2016 JGP Column | Golden Skate

2016 JGP Column

Alex D

Record Breaker
Sep 23, 2013
Column Dresden

Table of contents:

1.0 Introduction

2.0 hungry Eyes

3.0 Send me an Angel

3.1. When worlds collide
3.2. Big in Japan​

4.0 Heartbreaking things, have happened here

4.1 Joyful things, have happened here
4.2. Russian things, have happened here​

5.0 The tide is high

5.1 A little whirlwind found her match
5.2 The excellence of execution
5.3 But there was more​

6.0 What I like about you

6.1 Holly Harris
6.2 Lutricia Bock
6.3 Amanda Stan
6.4 Alana Toktarova
6.5 Kristina Shkuleta-Gromova
6.6 Sophia Schaller
6.7 Anastasia Gozhva
6.8 Diana Nikitina
6.9 Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud
6.10 Justine Brasseur & Mathieu Ostiguy
6.11 Stefania Berton
6.12 Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha​

7.0 Final Words

1.0. Introduction

Looking back at the "Pokal der Blauen Schwerter" , is like looking into the mirror of our society, as we do have many good things, but also those who we hate.

On the one side, is figure skating a place for many nations, so we had a south and north Korean athlete at the junior ladies, competing peacefully against each other and while I do not know if they shared phone numbers or anything, it was a symbol of unity, especially after what has happened recently with our world, where everyone only seems to be interested in the next global war.

But, if there is light, then there is always darkness. Things that I do not understand, as my own ideals, often collide with reality and how things actually are. Before I started writing about this sport, I often thought that it would be like so many others, but once you dive in deeper, you actually realize, what sacrifices skaters, but also journalists and volunteers have to make, to keep the sport alive.

All the pictures on Instagram, only tell half the story, reports often blend out the negative or just focus on the top three and their elements, but not their stories or personalities. Nobody seems to talk about skaters, who struggle or are not world class. Others might be top, but are very lonely at the same time without family or friends ... and again others, face a lot of hostility, just because they are different or let people get to close and therefore hurt them.

What might sound very cryptic to you, is something that is very real and even I can not fully talk about these things here, not just because my columns are always positive, but also because it´s not right to put personal things into a blog, as even for a journalist, not everything that is told you, must be spread with the public.

What I can say however, is that figure skating could no longer exist, without all those hard working volunteers, who fix the holes in the ice, check the entrance, do copies for us at the press and so on. These people, work from 6 AM until midnight, barely get any sleep and quite often, not even a thank you! Same of course, also applies to our skaters, quite often they are seen as "the bad and the good guys", some get love others get hate and some get a bit of both or are completely ignored.

Therefore, I will try to do what I already did two years ago and look once more into what I call the hungry eyes.

2.0 hungry Eyes

Said eyes, speak a language that not many can see, as they simply put, don´t come for the "weak" ones, especially not during the early practice sessions. Yet, exactly those "events", tell you often more about these skaters, than any ISU biography ever could. We are talking about proudness, about the ultimate desire to just get on blades and do some figure skating.
Therefore, I am starting now with a few ladies, who showed what it takes to be a figure skater.

5 o clock in the morning, It´s dark outside, dizzy and it rains, its cold and your bones still hurt from the falls yesterday, your muscles are tired, just like you are, when your dreams are interrupted by the phone ringing, telling you to get up, while all you want, is to stay a bit longer and dream on.

Said scenario, is the first step each morning for an athlete and it´s not something that happens once in a while, it´s a daily procedure!
Some of them, will grab a snack, maybe which is very common among athletes, a shake with proteins and some carbohydrates, quick energy, that doesn't make your stomach busy. It´s a strong diet, it´s a strong and often monotone procedure, that is as much a part of this sport, as it is to never give up and always get back on your feet.

One lady, portrait this very well during the JGP and she came from Kazakhstan. Veronika Sheveleva, was our very first lady on ice during the first practice group on Saturday and no matter, how often she sat there on her butt, she stood up and fought! Athletes like her, can get somewhere because they want to and in a field of 37 in the Free, that desire had to overcome many obstacles, not only the early ice time of 6:30, but also the fact, that most people, will never watch her performances, or that she had to stay until 11 PM after the short, just because there was a draw to be made.

While the Free did not follow up the short right after, it is still a pretty difficult situation to deal with, as bed time might not be before 1 AM and then, they have to somehow manage to adjust their sleeping rhythm for the next day, so that they can actually sleep early on at Friday evening, something that can be very hard, especially if other athletes in the hotel, have already finished their skating and might celebrate in the room next door.

To celebrate, young Veronika can do, as she fought through it and around two minutes into her program, I was worried that she couldn´t skate for another minute, because she was really exhausted and breathing heavily, but at no time, did she consider throwing the towel and the result was a brand new total best of 68.99 points.

Some might argue, that this is hardly more than the top ladies do in the short and yes it is, but that doesn´t matter. Athletes all around the world, quite often don´t look much at others, but their own improvements. At Dresden, Veronika fought very hard on both days, in practice she fell so often so hard and really I would be crying my eyes out, if it had happened to me, but not her! She is a tough cookie, a fighter and her jumps received negative GOE during competition, but she managed to stay on her feed at most times and only allowed a single fall in each competition and her eyes, were at all times, full of proudness and passion, for the opportunity she had, to open up the Free Skate.

Said proudness and heart, I also saw with each other of the first group, nobody skipped her practice, they all knew this is a big day for them and when most people at Dresden were still sleeping, the likes of Aina Sorfina Mohd Aminudin from Macedonia or Mara Wagner from Luxembourg and the always smiling, with great steps and positive attitude skating Federica Magnifico, but also Linden van Bemmel with the very typical Dutch elegance and grace, were on the ice, practicing for the competition.

In said competition, we also found Abigail Samuels from South Africa, the young lady with the flower in her hair, who admires and I love you for that young Lady - Sasha Cohen, the queen of spirals, the Juliet of my heart.

Abi, was not only in the first group skating as third, no, she also opened up the competition on Thursday and she did absolutely amazing there. She stepped on the ice, ready to entertain every single person in the stands, the medics who always read newspapers, the photographers, maybe 10 spectators and the silly blue jacket guy.
She was there, for the moment and that with an incredible proudness, landing a double Flip - double Toe, showing positive attitude, while always having a little smile on her lips.
It was an honor for her and exactly this it should be for all skaters around the world as also seen with the Slovak Silvia Hugec, who always goes down on her knees to wave goodbye and a very evil fall in the Free, did not manage to break down her graceful appearance, lifting her to a good 26th place.

It´s these things, that are so often swapped under the carpet, skaters who might not win the gold medal, but still have stories to tell and often are grateful for each single good word, that you can drop backstage's.
Abigail, Silvia, Federica and all the others, were a great addition to our competition and I so hope, that TV stations will never, ever, get what they want, smaller starting fields, because then, these more "exotic" ladies, would no longer, have a stage on which they can perform their wonderful programs.

Tania Margarido, is another one of those from the starting group, who just has something very special and that is the shy look on her face, but also good jumping technique and I find her cute and charming at the same time and she reminds me so much of Tanja Odermatt a few years ago, also because of her make up choices regarding the eyes.
My Tanja, has now grown into a lady and I am sure, that this Tania here, will do the same and at competition she landed a very strong double Axel - double Toe, just like a lady who I remembered from two years ago Agnieszka Rejment, the Pole who back then, was such a clumsy figure on ice and I will never forget her look when she fell on her butt and looked kind of confused each time it happened, like a little kid and today that young lady has grown up to a young woman with a beautiful dress in the Free, some very mature posing and that double Axel, an element that she could barely do as a single two years ago.

It´s interesting to see, that before her jumps, she always smiles, like at her coach Suidek and it indicates that she is really looking forward to these elements now and isn´t scared of it at all, just wonderful and give her two more years and she will land the triple Axel!
Haha, just kidding of course, but on a more serious note, it is amazing if you can witness how skaters improve over the years and also overcome obstacles like growth and stuff, as with our wonderful Liza Tuktamysheva in the recent years.

A fun fact about Agi is, that she goes on the ice during warm up and when everyone is still cruising, getting the muscles warm, she actually practices her double Axels, it was hilarious to see, how the other skaters were circling and she did jump and jump, not caring at all. A wonderful character this girl is and she achieved a combined total of 91.10 points and really fought for every element and was quite happy when she was done.

3.0 Send me an Angel

To be just happy about her, would be an understatement, as this young lady here, is someone, who since four years, just lifts me up, each time, I see her and I always have tears in my eyes, when she steps on the ice and at Dresden in the Free, I was more than just touched, it´s hard to put into words, but when she landed the triple Sal at the end, right under my nose, I saw how much it meant for her and that's when tears rolled down my chin.

I often wondered what´s more impressive about Anastasiia Gubanova, the fact that she could land triple Lutz, triple Flip elements long before most other skaters, including many boys even attempted them, or that her skating is like of an angel, soft and calm, with a lot of heart. Nastiia, skates like an adult and this since years, each step on the ice, each motion off ice, is that of a great lady and I have never seen her unhappy, disrespectful or arrogant in all those years. Taking a picture with her and that picture is now the background on my smartphone, is as professional as it is friendly and this lady has seen a lot of praise lately, but it never got into her head.

At Dresden, she posted a combined total of 194.57 points, a score with which she would be a top 10 candidate at the last Senior Worlds at Boston and this with just 13 years of age! If we look at both her programs, then the first thing I always notice, is how she looks at everyone in the stands, letting those watching know, that she is now on her stage, ready to perform for them. In general, Anastasiia is a very open minded lady, she has a grace in all she does, that is natural and not acted. She was Juliet and crying for her Romeo, just as she was "the Swan" in the short.

We often talk about acting of skaters right, and with many of them, it´s just the "game face" they put on a show so to speak, but not so with this young Russian here. I fully believe, that the skater I met, the skater I saw, is the skater who she really is.

On both days together, she landed a cracking nine triples out of ten attempts including a booming triple Lutz - triple Toe and double Toe with the hand aloft and her Free Skate to Romeo and Juliet, was as flawless, as it was beautiful. When tears were rolling down my chin, she skated the program of her life, never dropping below level four and was rightfully rewarded with a brand new total best and a new juniors world record score of 129.14 points in the Free.

Just look how smart she is using the music for her Flying Camel, how she attacks her jumps and instantly performs after each landing, there is no pause or anything, she is performing and staying in character at all times, it´s such a delight to see her skate and honestly, there is no lady on ice right now, who makes me cry like she does.
The qualification for the JGP Final at December, was never in danger, winning not only now at Dresden, but also a few weeks ago, at Ostrava where she edged out the Japanese Rika Kihira by just 0.08 points.

While I am very biased and a huge fan of this lady and maybe my praise already tires you, please allow me one more thing that I want to say in her favor and that is the huge musicality which she brings to the table. When the music kicks in, we see a skater, who portraits that music with posture and ballet arms as seen in the short which was out of this world, especially the step-sequence, or she skates with a "painful" expression and reaching arms in the Free.
She has the ability, to skate with the music, becoming one with said and she is using her blades and skills as an artist, to create a brand new instrument, that sounds nicer than all the others in our world. That time violation which she received in the short, should be a bonus and not a deduction, as watching her skate, is most likely one of the most amazing things you can witness in that sport, something that should never end.

For me, Anastasiia Gubanova, is not just a perfect skater, but a real character and I so hope, that she will never get into a situation, where people treat this lady bad. She is an angel, who just belongs to earth, as much as she belongs into heaven.

3.1. When worlds collide

Heaven and Hell, might be a good description for propaganda networks in our society. North Korea, the so called "axis of evil" vs. South Korea. Of course, these would never be my words, as I don´t use such stupid headlines.
Nonetheless, do we have to talk about the fact, that Korea, is divided into North and South, which makes both sides a victim. Families split, friends on different sides and everyone just want´s this all to be over. Coming from a nation that had a wall, I know how it is to miss your friends and family and even though I was a kid when it happened, the day when the wall came down, was a day to remember.

At Dresden now, we met a young lady from North Korea, who was anything but evil. No, she actually was a presenter of a whole nation just like her country men Kum Chol Han who came 7th at the men. Said nation, just want´s to life in peace like everyone else. Both her programs, portrait joy and happiness, while her coaches were I believe, a bit insecure, about how they would be treated in the Western World.

I do not know what they will take home from us, but I hope, they will look back at Dresden, knowing that we enjoyed every second of Hyang Mi Ro, she was a great addition to our JGP, a very uplifting personality who was super happy to present her programs. The short was a bit naughty, with a very colorful outfit and some bumping beats and a very difficult name "Ryonggangginari" by Minyo. In said program, she had a fall early on, like in the Free to "Sabre Dance", but she went back on her feet and just gave it all and lit a fire in all of us, with her great endurance and speed, she just never became weary.

The Free was at times very elegant, but also uplifting and i was totally digging the part after her layback, I so loved the smile and how she was dancing on ice, it looked amazing and it was wonderful to see, how she enjoyed her time and you have to love her spins and athleticism, but also open minded skating, as she is not at all, a shy figure.

The 13 years old from Pyongyang want´s to know, what people think about her performances, she isn´t afraid to look for reactions and it´s that innocence, that young skaters have at times. Coming 16th in total, she proved that excluding nations from sports because of politics, is dumb and a mistake and I will always remember, that gaudy girl from Korea DPR.

At the other side of the wall, we had a young lady who has a little problem with the boards. For some reason, she is very attracted by these things that surround the ice and at practice, she almost landed a triple toe inside these boards. As I have found out, this is a habit by Eunsoo Lim from South Korea, it´s her thing to just get very close to the danger zone.

Nonetheless, did she skate a burning short program, with a huge triple Lutz - triple Toe combination and if you ever feel sad, watch that program! Skating to "Besame Mucho", she offered great speed, smiles for everyone and smooth transitions. Her joy, was transported into our all faces, we enjoyed watching the "squirrel" on ice do her stuff and while she did not have to bow down for a few nuts there, she sadly had to in the Free, which was a real nail-biter for her, edging out the second Russian skater Stanislava Konstantinova, by just 1.15 in total, claiming the bronze.

Said Russian, from the Olympic school at St. Petersburg, had a really tricky competition and was to say the least, very unhappy after her Free program to"Vai Vedrai", but I really think, she shouldn't. Yes, she missed the qualification for the final, but she brought something for all of us and that was a never give up philosophy.

When she fell at her Flip in the Free, I heard her pain, because she let it all out and to then land a double Axel combination, is a big achievement and this kid here, will go her way, as she has what it takes, an unbreakable will to skate, no matter what, but also the technique which triple Lutz - triple toe and a beautiful triple Flip - Loop - triple Sal combination showed.
The 16 years old, with her strong body language and grace, will hopefully not look back at Dresden with a sad, but happy face and remember the things she has learned here, as there sadly, can´t go all to the final, which I always criticize, as what would it hurt, if 12 could go?

12 by the way, is the amount of elements, that a skater is allowed to do at the junior men's Free program and there are discussions, if this might be a bit too much and should be cut down to 11 or even 10.

Regardless, said discussion, did one of these men stand out at Dresden and he is from South Korea, which brings us back to the original statement that I made, about both Korean countries, having skaters at the Ladies and Men.
Jun Hwan Cha, who dominated the men's competition with a gap of more than 24 points, to the Canadian Conrad Orzel with 196.30, landed 10 triples clean, but stayed under his personal best of 239.47 which is also a world record for the juniors.

Unlike the "squirrel" he did not have any problems with the boards, but one of the Axels which he couldn´t fully rotate to the 3 1/2 revolutions, something the technical panel must have been seeing with a magnifying glass Tbh. as I did see nothing wrong there, but hey that´s why they are professionals and I am not. That being said, he clearly popped the quad Sal early on and yet, did not tighten up or anything, no he went for it and I really think it was the best of all men's programs this season, from heads to toe.

I say that, because as an apprentice of Brian Orser, he understood the element of performing for the crowds well, he was very present, not only with speed, but also facial expression and great arms. If you watch the Free then you will have Goosebumps everywhere, when the vocals to "Mi Mancherai" kick in and he starts performing an emotional and dramatic piece of art, with tons of heart and if that doesn´t touch you, then I do not know what could.

What I like as well about his jumps, can be seen at the Flip, he just doesn't master these jumps physically, but also artistically, with lot´s of grace and good extensions. He has the ability to just pause his skating, without making it look like an interruption, which is quite smart and certainly makes him a skater, that is present for the full duration on ice, able to really dive deep into the music and express it.

With just 14 years of age, this young athlete from South Korea, looks like a huge talent to me, as his abilities are not just about the jumps, but much more and he might be the turning point from pure athleticism to a more artistic men's skating at the top level.

3.2. Big in Japan

At said top level, we already find one of the greatest, Yuzuru Hanyu - the reigning Olympic champion and one of the kids, who might follow him, was one of our guests here at the JGP, Mitsuki Sumoto from Izumi City. Skating to Piano Sonata No. 8, he tried to express each keystroke in his skating, while and this really stood out, his landings looked super confident, with calm nature and proudness.

While he was shaking his head after the Free, it was a new total best overall, in the short and the Free for this young Japanese. At the end of the day, he gathered 195.74 points, just slightly less than our Canadian Orzel, who was the only athlete at Dresden, with a clean Quadruple Toe element and overall highest technical base value of 72.41.

Said points, were not reached yet with our ladies, but also there, we had two Japanese competing and both went by the name of Yuna. Shiraiwa, the "older" of the two, managed to skate against all odds, from sixth after the short, to second after the Free. Together with Nastiia, the only top lady, without any mistakes on day two of the competition.

Skating to the OST of "Notre Dame de Paris", she totally grabbed the frog by it´s eggs, with a powerful story, greatly interpreting the various phrasing of the music, as seen with her knee falls, the more dreamy part when the vocals kicked in or when she put her triple Lutz - triple Toe, right on the drum roll.

Landing seven triples in total, she not only had the power, but also the grace to let us all be a part of her program, while never giving up anything of her performance, in favor of a secure landing. Yuna, was showing great heart and speed, while adding a wonderful final passage with triple Loop - double Toe - double Loop and another of those knee falls, making the entry much more difficult for her, after a very demanding skate.
A risk that paid out in the end, with a wonderful silver medal and one of my favorite performances at the JGP this season.

Another very good performance, came by the slightly younger Yuna Aoki. While the 14 years old, unfortunately started both her performances, with an error, she always came back strong and never let go, skating mostly clean afterwards to a total of 169.60, which granted her a 5th overall. What impressed me was her never ending, positive attitude and that she could make time fly, especially noticeable, at her step-sequence, which was wonderfully placed during the hook line of "on my own".
Something else was her smart decision, to leave out the triple Toe, after her double Axel in the Free, when she saw that she just didn´t had the landing she needed and therefore just added something that I would call a minor Twizzle. Said Twizzle, did not disturb at all, quite the opposite actually and it´s that special quality which she has, to open up her skating when the music has a more uplifting attitude, almost reaching out for it.

The JGP finalist from last season, while not at Marseilles this year, showed two wonderful programs and that Japan has a huge amount of talent, just waiting to conquer the world.
Of course, many more amazing skates took place at Dresden, but more about those at the end of my column, when I will once again tell you, what I liked about you!

4.0 Heartbreaking things have happened here

That I like Renata Oganesian and Mark Bardei a lot, is not much of a secret and I have to admit, that last season, no other pair on ice, grabbed me as much as these two here. They just had it all, the speed and power in their short and the naughty character in the Free, all combined with clean elements and charm. No matter if as vampires or race drivers, these two presented a unique pairs skating style, that was fresh, skilled and beautiful.

Therefore, the expectations were super high this season and then I was sitting at the practice sessions and I saw something that I just could not believe. Both skaters, while together, somehow alone, struggling especially with their side by side elements, in which Renata just seemed less confident than last year and also quite a bit frustrated.

As someone who always has a heart for the ladies, especially if they grow up, as I have this a lot in my practice group as well, I was really worried about what might happen in competition, as for our ladies the change of their body, while something beautiful, can really mess with their jumps and confidence, as the UR´s will crawl in, pretty fast.

Said confidence, was totally gone on her side and even Mark, the fun person he is, seemed a little bit lost, with her attitude at times. That being said, the Ukrainians gave it all and they should really look back at this week at Dresden, without regrets, as their new Free to "sands of time", is absolutely wonderful, I love their costumes, the placement of their elements and the speed, it is very demanding on both skaters and I so hope, they keep going.
The age difference is there, but I just don´t want to miss that pair in competitions, they just have it all, but maybe they should just swap out the Axel combination and settle with an easier toe combination, which is easier said than done, knowing that especially Renata expects a lot of herself, she is a perfectionist and being one myself, I know how lonely this can be at times, but also how rewarding if it all comes together.

While staying 20 points below their PB, they once again showed great variety and a promising future. It is very enjoyable to see, how these two skaters came out of nowhere, with well crafted outfits and programs, giving pairs skating, a totally different approach and some fresh ideas, while standing out in their ability, to slip into various roles. They can be playing cat and mouse on a race track, where she taunts him, or fight for their life's as prince and princess, in which I especially like the more quiet part, prior to the death spiral.
Therefore, keep your heads up guys, there are lot´s of us, who love what you are doing, please come back, with your great attitude and personality, without you, our pairs skating society, would not be the same anymore.

4.1 Joyful things, have happened here

Not the same, it would certainly be, without our wonderful couple from the Czech Republic, Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar. Last season, these two crashed into every board at Dortmund, at times he practiced all alone and yet, they medaled in said competition. It was the starting point, to a tremendous effort, full of success and so far, each competition that these two had, did end up on the podium.

Winning the Junior Worlds, beating the highly favorite Russian pairs was just one of many great moments and you have to love these two, for their amazing ability to just do it, when it counts.
With 165.51, they secured a very comfortable silver medal, while stepping up their levels, making the former level two - triple twist, a level three, and the former level three Lasso, a level four. Said lasso, can now also be found at the short program, together with a brand new backwards – inside DS, a new element which is required for competing at the Seniors, a big goal that these two have with Ostrava right around the corner.

By the way if we talk about that Lasso, why is the lady always holding her hand above her head, it looks like it would be raining, so I wonder did the creator of that lift, not have an Umbrella and therefore he came up with that idea to lift his lady up and so pair-skating was created?

Don´t laugh please, but it´s something that I constantly think about, during that lift and it´s one of those things, that I just don´t know about this sport. What I know, however, is that these two kids here, have a lot of talent, not just on the technical side, but also from the perspective of an artist.
I really enjoy how she puts her head on his chest in the short and how gentle Martin is to Anna, just look how they hold hands, something they at first never felt comfortable with as novice, but now it looks like they would do nothing else all day and same can be said about the great alignment which they have, even after a triple throw Lutz, right back together, really wonderful and as I said last season, Martin and Anna, just skate together as one, it is beautiful to see, how they relate to each other and care for their partner.
While they made a few mistakes as with their side by side jump elements, the qualification for the JGPF was never at danger.

At said final, these two will compete against a total of five Russian pairs. Talk about dominance Ladies and Gentlemen.

4.2. Russian things have happened here

Two skaters stood out at Dresden and they are well known among fans and experts, I am talking about Anastasia Mishina and Vladislav Mirzoev, who can skate lights out if it all comes together. Nastia and Vladi, with the great expression, they just turn a switch on if the music starts and then do their things, always trying to get the crowds involved and just think about the fact, that she is just 15 years of age.

Unless you meet her off ice, you would never think of her as a teenager, she plays that role of a lady very well in the Free to “attention mesdames et Messieurs” and he just never stops smiling and I love how he presents her at the death spiral, it´s always effortless skating, always for the crowds, with smooth and creative transitions, as seen after the triple throw Salchow. With Russian pairs, you always have more than just high difficulty, they always understand how to create a story that you can get involved with and I really like their outfits as well, also the one of the brand new short, which is a Rumba.

At Said program, we have to give credit to Anastasia, that Flip was anything but a good throw and yet, she puts it on the ice, she is such a strong jumper overall, very positive at all her landings, but there is one thing that really worries me a bit and that's the danger of outgrowing him.
Maybe if she eats less Spinach, she can maintain her current size, as it would be a real pity, if these two might find an obstacle, that is just too high for them to climb.

Regardless my worries, these two were without a doubt the best and strongest pair at Dresden, strong singles skaters, who understand the key elements of also being a strong unity on ice and with 173.32 points, their victory was never in danger.

In danger, however, was the bronze of Alina Ustimkina and Nikita Volodin. The Russians from St. Petersburg, had a real nail-biter at hand, quite a lot of mistakes in the Free and I am not sure if that was the reason why Nikita was so “tight up” afterwards, or if it was just me, who he didn´t like, but ya, it was not their best performance for sure.

That being said, it all started amazingly well for them and for me too, as I am a huge fan of Mad Max - it is the without a doubt, best movie ever, ever (100x ever) done. While they did not pick the original OST by Brian May, they picked the one from last year by Junkie XL and oh boy, did their program have power and if you don´t mind, doesn´t she look like a lady, who you would never ever turn down, even if 100 wild road-warriors are after you? I really like her outfits, but I am afraid she would not survive that long with those, in a true apocalypse.

That being said, she survived just fine on ice when both skaters showed great speed and alignment, with a great level 4 Lasso, right when the “storm is coming”. It´s very big music and at times they captured the essence pretty well, especially from the transition into the throw Toeloop, all the way up to the dismount from the lift and yet, I believe there is much more possible and I would like to see him a bit more present on ice, as she is just everywhere right now, great extensions, flexibility – he is losing ground on ice and that´s really unfortunate and why other pairs still have an edge over them, in presentation and artistry.

Regardless of my small critique, I loved the picture they created in the Free, with that small choreographed element, which I believe is something no other pair is doing, so that it absolutely stands out and her flexibility really enables creativity, something I also noticed last year at NRW, where they won the title.

With 155.26, a well deserved bronze medal and a ticket to the JGPF, a ticket that also our sunshine Aleksandra Boikova and Dimitrii Kozlovskii have in their pockets, a very charming and balanced couple, which understood the term, effortless skating, very well and had great lines and expression. Big applause to Dimitrii of course, for saving that lift in the Free, I thought he would drop her on the desk right in front of me, that was phew, great job there and surely one of the reasons why her eyes are full of fire for this guy.

A fun fact about her is that she actually talks quite a lot on ice, mostly telling him what to do, - as women always do, as without them, we men would not know what time it is!

5.0 The tide is high

What time it is now, you might know, it´s VADER time! Sorry, a small reference to my childhood.

Anyways, we have reached the final chapter with our wonderful ice dancers and there were two couples, that just skated on another level for me. Totally different, one with youth and naughtiness, while the other had the excellence of execution, I am talking of Rachel & Michael Parson and Arina Ushakova & Maxim Nekrasov.

5.1 A little whirlwind found her match

As a fan of ice dance, there is nothing more enjoyable to me, than watching novice and juniors. I say that, as the skaters there, offer a very different approach to most senior couples. It is almost, as if I would see Madison Chock and Evan Bates in their youth and the ones who managed to capture that unique and at times "crazy" dance of said Americans, didn´t even come from the US, but Russia.

What Arina and Maxim did throughout the practice, competition and off ice meetings, was not just a joy, but a real treat for my ice dance heart. If you see them on ice, you see only one thing and that is, fun. They totally capture the essence of not "working" on ice and she has a very outgoing personality, no matter if inside the skaters bus, at the victory ceremony or on ice, very comparable to Elena Radionova, but just a tad more extreme and naughty.

She is completely without fear or any "thoughts", she is joking around, doing peace signs, throws flowers into the air or just looks at you with those huge eyes, full of passion for her profession. Maxim, while a bit more reserved, works well as a counter part to her, who is always present on ice and she likes to dictate the pace, as seen prior to the short, it´s very well done and I like that they use that personality which both skaters have, for creating all those moments.

Said moments are a real experience and I was really impressed with the short, in which they picked Blues and Hip Hop, two very different styles and yet, they made them click. To "Natural Blues", smooth transitions, the change of hold with confidence and a relaxed facial expression, always using their height difference and personality to their advantage. The Russians, constantly relate to each other, it´s a very charming couple, maybe the most "advanced" Russian couple, if it comes to partnership on ice, after the great Bobrova / Soloviev. Whoever brought them together, I salute you!

After the blues section, they transition smoothly into "DJ Kool", with that pose where she just hangs around and that is something I want to see, if said rhythm kicks in. Show, that you do it, show that you know what Hip Hop means and they did this greatly, also with the rotational lift at the end in which she performs throughout the whole rotations and when others would go dizzy and throw up, she actually performs and enjoys the moment! That´s what effortless skating is all about and the musicality by both is splendid. Hip Hop has the unique requirement to go up and down, so you can go up and down again. What sounds a bit strange, is actually what makes a lot of moves such as the Steve Martin possible. It´s a constant flow of movements, that rely heavily on your bend knee´s, so you can actually make the drops look smooth and exactly this I saw with both skaters, therefore mission accomplished, the spirit well captured.

If we now look at the Free Dance, then we see what makes that great couple, even better.
Again, both are present on ice, I love both outfits, she is the lady, but he is there too, he is not skating in her shadow, they both are a part of the story and this you see greatly executed already at the very first seconds of their program, where again, she has that presence, but he the posture and ability, to make her shine.

The whole program, is a dance of gypsies, they mirror these traditional and fast, almost spooky movements greatly, there is something happening all the time, not a single second in which they don´t act, skating into all directions, getting the crowd involved, while showing deep edges, soft transitions, with really difficult exits, smooth entries and unique dismounts, as with the straight line, when she actually turns before touching the ice! How hard that must be and what strength Maxim needs there, as he has to carry all the weight, while keeping himself and a moving Arina in balance - just impressive!

Something you can actually try out at home and no, please don´t ask your girlfriend, this could end up ugly with your shoulder being dislocated and her looking for a new boyfriend .... No, what you can do is pick a bag, fill it with something that can not break and then try to rotate it around your arm while going into your knees, it´s very hard and imagine, you are on the floor and not moving on ice, as they did!

Another aspect is, how close & fast they turn. Gypsy's do that, they have strong presence with their hands, go deep into their knee´s and do the unexpected and exactly that feeling you have with those two. It does not look like a choreography, but a natural flow of elements, greatly put into a very unique experience on ice. With a combined total of 140.21 they skated lights out and won a great bronze medal.

5.2 The excellence of execution

Two steps further ahead, we found our gold medal winners, the Parsons! What these two skaters perform, can only be called "perfectionism". Whenever I see them on the ice, I see skaters who don´t miss an element, are perfectly aligned and show great edge quality and artistry.

They always cover a lot of ice, while skating very close as seen at the no touch during their short, going down on their knee´s while coming up at exactly the same time, something that takes hours of off ice practice in the ballet room and on ice it looks like there would be a mirror with them, so that they can always track the other family member down.

Another aspect about the short is the Blues section where they skate to Lana Del Rey and just check how amazingly well the program is designed. At the time, the vocal kicks in, they get in hold and groove along with the lyrics, using the light kick to skate in rhythm, while only leaving hold for a short moment, greatly timed to when Lana takes a breather as well.

As for the Free, I was sitting there and time just flew away, it was as if they only skated for 30 seconds or so. The start is brilliant, just a slight percussion going on and then the piano kicks in and they start with the Twizzles, great idea and then they start flying and all you have to do as a spectator is enjoy!


Yes, it´s really that simple, I don´t know what else to say, it´s art they create on ice, he is perfect, she is perfect, her smile is gorgeous, great extensions, he is very present and flexible as well, they go with the wind, so fast and close, look at the Twizzle where that free leg, could easily hit the partner, but they control it so well!

The lifts are effortless, it just looks so smooth how they transitioned into the rotational and Michael has a very calm attitude on ice as well and he is not a giant either, so give him some credit, how soft and yet strong he performs and he doesn´t "drop" Rachel back on ice, no he put´s her gently and all of that well aligned, as shown during their Straight Lines exit.

With 157.63, a well deserved victory for two skaters, who just skate at a very high level, with really beautiful programs.

5.3 But there was more

Of course, we had a lot more Ice Dance at Dresden. There was for instance our silver medalists from Russia, Anastasia Shpilevaya and Grigory Smirnov, who brought us a bit from Italy and remember what I always say, Italian men know how to treat a lady (some Germans too, just saying).

Anyways, you want him to really show how beautiful his lady is and how proud he is of her and exactly that beautiful lady, was greatly presented during their straight line Lift in the Free, to "Tarentella Napolitana" and I so like how they use the high pitched vocal for these elements and how she flirts all program long with those watching and how joyful they skate, greatly interpreting the music!

Some of the timings were a bit off, but it did not bother me much, as their joyful characters, really captured the essence of Italian lifestyle, while showing seamless transitions and skill, as for instance with the Twizzle where she is gliding on ice and they just add the Twizzles rights after and seriously guys, she just kills you with that smile of hers, doesn´t she?
A very different, but nonetheless great couple from Moscow which scored 148.02 and a very comfortable second place, not only because of that great Free but also a very elegant Short, where they showed great maturity, with a soft and wild side, going back in time, when the Ladies were pretty and the men real gentleman. Not saying they are not pretty anymore, but you know what I mean right?

Maybe, you also know what I mean if I say that Alicia Fabbri is Tessa Virtue 2.0? I can´t help it, but every time she was on the ice, I thought, that I would look at Tessa. She has that "diva, I am hot and know it" type of attitude and I really loved what she did with Claudio Pietrantonia in the short, skating to "You & Me".
As a 13 years old and I was a bit shocked when I heard about her age, she shows great maturity and expression and I love how both skaters time their elements on the kick drums, it so lifts up their elements and choreography, you just want to hop on the ice and do what they do and 20 years ago, I might would have done just that, but then they would never let me close to a ice rink again....

But really, look at that no touch isn´t that absolutely brilliant how well aligned they skate, always interpreting the music, or the rotational lift, that is greatly placed at the breakdown.
What a treat for my ice dance heart and it did not stop there, as they brought us a super charming Free, to music by "Mika" in which they showed us a more gentle and soft side and she looks so different there, did he swap partners? Is that her twin sister skating?

Alicia has so much talent, with just 13 years of age, you could say she skates as a 20 years old and that would probably still be an understatement, so much maturity in such a young lady, as if she would walk the catwalk all day and do nothing else than dancing, since she was born. Claudio treats his lady well and these two from Quebec scored 126.16 points, which gave them the sixth place.

6.0 What I like about you

As always at the end of my columns, I want to leave a few words about skaters, that just had something that I liked. During the past five days, I took many notes and whenever I put a little star next to a name, that skater had a good chance of being in the following section and I want to start with a very young lady from Australia.

6.1 Holly Harris

This lady here, has the ability to fill a whole venue with her presence. Not only is she very flexible and fast on blades, no she also want´s to tell us a story, with wonderful extensions and very mature motions. When I first saw her on ice, I could not believe how brave she was, as Dresden has a really big venue to skate in, but she did not care and achieved a combined total of 134.39 points, which granted her a 10th position. If you watch Holly, then you see a skater, that completely dives into her music and paints every note of it on ice.

She has a very strong facial expression, great musical understanding and knows how to use her arms and hands, to create all those emotional pictures on ice, pictures of a skater who had a few issues at the Free, but moments like these, will make you a stronger competitor in future, as it´s all about gaining experience for these young skaters.

6.2 Lutricia Bock

Our German number 1 does have a very busy schedule and already tons of experience and at times, you just want her to take a breather, as she is just everywhere, traveling the world, while still having to go to school. Therefore, a "normal" day for young Lutricia, starts at the ice rink, followed by school, afterwards maybe even a competition and then again homework or some more practice and during summer she just goes over to Canada to work with Pasquale Camerlengo on the choreography of her programs.

You just need to give this lady credit, for just being there, she promotes German figure skating so well, not just because of her determination, but also the strong presentation skills and this is what we often lack, skaters who so to speak, appreciate the audience and not just the judges, a skill that skaters from NA and Russia have mastered over the years.
What the 17 years old is about to master, are of course also her great technical abilities, such as the triple Lutz - triple Toe combination, that she is slowly crawling into again, after growth hit her in the past years, which lead to some UR´s here and there.

Overall, Lutricia skated with great posture and grace, allowing the audience to see her positive nature throughout both days. Days, which, however, could not be more different in their results.
At the short, she was pretty much perfect, only dropping a level at her stepsquence, while flawlessly landing the combination with a huge triple Lutz followed by a triple Toe, a triple Loop and her double Axel, catapulting her to a 4th spot. What I like so much about her short, is the smooth footwork and position she takes with her upper body, greatly interpreting the strings of her music - allowing her performance to portrait a very uplifting character.

The Free, a program she created at Canada last season, was a little bit shaky with just the 9th place, but a strong fight, never giving up any of her elements, no matter how slippery the ice was.

Overall, she has a very demanding program with the triple Lutz - Loop - triple Sal right at the start and double Axel - triple Toe at the end, so that she does not get much time to breath either, also as she really want´s to sell it and perform. In the end, it was a very good 7th place with 145.55, right before Lea Johanna Dastich, another of our kids who is growing up with that always present smile and yes, she is slowly getting her jumps back, as seen with that beautiful Free of hers, in which she was able to land all her six triples, including a double Axel - Loop - triple Sal combination.

Last but not least, there is also Annika Hocke, the Berlin based skater who I told you about 4 years ago me thinks, who is still just 16 years of age and yet, quite a lady on ice during her Carmen performance, with always great fire and posture.

6.3 Amanda Stan

The "Romanian" skater, really impressed me during the Free, as she was pretty much the first skater, who "survived" her program, going mostly clean, while skating lights out for the crowds. I was impressed about her steps and light footwork, but also how determined she was, the jumps are shaky, but she hangs on and as a lady born in Canada, she surely knows how to have that little spark, that glitter and the presentation skills, with just 15 years of age.

Her Free program music "to believe" says it all, she want´s to be a skater and she believes that she can do it and with a lot of hard work, she will be able to pull this off for sure. To not have a single fall on both days, was something special, as the majority of our ladies, had at least once contact with the ice and I am sure, as time goes on, people will no longer throw teddy bears at her, but standing ovations and some flowers.

6.4 Alana Toktarova

This lady here, is one of those typical examples what the right coach can do with a skater. As an apprentice by Brian Orser, she understands her role on the ice, which is not just to compete, but also to present. The 13 years old Kazakh, is very present in all she does, always heads up, looking at the crowds, not scared to smile or to attempt very hard elements, as the double Axel - Loop - double Sal, which I believe is going to be a triple in the next years, once the Salchow is a bit more stable.

Something else I liked about her, was the little breather in the Free, where she creates a few pictures, with that charming look on her face and when she fell at the Toe, it did not matter, as the smile never left her eyes and keeping your composure at such young age, is very hard, as teenage girls do one thing a lot and that is cry, but not so this lady here, she kept her heads up, no matter what and it´s a delight to see, what a great character she has and she was the only young lady, who did bow to us first and the judges last, a bit off protocol, but I loved that moment, what a uplifting personality she has.

6.5 Kristina Shkuleta-Gromova

This Estonian skater, gave us the "Adelina Spin", as I like to call that unique element in honor of one of the greatest in the recent years, Adelina Sotnikova the reigning Olympic champion, but this you surely all know and you probably also know, that each bone in my legs would break, if I ever attempted something like that, great ability that she has, so strong and special!

As for Kristina's programs, her short was really well done and rewarded with a new PB of 43.43. There was not much wrong, with a triple Toe - double Toe and clean Axel late in the program to "Adagio for Strings" in which she used the vocals well for her steps and expression prior to the double Loop with her arm aloft.

Sadly, in the Free to "Kung Fu Piano", it just didn´t come together, she looked so disappointed and so did her coach, but she offered flexibility and strength, good work with the arms too and I guess the early mistake on the Lutz, just put her off a bit and that´s not a shame at all, I like this skater and she will surely grow in confidence over the years.

6.6 Sophia Schaller

The Austrian just always made my day, as she had so unique outfits, easy going in practice, with a shirt, glamorous with glitter in the short and naughty and sexy in the Free. While I know, that I will get a lot of hate for this again, I just think she is a very beautiful young lady, with that ability to just always look great.

Said greatness, we could also see in the short, where she finished 17th, with a great triple Toe - double Toe, tano double Loop and of course the Axel, that was landed very well and at times in her programs, her facial expression is a bit like of a scared kitten, not sure why she does that or if my eyes play games with me again, but there is much more to come in future.
She has a good pop in her jumps, gains nice height as with the first Toeloop in the short or her triple Sal in the Free and once she get´s a bit more maturity, the things that look cute now, will look very feminine and confident in future and I am really looking forward to that, including what outfits she will bring next!

6.7 Anastasia Gozhva

My kid, as we call the skaters we have adopted at the forum here, had a little bit of a crash and go, here at Dresden. At one point, the 14 years old, was showing great maturity, with a flirty character in her Latin performance, while the Free was more with grace and elegance to "Cats". Sadly, her jumps did not come to pass and she really had some nasty falls in the short, where her head almost hit the ice, please be more careful there, young Lady - daddy was very worried!

Anyways, you just have to love her steps and how much fire and attack she has there, never standing still, always in motion and such great spins as with the Layback, doesn´t this look amazing?! She is so flexible and has qualities that just need to be fine tuned over the next years and didn´t she look like directly from the Oscars in her Free, in which she showed great character, never letting go, fighting until the end, for each of her elements. Good kid, but please be careful!

6.8 Diana Nikitina

The Latvian put a spell on me, right from the very first practice session on. With just 15 years of age, she has a very strong technique and just barely missed her triple Lutz in the short, an element that she is fully capable of doing with a triple Toe in combination and besides that, she has a lot of expression, not afraid at all, very outgoing and a real woman already.

A fun fact is, that her coach Romans is I believe, a bit shorter than she is and always remember, taller skaters, have it a lot harder to stay flexible and soft with their jumps and it was a real pity that we could not witness her gorgeous "Alice in Wonderland", as Diana sadly injured herself a day prior to the Free.
But at said program, she can really light a fire in you, so strong and beautiful, she has something of Anna Pogorilaya, who is also a very strong skater, with great presence on ice.

6.9 Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud

These two skaters from Canada, were just magical in their Free, skating to "Rise Up” by Andra Day. The "soundtrack" and that´s what that great piece of music was, hit like an arrow, so did their skating which was very emotional, with greatly executed landings such triple throw Toe and Sal, wonderful alignment and I just love, how they relate to each other!
They hug, smile and gently touch - so beautifully done, with a very unique pair-spin at the end, telling us the story further, not just performing an element, but staying in character at all times. That´s what makes pair-skating so wonderful, if two individuals become one and tell us a story.

6.10 Justine Brasseur & Mathieu Ostiguy

I am honest, I can´t pronounce their names, but these two have a very charming style on ice, as seen at their Cinderella Free. I so love how happy he looks to have finally found his princess, so that he no longer has to deal with all that annoying daughters that try to "force" his heart and she smiles at him full of expectations of what is to come, as a future princess. Wonderful story, great characters created by these two.

While a few errors crawled in, they never gave you the feeling that they might not have the best skate of their life's, such positive skating and she is a strong jumper, look at her solo jumps and she managed to put that throw Lutz on ice as well, two footed but give her some credit, she is still so young
If I am not mistaken, then Mathieu has never done pairs before, so that´s pretty good already, what we saw, with the lifts that were smooth and fast or their DS which was wonderfully executed, great entry and exit - smooth as a baby´s butt!

6.11 Stefania Berton

I have met Stefania as a skater, when I was like a little kid asking her for an autograph, a few years ago and it was very sad to see, that such a great skater and person, was let down by circumstances that I don´t want to judge. Their dirty dancing show skate, is one of my all time favorites and I saw it live, behind the boards years ago and was so sure, they would win many more medals, but then ...

Seeing her back in action now, as a coach was wonderful and I so enjoyed watching her, as she is super supportive to her skaters Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prochnow, it´s almost as if she would be on ice with them. Said pair achieved a new PB of 129.31 points, with two very good skates and you can see the touch of the Italian lady, she was always a very passionate skater with great stories to tell and I so love her style, she has a thing for fashion, it always looks wonderful and it translates to her skaters, great double Flip in the Free, passionate movements, selling the program nicely and doing what they can do - being pretty solid in all their elements.

6.12 Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha

They were very early on at our SD competition and just look at their Twizzle! Super close to each other, fast, with hops and well aligned covering lots of ice and always acting, staying in character and this is what I want to see by skaters, the performance not only by their blades, but also in their face. The Free was like a ride with the wind at times, they are so soft, almost as if they would be flying and it never looked hard, great ballet arms of both skaters, nice use of the music for their elements, it just creates a great unity of speed, posture and alignment, with fluent transitions.

Interesting about these two are their off ice activities, as she is a professional actress and he a musician. I honestly don´t know where they find the time for all of that, but they almost jumped on the podium here with a new PB of 139.67, great couple from Quebec!

7.0 Final Words

Of course there was a lot more that I could tell you about like our two amazing firebird ladies Charlotte Vandersarren and Sarah Tamura or Jessica Palfreyman and Charlton Doherty from Australia, who were so proud to open up the Free Dance competition, which such an enjoyable expression in their programs and nice lifts.

Another impressive couple was Leticia Marsh and Anton Spiridonov with that wonderful exit of their dance spin, great creativity there and they used the music throughout their programs, so well for the elements like the rotational lift, which looked super sharp and in general wonderful timings for their turns and change of hold, spot on in the Free to "Notre Dame de Paris".
Another fun fact that impressed me was how they managed to kick this piece of fabric out, without losing the momentum or making it very visible either. Of course, my eagle eyes did spot it, but they disguised the costume failure so well, that the judges and panel, did not see it!

Another skater that I did not mention yet, was of course Juni Marie Benjaminsen, who has such a friendly expression on her face when she skates, so many smiles and so proud as a skater, it´s wonderful to watch her skate.
Also wonderful was our Ukrainian dance couple Maria Golubtsova and Kirill Belobrov, performing to music by the Gorillaz in the short and they have so much acting going on, they are just everywhere on ice and just like Madi or Irina Movchan, she knows how to rock a pair of pants!

In the Free, a very different approach, featuring two wonderful outfits & skaters, that relate to each other and again, nice use of the music and they proved that they can not only be funny and wild, but also sensitive and graceful.
I really love that split of her on ice, so soft and gentle, or their straight line, where he goes into the spread eagle and she then changes position, a very versatile couple these two, with unique elements and someone who we will hear from a lot more in future!

In future, we will also hear from each other again, not sure yet if I will do another competition this season as my pockets are empty, or if we will meet again after the Bavarian Open 2017, but I had great fun once again and even with the obstacles, it was a great experience, with wonderful performances, by all skaters and sadly, I can not mention everyone, but I tried my best, to give you a good overview about what has happened at Dresden.

Thanks for reading, the patience and keep it sharp skaters and I apologize in advance if I spelled any names wrong!
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Record Breaker
Jan 14, 2016
Thank you so much, Alex. For this post and your time. But when I read it, I got some depression overall. :( I guess to will know the full taste of kindness, we have to run into some obstacles and evil. When all too well - everything becomes cloying.

Bad and good, good and bad. It's just like life works. Chin up! :)


On the Ice
Mar 28, 2016
It's great, so much respect for all these girls and boys. I only hope that Gubanchik won't read your such beatiful words about her skating and personality. Because it could spoil her :)

[email protected]

Record Breaker
Mar 26, 2014
Column Dresden

when she landed the triple Sal at the end, right under my nose, I saw how much it meant for her and that's when tears rolled down my chin.

Alex D, I rewatched Gubanova's programs. Are not you the guy in blue sitting right next to the boards (on Video Gubanova landed the triple Sal right under his nose)?

Thank you for your report! Was very interesting to read.

Alex D

Record Breaker
Sep 23, 2013
Sorry, for the late replies :)

Alex D, I rewatched Gubanova's programs. Are not you the guy in blue sitting right next to the boards (on Video Gubanova landed the triple Sal right under his nose)?

Thank you for your report! Was very interesting to read.

Yes, that´s me ;).

I always sit there, it has become a tradition over the years and skaters know it too, I actually chatted with Madi and Evan about that, when they asked if I would come to the Gala at Oberstdorf and I really like that spot. It´s opposite of the judges, but for me the perfect place to take notes about skaters. I can see if they stay in character also if the judges can´t see it and it´s very important for my work, as it helps me with writing about them, in general. At the stands, are no desks and the light at indoor arena´s does mess with my eyes, so it´s also a medical condition if you want to call it like that.

It´s not much different at other sports, but I stay away from the boarders of the half pipes for now, as I was once hit by a board... :scratch2:

It's great, so much respect for all these girls and boys. I only hope that Gubanchik won't read your such beatiful words about her skating and personality. Because it could spoil her :)

I have to admit, in our club there are people who claim that this would be all I do with the kids, spoiling them... But jokes aside, I have always been like that, a good word can lift the spirit, I know how I was in that age, it just enables a certain power in a young athlete if you know people support you and acknowledge the sacrifices you have.

Another aspect is, that especially the girls can have a lot of doubts in their minds, even the best might not believe and that´s the job of a good coach to pick them up if it went wrong or to make sure they still believe and stay focused. Ya, I admit, the coach in me, still comes to the surface when I write :laugh:

Thank you so much, Alex. For this post and your time. But when I read it, I got some depression overall. :( I guess to will know the full taste of kindness, we have to run into some obstacles and evil. When all too well - everything becomes cloying.

Bad and good, good and bad. It's just like life works. Chin up! :)

I think that I speak for many of us who are involved in FS, be it writers, volunteers, coaches or skaters - it´s not always easy, but we do it for the future of the sport and I guess this keeps us all going.

Thanks everyone for the kind words and checking out the column!