The hard work came to an end Thursday when the contestants in Skate America finished their practice rounds under the watchful eyes of coaches and a few die hard skating fans who had passes to the session.
I watched the practice sessions with several people who were part of the figure skating scene, a couple of coaches, a couple of bloggers and even the hosts of a YouTube site called The Skating Lesson.
The way the practices work is that half of a particular field (menâ€™s ladies, pairs and dance) take the ice and warm up. The each of the skaters gets to run either the short program or the long one.
The most interesting thing is that during the program practice the other skaters donâ€™t leave the ice. They continue to work on their stuff until itâ€™s time for them to practice an entire program.
While the skaters work, they often stop and talk briefly with their coaches who line the rink like proud parents watching their kids take their first steps.
One of the most intriguing pairings was Gracie Gold and her top-hatted coach, Frank Carroll.
Gold is the best American lady skater and the current U. S. champion. She placed fourth at the last Olympics and fourth at the last World Championships.
Carroll, who is 75, has coached three world champions: Linda Fratianne, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. He watched his athlete like a hawk, never changing his expression of dead-on concentration. When Gold skated to him, heâ€™d put his hands on her waist or shoulders and talk earnestly as she clearly carefully listened.
The experts around me, including Dave Lease, one of the hosts of The Skating Lesson YouTube show. He shot Goldâ€™s performance with a handheld video camera and returned to the experts after he watched the long program.
"She didnâ€™t look great," he said. "She has all the skills. She should be out here looking to kill someone. But looking into her eyes, it looked like she was going to get killed. Itâ€™s all about attitude and confidence."
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