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Riga tones: Moeller blogs from JGP Latvia

Gardena Spring Trophy junior champ shares adventures from Riga
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Team USA's Jordan Moeller arrived off the plane in Latvia ahead of his skates. -Derrick Delmore

American skater Jordan Moeller shares his adventures and provides behind-the-scenes commentary from the first Junior Grand Prix event, in Riga, Latvia.

Saturday, Aug. 31

Today was the big day of competition for the ice dancers, and me and Jimmy [Ma]; the free skate awaited us all. We woke up around 7 to grab some breakfast before practice. We caught the shuttle and headed over to the rink. We were able to have our free skate music played on the main rink one more time before the real deal. Practice went well! I got to skate in my new costume again before I had to compete. Everything felt great, and I was ready to go.

After practice, I headed back to the hotel to relax and get lunch before going back over to the arena to compete. To give you an idea of how long our event was, Jimmy and I were going back to the hotel as the first warmup group was getting on the ice to compete. We were in the second to last warmup, group so we had some time. I got my lunch in and went back up to the room to work on some homework and get my mind away from competition a bit.

In a little while, it was time for us to go. We gathered our things and got on the shuttle to skate the free skate. I took my time getting my legs moving and ready to go. I went through my competition ritual of warmup exercises while listening to a variety of different kinds of music to get myself pumped up and in the zone.

My six-minute warmup was great! Every element was good on the first try, and I really felt myself get into the ice. I skated fifth, so I had time to go into the locker room and take my skates off. Waiting to skate, I jumped and ran up and down the hallway to keep warm. Soon, it was time to get my skates back on and get ready to go. I got on the ice and skated around a bit to get myself warmed up again. My name was announced, and it was time to go.

The first half of my program was a little shaky. It took me a little bit to find my groove, but after the halfway point, I managed to pull everything back together and skated the second half of the program like I know how.

This competition may not have gone how I would have liked it to, but I got a lot out of the experience. I have learned a lot and now I know how to approach it in order to reach my full potential for the next time around, whenever that may be.

After the competition was over, I went back to the hotel to change into people clothes and quickly get back on the bus to watch the free dance. The rest of Team USA was up in the stands supporting our teams. I also got a chance to give flag-folding lessons! (I knew that skill would come in handy when I learned it in eighth grade.) Quinn [Carpenter] and Lorraine [McNamara] skated a great free program and ended up in second place. Ross [Gudis] and Elianna [Pogrebinsky] also skated their hearts out and finished fourth. Great job, Team USA!

After leaving the rink for the final time, we all went back to the hotel to begin pulling our things together and repacking so we could be prepared to leave at 3:30 a.m.! It took a little bit of time, but we got everything ready to go.

We still had about five hours until we had to get on the shuttle to the airport, so we began brainstorming things to do. The park across the street from our hotel had a playground that looked pretty appealing. Quinn, Lorraine, Yasmin [Siraj], Christina [Zaitsev], Ernie [Utah Stevens], Jimmy and I all went down to the park to explore what Latvian playgrounds were all about. We were not disappointed. The focus of most of the equipment was spinning. We had loads of fun!

After a while of playground time, we all headed back in to the hotel and put a movie on. Before we knew it, it was 3 a.m. We all made our way down to the lobby with our things and got ourselves on the shuttle.

It has been a great trip, and I have been happy to have the experience of blogging all about it for you. I hope you have enjoyed reading about our journeys.

So long for now!

Friday, Aug. 30

Today was the second day of practice for the junior men. We had a day in between competition to regroup and rest before the free program. Jimmy and I got to sleep in quite a bit this morning. We had to make sure we were awake before breakfast ended at 10:30, however. I woke up at about 9:45 to allow myself time to get down and have some good breakfast. I tried to get Jimmy up as well, but the only response I got from him was a groan. I gave up and went to breakfast. At 10:20, there was still no sign of Jimmy. I decided it would probably be a good idea to actually get him up. Naturally, when I told him what time it was, he jolted out of bed and ran down the stairs. I've never seen someone move so fast!

We met our coaches downstairs and grabbed all the food we may have wanted before it was taken away. After that, we had a nice, leisurely breakfast. We sat and talked for a while and discussed different things like the older generation of hip hop that Jimmy and I were not all that familiar with. I have to say, though, what I did get to hear was pretty good!

After breakfast, we went back up to the room. I had some homework I had to get done, and Jimmy found something to watch on TV. At this point, we still had about five hours to kill before we had to be on the ice for our practice.

The pairs, ice dancers and ladies all competed today. The pairs and ladies had their free skate and the ice dancers had their short dance. Jimmy and I went over to the rink to go cheer on Team USA! The ice dancers kicked it all off with their short dance in the morning and skated great! The two teams, Lorraine and Quinn, and Elianna and Ross, started it off in second and fourth after the short. After they finished, we headed back to the hotel to grab some lunch before we had to be back over to the rink for practice ice.

After lunch, we got back on the shuttle to get prepared for our practice ice. Practice went pretty well for the both of us. All we got was 35 minutes to run a program and do anything else we may have needed to get prepared for the free skate tomorrow. It is kind of nice to get everything done and move on with your day.

After we finished up at the rink, we went back to the hotel to grab dinner before going into the town to look around a little while and kill some time. The city is beautiful! There is a river that runs right through the middle of the town, and we saw some smaller boats on the water. It looked pretty relaxing.

After a while, it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready to call it a night. Before we went to sleep, we watched the live results come up for the ladies. Karen [Chen] finished in second, and Yasmin finished in sixth. Great job, ladies!

Well, off to bed. Big day tomorrow!

Thursday, Aug. 29

Today was the big day!

Team USA started off in Latvia with the junior men's, junior ladies and junior pairs short programs today. This morning, I woke up around 9 a.m. for breakfast. I went downstairs and had some good breakfast to start my day. Jimmy made his way down a little while after because he had a later practice than I did. I had a little bit of time to kill before I had to get on the bus to the rink, so I hung around a bit to visit with some of the other skaters.

After breakfast, I got myself on the shuttle to the rink. My practice started at 12:30 p.m., so I had a bit of time to watch some of the ladies compete. Karen had a great warm-up, followed by a great skate! Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch, but I heard it was amazing! Yasmin was up next. She skated a great short program, and our ladies ended up with Karen in second and Yasmin in fifth! Way to start it off, ladies. :)

I had a pretty good 30-minute practice today. I got to do a short program to get myself ready for tonight. After practice, it was time to grab some lunch back at the hotel. I got back on the shuttle and went straight to the lunch area. Lunch has been pretty good here. There is always some kind of fish and meat that is quite delicious and filling. Afterward, I headed up to my room to take a nap before I had to get ready for the short program. It felt good to just sit and relax for a while.

I woke up about an hour later and had to start getting ready to go. I grabbed my costume, skates and water bottle, and headed out the door and down to the shuttle. I got to the rink about an hour early and was able to take my time while getting warmed up and loose. After a little while, it was time to get my costume and skates on. The time had come.

I was second to skate in the entire event. I ended up skating all right. There are absolutely no words that can describe what it feels like to hear yourself announced as representing the United States of America. It is truly an amazing thing. I had a couple of under-rotated jumps and, therefore, didn't end up with the kind of score I was hoping for. The good thing about it was I learned a lot from this short program and I am ready to make some adjustments in order to obtain the score I know I can achieve. 

Jimmy skated later in the group and put out a great, clean skate! This was his first time landing triple Lutz-triple toe in competition. Our event ended up going on for a very long time. We started at 5:45 p.m. and by the time we were finished with the draw and everything, we caught the 10:30 p.m. shuttle. It was a very long day!

Jimmy and I drew back-to-back numbers for the free skate. He skates 19th, and I am 20th to skate.

When we got back to the hotel, we had dinner with Luiz Manella, Michael Christian Martinez and a couple of other skaters from different countries. It was cool to sit and talk with kids from all around the world. After we finished dinner, Jimmy and I headed up to our room to get ready for bed. It has been a really long day, and I am ready to get some sleep. We have a day of practice tomorrow to regroup and get ready for the free skate on Saturday.

Well, off to bed. Have a good night, everyone!

Jordan's Latvian Word of the Day:

Ardievas = Goodbye!

Wednesday, Aug. 28

Hello from Riga!

Today was the practice day for all skaters. We each got two 35-minute practices to get a feel for the ice. Jimmy and I woke up at 9 a.m. to get all of our things ready for practice and grab some breakfast before we had to catch the shuttle to the rink. Before we went down to breakfast, I went up to the front desk to ask the question of the day: "Did a black suitcase come from the airport yesterday?" There were a few different suitcases that came, and naturally mine was the second one they checked out. They had me sweating for a second, but I have my skates! What a relief! :) 

Breakfast was very elaborate. There was anything from fruit, to scrambled eggs, to Latvian pancakes. It was very delicious and filling!

After breakfast, we got on the shuttle to head to the rink. The drive to the arena is quite pretty. There are trees everywhere, which means there are shaded areas everywhere (which is great for pale people like myself...). This is going to sound really odd, but there is this really interesting cemetery on the way to the rink. It has a feel kind of like a ruin. But anyway, enough about cemeteries. By the time we got to the rink, we had about an hour before our first practice. Jimmy and I took this time to get acquainted with the area and its surroundings. The arena has two ice surfaces: the competition rink and the practice rink. The competition rink is really nice. It is a little on the cold side, but nothing to complain about. The practice rink feels really small, though. I almost crashed into the boards a couple of times.

Both of our practices went pretty well! The first was a little worse than the second one because we still felt a little loose from our travel day. I actually ended up doing a clean free on the second practice! Not too shabby. Now, I just need to recreate it:).

After practice, we walked across the street to this child's fair that looked kind of interesting. Kori [Ade] and I peered over the fence to see what was going on. The highlight of the park was trampoline volleyball! There were four trampolines set up on each side of the net. I think it is something I would like to try sometime.

After the practices, we went to the hotel to grab some dinner. Jimmy and I still had some time to kill because we have later practices tomorrow. We decided to head into the center city of Riga for a little while before it was time to wind down. The city is beautiful! All of the roads are stone brick, and there are shops and restaurants set up all over. It made for a nice night! We will have to go back in the afternoon when everything is open.

Jordan's Latvian word of the day!

Paldies = Thank you

Well, that's all I have for tonight. Time to get to bed so we can compete our short programs tomorrow! Go Team USA! :)

Tuesday, Aug. 27

Greetings from Latvia!

I and the rest of Team USA are here for the first Junior Grand Prix of the season. I left Colorado Springs yesterday morning at 8:45 a.m. and finally reached my destination this afternoon at around 2:00 p.m. That is a concept that I still have to get used to. The time change between here and the Springs is nine hours. So, naturally, it would be the next day after being on three separate flights, even though it sounds pretty weird to say.

The flights went pretty smoothly as a whole. I went from Colorado Springs to Houston to Frankfurt (Germany) to, at last, Riga (Latvia). The flight from Houston to Frankfurt was the longest of the three at almost nine hours. I got up periodically to stretch and move my legs. The woman sitting next to me noticed that I had my rolling stick with me for my legs and told me she was a yoga instructor! She began giving me tips for traveling overseas, like drinking TONS of water, stretching, walking around, etc. We talked for a while, and she turned out to be a very fascinating woman!

I have never been able to sleep well on planes. I will sit with my eyes closed with no results. I am not sure what it is, but I just can't get any good sleep. I tend to drift in and out a bit but nothing substantial. I have to say, I was pretty tired by the time the trip was over. Tired, but very excited!

Kori and I met up with the rest of the team when we got to Frankfurt. We all got on our last flight to Riga as a team! They made us check in our skates at the gate in Frankfurt because the flight was booked and there was limited space on the plane. I was reluctant to hand over my skates but I really had no choice.

When we got off our flight, we all went down to baggage claim to grab our bags and get on the shuttle to the hotel. I picked up my suitcase with all my clothes in it first and then waited for my skates to come around on the conveyor belt. I waited for a good 20 minutes with no luck. MY SKATES DIDN'T GET ON THE PLANE!

Quinn and Lorraine's costumes didn't make it on either! We went to talk to the baggage workers and they said they would send our missing essentials on the next flight and that they would be delivered to our hotel by 2 a.m. We were trying to stay positive and not worry about it too much and think of other things.

When we got to the hotel, we all checked in and took our things up to the rooms. I am rooming with Jimmy again this trip! We had some time to kill before our team meeting, so Jimmy and I went for a run to get our legs moving after a long day of travel. We jogged around a park that is across the street from our hotel. The playground at the park looked like it could be used to get some exercises in (I always liked working out at playgrounds), and Jimmy wanted to check it out before we headed back. He was going to do a couple of pull-ups on the swing set. He jumped up to grab the bar but miscalculated the height and diameter of the bar, lost his grip, and fell all the way back down. The children who were playing at the playground at the time saw Jimmy's little stunt and started giggling amongst themselves. After a while, they started following us to the place we stopped to stretch a bit. There was an obvious language barrier, but they were still lots of fun.

Before I left home, I was taught how to say hello by my trusty Latvian friend, Lukas Kaugars. Which leads me to my next point…

Jordan's Latvian word of the day:

Sveiki = Hello

The kids had to have understood what I was trying to say because they all waved at us in unison while giggling amongst each other. They then pointed at Jimmy and started singing and dancing to the song Gangnam Style. I guess they thought Jimmy and Psy looked alike?

After Jimmy and I were finished bonding with Latvian children, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our team meeting. Derrick Delmore, our team leader, gave us all of the initial instructions we needed to know regarding our time here in Latvia. He also handed out our official Team USA pins for the 2013-14 season. After the meeting, we went to dinner in the hotel as a team and called it an early night. Needless to say, we were all pretty exhausted from our long day of travel.

Well, that's about all I have for tonight. Time to get to bed! We all have some sleep to catch up on so we can be functional tomorrow for the official practice day. Goodnight, everyone!

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