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Mid-week rink notes from Spokane

Chock, Zuerlein perfect Golden Waltz; Nam stands by boards

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein have a good chance to nab the third U.S. Olympic ice dance spot.
Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein have a good chance to nab the third U.S. Olympic ice dance spot. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2010) - The U.S. has three Olympic ice dance spots, and it's a pretty safe bet Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, own two of them. That leaves one spot up for grabs and, by most accounts, pretty much wide open.

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein are among those in the hunt.

"We're trying to be as confident as we can be, and just let our skating speak for itself," Chock, 17, said. "Having an Olympic spot would be amazing our first year in seniors. Representing the U.S. in the Olympics would be an honor."

As the 2009 World Junior champions, Chock and Zuerlein are sure to get respect from judges; as students of Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva, the uber coaches who also train Davis and White and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, they're sure to be well prepared for the challenge.

"This competition feels really different," Chock said. "Last year was a lot of fun. Of course we were nervous, in Bulgaria [at junior worlds] a lot was expected of us, but this is a different kind of pressure, because of the Olympics."

Since their last event, a sixth place finish at Skate America, there haven't been any notable changes in the couple's original dance, to Afro Cuban rhythms, or their free dance to "La Vie est Belle," a Waltz. They've spent much of their time polishing their version of the Golden Waltz, the difficult compulsories that will be competed here.

"Compulsories tend to be our weakest [link], and we really wanted to focus on it," Chock explained.

"If we skate our best, who knows what can happen?" Zuerlein, 21, added.

Nam puts experience to use
A familiar face stood at the boards for junior pair Brynn Carman and AJ Reiss, and novice pair Christina Guterres and Justin Schumann.

Since recurring hip problems forced her to retire from competitive pairs skating in October 2008, Naomi Nari Nam has forged a new career as a coach, assisting Peter Oppegard at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, Calif.

"I work with the skaters on, and off, the ice," Nam, 24, said. "I have my personal training certificate; I got it specifically so I would know what skaters needed to do to safely build their endurance and strength.

"Not many people know how difficult it is to do all the twists and lifts properly, and I wanted to pass [that information] on."

Nam first made her name as a singles competitor, winning the U.S. silver medal behind Michelle Kwan in 1999. At one time, her spins were clocked at 190 revolutions per minute. In 2005, she began skating pairs with Themistocles Leftheris; in 2007, they won the U.S. bronze medal.

"I love working with them, and I love working at our rink; there's a really good atmosphere," Nam said. "It's only right I work with Peter, because he was my coach when I skated with Themi. It's a natural fit. I'm learning so much from him."

Nam said she was rarely nervous when she competed, but standing by the boards is an entirely different matter. "You have no control over what happens. I feel a little like I'm going to pass out. When I skated I never felt that way."

In addition to her pair coaching duties, Nam also keeps a hand in singles.

"I'm teaching a lot of little kids," she said. "They're fun to work with."

Maxwell withdraws
Angela Maxwell, the 2007 novice champion who placed eighth at the 2009 U.S. Championships, has withdrawn, citing a back injury. The 17-year-old skater also parted ways with her coach, Craig Maurizi, a few weeks ago.