US Figure Skating Championships

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Savvis Center
St. Louis, Missouri

6:45 P.M.
This is approximately when my wife and I arrived at the Savvis, a multipurpose arena that usually hosts concerts, St. Louis Bilikins basketball games, and St. Louis Blues hockey games. All week, though, for the first time it has been the place for the State Farm US Figure Skating Championships Finals, the tournament that will decide who goes to the Olympics...and who does not. Last Friday I went down to a Sheraton hotel in Westport Plaza with two of my coworkers to pick up our media passes. My company, even though we did not do the initial artwork, has implemented and helped build the site for the event ( in Sitecore, a pretty nifty content management system. I recommend checking it out for any web developers out there.

Since the event ends soon and afraid I wouldn't ever get to use my cool media pass, I decided to go tonight even though nobody else from the office was going. I finagled a one-day pass for my wife and she tagged along. It was the first time I had ever actually parked at the Savvis. I usually go to UMSL and take the Metrolink down when I go to hockey games or go there to sell the Game Night Revue - which is now defunct and renamed the St. Louis Gametime and under new management. I went to the press entrance but found I had a yellow media pass and you needed red to get in there. So I had to run to another entrance. I got in there, had to leave my wife at the entrance, and after a few frantic phone calls realized that I needed to go down to a makeshift media room to get her pass. I met the nice lady who works with the event and who had been working with us and she gave it to me and I ran it back to my wife, who had been having a nice conversation with a very genial guard.

It was very strange being in places that I'd never been before or ever dreamed I would be. The basement of the Savvis Center, where important people get to go! There was food, drink, and lots of tables filled with laptops and reporters and people filling out content for the website - live results, blogs and pictures, etc. Adjacent was the actual spot where they did press conferences. I didn't get to be present for one but I might do one when I go back Saturday night. Oh I'm definitely going back Saturday, tonight I didn't have my camera or enough time!

But now on to the event. It was after seven by the time we sat in our special media seats. 7:30 is when the Senior Ladies Short Program started. It was pretty cool to be there live because unless you were physically there you weren't going to get to see it live. I heard that some, not all of it, will be played (taped) tomorrow or Saturday. I'd never in my life gotten to see figure skating live, especially not a tournament so important. Michelle Kwan would've been there had she not been stricken with an ill-timed groin injury.

Here's a rundown of all the skaters we got to see tonight: Erica Archambault, Michelle Boulos, Jane Bugaeva, Sasha Cohen, Amber Corwin, Alissa Czinsy, Amy Evidente, Emily Hughes, Danielle Kahle, Beatrisa Lang, Abigail Legg, Megan Oster, Anna Madorsky, Kimberly Meissner, Stephanie Rosenthal, Stephanie Roth, Katy Taylor, Megan Williams-Stewart, and Christine Zukowski.

I'm not going to bore you with each of their scores and whatnot, and who was deducted how much for doing what, that's for hard core figure skating fanatics. I'll tell you about what you missed, what most of America missed. It was exciting, first off, even for somebody who isn't hard core about figure skating. I felt so bad every time one of them fell. (It was gut-wrenching when their performance was flawless until the mishap). I cheered when they nailed those impossible-looking twists and turns. There were a few times I just Knew they would fall and somehow they didn't. I began to feel really old. Let me explain. I'm 29, grew up in the eighties, and I see all these little girls out there born in 1988, 1989, etc. There was only one not born in the 80's. Amber Corwin was born in December of 1978 which made her 27, the oldest at the event. She showed experience, but also her age, as she fell twice and received terrible marks. Sad to say, but I would venture to guess that she's done.

The high point of the night was unquestionably Emily Hughes. She had the best outfit, first off. It was an unapologetically deep, powerful blue, and I would make the argument that it actually helped. She was virtually flawless and she made up for a few miniscule goofs with her personality which was just boiling over! She electrified the place and got the best audience reaction. She got the most flowers and stuffed animals and crap thrown at her at the end and a standing ovation; it seemed like not a single person at the Savvis remained seated. It was one of the best performances I've ever seen. And God she was cute.

But somehow she didn't end up being first. That would Sasha Cohen, the California girl. She did get the second-best audience reaction, but she didn't have as much energy as Hughes. Maybe her program was better. That's debatable. I mean, I didn't think anybody had a chance of passing up Hughes, she just absolutely smoked all who had come before her, miles between her and the next-placed athlete. But Cohen drove right ahead, taking over first by about six points. Both did end up holding onto #1 and #2 by the end. The third and fourth places were hotly contested, though.

A few other performances of note:

Stephanie Rosenthal. Yeah, she fell once, one of those gut wrenching ones I'd talked about, because she was the most creative and interesting of the night, skating to a techno beat and somehow combining the robot with the graceful moves of a figure skating program. Her outfit was even metallic-looking. And damn she looked like she was having the most fun with her big goofy grin, she was crowd-pleasing and she knew it. I was most entertained by her. It's too bad, since she ended up placing low, that you'll probably never get to see that one. She ended up eighth.

Bebe Liang. That little kid was great and had a lot of fun as well and delivered a technically flawless performance.

Megan Williams-Stewart. She was #1 early, after the first group, even after falling once. She's headed for greatness someday. Her family was one of the most vocal in the audience. It was kind of funny. She had great support there. But the skaters that followed - including Hughes and Cohen - most of them kicked her ass.

Kimberly Meissner, who came in fourth, was flawless and pulled off some great moves. But nothing else about her really sticks out in my memory. As far as the rest of them, they were pretty much forgettable, as mean as that may sound. They all worked hard to get there and all of them were a member of the figure skating elite in this country, no doubt about it, and they should all be happy that they were there.

It was pretty cool watching the ABC Sports/ESPN reporters in between being on the cameras. Peggy Flemming was one of them. These cute little girl skaters come onto the ice after ever performance to collect the flowers and stuffed bears and shit they throw onto the ice. A bunch of them came out one time for an extended period of time while they looked for one of the skaters' earrings, and this bald reporter (I don't really know what his name is, but I'd seen him before on TV) stood there waving dismissivly at them as if to say "oh get off the ice!" and this chick reporter next to him tried to put his hands down, she was probably telling him "Quit being an ass, even though the cameras aren't on you you're still being watched!"

We met this nice lady named Lia. Or Leea? Lea? Dunno how you spell it. We might see her again on Saturday. We made friends with her quite quickly and we'd never met her before. She flew out there all the way from California on a whim. It seemed like we'd known her for years by the end of it and she found us endlessly adorable for some reason. We got to talking about Kwan and her groin injury and I remarked that the only thing worse is a high ankle sprain and that an ankle break was better than an ankle sprain. She replied that I really knew my stuff and should be a physical therapist or something. I just said naaahh, it's mostly just from following hockey for so long and player injuries. But that exchange was kinda cool. I hope we do see her again and get her number or something.

I wish I could write a lot more but it's late. I'm trying to get over a cold and, well, sleep is good for that. I'd just like to sum up by saying it was fun, almost a once in a lifetime experience (twice I guess, if I go Saturday). It'll seem like bragging, sorry, but I just gotta say, it was pretty friggin cool having those special media privileges. I felt all important and stuff. I'm keeping that media pass as a souvenir.

Goodnight folks. I'll have another report probably late Saturday night.