Figure Skating: From the Boards

What’s the magic word? January 26, 2012

The Senior events kick off later today with the Pairs and Ladies Short Programs. If you need a refresher on the contenders and potential surprises, look back here for Pairs and here for Ladies.

What magic words would YOU tell Mirai?

Meanwhile, we’ve all been sounding off on Twitter for weeks about who needs what to win. So, here’s your chance — channel your inner Frank Carroll, and offer up some last minute advice for your favorites, your Fantasy picks, or just someone you think might need a little word of encouragement!

Speaking of Frank Carroll, how ’bout I start with Mirai Nagasu?

She’s the kind of skater you dream of coaching (or at least, I would dream of coaching someone with her natural talent, if I was a coach). And yet, she can’t seem to make everything “click” in competition. The nerves do her in. She panics. Focuses on how bad it is to be nervous. Or now bad she skated last time out. Or how desperately she wants to win.

My advice to her: Don’t think, just do.

She honestly has it all. She has to forget about what that means, forget about how much she hates to lose, and forget the idea that nerves are a bad thing. Change those nerves into energy and the adrenaline into focus, and just do it (Nike was really onto something with that one way back when…)

How ’bout reigning champ Alissa Czisny?

Her focus has been pretty clear. Her reconstruction of a career — and, really, a skater as a whole — is inspiration in and of itself. And yet, she’s struggled to feel “on” this season. Now, she’s set to begin her title defense.

My words of the day for her: Calm and courageous

“Calm” is often how I’d describe her skating style. Sometimes, though, her competition style is anything but calm. She, too, needs to close her eyes, take a deep breath, listen for the first note of her music, then just let it flow. All the while, channeling the courage it takes to put yourself on the line for the sake of a dream. Courage into each jump, calm flowing out of it. That’s a winning combination.

The pairs competition could provide some interesting last minute commentary.

The pressure’s on Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig.

My simple solution for them: Skate confident.

It’s tough to come into a National Championships as the favorite, yet be in the middle of an underwhelming season. Even more so, when your confidence in the side-by-side jumps is severely shaken. But that all has to be pushed aside. It’s an element they’ve done a million times throughout their careers. It’s time to turn the brain off and let muscle memory do what it’s meant to do. They are veterans and have worked so hard for this chance. There’s no room to be cautious, only confident.

Especially with Caydee Denney and John Coughlin creeping up from behind.

My motivator for them: Work it!

There’s no denying the palpable chemistry these two have, and it’s made their short tenure as a team seem far longer. They have the timing, they have the connection, they have the skills. They simply have to work what they have … which is evidently a lot! There’s no time to worry about inexperience together, or what anyone else is doing. They have something electric — use it!

While I have my coach hat on, let’s go ahead with the men and ice dancers.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White may not really need much pre-game encouragement, but as any good couch coach, I’m prepared.

My two-cents for them: Great risks = great rewards

Sure, they’re not likely to be challenged here. But stranger things have happened. Plus, their Canadian counterparts are dead set on dethroning the American World Champs. There’s no time like the present to make sure their edge is razor sharp. If a few elements need some tweaking, now is the time. Don’t be afraid to adjust — there are great rewards for the team who adjusts the best!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Madison Chock and Evan Bates are looking to simply cement themselves into the US dance scene after the off-season pairing.

My reminder to them: Trust.

That’s all. Just trust. They’re both elite-level ice dancers. They’ve been here before. They’ve been absolutely stunning all season long. Their programs highlight their strengths, their partnership magnifies their skills. They’ve proven that this can work. Now, trust that, and let it fly.

Carroll's genius helped Evan Lysacek to Olympic Gold

The men’s favorite is an interesting case. Jeremy Abbott is certainly the best in the event, but things don’t always come together right for him.

My key for him: Mental restraint

What exactly does that mean? Well, sometimes Jeremy wants to be perfect SO badly that he tenses up, rushes, or stresses just enough to throw off his performance. He needs to hold his thoughts back to just the element ahead of him, not the potential result. Check the boxes one at a time, kiddo!

That’s precisely what last year’s silver medalist needs to do. For “Ricky” Dornbush, living up to expectations hasn’t been easy this season. However, he’s got the good to give himself another shot at Worlds.

My final reminder for him: Channel your inner Duhamel.

Okay, this is only relevant in light of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s National title winning FS last week at Canadians. But, afterwards, she said she had “never focused so hard in her life.” Ricky has beautiful jumps, and such an endearing personality on the ice. It’s a matter of, again, checking the boxes. Taking one element at a time. Not getting ahead of himself … and whatever other cliches you can come up with. Focus, Ricky, like you’ve never focused before!

*switching back to writer hat*

Okay! Now, it’s your turn! “Undaunted courage” once did it for Michelle Kwan. What words of wisdom would you offer as your top skater took to Championship ice? I want to know!

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One Response to “What’s the magic word?”

  1. If you are passionate about the sport and know what is going on this is a great article. I will engage a skater directly and say what I think-life is too short. Nagasu I have already articulated my thoughts. Mental imagery is so important for Mirai I have told her to dwell on the happiest moment of her life before she starts. (2010 Nationals FS comes to mind) I have never seen her so happy as at that moment at the end.

    Cinsky has to find a happy place as well-when she does watch out-she is nearly unbeatable. Like Nagasu I have noticed when she is happy and thinking about something positive her skating gets spectacular. Both ladies are hindered by deamons in their mind and emotional skaters-Boitano was as well. When they conquer deamons, it is magnificent. Ashley is more consistent and if both fall apart, she will prevail.

    Through all of it remember Mao Asada and falling and indicating “Falling means nothing”. Why? “I am not novice!” This year I am not sure what to make of Men’s, Ladies or Pairs. Dance seems is the most predictable event in terms of outcome-but who watches skating only for the outcome? It is about observing the process to get to the outcome!

    Meryl and Charlie are amazingly consistent and always wow me. Madison and Evan can do very well given the right circumstances, they are struggling to find their collective chi,and I suspect they will have a golden moment. Its Nationals, what’s not to love?

    Jeremy is another emotional skater. With him and Ricky you are spot on, not much else I can say.

    I enjoyed your article very much. I have been following this sport for so many years.


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