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The Inside Edge: Signing off from San Jose

Exciting week of skating ends with many memories made.

Jason Brown and Kiri Baga pose for a picture prior to the ladies free skate.
Jason Brown and Kiri Baga pose for a picture prior to the ladies free skate. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(01/29/2012) - As we left the ladies free skate Saturday night, we saw Jonathan Cassar contemplating sliding down the long banister down to the arena entrance. He told us he had had a frightful six-minute warmup for the short program.

"I forgot where I was," he said. "I forgot what I was doing, I forgot my name."

We noticed that someone threw Jason Brown's slippers after his free skate. Three different people threw cowboy hats on the ice for Richard Dornbush, and you probably saw him wearing the red one in the kiss and cry.

Ross Miner was an unfortunate victim of the first costume malfunction of the event -- the first we noticed, anyway -- when the strap of his pants came undone. It didn't seem to phase him, though. We're sure that Rafael Nadal's loss to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open this morning was more of a distraction. Not that Miner ever lets anything distract him.

Joy

We sat down with Brown's coach, Kori Ade, on Saturday and asked how she keeps her talented skater so calm and happy. Brown is radiant on the ice, smiling even when he warms up.

"Jason exudes that joyfulness in all the areas of his life," Ade said. "There was a period where he hated competing -- he would cry. I had to trick him into competing when he was eight or nine. He would say, 'I hate this, I feel like I'm going to throw up, I never want to do it again.' And I would say, 'Oh, let's just give this some time and see how it goes.' And meanwhile I had signed him up for three more competitions in the spring."

Ade says that Brown is emotionally very consistent now.

"He really had to learn to manage his emotions," she said. "Jason really feels a sense of gratitude for this whole opportunity in his life. He feels like he has been given a gift and he wants to soak up every moment of it. When he was a novice at his first nationals he took photos of the doorknobs, and the Zamboni driver, because he didn't want to forget one single thing."

Ade, whom we hear is a fantastic hip-hop dance choreographer, is also the mother of a two-year-old daughter. Baby Athena's due date in 2010 was actually during the men's free skate, but Ade wouldn't consider not being there to put Brown on the ice.

"The doctors kept saying, 'You're not going,'" she told us. "I kept bringing in my airline ticket, my mother's airline ticket, my hotel reservation."

The baby was induced early, although Ade and the doctor ascertained that she was fully developed and everything was safe.

"I went in on a Monday night, but I didn't have her until Wednesday at 3 a.m. We got out of the hospital on Saturday, I was at the rink on Sunday, and I flew to nationals on Tuesday," Ade said. "This is her third nationals, and she just turned two!"

Short blond

At dinner, Doug Mattis, former senior competitor and current choreographer, told us that for him, the highlight of the exciting ladies event was Caroline Zhang.

"What a great comeback!" he said. "I'm so impressed with her."

Mattis reminisced about his days skating in a yearly ice show, which always included a waltz number.

"I was shorter than all the girls in the show," he said.

In desperation, the director of the show asked Kim Navarro's mother to take her out of school so the tiny 9-year-old blond could be Mattis's partner. Year after year, Navarro waltzed with Mattis.

"And she became an ice dancer!" he said. "She used to correct my positions."

Up and down pairs

Riding up the elevator on the way back from warmup this morning, John Coughlin exchanged a long look with Simon Shnapir.

"Next time we ride this elevator, we're going to be a whole lot wiser," Coughlin said. "I don't even know what that means."

Coughlin admitted that he has forgotten to push the button for his own floor several times, and he's always so embarrassed that he just rides all the way to the top and then goes back down.

Bit and pieces

Michelle Kwan went into the ladies' locker room and wished Yasmin Siraj luck before her free skate. Can you imagine that happening to you?

Congratulations to Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman, who are expecting their first child soon.

We found ourselves behind Tanith Belbin in line at a café on Saturday. Belbin looked tall and stunning, even in keyed-down professional garb. She was talking about her communications studies and looking ahead to the future.

"Once I get my degree, I might branch out," she said, mentioning several sports-related fields. She also spoke with enthusiasm about her coaching work. We know that the people she has worked with say that she is a talented and skillful choreographer, so we are looking forward to seeing more from the gorgeous Ms. Belbin.

We missed Rachael Flatt's Stanford cheering section at the free skate last night. They occupied a whole section of the upper deck on Thursday, and they made a lot of joyful noise for their classmate, holding up lots of signs including one that said, "Marry Me, Rachael."

We asked Flatt if her fellow Cardinal students would be there for the free skate, but she said they were on a ski trip.

Olympic champion sightings stand at seven. We hear Marina Klimova is here but we haven't seen her.

Kwan sightings: Four. Kwan came out onto the ice for her Hall of Fame recognition dressed in a glamorous gold top and a black pencil skirt. Thousands of flashbulbs went off.

Congratulations to all the medalists and competitors, and thanks to all the local staff and volunteers. We had a wonderful time in San Jose! We'll be back on Tuesday with, wait for it, our best-dressed list.

See you then,

Sarah and Drew
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