The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - March 17

Skaters still in limbo regarding worlds

John Coughlin, Patrick Chan and Ryan Bradley show off their new beards.
John Coughlin, Patrick Chan and Ryan Bradley show off their new beards. (Drew Meekins)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(03/17/2011) - We've talked to several members of the U.S. world team in the past few days. All of them are horrified and deeply moved by the tragedy in Japan, and they all feel whether or not the World Championships are eventually held isn't as important as the human suffering and loss of life.

"The people I've spoken to on my team and on other countries' teams have so much concern for the people in Japan," said John Coughlin. "Every time I've been there I think, 'This is my favorite event.' It's a beautiful culture, and it breaks my heart because I know they were looking forward to this so much. I just don't know if, out of respect for the sheer loss of life, holding the competition is the right thing any more. The more honorable thing might be to cancel it and donate the prize money to the relief effort."

"It's absolutely heart-wrenching to watch these videos," said Ross Miner. "The dignity that those people have is incredible. They have the biggest national disaster in their history, and everyone gets in line for food in an orderly way. I can't even imagine what they're going through. I hope the skaters will figure something out that we can do."

Maia Shibutani shared her thoughts: "The suffering and the fear that Japanese people are experiencing is difficult to fathom. Although the Japanese people have shown such strength and courage, we all still need to reach out and help in whatever ways we can."

Jeremy Abbott, who was a lock for the U.S. team at the World Team Trophy, originally scheduled for April in Tokyo, said, "As bad as I feel for my friends, and all the skaters, because I know how bad they want this and how much it means to them, it's just a competition. At the end, they have their lives and their families are safe and they still have their homes. Looking at what is going on in Japan, figure skating just seems insignificant."

Training for an event which may or may not be held at a date yet to be determined is very difficult for all the athletes.

"The hardest thing is we don't know how to train right now," said Coughlin. "Dalilah [Sappenfield] is very particular about periodizations. We were doing run-throughs every day last week, in costume, and we were going to taper this week and then go. We don't want to do too many run-throughs now, in case we're not going to compete for another month -- that would put us in another cycle."

"While it has been difficult, we have been trying to approach our training the way we always do," said Alex Shibutani. "We're still very focused on our training for this year's programs, and will continue to be until we receive more information."

Coughlin went on, "It's kind of scary, because athletes are creatures of habit. It's not an easy decision, but especially for those of us like Ross, Madi [Chock] and Greg [Zuerlein] who are going to our first worlds, this isn't the preparation we were expecting."

"It's been very stressful," Miner added. "We keep hearing rumors and no one knows what's right and what's not. We all have to proceed as though things are going to happen as planned."

Coughlin agreed that the rumor mill has been in high gear.

"I've never been involved in anything in skating where the rumor mill has been spinning so fast!" he said. "I was talking to Kirsten [Moore-Towers] and Dylan [Moscovitch] last night, and we were comparing rumors. I'm so confused and worn out by guessing."

"All of us just want to know," said Miner.

Before the World Championships were postponed, some skaters had already decided to withdraw.

Valentina Marchei was injured during her long program at the European Championships; she told us she sprained her right ankle and stretched a ligament in her left knee.

We asked if she would be able to compete if the competition was delayed for some weeks.

"No, I don't think so," she said, "Because they already put substitute, and I prefer to recover well instead of pushing myself and taking risks for next season."

Marchei told us that she tried to train after the injury, but that the pain was so bad she couldn't skate for more than half an hour. She felt that she might be able to compete, but not well enough to qualify for the final round.

"It is important for me to recover now otherwise it's going to be too long and too late, she said.

Sinead Kerr and John Kerr had decided to withdraw from the World Championships on March 11 and actually posted a news item on their web site to that effect. As soon as it became clear that the championships wouldn't go on as planned, they decided to hold off on an announcement, at least for the present.

"I dislocated my shoulder two weeks ago," Sinead told us, "And in trying to continue with 50% training in the hope of maybe managing to still compete, it dislocated again last week rendering my right shoulder very damaged. Even if the championships is postponed to a further date, I don't think my injury will have healed sufficiently in order to compete but we will have to wait and see.

"My injury seemed a very small problem compared to what else was going on in the world! I feel anyway that it would be inappropriate to stage a World Championships with so much devastation nearby and when so many people have lost their lives."

Inside the program
Our original plan for this blog was to include Miner's play-by-play of his long program from Greensboro, as a preview for the World Championships. We hope he gets to skate it again! Here's what he said, back in February.

"It was definitely nice to be in the final flight. As I'm going out, I'm pretty nervous, but I'm remembering that I've done this so many times, every day. My thought was, this is an opportunity to show off what you've worked on. And don't forget to blow a kiss to the judges. In the footwork, I'm trying to get the ice under me and get the crowd involved.

"At the end of he footwork I have to take a deep breath and calm myself down, because this is when the fun starts. Going into the Lutz toe, I was like, 'YOU WILL DO THIS LUTZ-TOE!'

"This is the first time that I've tried two triple Axels in competition. Going into the second I was trying to remind myself to breathe. After I did that I was screaming at myself to focus. I could hear Mark yelling 'Focus' at me. As I blew the kiss to the judges after my spin, I heard John Coughlin go 'Waahh!' He told me afterward that he was sweating that I was going to land that triple loop, because he would feel really bad if he had distracted me.

"Going into my choreographic step, I'm realizing that I have a lot of energy left. We worked on smiling in this section, because it should just look like I was having fun skating, which at this point I really was. Going into the last triple flip and double Axel, I'm yelling at myself, 'You can do this, get this done, stay focused.'

"I do the last double Axel and I realize, 'Oh my god, I think I did everything in this program.' So I was really, really happy.

"When I got off the ice I said to Mark, 'I don't care how the results turn out, I'm just so happy with how I skated.' And that was my first standing ovation at any big competition so I'm going to remember that moment for a long time."

Ryan Bradley, Patrick Chan and Coughlin had decided to grow beards in the weeks before the originally scheduled world meet. Chan had to shave for a TV taping before he'd had much of a chance to produce any facial hair, but Bradley and Coughlin persevered. What was the motivation?

"It's a tradition for hockey and football teams," Bradley said. "We wanted to bring that tradition to figure skating."

Meanwhile, Drew saw Chan and Bradley lay down back-to-back clean short programs complete with quad-triples and triple Axels. Maybe they were on to something.

We spoke to Bradley on the night after the earthquake. "I just hope everything over there is ok," said Bradley.

As do we.

Sarah and Drew
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