Good morning from Omaha!
It’s my third day here, and the first time I’ve had a chance to type up some notes from the first few days … over breakfast, of course, and just before I have to be back at the rink for some morning practice sessions! There’s never a dull moment at an event like this, and especially not at Nationals. So many skaters, so many practices, so many adoring parents, and sparkly dresses!
But, that’s part of the beauty of the U.S. Championships — it’s so big, and so noteworthy, that everyone is excited, and everyone wants that chance to steal the show! There’s a lot on the line, so the tension is thick at time. But, there’s a great atmosphere of support and encouragement, too. I love it.
Anyway, back to those notes.
Wednesday was all about hitting as many senior practices as possible. The standouts for the men were Ross Miner, Douglas Razzano (who hit a GORGEOUS quad toe), and Jason Brown. Talk about stealing the show! The kid has figured out the triple axel, and the rest of his skating is just superb. What a joy to watch! I’m curious to see how that plays out in the actual competition, because we’ve known for years that once he got his triple axel, he’d rival the best.
Gracie Gold caused quite the stir with her stellar practices this week. but, she wasn’t alone. Mirai Nagasu, Christina Gao, Courtney Hicks, Agnes Zawadzki … they all through down some impressive run throughs. Ashley Wagner was a little off much of the week, although her “off” is still very good!
Of course, the competition kicked off yesterday with the pairs and ladies, but I’ll get there in a minute.
Before I go into all that, I have to mention — the set up here in Omaha? FABULOUS. The hotel is directly across from the CenturyLink Arena, which you can get to by a skywalk bridge connecting the two buildings. Then, the practice rink is in the convention center connected to the main arena. So, you quite literally never have to even set foot outside in the well-below-freezing Omaha temps.
Plus, it’s just super convenient. Anywhere you need to be, you can get there fast and directly. The skaters, coaches, parents, and media alike have all been raving about it. And the event staff have all been wonderful. So, thank you, Omaha, for being such a great host!
Okay. The event.
For those of you watching on icenetwork, hopefully you caught some of the free “B-stream” action yesterday. What a great cast of characters we have working that side of things, from Tanith Belbin, to Ryan Bradley, Sarah Hughes, and Michael Weiss. They all bring a great perspective to the show.
Unfortunately, the first day is always a little sketchy. So goes life in the TV business! We were all set to do a great live Ice Desk to set up the ladies event … and Tanith’s mic didn’t work all of a sudden. Not only that, but it broke. And they couldn’t get it working. Or the replacement mic. And, to top it all off, Tanith had to be back downstairs to be ready for her backstage interviews with the ladies as they came off the ice!
What a crazy mess. Fortunately, Sarah, Ryan, and Michael were there to go on with the segment … even if it was shorter and later than planned!
As we like to say, it’s always something!
But the skating itself was great. The pairs really came out with a lot to prove, and we saw clean skate after clean skate after clean skate. It was fantastic! Of course, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir easily lead. But, how ’bout little Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier?! They were sensational. I’m really anxious to see who steps it up in the free skate to challenge the leaders.
The ladies event was bound to have some fireworks. All the top ladies were pretty spread out in the start order, so while Mirai kicked it off with a brilliant short, we had to wait most of the night to see the other top hopefuls. Courtney Hicks, by the way, is a little fireball! And having such great jump content certainly doesn’t hurt. What does hurt? Feeling so ready, so confident, and almost expecting to win … and falling on your bread and butter element. Gracie looked like the moment completely overwhelmed her. I have a hunch she may have been a tad over confident coming in here. She was so enjoying the spotlight that even in practices she’d occasionally forget to keep skating through each element. It was a rough night for he, but she’s still within striking distance.
She’ll need some help, though. And with the top three? I’m not sure she’ll get it.
Mirai, Agnes, and Ashley were all wonderful. And, they all feel like they have something to prove.
Ashley said in the press conference that she was exceptionally nervous because no one can prepare you for the pressure of trying to defend a title. It has showed this week. But, after a short program that did exactly what she wanted it to, she’s totally in control of the outcome.
Mirai and Agnes? Well, we have a battle for that second world spot on our hands! They’ve both looked great all week. So, we’ll see who makes the most of the moment!
Okay, I’ve got to run. Pairs practice now, then the short dance and men’s short later today!
Good luck to everyone!