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At the US National Figure Skating Championships. (Where, alas, I did not get to ride the Zamboni.)

National Championships

Last November I saw a TV ad for the National Figure Skating Championships being held in Greensboro, NC in January. Being highly susceptible to advertising and sequins, I bought a ticket to the Skating Spectacular. That’s the exhibition held after the competition where the skaters get to have fun and dance to music with lyrics. I drive an hour to Greensboro all the time to see my headache doctor, so it was no big deal. And I already knew where to pick up a Cheerwine slushie on the way out of town.

Great seats. Or are they?

I got my ticket early, so I scored awesome seats in the second row, right behind an Alka-Seltzer Plus ad. (That’s not why this photo looks like it’s from Picasso’s blue period. That was just the low lighting.) The lady sitting next to me thought they were horrible seats and started to complain about how the stadium sucked and her hotel was too far away, whah, whah, whah. This made me realize that your attitude affects 90% of how you perceive life. I thought they were great seats and I was stoked. Complainy Bitchmonster decided she was going to be miserable and whined all the way home.

Thankfully, I was then distracted by the Zamboni, and mildly tempted to hop on board to escape my seatmate.

The Zamboni

I’ve never seen an ice skating event in person, so it was cool to see how high the skaters actually jump, how they move around the rink, and how fast the spins look outside of a TV’s 30 scan lines per minute. It was great to have actual depth perception instead of a flat 2D image. The oddest thing was to be watching an ice skating event without hearing Scott Hamilton’s voice in my head during the whole thing. I had no idea if skaters were doing double-axels or sit spins or twizzles. People jumped all spinny like, that’s all I know. I did spot the NBC commentators on their own special platform, though we didn’t get to hear them. I guess you have to pay for cable for that. They also glowed because they are saintly, or because TV lights can melt plastic.

NBC hosts

I liked seeing the little sweeper girls skate around the rink after each performance picking up stuffed bears, roses and…frisbees? Uh, ok. I bet that job is SUCH A BIG DEAL to those girls, because it sure would be to me. They remind me of the ball boys at tennis matches. They have this rather simple, yet highly public job, which would probably make me freak out and accidentally decapitate a teddy bear with my skate on national television. They did a good job, and no one fell on there faces or their asses.

Lil' Sweeper

I also got to see a few performances that are probably cut out of the national broadcast, like the synchronized skating team. I did not know synchronized skating teams exist. It was like watching a marching band on ice. (Has anyone done a marching band on ice, yet? If not, it was totally my idea first!) I played flute in marching band Freshman year, and I still remember feeling totally inept at staying in formation. So, way to go girls! They also did a spinning pinwheel, which makes me wonder if the girls in the middle ever go really fast if they’re pissed at the girls at the very end so they’ll go whipping into the walls.

Marching band on ice

My favorite skater of the night was Jeremy Abbott, who surprisingly finished 4th. He must have lost a skate or knocked over a judge during competition because he was awesome. He did a routine with a hat, which easily could have been cheesy. Yet he did lots of creative things with it and had the stage presence to pull the whole thing off. The kid put on his hat while doing a jump, so the dude’s got skills. I hope he’s not underage, because I’m not ready to be a dirty old woman.

One guy pulled off this cool move where he was skating like a snowboarder who jumps in the air and grabs their board. Except he was on the ice the whole time, crouched down balancing in a way I would have thought impossible. He must be a lot of fun in a conga line. There was also a little girl who did a routine to the Glee mashup version of Rhiannon’s “Umbrella” and “Singing in the Rain” which I enjoyed. Another girl went into a spin, and holy shit, she was spinning like a hand mixer. Hand that girl some eggs, she’ll make you an omelet right on the ice. She became a human blur. I don’t know how she didn’t fall over dizzy after that. Speaking of blurs, here’s Evan Lysacek aka The Flash:

Evan Lysacek aka The Flash

Yes, he moves so fast he is a human blur! Or, I had my camera on a low shutter speed to accommodate the low lighting. One or the other. Evan won the Olympic gold medal last year, so he wasn’t competing. He just came to show us how it’s done. It was quietly thrilling to know I was watching one of the best skaters in the world perform right in front of me. There are literally only a dozen or so people in the world at this moment who can perform at his level. The sound guy evidently isn’t one of them because he started off Evan’s performance with the wrong music! I think Evan got a kick out of if though, and after a short delay he skated his performance.

At the very end of the show, all the skaters came out for one last bow. Then they started grabbing t-shirts, stuffed animals, and frisbees from a table and threw them at us, which is only fair since they have to dodge that stuff all the time. It was rather funny to watch skaters hurling things because they’d glide backwards suddenly, demonstrating Newton’s law that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I managed to catch a frisbee, and not just any frisbee…

Honest-to-God ice skating memorabilia!

This frisbee is signed by John Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas who won the gold medal in the pairs competition! I am the owner of honest-to-God ice skating memorabilia! It was totally worth the ticket price.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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18 Comments

Merry • January 31, 2011 at 8:12 am

There’s something fun about the very word ‘zamboni.’ It’s fun to say. I hope your seatmate was impressed with Evan at least. (Probably she went back to her computer and blogged “The woman in the seat next to me was so damned cheerful! And she kept taking photos… even of the zamboni! Some people!’)

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fdr • January 31, 2011 at 10:36 am

yes, being one of those little girls is a huge deal, i can confirm that. also like the kids who bring the ‘kit’ baskets on the track for athletic events.

oh man, i’m green with envy. lucky you! well done for being organised enough to get there and have the good seats and the right attitude.

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Jackie • January 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm

I had no idea that was even happening in Greensboro. It looks like it was a lot of fun. Let me know next time there’s something like that happening and I’ll hitch a ride with you!

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Debbi Does Dinner Healthy • January 31, 2011 at 3:43 pm

What fun! Thanks for sharing. I’ve never done that either and I’ll bet it would have been a blast! Glad you caught the frisbee rather than the whiner next to you!

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theantijared • January 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Wow, I forgot about Cheerwine. I grew up in NC. DO they still have Choice orange soda?

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PastaQueen • January 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm

@theantijared – I dunno, but I will keep a lookout the next time I’m at Harris Teeter!

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evelyn • January 31, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I was there too – but I love skating so much that I got my tickets last March — for championship weekend – Friday nite through last nite – it was awesome!!!
I love your write up
I watch skating on TV all the time ( and occasionally a show) but never a competition – it was so different in person with all the drama in the arena, the way the audience connects with skaters – rejoicing in super wonderful performances (Ryan, Alyssa, pairs, Merryl and Charlie during the competitions – and Evan in the spectacular only. And the audience also really tries to support the skaters struggling – I am so so happy to have been there. I agree with you that the venue was excellent, seating was great (I was in a second row – and that is super!)- and complainer lady – well, let’s just ignore her – and hope it comes back to NC sometime in the future! Those who missed it – The spectacular will be broadcast next weekend – look it up and enjoy

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evelyn • January 31, 2011 at 11:35 pm

forgot to mention that Rise, a movie about skating now and also a commemorative regarding the whole team of US figure skaters flying to the world competition in 1951 perished when their plane went down; included in the movie will be all of the new champions as well as Evan Lysacheck; it will be shown on Feb. 17th only and in a theatre near you – look it up online to get a ticket. Enjoy!!

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Jackie • February 1, 2011 at 8:06 am

Sounds like you had oodles of fun! Used to be a figure skater myself (up in Canada but never that high up) so nationals is always a fun event to watch the up-and-coming skaters. The Canadian nationals were done the week before so I ended up watching that via online streaming.

And yes, the zamboni is always fun to watch =)

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Sheryl • February 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

Very cool. I love the synchro the rare times it makes it to TV. I have never been to a competition — only a few exhibition shows. But I always watch on TV. Sounds like you had fun!

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e • February 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Sorry PQ. I’ve already done marching band on ice in college, on an outdoor pond, no less. It’s not recommended. The lightweight instruments COULD conceivably skate and play, but bass drum and hockey skates? Don’t even think about it! And sound quality is beyond horrible because of the cold.

I doubt we were even first, as Pep bands play for lots of college hockey teams, and marching band+ice skating doesn’t seem like a big stretch, there.

Good un-vention, though!

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Pam • February 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I have loved figure skating since I was a little girl. It ticks me off when I want to watch it on TV, and my husband and sons insist it is not really a sport. I cannot tell you how many “real sports” (i.e. football, NASCAR, bowling, bull-riding, baseball, etc.) I have watched with them over the years, but can we ever watch figure skating??? NOOOOOOOOOO! Oh well, I better get over it or I’ll sound like your whining bitch of a seatmate! I went to the Ice Capades when I was young, and to one of those Disney on Ice shows when my kids were little, and loved it! I had front row seats at the Ice Capades (thanks to my Great (really great) Aunt. And I thought they were super seats. The guy with the bucket (that you thought was water) threw the confetti all over us, and I remember thinking it was all just GREAT.
I do make the family watch the figure skating when the Winter Olympics competition is on, and just so you know they’re not complete TV tyrants at my house, we watch Dancing with the Stars every season, and Evan Lysacek can not only skate, he can dance beautifully!
Thanks for sharing your experience at the U.S. National Skating Championships, I’ll never see it on TV, so it was great to live through it vicariously anyway!

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maxie • February 1, 2011 at 1:58 pm

“I had no idea if skaters were doing double-axels or sit spins or twizzles”

But your commentary was far more fun than Scott Hamilton!!

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Lydia C • February 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I enjoyed reading about your experience. I well remember getting to be at the European championships in 1996, held that year in Sofia, Bulgaria. I was teaching English there at the time. I was thrilled to watch Sonia Bonaly (spelling) and the others do what I’d most recently seen some of them do on international TV in the Winter Olympics. It was just so exciting to be in the presence of such athleticism. It was fun watching Peggy Fleming do her commentary thing, too! :)

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Rebecca in SoCal • February 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

And the move pays off again! I enjoyed your pictures and commentary very much.

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Runeatrepeat • February 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

No Zamboni ride? Get your money back!

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Sandra • February 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I just went to the European Skating championships for the first time ever too. Like you, really enjoyed seeing real live skaters doing real live skating. fun stuff, huh.

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WeePawsDOTorg • February 8, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I’m so jealous. Your seat looked awesome, so I’m not sure how the person next to you could complain. How could it be much better? I guess she wanted the equivalent of the 50 yard line or something.

I took skating lessons when I was around five. I remember my instructor had long blonde hair and it looked so cool when she would do a spin. I never got that far in my lessons. I quit after our first big ice show, an event that still gets me teased in my family. Hey, I had to pee!, and I wasn’t allowed to leave the ice. Remember, don’t eat yellow ice either, because five year olds don’t always have great bladder control. ;) That was the end of my skating career, alas. Luckily, I was much better at softball, and never once peed on the field.

I don’t know if I could go to a major skating competition and not have Dick Button’s voice in my head. I don’t know ice skating w/o Dick Button. Then again, I don’t know ice skating all that well *with* Dick Button in my ear – the terms go in one ear and out the other, even after 40 years or so of actually paying attention to skating.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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