1998 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Philadelphia, PA

4 - 11 January, 1998


Some closing thoughts and miscellaneous items from U.S. Nationals.

In the flurry of interest over the naming of the ladies World Team members, a curious decision from the International Committee for the dance members was overlooked.  The third place team of Lang and Tchernyshev were named as first alternates to the team, but the fourth place team of Chalom and Gates were bypassed in favor of Robinson and Breen as second alternates.  No word from the committee on the reason for this.  According to our "spies" Gates was not a happy camper the morning following the dance event, and the buzz from Detroit has it that he has been unhappy for some time in his role as a hired gun.  Could a break-up be imminent?

The ladies final was nearly sold out, but not quite.  None of the other finals were even close to sold out.  A pretty sad attendance for an Olympic year.  Are people staying away because events have gotten too expensive, or has the extended live coverage on TV influenced people to stay home and watch it on TV?   Maybe a combination of both?

Speaking of cost.  For a family of four to see the ladies final from the good seats it cost about $356 dollars.  That includes four tickets, parking, a program, two pins, and a snack and soda for each person.  Add two sweatshirts for the kiddies and the cost is more than $450.  That's a lot of money for just 68 minutes of skating.  To see one of the short programs instead would have cost about $216 for less than 48 minutes of skating.

The ushers tried their best, but the area staff at San Jose still holds the record for the nastiest staff at a U.S. Nationals.  It was a close call though.

Nicole Bobek did not skate the exhibition, for reasons unknown.   Tonia Kwiatkowski appeared instead, in what was likely to be her swan song in eligible skating.  The only other fourth place team to appear were Stiegler and Stiegler, who know how to work a crowd.  The exhibition was well attended but also not sold out.   Unusual because the exhibition is frequently the first event to sell out.

According to an MRI the day after the pairs event, Jenni Meno's foot suffered only a bruised heel bone, and not a fracture.  It should be ready to skate on in a few days, and should have little impact on their preparations for the Olympic Games.

It only took 6 years, but the USFSA has finally adopted some of the good ideas introduced long ago at Canadian competitions.  The new scoreboard introduced at the 1997 Skate America is a real plus for providing information to the audience.  The color combination is a bit odd though.  It displays red, orange, and green which makes for some really hideous graphics, and makes the flag of just about every country look ghastly.  The orange pictures of the skaters also left a lot to be desired.   Another Canadian innovation adopted, the playing of upbeat music between practices, warmups, events, etc., also added to the atmosphere of the event.  On the down side, those 6.0 paddles that are given out at Skate Canada made their dreaded appearance at Nationals.  It only took a few days before people started writing messages on them and throwing them on the ice.  At Skate Canada they are thrown onto the ice by the hundreds making a mess and delaying the competition.  This is something that would have been better left in Canada.

U.S. Nationals just gets longer and longer, and more and more exhausting.   Eighteen skaters in a senior event is just too many, and for the lowest placing skaters sometime you wish a huge hook would come out of the kiss-and-cry area and drag the dregs off the ice.  Skaters placing 13 or below after the short programs should be sent home.  They don't belong at Nationals in the first place, and trimming the events after the short program would cut about a day off the competition and save a few $100,000 in the process.

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