The Inside Edge: Settlage's new art, Kerr's heart

Wang makes education decisions; Gilles finds new pursuits after skating

Scotland's John Kerr with bride-to-be Nadine Ahmed, who competed for Azerbaijan.
Scotland's John Kerr with bride-to-be Nadine Ahmed, who competed for Azerbaijan. (courtesy of John Kerr)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(04/16/2013) - As you probably know, we are both from Boston. We were horrified and saddened yesterday as news of the bombing in Boston came in. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.

Drew lives in Colorado now, so we usually write our columns at a distance of 2,000 miles from each other. Sarah flew out to Colorado last week for a visit, and along with plenty of time spent in the rink in Colorado Springs, we took a trip to Denver and Boulder. We did some photo shoots too, with Max Aaron, Britney Simpson and Matt Blackmer, and more. Watch for those shots in the future.

Aaron, by the way, brought out a pair of lemon yellow pants for his shoot, and we practically had to wrestle them out of his hands to keep him from wearing them. We think you'll like the looks he ended up in.

Shortly after the shoot, he left for Japan and the World Team Trophy.

"I'm really excited," he said.

Team USA won the event, as you know, so kudos to them!

As for Simpson and Blackmer, the challenge was getting Blackmer to behave himself. Simpson smiled beautifully in every shot, while the rambunctious Blackmer was more likely to impersonate Harpo Marx. Expect some very entertaining photos.

Climb every mountain

Ice dancer Todd Gilles has been conquering a new kind of ice lately -- the kind on glaciers over 14,000 feet.

Gilles, who has been coaching recently, told us he thinks he's through with competing.

"I miss the skating part," he told us. "I love getting out and skating with people and I loved competing too, but I think it's just time.

"I think that's how I'm transitioning back into the real world. Finding my other sport, my mountaineering sport, to keep me training."

Gilles said he has always been an outdoorsy kind of guy, but he only started serious mountaineering, ice-climbing and rock climbing about a year ago.

"I just started doing more and more of the Fourteeners in Colorado," he said. "There are 75 points in Colorado higher than 14,000 feet, although the actual number is debatable."

A few weeks ago, Gilles traveled to Mexico to climb Pico de Orizaba, a few hours southeast of Mexico city.

"It's 18,491 feet," he said. "That's my personal record. It's funny; we got there and we just went up a little ways, and it was already taller than any mountain in the continental (or contiguous) United States. It was really nice; we were really lucky with the weather. It was about 10 degrees. Balmy."

Next up for Gilles, he hopes, is Mount Rainier in July.

"It's got a big glacier on it, and crevices, and different routes to go up," he said. "Then, I'm going to try and do an Everest base camp trek in November. Everest is a huge expedition, you know. I need to see if I can afford it. Like skating - it's another expensive sport."


2013 U.S. junior bronze medalists Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage are getting back into the swing of training. They are going to stay junior next season.

"We decided to stay junior just because we're age-eligible, and we want to focus on our junior Grand Prix and, hopefully, junior worlds," said Madeline, who is Max Aaron's younger sister. "It's hard to go back and forth, so we just want to put all our effort into one [level]."

The pair needs to add a throw triple toe jump, which is a required element in the short program for juniors. Apart from that, they don't plan major technical changes.

"We kind of put it all in last year," Aaron said. "By nationals, we had the triple twist, and that was really exciting."

Aaron and Settlage will be skating to "Smile," in a version by Itzhak Perlman, for their short program next season. Caterina Lindgren choreographed the program. Julie Marcotte is going to choreograph their free skate in a couple of weeks.

Off the ice, Settlage is a talented artist. He makes custom headphones for fellow skaters, which you will probably see here and there in backstage videos from competitions.

"I did headphones for Matt Blackmer, and Britney Simpson, and Maddie," Settlage said. "It's like a quick gift I do. I sand them down and sketch them out with a Sharpie and varnish them."

Settlage says he's mostly a self-taught artist.

"I'm more of a cartoonist than a traditional artist," he said. "It's something that, when I'm not skating, to put my focus on, take my mind off skating. It's a second passion. I can spend hours drawing and not realize that time has gone by."

As for Madeline, she says if she had time, she would do ballet all the time.

"I miss it a lot," she said. "Right now with school, it's really hard to do anything besides schoolwork and working out and skating. I'm graduating this year.

"I actually got accepted into the Beth-El College of Nursing at University of Colorado Colorado Springs. I'm going to start next year; I'm so excited."

Sweet 16

Angela Wang, who will continue to skate senior nationally and junior internationally next season, is also getting two new programs. Tom Dickson is choreographing the short to "A Beautiful Storm" by Jennifer Thomas. Wang couldn't quite remember the name of her free skate music; Lindgren is the choreographer.

"The long is more Spanish, I think," she said. "We just started it, and I haven't really listened to it a lot yet."

Wang, a junior at Cheyenne Mountain High School, said she went home to Salt Lake City for spring break.

"That was like a vacation because I haven't been home in 10 months," she said. "It was nice to see my friends."

Wang's college plans depend a bit on how her skating career goes.

"If I get better and better, then I'll probably just take a few classes at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs after my senior year," she said. "And then if that doesn't happen, then I'll just apply to colleges and see what I get into.

"I definitely want to do something in the medical field. I'm taking AP bio, and I love anatomy and everything. I want to be a doctor or a physical therapist -- I want to stay involved in sports, work with athletes. We'll see."

John Kerr off the market

That sound you hear is hearts breaking around the world: Handsome Scottish ice dancer John Kerr is engaged. Kerr posted on Facebook: "Prepare for the Pakistani/Scottish wedding of the century!"

We asked him for details, and he told us his fiancée is former ice dancer Nadine Ahmed, who competed for Azerbaijan from 2007 to 2009. Ahmed is currently finishing medical school at the University of Miami, and she'll be moving to New Jersey, where Kerr is based, to take up a neuroscience fellowship at Rutgers University in August.

"We started dating in August of last year, but we knew each other a little bit before thenm" Kerr wrote. "We actually reconnected at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in July last year, where we were both on coaching duty. I had to leave for the London Olympics straight after the event, but we promised to meet up again when she was in New York and New Jersey to interview for various fellowships. I guess after that we were hooked."

Our congratulations to the happy couple! Kerr added that he and his sister and partner, Sinead, plan to do some coaching and choreographing together after their show commitments slow down in August.

Watch for another Inside Edge soon, with all the backstage dish from "Ice Chips" in Boston.

Sarah and Drew
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