Athletes Meet the Press at Marshalls Challenge

by Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Michelle Kwan during practice Saturday
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

2005 Marshalls Challenge News and Photos

(12/10/05) - Activities surrounding the 2005 Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating Challenge kicked off Saturday at Boston University's Agganis Arena with rehearsals and media roundtables for the participating skaters. Many of the skaters had trouble getting into Boston due to the winter storm that dropped up to 10 inches Friday around the eastern United States. Sasha Cohen was not able to attend the press conference due to travel issues but will meet with reporters tomorrow after practice.

Late addition Matt Savoie joins was the first up for the 15-minute media chats. His skates are still in transit, although his clothes and costumes are here because they were shipped ahead. A local club offered used skates to Savoie so that he would be able to block out his programs in rehearsal. They were being sharpened and will be at the arena later in the day.

After making an error is his program at Skate Canada in October, Savoie said he made a poor choice of trying to re-choreograph on the fly, causing him to lose even more points under the new judging system. Since the Grand Prix Series ended, Savoie said his “focus is on scenario building” in run-throughs.

In the past, Savoie has always said that going to school has been a good diversion. Now that he is between receiving his graduate degree in urban planning and has been accepted and deferred admission to Cornell law school, he has found a new way to take a break from skating.  He's volunteering at Prairie State Legal Services working with indigent individuals who need various legal advice.

For Marshalls, he has planned an operatic piece and a scat version of “Summertime.”

12:15 p.m.
Michael Weiss was asked a series of questions about injuries, given that so many skaters seem to be suffering them this season. He explained that he's been relatively injury free for years. 

“I've learned to listen to my body more,” he said. “When I was younger, I would pound and pound until I got a certain number of jumps done.” 

Now he's been smarter with his training, going for a percent instead of numbers.

Weiss had definite opinions on the value of the quad jump under the new judging system, saying the values need to be adjusted. He said hundreds of skaters can do triple-triples, but maybe only 10-20 can do quads. To have a triple-triple worth more than a quad-double does not acknowledge the difficulty of the four revolutions.

At the end, Weiss was asked if his kids understand that their dad is trying to make his third Olympic team. He said that they now understand what it means, and that he has gone to Annie Mae's school to talk about skating and the Olympics.

For Marshalls, Weiss has planned a George Michael medley (with tornado backflip) and for an encore, his short program.

12:30 p.m.
Timothy Goebel is wearing a blue shirt that really brings out his eyes. Not that Tim has a lot of choice in clothing, because he doesn't have his luggage yet. His flight to Boston was cancelled, so he was rerouted to Hartford.

“My skates are in Boston in a van,” he said. “They went to Chicago. I don't know why. Maybe I'll get frequent flyer miles for them!”

In an interesting contrast to what Michael Weiss said, Goebel said he felt that he needed to get repetitions in to keep his jumps strong. He did say he felt the challenge was finding the balance between doing enough to get the reps and trying not to get injured.

He plans on changing his short program for the 2006 State Farm U.S. Championships to include the quad. He said that Evgeny Plushenko, Stephane Lambiel and Brian Joubert will be doing them at the Olympics, and that having one in his program for St. Louis was important.

The subject of the quad and its value came up with Goebel as well.

“Novices at nationals do triple Lutz-triple toe,” he said.

When asked what point value a quad should be worth, Goebel said that whatever the difference in points is between a double jump and a triple—the difference between triple and quad should be twice as high.

“If this is a sport, we need to do the whole Faster Higher Stronger thing,” he said.

Goebel also commented that he would like to be a technical specialist when he's done competing, and that he wouldn't necessary need the instant reply since he can spot a two-footed jump from the upper level of the arena.

His music choices for Marshalls are his Adagio program that he used on Champions on ice and an encore would be his short program.

12:45 p.m.
Johnny Weir is up next, wearing torn jeans, a cream sweater, and Ugg boots.

“Ugg boots are so out, but they're warm,” Weir explained.

He talked a lot about his rough autumn, and that he never felt right. Now, he says, he's on the rebound. He said he doesn't regret dumping his “Liebestraum” program but has struggled with his current one because judges who reviewed the program told him it was too easy and would only receive level ones. He also blamed part of the problem on a cursed outfit.

“That (long program) costume is dead. Three strikes and you are out.”

Asked what one does with a dead costume, Weir said he rolled it into a ball, wrapped it in plastic, and gave it to his costume designer to deal with. A lot of the beading can be salvaged to live again on a new outfit.

The subject of Plushenko came up and Weir talked about sitting in the kiss and cry at Cup of Russia, watching him skate.

“He's men's superstar,” Weir commented, saying that every other man is shooting for second place.

Weir's music choices are “Unchained Melody” and “What a Wonderful World” for his second program. Due to a lack of time, the latter program is actually his novice show program, the first exhibition one he ever did.

1 p.m.
Alissa Czisny credits her success this season to learning a lot from previous years, most importantly to focus and not be nervous. In the past she looked to see who was there and what they were doing, something she will try to avoid in St. Louis.

Bursitis and lumps on her foot (the size of a golf ball) would not allow Czisny to get her regular skates on. She was recommended to try the hinged boots, which she did and has had success with. A new version came out, which she tried, but the one was “twisted” and not aligning properly. For Marshalls she is wearing the new boot on her right foot and went back to her old one for her left (landing leg).

Czisny's music for Marshalls is “Someone Like You” from Jekell & Hyde, which was choreographed by her twin sister, Amber. Her second program is from Madame Butterfly.

1:30 p.m.
Emily Hughes was asked how her recovery from meningitis is going, and she said every day she's getting strong and is pretty much fully recovered.  She is keeping up with her school work “although it's not always on time,” she laughed.

Her goal in Boston is to skate better than her last competition, which is what her goal always is. Her previous competition was at Cup of Russia, where she enjoyed the draw ceremony at President Putin's. She did not, however, help herself to extra special souvenirs, instead buying some.

The inevitable questions about Sarah came up, and Hughes was classy as always, saying she looks up to her Olympic champions sister as a role model.

Her first program is to a Gloria Estefan medley, and her second is to Simon & Garfunkel's "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her." Hughes' mom named her after the song.

1:45 p.m.
Last but certainly not least was Michelle Kwan. She took her seat, smiled, and said, “It's good to be back!”

Of course there were questions about her injured hip, which is notwhere she wants it to be.

“The pain is manageable,” she said. “I'm optimistic I can push as hard as I need to for nationals. I just have to be careful how much I can push.”

When the injury got to the point she needed to stop practicing, it was ironic that skating was easier than walking. The pain was so bad that Kwan said she couldn't even get out of her bathtub. She said she thought her season was over the injury was so painful.

After two weeks off ice, just stepping on the ice hurt, and she had to keep backing off. Kwan said it was very frustrating, saying she couldn't do much. No running on the treadmill, just watching on TV.

She said she was looking forward to competing at Marshalls, even if she is not physically perfect.

“I want to get the ball rolling,” she said.

When she was allowed back on the ice, she was only allowed 30 minutes on the ice. Now she is up to two session of about an hour each, still short of the three hours a day she prefers when she's is training full out. She said she's come off an injury before the Olympics in the past—in 1997 she had a stress fracture of her toe that had her in a cast before the 1998 U.S. Championships.

“I've done this before!” she said.

Kwan said she would like “a good month” more for her recovery. She felt that the new judging system was a big enough challenge for her, so the hip injury was much more than she wanted to deal with. She said she “can't refuse to do it” (new judging system) but implied she missed the days when “a camel spin used to be good or bad.”

She would not reveal her new free skate music but did confirm her short is the same as Irina Slutskaya's (Liszt's “Totentanz”). She said the same choice was “no big deal” and likened it to the 1988 season Battle of the Carmens with Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas.

For Marshalls, Kwan's first program is her short program and her encore is “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban.

She also confirmed she is an aunt once again, as her sister Karen recently gave birth to Sophia Oppegard.

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