Again, I didn't get home until after midnight today, so bear with me! I attended my first competition today...the mens program. I will have a horizontal line between my practice reports, and the competition report. If you do not want to know the results of the competition until you can see it on TV (tomorrow night on ESPN2 from 11pm-1am EST), do not read the information under the line! You have been warned! ;-)

First, I attended the ladies short program practice. All of the ladies were in the practices today. The first group that went was Michelle Kwan's group. Michelle did not have a great practice. She did a complete runthrough of her program with music today, but she fell on the triple flip. She still got a huge response from the crowd. The next times that she tried the triple flip, she fell. The third time she did it, she touched down. After that, she landed it a few times. She landed the triple lutz/double toe combo a few times, and landed the triple loop, connecting steps, double toe combo twice. Her spins and footwork were great as usual, and her spiral still gives me the chills. It looks better in person! Overall, though, it was not a good practice, and she didn't look happy. On the other hand, Tonia Kwiatkowski had a great practice! She fell out of one jump that I saw, but her runthrough was great. She skated the best I have seen in a long time, and she looks extremely happy. (In other Tonia news, she was on a local sports show and said that she also believes that Michelle and Tara were locks for the first two spots, and that a number of skaters are competing for that spot. She also said that after retiring from amateur skating, she would like to commentate.) Also in this group, Cohen Duncan showed up, but didn't land many jumps. During her runthrough, she had a nice Biellmann spin, but her leg was bent during her spiral. I didn't see much of Brittney McConn, Alice Sue Claeys, and Christine Kong, but I did see that Brittney had trouble with some jumps.

The second group now included Nicole Bobek and Angela Nikodinov, which made the crowd happy. Angela did not skate to her music, and she didn't seem to do much during the practice. She talked with her coach a lot. She landed a couple of triple jumps. For a first practice, Nicole did great. She seemed to have problems at the beginning of the practice, and could not land a triple jump. She tried a triple toe/triple toe combo, but fell on the second jump. Towards the end of the practice, however, she did it perfectly! She landed several great double axles. Her runthrough was good, except for a touch down on her triple lutz/double toe combo. Overall, though, she looked great, and it is evident grabbing that third spot for the Olympics (even though Nicole has said in interviews that she is here to win) is going to be tough. One of the other contenders for the third spot, Sydne Vogel, had a terrible practice. She constantly fell on her triple flip (practically in the same spot Michelle did hers), but finally landed it towards the end of the practice. Her runthrough did not go well, falling on the triple flip, putting her hand down on triple lutz part of her combo, and then only adding a single toe to the end, then popping her double axle. I hope she can put this practice behind her. Andrea Gardiner had a better practice than the day before, but she still fell on her triple lutz in her runthrough.

I didn't see much of the third group because I was changing my seat (for the practices, there are no assigned seats, so you sit wherever you want.) When I got to my new seat (right in the lutz corner, and close to my actual seat for the competition) most of the jumps were right in front of me. Tara Lipinski had a good practice, but not as good as the other day. She did the lutz right in front of me, and she doubled it about 4 times. She did finally get it, though. (Apparently, when I was away from the rink, Tara fell, and had more problems with the jump.) I did see her land at least two triple loop/triple loop combos. I don't know if the double practice schedule is getting to Shelby Lyons, or if it was just a bad day (earlier in the day, she had a pairs practice, and she was in the pairs group right after this ladies one was done...more about that later.) In her runthrough, she fell on her triple flip, and triple lutz. She just seemed off today. I only saw Amy Evidente land a triple toe...not good. Amber Corwin skates her short to Walk on the Wild Side, and I can't get Todd skating to that out of my head! ;-) She only landed a single lutz, double axle, and stepped out of a triple toe in her runthrough.

I didn't see too much of the pairs. As I said earlier, Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells skated in the group immediately following the group she was in for the ladies. She had a hard time landing her jumps, but so did he. They did not do a complete runthrough. They did a few nice triple throws (I think one was the salchow, but I couldn't see the other...a camera was in the way, but the landing was great.) Natalie Vlandis and Jared Guzman were also in this group. At the beginning of the practice, he could not land a jump, and she looked really upset. They got it later on, though. In the runthrough, she fell on the double axle. Two groups later, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand skated. They looked great! Todd did land a few triple toes, though. It is apparent that they are the crowd favorites. My friend told me that their parents were giving out Jenni and Todd pins...of course, that was where I was sitting earlier! Oh well...Also, I finally got to see Tiffany Steigler and Johnnie Steigler. They had a terrible practice. I don't think I saw her land one jump.

Once again, don't read from now on if you want to wait until the competition is on TV to see what happened with the mens short program...

I can't write a lot on this because it is *really late*. First, a little observations. Before the competition started, I helped my friend, Lea, hang "Team Todd"'s banner. It says "Todd Eldredge America's Best Champion". Maybe we will see it on TV! I am really happy with my seats. It is the 6th row, but there is only one seat in front of me. Although I am not on the side where the judges sit, I am in the lutz corner, so many of the jumps are right in front of me. I can see into the kiss and cry area (as long as the cameras don't block my view), and the announcers group. Of course, Brian Boitano is commentating the mens event, and when a group of people screamed his name, he waved! Very nice. A while after Todd's performance, he and his coach sat with the commentators. I spotted Tara sitting right there too. Some people came up to her, and she signed autographs. I thought that was really nice. When she left (with a whole entourage), she waved to Todd, and he waved back.

One important one could touch Todd! He dominated most of the competition. He landed everything perfectly, and if he went last, I am sure that he would have gotten all 5.9s (he did get a few 5.9s though.) Michael Weiss, in 2nd place, did great, but his landing on the triple axle/triple toe was shaky. Shepherd Clark went first, but did great. He was SO happy after. He held onto the 4th spot, and, he has to go first in the last group for the long program. The most disappointing part of the competition (although most of the men didn't perform up to their potential) was Michael Chack. I saw him land many triple axle/triple toe combos in practice. But in the short program, he fell right in front of me. It was disappointing to everyone! He followed that up with a fall on the triple lutz. When he was done, he didn't even go to the kiss and cry area...he just stormed into the tunnel. Finally, just when the scores were announced he sat down, but his coach, Frank Carroll, didn't sit with him. I guess he was upset that he stormed out like that..I would be too. Poor Michael...he is in 14th place. Another skater I was upset with was Scott Davis. He landed his triple axle/double toe combination perfectly, and the spectators were screaming. But, he followed that up with popping his lutz. I think everyone became silent. His expression was great, as were his trademark spins. Even with the mistake, he is in 3rd place, so he has a chance. I don't know who to root for that 2nd spot on the Olympic team...I just hate to see these skaters mess up when they were landing jumps perfectly in practice. It is so frustrating for me, I can only imagine what it is like for them. Another upset...Dan Hollander stepped out of his triple axle/double toe and then popped his axle! Another gasp from the crowd. He is in 7th right now. To read an in depth review of the mens short program check out Louis DiCesari's report. I will be adding the complete results shortly. Tomorrow is the pairs short program.

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Photo Heather Winfield