Top U.S. Skaters Entertain at Marshalls Showcase

by Amy Rosewater, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Evan Lysacek forgot his pants, so he borrowed a pair from Johnny Weir.
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla

2007 Marshalls Showcase Photos

(4/6/07) - Usually, it's Johnny Weir's costumes we're talking about.

This time, it was Evan Lysacek's.

The U.S. champion from Hollywood Hills, Calif., forgot to bring the pants of his costume for the Marshalls U.S .Figure Skating Showcase Friday night in Reading, Pa., so he borrowed a pair from none other than Johnny Weir.

“They're a little short and tight,” Lysacek said of Weir's plain black pants.

Lysacek didn't offer any excuses when ABC-TV's Peter Carruthers questioned him about it in front of the crowd in the Sovereign Center.

“Tired,” Lysacek said.

That's pretty reasonable considering Lysacek, along with the rest of the cast, is skating in his final event of the season. He won his first U.S. title back in January in Spokane, Wash., with two thrilling programs. Then he rallied from fourth place to win the Four Continents crown. Late last month, he placed fifth at the World Championships in Tokyo.

Despite the fatigue, Lyscaek said he is skating “better now than I was at Worlds.”

“I sort of wish I had another Worlds to give it another shot,” Lysacek said.

Lysacek didn't have to worry about landing any quads or calculate component scores tonight. All he had to do was entertain.

And he did. So did the rest of the stellar cast.

Every medalist from the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships in each discipline - men's, women's, pairs and ice dancing - performed two exhibition programs apiece in the Sovereign Center, which will host Skate America in October.

The nearly three-hour show also included performances from some of skating's up-and-comers. All of this year's U.S. World Junior medalists – Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, Ashley Wagner, Stephen Carriere, and Rockne Brubaker & Keauna McLaughlin – also performed in the show, which will be televised April 14 on ABC.

The evening kicked off with U.S. silver medalist Emily Hughes skating to Tina Turner's “Proud Mary,” and the energy just continued throughout the night. America's best skaters performed to a variety of music, ranging from Pink Floyd (U.S. pairs champions Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski) to Barry Manilow (Rena Inoue & John Baldwin).

There were plenty of familiar faces: Lysacek, Weir, Kimmie Meissner, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, and Sasha Cohen, who opted against competing this past season but hasn't ruled out a comeback.

Meissner, the 2006 World champion and reigning U.S. titlist, performed her first routine to Avril Lavigne's “Keep Holding On.” Meissner, who finished fourth in the 2007 World Championships, told the audience that she feels “more determined” for next season. The lyrics to her program echoed that thought, especially these: “I won't give in.”

Sasha Cohen back on the ice
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
An upbeat Meissner talked about upping the ante for next season, possibly adding loop jumps at the end of combinations instead of toe loops. She also talked about completing her driver's education program and getting ready for her high school prom. A senior at Fallston High School in suburban Baltimore, Meissner already has her prom dress. She got it shortly after returning from the World Championships in Tokyo.

Now all she needs is a prom date.

“Hopefully,” she said with a grin, “my date will be Brian Joubert.”

Like Meissner, Hughes is also looking forward to the end of her senior year of high school. When she returned from Worlds, she received seven college acceptance letters. She hasn't decided where she will go next year, but her choices are impressive: Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Barnard are among her choices.

Meanwhile, Cohen was just happy to talk about skating again. After winning the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino and the bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships, Cohen decided to take a hiatus from skating this past season. She has spent much of the last year taking acting classes.

“This is fun,” Cohen said. “It's purely for the love of skating.”

But will she make a return to competitive skating?

“It's different,” she said. “It's a formula.”

Cohen, 21, has not been training for competitive skating much, but the absence from training seems to have made her love for the sport grow. She's also intrigued by her hometown of Los Angeles hosting the 2009 World Championships and possibly competing in another Olympic Games in 2010.

She knows such a comeback road would be difficult, especially when she watches the likes of the youngsters - Nagasu, Zhang and Wagner - reel off triple jumps with ease.

“They're incredible,” Cohen said. “They're phenomenal.”

“Wow, they're so little,” added the 5-foot-2 Cohen.

“I think, ‘Was I ever that little?' I think the U.S. is going to do really well.”

(For the record, Nagasu is 4-7. Zhang is 4-9.) Judging by the way the junior women skated tonight, Cohen's prediction might be correct.

Nagasu, who turns 14 just two days after this event is broadcast, performed to “Don't Stop Me Now,” by the 1970s rock band Queen. Zhang wowed the crowd with her lyrical performance to Celtic Woman's “You Raise Me Up.” Wagner skated to “Steam Heat.”

Johnny Weir, Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov performed a number about fallen angels.
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
Nagasu won the U.S. junior title. Zhang captured the World Junior title. Wagner won the bronze medal at both the U.S. Championships and World Junior Championships. Nagasu and Zhang admitted they were a little bit nervous about skating with many of the sport's big stars.

“I think it's really cool to skate on the same ice as them,” said Zhang, an eighth-grader from Irvine. “I spent a lot of time, like, looking at them.”

The Marshalls event marked just the second time Nagasu had ever skated under full spotlights.

The show atmosphere let the skaters let loose. U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley got the crowd going with his intricate footwork, disco music and back flip. Belbin and Agosto went hip hop. Lysacek's second routine was to music by the ‘80s band INXS.

Weir, meanwhile, teamed up with four-time U.S. ice dancing silver medalists Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov for one routine. The three came up with the concept during their 12-hour flight back from Tokyo. They even ran the idea past Susie Wynne on the flight.

The routine about falling angels was put together in a hurry; five days to be exact. Although it was still in its infancy, the program was well received by the audience and offered an innovative touch to the night. Fans might get other opportunities to see the trio skate together at other shows.

“We just wanted to get it out there,” said Gregory, who like Petukhov and Weir was covered in blue eye makeup and had silver glitter in her hair.

All three wore light blue costumes, complete with plenty of beading. And fittingly, the zipper on the back of Weir's costume fell apart. His longtime coach Priscilla Hill hurriedly sewed his costume together just before they skated.

“It was an evening of malfunctions,” Weir said.

There you have it.

We ended up talking about Weir's costumes after all.