For individual event reports follow the links at the left.
Sunday, 25 January
Jeremy Abbott won the Men's event before a crowd of about 3500. He won the Free Skate on the strength of his component marks, with a margin of victory of 0.67 points. Overall, he earned 241.89 point, 12.19 points ahead of Brandon Mroz. Rounding out the podium, Evan Lysacek placed third, and Ryan Bradley fourth. Johnny Weir pulled up to fifth overall after placing seventh in the Short Program.
The buzz has it that Johnny Weir asked the USFSA International Committee to name him to the World Team, on the basis of his record last season. This is unconfirmed. We do note, however, that Weir was named first alternate for Worlds, ahead of Ryan Bradley who placed ahead of Weir today. Bradley is instead, first alternate for 4C.
The closing Exhibition was held shortly after the completion of the Men's medal ceremony. We estimate attendance at about 2500. This is less than half the attendance in St. Paul last year (6500). Attendance for the Men's final was about half that in St. Paul (7000).
Overall this was a well run competition, with the only issues noted earlier in the week. Attendance was about the same this year for the Novice and Junior events as last year -- which is not saying much since they are rarely well attended and most of the audience is usually family, friends, and others credentialed for the competition. The Senior events, however, were clearly down this year compared to last year; in general about 15%, except for today, where it was significantly worse.
Media interest was also down this year. The press room was far less populated than in previous years, both in terms of writers and photographers. Associates tell us that newspaper advertising revenue is down significantly, and when that happens papers reduce the number of pages of content they print, which means niche activities like skating get cut.
At the close of the Exhibition, there was some inspired madness thought up by Mark Ladwig (Senior Pairs, pewter medal). At the close of the exhibition, it has been traditional the past few years to have the skaters throw various souvenirs into the audience. This year, Ladwig, Ryan Bradley, Rockne Brubaker, and Evan Bates engineered a slingshot contraption, with one of them holding each end while a third launched trinkets into the audience, some reaching to the top of the second level in the arena. Impressive -- although Ryan Bradley also managed to toss some small plastic (rubber?) footballs nearly that far on his own. He has a great arm.
Saturday, 24 January
Senior Pairs, Dance and Ladies finals were held today. To accommodate TV, the Dance and Pairs Free Skates were split, with the lower half of Pairs, then the lower half of Dance skated first starting at 11:00 AM. The upper half of Pairs and the upper half of Dance then skated later. In the evening the Ladies Free Skate was held. This process of splitting events is grossly unfair to the skaters, some of whom we are told would rather have a cut than conduct the competition this. But TV wants it and money still talks the loudest.
At the start of the day the arena was a ghost town., compared to last year in St. Paul where we estimated 2500 were in the audience for the first event of the day (the first half of a split Senior Ladies Free Skate). There were about 500 spectators in the stands at the start, with people drifting in at a leisurely rate. By the end perhaps 200 were in attendance. The split Pairs and Dance events were sold as two tickets, one ticket for the two lower halfs and one for the two upper halfs.
McLaughlin & Brubaker won the Pairs Free Skate and moved up to first place overall. The audience did not agree with the results -- but their vote doesn't count. A decent crowd of about 4500 were on hand by the end for the Pairs event.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White gave a super performance to with the Free Dance and capture their first Senior National Championship. Both Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates maintained and Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre maintained their places in the OD also, ending up second and third. The U.S. gets to send three teams to Worlds, and we expect those will be Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto, and the top two teams here. However, the buzz is that Agosto's back is in marginal shape. Whether the couple will be able to skate at Worlds, only time will tell. Dance lost part of the lead-in audience from the Pairs, with our estimated attendance for the Dance event at 4000.
In the evening the Ladies Free Skate was held as one uninterrupted event, which took four hours to complete. At the start of the event about 3500 were present, but this doubled to an estimated 7000 for the last two flights of ladies. (In St. Paul the estimated attendance was 8000.)
The results of the Free Skate scrambled the deck, with only two of twenty-three skaters placing in the same position in both the short and the long. Alissa Czisny skated last, and when she left the ice she thought she had let the gold slip away, having fallen on a triple Lutz and dumbing down a triple too loop - triple toe loop combination to a double double. She scored first, however, in Program Components, and held on to win the Championship.
Mirai Nagasu looked terrified as she waited at the boards for her name to be called. There were a few sniffles and she wiped her eyes as she skated out to center ice. She got through the program looking looking more or less clean, and with the second highest component scores of the night, but five of her jump elements were scored negative and she placed fifth in the short an fifth overall. Two downgrades and edge alert calls on triple flips cost her enough points to knock her off the podium this year.
Friday, 23 January
Ross Minor place second in the Free Skate, but held on to win the Junior Men's event. The Free Skate was won by Alexander Johnson who pulled up to third place after being seventh in the Short Program. (And for those who instinctively react now -- isn't the new system great the way it allowed him to move up -- he would have been third under 6.0 also).
Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau moved up from third in the Short Program, wining the Junior Pairs Free Skate and the gold medal, skating a fantastic routine to Swan Lake.
Estimated attendance for the Junior Men, 800; for the Pairs, 1,000.
Finally got a look at the tentative schedule for 2010 Nationals. Competition will span two weekends, beginning the Friday of the first weekend and finishing with the Exhibition the second Sunday. And since it's all about me, the bad things about this are three additional nights in the hotel, and one extra day away from the day job. But the good things are there are only 2-3 events per day, so there will actually be time now to work on pictures, write and get a meal, and if the exhibition it prudently scheduled one can fly out Sunday night instead of the following Monday (and save one night back in a hotel). So, overall, it works for me. (And it IS all about me.)
Next up today, the Men's Short Progam. Our pick for this year is Jeremy Abbott. In Dance we are going with Davis & White, and in Pairs, McLaughlin & Brubaker.
At the evening session, about 3000 were on hand to see Jeremy Abbott win the Senior Men's Short program. He skated second, after Evan Lysacek who held the lead for 6 minutes, and ended up second tonight. Johnny Weir popped a triple Axel into a single, for a devastating loss of 7.4 points. Had he landed the jump he would now sit in third place. But he didn't, and he ended the night in seventh place, 15.64 behind Abbott. He has a reasonable shot at moving up to third, but placing higher than that looks like a struggle, unless Abbott and Lysacek help by falling down a lot in the Free Skate -- something we don't expect will happen.
Parker Pennington also had a fine skate tonight and currently lies in third place.
Scott Smith skated the warmup, but when his name was called he went to the Referee and withdrew from the competition. No reason was announced at the time, but afterwards back and groin spasms were cited.
Again, for those keeping score, last year in St. Paul for the Friday events we estimated: Junior Pairs, 500; Junior Men, 1200; Senior Men, 3500. So by our reckoning, the combined Junior Men and Pairs was about the same this year as last year, while the Senior Men's Short Program was down this year by about 15%.
Thursday, 22 January
Hump day for Nationals. We start with the Junior Free Dance, followed by the Senior Pairs Short Program, Original Dance, and Ladies Short Program.
In Junior Dance, the top three teams held their positions, with Madison Chock & Greg Zurlein taking the gold medal. Shannon Wingle & Timothy McKernan moved up one place to fill the fourth medal position. About 300 were on hand at the start of the event, and perhaps double that by the time it finished.
Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett are the surprise leaders in the Senior Pairs event after the Short Program. Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker are in second 0.01 points ahead of Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, and 0.39 points behind the leaders. The three teams are virtually tied, with it certainly possible that if the scoring rules did not specify rounding in the rigorless way it does, second and third place could well be reversed. But we got sufficiently punished for discussing this subject last year that we will move on. (Plus, it is not likely to remain this close after the Free Skate, anyway.) We estimate the audience had swelled to 1200 for this event.
In Senior Dance, Davis & White remain on top, followed by Samuelson & Bates. After that, the places moved around considerably for the Original Dance alone, though none of the nine couples changed place overall after the OD.
The day ended with the Senior Ladies Short Program, with an estimated 1800 spectators on hand to witness the festivities. Alissa Czisny (our pick to win this event) placed first in the Short Program. She has a 5.56 point lead over Rachael Flatt, who is followed by Caroline Zhang. Mirai Nagasu currently lies in sixth place, nearly 11 points back.
Thus far, with half the events now complete, the competition has been conducted capably. We have heard no major complaints about the organization of the championships, though no outpouring of enthusiasm either. Attendance thus far seems slightly down, but the real test will be Friday through Sunday. The only criticisms that has entered our consciousness is that the practice rink is way too far away, and the obstructed vies of the ice due to the size of the officials podium. We have been told it can take as long as 40 minutes to get to the practice rink, which means up to two hours need to be devoted to a 20 minute practice session.
For those wondering where the detailed reports are or photos, the schedule pretty much precludes straying on top of that, with 4-6 events every day thus far, and only 20 minutes scheduled between each event. Eventually, however, we will catch up -- hopefully before we leave for 4C!
Wednesday, 21 January
Junior Men and Junior Pairs Short Programs on tap today, along with the Senior Compulsory Dance and the final of the Junior Ladies event.
Ross Miner blew away the competition to lead in the Junior Men's Short Program. He is currently nearly 7 points ahead of the pack. Second through fifth place are bunched up pretty goo, with 1.43 points between them. Rucky Dornbush withdrew due to illness. The buzz says either the flu, or food poisoning. Estimated attendance 1000.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White took the Senior Compulsory Dance. No surprise there. Estimated attendance for the OD, 900.
In the Junior Pairs Short Program Brynn Carman & Christopher Knierim hold a 0.74 lead over Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir, and only 1.92 points separate first and fourth place. At the start of the event, estimated attendance was 1200, growing to about 1700 by the end of the event.
Following an opening ceremony that was very "cirque du soleil," and at timed pinned the weird meter, the day's events ended with the Junior Ladies final. DeeDee Leng won the event before a crowd of perhaps 750. At the start of the event, estimated attendance was about 1500, but after 10 PM (before the start of that last warmup group, the audience began to drift out, as they do at U.S. Nationals weekdays where people have to get to work or school the next day.
Estimated attendance includes all the skaters, coaches, chaperones, off duty officials, volunteers and VIPs present, so actual ticketed customers is probably several hundred less than the total estimate. Most everybody is sitting on the side of the arena opposite the judges. The podium for the technical officials and volunteers towers above the judges stand and blocks the site line for nearly every seat in the lower bowl on that side. Many of those seats have nearly no view of the ice at all, so just about everyone has moved over to the other side. That's about 1500 seats that have been knocked out or are obstructed -- and what should be the best seats in the house at that.
The buzz is that ticket sales have not been good, but the proof of the pudding is still to come when the Senior events get going full speed on Friday and the weekend. The claim is that it actually might get above 20 F the next few days. Can hardly wait to break out my shorts.
Tuesday, 20 January
Novice events finish today, along with the Junior Dance Original Dance in the evening. About 250 on hand at the start of the Novice Men's Free Skate. By the end of the event we estimate 500 in the audience. Joshua Farris kicked butt -- which was in character, skating to Mars, from The Planets.
Last week I was wondering if the organizers would have the sense of history and patriotism to set the schedule to show the inauguration swearing in on the Jumbotron.
And the answer was ...
No, they did not. It would have easy to accommodate that break of 15 minutes, but they didn't. Three red, white and blue thumbs down for this one.
Kiri Baga placed second in the Free Skate, but had enough points left over in her Short Program win, to win overall. About 500 were on hand at the start of the event, and maybe 750 at the finish.
Lauri Bonacorsi & Travis Mager won the Novice Dance event. About 500 were in the audience to see their outstanding performance in the Free Skate.
Following the Novice Dance, the Pairs took the ice, with Cassie Andrews & Nicholas Anderson wining the event before an audience that had swelled to perhaps 1000.
The day ended with the Junior Original Dance, with many interesting routines performed (and some not so interesting). Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein lead after the Original Dance, having now won both the Compulsory Dance and the Original. By the end of the night there were about 500 left in the house.
For those keeping score, the attendance here for the first two days is about the same it was last year in St. Paul.
Monday, 19 January
We all dragged ourselves out of bed this morning for the start of U.S. Nationals. Novice Compulsory Dances started at 7:40 AM and there were probably more skaters, coaches and officials in the arena than spectators, maybe 250 family and friends to cheer on the hardy competitors who competed in two dances, the Paso Doble and the blues. Dance was followed by the Pairs, Ladies and Men. By mid-afternoon we are up to about 750 spectators.
Yesterday Kimmie Meissner withdrew citing a hip injury, and today Emily Hughes withdrew due to an ankle injury. Meissner injured her hip working an a treadmill a week ago and made the final decision to withdraw on Sunday. Hughes' injury also occurred in training at least a week ago, but no details are currently available.
"This was one of the most distressing decisions I have had to make, Hughes said. It is the second year that I suffered an injury during my final preparation for the U.S. Championships.
Hughes received a cortisone shot last week in the hopes that she would be able to continue training.
I just don't have enough strength in my ankle to perform my programs, Hughes said. I plan to resume training when my ankle heals and to compete again as soon as possible".
The evenings events consisted of the Junior Compulsory Dance and the Junior Ladies Short Program. The audience drifted away during the Novice Men's Short Program, perhaps because no dinner break was built into the schedule before the start of the evening events. Maybe 500 remained by the end of the men. For the evening sessions we estimate attendance at about 1200. The Junior Dancers skated the Paso Doble, as did the Novices. While the overall quality in the Junior Dance was a lot higher, there were also three big falls from Junior Couples.
Sunday, 18 January
Flew into Cleveland today, and boy are my arms tired. Badda Boom!
No, that's not it.
Flew into Cleveland today, and it was so cold my arms iced up on the way over. Badda Boom!
No, that's not it either.
Flew into Cleveland today, got in late, and boy was it another United travel nightmare -- original flight from Los Angeles cancelled, reroute through D.C., reroute again through Chicago, totally broke plane in Chicago, partially broke replacement plane, lost luggage. Just the usual United cluster you know what.
And yes, it really is cold, 16 F when we got here (-8 C), and it probably will not reach 20 F most of the week. Flying over Lake Erie, large sections of it are frozen. One blessing, all the events are in the main arena, so you only have to go outside once in the morning and once at night. Love this new schedule they started last year in St. Paul (where it was also bitter cold) where you no longer have to run back and forth between two arenas the first few day.
Busy schedule too. Four Novice events and two Junior events on Monday. One of our reporters is at Europeans which is also this week, so you will get reports from both competitions, but some reports from here may be slow. Oh, well. You can't have it all.
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