Sunday, February 20, 2011

2011 Spring Cup Final Update

Hey Everyone,

Back in the States and a week later, and I can still feel the energy and excitement that all 4 US teams brought to the 2011 Spring Cup.

Saturday morning, we woke up in Milan to skate our short program official practice. The practice went well, but we knew that we could perform better that night for the competition. The rest of the day we waited, until finally hair and makeup rolled around and the excitement started to flow through us all. On our walk to the rink we blasted our Bose box and belted out our traditional pump-up songs. Before we knew it we were lined up rink side. Then we took the ice, enthusiastically expressing our way through the short program. We were very happy with our score of a 55. We quickly took off our skates and headed for the stands where American flags were handed out. As Evolution and Hockettes took the ice, we cheered loudly and waved our flags proudly for their great skates. Once all 3 junior teams were together, we were ready to cheer on Miami University, who had a wonderful senior short program skate. Soon it was time to sleep and prepare ourselves for the long.

Sunday morning it rained as we walked to the rink for our official practice, but as our performance the night before showed, “nothing could rain on our parade!” So we all trudged to the rink with 20 umbrellas over our heads. Later, as it continued to rain, we went back to the rink, once again blasting our music, ready to compete. As we took the ice, I looked up into the stands and spotted Evolution and Hockettes cheering us on. Their cheers meant so much to us and pushed us even further in our performance. Once again we were very happy with our score of 102, but even more than that, we were thrilled that the Hockettes had moved up after the short program and all 3 U.S. junior teams had just swept the podium. Back up in the stands we cheered on Miami as they skated through their free skate, earning the bronze medal.

We took the ice for the awards ceremony with huge smiles on our faces. Standing on the podium we were handed a beautiful blown glass trophy that was much heavier than we expected. Turning and putting our hands over our hearts, we watched 3 American flags rise in synchronicity as we proudly sang our nation anthem. I was overcome with pride in our country and honored to be a part of Team USA. We took picture after picture with our own teams, our friends from other teams, and then as a full Team USA team.

The competition and trip as a whole were amazing and all of the US teams did a phenomenal job. I had such a great time traveling with, catching up with, and making new friends on Evolution, Hockettes, and Miami. Looking forward to seeing everyone in California for the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in less than 2 weeks!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring Cup: Miami Day 4

As we walked into the arena on Saturday evening we were very excited to compete our long program and perform for a large audience once again. We were thrilled to hear our Junior teams took first, second and third on the podium, giving us confidence going into the free skate.

During our performance we started off really strong, and had one unexpected fall during one of our lifts. The girls reacted really quickly and got right back into the program with more energy than ever and skated the rest of the program strongly. It was a great learning experience and gave the team a chance to know how to deal with the unexpected and recover quickly.

We placed third and were very proud to be standing on the podium at the award ceremony. It was great to be on the ice with our other US teams and take pictures with everyone, especially our other DREAM-mates, Ashley and Audrey. We also had a great time interacting with the teams from other countries every time they asked to get a group picture with us!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel for a buffet dinner with our parents and in the morning headed home with Evolution on our plane.

We had a great time in Milan and were proud to represent our college and country oversees. We look forward to seeing all the teams at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in just two and half weeks!

Love and honor,

Taylor and Sarah

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spring Cup: Miami Day 3

Hello again,

Yesterday morning we woke for breakfast and had left the hotel for a strong official practice. We came back to the hotel to have lunch, pasta with marinara – our favorite! Afterward, we had some down time for relaxing and homework, and then later got ready for the short program competition. We had dinner, also our favorite meal, and then left the rink to compete at 7:45 pm.

The competition was pretty late; we didn’t take the ice till 9 p.m. We had a strong skate and saw improvement in our performance and are in second place after the skate! The other Team USA members and our parents were very loud and showed their spirit and enthusiasm as we skated. They were so excited for us we couldn’t hear the count off in the warm-up block!

A highlight to the skate was looking up into the stands during our moves-in-the-field section and seeing skaters from Hockettes, Skyliners and Evolution cheering loudly to support their country. One thing we appreciate about international competitions is being welcomed and wished good luck by the other countries with goodie bags of candy and chocolate. Skyliners were nice enough to offer us their extra pizza when we came back to the hotel. I think everyone can say it was one of the highlights in terms of food for the weekend.

After a good official practice this morning, we’re excited to perform our free skate today and see how the competition plays out.

Love and honor,

Taylor & Sarah 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spring Cup: Miami Day 2

Hello again!

Yesterday we had our first practice and had the opportunity to warm up outside with the sun beaming down on our faces. Our practice went well but didn’t go exactly as we had hoped. We had minor injuries during our practice and two of our alternates had to jump in. They did a great job and were on their toes ready for anything. With 15 minutes to spare, our injured skaters put the pain aside and joined us back on the ice to finish practice.
After our time at the rink, we went back to the hotel had lunch, did homework and relaxed. In the evening, our captain went to the draw for the short program, where she drew first. Afterward, we had a big Team USA dinner with Hockettes, Skyliners and Evolution. We took a team picture around the staircase banister in our Spring Cup T-shirts designed by Skyliners and DREAM member Ashley Mulhern. We finished our evening with a stretching session with our dance instructor.

We look forward to competing first in the short program tonight.

Stay tuned for results!

Taylor & Sarah

Spring Cup Update 2

Ciao Tutti (Hi Everyone),

Giovedì (Thursday) started off with a delicious Italian breakfast and walk to the rink for our first practice of the day. The practice went very well and we started feeling more comfortable with the ice. After practice Marlena and Ashley went to a press conference at the local library, where we met the mayor and we able to say a few words about the competition in both English and some broken Italian. The rest of the team enjoyed some time shopping and gelato. Our day ended with a team dinner at our favorite restaurant in Milan, Muccae e Farina.

Venerdì (Friday), we woke up for another day full of practice. First we headed over to the competition rink, the Palesesto. We had a good practice and were excited when Miami University entered the stands to watch a few sections. After practice we went back to the hotel for a quick lunch before we were back on road for another practice of the day. This time we enjoyed a change of scenery, as we went to a new rink in Lecco. Lecco è molto bella (Lecco is very beautiful). About an hour north of Milan, and near Lake Como, we had our final unofficial practice of the trip.

Returning to the hotel, Audrey and the rest of the team enjoyed a relaxing break before dinner and indulged in a sweet treat at the gelateria, while Ashley and the other U.S. team representatives headed off to the draw. Personally, we are very excited for our draw of fifth in the skate order, as it will allow us to cheer for the rest of the US teams. Evolution skates seventh, Hockettes skate eighth, and Miami University competes first in the senior division. We changed into our matching Spring Cup t-shirts and went down stairs for an awesome all team, Team USA dinner. It was a great way to meet new people and catch up with some old friends. The night came to a close with a Team USA photo in matching t-shirts.

Looking forward to a great short program competition! In bocca al lupo a tutti le squadre!(Good luck to all teams!)


Audrey and Ashley

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spring Cup: Miami Day 1

Hi Everyone,

Greetings from Milan! We are excited to be here for the Spring Cup and are looking forward to competing tomorrow and Sunday.

Our journey to Italy began on Wednesday afternoon. After an early morning practice, time in the dance studio and a few morning classes, we boarded the bus in Oxford around noon and were on our way. We flew from Ohio to the JFK airport and then took a direct flight to Milan. When we got to Milan it was about 9:30 am and we were off to tour the city for the day.

Fortunately for us one of our skaters on Miami's collegiate team is from Milan. Her mom met us in the city and provided us with some yummy European snacks and helped to guide us on our way. We toured through a castle, met up with our parents for lunch and some shopping, saw La Scala (the most famous Opera house in THE WORLD, where, we learned, our dance coach once performed a ballet number!) and saw the ‘Last Supper’ painting. After a full day of touring directly off a 6-hour flight, we were exhausted and fell asleep immediately after getting on the bus.

We checked into the hotel, had dinner and then went straight to bed.This morning we went to breakfast in the hotel feeling well rested and ready to go. Also enjoying the delicious pasties, fresh fruit and nutella were some of our fellow U.S. teams, the Skyliners and Evolution. This afternoon we have our first practice. We’re excited to see the rink and step foot on the ice.

Look for more updates from Milan as the weekend progresses.


Taylor & Sarah

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring Cup 2011 Day 1

Buon Giorno from Milano! After weeks of anticipation, countless hours of practice, and 7 and a half hours on a plane, we finally arrived in Milan for the 2011 Spring Cup. We are thrilled to be back once again, as several of us had the opportunity to compete here in 2009.

After gathering all of our luggage, we headed straight for the hotel to change for our first practice. Soon we were out in the fresh Italian air and making the 10 minute walk over to the Palasesto, where the competition will be held. Since the weather here is the complete opposite of what we have been experiencing at home on the East coast, we were exited to warm up outside in the sun. Heading back into the rink, we jumped on the ice for a quick one hour practice. Although we were very tired from our travels, and the rink is a slightly different shape, we had a very successful practice.

Back at the hotel, we met up with Evolution to head into downtown Milan. We had fun and some good laughs riding the Metro, immersing ourselves into the Italian public. The locals seemed to be a bit shocked by the invasion 40 American teenage girls. Saying goodbye to Evolution, we prepared ourselves for the climb of a lifetime. As tired as we were by the time we got to the top of the Duomo, it was all worthwhile getting to see the amazing architecture and snagging some great pics above the action of the Piazza and the Galleria. After some delicious gelato and quick souvenir shopping, we went back to the hotel for dinner and bed. We are so excited for the arrival of the Hockettes and Miami University tomorrow!


Audrey and Ashley

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Last Day in Rouen

Saturday morning was bittersweet; we were anxious to show our long program to an international audience, but we also did not want to go home the following day. Because we skated in the latter portion of the flight that evening, our official was mid-morning, which made for a happier, more alert team.

Our official practice was a little shaky at times, but overall a good, solid showing. We had reviewed our mistakes on video after the short program, and tried to apply these same technical corrections to our free skate official. Both the skaters and coaches were pleased with that morning’s practice.

Later that afternoon, we bussed to the rink to cheer on our fellow teammates in the junior free skate. This event was so exciting to watch, as there were many impressive teams from many different countries. However, Team USA again prevailed, and Team Braemar took home the gold. I had not seen their long program yet this season, and I was absolutely blown away. The Alice in Wonderland theme was interpreted and presented extremely well, and their skating skills were far superior to the rest of the flight. I was honored to be traveling with such a dignified, talented group of girls. Congratulations again, Team Braemar!

The audience for the senior free skate was very energetic and supportive. Stepping on the ice as “Team USA” is rewarding no matter how many times a skater has competed internationally. We felt like a different team in our newly beaded dresses and new hairstyle. Our program began with two falls in the angled intersection, but most of the rest of the program went along swiftly. With another fall at the end of the program, we left the ice disappointed. It is always difficult to recover from these types of performances, but I believe that we responded quite well to the scores. It was a learning experience for us, and I hope that it will only make us stronger in the future.

Team USA left the competition with a bronze and a gold medal, which we believe to be a favorable result. It was one of the best international competitions I have ever attended, and I was fortunate enough to share the experience with 18 girls that I love. We will be back to work shortly preparing for the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, which are approaching quickly!

Hope to see you all in Ontario!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Twenty Americans in Paris (Rouen)- Short Program Day!

I’ll begin with our day on Thursday. It began with a few practice sessions, which were extremely strong. We took the ice with confidence and pride as we sported our black Team USA tank tops. The competition arena is amazing- we were thrilled to have the chance to skate on that surface before our official practice. While warming up, we started the flashmob dance, and before we knew it, we had teams in the crowd standing up and joining us. This was a fun, short preview of the events to come later that night.

We also had the chance to explore Rouen, which is absolutely gorgeous. The architecture is just stunning and the stores surrounding our hotel are adorable. The shoes here are what caught our eyes most frequently. Almost every girl on the team ended up with a new pair of French shoes!

Later that night, the competition held a special welcome parade and ceremony. They had a small marching band that played popular tunes while the competitors sang along. The parade featured all of the athletes, and we walked around the streets of Rouen chanting USA cheers behind our beloved flag. (Team Braemar and Crystallettes below)

Once we all returned, the fun really started. The song “The Time” by the Black Eyed Peas blared through the speakers, and Team USA immediately ran to the front to lead the group in the flashmob dance. Watching every country and every team perform the dance together was very special- a memory that none of us will soon forget. It was remarkable to see what a simple youtube video could produce- people from all around the world united as one.

After this day of fun and excitement, we had to calm ourselves down and approach the next day with a focused attitude. Friday morning began with our official practice, which was very smooth and confident. We left the arena in high spirits, with a restored sense of security and trust in one another. We were overjoyed to hear that Team Braemar had conquered the Junior event. We are even more excited to cheer them on in the long program tomorrow!

It seemed like a very long day, but finally it was our time to shine. We entered the arena in our beautiful royal blue dresses, ready to perform our “Rhapsody in Blue” and “I Got Rhythm” short program. Our skate was similar to our practice- smooth and connected. Our presentation (the element of our performance we have drilled the most) was top notch tonight. We left the ice excited and proud, which was our ultimate goal. The (mini) French fans asked for our autographs as we left the ice, which was another rewarding aspect of the experience. We are pleased with our scores, but are looking to move up in the free skate tomorrow!

Needless to say, we’re pretty exhausted from this eventful day. Make sure to tune into the livestream video tomorrow! We skate 10th, the first team in the third group.

here's a link to the video of the flashmob:

(this one features the USA teams)

(this one includes more views)

à demain (see you tomorrow)!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Pillow Pets" Pave the Way to France for Crystallettes

We kept a running countdown measuring the days, hours, minutes, and seconds before we boarded the plane for the French Cup. This Sunday, however, these long awaited plans took a sudden turn when Mother Nature threw a severe snow storm our way.

On Monday, our managers worked all day long and were able to change our flight to 6 AM the next morning in order to avoid the upcoming midwest storm. We frantically packed and slept as much as we could before our 4 AM meeting at the airport.

The next leg of our journey took place in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Our newly altered travel plans included a 10-hour layover in this airport. This time was spent venturing through the complex transit systems and relaxing in the terminal. It was a long day, of course, but it was great time for team bonding. We practiced our “flashmob” dance and got some homework done before we finally boarded the 6.5-hour flight to France.

We attribute our optimism partly to our collection of pillow pets, which provided a great way to relax within the short intervals we were given.

By the time we arrived in Paris, we were absolutely spent. But we knew that we had to revive our energy and reap the benefits of our daylong tour. We took hundreds of pictures and learned a lot about the beautiful city of Paris before we boarded the bus to Rouen. Needless to say, the group was silent for the entire two-hour trek.

Tomorrow we have a few practices and then the competition welcome ceremony. Hopefully in between we can explore Rouen. We are extremely excited to get some sleep tonight and to finally skate on the competition ice tomorrow!

Talk to you later this week! GO USA

Smuckers Skating Spectacular

Walking into the 2001 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in Boston, MA at 7 years old with my parents holding my hands was such a cool feeling, and I remember loving every minute of being awestruck by the figure skaters, ice dancers, and pairs skaters as they ripped deep edges and flew through the air. Ten years later, walking into the competitors entrance at the 2011 AT&T U.S. National Championships in Greensboro, NC with my team by my side and an all access pass around my neck, I had a completely different feeling.

As we arrived the first night in Greensboro, we waited in the lobby of the official hotel and all eyes were on us. These eyes were not on us in quite the same way that they were during our exhibition at that 2011 Smuckers Skating Spectacular though. They were eyes of people staring at us and wondering what 20 girls dressed in identical clothing could possibly be doing at that hotel with all of the other very well known figure skaters. As people asked what type of group we were, we explained that we were a synchronized skating team and we would be skating in the exhibition following the competition on Sunday, but it was clear that they were still unsure of our ability and would not truly understand until they saw us skate.

Soon we arrived at the rink and were greeted with amazing southern hospitality. Walking through the underground world of the championships was something so interesting and so different from what we are used to at our synchro competitions. The atmosphere seemed much more tense as figure skaters walked around very focused and subdued with their headphones on pumping them up for their performance, as opposed to boom boxes blasting from each locker room as they are in synchro.

Heading upstairs more eyes were on us as we filled in the empty seats in time to watch the last two groups of the ladies free skate competition. A definite team favorite was the winner of the competition, Alissa Czisny, who skated a beautiful and emotion filled program. We all really admired the talent and confidence that all of the ladies had getting out on the ice by themselves.

We woke up early Sunday morning for a 6:30 am practice session on the official ice. Once we stepped on to the ice and looked up at the huge arena around us, the adrenaline kicked in immediately. We had a great practice and could not be more excited to skate on that same ice with the seats completely packed that night. We then spent the majority of the rest of the day relaxing and preparing for our performance.

Arriving at the rink for the mens competition, the attitude of the arena seemed to be a little bit different and more energetic. Watching the men skate was unbelievable. As the excitement built, the final skater in the competition, Ryan Bradley, took the ice and the crowd went wild. He skated an amazing program with expression that all of us admired and would love to put into our own programs as a team. As the scores came up and he had placed first, we went wild.

Soon it came time for us to get ready for our own performance. We treated this opportunity as we would any competition and completed our usual rituals in our locker room before lining up in the hallway. As we waited in the hallway across from the athlete lounge, we saw, waved to, and chatted with many of figure skating’s top stars including Ryan Bradley, Evan Lysacek, Mirai Nagasu, Rachel Flatt, John Coughlin, Jeremy Abbott, and Meryl Davis.

Finally it was our turn to take the ice. As we stood in our warm-up block they gave the audience our bio and explained that we would be performing our long program. As we skated our warm-up block the crowd was silent, but it gave me the chance to think what an amazing opportunity this was not only for myself and my team, but the sport of synchronized skating as a whole. When we skated our death spirals, 135’s, and our spread eagles, the crowd cheered loudly, very impressed. We skated a program full of emotion and hitting our ending pose, the crowd went wild and gave us a standing ovation. This was an overwhelming feeling for me as I realized that what we had just done was a step towards making synchronized skating a better known sport.

Walking back upstairs to watch the rest of the show, we were stopped by countless athletes and spectators to tell us what a great job we had done. I couldn’t help but smile when a few young girls asked all 20 of us for our autographs on a poster from the competition. This was a completely new experience for us all. Entering the hotel lobby, all eyes were on us once again in our matching Team USA warm-up suits, but this time it was with eyes of admiration and knowledge of exactly who we were and what we did.

Leaving North Carolina, I was filled with pride in myself, my team, and my sport. We had accomplished exactly what we had come here to do. We wanted to push synchronized skating further on to the scene and get it recognized by those who had never seen it before, and we had done just that. About 7,000 people had been in that arena Sunday night and 7,000 people had stood up and cheered not only for our performance, but to say that they enjoyed the sport of synchronized skating. For me personally, I was honored and extremely proud to be a part of that. I would like to take this chance to thank U.S. Figure Skating for this once in a lifetime opportunity and for helping us to promote synchronized skating.

Talk to you from Milan,