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Lichtman, Copely's athlete diary from Graz

Skaters enjoying the picturesque landscape of Austria

The Team USA men's and dance competitors at dinner in Graz.
The Team USA men's and dance competitors at dinner in Graz. (courtesy Dean Copely)

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By Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely, special to icenetwork.com
(09/15/2010) - Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely blog from the JGP Austria.

Sat., Sept. 18
Dean
As tired as I was Friday night, I reluctantly set my alarm for 9:15 a.m. (which is early for me) to have time for breakfast, a shower and time to catch a bus to see the men. At exactly 11:00 a.m., I ran into the rink with a few other Team USA members to see that we had only missed 10 seconds of Alex Z's long, which ended up being a really good skate! Ricky D. started off his long by popping his triple flip but quickly recovered to nail some huge triple Axels. He realized that after popping the flip he was allowed to do another triple somewhere in the program. He decided to add a triple toe onto his first Lutz, meaning his second combo would bring his repeated triple count to an illegal level and earn him no credit for a triple Lutz-triple toe-double loop. A fluke in program improvisation cost him 11 points, but his placement in the free skate pulled him up from seventh to fourth overall.

To celebrate the conclusion of the men's event, Ricky, Josh, Alex and I took a tram into the city. We all bought our tickets on the tram except for Alex, who was about to pay for his when the tram driver began driving away, so Alex assumed he didn't need to buy a ticket. We started joking that Alex got lucky until a ticket control woman came through checking everyone's tickets. She told the guys who bought tickets that they were in trouble for not stamping the tickets and that Alex was in even bigger trouble for not buying one at all. Ricky quickly stepped up to Alex's defense, and we ended up bringing in two British skating fans we had seen around the rink to help us figure everything out. The ticket controller let Ricky, Josh and me go but fined Alex 60 Euro. He reluctantly handed over all 60 of his Euro, and we stood in the city center in the rain thankful that Alex wasn't taken to Graz jail.

Back on track, we ate at an American diner, which had 50s and 60s posters all over the walls and 80s American rock playing. When it came time for me to use the restroom, I had to choose between "Damien" and "Herren." Forgetting all German my partner had taught me, I went with Damien, because that's a guy's name and the other choice started with "H-E-R." To not much surprise, a woman walks in and gasps when she sees me in there but quickly leaves. I suppose I was lucky another fine wasn't involved, but that's the risk you take when you adventure in a foreign country.

Charlotte
In this long and tiring day of travel, I have a few moments to reflect on my last day in Graz. I woke up early to meet my parents to go into the downtown area, which I had not yet gotten to see. It was pouring down rain and very cold, and my thin jacket and flats were certainly not sufficient. Almost immediately after getting off the tram, I found a great store and purchased a trench coat and scarf for a great price. I also got a new pair of boots at the H&M, which warmed my feet and completed the wardrobe revamp.

Once these tasks were completed, we were really able to take in the full Graz experience. As my dad pointed out, the great thing about the city is the combination of old architecture and scenic views, and modern shops. After ducking in and out of an array of stores, and experiencing a bit of the festival that was occurring, we decided to go to the clock tower. This required a bit of a hike to say the least, since it rests at the top of the city. The view was worth the trek because you are truly able to overlook the entire city. We also found out that it was a fortress dating back to the 13th century. This wonderful experience wrapped up our day in the town, and made us very ready for lunch.

I finally got some gelato -- cookies and cream -- after enjoying a beautiful meal. A little later in the day, all the Team USA members went to the rink one last time to cheer on our ladies. Christina Gao put out a confident and clean free skate that was impressive to all viewers.

After the award ceremony, the group of skaters, some coaches and, of course, the team leader and doctor headed to a very cool cafe. It is located on a little island in the river, and served as a fantastic venue for everyone to relax and get to know each other a little more. Josh decided to make a little speech and propose a toast to the team, which was a sincerely special way to cap off the dinner.

I have had a fantastic time in Graz, and I have especially enjoyed getting to bond with the other team members. Competing with Anastasia and Jordan, and rooting for everybody else, has been a lot of fun. I'm ready to get back home but a little disappointed not to hear German being spoken daily by native speakers. (I have taken three years of it).

Until next time,
Charlotte & Dean

Friday, Sept. 17
Charlotte
I woke up this morning and felt a bit tired but ready to start the day.

After nudging my roommate, Olivia, until she woke up, I did my hair and some makeup and rushed downstairs to catch the bus. This time, it came -- quite a relief to me and Dean after our exciting experiences yesterday.

The bus ride was a bit long, though, perhaps because of the rainy day in Graz. This weather was more like what we had expected for the week, according to the weather forecast.

After our warm-up, Dean and I decided we could both use a nap and took a rest in the skater's lounge. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to warm up again.

After our competition was over, the dancers grabbed some lunch upstairs and cheered on their pairs contingent. They all skated really well, especially Brynn and A.J., who had a clean and crisp long.

A little after the event, a bunch of us decided to eat at the classy American eatery, Hooters. Perhaps this was an odd choice for our group, but it is close to the rink and was a change from what we have been eating. We all got a chance to relax and have some good conversation.

Afterward, we went back to watch our American ladies, who also skated very well. I think I speak for all of us when I say, go Team USA!

Austria is a beautiful place, and I cannot wait to go see downtown Graz tomorrow! After the singles have their long programs, Team USA will have its official team dinner downtown, and I think we are all looking forward to it... much more so than a pile of homework on the plane ride.

We won!
Charlotte

Thurs., Sept. 16
Dean Copely
The day began with my alarm going off and my roommate Ricky (Dornbush) thrashing his arms and screaming. Relax, it's my alarm, I reassured him.

"Sorry bro, I thought it was a bomb. That's the noise they make in the movies."

I ran down to breakfast and ate two pieces of toast with Nutella and chugged my coffee to catch the 6:30 a.m. bus. That bus never showed up, so we called some taxis. The taxis weren't getting there quickly enough, so we jumped on the 7:00 a.m. bus. As the bus pulled away, we saw the taxis pulling into the hotel. Our bus had to stop at two other hotels and was only going to get into the rink at 7:30 a.m., 10 minutes before our official warm-up.

Since we had already warmed up in the parking lot of the Marriott, we were going to put on our skates as soon as we got to the rink. I didn't waste any time changing on the bus, and my coach, Igor, didn't waste any time pulling his iPhone out to capture the moment.

We walked out of our locker rooms the second they started calling our warm-up, and we had a good 25-minute practice. The short dance competition wasn't until hours later, so we went back to the hotel for an hour and a half.

Expecting a normal bus ride back to the rink for once, we were pleasantly surprised to have our bus driver rear-end a car getting onto the highway. Our team leader, Jennifer, didn't waste any time calling a cab to pick us up "on the highway by the IKEA and Toys'R'Us." Jordan Cowan jumped up with his camera to check out the damage. The bus and compact car just ended up trading paint, so we got on our way only 15 minutes behind schedule.

The competition quickly got under way, and the teams were very impressive, skating big lobes in the Waltz and filling the creative parts with charisma. Junior pairs was right after the dance, and all our pairs teams skated really well! The men compete their short Thursday night, so we weren't able to watch because of our morning practice. After a long and exciting day, we are back at the hotel looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.

TTYL, Dean

Wed., Sept. 15
Charlotte
After a sufficient amount of sleep last night in the comfortable hotel bed, I felt ready to start the day. Before our first practice in the main rink, we had a draw for the starting order of the short dance. Along with our teammates, Anastasia (Olson) and Jordan (Cowan), we drew to skate in the second group. This will surely make things easier for our team leader and doctor, and it will also be nice to have some familiar faces to warm up with.

Following the draw, we warmed up and then had our free dance practice. We quickly realized we would not have to worry about being cold in this rink. I think both Dean and I were quite relieved to change out of our long-sleeved costumes! We grabbed a bite to eat at the restaurant in the rink and were able to catch some of the pairs practice, even witnessing an extremely impressive throw quad salchow by one of the Chinese teams.

With another quick warmup, we had another practice, now on the outdoor rink. Once again, it felt great to be outside and feel the wind as we circled the rink. The dancers and two men enjoyed a delicious dinner at the end of the day, and I think we are all ready for bed now! Early practice tomorrow and the first day of competition!

More to come!

Tues., Sept. 14
Dean
We started our Monday off with a few hours of skating at home and then running over to the airport around 2:00 p.m. Our first flight took us to Chicago, where we met up with Richard Dornbush and Lindsay Davis. From there we had an eight-hour flight to Munich -- getting us in at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

My breakfast in the terminal consisted of an apricot filled pastry and a peach iced tea. They gave me a nice tray and a glass to pour my tea into. Upon returning the glass to the cafe, I managed to drop it, sending shards of glass 15 feet in every direction. This caused quite a scene since it was in the middle of about eight gates. Everyone just watched me as I tried brushing the pieces into a pile with my shoe. Olivia Oltmanns and Josh Santillian were waiting at our gate and were lucky enough to witness this morning mishap.

Charlotte
After the flight to Munich, and Dean's glass debacle, we took the beautiful flight to Graz. The plane ride was very peaceful, which created a great opportunity for a nap. I often have trouble sleeping on planes -- as I did on the Munich flight -- and was happy to rest. I did wake up right as we passed over the mountains, though, and they were absolutely breathtaking. I will try to take some pictures on the way back.

After 15 minutes at our very nice hotel, most of us headed to the outdoor practice rink. We had to search for it a bit, but it was so exciting to have the opportunity to skate outdoors and breathe some fresh air.

Around 7:00 p.m., we had our unofficial team dinner at the hotel, which consisted of pasta, chicken, potatoes, salad and bread -- something for everybody. I was thrilled to sit down for a meal and get to know some other Team USA members, since we weren't able to earlier in the day.

Finally, after a quick team meeting with our awesome team leader, Jennifer, everyone went to their respective rooms for some much-needed rest. My roommate, Olivia, and I talked for quite some time and finally headed to bed to prepare ourselves for the first day of official practices in Graz!

Charlotte and Dean