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Alexandra “Sandra” Stevenson Checks in from Around the Skating World

OBERSTDORF, Germany: Sept 26: Arrived later than planned due to Lufthansa’s cancelled New York to Munich flight. The weather is not as nice as last year, with some sun but mostly cloudy and rain-y. Unlike last year, the skaters competing in the 44th Nebelhorn Trophy (September 27-29) will not get to see the annual parade of cows. Some city folk have never actually seen live cattle up close before. They are big. They are slow moving. They know they have right of way and will stare you down while chomping. It’s a picturesque but smelly encounter and they soil the ground leaving much behind them. They walk from their summer pastures up on the sides of the hills down to their smaller protected winter lower abode on the other side of town. To get past them, skaters had to retreat to the winding side roads and figure out an alternate way up to the rink.

Top of conversation amongst North Americans – jetlag. Caroline Zhang says she’s really affected by it and copes by going down to the lobby in the middle of the night and going on the computer.

Sept 27: The American team stays at the Mohren Hotel which has beautiful balconied rooms in the center of town across the road from the church. That timeless setting has witnessed many words of annoyance as family members, who are often not that experienced in the delights of jet lag, are woken by the early morning bells summoning the faithful to early morning prayer services!

There is no transportation to the rink. It’s a pretty, but uphill walk in the morning to the three-rink complex which is on the upper outskirts of town, across a river, surrounded by green fields and mountains. It is conveniently close to the three-station famed cable car, but the weather doesn’t seem conducive to encourage the skaters to go on the ride.

Sept 28: The US champions, Caydee Denney & John Coughlin, are delighted with their silver behind the twice world runners-up, Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. Their coach, Dalilah Sappenfield revealed that the judges at the Champs Camp felt their original routine to Sing, Sing, Sing was OK but they wanted them to show more maturity.

“So we changed to Concierto de Aranjuez,” Dalilah explained. “Pasquale Camerlengo worked very hard on the original routine and it was very good. But the judges were right. This routine does give them a more grown-up appearance. It was a big rush to get it done in time, but it was worth it.”

Vanessa James, who was born in Canada, was brought up in the US but because her father held a Bermuda passport, she subsequently went to Britain and won the UK singles title. Then she had another change of country and started pair skating in France. She certainly is a determined young lady.

She won bronze with her new partner, Morgan Cipres, and was over the moon. “It’s our first international medal and we couldn’t be happier.” She turned 25 on the day of the Short. “I couldn’t have had a better birthday present,” she said.

They were beaten in the Free by Gretchen Donlan & Andrew Speroff, who, because of breakups of others, are the second ranked pair in the US. But Gretchen and Andrew had a very bumpy ride in the initial round and could only pull up from sixth to fourth.

The US Men had quite a battle. Alaskan Keegan Messing gained the bronze (behind Nobunari Oda, Japan, and Konstantin Menshov of Russia, but was beaten in the Free by his teammate, Stephen Carriere who climbed up from eighth after the Short to finish fourth just 1.67 points behind Keegan. Keegan had a different view of his fall than did the “callers”. He declared, “I fell into a push up position. My butt did not touch the ice so it wasn’t a fall and I shouldn’t have lost that point (which would not have changed the placings).”

I thought the official explanation was that it was a fall if the core weight was being supported on the ice by more than two appendages!

Sept 29: Two weeks ago in the new international in Salt Lake, Madison Chock & Evan Bates were disappointed when they dropped out of the lead and finished up fourth overall, because, as Evan explained, “I was ill for six days before and just didn’t have the strength. It’s good to have this win (in Oberstdorf when they overtook the German early leaders with a wonderful Free set to Dr. Zhivago), so we can put Salt Lake behind us so quickly.”

Sept 30: Interesting omission in the Exhibition Gala last night (Saturday). The pairs winners, twice runner-up for the world title, from Russia, did not perform. Instead, Nobunari Oda, who won coming back from injury by over 20 points ahead of the Russian 29-year-old Menshov, was given the “star” slot.

Have not yet got an explanation! Maxim has been getting a lot of gaff over his hair. It’s long enough to form a fringe on top but the bottom half of his skull looks as if it was shaved and is just beginning to grow back.

October 1: The North Americans taking the “caller” exam have all passed and decided to celebrate in Munich, which goes crazy at this time of year when they hold their October Fest. Missing from that party was the busiest coach, Igor Shpilband who arrived in Oberstdorf from attending a Junior Grand Prix. He then went back to the US as soon as the dance here in Oberstdorf was over, but was planning to travel back to Europe later this week to be at the Finlandia Trophy. I’m off to Finland, too, but no way could I handle all that jetlag!! I’m just hanging around over here.