Well, the day finally arrived. After waiting 2 years, the first day of Nationals were here!! I was a little worried that the event would not live up to the anticipation. Well, I didn't need to! It was even better than I imagined! And the best part is, there are 8 more days left! Today, I attended the mens short and long program practices.

When I arrived for the mens short program practice, I immediately recognized many of the big name coaches. I then saw Todd Eldredge. I had heard that it isn't polite to ask the skaters for autographs before the practice because they would be too busy concentrating. But, Todd still signed for some of his fans. He even chatted a little with my mom. She asked him how he felt, and he said he was feeling great. I met up with one of my online friends, and sat 3 rows in front of Todd's parents. Then, the first group, which consisted of Todd, Michael Chack, Michael Edgren, Tim Goebel, Ryan Jahnke, and Jeff Merica, took to the ice. However, only Todd Eldredge, Michael Chack, and Ryan Jahnke attended the early morning practice. I must admit that I was mostly paying attention to Todd, so I did not see everything the other 2 skaters did. None of the skaters had a great practice...but it was only the first day. They did not even do complete run-throughs of the short. In fact, Todd didn't even skate to his music. However, he did land several triple axle/triple toe combinations, many double axles, and a great triple loop.

After the group was finished, many fans again were given autographs. I also saw pictures being taken. So, I rushed over there too. To make a long story short, when I asked him if I could take a picture with him, he said yes. I can't wait to have it developed!!

The next group consisted of John Baldwin, Brian Buetsch, Shephard Clark, Michael Weiss, Trifun Zivanovic, and Matt Savoie, although Michael Weiss and were no shows. Shephard Clark was the stand out in this group. Most of the other skaters looked very slow when compared to him. My friend even commented that he could pull an upset this week for one of the medals. He also drew a large fan gathering after the session was over.

The final group was supposed to contain Eric Bohnstedt, Scott Davis, Derrick Delmore, Dan Hollander, Matt Kessinger, and Jere Michael, but only Eric Bohnstedt and Matthew Kessinger were there. Since it was freezing in the rink, we decided to leave.

Now, the mens long program practice. This was held at another arena that was much less personal. I did not see one skater signing autographs. Although Derrick Delmore and Dan Hollander were not at the morning session, they did attend the afternoon practice. Also, in one of the exciting moments during the practice, I saw Frank Carroll, Michelle Kwan's coach, who was there coaching one of his other students, Michael Chack. I told him that I have a Michelle Kwan Fan Page, and that she has many fans. When I asked how she is doing, he shook his hand saying "so-so". That *really* upset me. I told him that she has many fans rooting her on, and he said thank you. I guess we will have to wait and see how she does on January 8th, the day of the ladies short program. One final thing of note, Todd Eldredge did a full run-through of his long program. It was the best that I have seen him this year. Later in the practice, he did a quad toe/double toe combo! It was huge, and amazing! I really hope he will be able to execute the jump that well in the competition.

For a detailed report of the mens long program practice, check out Louis DiCesari's report.

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Photo Heather Winfield