Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Knierims keep calm amid madness

Boitano blown away by men's short; Pairs skater Morgan rules Twitter
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Chris Knierim's parents, Deedee and Jeff, say they can't let the stress of the week affect them in front of their son and his partner. -Sarah S. Brannen

The lobby at the Westin was filled with nervous parents Saturday morning, as they awaited the three events that will determine the Olympic teams in pairs, dance and ladies. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir's parents sat together, smiling and friendly, but understandably tense.

"I slept a little," said Shnapir's mom, Ina. "The night before the short program, I only slept three hours."

In the gym, former ice dancer and current yoga teacher Keiffer Hubbell talked to three acolytes about balance in skating and yoga, and showed off some mind-and-body-bending poses, creating a welcome center of calm in the midst of the craziness.

Nerves and excitement

At the arena, Keegan Messing's mom, Sally, looked on while her son did an interview.

"I hardly got any sleep last night, really," she said. "We got in so late, and then we had to get food for him, and we had an early practice."

Mariah Bell and her mom were doing laps on the concourse, walking around and around. Mariah's eyes were literally sparkling as she anticipated competing in the ladies free skate Saturday night.

"I am so excited!" she said. "I'm walking around the concourse trying to burn off some energy."

Chris Knierim's parents, Deedee and Jeff, got to the arena in time to watch the early group of pairs Saturday morning.

"There's a certain amount of anxiety that comes with being a parent of a skater," Jeff admitted. "We try to keep it to ourselves so they (Chris and partner Alexa Scimeca) can see a sense of calm."

Deedee and Chris had surgery the same day this summer, by unfortunate coincidence, but nothing would keep her away from these Championships.

"Sometimes it's the challenges that make you stronger," said Deedee, a former skater and current coach.

Like Sally Messing, the Knierims have delegated themselves to a supporting role here.

"Our biggest thing is to make sure he eats," Jeff said. "Does he have food in his room? Does he have money for food?"


Brian Boitano was on the concourse again Saturday afternoon signing his book for even more delighted fans. Afterward, we took a stroll along the concourse with him and talked about the men's short program.

"I. Loved. It," Boitano said. "Of course, Jeremy, oh my god, my hands hurt from clapping. Ricky Dornbush was my favorite; he had speed, he had flow, he didn't ever waver. That landing of the quad with his arm out, boom!"

Boitano has been turning up at the U.S. championships every year for a while now, and he says he plans to keep coming every year in the future.

"The reason they had me come back was to start the alumni association and invite past champions back," he said. "They get tickets; it's really great to have them here."

Times a million

2006 Olympic silver medalist Ben Agosto was watching the pairs free skate and eagerly awaiting the free dance competition. Agosto coached the intermediate pair of Hannah Eby and Logan Weaver this week, and he's staying to watch the senior events.

Asked what advice he might have for the about-to-be-named members of the Olympic team -- at least the ones who have never been to the Games -- he said, "I'd tell them to try and soak in the whole experience and enjoy themselves. It's easy to get lost in the hugeness of the event. Try to remember how they felt at their first nationals, and then times a million."

Hashtag Boston2014

If you've been following @BOS2014 on Twitter since it started up last February, you've been reading pairs skater Jimmy Morgan's tweets: He's the talent behind the account.

"I was supposed to do it this week, too," Morgan said, "But I just couldn't do that and compete, too. It was too much!

For newbies to Twitter, Morgan has simple advice.

"Be yourself, honestly," he said. "You can use it however you want. You can express yourself in any way you want, just like skating."

Morgan is a public relations major at Boston University, and he's a master of Twitter and blogging. His blog, "The Social Athlete," focuses on the connection between sports and social media.

"I write about how athletes can use social media to improve their skills, connect with colleagues and interact with fans," he said. "They need to just dive in and do it!"

On Twitter, Morgan goes by @hashtagJimmy. He and partner Alex Shaughnessy skated in the first group of pairs Saturday, in front of a decent crowd, considering. Even a couple of hours before he took the ice, Morgan was working social media, tweeting: "Making a case for the bottom group of pairs. I was talking with some of the guys. We're promising an entertaining event. You won't be sorry."


That Boston accent you've been hearing doing the event announcements all week belongs to Henry Son, a 25-year judge who has been announcing for almost as long. He'll also be announcing during the ladies medal ceremony Saturday night.

"My daughter skated. That's how I got into it," he said.

Son is also the grandfather of former senior ladies competitor Brittney Rizo, who finished seventh at the 2009 U.S. Championships before leaving competition to attend college.

It has been really fun seeing all sorts of former skaters from the Boston area this week. Last night, Drew had a reunion with Julia Vlassov, the partner with whom he won junior worlds. And Katrina Hacker is at the Championships, for the first time since 2009, when she finished sixth. Hacker is in the pre-med program at Columbia University, after taking a detour into history.

"I got really interested in the history of science," she said. "But I realized I wanted to be more hands-on."


Those deliriously happy screams you might have heard coming from the stands during the on-ice Hall of Fame ceremony belonged to Terry Kubicka's kids, Katie, Chris and Scott. None of them followed their famous father into skating, however.

"Katie was a gymnast, Scott was a soccer player, and I'm a tennis player," Chris said. "Go dad!"

Enjoy the ladies free skate!

Sarah and Drew

Follow Sarah and Drew on Twitter