I am so sorry that this is late! But since everything I attended was on TV, and I didn't get home until really late (plus, I watched the some of the competition again on tape), I didn't get a chance to write last night. Then, today was the exhibitions. You can read about exhibitions, plus a wrap up of the best week of my life in my January 11 report.
Today I attended the free dance, and the ladies long program. Yesterday was the last day that I attended practices (boo!) As I have said earlier, I don't know much about dance. Most of the couples in the first group were slow. Other than that, I don't know the difference between couples. Sorry! I could tell that the last group had more intricate steps in their numbers. You could see the difference between the last group, and the first two. Even though I haven't seen the tape of the competition (I don't know why it didn't tape!!), I know that the whole last group was on television (they timed it perfectly), so there really isn't much to say. I really liked Jessica Joseph and Charles Butler...they are definitely going to be great in the future (they are now!) I really don't have much more to say. Sorry (again).

Before the last dance group took the ice, someone spotted Karen Kwan in the audience. I went over to right away. She was very nice (if I am sounded like a broken record, it is because every person I met at Nationals was nice). I asked for her autograph (of course), and I talked with her a little bit. I said that I missed her at Nationals this year (she said thank you), and I asked if she will be competing nationally in the future. She responded, "I'm not sure." I told her that I think it's great that she is going to college, and that I was a freshman this year. We talked a little about that. Then, I told her that I have a page on Michelle, and that it was listed in the "Web" magazine as being the best Michelle Kwan site on the internet (and I happened to have the magazine with me because I had shown it to my friend earlier), and she said "I don't know how you do that! It's so amazing." I also told her that I know someone that has a site on her. I said that she and Michelle have a lot of fans rooting for both of them, and she smiled. Finally, I wished her luck in skating and college, and she thanked me. Then, when I went to tell my friend about Karen, she told me that Johnnie Stiegler and Tim Goebel were sitting right near her (I didn't even look!) That was pretty exciting...and my last "encounter" with a famous skater this week. :-(

Onto the ladies long program...the big event! It was sold out...19,082 people! (The attendance at this year's Nationals broke a record.) Very exciting. I brought a bear and flowers for Michelle, and flowers for some of the other ladies. The ice was showered with gifts for every skater. Although the "big names" were in the final group, the drama started early. Amy Evidente, the first skater, started her program, but then skated over to the referee. At first, no one knew what was going on. Then, she turned around...the strap on her costume broke! She looked very embarrassed, but laughed. After the referee fixed it, she started her program again, with the crowd behind her. But, at the same point in the program (about 5 seconds in), the same thing happened! Someone got a pin, and fixed it. No more problems with that! Even though she only landed 2 triples, she got a standing ovation. She was in last place before the long, but moved up one spot. Next up was Christine Kong (everyone commented that her face looks like Kristi Yamaguchi's). She (along with Trifun Zivanovic, who competed in the senior mens competition) has the strangest takeoff for the double axle. She didn't complete any clean triples, and dropped to last place. Third up was Lindsay Page, who two-footed her 1st lutz, and fell on her 2nd lutz. She ended up in 15th place. Next up was Morgan Rowe, who finished 12th. Even though she landed mostly doubles, I think she has potential. I can't explain it...just something about her. The 5th skater in the group was Stacy Pensgen. She fell a few times, but kept her 13th place from the short program. The final skater in the first group was Emily Freedman, who dropped from 11th place in the short, to 14th overall.

The rest of the skaters were on television. In fact, the competition was ahead of schedule, so the competitors had to wait to take the ice to coincide with ABC's live coverage. I won't talk about too much more about what happened because I assume you all saw it. :-) I haven't seen all of the television coverage, so I don't know if they showed the audience singing happy birthday to Andrea Gardiner. She is another skater that I really like. (I think there are a lot of great up and coming skaters in the ladies event from what I have seen this week). She did great for her first trip to Nationals as a senior. So, onto the last group.

All of the skaters had a good warmup. Nicole was first, and did great! I would have loved for her to do one of the triple/triple combos she was doing in practice. Still, it was great to see two clean, fantastic programs from her. Standing ovation. Some of the people around me were crying. Very emotional, and I would have liked the marks to be a little higher (even though she didn't do as difficult a program as Michelle or Tara, 5.7s for artistic were too low!) Next was Tara. She is much improved in artistic over last year. The landings on a few of her jumps weren't perfect, but, still very good. Another standing ovation from the crowd. Next was Amber Corwin, who I saw a few days before at the Reading Terminal. She messed up some of her jumps, but came back at the end. She dropped to 6th place. Angela Nikodinov, another skater for the future, was next. When she made her only mistake (doubling the triple salchow), her coach banged the boards.

Next up was Michelle Kwan. Again, I was SO nervous. I can't even write about this...it's too hard to express into words. I have watched her performance on television a few times, and you can't get the same feeling as if you were at that arena. Even though the crowd sounded loud on TV, it doesn't even come close to what you felt there. I actually relaxed a little after her first combination. I was worried when she went into the triple salchow (one of the jumps, along with the triple toe loop, that hurts her toe...and she was only aloud by her doctor to do those two jumps once a day), but she landed it perfectly! When she landed the second to last jump, the triple lutz, everyone was screaming. Then, she did the triple toe...the one that gives her toe the most trouble. It is a shame that you couldn't see her face on television! The last two jumps were done right in front of me, so I had a clear view of her expression. She had the hugest smile on her face, especially after the triple toe. Everyone was on their feet during her last spin. Just wonderful! Surprisingly, I wasn't as emotional during her long program as I was with her short program. However, every time I watch it on TV, I get more emotional. Just wonderful! She got eight 6.0s for artistic (what was with that judge that gave her a 5.9?!) Poor Tonia had to go after that. The crowd was on her side, though. Such a shame that she fell. Again, we were teary-eyed.

After the ladies long program, the 1998 Chevrolet Perfect 6.0 Award, which is given to the skater who receives the most 6.0s during the championships, was awarded to Michelle Kwan. In total, she received 15 perfect 6.0s in her two performances...the most ever by one skater in the Nationals!! She was awarded a red convertible! The announcer said that she is finally old enough to drive. When she was given the keys, she skated around like she was driving a car.

Every time awards were given, the podium was moved farther away from the edge of the rink, so I didn't have a good view of it. My mom went to take some pictures at the other end of the rink, so I hope they came out. All of the competitors hugged each other when they got their medals. Michelle skated over to one end of the rink, and signed some autographs, and so did Nicole (and I think Tara, but I couldn't find her), but they were ushered off the ice. Later, the dance couples came out and posed for pictures with their coach (it was cute how each of the dance couples took the picture of another couple with their coach.) All of the couples skated around and took pictures, and signed autographs, but none of them were able to get to everybody because they were forced to leave, too. It was all over. :-( A very exciting evening!

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Photo Heather Winfield