I didn't get home until after midnight today, and I am exhausted, so I will try to be as brief as possible.

Today was one of the days that I have been looking forward to! The ladies practices...including my personal favorite, Michelle Kwan. If you were at the practices before the skaters came out, and didn't know which discipline was skating, it was obvious by the biggest crowds at the practice sessions that I have attended. The media frenzy surrounding Tara and Michelle was amazing. I felt sorry for the other skaters in their groups, because the camera men mostly followed the two of them. There were so many photographers and reports there, and the majority of them left after the Michelle's practice (the second of three groups). There was also a lot more security today than the past few days. Onto the practices. First, the short program practice...

Included in the first group were Tara Lipinski, and Shelby Lyons. I was standing behind the skaters when they took the ice, and I couldn't believe that Shelby is even shorter than Tara! There was some problem with Tara's music. She took the position to start her program, but the music never started. I saw that there was a long discussion between her, her coach, and the person in charge of the music. Her coach looked pretty upset. So, she ended up not doing a runthrough of her short program. She had a good practice, landing the majority of her jumps cleanly. Shelby Lyons's practice wasn't as clean. She fell a few times on her triple lutz, but she did end up landing the triple lutz/double toe combo a few times.

Before the second group took the ice, my mom spotted Michelle's mother. She talked with her a little, and then I talked with her, and told her what a huge fan I was, and that I wished her luck. She was very shy, but she seemed happy at that. The second group consisted of Michelle Kwan, Tonia Kwiatkowski, Brittney McConn, Cohen Duncan, Alice Sue Claeys, and Christine Kong, although Cohen Duncan and Christine Kong did not show up. I have to admit that I watched Michelle about 99% of the time, and Tonia the rest of the time. I did see Brittney land a few nice jumps. Tonia did a runthrough of her nice program. Michelle had a great practice! When it was her turn for a runthrough of her short, they didn't even play her music. However, later on, she skated her complete program. She landed the triple lutz/double toe, triple flip, and double axle. She also landed a few triple loop jumps, but I didn't see any triple loop/triple loop combos. Her spins, footwork, and spirals were fabulous.

Before the end of the practice, I ran over to try to get an autograph and picture. She was whisked away from the rink by security. First, they said that she was taking off her skates. Then, they said that she would not stand there and sign autographs...that she might sign some as she walked. Then, they said that she might sign by the door. So, most of the people ran over there. But, I decided to stay there. I figured she had to come out that way, and maybe she would sign for a few people. Then, the security guard whispered to us that she would come out and sign...but don't say anything because he didn't want a commotion. So, finally, she came out. There was such a huge mob, and I was scared that some of the little kids would get crushed because everyone was pushing. I have to say that Michelle is even more beautiful in person than on television. I finally got up there to get her autograph (I brought my copy of this month's International Figure Skating Magazine, which she is on the cover.) While she was signing, I told her that I have a website on her, and that it was picked in the February issue of the "Web" magazine as being the best Michelle Kwan site on the Internet. She said, "Oh really? That's exciting." I asked if I could have a quick picture, and she said sure! It was so exciting! (I later saw that they showed this on the news!) I wished her luck, and she said thank you. She was so nice. (For example, there is a rule that there is no flash photography at all...even when no one is skating. Someone took a picture with her, and said that the flash might go off. She said, oh, that's fine, although I think the security guard was upset at that.) She stayed until everyone that wanted an autograph (and there were a LOT of people there) received one. She then left surrounded by security, and most of the photographers and reports left after that. This made my week...and the competition didn't even start yet! I caught up with Tonia just as she was leaving. She was VERY nice (I have heard many of the officials say extremely nice things about her.) She put all of her things down to sign my book. Unfortunately, I was out of film, so I couldn't get a picture. She is gorgeous in person, and my mom told her so. She was so happy to here that. We wished her luck, and she said thank you so much.

The third group was supposed to contain Nicole Bobek, Angela Nikodinov, Sydne Vogel, Andrea Gardiner, Emily Freedman, Sarah Devereaux, and Stacey Pensgen, but Nicole, Angela, Sydne, and Andrea were not there. I decided to leave, and come back later to see the ladies long program practice, which was supposed to start at 8:40 (although, because of a problem with the ice again, they were behind.) I wish I hadn't...some of the people I sit with stayed, and met Brian Boitano and Viktor Petrenko! I hope I see them later this week!

Once again, as soon as the ladies long program practice started, there were tons of media. This time, Tara skated a complete runthrough of her long program to the music. The number was pretty clean, although I heard a lot of people around me saying that she flutzed her jumps (I still can't recognize that!) She landed many triple loop/triple loop combinations. I think that her takeoff for the axle looks better than last year. She seemed pretty happy with her practice, and went off to sign autographs. Shelby Lyons also had a good practice, with a few errors. She left the practice a few minutes early.

In the second group, Tonia had a great runthrough of her long, with just one fallout on a jump. She was very happy with her practice, too. Michelle's practice wasn't as good as the morning practice. She did a complete runthrough of her program, but she had a fallout on her triple lutz. All of her other jumps were landed cleanly. However, in the runthrough, she did not land a combination jump. Again, her spins were fabulous, her footwork was great, and that spiral...just breathtaking! When she was done, she got the biggest applause, with people screaming for her! Later, she landed some triple lutz/double toe combo...but, again, no triple loop/triple loop, or triple toe/triple toe combinations. She didn't seem as happy with this practice, however. After the practice, she signed autographs once again. I got some more pictures of her...I can't wait to see how they come out!

The third group was more full this time. Although Nicole and Angela still were not here, Sydne and Andrea were. Sydne had a good practice, landing all of the jumps that I saw. However, Andrea had a bad practice...she fell at least twice, and fell out of a lot of her jumps. The jumps that she did land, looked great, though. Sydne left the practice a few minutes early, so I had to run to get an autograph. I told her that I talk with Dawn (who has a great website on her!), and she seemed happy about that. I told her that Dawn told me that she was very nice, and that she was right. She said thank you. She also took a picture with me. She was so nice, and talked with many fans who were still there at 11:30 at night (most left after the second practice). I wanted Andrea's autograph, but she disappeared behind the curtain. She might have come back out later, though. While I was waiting to get Andrea's autograph, I saw Christy Ness. She was very nice, and asked me to hold her coffee while she signed (and it was great to hold something warm...it is SO cold in there!) We also got a picture of her. Then, I spotted Kathy Casey. While she was signing my book, I said to her that Sydne is so nice, and she said, yes she is. We also got a picture and autograph of Rocky Marvel. My friend asked where is wife is, and he said that both Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler were in Philly training.

Once again, I had a great day! I hope there aren't too many spelling mistakes in this report...I am extremely tired, but I knew that people were counting on finding out how the ladies skated. Tomorrow, the senior competition starts! Check back for reports of tomorrow's practices, and the mens short program. I can't wait!

Also today, the Junior Ladies Short Program took place. To read about it, check out Louis DiCesari's report.


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Photo Heather Winfield