Today I only caught the last group of the afternoon ladies practice, and then the pairs long program. There was also a morning practice, and all I heard was that Michelle Kwan and Nicole Bobek did good, but Tara had a so-so practice, which included a fall.

When I got to the practice rink, the second group was almost done, so we just waited by the curtain area to watch the skaters come in. Angela came first, and was very sweet by signing autographs and taking pictures. Michelle was next, with a huge smile on her face, and we all congratulated her. Same with Nicole. We knew Tara was coming next, because the security guard had jump over the ropes, and run to the door to escort her in. She went by us pretty fast, but she was still smiling. Both Tonia Kwiatkowski (who was in the earlier practice) and Amber Corwin did not come to the practice. It was obviously a jam-packed session, and the most "big name" skaters on the ice together during the whole week. It was impossible to watch them all at the same time. I watched Michelle a lot of the time, but I did watch Nicole, Tara, and some of Angela's runthrough. I also watched them during the time Michelle talked with her coach (which was a lot.) Other than Angela, none of the skaters did a complete runthrough. Nicole was first, and did very well. During her runthrough, she did land the triple lutz/triple toe, but stepped out of the second jump. She left the ice pretty early. Next up was Tara. She also did not completely runthrough her program. I did not see her triple loop/triple loop...she seems to be having trouble with that lately. Everything she did was clean, though. Later, when Angela skated, not as many people clapped (I guess because they were watching the other skaters), which is a shame. She touched down on the lutz, singled the salchow, and turned out of the double axel. Last up (since Tonia wasn't the way, this is the order for the free skate, with Amber skating after Tara, and Tonia skating last) was Michelle. She didn't do a complete runthrough either, and she skipped some of her jumps (I assume it was at least the toe and salchow, because her doctor told her to do only one a day of each.) On her combination, the triple loop/double toe, she double footed the last jump. Everything else was great. She fell on a jump (the flip, I think...I caught it at the last second), but landed it on her second try. All in all, it was a good practice for all the ladies, and, as always, they all stayed and signed autographs for the fans. Tomorrow is the big night...the ladies final. I can't wait! I hope everyone skates a clean program.

If you do not want to know about the pairs final, stop reading here!

Unfortunately, the event was less dramatic as it should have been when Jenni Meno and Todd Sand withdrew. She sprained her ankle in the practice about 30 minutes before the event started on a throw. Before the group even came out, the rumor that they would withdraw was floating around the ice, especially after a doctor was paged. They did come out for the warmup to see if she could skate, but she was obviously in pain. I was in the front row at the time to take pictures, and when she landed the double axel right in front of me, the pain on her face was heart wrenching. I saw Todd ask her if she could skate. I didn't see her answer the question. She skated over to John Nicks, hugged him, and I knew it was over. Such a shame. They were doing so well in practice (my friends were at the practice this afternoon, and said they did great.) They did get a bye to the Olympics, though. After it was announced that they withdrew, everyone started saying that they should give Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen the gold medal now. Onto the competition... Most of the pairs made mistakes tonight. Such a shame. Stephanie Woodman and James Peterson skated to "Evita", my second favorite movie, so I was rooting for them. Unfortunately, she fell out of her double flip, landed the throw double axel on her knees, and fell on her double flip. So much for picking favorites based on music selection. ;-) Also, I saw that Calla Urbanski was coaching them.

Danielle Hartsell and Steve Hartsell did better than their short. She touched down on her triple toe, he barely landed the double axel, and they again had unison problems on their spins, but I really like them. They finished third. However, the most exciting performance of the night (and one of the most exciting of the week) was Tiffany Stiegler and Johnnie Stiegler. From the first time I saw them, I knew that they were going to be great...but not this fast! They were one of the few couple to have a clean program. When she landed the throw triple salchow, the look on her face said it all. Very exciting and moving. The first standing ovation of the night, with many people waving the "6.0" sign. Plus, they finished fourth, so they were able to come out for the medal ceremony, which the audience was very happy about. Shelby Lyons and Brian Wells did pretty good. She doubled, and he fell on their triple loops. Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen did a great performance technically. Obviously, the best of the night. Still, they don't really do anything for me. I think they are great, but I like well-rounded program, and the number didn't really move me. Still, they are the well deserved champions of the couples that competed.

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Photo Heather Winfield