Day 3 – a dress left at the hotel, a “missing” team .. and a good skate in Rouen

Hello again from Rouen.
The girls got to sleep in today.  Breakfast at the hotel ended at 9:30am so a few of the girls came down for breakfast and then went back to their room to continue their night’s sleep. At 11:30am the girls started getting ready for official practice.  Spirits were high and everyone seemed relaxed.
It started raining today.  So, although our hotel is walkable to the rink (a long walk) we were happy to have reserved a bus for the day.
At the arena, we found a quiet place to warm up.  It was just behind the ticket window.  While we were warming up, we could see busloads of elementary school children being bussed in to watch the official practice.  They were so cute.  There must have been a reflection on their side of the glass because you could see them sticking their noses up against the glass to see in.  When they saw our girls, they would wave at us with excitement.  Our girls would wave back and you could see instant smiles not only on the school children, but on our own girls as well. In the locker room we went.  I have to say, the motto of the Glacier Falls FSC is being the “fun club”.  And our girls know how to have fun.  We had a few extra minutes in the locker room so they invited our team leaders and team doctor to join them in a little dance.  They are soooo relaxed and feeling good…  Here is a video of how relaxed they are…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws1l1-X8oEs
They then went out for official practice… Our team leader was holding the American flag as we followed behind.  The crowd was already cheering for us…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reLecIQu8M4
And then they took the ice.  Oh my, something clicked.  The children instantly recognized our song and started singing “Staying Alive, Staying Alive”.  The crowd was going nuts.  They had thunder sticks and making lots of noise.  Our girls thrived and skated 2 of their best short programs “ever”.  And I do mean ever.  Kathi and I were swelling up with pride.  They look realllllllllyyyyyy good.  They will do it again tonight… They are feeling confident and are in a good mental place.
After the performance, the crowd was great.  The school children were giving our girls a high five. In the locker room a couple of our girls said that was one of the most exciting skates they have ever had… and this was only official practice.  Even our team leaders said that this was one of the most exciting officials they have seen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40naV5r7jN8
Can’t wait for tonight to show off our girls to the world!!!
So back to the hotel for a 2 hour nap as a 10:20pm skate is pretty late for our girls.
At 5:15pm we left for the rink to cheer on Team Breamar.
We got to the rink just in time to see Team Breamar.  They were beautiful.  Clean and soft in the knees.  After a fantastic skate, they are sitting in 3rd after the short program.
Back to the hotel we went.  As soon as we got back, we started preparing for our own performance.  After doing hair, make-up and eating dinner, we headed back to the rink.  The girls were ready.  They were dancing on the bus and feeling good.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGLo4av8_Cw
The next 60 minutes were a bit in disarray.
It all started when we were getting off the bus and the skaters were entering the arena, the last skater said she did not have a dress to bring in. We checked the bus, but there was no dress.  We assumed that one of the other girls may have taken 2 dresses, but the girls were already in the arena by now.  So, when everyone got together in the arena, we asked if anyone had an extra dress.  They said no.  You know what that means…. The dress was back at the hotel.  We had 45 minutes before we needed to be in our locker room.  Team Manager, Natalie, said she would go back to the hotel.  However, the bus driver brought his wife to watch our performance and both he and his wife were already in the stands, but we couldn’t find them.  Natalie tried calling a cab, but they said it would be 20 minutes before they even arrived.  So, Natalie went to the LOC and explained the situation.  Well, as best she could as not many of the LOC speak English.   It must have been a pretty funny conversation to watch.  The LOC was very nice and allowed the official bus and driver who drives the judges to and from their hotel to drive Natalie back to our hotel to search for the dress.  I don’t know how fast he was going, but Natalie was able to find the dress and bring it to the rink in time for our performance.
Whew, but wait, there is more.  During this time, the team was trying to find a spot to warm-up.  Spots are limited and all the spots that we had used previously were being used.  Kathi said she knew of one other spot that was suggested by our Team Leader, Dann.  Kathi said something and started walking to this new location which was down the stairs, make a right, then a left, then go into the practice rink and then under the restaurant (yes, this rink is like a maze)  We weren’t sure if we were supposed to follow Kathi or wait for her to check it out.  One of the girls said they knew the location that Kathi was suggesting so they started walking to that area.
With so many teams in the building, people were walking between me and the team.  Before I knew it, they were gone.  So, I started walking to the new warm-up location assuming that is where the team was.  As I was walking down the hall, I saw Kathi walking my direction.  She said that the new location was also being used.  I said “is the team with you?” She said “no, I thought the team was with you.”
Kathi and I both walked to the warm-up area.  The team was not there.  Then we walked to where we had previously met, the team was not there.  Kathi and I went in two different directions crisscrossing in the halls at least twice asking, “did you find the team?” Each time the answer was no.  Dann, our team leader was standing in the middle of the hall saying, “if I see your team, I will send them your way.”  How can you lose a team of 20 girls in an ice arena?  Each time Kathi and I crisscrossed, we would pass Dann and say, “I bet you never had a coach lose their team before.” He just smiled.  J  It was actually pretty funny…. But at the same time, a little stressful.
While we were trying to find the team, I was also on the lookout for a warm-up area that we could use.  I found that outside was our best option.  I called Kathi and she said she found the team.  Yea!!!!  They were upstairs in the spectator area stretching…. Bless their hearts, they knew exactly what they needed to do.
So, Kathi walked outside with the girls she found to start their warm-up.  As they walked by I said to myself, that doesn’t look like 20 skaters…. 6 were still missing.  So, back into the arena I went.  I went upstairs, downstairs and all around.  Found them!  Our missing 6 skaters were with Dee next to the stairs.  Finally, we had our 20 skaters outside.
But, the chaos of missing a dress, not finding a warm-up area and getting lost can sometimes do funny things to your head when you are getting ready to perform.
We tried to relax the girls as well as we could, but we could tell they were not focused.  During their off-ice warm-up, girls were missing steps and were a little off time.  We reassured the girls that they have trained and prepared well and their bodies will just go on autopilot once the program starts.
So, into the locker room they went.  They played their music, but it was different this time.  You remember the last video I sent you of them dancing in the locker room.  Not this time… there was no singing, no dancing, just a serious demeanor.  Kathi and I were saying to our selves, “they don’t have their mojo tonight.  Not sure what we are going to get”.  Then, we were about ready to do our program run through in the locker room and they knocked on our door saying we only had 1 minute… one minute!!!  They were early.  No time for a run through, girls were still taping their skates…   We quickly did our ICE’Kateer chant and it was off to rinkside to wait our turn.  Our performance immediately followed an ice cut and when we got there, the judges hadn’t even returned to the judging stand yet.  Kathi and I thought to ourselves, they hurried us for nothing.
But in hindsight, it was the best thing for our skaters.  As we were waiting for about 7 minutes, they were playing some pretty upbeat music in the arena.  The crowd was dancing and singing.  It rekindled the spark in our girls… within that 7 minutes, they went from a “dear in the headlights” look to singing and dancing and joking around.  This is the team that we know as the ICE’Kateers.
They told us to line up on the ice.  There was a little confusion as our lead skater lined up next to the board to close to center ice.  So, as the girls were filing onto the arena to wait for their name to be called, our girls were back peddling to get to the correct position on the boards.  From my angle, it looked like they were moonwalking.
Kathi and I just looked at each other with the same thought on our minds….what just happened in the last 60 minutes?
Our name was announced and the skaters skated out to start their warm-up block.  They did their one minute block and it looked beautiful.
They hit their starting pose and gave their music signal.
Immediately after the 1st note of the music, the crowd started cheering.  They were getting into the music and our girls fed off their energy.
First comes their circle.  It was great… round and evenly spaced.  Next comes their pivot block.  Kathi and I are saying under our breaths, push, push, push.  The block was good.  Then the whip, what a crowd pleaser.  They do it so fast and it is always exciting to watch.  They got through it clean.  They are really selling the program.  They came around to do their no hold and it looks good.  Oh my, they are doing it.  The crowd is loving it, the coaches are loving it, I hope the judges are loving it.  At the end of the no hold block they do their little dance and they are selling it.  Looking the judges straight in the eye, drawing them into the program.  They come around and are ready to do their spreads.  This element has caused us the most grief all year.  They nailed it.  All 16 spreads hit… both directions.   Woo hoo!!!  Now comes the spirals… they can either be good, or we can have a skater become detached and become a satellite.  They ducked under and everyone was connected.  They are going to do it!!  They transition into their 135 circle and it is perfect.
Oh my, they did it!  It was an awesome program!!  The crowed is going crazy.  The coaches are going crazy.  Dann and the other USFS delegation are congratulating us that they were great.
The girls got off the ice with the biggest smiles you can imagine.  It was electrifying!!
The girls received their scores.  A 17 for the technical score which isn’t too high, but a 28 for the bottom score!! That is a huge score.  And their total was 45.  This is a great score.  Dann, our team leader, said they beat the teams they were supposed to beat.  Although we usually never talk about other teams, to give you some comparison, Cal Gold received a 35 at their international and the Crystallettes received a 47 at their international.  Not too far back from last year’s third place team at nationals J
As the girls were leaving the kiss and cry area, several spectators came up to them asking for their autographs.  It was truly a memorable night.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZdwg5lrLd4
When we got into the locker room, not only did we congratulate the girls, but we reminded them of how awesome they were to be able to go out and nail a performance like that considering the turmoil that preceded just 60 minutes earlier.  This is an incredibly well bonded team with lots of heart and talent.  Truly a joy for any coach to work with.
So, on the bus ride back to the hotel, Kathi read the protocol to the skaters…  The first thing that stood out was that on the top score, we received no minuses.  Everything was either a 0, +1 or +2.  Wow, the quality of what we did was good.  But the bottom score is what really stood out.  We received an 8.75 from one of the judges…. An 8.75 are you kidding?  In the past, we usually got in the 6s and 7s.  So, it must have been a fluke.  But no, we received no fewer than 5 scores in the 8 range.  Wow, that is incredible…  This was our biggest bottom score in the history of the ICE’Kateers!!!  The girls really nailed the program.  It is definitely not only and audience pleaser, but a judge pleaser as well  ;-).  So why were we not higher, we didn’t get all of our “calls”.  But, the girls agreed, we can fix those things.  The girls are so excited.  Their confidence is overflowing right now.  What an exciting journey this trip has been so far.
Senior has some extreme skating times.  The girls didn’t get back to their hotel until 11:30pm and our bus leaves for the rink tomorrow morning at 9:30am for our official practice.
Long days and short nights.  But the girls are loving every minute of it.
Keep your fingers crossed for another great skate tomorrow!!!
Just in case you were a little interested in watching their short program.   Here it is J
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GnSgN3bePg
Go ICE’Kateers…. Go Team USA!!!
John

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