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Colin McManus' JGP Turkey athlete diary

Team USA says farewell to Turkey

Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus won the silver in ice dancing.
Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus won the silver in ice dancing. (Rick Perez)

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By Colin McManus, special to icenetwork.com
(10/17/2009) - Colin McManus is competing at the Junior Grand Prix Series event in Istanbul, Turkey, this weekend and blogging for icenetwork.com.

Sautrday, Oct. 17
Seeing as today was the final day, we competed free dance. We had a 10:10 a.m. warm-up, which meant that we could sleep in! It's the small victories that count. The warm-up came and went without a problem, but it was our trip to the Grand Bazaar after practice that made the time pass by so quickly. Practice ended, and we changed into normal clothing. The four dancers, our coaches and our families grabbed a two taxis, and we made our way to the famous Grand Bazaar.

After 35 minutes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, we finally arrived at the Bazaar. It was a mad house. You walk into this place that is packed wall-to-wall with these tiny little shops. There are so many people jammed into these tiny connecting pathways, and there was barely any room to breathe. It was so easy to loose your bearings in the winding maze that is the Grand Bazaar. Needless to say, it was all a rather overwhelming experience, and I got pretty good at haggling. We were able to spend about two hours in the Bazaar, and then Anastasia [Cannuscio], Isabella [Cannuscio], Ian [Lorello] and I had to grab a taxi back to the rink.

So, we hail a taxi and climb in. Luckily we met a guy who spoke pretty good English, and he was able to explain to the driver (who spoke no English) how to get the the brand new ice arena. The whole situation was a little nerve racking, especially when the driver pulled over to the side of the road to ask for directions.

I just kept repeating to myself, "I just want to see those fortress walls! I just want to see those fortress walls!"

Luckily, 20 minutes later, I finally saw those fortress walls, and it was a huge relief. Later that night we competed free dance. Anastasia and I skated a great dance, and pulled up to seventh overall. Isabella and Ian skated an amazingly well and, got third overall.

From the epic battles between buses and fortress walls to global warming to frail old women with whistles directing ridiculous Turkish traffic, this week has been wonderful. I feel so lucky to be a part of this whole experience, and my time in Turkey will be unforgettable. I would like to thank our team leader Brittney Bottoms and our team doctor Dr. Magalnick. You both have been amazing this whole week. The trip would not have been the same without you. Thanks for everything. Also, thanks to our families for their undying support all week.

Now we are off to have dinner, and then it's back to the States in the morning. It will be hard to leave such a great place, but I do miss home and all the U.D. skaters. Weʼll be home soon. Thanks to everyone who read my blog. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences with everyone!

Colin

Friday, Oct. 16
I would like to start off by saying Happy Birthday to my older sister Meagan! Hopefully, I will see you soon. Also, congrats to Joshua and Austin on great skates in the short program yesterday, and good luck in the long program tomorrow.

So, we performed our OD today. It was our earliest wake-up call of the week, 4:50 a.m. OUCH! We caught the 5:45 a.m. bus to the rink, and the warm-up was done before we knew it. The ice dancers had made plans to take a trip to the Grand Bazaar at some point in the day, but unfortunately we never followed through. Our parents, however, had some great stories about bartering for gifts with the Turkish vendors. Hopefully, we will make time between practice and competition tomorrow to visit the Grand Bazaar.

Speaking of bizarre, as we were leaving practice this morning, there was a tiny old woman dressed in normal clothes standing in the street right outside of the rink. She had a whistle, and she kept blowing it very loudly and making very intense arm movements. It seemed as though this frail little woman was directing traffic, but it was a rather hilarious sight. Iʼm not sure if that was her appointed job, or if she just found a whistle on the street and thought, "I think I might direct traffic today!". Either way she was not doing a very good job.

I spent most of the time between the OD warm-up and the competition in the lobby relaxing and fighting off the nerves. I took a much needed nap, and then met up with the other ice dancers for some lunch before we left for the rink. We all loaded onto the bus for it seems like the millionth time, and we were off to the rink. I know that I have mentioned the life threatening driving in previous blogs, but I have yet to mention the horrendous traffic. It took us about 45 minutes to make it to the rink. Luckily the driverknew an alternate route. So, we were able to make it to the rink on time, but I swear its the worst traffic I have ever seen.

We arrived at the rink with 45 minutes to spare. Anastasia [Cannuscio] and I skated first in the third warm-up group. All the competitors took the ice for our warm-up group, and everything seemed to be going as smoothly as the five minute warm-ups tend to go. Then, I noticed that two teams took two pretty hard falls in the same spot on the ice. So, the warm-up came to an end, and upon further inspection of the area, we realized that the ice had been worn down so much that the plastic and paint were exposed. The size of the area was pretty substantial, or substantial enough for the maintenance to come out on the ice and repair it. So, they told Anastasia and I to stay on the ice because it would be fixed in a few minutes. Luckily, we had Michael Jacksonʼs "Black or White" playing in the background to help pass the time. So, a few minutes pass by, they call us over and tell us that we need to get off the ice because the Zamboni was going to come back out.

Ten more minutes passed by, and at this point I was more than ready to compete. They announce that the problem was fixed and that they are doing the whole warm-up over again. From that point on, everything went smoothly. Anastasia and I skated a great OD, but unfortunately, our second piece of music was not considered to be authentic folk music. So, needless to say we lost a good amount of points, but tomorrow is a new day and a new event, and we are ready to bring it in the free dance. Isabella and Ian skated an amazing OD, and they pulled up to third place. They are ready to skate an amazing free dance tomorrow.

After an excruciating 50-minute bus ride back to the hotel, we grabbed a quick dinner with our families. The women are competing right now, so hopefully we will get some results soon. For now, its off to bed

Till tomorrow!
Colin

Thursday, Oct. 15
Today was compulsory day! We had a 7:00 a.m. wake-up call, quick breakfast, then we were off on the scenic route to the rink once again. We had a 15 minute warm-up , and it felt like it went on forever! They played six selections of the Westminster Waltz like usual, and after about the third song, things started to drag along. Now I understand how all the non-dancers that train with us at UD feel. So for all those times you had to listen to six Westminster Waltzes in a row, I apologize.

The rest of the warm-up went by smoothly, and we found ourselves on the bus to go back to the hotel. As the bus was pulling out of the fortress walls, we hear a very familiar scratching noise coming from above us. Yet again, we are just barely fitting through the same archway. It's like every time we leave the rink, a little bit of history is being scraped away. You would think that the drivers would learn that we need to find another way out of the fortress, but seeing as we keep taking the same route, there is not much hope on that front. So, either one of two things is going to happen: Either all the buses are going to get complimentary sun roofs, or by the end of the week, we will have shaved enough away so that the buses will fit perfectly.

I'm sorry to report nothing exciting happened between the time we returned to the hotel and the time we left the hotel to compete. The most interesting occurrence was turning on the TV and seeing scientists predict the polar ice caps will be gone within the next ten years, to which Isabella replied, "What about the polar bears?!?"

Yes Bella, what about those polar bears?

With global flooding and those poor polar bears on my mind, the time to compete had come up quite abruptly. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the ladies short program, but we were able to catch up with Christine [Gao] and Kiri [Baga] after their event. Kiri skated amazingly well and earned first place! Christine said she had two falls, but she was keeping a really positive attitude for the long program.

The compulsory event began, and Isabella and Ian skated second in the first warm-up group. They skated a strong waltz and ended up in fourth. Anastasia and I skated really well, and ended up in eighth place after all was done. Anastasia looked beautiful in her waltz dress compliments of Ms. Chloe Wolf, who is currently expanding her educational horizons at Duke (we miss you!).

The compulsory event came to a close, and the draw was held immediately after. There were good draws all around, and we left to catch the bus back to hotel for some dinner and a good night's sleep. The men are competing as I am writing this blog, so we are holding tight for some results! I should mention that as we were leaving the competition, we once again shaved off another layer of 15th century architecture.

Till tomorrow!
Colin

Wednesday, Oct. 14
Today was practice day. There was a 6:50 a.m. wake-up call, and then we met downstairs for breakfast. After filling up, we were off to our first practice of the day!

We all packed into the bus outside the hotel, and took a 35-minute bus ride to the rink. The views were spectacular!

We drove a majority of the way right along the water. There were lines of ships waiting to pass through Istanbul, so they could continue on to the Mediterranean; the crowded skyline of the city and mountainous terrain served as a beautiful backdrop.

There are ruins of fortresses scattered all long the shoreline, some dating back to the 1400s. It was a beautiful sight to see -- that's when we weren't distracted by the borderline life-threatening driving. I swear you cannot travel three feet without getting cut off, and I think people constantly honk their horns just for the fun of it.

Eventually, we arrived at a massive worn fortress that dated back to the 1450s. Ian (Lorello) and I were in awe when the bus was passing it then, to our surprise, we took a sharp right turning into the interior of the fortress to where the rink is located.

The rink is brand new, and apparently last Sunday was the first time anyone has skated on the ice. Practice ensued, and everything went smoothly. After practice we had a couple of hours to spare before we were to meet at the rink to catch the bus to our team dinner.

The dancers grabbed some lunch at the hotel, then we took a quick trip over to a tiny mall that's located across for our hotel. We picked up some things at the grocery store, and after a much needed nap we were back on the bus to the rink.

Our team dinner was held at an authentic Hungarian restaurant, so all of Team USA piled onto the bus. As we were exiting the fortress walls -- we hit a road block. The bus was too tall to fit under one of the archways of the fortress! We were stuck in the ruins! There were multiple attempts to just drive right through, but the horrible scratching noise coming from above us was a good indication that there was no way we were driving out of this situation.

Finally, we figured out that if we all crammed into the back of the bus our weight would lower it enough to fit through. Images of the fortress walls just crumbling into dust were running through my head the whole time. These walls were able to fight off armies in the 15th century, but i guess they just can't handle a bus full of Americans.

Needless to say, we made it out of the fortress with the bus and ruins intact. Our team dinner was wonderful! Unfortunately, the dancers did not have a long time to sit and eat because we had our second practice soon after.

The four dancers and our coach were supposed to take the same bus back to the rink, but the driver did not understand that we were not waiting for the other team members. So, we spent ten minutes trying to explain to the driver that we had to get to the rink immediately -- in any way we could. But, after ten minutes of no progress -- we decided that the only way to make it to our practice on time was to cram into the back of a cab. The city was all lit up and it was a beautiful, but again we were too distracted by our lives flashing before our eyes to notice that much!

Our second practice went very well and, now, we are all back at the hotel looking forward to a good night sleep.

Compulsory starts tomorrow! I'm really looking forward to getting started!
Colin

Tuesday, Oct. 13
I would like to start off the blog by just saying how extremely excited I am to have a second chance to represent the United States overseas at the JGP Turkey.

My first experience at the JGP Belarus was unforgettable, and I am so happy to be given a another opportunity to make new friends and experience the world.

I promised my mother I would not embarrass her, but there were a few nostalgic moments when she found out that Anastasia (Cannuscio) and I got a second assignment. One of which was the, "look how far you've come from those days when you were in your little helmet and hockey skates doing your learn-to-skate classes. You would lay on the ice making snow angels when you were supposed to be skating"!

Yes, we have the home videos to prove that. Take three steps, slip, fall, then make snow angles. The same thing over and over again. Who knew an international competitor was in the making? Not me!

Since then, it's been a VERY long and very rewarding road. I would like to thank all the people who helped me along the way! (mom and dad -- that definitely means you!)

It was a very long day of traveling, but luckily we have some great training mates -- Ian Lorello and Isabella Cannuscio -- to share all the fun with. There was a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call on Monday, which no one was happy about (the UD dancers are quite spoiled with their skating schedule).

After squeezing in a couple of sessions, we were off to Philadelphia International Airport! Our flight to New York was a breeze, but the eleven hour flight to Istanbul was a whole other story.

I will admit that I resorted to borrowing Isabella's Cosmopolitan Magazine to pass the time. It sure was a sight to behold, me huddling over Cosmo hoping to spare myself some embarrassment.

Regardless of my immediate regret of reading the magazine -- and sharing that story now -- desperate times called for desperate measures! We all arrived safe and sound into Istanbul, with skates and costumes all accounted for. I should take this time to mention the magnitude of our group that traveled to Istanbul -- it includes four skaters, two coaches, Anastasia and Isabella's mother and grandmother, Ian's mom and my dad. Ten Americans ready to take the city by storm.

Our hotel is magnificent! Not to mention that Istanbul is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. After checking in, and getting our credentials, we figured we had the whole day left to do whatever we wanted. Anastasia suggested that we make our way to the Old City, to which Ian enthusiastically replied, "We can do anything! The world is our burrito!"

The Old City is located about 30 minutes away from our hotel, and is home to the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. By the time we got there, we were all starving and exhausted. We probably looked like the walking dead roaming through the crowded streets of Istanbul, but behold we found a beacon of hope... STARBUCKS! So, after a much needed pick-me-up, we were ready to go! We navigated our way through the tiny streets packed with shops and Kebab stands. Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel -- looking forward to a nice dinner and our beds!

Tomorrow we are jumping right into the competition with an early practice! I'm really looking forward to my time in Istanbul and all it has to offer!

Colin