Behind the scenes from the French Cup

Team USA synchro teams competing in Rouen, France

Members of Team USA pose for a group picture before competition gets underway at the French Cup in Rouen, France.
Members of Team USA pose for a group picture before competition gets underway at the French Cup in Rouen, France. (Erika Hoffman)


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By Erika Hoffman and Emily Saitta, special to
(02/05/2009) - Erika Hoffman of the Haydenettes and Emily Saitta of the Crystallettes keep caught up on all the action at the French Cup in Rouen, France, this week.

Erika Hoffman and the Haydenettes
Monday, Feb. 9
This morning we packed up and headed to the airport to fly back to Boston. Our flight was long, but not too boring because we were all there to entertain each other. We landed safely at Logan Airport around 3:00 p.m. Monday afternoon. I think everyone will be excited to get some much needed rest before returning to practice this week to get ready for nationals.

Thanks for sharing our trip to France with us!

See you in Portland!
Erika & The Haydenettes

Erika Hoffman and the Haydenettes
Sunday, Feb. 8
This morning we got up and got ready to leave Rouen. We said good-bye and thank you to our fabulous team leaders and doctors. We were so lucky to have such a supportive group of people traveling with us!

We loaded the bus and headed to Paris. Many of our parents came to Rouen and met us to take the trip to Paris for the day. We arrived in time to walk around and have a quick lunch before taking a bus tour of the city. After the tour, both teams (Haydenettes and Lexettes) got ready for a final team dinner.

After dinner, we dressed in our warmest clothes and headed to the Eiffel Tower. We went all the way to the top where we could see the entire city. It was cold and snowing quite hard, but we wouldn't have changed a thing. It was an amazing end to our week!

We will all have great memories from this week that will last a lifetime.

Tomorrow we will leave for the U.S.
Erika & The Haydenettes

Erika Hoffman and the Haydenettes
Saturday, Feb. 7
This morning we woke up to find snow coming down over the city. We all sat at breakfast together still feeling thrilled about last Friday's skate. We were so happy that we had achieved a new personal-best score and earned a spot among the top teams going into the free skate.

After breakfast, we got ready for our official practice. There was a feeling of excitement and energy that surrounded us. When we arrived at the rink, we found a spot on the concourse to do our normal team warm-up exercises before heading to the locker room. We had a very strong official. There were lots of officials and spectators at practice; it was a lot of fun to perform and practice for tonight.

When we returned to the hotel we had some time to relax, do homework, and hang out. Around 4:00 p.m. we headed to the rink to cheer on the Lexettes. They skated a strong program to music from the soundtrack of Indiana Jones. They had a few mistakes but were powerful and had a lot of feeling in their performance. The Lexettes held onto their fifth-place spot. The top five teams were: Team Mystique (FIN), Team Fintastic (FIN), Chicago Jazz (USA), Les Supremes (CAN) and Lexettes (USA).

We then headed to dinner in downtown Rouen before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the competition. We had a good meal with salad and pasta to give us lots of energy for our late night skate. After a brisk walk back to the hotel we all did our own little things before getting ready for competition hair and make-up. It was a really long day, and we were all feeling very ready to go to the rink and skate. With our buns sewn in and our make-up completed, we had our traditional team meeting before heading to the bus. As a team we focused on our goal -- we were ready!

When we arrived at the rink we went with our coaches to warm-up. We walked through the program sections, and then did our own warm-up and stretching. With the Zamboni finishing it's last lap of the ice, it was time for us to go to the locker room. We listened to our traditional mix before listening to the free skate music. Two minutes to ice time, we left the locker room to do our circle with the coaches. Saga [Krantz, coach] again gave us confidence and reminded us that if "we can dream it, we can achieve it."

It was time. We took the ice with confidence and determination. When they announced Haydenettes representing the United States of America, I got chills. The stands were packed with other teams, parents and fans. The U.S. supporters were chanting "USA, USA..."

Skating the free skate was an amazing experience. It was such a great feeling to know we were there on the ice supporting each other, all dreaming the same dream. We did have some mistakes, but we never held back. When we finished I think we all knew no matter what the outcome was, that we had given it our all. There's nothing like the feeling of competing with your best friends by your side. It was so much fun! We received good scores, placing us in third with one final team to skate. After signing a few autographs for young fans above the kiss and cry area, we went to the locker room to wait for the final placements. The locker room door opened and Saga brought in a small sign with a number three on it. We did it! We yelled, cried and celebrated. It was an amazing feeling.

We lined up for the awards ceremony that included the top finishers from the novice, junior and senior divisions. It was very exciting to participate in the ceremonies along with fellow U.S. team, Chicago Jazz. There's nothing like seeing your country's flag being raised. After the formal ceremony, there was plenty of time for pictures before heading back to the hotel.

When we returned to the hotel we all quickly changed into our "room theme" outfits, a Haydenette tradition. Each room picks a theme and either decorates or makes costumes to fit. It's always fun to see how creative everyone can get! We spent almost all night together as a team before finally going back to our rooms to pack and get ready to leave.

This week's competition was an amazing one filled with ups and downs. We have so many great memories to take home with us, and we are so happy that we had the opportunity to represent the U.S.

Off to pack my bags!! Good night.
Erika & The Haydenettes

Emily Saitta, Crystallettes
Sunday, Feb. 8
Today we headed out for the airport. We said goodbye to all our Team USA chaperones, helpers, doctors, etc.

By the way, I loved having them there. They were so lively and entertaining; they even did part of our warm-up us. They were supportive, protecting and positive the whole trip.

Anyway, we left almost two hours early to get some shopping done at the airport since we didn't have time to while in Rouen. However, our bus driver got lost, and we barely made it to our gate on time. Good thing we left early. Actually, to be completely honest, I wouldn't have minded staying an extra day or two in France!

The ride home was long, but I was able to get a lot of work done. I was amazed once again at the touch screen video players we all had at our seats. I watched a few movies and played trivia games. We landed safely and are all now back in Michigan. My first trip out of the country was a great experience. My passport now looks legit with the stamps, and I can now say I went inside the Eiffel Tower.

Hopefully, I can make a scrapbook to remember this once in a lifetime experience.

Emily Saitta, Crystallettes
Saturday, Feb. 7
Today is the day we competed in the long program. It was raining and snowing outside, and we were supposed to walk to the rink, but Nexxice let us join them on their bus.

We had official practice, but it didn't go as well as hoped; however, we had off-ice practice afterwards that went well. After some time to rest, we had pizza and fruit in one of the halls at the hotel. We soon did our hair and makeup and were off to compete. The rink was crowded when we got there, so we warmed up outside and then went into our locker rooms to get dressed and put our skates on.

We were the first group out in the second heat. Backstreet Boys were playing as we lined up to step out onto the ice. We danced around to the music then prepared to skate. As we lined up on the side of the rink, I could hear the other USA teams chanting 'USA, USA, USA!' My teammate behind me gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder, and we were off. We skated great. One element after another, we nailed them.

I gave a little smirk as we successfully made it through the splice, and mouthed "yeah yeah yeah yeah" as we pumped our fists to the music. As we stood in our ending poses, I could hear the roar of the crowd.

It was perhaps one of the loudest cheers I have ever heard. We gave hugs and awaited our scores in the "kiss and cry." As we exited the box, little girls were hanging over the ledge asking us for our autographs. They were so cute. I asked one what her name was and she just stared at me -- I forgot they don't speak English. Oops! So, one of my teammates worked as my translator. We were so happy after our skate. We stayed to watch the rest of the programs and, of course, I was amazed at the teams from Finland. Later, I bought some French Cup posters and knickknacks and traded a pin with a French team member. We stayed for the opening ceremonies to cheer on our fellow Team USA representatives. It was so cool when the flags were raised into the air as the national anthem played. I have never witnessed the flags being raised like that. I hope one day I can help our red, white, and blue rise to the top during our national anthem. When we got back to the hotel, we packed, watched some movies, and viewed our performance on the French Cup Web site.

Thanks for sharing this memory with me,

Erika Hoffman and the Haydenettes
Friday, Feb. 6
Short program day!

We got up and had a good breakfast before getting ready to go to the rink. The Lexettes had official practice before us, so we were able to cheer them on before doing our warm-ups. They had a really good practice with two clean run-throughs, the best ones we've seen from them this trip!

Our official practice was next, we also chose to complete two full run-throughs of our short program. This season the Lexettes short is a Reggae love song and our short to a tango by Bond.

After both teams were done skating, we headed back to the hotel to review the video from practice and have some downtime. While the Lexettes got ready to compete, we headed into town for some lunch and then to the rink to watch the junior division. All of the junior teams looked really strong -- it was a tough competition. The Lexettes had a great skate with one bump in their first intersection. We were very proud with their international debut. It was interesting to watch Team Fintastics interpretation of Reggae right before the Lexettes skated their Reggae program. At the end of the junior short the top five are as follows: Team Mystique (FIN), Team Fintastic (FIN), Chicago Jazz (USA), Les Supremes (CAN) and Lexettes (USA). We then headed back to the hotel for a nap before we got ready to compete.

Once we arrived at the arena to compete, we walked through the program and then did our routine off-ice warm-up. When warm-up was completed we rushed to the locker room to get ready to skate. The locker room was filled with lots of positive energy as we listened to our locker room mix -- a Haydenette tradition. With three minutes left before taking the ice, we left the locker room to wait ice side where we did our usual circle and listened to Saga's [Krantz, coach] "words of wisdom".

Right before taking the ice, we did our secret Haydenette cheer and our 'run through clap.' We skated our Tango with lots of attitude and confidence. We wanted to respect the technical rules, but also tell a story. Some of our strongest elements of the night were our moves in the field, circle and our first intersection. When we got off the ice, we all said we had a lot of fun and were thrilled with our 72.61 score, our highest this season.

We returned to the locker room to take multiple pictures, before heading back to the hotel. We waited anxiously for Saga to receive text messages about the other teams in our division.

The scores were all really close and the top seven teams are as follows: Team Unique(FIN), Paradise(RUS), Haydenettes(USA), Rockettes(FIN), Nexxice(CAN), Les Supremes(CAN), and Crystallettes(USA). Tomorrow will be a new day and it's anyone's to take. The draw was completed at the end of the night, Lexettes will be skating fourth and we will be skating 11th. Now it's time for some much needed sleep!
Bonne Nuit,
The Haydenettes

Emily Saitta, Crystallettes
Morning, Friday, Feb. 6
Today we walked to the ice rink for the official practice, and we definitely stood out in the crowd walking around with our matching skate bags. Practice went well, afterwards we got some down time in our hotel. I went to see the inside of one of the cathedrals with some of the team; the ceilings were high and there were many old statues. The intricacy was amazing especially on the outside. After that, we went shopping a bit.

There are many clothing stores here in Rouen. The French dress well.

Souvenir shops were hard to find, since we are not in a main city -- but we did manage to find one. I picked up some post cards and a mini Eiffel tower figurine. After taking a quick nap and watching a video of our official practice, we went to the ice rink to support the Chicago Jazz and the Lexettes in the junior division.

There were a bunch of young children in the stands, and I was told they come to the French Cup as a field trip. A few of them came around to get autographs from some of the U.S. teams. It's fun to be able to cheer for Team USA and hold up our American flags. I loved watching the other countries compete, particularly, Finland was very good.

I can't wait to watch our competitors in the senior division.

Well, we are competing in the short program tonight, so, I need to go get hair and makeup ready!

Evening, Friday, Feb. 6
The competition went well. We had a strong skate. A little boy came up to me and two of my friends for our autographs. It was cool getting to write U.S. under my name. I also traded a pin with one of the members of the Canadian team. After competing, we watched the rest of the senior division. It was neat getting to see everyone.

Tomorrow we have official practice, and then the free skate.

Wish us luck!
Talk to you soon!
Sincerely from France,

Erika Hoffman, Haydenettes
Thursday, Feb. 5
With ten hours of sleep under our belts, we were up and heading to breakfast. We were all very excited to eat croissants and other French delicacies. Both teams then returned to our rooms to do hair and make-up for our practices. Upon arrival, we did our routine warm-up and stretching before heading to the locker room to lace-up.

We had two scheduled practices -- one in the practice rink and one on the official ice. The Lexettes were up first, skating lots of small sections before doing a long program run-through. We arrived ice side just in time to see their [performance] -- it was great!

After they finished their run-through, we were up. We warmed up quickly and dove right into the long program. Even though we were chilled to the bone, we did many sections focusing on small details and expression. This is one of the coldest rinks we've skated in!

After our first ice session, we had a small break to warm-up, stretch, drink lots of water and cheer on the Lexettes during their second practice. Our second practice was on the official rink, and we did our first run through in France. Dealing with jet lag is always a challenge, but we managed to push through it as a team and have a successful practice.

Our Finnish skater, Laura, is enjoying seeing all of her old teammates around the rink and brushing up on her Finnish that she doesn't use much with us.

With our practices done for the day, we jumped at the chance to go shopping downtown. Walking through the streets we got to see lots of historic buildings and churches. We took plenty of pictures of everything; we were the ultimate tourists! We went to crêperie for lunch, where we enjoyed traditional French fruit and chocolate crepes! We then continued to the main shopping area where we each found something special to bring home with us, and many of us found a lot more.

Tonight was the draw. It was an on-ice ceremony with a party feel -- lots of flashing lights, sparklers for the skaters in the stands and, as the chair of [the] Rouen Olympic Skating Club said, "everything in France starts with music!" French skaters did a routine to the "Can Can," and they acted as the numbers for the draw ceremony. Since it was the 15th anniversary of the French Cup, each of the skaters wore a birthday cake hat on their heads with the skating number under it. The Lexettes drew eighth, and we drew to skate fourth. The Lexettes then met and traded good luck cards with their "buddies" from Team Fintastic, Saga Krantz, coach of Haydenettes previous club's Junior team. Then it was back to the hotel for a joint team dinner and downtime before bed.

Bonne Nuit!
More news to come after the short programs!

Emily Saitta, Crystallettes
Thursday, Feb. 5
This morning we woke up to head out for practice. We walked to our bus while our skate backs clicked and clanked on the cobblestone streets! I found it kind of entertaining! We had a practice that went well, followed by some down time. After practice, I bought my first item in a foreign country!

I bought one of the official French Cup t-shirts. At first I said, "I would like to purchase this," but soon realized that they didn't speak English. I resorted to just handing them the Euros and receiving my change. In the end, it worked out well! It is neat seeing all the other teams from the different countries. When you walk by, they are all talking in a different language.

We have received some nice gifts from a few of the other teams, like candy and chap stick! It is nice to see good sportsmanship at such a competitive competition. Later, we went to the draw. There was a big ceremony, and we got to light sparklers after the speeches.

A small team of boys and girls performed and when it was time for the draw, a few of them came out to the ice with big birthday hats on. One skater from each team had to select an individual and inside the hat was the order number in which they would skate. It was a very cute and creative idea. At the end of the ceremony, balloons fell to the crowd, and the teams had fun hitting them around for a while!

Talk to you soon,

Erika Hoffman, Haydenettes
Wednesday, Feb. 4
Bonjour from Rouen!!

Today, we arrived with the Lexettes at 6:00 a.m., where we were then met by our wonderful team leader Justin Dillon. We quickly loaded our bus to continue our journey from Paris to Rouen. We arrived at Hotel Mercure, checked in, and found that all of our rooms are newly renovated with flat screen TV's, new furniture and beautiful bathrooms.

Despite running on only a few hours of sleep, both teams did hair and make-up and headed to the rink for practice. Both teams had very strong practices. While we waited between practice sessions, Justin spent time learning all of our names and an interesting fact about each of us. He can now identify us each by name and even knows which one of us loves mashed potatoes!

After practice, we were all very excited to get dinner and go to bed. We enjoyed a Rouen favorite that we eat each time we compete here. Our waiter remembered the team and had our team pin from three years ago on his jacket when we arrived. The Lexettes went to a local pizza shop, where they enjoyed pizza and pasta, then quickly returned home for some sleep.

By 9:00 p.m. both teams were sound asleep.
Talk to you all soon!

Emily Saitta, Crystallettes
Wednesday, Feb. 4
We arrived in France today. The plane ride wasn't too bad, I think I slept most of the time -- it seemed pretty short to me. The plane was very spacious, and we each had our own individual touch screens that offered games, movies, news, etc.

The food wasn't that great, but they did give us neat sleeping masks! After the flight, the team went to get their passports stamped. At first, many of us only got our passports scanned instead of receiving a stamp. Needless to say, we all went back to get the official stamp. I got my first stamp on my passport!

Next, we took a bus tour and saw many monumental places in France including the football stadium, the Louvre, the President's house, and (of course) the Eiffel Tower! We walked the steps to the top and took many pictures. We walked around and shopped a bit. We had a quick practice then wandered around France. We got lost at times, but soon found out how to get around! France is beautiful. At times I feel helpless being in this new place and unable to speak the language, but that's all in the adventure! I like the old artifacts, the cobblestone streets, and the shops on the side of the road. The food hasn't been great yet, but I still have a few days to experience good French food! Well, we have practice in the morning so I am going to try and get some sleep.
Au Revoir from France,