Gardena glories: Moeller relays exploits from Italy

U.S. junior competitor files reports from first international competition

Jordan Moeller (left) with Jimmy Ma and Polina Edmunds at Gardena Spring Trophy.
Jordan Moeller (left) with Jimmy Ma and Polina Edmunds at Gardena Spring Trophy. (Lindsey Weber)


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By Jordan Moeller, special to
(04/01/2013) - Two-time U.S. medalist Jordan Moeller shares his adventures from the 2013 Gardena Spring Trophy in Selva Val Gardena, Italy.

Thursday, April 4

Team USA's final day in Italy

Today was the big day. Jimmy [Ma] and I woke up around nine o'clock. It was nice to be able to sleep in a little later before our free skates. We both got ready and went down to the gym for our daily routine. I walked through my program after I was done running and stretching out. That was the first time I had heard my free skate music since we arrived in Gardena, because we only had one official practice, during which I ran through my short program. After working out, we went up to breakfast with Tom [Zakrajsek], Brandon [Mroz], and Adam [Rippon]. We all ate a good meal to get our bodies ready for the competition.

When we finished breakfast, we received the great news that Karen [Chen] had skated a clean free skate and won her event. Team USA was off to a great start! Next up was Vincent [Zhou]. We all went over to the rink to give our support. Vincent's free skate made it clean program No. 2 for Team USA. He really brought the house down. It was a gold sweep for the novice Americans!

After Karen and Vincent finished, I decided it was time to grab some lunch. I made my way upstairs to the pizzeria above the rink. When I got there, I ran into our wonderful team leader, Lindsey [Weber]. We had a good lunch together, although she made me quite jealous by telling me about a couple of Team USA clothing sales she was able to take advantage of when she was at different Team USA camps. It sounds like there were some pretty good bargains on coveted items.

After lunch, I went back to the hotel to rest before the free skate started. Polina [Edmunds] was getting ready to skate her free program, and Lindsey went back to the rink to be with Polina and her coach. Polina had a great skate, too.

So far, Team USA had three out of three golds. So far, so good.

Now it was time for the junior men to start. Jimmy and I drew second and last, respectively, in the final warm-up. We were pumped up and ready to go. Our six-minute warm-up went well for the both of us. I took the ice second.

I'm not going to lie; I was kind of nervous before my music started. Fortunately, I was able to relax after my first jumping pass. The rest of the program was great. It was the best I have ever performed my free skate in competition. I was so happy to be able to retire this program on a good note, seeing as it is one of my favorite programs.

Jimmy had a little longer to wait. He was fifth to skate in our warm-up. When he took the ice, the Team USA cheering section went wild. He skated a great program with very explosive jumps. He took third in our event.

Needless to say, we were both very happy with how our international debuts ended up.

When the event was over, we had a few hours to kill before the senior men skated. Lindsey suggested that we all go into town to do any shopping that we may want to do. The town is beautiful. We visited a wood carvings shop that had all of these beautiful sculptures in it. Gardena is known for its intricate wood carvings. Some of the sculptures had so much detail. I found a sculpture to take home for the family, and I am crossing my fingers that it will survive the trip home.

We had a great time walking around the shops and seeing some of the different things we cannot find in the U.S. We went into a supermarket and perused the selection of European chocolates. They were very delicious, made even more so by the fact that we were all done competing. After walking around for a couple of hours, we went back to the hotel for dinner before the senior men started.

We got to the rink just as the six-minute warm-up was starting. Our cheering section was completely decked out in Team USA things. Takahiko [Kozuka] skated first and put out a strong performance. Adam was next to take the ice. He skated a clean program and was right behind Kozuka in points. Brandon took the ice fourth. He fought through his program and finished fourth overall.

When the senior men finished up, we all had to get back into costume for the awards ceremonies. Team USA won four of the six golds. We heard the national anthem a lot tonight. Hearing your own national anthem played for you is one of the most amazing feelings I have ever experienced. It was all so surreal.

Carolina Kostner was a part of our ceremonies. She handed out the trophies to the winners and congratulated us all on our achievements and wished us the best of luck for our careers. When the awards were handed out, Team USA got back on the ice and took group pictures. We had grown pretty close this week, and it was a great way to end the competition.

We all made our way back to the hotel to finish getting packed up for our trip home. When we were all ready to go, we decided to go outside and have one last snowball fight. We were running all over the front of the hotel, throwing and dodging snowballs. My gloves are still wet! After being outside for a good half hour, we went back in the hotel soaking wet. We played some ping pong and cards while we waited for our 3:00 a.m. shuttle to the airport. Tomorrow's travel day is certainly going to be a long one.

I've had a great time recording the events of our journey over in Italy. It has been such a great experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


Wednesday, April 3

It's the big day!

Today was the international debut for five of the seven skaters on our team. Jimmy and I woke up around 7:30 this morning. We took our time getting ready and made our way down to the hotel gym. The equipment in this workout room is to die for. We ran for about 10 minutes and then stretched out for a good 20. One of the machines was this vibrating rubber mat that you can use for stretching out. I used it on my calves and, while I was on the machine, it was one of the weirdest feelings ever, but when I got off, my calves felt amazing! Utilizing the gym was definitely a right move because we didn't have any practice today before our programs; we only had a six-minute warm-up.

When we had finished at the gym, Jimmy and I met Tom and Brandon downstairs at breakfast. Brandon and Adam both had pretty early morning practices. We sat together and talked while we enjoyed our breakfasts. For all of you Nutella lovers out there, we discovered that our hotel chef makes Nutella crepes. Breakfast was just as delicious today as it was yesterday.

By the time we finished breakfast, it was almost time for Karen to compete. We thought we were going to be crunched for time, so we hurried around, gathering our things to help cheer her on. When we got to the rink, we realized that we still had a lot of time to kill before she skated, so Brandon, Tom, Jimmy and I went back to the hotel lobby. Somehow, we got on the topic of The Walking Dead and had a 30-minute conversation about one of our favorite shows.

When we went back to the rink, Team USA went into full cheer mode. We all had our flags and necklaces. Lindsey provided us with a bag of various team gear. I even found a large hat with stars and stripes on it. Karen skated great in her international debut. She was in first going into the free skate.

Next up was Vincent. He brought the house down. He was also in first going into the free.

After Vincent skated, [my coach] Kori [Ade] and I went upstairs to the pizzeria above the rink. This was my first time having authentic Italian pizza. Let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS. It is possibly one of the best pizzas I've ever had. If you ever have the opportunity to get to Italy, try the pizza.

When we finished with lunch, I went back to the hotel and rested for a while before my event.

It was about time for the big event. Jimmy and I were both getting a little nervous for our debuts. I went last in the first warm-up, and Jimmy was last in the second warm-up. When my name was called, I was ready to go. Hearing "from the United States of America" was an amazing feeling. I was able to push past the nerves and skate a clean short program. I was so relieved! Jimmy skated clean as well. I finished first and Jimmy in second. We were both very pleased with our marks. After the event was over, we went back to the hotel to relax.

Before we went to watch Adam and Brandon skate, Jimmy, Polina, Vincent and I all went walking around the town and visited some of the shops. On our way back, we passed through an alley way filled with snow. No one knows who fired first, but this snowball fight was one for the books. By the time we were finished, everyone was covered in snow. We made it back to the arena just in time to watch our senior men compete. Both Brandon and Adam had great skates. Brandon was sitting in second, with Adam right behind him.

When we left the rink, we all met for a team dinner. As always, it was delicious. After dinner, we talked in the lobby for a while until we were ready for bed.

It's been a great day for Team USA. Off to bed to get ready for the big day tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 1

Practice Day

After a good night's sleep, we were all refreshed and ready to go. Jimmy and I woke up around 9:00 a.m., got ready and headed to breakfast. We met up with Karen and her mom in the dining room. I thought the views we saw driving into town were great, but one of the breakfast rooms had a large window that opened up to an absolutely beautiful view of the mountains. The sun was shimmering off the pure, white snow -- I could see people skiing down large hills -- and the mountains went on for days. I'm excited for breakfast tomorrow morning just to see the scenery. Our breakfast consisted of various hams, eggs, pastries (including authentic Italian pastries) and freshly squeezed juice. Everything was delicious.

Jimmy and I had a practice at 10:45 a.m. We left early so we could get our legs moving. Practice went well for both of us. We both got our programs played, and we got the feel of the ice. One of the different things about international competition is that we only had 35 minutes of practice for the entire day. At any other competition I've been at, I could get as much ice as I wanted. In a way, however, it's kind of nice to get right down to business. After practice, I stretched out and had a nice cool-down.

Team USA had a great morning of practice. After everyone finished, we all took a trip up the gondola. On our way to the gondola, we had a snowball fight. Vincent and Tom Z were running around pelting each other with snowballs, while the rest of us were throwing snowballs here and there. When we got to the gondola, Jimmy, Polina, Vincent, Karen and I all went up in the same car. We could see the town of Gardena getting smaller and smaller as we ascended the line. The view was amazing.

When we got to the top, I was in awe: The Italian Alps are something to behold. The mountain range went beyond our line of sight. We all took a ton of pictures on the peak. While we were taking pictures, we all heard Vincent say, "Hey guys! Look at me!" As we looked over, we saw the upper half of his body lying on the snow, with the lower half of his body hanging over the edge of a steep drop. He got a real kick out of watching our reactions to his trickery. We were all a little nervous for his safety at that point. Our fearless team leader, Lindsey, grabbed him and pulled him away from the edge. We descended the gondola after a little while and made our way back to the hotel.

On the way back, the snowball fights continued. Just then, Lindsey got a call from someone. She had a bit of an irritated look on her face, which concerned us. When she got off the phone, she informed us that we needed to pick up the pace and have a team meeting when we got back to the hotel. We were all wondering what was going on.

When we got back, Lindsey said she needed to talk to [coaches] Elaine [Zayak] and Kori alone before the meeting. Jimmy and I were starting to think we were in trouble or something, but we couldn't think of any possible thing we may have done. A couple of minutes later, Lindsey called us out to join our coaches. She then informed us that the call was from someone at the competition saying that the compressors at the rink had broken and they needed to start the competition right away. Long story short, our event was starting in 15 minutes, and we had five minutes to get ready.

Jimmy and I ran downstairs and got changed as fast as we could. We grabbed our skates and were out the door. When we got off the elevator, [U.S. official] Doug [Williams] met us saying that he just gotten the call informing him that he needed to judge the event. We went outside and started walking to the rink. Everyone from the team was right behind us, cameras in hand. As soon as I saw them, I knew exactly what had just happened. They all started yelling, "APRIL FOOLS!" Here we were -- costumes on, ready to compete -- and the whole team was laughing uncontrollably. Evidently, it was Kori and Elaine's idea to get back at Jimmy for forgetting a few things for the trip. And since I'm his roommate, I had to endure it too. Real funny, guys.

After the shenanigans were over, Jimmy and I got back into our "people" clothes. Our hotel has a game room, so we decided to go downstairs and play pool and ping pong. I whooped him in both games.

After the games, we had dinner as a team. Naturally, it was delicious. I had spaghetti, steak and vanilla ice cream with strawberries. The food here is amazing!

When dinner was over, it was time to go over to the draw. It was so amazing to be in the same room as people from 25 different countries. It's such an honor. Everyone drew their starting numbers. The team drew good positions, and everyone went back to the hotel happy and ready to go.

When we got back to the hotel, Lindsey, Kori, Adam, Brandon and I sat in the hotel lobby relaxing for a while before it was time for bed. It was nice to sit and talk with everyone.

Well, off to bed. Big day tomorrow. Short program here we come. GO TEAM USA!

Monday, April 1

Greetings from O'Hare airport!

I am currently sitting outside our gate for our big trip to Munich. This will be my first flight out of the country and the second flight of the day. Kori and I flew out of Colorado Springs this morning with Tom.

We had a three-hour layover before our flight to Munich. Kori had me run up and down the terminal to keep my legs moving in an attempt to have my legs be at least somewhat functional when we land in Munich. I have also been passing the time by reading my new book, Zero Regrets, written by Olympic speed skating champion Apolo Anton Ohno.

It's almost time to board the plane ... wish me luck on my first international flight!

Team USA has arrived in Italy

After our eight-hour flight, we found the rest of the team (except Polina, who got in last night) waiting for us outside baggage claim. As we made our way through the airport, about the only language I could hear and see was German. This is definitely going to be an experience like no other. We found our shuttle and began our trip to Italy.

Jimmy informed us of the adversity that was added to his trip. He and his mom arrived at the airport about 2 1/2 hours before departure, only to realize that they had both forgotten their passports. The mad dash for the passports had begun. They rushed back home and made it back just as the doors were closing. Talk about a close call. For anyone who may be traveling abroad in the near future -- ALWAYS BRING YOUR PASSPORT! He also forgot his music.

During the first leg of our journey, we got stuck in some traffic. We had periods of time where we weren't moving for 5-10 minutes. This was certainly something I have grown to know and love due to living in Chicago. Soon, it cleared up and we were on our way again.

We made a quick stop in Austria to use the restrooms and find some food. I've never encountered a bathroom you had to pay to use; this one was 70 cents! Afterward, we all found something to eat and headed back to the shuttle, only to learn that it is illegal to eat while driving in Austria and Italy. We all ate as fast as we could.

When we left the rest stop, Doug and Lindsey suggested we play Catch Phrase! The teams were Lindsey, Doug and Adam versus Jimmy, Vincent and me. This kept us occupied for a majority of the trip, and you know what they say: Time flies when you're having fun. Vincent also kept us entertained with his plethora of random facts.

Vincent's random fact of the day: In a certain town in Oklahoma, you have to remove your hat whenever you see a cow.

The drive was beautiful to say the least. We were completely surrounded by mountains by the end of the trip. When we arrived in Gardena, I was in awe. There are breathtaking views around every corner. The hotel is beautiful. The lobby is filled with comfortable couches and chairs. There are also numerous fireplaces around the lobby. We didn't have much time to take it all in, though, because we had a practice as soon as we got off the shuttle.

The rink is amazing! There are huge windows that look out at the mountains. The facility is very clean and simple. There are stands on one side above the judges. The ice itself feels great. My legs were a different story. It was nice to have time on the ice to get a feel for things, though.

After practice, we had our team meeting at the hotel. This was very exciting for the team, since everyone but Adam and Brandon received their very first Team USA pins. Lindsey brought us all kinds of USA goodies to decorate our rooms and to use as accessories while we cheer on the rest of the team. Needless to say, we are all very excited.

After our meeting, we had an amazing Easter dinner at the hotel's restaurant. We had soup, salad, lasagna and lamb. For dessert, we were brought a white chocolate custard egg. We all shared laughs and stories. Brandon and Adam gave us advice for the beginning of our international careers. All in all, it was a great night.

Vincent, Jimmy and I are rooming together on this trip. Our room has three beds, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room table and a nice patio, also. When we got back to our room, we were finally allowed to sleep.