23/14

Pioneer Open Denver, CO University of Denver

4/11/14-4/13/14

US Intercollegiate Championships Adrian, MI Adrian College

Sandwiched between two trips to Colorado, the Bears host their own competition again in Oakland with many returning and new skaters in tow. Last year’s championship reps UC Berkeley, UCLA, and DU look to book their return flights to the Championships, but look for New Mexico and Colorado College to bring out the tables, ladders, and steel chairs and make things interesting.

The Competition

University of Denver loses novice skater Rylee Pepich as she transfers schools but returns most, if not all of their team. UCLA loses senior skater Coral Chou but might return to full strength with the return of senior ladies’ Mericien Venzon and junior ladies’ Emily Chan. They will assist Maddison Bullock, 4th year Amanda Sunyoto and junior men’s Joey Millet on their quest to make sure you see LA and the powder blue.

New Mexico, beaten out last year by UCLA for that final spot in the Championships will field a small but formidable team in the Southwest. Colorado College expects back Midwestern Regionals competitor Janet Miao and … yeah, I’m not really sure who else they’re bringing out to compete. More on the Pacific teams, as well as the teams in the Midwest and Eastern regions after every team finishes their first regional competition.

The Golden Bear Roster

The Golden Bears return a large core of their skaters despite losing junior ladies’ Marissa Minovitz to graduation. Coming back are

  • Sectionals-bound/Senior ladies’ Laney Diggs
  • Senior ladies’ Sravani Kondapavulur
  • Senior ladies’ Katrina Phan
  • Senior ladies’ Michelle Hong
  • Junior ladies’ Gina DeNatale
  • Intermediate ladies’ Janelle Unger
  • Junior men’s Sean Sunyoto
  • Junior men’s Matej Silecky
  • Junior men’s Jay Yostanto (maybe?)
  • Juvenile ladies’ Amy Nguyen
  • Senior ice dancer Kelsey Chan
  • Senior ice dancer Teressa Vellrath
  • Senior ice dancer Samira Damavandi

New faces you may see now or later are:

  • Senior ladies’ Sara Billman
  • Junior ladies’ Kathleen Albert
  • Novice men’s Aditya Nandy

Reprising her role as the conductor of the UC Berkeley team is the baus Dani Schraner. The roster is top-heavy in both freeskating and ice dancing, but I’m pretty sure the team is open to adding a graduating senior with one semester left to make something happen in college. High team maneuvers, kind of like HORSE but with triple axels and flying change of foot spins instead of corner 3s and windmill dunks, will be covered by any combination of the returning ladies for the spins and sequences + Sara + one of the guys to do the triples.

Last year, the Golden Bears had a good shot at earning a top 3 finish at the championship in Dartmouth. This year in Michigan, with additional skaters, additional experience and grit? Ridiculously, even better.

Why Win Now

Win now for Laney Diggs. The 4th year is the engine that runs the team. Of the 59 points the team acquired during their 4th place finish in Championships last year, she earned 13 points with her 4 top-5 finishes. Now in her final year of her undergraduate career, Diggs is an important reason why the team can break the top 3 in the final standings.

DON'T GO.

DON’T GO.

The championship window and/or a spot on the podium is closing quickly. This weekend, Diggs and the rest of the team take their first step to keep that window open. Skate on, you Bears.

thefigureskatinglawyer

On Falling Down on the Ice

June 23, 2013 § 5 Comments

Nope, this post isn’t a metaphor for anything. Falling while figure skating scars casual and serious skaters alike. My ankle, my four major knee ligaments and meniscus, my hamstrings and my spine are still intact, but even though falling sucks, falling defines the sport of figure skating.

Falling on the ice? F*** that.

Falling on the ice? F*** that. But Buster, don’t go!

Casual Skaters & Skating, Never Getting Back Together

For the casual figure skater who only skates once or twice a year during the holidays, goshdarnit figure skating in the Olympics is so damn beautiful. There’s the sparkly tops and dresses. There’s the effortlessness that skaters have trained years and years for in order to make it all look easy. There are the triple axels, dear God (but you know, you may need Scott Hamilton to point out the jump). Every casual skater eats up Olympic figure skating with their collective spoon.

All it takes is one terribly embarrassing fall, ego bruised from people looking on and clothes wet from sitting on the ice. That’s all it takes to scar a casual skater for life and vow to never skate again. That’s it, never using those rental skates that lack any resemblance of edges ever again!

But you know who hates falling more than casual skaters?

Adult Figure Skaters

You know, the ones that can drive or use public transportation to the ice rink. The ones that can put on their own skates. The ones that pay for some, if not all of the expenses that come with skating. Adult figure skaters take some time to get productive in either freestyle or public sessions, when skaters of all skills and sizes skate recklessly around the rink.

Adult figure skaters who pick up figure skating late find out not only how rewarding, but also how taxing it is to participate in this sport.

  • Physically

There’s all these components to doing all your jumps right. If you set up the jump wrong, do the actual jump wrong, or land funny, chances are you’ll only have crappy fall and a gnarly bruise to show for it. If you’re scratch or sit spinning and you rock back to your heel, chances are your feet are going to slip from under you and your head violently hits the ice.

Back of my head meeting the ice? What the fu-

NOOOOOOOOPE. NO MORE SKATING.

NOOOOOOOOPE. NO MORE SKATING.

By falling though, you slowly start to figure out what is going wrong with your technique. Do you not have astronomical leg strength to get out of the sit spin position? Are you keeping your center of gravity from tilting over? Are you checking your arms so that your body isn’t spinning out of control? Are you looking out and not downward so your body doesn’t go tumbling down?

Maybe your arms and legs aren’t coordinated or you’re using way more upper body strength to force the rotations in the jumps or the spins? Whenever you have to force the technique to make cool things in figure skating happen, it’s not going to happen.

Maybe?

“Well, alright then, Mr. Suddenly An Expert on Figure Skating.”

The falls that result in weird bruises up and down your body and/or banged up joints take a toll on your entire body, but there are some positive takeaways.

After each fall, incorrect take-off, or jump where you needed to improvise mid-air to save the jump, you come upon a lot of information to improve your existing technique.When you start critiquing your technique and tailor your jumps, spins and footwork around not making the same mistakes you made earlier, you are on your way to becoming a lean, mean, triple axel-completing machine.

That is when you start overanalyzing everything and/or convince yourself you can’t do new things in figure skating.

  • Mentally

The lutz and axel jumps, jumps Brian Boitano can do while winning gold medals and wearing blindfolds, are the most difficult jumps in a skater’s arsenal.

There’s so much to mentally think about in terms of coordinating which edge of the skate you will be on, where your arms and legs are swinging through, where to put all your weight… So much going on that if you miss one of these tasks, you will have a difficult time controlling the jump, let alone get all the way around to complete the jump.

Have I mentioned how painful it is to fall on the ice? Well, that combined with not thinking about putting the jumps together allows a lot of doubt to creep in your mind.

Messing up on axels/lutzes? F**k that.

Messing up on axels/lutzes? F**k that.

It’s discouraging when things aren’t coming together for these two jumps, or figure skating in general. It then becomes pretty easy to take safety measures to not fall, even if it means not being able to complete the spin or jump. These safety measures include two-footing the landing, landing on the wrong foot, or stopping the set-up motion entirely.

All the Bad Habits Tho

Mentally freaking yourself out during hard jumps and spins in order to save yourself from perceived injury may end up hurting you in the long run.

If you don’t embrace the fact that you need to make these mistakes and fall a few times to progress in skating, you will regress. You will continue to land on the wrong foot, make the same not-helpful mistakes and allow yourself to give up. You need to trust where your arms, legs, and edges are going to go and stay committed to the jumps and spins, even if everything goes awry.

If you don’t, you’ll mentally and physically stunt your figure skating growth for a long time. Keep at figure skating and if you fall, so be it. Just don’t let the fear of falling stop you from your Olympic-level dream.

Boop.

Boop.

thefigureskatinglawyer