Figure Skating: From the Boards

Practice, passion and pixie dust August 30, 2010

What a whirlwind of a weekend! Yes, for me personally, but also in the skating world.

Champs Camp wrapped up this weekend for the Team USA skaters, and with that, the news came pouring in. A few things stood out as particularly interesting to me.

For the short whilte they lasted, I was a big fan of the US pairs team of Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker. They just had something so special, the “it” factor, if you will. Of course, it helps that they’re both naturally gorgeous, and together on the ice they make a beautiful image. But their movement and their pairs skills seemed to have so much potential…untapped potential, really. I was devastated for them when they missed the Olympic team with the disastrous performance at Nationals in 2010.

Likewise, I was disappointed when they split after the season. I understand Keauna’s desire to explore other options. But it’s still unfortunate that their success was cut short. Plus, I adore Rockne and hated to think that he’d miss out on following his own dream.

Now for the rumor – sources say that Rockne may have found a new partner. While it was rumored that he had skated a bit with US singles star Sasha Cohen, that seemed to be more for a show than for competition. Now, it appears 2009 U.S. novice ladies silver medalist Mary Beth Marley may be the lucky girl who gets to skate with the charming two-time national champ. Mary Beth is adorable. She’s young (9 years younger than Rockne, to be exact), and has little to no pairs experience, so this may not be perfect immediately, but she’s definitely got the spark. Look her up on youtube to see a little bit of what she has to offer.

If they want to compete this season, they have to submit all the paperwork for Sectionals by September 1st. Plus, they’ll have a lot of practicing to do. This isn’t a team that will come together overnight. So that ice time will be critical. Like I said, I adore Rockne, so I really hope this works out.

Now for injuries – Mirai Nagasu ended the Olympic season with a glimpse of what could be, and a realization of what she had to do to get there. She managed a spectacular (and unexpected) 4th place finish in Vancouver, just behind Canadian sweetheart, Joannie Rochette. But after another surprising 1st place standing after the short program at Worlds, she gave away every chance for a medal in the long. This season, she says she’s working on confidence as well as technique, but her summer training was hampered by a stress fracture in her right ankle. Off the ice for six weeks, the US silver medalist still maintained her charm.

According to this article at from icenetwork, she sparkled at her Champs Camp photo shoot, winning over the room with her wit. No doubt, the girl’s a comedian. Just watch a press conference where she’s speaking. She speaks her mind, and she charms the crowd in the process by piling on the humor! I love it.

I love her skating, too.

Despite the injury, she’s managed to put together two new programs that are, in the starlet’s own words, “Brilliant.”

Her short is to selections from The Witches of Eastwick soundtrack, and her long is to John Williams’s Memoirs of a Geisha, which, I do believe, are fabulous choices for her! She’s been working with Lori Nichol on storytelling for her short, and developing her maturity for the long, and I can’t wait to see these programs. (Probably can’t tell, but I’m a big Mirai fan. She’s something special, and I’ve said that since her first senior season. …when she won the National title, I was feeling pretty good about calling it!)

Feeding off the energy in that article, I’d say Mirai is back, and more passionate than ever. She’s got what it takes, she just has to believe it. And with music she adores, she just might be there.

Mirai can hit the ice again on September 1st, so there’s no doubt Frank Carroll will work her and those programs hard to be ready for the Grand Prix season.

Also hoping to get some momentum back is Mirai’s close friend and co-starlet, Caroline Zhang.

I saw this little pint-sized wonder girl training in Artesia, Ca about 4 years ago, and was wowed by her spins, but bothered by some of her technique. Looks like her disappointment last season showed her the same thing. She’s changed coaches (yet another one!) to train with Tammy Gambill and choreographer extraordinaire, David Wilson. And from the sounds of things, they’re attacking some of her biggest faults – that high leg kick on the Lutz jump (as well as the edge take-off), and her nearly nonexistent speed, especially out of the double axel.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been too excited in jumping on the Caroline bandwagon, but when I read that her short is to Libertango, I was suddenly pretty stoked to see this from her. She’s always brought a sense of drama to the ice (when she’s not skating to music that seems to lull herself to sleep!), so a tango seems unbelievable for her. Plus, with improved confidence and technique, as well as a pinch of pixie dust from David Wilson, this season could be something special. I really do hope she holds it together.

Now for a video that may very well define the future of US skating for the men: Jason Brown’s remarkable Free Skate from the first Junior Grand Prix event in France. Check it out! Seriously…watch it. He’s something else.

Until then…

(Don’t forget to follow me on twitter – @FromTheBoards)

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