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Skaters descend on D.C. for White House visit

Davis and White, Ade take home honors from "Best of U.S." awards
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Jason Brown poses on the red carpet with his coach, Kori Ade, the recipient of the USG Building Dreams Award, which honors an individual who has gone above and beyond in his or her support of Team USA athletes. -Getty Images

Simon Shnapir had barely been back in the country, having just competed at the world championships in Japan, but he was shaking off his jet lag as quickly as he could.

After all, it's not every day you're invited to Washington, D.C., to meet the president.

Shnapir and his longtime partner, Marissa Castelli, were in the nation's capital Wednesday night for the inaugural "Best of U.S." awards show at the Warner Theatre. Thursday, the festivities move to the White House, where Castelli and Shnapir will join a large delegation of Team USA athletes who competed in Sochi.

Pairs team Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay and U.S. silver medalists Polina Edmunds and Jason Brown also will be part of the visit with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Olympic champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White did not make it to Washington, as they are in Florida preparing for the start of the Stars on Ice (SOI) tour. They did, however, take home Team of the Olympic Games honors.

But for those skaters who came to Washington, they were excited about the rare opportunity.

Shnapir brought along a special memento, a pin presented to him by the Massachusetts State Police, to give to the president during his visit.

When asked if he had anything in particular he wanted to say to the president, Shnapir shrugged and laughed.

"I don't know if I'll say anything," Shnapir said. "I hear it's pretty brief and quick."

But worth it.

Shnapir was born in Moscow and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a toddler. His parents never imagined they would raise an Olympic figure skater who would one day be invited to the White House.

"It's exciting for all of us," Shnapir said. "You look at all the opportunities we were given by moving here. The Olympics were a proud moment for my family. I think when I shake President Obama's hand, it will be for three people (his parents and himself)."

Like Shnapir, Bartholomay isn't sure what to expect at the White House.

"I'm going to wing it," Bartholomay said. "I'm not sure if I'm going to shake his hand or take a selfie."

For Bartholomay and Zhang, the last few months have been a roller-coaster ride. They finished second at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and had to wait until the last moment to find out if they would compete in Sochi. Then they went to the Olympics and continued training afterward, since they were first alternates for the 2014 World Championships in Saitama, Japan. Shortly before worlds, Caydee Denney injured her ankle, causing her and John Coughlin to withdraw from the event, and Zhang and Bartholomay got the call to pack their bags.

Now they are in Washington for a presidential visit.

"It's been a little crazy, yes," Zhang said. "But this is exciting. I've never been to the White House before. We've been looking forward to this."

Edmunds, meanwhile, was competing at the junior level just a few months ago. Today, she is an Olympian, world competitor and about to perform in nine shows in SOI, which begins Friday in Fort Myers, Fla.

"This is really exciting and such an honor," said Edmunds, who was dressed in a blue dress and white blazer as she walked along the red carpet outside the Warner Theatre.

This probably comes as no surprise, but Jason Brown was thrilled to be a part of the Washington festivities.

"The entire journey I've been on has just been amazing," Brown said.

Brown was especially honored to be able to attend the event with his coach of 15 years, Kori Ade. Ade received the USG Building Dreams award, and a video feature showing her coaching Brown from the time he was a youngster until he became an Olympian was played on a big screen.

When she was presented her award, Ade told the audience, "When you love what you do, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice."

For skating fans who fear they have seen the last of Brown's "Riverdance" program, which won him such praise this season, have no fear: He will be performing it, as well as his popular "Hammer Time" routine, in 12 SOI shows. (He still isn't sure what he will do with his now-famous green costume.)

Brown said he will again be working with Rohene Ward, who choreographed "Riverdance," on both his programs for the upcoming season. Ward is scheduled to come to Colorado to work with Brown and Ade starting May 11.

For now, Brown is just enjoying the ride.

ICE CHIPS - Skating was well represented at the "Best of U.S." event. Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek were presenters, Sarah Hughes was working red carpet interviews for, and Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir were backstage doing interviews with the winners for the TV broadcast. The "Best of U.S." awards will be televised on NBCSN on Monday, April 7, at 7:15 p.m. ET. … As for Lipinski and Weir, they seem as popular as ever and are looking forward to more Olympic commentary in the future. In a red carpet interview, Weir explained to reporters that analyzing skating on TV "wasn't all about the sparkles and fashion." Weir said it was especially difficult to commentate on the men's event, which he had hoped to be a part of as a skater.