Sunday, January 27, 2019

U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live from Detroit: Free Dance

Well that was a lot of fun!

My parents and I attended the free dance in Little Caesars Arena last night, and had a great time. Parking was a snap because we'd bought a parking pass to the structure right next to the arena, our seats were great, and the competition was fierce. And I got a chance to throw a stuffed animal on the ice - a dream of mine!

We got there right at 6:15 when the first three pairs danced. I had seen them all the night before on television, so I knew what to expect. One of them - Nicole Takahashi - skated a Russian dance with her partner, and then later on I saw her in the concourse! That was pretty cool. 

I immediately spotted the kiss-and-cry area, which was across the arena from our seats. I saw where the NBC broadcast was (it wasn't hard; just look for all the lights), and admired the GIANT jumbotron that sits over the ice. (When I went to Stars On Ice, they didn't use the jumbotron at all, so I was having fun watching it.)

Unbeknownst to me, they were doing their induction of figure skaters into the Hall of Fame, and so I got to see Timothy Goebel in person! He's one of the first U.S. skaters I remember watching and enjoying (2002 "Rhapsody in Blue" - when I realized male figure skaters didn't have to wear puffy sleeves or skin-tight unitards to perform). Of course, now his luscious locks are shaved off, which was a shame. But it was great to see him!

Out around the concourse was a variety of booths. There were several booths that sold skates, and another one full of skating dresses. Geico had a couple of sign booths where you could write words of support for the skaters; I chose to write "CHOCKIN' AWESOME!" on mine. (I dunno if it was any good; it was spur of the moment!) I enjoyed the free swag from the U.S. Figure Skating booth with all the inspirational quotes from current figure skaters! 

The crowd was definitely into it, and it was awesome getting to be part of the current that pushes the skaters on in their dances. I was worried that without analyst commentary I wouldn't know if something was good or not, but with my knowledge of ice dance I could tell when a good routine was just "good" and when something was "great." Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zack Donohue were definitely world class and a step above everyone else, but there were a few couples that showed glimpses of greatness to come. Elicia Reynolds and Stephen Reynolds had some amazing lifts, and Karina Manta and Joseph Johnson got the crowd into their "Sweet Dreams" dance with some great parallel moves. (They got my stuffed panda, who was named Eury after the Eurythmics song they danced to.) 

There was muttering among the crowd when Chock and Bates were placed second below Hubbell and Donohue. It was incredibly close, but it seemed like most of us thought that Chock and Bates' dance was better. 

My parents and I moved our seats to the third row right behind the podium to watch the awards ceremony, and we were treated to the top for pairs right in front of us, plus appearances by Charlie White, Meryl Davis, Tanith White (nee Belbin), and Ben Agosto, who were presenting awards to the skaters! 

Let's hope the snow goes away so that we can get over to the men's skate today. I gotta see Jason Brown, Vincent Zhou, and Nathan Chen compete for the top spot!

Watch my video of the night HERE:

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

BONUS: A Figure Skating Fan's Dream

I know that the World Championships and the Olympics are the pinnacle of figure skating prowess, but to be honest, this weekend might just top them all when it comes to a figure skating fan.
Not only are the U.S. Figure Skating Championships taking place in Detroit, the European Championships are also taking place in Minsk! We viewers get to enjoy double the axels, flips, and toe loops, plus the double rolling of our eyes at yet another interpretation of Carmen or The Phantom of the Opera (seriously, Alina Zagitova, don't you know there's way better soundtracks of TPOTO out there instead of the film version?).

This weekend is a special treat for me, because I am able to go to Detroit and attend the free skates for both ice dance (Saturday) and the men's (Sunday) competitions! I'll be posting about my experiences tomorrow and next week. There will probably be some video included!

If you missed any of the U.S. or European Championships, I'm sure that The Olympic Channel will be re-airing them in the coming week!

Commentary Now!

Watching figure skating on television (or online) is a very different experience than going in person. The commentators need to transmit that vibe from the arena to the people in their living rooms. Not only that, they can break down what jumps are supposed to be and whether a turn is under- or over-rotated. Why did someone fall? They can usually tell you.

However, in person I'm looking forward to feeling the vibe of a figure skating audience. It should be a lot of fun!

NBCSN recruited Ashley Wagner to be the color commentator for the women's skate at the European Championships, and she did a nice job analyzing the skaters, with most of whom she's very familiar.

Tanith White is the underrated commentator on the NBC broadcast. And not only does she do the ice dancing broadcast where needed, she also does coverage of other sports, as well!

Tara and Johnny still are fun, though they have lost their shiny spark that they had found five years ago. I think NBC had to talk to them about certain aspects that they needed to make sure to cover. But their charm still creeps out; Johnny actually said that Bradie Tennell was actually channeling Maleficent in her short program!

Missing Players

This round of U.S. Championships are being done without a few key athletes that people know. Gracie Gold and Wagner were both supposed to be competing, but Wagner chose to take a step back for now and Gold pulled away due to health. Adam Rippon retired from competitive skating, the Shib Sibs aren't competing at all this year, and Mirai Nagasu is recovering from hip surgery.

Former world champion Evgenia Medvedeva finished seventh in the Russian National Championship and didn't qualify for the European Championships. As a matter of fact, the top three Russian ladies from that championship - Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, and Alena Kostornaia - none of them were old enough to actually compete in the European Championships! (They have to be 15 before July 1 of last year, and they were all 14 or younger.) That meant the fourth, fifth, and sixth best Russians actually are representing their country, including Olympic champion Zagitova.

Orser Spotting

Brian Orser is probably even more well known now than he was back in his competitive days because of the athletes he has under his wing. Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Jason Brown, and Evgenia Medvedeva all train in Canada with him. 

So if Fernandez is competing in Minsk and Brown is over in Detroit, then where was Orser going to be? Well, Thursday evening he was in Belarus, and I sense that he's not going to be making several cross-Atlantic flights this weekend to get to Michigan. Too bad - it would have been awesome to see Orser in person.

Show Some Flair

After seeing those same 2018 skating routines so many times, it's refreshing to see our favorite skaters doing something new. (Even if it's Carmen.) Even Nathan Chen looks more relaxed with his long hair - I approve, buddy.

And what's better than new routines than new outfits?! Mikhail Kolyada is sporting a nifty black-grey-white outfit that looks way better than anything he wore last season. And Latvian's Deniss Vasiljevs was rocking some bright yellow pants to accompany his disco routine. But someone needs to tell the men that puffy sleeves does no one any good.

For the ladies, there are more of them wearing pants, which I absolutely love. I adore the color Mariah Bell wore for the short program, though seeing all those straps criss-crossing on her back makes me feel pain.

Flying High

So Javier Fernandez got to go out of the European Championships on his own terms - with a gold medal, no less! I'm going to miss his artistry - plus that dude is so good-looking. I do have to ask: can you do the same free skate two years in a row? He did The Man of La Mancha last season, too! I always thought skaters were required to do something new every season!

I really love the pair's skaters from France: Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. They won this year's Grand Prix and took the European crown this week. They didn't get an Olympic medal in 2018, but the way that they are skating, I hope they can carry their charm into 2020!

Speaking of France, there really isn't anyone better than Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron right now. Since Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir aren't competing this year, it's all about the French pair. No one is really close, to be honest - not even Hubbell and Donohue. (Speaking of Madison Hubbell, did you know she's engaged to Spanish ice dancer Adrian Diaz? I did not! It would be fun to see them skate together just for funzies.)

Tennell has really grown this season. I'm glad she's chosen some music with more depth that allows her to emote something besides happy. However, even though she's one of the top skaters in the U.S. right now, I don't see her ever rising to the top of the world stage.

Random Stuff

I'm pretty disappointed in the crowds in Detroit. Even the ladies' free skate had quite a few empty seats in great locations! Were the tickets too expensive? (I bought tickets, so I should know, and the answer is yes.) Especially when going back and forth between Minsk and Detroit, the Minsk rink is always full - even if it's the middle of the week.

I adore the musical choices of Starr Andrews. Last season her free skate featured Whitney Houston and Starr Andrews herself. This season her free skate was "Under African Skies" by John Herberman and she skated to the arrangement perfectly. She had rhythm sections, smooth sections, and all the movement that was choreographed just fit so well into the piece. She's still young; hopefully her jumps will grow into her musicality!

I am not at all disappointed that Zagitova finished second in the European Champiionships. Russia is basically a figure skating car factory: manufacture one skater to win, then discard it when another better one comes off the line. Why do you supposed Medvedeva ended up leaving Russia altogether to train?

I thought I couldn't get more annoyed at the ice dancing rhumba that was performed by every single team last season for the short program, but the tango romantico got pretty close. Almost every team picked music with a frantically playing violin and accordion (or "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago). It was refreshing when a team went outside the box, like Papadakis and Cizeron.

It was great to see far more clean programs this year. I think some of that has to do with the rule changes that emphasized a clean overall performance instead of giving way more power to the jumps. Although I do see a lot more American ladies doing spins with their arms over their heads to get a few more points here and there.

Welcome, Star!

Geez, Alysa Liu, you're only thirteen and did three triple axels in competition? And she danced to John Williams' music for her free skate. I think she gained about a bajilion more fans from this weekend, and I really hope she doesn't falter the older she gets. Just take the energy all the way to Beijing, girl! (By the way, she can't even compete in this year's World Championships because she's not fifteen yet!) If Tennell doesn't have the international star quality, I think Liu does! (Don't let us down, honey!)

I'm very excited to attend some championships, and I'll be live tweeting as well. Have a great weekend watching figure skating!

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

World Cups, Snow, and Ice

Everybody's been back to normal for three weeks and I'm now only coming back with a triumphant, "Happy New Year, everybody!"

It's been kind of a crazy few weeks. Christmas happened. Then school started back up again. Then I moved from a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house to a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment. (Thank goodness for church friends!) Only now do I finally feel like I am back to whatever I consider to be normal.

Some of that, of course, involves Olympic sports, many of which are in the middle of World Cup seasons. There's been a lot going on!

You know where I've been for the past month. But where are all the amazing athletes? Let's take a look:

Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin is busy doing Mikaela Shiffrin things. She won her third Super-G of the season and padded her World Cup lead by nearly 500 points. She has 11 wins this season alone!

Linsday Vonn came back to competition this weekend as well in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, though she didn't finish the Super-G competition that Shiffrin won. It's good to see her back so that she can finish her career on her own terms.

(And did you know that Cortina is part of the Italian bid to get the 2026 Winter Olympics? And the other country is Sweden, bidding with Stockholm?)

Ski Jumping

The men are in Zakopane, Poland, where yesterday's team competition resulted in a win for the team from Germany. The Austrians came in a close second, but Stefan Kraft won the individual event today. (And Robert Johanssohn of Norway is now sporting a beard to go with his dynamite mustache.)

The women are in Zao, Japan, where Germany's Kathaina Althaus is leading the overall standings, but Norwegians Maren Lundby and Anna Odine Stroem took the top two spots in today's competition.

Cross-Country Skiing

I adore the sprint competition of cross-country skiing, and yesterday Norwegians Maiken Caspersen Falla and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo took the classic sprint crowns. (And I just love looking up special characters for people's names!) Sprints are fantastic because each round is completed in just 3-4 minutes, and competitors usually stay very close to each other on the course, making for very exciting finishes. You know, like a sprint. That photo finish didn't help one of my favorite cross-country ski Olympians from last year, Sweden's Stina Nilsson, who ended up getting hurt as she stretched towards the line.

They still have the normal long courses, too. Iivo Niskanen took the 15km crown (classic style) today, while Therese Johaug won the 10km course in Otepää, Estonia.


Nothing new here - Chloe Kim and Australia's Scotty James took the World Cup halfpipe titles in Laax, Switzerland yesterday. For Kim, the battle was competing 1080s with her, Spain's Queralt Castellet and Arielle Gold, and Kim all spinning the crazy move in their own signature ways.


Ruhpolding, Germany was the site for the women's biathlon relay yesterday, which was won by the French team with clean shooting, while the Germans struggled with spare rounds before finally coming back to take third.

Today was Mass Start day for the men and women, with Norway's Johannes Thingnes Boe (still love that name) winning for the men and Franziska Preuss of Germany got her first career World Cup win!

Skeleton and Bobsled

The groups were in Innsbruck, Austria, confusing my mother with the city's logo; it inserts an apostrophe into the city's name, and then plasters that logo all over the sliding area. As if we already are struggling with the location of apostrophes.

Anyway, Germany took the 4-man bobsled competition, with Latvia finishing in second. In the overall standings, the Germany team is in first, but the Latvians are actually in third.

And if you're sensing a trend, you'd be right; the German women also took first, second, and fourth in the 2-woman bobsled, but Elana Meyers-Taylor's sled squeezed in and took third.

Janine Flock of Austria won the women's skeleton in a tight race that I really enjoyed watching. The opening turn was really tight, and if the athletes could maneuver through that, then they'd be in the clear the rest of the way.

The World Cup finishes the European run in St. Moritz, Switzerland next weekend before going to Lake Placid and Calgary. I'm excited to watch some live sliding in a few weeks!

Figure Skating

Their "World Cup" (AKA ISU Grand Prix) wrapped up in December, and over the next week the US and European Championships are taking place.

You can bet your bottom dollar I'll be talking about the US Figure Skating Championships, considering that I am actually going to be at the ice dancing and men's free skates on Saturday and Sunday! Not sure if it will be a straight-up blog or a blog/vlog, but I'll probably split it up over two weeks in order to talk about my experience. Make sure to watch NBC next weekend!


Curling has four rounds of World Cup competition. You may have been aware of the second leg that took place in December in Omaha, where Team Shuster beat the Swedes in a rematch of the Olympic Gold Medal match.

The next round takes place in two weeks in Jonkoping, Sweden before wrapping up in Beijing, China in May.

If you're into winter sports, now is the time to watch basically anything you want! Enjoy!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Over 180,000 people signed up to volunteer at the Tokyo2020 Olympics, and the next round of communication will begin in February. About 1/3 of the applicants were from outside of Japan, so it should be interesting to see what happens!

Applicants were invited to vote for the name of the volunteers after it was narrowed down to four: Field Cast, Games Anchor, Games Force, and Shining Blue. I voted for Games Force, know...Star Wars.

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

You know what? I think this was my last Video of the Week, but that link stopped working, so I'm going to post it again because it's so cool. Anyone like the Super Nintendo? Then you'll love this.


Thanks to my crazy amount of packing, I watched a lot of Olympic sports the past few weeks!

  • Track and Field
  • Skeleton
  • Bobsled
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Ski Jumping
  • Handball 

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!