Good morning from Rouen. It is Saturday, February 2, 2013.

The 7:30am wake-up call to do hair and make-up for our official practice came very early for our girls.  Having just arrived back at our hotel less than 8 hours before from a late night skate, some of our girls only got a few hours of sleep. The team is definitely tired this morning.
As we climbed onto the bus, the girls tried to get pumped up, but most were just staring into space longing to be back in bed. The good news is that we didn’t lose our team at the rink this time  J We found an area to warm-up and the girls looked good.  But if any of you have ever been tired before, you know it takes a lot more energy to move your bodies when you are tired than when you are fresh. The girls took the ice and skated their first program.  It was ok, but not their usual quality.  They were a little slow and not very sharp.  You could tell they were tired.  On the first axel of the program, although we didn’t know it at the time, Amy’s lace broke and she skated the rest of the program with an untied skate.  We found out when she came over to the boards after the first run through and handed our team leader ½ her skate lace.  The lace was so short that she laced only 1 hook and then tied a bow.  She said she is good.  Amy is always good.  She is a true competitor. The second play of music started and the girls picked up the program after the intersection.

The second run through was better than the first, but still, we looked tired.

After we got off the ice, Kathi and I decided that the girls would not be coming back to watch the other USA teams today as they took place in the middle of the day.  Instead, we allowed them a 5 hour break to go back to the hotel and sleep. Not one girl objected to more sleep.
It was a quiet and uneventful middle of the day as everyone was in their rooms sleeping.

5:00pm rolled around and it was time to get ready for a 7:15pm departure for the rink.
It was my job to find the girls dinner.  We decided that subway sandwiches would be a good choice… not to heavy but something to fill their tummies.  I had all the girls write down what they wanted on their sandwiches.  All the girls wrote down the meat, bread and vegetables they wanted on their sandwiches.  (They are getting pretty good at writing in French…. Jambone, Blanc, laitue, tomate, cornicons, concombre, et a la moutarde (Ham on white bread, lettuce, tomato, pickles, cucumber and mustard) Poor Amy.  She ordered a Vegetarian with only Mustard.  What she received was bread with Mustard.  Nothing else in the sandwich.  Just bread and mustard.  It was pretty funny.  Of course, some of the other girls shared their sandwiches with her.

So, it is time to leave for the rink.  We made sure we had all our dresses this time.  As usual, the girls were playing their music and singing away. Then they started chanting for Team Manager, Dee, to dance for them… If you haven’t heard, if the girls play a particular song while on the bus to a competition performance, the coaches have been known to dance down the aisles.  Dee did it.  She started dancing.  So, of course, not to be outdone, both Kathi and I started dancing as well.  For a few brief moments, all three of us were dancing for the girls. The team was loose and relaxed singing the rest of the way to the arena. When we arrived, we had a little difficulty finding a warm-up spot, but Kathi found a nice quiet area in the lower level of the arena.
The girls spent the next 30 minutes warming up.  They were waaayyyyyy sharper and more alive than this morning’s practice.  They were ready. Into the locker room they went.  The locker room was small.  No room to dance, but the music was loud and the girls relaxed.
It was time.  Our team leader, lead us out holding the American flag.  When we stepped into the arena, the seats were packed.  There are tons of people in the audience.  But although we had practiced visual cues to start our warm-up block and program in case we couldn’t hear our skater call out our signals, it wasn’t as loud as we had expected. Our name was called… well, not really.  They never pronounced our name right this entire trip.  Although Kathi and I tried to help the announcer pronounce it correctly, I don’t think it was possible with his French accent.
So out they went.  Our girls did their warm-up block.  They look so beautiful in their pretty blue dresses. They struck their pose.  The music began. First element is their creative element.  They vaulted, split jumped and nailed all four axels.  Good job. Then came the lines.  One of their strongest elements.  It was awesome. Then the angled intersection…  I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but we had a major crash on this element in our first run through of our official practice this morning.  Both Amy and Allison went down pretty hard.  But not tonight… they pushed through it and it was one of our best intersections to date.  Whew, happy that element is out of the way. Then comes the circle.  Ever flowing and breathing in and out, they are beautiful.
Then the pivot block.  I am saying to myself, “come on, push, get it around.  Get 270… and they did, it was good. Then the lifts.  They all went up and rotated in perfect unison and landed all at the same time… I don’t think I have ever seen them do it better. They are on tonight!!
Then the wheel.  Good shape.    They needed to travel to the red line, and they did.
Now comes my favorite section.  The crowd-pleasing cartwheels.  They were perfect and on-time.  This is definitely not the same team that practiced this morning.  This is ICE’Kateer senior in all their glory. Next came the no hold block.  Not perfect, but it is good. Then the llusions.  Perfect.  You can hear the crowd cheer. Then the box intersection.  It was fast and clean. The music is building.  They are doing great! Now comes our moves in the field.  The spirals went up.  The girls did the duck under.  It was good, but wait, the last four girls of the back line are overtaking the front four girls of their line.  There is nowhere for the back four girls to go.  The back four girls are staring right at the blades of the front four and moving closer towards them. They are surely going to crash right into the spiral legs of the front four girls.  This is not going to be good.  But wait, the back four girls all ducked their heads down and passed right under the legs of the front four girls.  How was that possible?  I am not sure, but they did it.Then come our spreads.  Oh those dreaded spreads.  I hate them.  They hit the spreads and then one of our pairs popped out.  Darn, darn, darn.  Shoot. Shoot.  Darn.  I hate those spreads. Then on to the 135 leg lifts.  They were awesome.
Up came the lift on our ending pose, and 4 ½ minutes after they started, they were done.
What an amazing night.  Another great performance!! The girls are so excited.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was great!!!I think our team leaders were almost more excited than the coaches.  They came up and gave us big hugs.

What a weekend.  Between both programs, the only negative score we received was from the last spreads in the long program.  Everything else was either zeros or pluses.
Oh, and our placement? We finished 11th.  May not sound very impressive, but just consider that Hayden finished 7th in this competition.  We are coming home very happy and excited to work even harder for nationals. And there was a special treat at the end of the competition.  As we were walking out, one of the LOC members said, we cannot go.  They needed one of our girls to go out onto the podium to receive an award.  Hugh?  Yes, they give a trophy to the countries whose combined scores were the best in the competition.  Finland had the best combined score, followed by Russia and then the United States.  So, one of our girls, along with two other Team USA girls, got to stand on the podium and watch the American flag being raised alongside Finland and Russia at the end of the night.  What a special treat.

Unfortunately, I do not have video for you tonight of our long program.  We are having internet issues at the hotel.  I have been trying to upload our video for the past 4 hours and we keep losing our internet connection while uploading.  It is 3:45am and our bus leaves for Paris at 7:30am, so I am going to give up on the video for tonight (this morning) and try again when we get to our hotel in Paris.  Sorry.

 

Just know that our girls had an amazing experience.  They performed at their best and can proudly say they are…. Team USA!!! Have a good night and we will see you when we get back to the states.
John

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