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Posted By SkatingPj

I am THRILLED to announce that I am joining the International Figure Skating Magazine family as a regular contributor and that  I will soon be posting a link where people can go to subscribe and get a discount! My first IFS assignment was about Synchro and gave me the chance to chat with lots of insiders.

Many conversations later - and I want to share some of the cool things that I found out.  If you're a die hard fan - you're also going to want to pick up next month's issue for a completely different look at Synchro than what I am going to share here.So what is the deal with Synchro?  When I am at events - the excitement  is transmitted via the athletes into the watching crowd and it's a blast. As I watched some of the Synchro girls practicing their programs on their own during their session at my club  I asked them what has them hooked?  Regardless of who you talk to, the gift of Synchro is in the teamwork. Synchro Sarah says: “I really like how we work as a team and because you are with your friends you get more out of the experience.” Team mate Hannah as the five year veteran of the group says: “It's a sport that at the beginning of the year you meet somebody, a stranger, and by the end of the season, that same stranger is your best friend! These friends are special and they're with you for life. They see you when you're sad, happy, frustrated, and in tears. With makeup on and makeup off, half awake or half asleep, at 4:53 am, at 11:30 pm, these bonds that we create are special."
The team aspect aside, the skaters in today’s Synchro world are passionate and committed skaters.Choreographer for 2009 World Champions Nexxice, Anne Schelter says that on a 3 hour session, Nexxice will often devote half the time to practicing and improving skating while the other half is devoted to working on a program. She says thoughtfully: “Our idea is to bring the skaters to the front; let them come forward and then guide them into expressing what we need. If you can engage them they will believe in it more and then they can make it happen”  
So how far can Synchro go?  It is the goal of many of the sport’s skaters, coaches and fans to see Synchronized Skating at the Winter Olympics. Is it realistic? Well fifteen year-old  Marita hopes so; telling me at my club that she presented a speech in Grade 9 to that effect. She says: “Synchronized skating should be included in the Olympics because it is practiced in a lot of places and it would be good to get another women’s team sport recognized.” She is not alone in her view, with Nexxice coach Shelley Barmett echoing the sentiment: “This is a fabulous sport for women and is a fabulous team sport.” She acknowledges that not all of the countries are at the same level yet and that with a sport so young it is still suffering from growing pains. “We are still feeling our way and not quite ready yet.”
Cathy Dalton, the Coaches’ Representative for the ISU Synchronized Skating Technical committee started coaching 31 years ago and says that things have changed dramatically. Whereas it used to be that skaters did it only for fun and the once a week practice was more like a carnival rehearsal; in today’s world the skaters spend hours upon hours on the ice improving  on their skating skill which is the hallmark of the world’s top teams.

If you get the chance to go to an event – you should do it. It’s loud, it’s fun and it’s great skating.

Pj’s Book Taking the Ice is available now at www.takingtheice.com


 
Posted By SkatingPj
There’s a new kid in town. Ok – officially not until Saturday and the town is my town of Toronto. I spoke with Richmond Training Center Director and veteran coach Bob Emerson, who confirmed that Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic will become Bob’s newest student.
How did this happen? Bob said: “I understood that he was trying out several facilities around North America this summer and he popped by ours. He asked for some lessons and we worked together and then he moved on to someplace else. About three weeks ago I got a call from him asking if I would be his coach.”   He says that at a different time, he probably would not have considered it. As it was, he says: “I think it is an honour to have him ask.”
Bob feels that especially with the short notice ahead of the skating season that this is going to be a challenge for both of them, but he feels they are each up to the challenge. Tomas is slated to compete at the China and Russia Grand Prix events and the first task will be to get him on a training schedule and to see how it goes for the next couple of weeks.  Bob is not planning any major changes at this point and is going to allow things to unfold for a bit in the interests of time.  In the works is a possible trip to choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo to tweak the programs he created for Tomas.  The goal for the season at this point are to help Tomas skate consistent programs and to build up his cardio during on and off-ice training.
With the possibilities of travel how will the school manage? Bob says: “It will be non problem at all. I work with some very good people and when I am not there, the school will be in very good hands.”
What were his first impressions of the 2008 European Champion? “He is an outstanding young man. The other word I would use is intelligent and he is extremely good to deal with.” Bob says that he is impressed by his degree of commitment coming into the season.   Bob says: “If I hadn’t felt that connection when we worked together in the summer, I am sure at this stage of my career, I wouldn’t have gotten involved.”
The Grand Prix events are about 5 weeks away. Both men have their work cut out for them and couldn’t be looking more forward to getting started.

 
Posted By SkatingPj
Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s coach Marina Zoueva never changes. Always warm and friendly, on the day in question at Skate Canada’s High Performance Camp she was happy to chat.  Where did she get her start? After obtaining a degree in Sport Science from University of St Petersburg, she went on to a second degree in Art from the University of Moscow when she had to submit a sample of her work for a final exam.   Having had a career as a figure skater, Marina turned to the area she knew best for her school project. She created a concept Short Program using Stravinsky’s Firebird incorporating music, costuming and choreography for Soviet champion Elena Vodorezova (now Buianova). 
Legendary coach Stanislav Zhuk had to sign off on the project for his student and was sufficiently impressed that Vodorezova kept the program for the season and Marina’s coaching career at the Red Army Sports Club was launched. Right off the bat she started to work with 2 time Olympic Champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and (the late) Sergei Grinkov who were 11 and 14 respectively. Marina says with pride: “I did all of their sports competition programs from the first to the last.” She is beaming when she says: “and now I will be doing some choreography for Katia on Battle of the Blades.”   Nothing like coming full circle.
Her other big project is her son Fedor Andreev’s entry into the world of international ice dance with newly single 2009 European Champion Jana Khokhlova. The Russian Federation called Marina and coaching partner Igor Shpillband looking for a partner for Jana and it was decided that she would come for a week to try out with Deividas Stagniunas and Fedor. Jana was to return to Russia with DVDs of both tryouts but was grounded for an extra week when Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud was preventing air travel. They made good use of the time. When a committee in Russia viewed the DVD Fedor was chosen and it was Alexander Gorshkov who was particularly excited by their potential.   Fedor was faced with a huge decision because initially the Federation wanted him to commit to the next 4 years. Marina stayed out of the decision saying it had to be up to Fedor. Fedor left for Florida to do choreography for Richard Callaghan’s skaters and found that Richard advised ihim n the same way Igor had. In other words to commit for one year and see how it went.  Fedor and Jana have been together since the second week of July and Marina says the biggest challenge was amping up to the 5 -6 hours a day on the ice for Fedor vs the 2.5 he was used to as a singles skater. He seems like a natural and apparently always wanted to dance but never had a viable partner; ‘til now.
The skaters Marina says have good chemistry and work well together and may compete at Cup of Russia but only if they are ready. I wondered about Fedor's back which had bothered him once upon a time and all those dance lifts? Marina says that all is going well and that Jana has been a huge help as Fedor has learned about body positions and dance holds, lifts and transitions. They are skating their Short Dance to a classical piece: Natasha’s First Waltz from Profokiev’s War and Peace. Their Free Dance is to music from the Beatle’s Abbey Road.   Marina says they have a look along the lines of Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon with Jana’s delicate and diminutive beauty against Fedor’s bigger and more masculine frame. Can’t wait to see them!
 

***Pj’s Book Taking the Ice is available now at www.takingtheice.com*****


 
Posted By SkatingPj
 Getting the chance to chat with Scott Moir was a treat in itself; especially since I thought that when I interviewed his partner Tessa Virtue about the upcoming season, I assumed she was speaking for both of them.   Turns out I was off base and Scott wanted the chance to speak for himself.
Taking on more of the spirit of a “what I did on my Summer vacation piece” I asked Scott what he liked best about the summer time.  His response was immediate: “Fricket!” Huh? “I love playing fricket in the backyard with my family. It’s a game we made up in Ilderton with the family and when ‘the brothers’ (Charlie and Danny) get home that's their favourite activity.” Scott claims to be the best at it and frequently wins the tournaments. In case you want to play Fricket, you need a Frisbee and two poles with cups on them at some distance away – the object is to throw the Frisbee and knock the cups off for points.
It struck me that maybe he would be forthcoming with more bits and pieces, so I ventured: “Hey Scott did you ever fail a dance test?” He said “I’ve never failed a dance test butI did fail a skills test - skills 3 – and I cried a lot. It was a really hard one and it was back when skills tests were to the music. My Aunt (Carol) told me that I was only 11 and I would be ok.”
Who partnered the future Olympic Champion on dance tests? Up until the 14-Step, after which Tessa and Scott partnered each other, it was his cousin Kara Moir. “She was two years older and able to handle me.”
Beyond the easy going nature is a very thoughtful young man who finds his inspiration in a number of different places. For instance, he loves biographies and is always interested in how successful people have come to realize their goals. He recently finished reading a biography about UFC fighter Chuck Liddell and although he isn’t into UFC, he was interested in the training methods and approach. For the moment he is reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and says: “it is one of those general philosophies and it has in it its original text  and II take that an I think that I have a lot more reading to do  but so far it’s very interesting. There is some stuff about war and battle that doesn’t have a lot do about ice dancing but the theory? Yes.”
In 50 years time he hopes that he and Tessa will have had an impact on young people and will have inspired kids to get out and move and not just be in front of the TV. Scott says: “Kids don’t get out in the backyard as much as they even did when I was a kid and I would like to change that.”
Was there anything else new that he wanted to share? Yes. Scott is looking beyond his recent Olympic glory and is trying his hand at a new sport. It seems that there are these coupons in his rink for one free game at the nearby Super Bowl Canton and he and buddies Deividas Stagniunas and Chris Mior have taken up 10 pin bowling. Scott is having so much fun that he recently bought himself a brand new 14 pound gray and red ball (that he swears smells like cherries) with “brand new drill” (the finger holes) and his initials above the holes. Bowling?!?  Who knew?
Whether it’s bowling or bowling people over, Scott Moir is on to something.
 

 

****ORDER YOUR COPY OF TAKING THE ICE NOW www.takingtheice.com *****


 
Posted By SkatingPj
 More than anything, Kevin Reynolds is a very determined young man.Take the 2009 Cup of China where he was detained on his arrival in Beijing, due to the H1N1 virus.He ended up competing anyway despite feeling awful. “I felt sick and it was obvious.It was a tough experience” he goes on to say:”It sapped all the strength out of me and it was obvious in my performance.” 
What is refreshing is that there are no sour grapes here, Kevin is pragmatic and is willing to take the good with the bad.He sees his 4 Continents Bronze medal as a turning point in last season. Kevin says: “Although I won my first nationals medal, it was not what I wanted because I didn’t make the Olympic team.I saw the 4 Continents as an opportunity to redeem myself. I got over 80 points in the SP and going into the long program I had not been in that position of being in 1st. Being chased is different from being the chaser. I felt it was a great learning experience.”Speaking of the Olympic Games he does talk about it being difficult to have had the Games virtually in his backyard and not competing there. Channelling his energy on the ice he continued to work away and landed his first quad loop jump, during the Olympic Games time frame, which he says he is toying with putting in his free program this year. Kevin loves to jump and talks about being younger and relishing being at the rink to work on the next jump.  With solid quad Salchows and Toes in his arsenal and now the possibility of a quad loop he is undoubtedly this generation’s ‘Jump King” and I think if there was ever a skater to break the next jump barrier whether it’s a quad Lutz or Axel, Kevin could very well be that guy.
This year he has decided to keep last year’s short program to Moanin’ by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne. That program was the key in his re-invention as an artistic and not just a technical skater. Kevin says: “Shae-Lynn re-did some of the choreography and I am going for a second Quad in the Short program. I am trying to go for history right there.” For the Free program, Shae-Lynn and Kevin, along with coach Joanne McLeod Free decided on a Strauss medley as a departure from last year’s modern theme. He says: “Something a little more elegant to show a change of styles. Shae-Lynn did the choreography and it was the first time she did a long program for me.”  
Kevin’s goals for this season are to improve on his Grand Prix performances from last year and to qualify for Worlds where he wants to make top 10. It seems like all is within his reach having competed and finished in 11th place at Worlds in 2010 as the last minute substitute for fellow Canadian Vaughn Chipeur who had to withdraw because of foot surgery. He will be competing at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard in France.
Kevin lives at home with his family and speaks with determination about the future: “I feel the goal right now is to reach Sochi in 2014 and that working would distract from skating and school can wait because I can always go back to it. Beyond that I don’t know. What I am going to do eventually? I haven’t thought about it at all.”

“To perform in front of so many people is an honour.” Kevin continues: Before the music starts, you are in the moment that you realize you don’t know how many people are watching you – it is an amazing feeling.” We feel the same watching you.


 

 

 
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