The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Special guest bloggers share their experiences in Sofia

World junior champion Adam Rippon smashed his own impressive point-total record in Sofia.
World junior champion Adam Rippon smashed his own impressive point-total record in Sofia. (Michelle Harvath)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(03/01/2009) -'s Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins -- along with some very special guests -- are back to bring you the latest backstage action!

Scoop from Sofia
The 2009 edition of the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships have been very exciting and packed with great skating. We wish we were there!

Congratulations to Adam Rippon, the first man ever to repeat as junior world champion, for posting the highest score (222 points) in the history of junior worlds. He broke his own record by over 22 points. And kudos to the U.S. dancers for their 1-2-4 finish, the best ever. Congratulations to the whole U.S. team and to all the medalists! Did you see Caroline Zhang sitting in the kiss-and-cry waiting for her scores with all her fingers crossed? She won the free skate, so it worked!

Our guest-bloggers have been passing on lots of stories, so we're going to yield the floor, or rink, to them.

Marissa Castelli
Marissa Castelli, the new world junior pairs bronze medalist, wrote to us just after the men's free skate. The pairs were done on Wednesday night, so on Thursday, they all went sightseeing.

"We brought along the Japanese pair team [Narume Takahashi and Mervyn Tran] and French pairs skater Camille Foucher. After a while we didn't want to see the seeing, just the shopping! We came to this bazaar that was selling antiques. They were selling lots of World War II items, such as gas masks, lighters, animal skins and hats, bomber hats and goggles, and one guy even had an old WWII gun!"

Marissa didn't bring a show costume to Bulgaria, because, she thought, "There was no way we would be top five." She and Simon Shnapir will, however, be skating in the gala on Sunday.

"So I kept on debating: out of my skating clothes, what will I wear?" she went on. Thank god for Brynn Carman -- she found a sparkly black vest that would be perfect for 'Billy Jean,' our show number!"

Curran Oi
Marissa signed off so her roommate, Katrina Hacker, could get some sleep before the short program. On Friday morning, Curran Oi chimed in with lots of things to say. We asked him how he felt about his fifth-place finish in his first-ever world junior championship appearance.

"I was happy," he said, "But so close to third. If I had only been downgraded once, I would have been third, but I feel all right about it today. I really am thrilled to be top five, and now I get to do the exhibition on Sunday!"

Curran had his first brush with fame here in Sofia. "While I was warming up at the rink for a practice, I was stopped by a Japanese lady who asked, 'You are Curran Oi?' I nodded, and she asked to shake my hand. She then proceeded to ask if I was Chinese-American, which seemed an odd question given that she was clearly Japanese. When I told her that I was, in fact, Japanese-American, she brought her hand to her mouth, hardly able to contain her excitement. She learned that neither I nor my father can speak Japanese, but it hardly seemed to faze her. She breathlessly wished me luck and bowed and smiled a few times as she walked away. I never knew I was such a celebrity!"

Everyone always talks about the food at competitions, which is understandable! Curran likes the veggies in Sofia.

"The vegetables here in Bulgaria are top-notch, which I've heard can be attributed to the rich soil, and the Bulgarian tomatoes are definitely the best I have ever tasted. The Shopska salad is a traditional Bulgarian dish, comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions, and topped with white Bulgarian feta cheese. It has been a favorite here among the team."

The Skating Club of Boston skaters have invented a game they cheekily call "Pennis," a combination of ping-pong and tennis. They brought it to Bulgaria with them! We'll let Curran describe the game.

"In this game the net is set at about waist height and play takes place on the floor. The boundaries on the sides are at the ends of the net, and in the back they are decided roughly by the players. Since we do not have clearly marked boundaries, not using duct tape or string, calls are often questionable. When this happens it is generally good sportsmanship to give the benefit of the doubt to the player who hit the last shot; there are fewer hurt feelings and the points last longer. We invited Bobby Martin, who coaches Marissa and Simon, to play and he narrowly lost to Ross Miner in an 11-9 thriller."

Apparently, it's still cold in Sofia. "I'm really hoping the weather in Boston is improving because I'm totally ready for spring," said Curran. "Bulgaria, like Boston, is too cold and dark..."

Caroline Zhang
On Saturday afternoon, after her free skate and silver medal, we heard from Caroline Zhang. She won the silver medal in the same city last year, so we wondered if everything seemed really familiar this time.

"We're in a different hotel, but I know most of the city. I like the across-the-street vendors, who sell scarves, roasted nuts, funny furry hats and pastries. There was snow this year unlike last year, and I like the stray dogs. I feed them random bits of food."

Yikes, that sounds dangerous!

"No, the dogs are sweet," said Caroline.

Caroline also mentioned that she had a cold. She said her free skate "Could have been a lot better, but compared to the short, anything is an improvement!"

French Twist
We heard that Lucinda Ruh is in Poitiers working with Brian Joubert on spins, transitions and footwork as he prepares for the World Championships, so we asked her about it.

"As it is a month before worlds, we cannot change too much," said Lucinda, "Yet we have been working very hard on centering, speed, clearer positions and nicer lines. Brian is great to work with, a pure athlete, very hard-working, a quick and eager learner, powerful, dedicated and has the fire in his eye."

Brian told Lucinda that he finds spinning more tiring than quads.

"He would rather do quads the whole session than a few spins. People tend to underestimate the difficulty of strength and stamina that great spins require. Our work together has already shown big improvement, and I am confident that he will produce great new results in Los Angeles."

Next, Lucinda is off to Paris to work with Candice Didier and the French junior team.

"I am so excited, as I lived there from when I was one year old until I was four, so I can't wait to revisit my childhood neighborhood, friends and of course the Eiffel Tower. And I'm very excited to work with the French team," she said.

Can we come too?

Au revoir,
Sarah and Drew