Saturday it rained all day here in Lake Placid, so I have no outside pictures. We shopped along Main Street, bought a few books in a fine used book store that’s about to close, and a new book store, and had lunch at a Creperie. The afternoon session began at 2 PM, and we were there. Skate America is part of the international Grand Prix figure skating circuit, and this year it’s a warm-up for the Winter Olympics. Skaters accumulate points to give them a place in world rankings and top point-getters in Grand Prix events compete in the Grand Prix final. Then each country has their own competition to see who will represent them at the Olympics. Grand Prix events are sponsored by the International Skating Union, or ISU, and supported by the countries they’re in, but are separate from, for instance, the U.S. Nationals competition, which is only for U.S. skaters.
First up was the Ice Dance Original Dance. Unlike the other categories, which each have two events, a short and a long program, ice dance has three, and the Original Dance is the second. Each pair chose a folk or country dance for this, and while there are required elements, the music and choreography are up to each team. I liked the costumes of the Chinese dancers, Yu and Chang, above. Some of the others were good, too.
We also liked the Italian team, Cappellini and Lanotte, whose “folk” dance was to Pavarotti singing a highly orchestrated folk song.
But Americans Belbin and Agosto were once again by far the best, doing a Moldavian folk dance, and they added to their lead.
Following that was the Pairs Free Skate, or long program. Of the three American teams competing, Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, above, did the best, but all made some mistakes, and did not finish in the top three. Meagan Duhamel of the Canadian team injured her knee (we think, hard to be sure), during warm-up, and they were unable to finish their program and had to withdraw, which is too bad, as they might have medaled.
The returning Shen and Zhao were clearly the best, showing they still have what it takes to win, and they captured the Gold. The other Chinese team, Zhang and Zhang rallied to get back to Bronze, and the Ukranian team of Volosozhar and Morozov got the silver.
Here’s the medals ceremony — they bring rubber walkways out and the small podiums.
As at the Olympics, flags are raised at the other end of the rink, and the national anthem of the winning country is played.
Here are this year’s winning pairs teams.
I wanted to stay and get pictures of this, so we were late getting out of the arena for dinner, and all the restaurants were packed. We walked down to a Sushi place that I wanted to try, and were able to get seated fairly quickly, but it took over an hour to get our dinner, so we were late getting back for the evening session, and missed the first four ladies, including Sarah Hughes, who was brought in to replace Sasha Cohen. We don’t know why Sasha couldn’t be here, she’s all over the posters and advertising, and Sarah must have been a last-minute substitute. She didn’t do very well, Ellen said she hasn’t skated in competition in over a year. We’ll see her in the long program tomorrow.
Inside the arena, the atmosphere was quite different this evening. If there was any question what the big draw is in figure skating these days, the much larger crowd would answer that. The main, lower seating area, which had been less than half full, was now close to full, and there was even a large group of Korean fans in the balcony bleachers, here to see their national heroine Yu-na Kim. Many other Kim fans were in the audience, and they even had group cheers for her. There were many signs celebrating Queen Yu-na, and she’s so big in Korea I bet she could get appointed there as one if she wanted to.
Instead, she simply performed with her usual elegant brilliance, a great program to music from James Bond films, and she took the lead by a wide margin.
After an intermission, the Men had their final Free Skate. Many of the Koreans had left, obviously here only for one thing, but the audience was still larger than earlier sessions, and many of the performances were excellent. Tomas Verner struggled, again falling on his Quad, and didn’t finish well, but American Ryan Bradley did very well in a fun performance to Mozart, and Canadian Shawn Sawyer also did fine. The best was last, though, as Evan Lysacek brought another very strong performance to the ice. There were a few tiny mistakes, but his superior skills and concentrated intensity gave him an easy Gold. Sawyer got the Silver and Bradley the Bronze.
Having seen earlier where to go for a good after-medals photo op, I got this nice one of the winners. I think Lysacek has a good chance to reach the medals at the Olympics next year, and we’ll be watching.