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Notes from Everett's edge, the finale

Adam says Johnny's no diva; Miki almost quit the sport

(Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/26/2008) - Adam Rippon's four-and-a-half minute free skate yesterday was better than a four-month diet.

"After I landed that triple Axel, I felt 20 pounds lighter," he said.

The world junior champion connected with the first three-and-a-half revolution jump in his "Send in the Clowns/I Pagliacci" program yesterday, placing seventh in that segment. He finished eighth overall and counts his first Senior Grand Prix event a modified success.

"I learned a lot yesterday and a lot today," he explained. "It looks like I had a sloppy short program, but I fought for every element. I need to build on this and do cleaner programs.

"I'm coming away with a lot of downs and a few ups. I'm gratified for everything that happened, even it it's not the best. In two years no one will remember if I was fifth or sixth at Skate America or eighth or ninth."

Tops on his to-do list is to make his jumps more consistent and heal up from little aches and pains he got this summer practicing quads and triple Axels. He'll also likely ditch his short program to Bach's "Air on a G String" and Vanessa Mae's "Storm" in favor of last season's routine.

"I'll probably go back to my short program from last year," he said. "I was more comfortable with it, and audiences seemed to like it a little more. It was almost the same, anyway; it's just a different costume and techno music."

Photographers had fun with the 18-year-old's ever-changing locks. In casual snaps, he has a mop of curly hair, while, on the ice, he sports a straight look.

"My coach [Nikolai Morozov] wants me to go for straight hair, so when I compete, it's straight. When he's away and I'm doing an exhibition, it's curly. Naturally, it's just a lion's mane, only curly."

There's one more thing Rippon would like to get straight.

"I look up to Johnny [Weir], and I look up to Evan [Lysacek]," Rippon said. "I know [Johnny's] been called a diva, but he's a very kind person. Everything he's earned, he's really deserved."

Earlier in the week, Weir said he, too, enjoyed the company of Team USA.

"I'm very friendly to everyone despite my image as being a diva and being a bit too much all the time," he said. I'm nice to everyone, and I think that's important. There's no one that I feel I'm better than; there is no one I can't learn something from."

According to Miki Ando, only intense physical therapy got her back on the ice after ongoing right shoulder troubles forced her withdrawal from the 2008 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

"After worlds, I was thinking to quit because I have so many injuries and I was not comfortable with it," the 20-year-old revealed. "But everyone said keep trying and I had a chance to talk to my coach [Nikolai Morozov] and family, and everyone helped me change my mind.

"At the beginning of the [offseason], I could not go to the United States to train. In Japan I went to the hospital everyday and [had treatment for] my shoulder, so it doesn't hurt anymore. That's why I feel so comfortable. Of course I'm still a little worried about it, but now I like skating."

Despite widespread reports she would undergo surgery in the offseason to make certain her shoulder was in shape before the 2010 Olympics, Ando opted to go the low-tech route.

"I had two choices: I could have surgery, or I could keep doing the exercises," she said. "I chose not to have surgery because if I fell one more time the shoulder might never get better again. The surgery is not 100% [guaranteed], anyway. Also if I had surgery I [could not] skate for half the year, and I could not come to Skate America. Exercise is much easier, and of course I still do it."

The last time Tatiana Tarasova created a free skate to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," her skater -- Russia's high-flying Ilia Kulik -- came away with an Olympic gold medal. He did it in a costume that lives in memory as one of the most bizarre get-ups ever seen on the ice.

Kulik, who headlines the American Stars on Ice tour this winter, sported a bright yellow vinyl shirt with large black splotches. Derogatory comments flowed from jaded sportswriters' fingertips; Mike Penner of the Los Angeles Times called it a "giraffe-spotted rain slicker," and some fans took to tossing stuffed giraffes on the ice in lieu of wrapped flowers.

A mystified Tarasova explained that Kulik's shirt was meant to represent a young man dazzled by the sights and sounds of New York City. Others said yes, but only if he lived in the Bronx Zoo.

Now, it would seem, Tarasova has done it again, outfitting Evan Lysacek in a heavily sequined tuxedo, complete with balloon sleeves and shoulder pads straight out Linda Evans' 1980s Dynasty costumes. Within seconds of its appearance, fans lit up figure skating message boards like Macy's during the holidays; in fact, one astute watcher likened the ensemble to "a black Christmas tree."

"When I got to Moscow, the music was cut, the costumes were sketched, the choreography was planned," Lysacek, who went to Tarasova to help develop a fresh outlook on his skating, said. "The control freak in me said, 'Hey, let's step back,' but Tatiana said 'This is what you asked for.'"

The outfit deflected attention from duds worn by Lysacek's usually more sartorially outrageous rival, Johnny Weir, who sported a rhinestone-studded black unitard with peplum skirt for his Notre Dame de Paris program that he termed "half Esmeralda, half Quasimodo."

In the judges' eyes, both Americans were upstaged by Japan's Takahiko Kozuka, who contented himself with a simple purple shirt and pants outfit and went home with the title.

Perhaps Lysacek should take heart; after all, Kulik won the sport's greatest prize and has been laughing all the way to the bank as a successful show skater in the years since.