Ice Network

Espoo exposed: Biechler blogs from Finlandia

U.S. ice dancer provides updates from team's third international of season
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Team USA's Julia Biechler and Damian Dodge are already competing at their third international of the season this week at the Finlandia Trophy. -Melissa Majchrzak

U.S. ice dancer Julia Biechler is competing at the 2017 Finlandia Trophy with partner Damian Dodge. She kept a blog for icenetwork.

Sunday, Oct. 8

It was another cold, windy and rainy day here in Espoo. I forgot to mention in yesterday's entry that I discovered there was a complimentary breakfast in the lobby. I wish I had seen that sooner, because it would have saved me from the oatmeal incident!

Our morning practice went well, but there was a long break between the practice session and the actual competition, which was fine with me because I needed a long nap. Once we got back to the hotel, I decided to go shopping in the mall, but I quickly remembered that there weren't a lot of places open for business on Sunday. In the end, I decided a nap was best.

After getting some rest, I began my preparation for the free dance. The nerves started to hit, so I put on some music by Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé while doing my hair and makeup. For whatever reason, I find that my hair and makeup turn out better when I have good music playing.

When we got to the rink for the end of the ladies free skate, we noticed a larger crowd, which was great because we were able to feed off the energy from inside the arena. Stepping out onto the ice, we were determined to stay on our feet and deliver a good performance. After the five-minute warm-up was over, we got off the ice and went backstage. This is the time for last-minute costume adjustments and skate re-lacing, but for me, I was focused on one thing: Making sure I stayed calm. I was simply reminding myself of all the hard work we have been doing and that it's just a run through, like we do every day.

I was proud of how we skated in the free dance. It was strong and expressive, and we stayed on our feet, nailing the final lift. Our edges on some of our turns were questionable, so that hurt our score a bit, and we also received a one-point deduction for an over timed lift. Despite those miscues, the performance was an improvement for us and we are very proud of ourselves.

After our performance, Damian realized that I cut his hand badly on the final lift. It was bleeding quite a bit, so we ended up having to go the hospital where he received three stitches. As if this trip hasn't been eventful enough!

Once the entire event was over and Damian was back from the hospital, we went out for burgers and to enjoy some relaxation. We hung out with friends most of the night, roaming around town being young and crazy. After that, it was time to get a bit of rest before departing for the flight home at 7 a.m.

We would like to thank everyone at the Finlandia Trophy who made this event possible as well as the amazing fans who came out to support us! We had so much and it was a great experience! We would also like to thank Taffy Holiday and Kathleen Harmon for being amazing team leaders, the judges for each event, and U.S. Figure Skating for the opportunity to compete at this event.

I would like to thank icenetwork as well for giving me the opportunity to share the experience of what it's like to compete at an international competition with every one of you. I hope I get to do it again soon.

'Till next time!

Saturday, Oct. 7

Our day started very early. Our practice was moved to 6 a.m. so that we would have a chance to skate on the main arena ice before our actual competition. Now, I know 6 a.m. may not seem like a very early practice to some, but I had to be in full hair and makeup and we have to be there an hour before to warm up, so that means waking up at 3!

Our practice went well; we had a few glitches here and there, but it was just us getting used to the size of the rink. After practice, we headed back to the hotel for breakfast and a nap. Leaving the rink at 6:45, when it's already dark out, felt weird. We are typically at the rink all day and leaving at dusk.

Then it was competition time!

We just got done competing, and I would first like to say, "UUUGGGGHHHH!" We are a better team than what we showed, and we have been improving a lot in practice. We are not happy with how we skated. It's very frustrating. That lift is brand new, and twizzle flukes always tend to strike at the worst possible time. But we can't dwell on what went wrong and how much we wish things went differently. Tomorrow is a new day, and we are going to give it our best.

If you have not yet seen our performance, here is what happened. Damian tripped on the second twizzle, so we got a Level 1, and we both fell on the second lift, giving us a two-point deduction, a downgrade in level and -3 Grade of Execution. The rest of our skate, however, was great! Our timing has improved, and we felt like we performed well.

So, again, tomorrow is a new day. We are going to go out there and give it our all and show everyone how hard we have been working. This American woman is going to put a spell on you because a seven-nation army can't hold me back. 😉

Hyvää yötä!

Friday, Oct. 6

I will keep today's entry short and sweet because I have to be up at 4 a.m. tomorrow, so I've got to get some sleep!

Today we had another practice. It was a little rough, but we finished strong. The rink felt colder than yesterday, which isn't really an issue if you're a guy, but when all you're wearing is a spaghetti strap dress with an open back, it makes a big difference.

After our practice, we went back to the hotel, had lunch and took a nap. Since we didn't have anything else to do the rest of the day, we thought it would be fun to go explore Helsinki for a while.

We took a short bus ride from Espoo to Helsinki. We made it to Senate Square, which is kind of like the heart of Helsinki. There were lots of shops and high-end restaurants. We saw two beautiful cathedrals and even went to a fish market right on the waterfront. I have attached some pictures from our day. It was a beautiful city! 

Now, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow is the short dance competition, so keep your fingers crossed for us.


Thursday, Oct. 5

So, this morning I woke up around 11:00 a.m. because I was pretty tired. I decided to try to make some oatmeal in the hotpot that I packed with me, but since I had never used a hotpot, I had no idea what I was doing. I put the water and oatmeal into the pot and plugged it in, thinking it would warm up slowly. Boy was I wrong! The pot heated up within seconds and started to burn the oatmeal! I quickly unplugged the pot and got it cleaned up, but now my room smells like burning oatmeal. Great start to my morning.

After the craziness subsided, I opted for some grapes, pretzels and peanut butter for my breakfast. I know, not the best way to start the day, but it's 11:30 in the morning and everyone is about to eat lunch.

Damian [Dodge] and I decided we should go to the grocery store to get some essentials: water, cheese, fruit and bread. The store ended up being on the bottom floor of the mall, which was convenient since it's right across the street from the hotel. After we got back from the store, it was time to get ready for practice.

Our first impression of the rink was that it's amazing! The arena is huge and very blue, as are the stands, boards, and logos. Our practice for the day was on the back rink, which was freezing. Despite the chilly conditions, we still put forth a great session. After practice, we headed back to the hotel for a little but it still smelled like smoke. I decided to open the balcony door to try and air it out.

Polina [Edmunds], if you're reading this, I'm so sorry.

The draw took place in The WeeGee Museum of Modern Art in Espoo, which was built in a renovated old print house and named after the print company, Weilin & Göös. Participants in each discipline went to the draw together, so it was quite crowded.

We each had to pick the order in which we would skate from goodie bags that were arranged on a table. It was pretty cool because typically, all we do at a draw is pick a number out of a bag. We ended up drawing fourth, and inside the bag we found two blue candleholders that were made in Finland and two admission tickets for the museum.

After the draw was over, we took the bus back to the hotel and had some dinner. I'm happy to tell you that the dinner at the hotel's restaurant was much better than the one we had last night.

The weather here has been pretty cold, and it rained on and off today. After all, it is Fall, and the leaves on the trees are starting to change color.

Tomorrow is the start of the competition, and pairs, ladies, and men's skaters will all perform their short programs. It'll also be another practice day for us.

It's getting late, so I'm going to head off to bed.

Goodnight from Finland!

Wednesday, Oct. 4

Greetings from Finland!

Damian and I just arrived and all I can say is, so far, I love Finland! It's beautiful, and the people here are very nice.

We had a long day of travel; after three flights, long layovers and a bus ride, we are pretty tired. Some of the other Team USA members flew in on the same flights as we did, but most came in at different times. We have a pretty big team here in Finland, with three men, two ladies, two pairs and two dance teams.

After we all got settled into our hotel rooms, we had a team meeting and then went out for dinner, as usual.

There is a huge mall across the street from our hotel, so we decided to go check it out and see if we could find some food. Inside, there were lots of really nice stores, and all I could think about was, "Man, it's a good thing I didn't bring a lot of clothes with me!"

Although there were lots of fun places for shopping in the mall, there wasn't really a lot to choose from food-wise. Now, for those who may not know, finding familiar foods and healthy places to eat in a different country can be quite the adventure…

Tonight, we tried this place right outside the hotel that looked promising, but it ended up being a little too far outside our usual flavor palates, if you know what I mean. However, it was the best we could find for only being here a few hours.  

Now we are back at the hotel, and I am very ready for bed. Tomorrow we have practice in the late afternoon, so we might try and do some sightseeing or shopping, but for now, I'm off to catch some Z's. 😊

Hyvää yötä!