Journal-February 2017

Looking back over my website, I’ve realized that I haven’t written a journal entry in over a year. As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to keep my life more private, not tweeting or facebooking incessantly, only when it seemed to be something of mild importance. However, I would like to use this time to get a little bit more personal with you, my friends and supporters. Right now I’m on a long flight back from Four Continents and I think it’s a good time to do just that.

I finished the 2015-16 season on the greatest high of my life. I worked hard that season to improve on my consistency, to show the skating world that I was dependable and could be counted on in high pressure moments. I finished fourth at both of my Grand Prix competitions (China and Japan), with each performance improving on the previous one. The trend continued at 2016 U.S. Nationals, where, barring a fall on my quad toe in the short, I competed with confidence and gave proof to my new consistency. It was my first ever standing ovation at this event, as well as my first ever senior medal, a pewter. I was named to the Four Continents team and listed as first alternate to Worlds. As fate would have it, I would be placed onto that world team after Nathan Chen’s unfortunate injury.

I performed well enough in the short program at 2016 Four Continents in Taipei City to put myself in sixth place, securing a spot in the final warmup. Unfortunately for me, and a few other members of the team, I contracted a pretty serious case of the flu. I was stuck in bed for most of the day between the short and long and wasn’t sure I would even make it through the free skate. If you watched, I’m not quite sure I did make it through. I suppose if you count skating from the beginning of your program to the end, then yes I did. I dropped down to 8th overall, which was a decent final result, but not the one I was looking for. I promised myself that I would work even harder for Worlds and that I did.

I showed up to Boston in the best shape of my life. I could skate clean programs with my eyes closed. I knew this was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of, not knowing how many more chances I would have to compete at worlds. Given the fact that it would take place in the U.S., I was fortunate to have a large number of friends and family in attendance in Boston. My short program was a little rocky. I was quite nervous and nothing seemed to go exactly as I had trained at home. I found myself in a disappointing 16th place. I headed into my free skate knowing I would be performing my “Les Miserables” program for the final time, a program that I really connected with. I allowed myself to take in every single moment of the performance, landing my quad toe and skating a nearly flawless rest of the program. The crowd was amazing, cheering so loudly in my final choreographed sequence that I could barely hear the music. It was a moment I had dreamed about my entire life but was never sure I would ever attain. I will never forget how I felt during that free skate and those emotions will remain with me forever.

After Worlds, I proposed to Caroline on our vacation to New York City. I’ve gone over the details of this about a million times, so I will spare the time here, but I promised then, and I will always promise to cherish her, protect her and love her to the best of my ability. She is so special to me and knowing I am going to share the rest of my life with her is the greatest gift that God could have ever given me.

Coming down from this exciting year was a challenge in itself. I made a lot of mistakes that I know now contributed to my difficulties during this current season. I had never competed so late into the season, finishing in early April. I told myself that I needed time to rest and recover. I took a good six or seven weeks off from skating and then quickly realized that it was June and if I wanted to compete at the early fall internationals that I would have to get my act together pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, I didn’t finish my programs until the beginning of July. I debuted both programs a few weeks later at the Glacier Falls Summer Classic club competition where I finished a disappointing 7th. I also began to have boot problems and quickly tried to rectify the situation by switching out of the skates I had worn for nearly a decade into the Edea brand. The transition went pretty smoothly, but I only had about 10 days to get ready for Champs Camp once I got the new boots. I underperformed in Colorado Springs, but I told myself I just needed to adjust and that I would be fine at Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy in September. I was wrong. I landed my quad toe in the short program, but popped my triple axel into a single and received negative GOE for my triple Lutz. My long program that followed was a disaster. I knew I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been and my confidence began to slide.

I skated better at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany two weeks later, but only marginally. It was, however, good enough to secure me my first senior international medal, a bronze. I know I could have skated better, but I thought after my early season struggles, things might be starting to turn around. Wrong again. At Skate Canada International I blew my short program, hard. And what I mean by that is, I didn’t land one jump and scored 60 points, some 15 points less than I did in the short program in Germany. I finished dead last in the short program. I did manage to pull myself up to 8th in the long, landing a good quad toe and nice triple Axel in the second half. A few unfortunate small errors held me down, but the low short program score killed my overall score, leaving me in 11th place.

I showed up at NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan with a mild hip injury and about a week’s worth of training to support me. I decided at the last minute to go back to my “Due Tramonti” short program from the previous season in an attempt to calm my nerves and settle me down. I skated slightly better in the short, but with a lack of any real training, there wasn’t much anybody could do to help me. My long program was a disaster and utterly humiliating for me. In less than a year I had reached the highest point of my skating career thus far, tenth in the world, and then crashed harder than I could have ever imagined. It was a true rock bottom moment for me. I had a good breakdown and vowed to myself that I would work hard with my head down and surprise everyone at Nationals. On the plane home I made a list of promises to myself about not making excuses, doing full run throughs no matter how hard I wanted to stop, and being accountable for the work I was producing.

By putting in the hard work at home, I showed up to Nationals in Kansas City feeling confident again. My quad toes were better than they had ever been and I knew that I was ready. Unfortunately, I missed the quad in the short, but put together a good rest of the program that I was proud of. I finished fifth in the short, less than a point out of fourth. In the long, I put out another solid and consistent skate, the kind of performance that created my success the previous year. I pulled up to fourth place, receiving the pewter medal for the second year in a row. I was also assigned to compete at Four Continents again, the reward for my hard work.

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Click on photo to see more photos from Four Continents.

I want to share with you, quickly, as I’ve begun to drag on, how wonderful the experience was in Gangneung, South Korea, last week. It was so inspirational to be able to compete in the arena where the Winter Olympics will be held in less than a year. To be surrounded by the Olympic Rings was a constant reminder of the end goal and something that really helped push me through the week.

The level of skating at this event was ridiculous. The number of quads being attempted and completed by the men is remarkable. I may not be doing five quads in a program, but I was proud of myself for completing and standing up on my quad toe in the short and both quad toes in the long. My short program was a new personal best score for me. I’ve never scored in the 80s before, even domestically, so to do it at this event was a big deal for me. I feel like I took my time and enjoyed the performance. I even said that to myself once I landed my final jump, “Okay, now breathe and enjoy this! Take in every moment!” It was one of the first times all season I had truly enjoyed the competition and skated right from my heart. My long program wasn’t quite as great as the short, dropping me to 9th in the long and overall. Even with the few mistakes I made, I was still proud of my effort. It’s really hard to dig yourself out of a hole, and that’s exactly what I’ve had to do as this season has gone on. You can have people all around you telling you what to do, but until you force yourself, truly and with conviction to get up and get to work, it is impossible.

So, as I bring this long journal entry to a close, I am ending my season feeling satisfied. I’m not overjoyed and on top of the world like I was last year, but I know I’m ending this season wiser and with a better grip on my career. I’m looking forward to going home and getting back to work for next season. It is important to me, not only because it is the Olympic season, but because it is my final season. I’m going to approach this year by skating from the heart and skating because it is what I love to do. This sport takes you on such a beautiful and incredible journey, no matter what your level of skating. It teaches you how to get up when you fall, to be humble, to be brave and most importantly, it teaches you to believe in yourself. It takes you to places you previously thought were impossible and unattainable, but gives you the opportunity if you dare to try. I can’t imagine my life without competing, which is why I’m heading into this final season full of hope and appreciation for the sport that has given me so much. Maybe I will make the Olympic team and maybe I won’t, but I’m sure going to give it my best shot!

I want to thank you for being a part of my journey and I look forward to sharing the next year with all of you.

–Grant

Journal-July 2015

Happy July everyone! Most importantly, Happy belated Kween’s Day to you all! This journal entry will recap my off season and allow me to share with you all the new things that are happening with my skating.

This off season was sort of unorthodox for me because of Caroline’s surgery in March. It was, and still is, a life changing experience for both of us. Before the surgery, we took a big trip to Italy. We toured Rome, Florence, and Venice, with Florence being our favorite of the three.

Caroline and Grant at Pantheon (Rome)

Grant and Caroline at Pantheon (Rome)

Because I have already been to Rome twice, it was nice to be able to share the city with Caroline, knowing my way around a little bit. When I visited in 2011 I was able to see Pope Benedict and on this trip we got to see Pope Francis. As you all know, the pope, especially this one, is so instrumental in shaping world politics, and also how we, as citizens of the world, see each other. He is such a humanitarian and really is looking out for those who are down and out and preaches the message of love and compassion. We stayed in a little hotel overlooking the Pantheon for our four days in the city and got to see so much wonderful history.  It was surreal to wake up each morning to see a building that has been around for nearly 2,000 years. We also visited the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum, Piazza Navona, and even took in a wine tasting! Oh yeah, and we each ate about 3 gallons of gelato!

Our next stop was Florence. This was by far our favorite city on our trip. The city is very quaint and really felt like ours by the time we left two days later. It was jam packed, but didn’t really feel like it. We toured the Boboli Gardens, Uffizi Gallery (incredible!), ate at the Central Market, crossed the Ponte Vecchio, and even attended mass and received our Ash Wednesday ashes at the Duomo!

Grant outside the Duomo (Florence)

Grant outside the Duomo (Florence)

Speaking of the Duomo, my goodness, that is a lot of stairs! Shockingly, Caroline and I made it up and down the 463 steps of the Duomo as well as the 414 steps of the Bell Tower, all on the same day! Let me just tell you this, it is not for the faint of heart…or weak of leg! The views, however, were worth all of the work!

The cuisine was also to die for. Caroline told me she would split with me a very, very rare (meaning purple and room temperature) traditional Florentine steak. This wasn’t your ordinary steak. Oh no, this was a 3 pound steak. She ate two bites and left me to fend for myself. At first I didn’t think I could do it, but eventually you cross a point where you no longer feel the pain and just keep eating. Unfortunately for me, she had also managed to get us into a locals only restaurant. There were no English menus, the staff barely spoke any English and if you were 5 minutes late, your reservation was cancelled. Somehow we managed to get a table, especially since we didn’t technically have a reservation. The food was amazing, but if you remember, I had eaten a 3 pound steak by myself, only two hours prior. Let me just tell you, the struggle was real. Florence was an extremely beautiful and romantic city for us and I can’t wait to go back.

Venice was an entirely unique experience. It has a lot of surface beauty, but in the end, leaves you feeling like you have fallen into a tourist trap. The surface beauty, however, is stunning. Riding in on our water taxi and feeling the wind blowing on our faces was something I will never forget. We also decided to try and utilize the public water bus transportation. Though convenient, this was also an experience I will never forget! Waiting at each stop felt like it was going to be a life or death experience. The waves would rock you all over the place and there was only a little chain to keep you from falling into the water. We actually recorded a video while we were waiting for the bus addressed to our future children telling them of how their parents almost fell in and died!

There were moments of extreme beauty on this leg of our trip as well. When visiting St. Mark’s Basilica, we were able to sit up on the roof, nearly alone and look out onto the square in peace and quiet. Since this was the final city on our trip it was nice to sit back and talk to each other about our favorite moments while overlooking such a historical town. The food wasn’t necessarily my favorite, as I’m not a big fan of seafood. However, Caroline was again able to get us into some amazing restaurants where the food was outstanding, and shockingly enough, the same price as the tourist trap stops. Italy was such a wonderful place and we were so blessed to be able to spend 10 days together on a “grown up” vacation. [NOTE: VIEW more of Grant’s Italy photos in his photo gallery here.]

Caroline and shark at outdoor seafood market (Venice)

Caroline and shark at outdoor seafood market (Venice)

Caroline’s surgery took place pretty soon after we got back from our trip. As many of you probably know, the surgery was pretty intensive. It isn’t your run of the mill hip replacement. There was a lot for the doctor to do and also a lot that could have gone wrong. Thanks be to God, the surgery was an incredible success. This journal isn’t really my place to talk about it all, maybe one day she will write something to all of you describing the surgery and recovery process, but I do want everyone to know that she is recovering very quickly and doing really well. It’s been just over four months and she’s nearly half way through the recovery process. Through the process, I’ve learned what it is like to truly love someone, actually be selfless (not just say you are being selfless), and give yourself to them completely. The process isn’t over yet, but she’s doing great and getting stronger each and every day.

As the weeks progressed and she began to recover, I was able to start to put more energy and attention back into my skating. In the beginning of May we started choreography on my short and at the end of the month began my long. This season I am skating to “Due Tramonti” by Ludovico Einaudi for my short program and a compilation from “Les Miserables” for my long program.

Before you all groan and roll your eyes, my long program is actually brilliant. Peter [Oppegard] did the choreography for the program and my theme is someone who is down and out, seeking the help of God and eventually realizes that things will get better at the end of the day. The music opens with the original “Bring Him Home” by Colm Wilkinson. This is the part of the program where I have no hope and am looking to God to take care of the people I love. That whole piece is really a prayer to God. I feel like it takes a lot of humility to get down on your knees, look to God, and put it all in his hands. I then transition to a really beautiful piece of instrumental music where my prayers begin to be answered and I can start to see hope. Finally, I close with “One Day More” from the 2012 film. It is here where I realize that life will always continue on, no matter what, and that, as the song says,”…tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store.” Our time on this earth is so small in the grand scheme of history and it is all really out of our hands.

The short program was choreographed by Karen [Kwan Oppegard]. This is a piece of music that I had actually wanted to skate to last year for my short before we decided on “Carmina Burana.” It is really obscure and I love that it is not well known, especially with the long being a very well known set of musical tracks. The Italian translation of the song’s title is “Two Sunsets.” It is a piece to me that begins again in sorrow. Not necessarily the despair and hopelessness of “Bring Him Home,” but sorrow nonetheless. As the piece builds and grows, in my mind, the sun is rising and setting. Life is moving on. We all have so much going on in our lives that we don’t really take time to sit back and enjoy the simple things, like a sunset. This piece of music and this program is my offering to all of you, to take 2 minutes and 50 seconds to sit back and enjoy pure, simple skating. The program isn’t over the top and intense, but clean and classic, just the way real skating should be.

I’m beginning my season this year at Glacier Falls at the end of the month [July 31- August 1]. From there I will go to Champs Camp in Colorado Springs in August, hopefully a Senior B in the fall, and the Cup of China in November. Needless to say, I was ecstatic about being assigned to a Senior Grand Prix for the first time since 2010.

I worked really hard last season and I’m so blessed to be given this opportunity. Karen was actually the one who told me I got the Grand Prix assignment. I was teaching at the rink at 6am that day and was refreshing my phone to see if I got anything that day, but it turns out I was refreshing the wrong link! Karen was in Korea doing choreography and texted Peter and me to say “congratulations on China!” and I made her double check about 10 times to make sure it was actually true before she sent me the link herself. If I was able to choose a Grand Prix, this would have been my first choice. I’ve only been to Asia once (Tokyo for JGP Final in 2009) and I can’t wait to go back. As Caroline’s parents are from China and she speaks fluent Mandarin, I’m trying to convince her to go with me! I think it would make the trip a lot easier for me to know what is going on at all times and make sure I’m not eating strange foods or doing impolite cultural things. My Mandarin is very limited! I know very basic phrases, though I’m sure I butcher the language quite severely. The competition is something that I’ve been looking forward to for years and I’m so thankful to be given the opportunity!

I hope this long journal entry hasn’t bored you, but enlightened you all as to the past four or five months of my life. I can’t wait to start this season and the next few months should be life changing for me.

Goodbye for now!

Grant

Journal-February 10, 2015

Hello again, from what is the end of my 2014-2015 season. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve written, so we have a lot to catch up on! It looks like I haven’t written a journal since summer, but I did blog for Icenetwork.com from Milan in September [click here to read about my 2014 Lombardia Trophy experience], so I will pick up from there.

After my Senior B in Milan, I felt like I had a fair amount of work to do. I was definitely more prepared for that competition than my long program showed. I was disappointed in myself because I knew I was capable of more, having skated clean programs in both of my summer competitions. I knew that I needed to step it up for the rest of the season.

Fortunately, I would have another chance to prove myself internationally, as I was assigned to Golden Spin of Zagreb, which would take place in December. Training for Sectionals was actually a challenge in itself, because I had to skate well enough to win and advance to Nationals, but not so well that I peaked before the Senior B, which was only a week and half later.

My short at Sectionals was very solid. I skated a clean program and scored 75.14. The long was also a respectable program. I popped the opening quad into a double and fell on the second triple Axel, but managed to land 7 clean triple jumps.

My biggest, and without a doubt, most embarrassing moment of that event came when I fell doing, well, a stop. Peter had choreographed a very dramatic stop followed immediately by a quick turn as the music crescendoed right before my footwork. In practices at home he had told me that I needed to make it bigger and more dramatic, as the music called for it. Well, as I tried to make the stop bigger in the program at sectionals, I caught an edge or something and fell… froggie-style on my knees… on the crescendo. To make things worse, as if it wasn’t already bad enough, I almost fell trying to get up. It caught me totally off guard. It wasn’t really funny at the time, okay, well, maybe it was a little funny, but it is okay to laugh at it now.

When Peter saw the video (he was at Coasts and I was at Easterns with Karen), he literally could not stop laughing. When we got home, he decided it would be a great idea to demonstrate, on the ice, exactly what my fall looked like, to everyone who asked, or even people who didn’t ask. I think it might, still to this day, be his greatest memory of my skating. Okay, to make a long story, slightly shorter, I ended up winning Sectionals and advancing on to Nationals.

I got home from Wake Forest on a Sunday and had to leave for Croatia 8 days later. My training resumed as soon as I got back with a double short on my first session on Monday. I was happy with Sectionals, but I knew that if I wanted to be a contender in Croatia, and at Nationals, I would have to do better. I really pushed myself that week, more than I even had before Sectionals (keep in mind, my Sectionals training included a week of double longs).

I got to Croatia feeling strong and confident. I think this is due in part to Peter and I increasing my mental training as well. I could finally visualize myself skating good programs, something I had problems with before. The short program in Zagreb was all right [watch my video here]. It was a little tight, but I managed to get through the program cleanly, even though I found myself in 6th place at the end of the night with a score of only 69.69. I was disappointed with that, but for once, wouldn’t let that bother me. I knew that the field was strong and my chances of medaling were slim, even coming in. I wanted to focus on personal goals and as Peter put it, “being relevant” in US men’s skating.

I skated first in my warmup for the long program. I opened with a fall on the quad toe, but it was my closest attempt of the season. I think I landed it for about a second and a half before falling. I knew that I could skate the rest of the program clean, because I was doing that every day at home. Shockingly to me, I stepped out of the next triple Axel. From this point on I had to channel all of the mental training I did in the weeks leading up to this event. I continued on, landing each of my next jumps, including the second triple Axel that I had missed at the previous two events, this time with a double toe on the end, making it a combination.

I ended the program having landed seven triples and feeling very accomplished [watch my video here]. I knew I had put everything into the program and even though the opening was slightly less than I had hoped, I was happy. I ended the competition in 4th, again, but this time with very different feelings. I scored a personal best of 150.13 in the free skate to finish 3rd in that portion of the competition and even managed to have the highest technical score of the night. My overall score of 219.82 was also a personal best. Even though I didn’t medal, I left this Senior B, unlike my previous one, feeling like I gave it everything I had.

My training for Nationals continued much like my training for Sectionals and Croatia. I pushed myself harder than I had for any other Nationals. Except this time, I had a blast doing the training. Sure, when Peter surprised us with, “Hey, it’s time for a double long” after I had already done a double short on the previous session, I wasn’t thrilled, but I enjoyed the work. That is what made the training and eventually Nationals, so satisfying.

I entered Nationals with the same goal I had in Croatia, which was simply to be relevant. I wasn’t, for once, thinking about placement goals, or point goals. I wanted to skate well for myself and prove I was capable. My practices went well all week and I was feeling strong yet again. I was actually a little nervous for the short. In my previous two Nationals with Peter and Karen, I haven’t landed the triple Lutz once in the short. I was determined this time to get the job done. To be honest, this was really the only element I was nervous for. Oh, and I was also a little nervous I was going to go the wrong way out of my flying sit spin since I had done that every day in practice.

Program started. Opening combination, done. Triple Axel, tight, but done. Camel-Camel, done. Flying Sit, done and… I came out of the spin the right direction! Triple flip, done, followed up by footwork and a combo spin. It felt great to finally skate a clean short program at Nationals. Ironically, the only time I’ve ever done a clean short at Nationals was in Greensboro 2011, but without triple Axel. I scored 75.70 and finished this portion of the competition in 9th. Was I thrilled with my placement, no, but I realized that it didn’t really matter. What mattered to me was the program and the feeling I was left with once I finished skating.

It was the same for me in the long. I paced myself and did one element at a time. Again, the opening quad didn’t go quite as I had planned or practiced. I stepped out of the jump and received an under-rotation call which was definitely deserved. It was probably the worst one I had done all week. I didn’t let it bother me and put myself right back into my trained mental mind.

The rest of the program was clean. Not only was it clean, but in my opinion, it was strong. I landed eight triples, both triple Axels and a triple Lutz-half loop-triple Salchow. It felt so great to do the long program that I did. I have never skated this well at a National Championships, not even when I finished 7th in 2010. I scored 154.58 in the long and 230.28 overall, both personal bests. It didn’t matter that I was 9th. I was beyond happy.

It felt so great to skate as well as I did all season. My goal was to be consistent and I was. I only missed one jump in six short programs and landed 15 out of 18 triple Axels in competition. I wanted to show that I can be reliable and counted upon to do my job when it counts. I’m really excited for next season and I feel like it’s my time again. I may not be on the podium yet, but I will get there. I believe that Peter, Karen and I can put together two really great programs for next season and that I can be a contender.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journal update as much as I have enjoyed going through the year again. Thanks for reading and I will talk to you again soon…

Grant

Journal-July 11, 2014

Hello everyone! Again, sorry for delaying this update for so long. I had intended to write it sooner, but there was a reason for my delay, I promise!

Four weeks ago, I collided with one of the skaters at our rink and got a fist to the side of the head, resulting in a concussion. I must have been in shock when it happened, because I got up and kept going with my program, finishing to the end. When it was time for the next session I started getting a really bad headache that wouldn’t go away. The next day when I tried to skate, I felt nauseous and decided that maybe this wasn’t the best idea. That Saturday (two days after the accident), I was teaching and had to go to the ER because my headaches were so intense. That was where I had my original concussion diagnosis. I took five days or so off before heading slowly back to the ice. I was able to start jumping after a few days and was almost headache-free. Then, I thought that I might be able to try and spin. Poor choice on my part. The headaches started up again and I had to take more time off the ice. Fast forward to about a week and a half ago. I’m back on the ice, but since I am in the ISP (USFS’ International Selection Pool), I have to follow the “return to play” procedure. (This is a smart idea anyways, since the brain isn’t something you want to play around with!) The past week or so has been filled with doctors visits, trips to PT and modified skating. However, on Tuesday of this week I got the OK from the doctor to resume full training. I’ve been able to jump at almost full strength, doing everything except quad toe. I had to be careful, because falling hurt my head. The less falling, the quicker my recovery. Therefore, the quad has been out of my training routine. I’ve also been able to resume spinning. The hardest thing now is to put the spins in my program and still attempt to have something resembling stamina!

Because…….. I’m competing at LA Open this weekend! This was something I was very adamant about. Minus the spins, I have been able to run full programs, albeit without the quad. I’m not really worried about anything other than stamina for this competition, however, it is probably good that I wasn’t able to train at full capacity for the past month, as I always seem to peak in the summer. I guess it is a blessing in disguise.

As for my programs, I am very excited to announce them to you here. My short program is to “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, choreographed by Karen Kwan-Oppegard. My long program is from “Don Quixote” by Ludwig Minkus, choreographed by Peter Oppegard. The short program music was actually chosen by Karen. We played around with a couple of ideas, trying to move into different directions, possibly, before we decided on this piece. It’s a very large, strong, and bold piece of music and I’ve never really done anything like this. Usually, my music is more romantic and reserved, so this is pushing me into another facet of my skating. I was the one who chose the music for the long. I haven’t done a really ballet since my final Junior International season, with “Sleeping Beauty” and “Romeo and Juliet” by Tchaikovsky (unless you count “Spartacus” the next season, but I don’t regard that as “classic”). It’s something that I think I’m good at and is natural for me (can I say this without sounding cocky?). Peter has never choreographed an entire program by himself for me and I was truly impressed by his artistic genius. Nothing goes unnoticed by him. Every detail was choreographed in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Having him choreograph for me was extremely rewarding. I really can’t wait for you guys to see these programs!

What else has happened to me in the past six months? I was fortunate enough to get to see my sister perform on Holiday on Ice’s “Ice Age: Live” tour in Prague, Czech Republic, shortly after Nationals. I’ve always been so proud of her and to be able to see her skate on such a large, wonderful stage was something I will never forget. She was wonderful and words truly can’t describe how much it meant for me to be able to see her perform.

In the beginning of May, I made my Sacrament of Confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church. This was such an emotional experience for me. I’ve always been a religious person, but because of skating, never had time to make my confirmation as a kid. For all of the non-religious people reading this journal entry, a confirmation is basically the Church putting a stamp on what we have learned as Catholics, as approved by the Church. I had been attending classes every Sunday for two hours starting in September of 2013 and actually continuing through June of this year. My mom and my sister were able to fly out here for the ceremony and one of my best friends from back in Michigan also flew out and was my sponsor. One of the bishops from the archdiocese presided over the ceremony and it was one of the most beautiful and emotional experiences of my life. It was made even greater and more intimate by the fact that so many of my friends from the rink, Catholic and non-Catholic, came to support me. Afterwards, Caroline (Zhang) threw a great big party at her house for me. It was great to see how the hand of God can bring so many people, believers and non-believers together and show us the greatest truth in life, which is love.

The next month, as a result of my occasional impulsive behavior, I decided to surprise my brother for his high school graduation. The only person who knew I was coming home was my sister who had to pick me up from the airport. My mom had been tease-nagging me about how this was the first time one of her kids was graduation from high school and she wouldn’t have pictures of all of us together on that day. Needless to say, since I’m a mama’s boy (and proud of it), I caved in and bought a plane ticket home. I think she was more excited that I was home than my brother! I walked in the house as she walked down the stairs and, with tears in her eyes, happily proceeded to yell at me about how I can’t afford it and shouldn’t have come home. I haven’t been home since Skate Detroit of last year, so again, the experience was great and I’m so proud of my brother for his graduation.

Looking back, I have to say that I’ve had a truly blessed past six months. Sure, things have been a little rocky, but whose life doesn’t get that way sometimes? I’m really looking forward to what this season will bring me. I’ve decided that I’m not going to share my goals with you guys, but rather will keep them to myself this time. I’m at the point in my skating career where I’m skating because I love it. I’ve had so many astoundingly wonderful experiences and as they say, it’s all gravy at this point. That is what they say, isn’t it? It’s my birthday next week and I’m turning 24, so I’m not exactly hip like this next generation of skaters. But you know what, that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m happy to sit at home and read in my bed after a long day of skating and teaching. I feel like I’m in a really great place in skating and life right now, and I am honored to have shared this much of my career already with wonderful family, friends, and fans. Here’s to, hopefully, a few more good years of skating! Until next time…

Grant

Journal-January 5, 2014

Hello everyone!

I’m writing you a last minute journal update before I head out for Boston. I hope you guys all had a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful start to your new year. Gosh, each time I write a journal entry I promise that I’m going to be better about writing, but now that I look back, I haven’t written since August. Tsk tsk… Okay, here we go!

Since we last spoke, I was assigned to and competing at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City. I was a very last-minute replacement for Evan Lysacek. The competition didn’t go quite as I had hoped. I was having a lot of boot issues and the heel of my boot was actually coming apart. Mr. Kwan had to put in 3 screws through the inside into my heel in order for it to stay relatively connected. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to perform up to the new standard I have set for myself this season. Fourth place wasn’t bad, but not what I wanted. When I got back home, I immediately went to work to break in my new skates. Easterns was still two months away and I was determined to get back into proper form.

At Southwest Pacific Regionals, all of my training mates had really solid showings. Nearly all of them moved on to Pacific Coast Sectionals. After sitting down and talking with Karen and Peter, we decided that I was in a good enough place to take myself through sectionals in Virginia. Now, I had put myself out for competition before — once at Collegiate Nationals in 2011 and once last season at my home club’s Middle Atlantics comp. in New York City — but I had never coached myself through such an important event. However, I decided to trust my coaches and become as prepared as possible, so I could do the work at competition by myself.

Sectionals went pretty close to as well as I wanted it to. My short program wasn’t perfect, but I managed to hit the quad toe and stand up on the triple axel. I finished in 3rd place, but with less than 2 points to first place. In my long, I stayed super-focused and knew that I was capable of pulling up. I had a really nice quad toe-double toe combination, but then made two silly mistakes, doubling a planned triple toe and singling my triple axel. I made myself calm down, re-focused, and hit every other element after that. My long program score was my highest of the season so far! I pulled up to win the long and finish second overall in a nearly three-way tie for first. As bummed as I was to not win overall, it was really cool to have Tim Dolensky, Stephen Carriere, and myself all be within less than a point of one another. I think it is going to give all three of us a lot of confidence headed into Nationals this upcoming week.

So now that I’ve finished updating you all on the past few months, let’s focus on the future. I’m really looking forward to Nationals this year. It’s the first time since 2010 that I really feel prepared for Nationals. Usually, I peak in the summer, but Peter, Karen, and I have made sure to periodize my training this year and I’m ready to go!

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m hoping to see some of you in Boston this week! God bless!

Grant

Journal-August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013

Hello from the sunny California!!

I’m sorry that it’s been so long since my last journal entry! It’s been over a year since I’ve written, I believe. Bad, bad Grant! Anyways, rather than write a super long journal entry about everything that has happened in the past year, I’m just going to focus on this season, so far.

For my programs this year, Peter, Karen and I decided that we wanted to keep my short program from last season. My “La Califfa” program was well received last year, but I knew I could do even better with it this season, especially with the addition of a quad. We re-choreographed a bit, changed around the jump order, and I love the final result. For my long program, I really wanted to go classical this season. Last year’s warrior-esque program was a bit too outside what is comfortable for me and didn’t garner the type of response I wanted from people, no matter how well I skated it. We played around with a couple of music ideas and ended up with a nice medley of romantic era pieces. My program starts with “Trio Élégiaque No. 2” by Rachmaninoff, transitions to “Dumky Trio” by Dvorak for my slow section, and finishes strongly with another piece by Rachmaninoff, “Piano Concerto No. 3”. This type of music definitely suits my skating and I love each and every one of the pieces. I think they really work well together and my choreographer, Karen Kwan-Oppegard, did a great job putting the program together. I love training it each and every day.

My first competition of the season was Skate Detroit. Karen said her goal for me was to simply land the quad. She said I needed to do one quad and the rest didn’t matter. We will get back to that in a second, but first, I have a funny story to share. I was slotted to skate 3rd in the second warm up for short program. Peter and I were down at the far end of the rink, away from all distractions so I could get ready and focus. We decided we were going to start walking down to the other end when the next to last skater finished. That would give me enough time to get down there and get settled in, without being down with my competitors for too long. Well, what we failed to notice was that there were only 4 skaters in the first warm up, not 5 like we had thought. So, we had just started to walk down when we hear, “The next group of skaters may now take the ice for their warm up.” Oh, boy! I was down at the far side of the rink while my competitors were getting on the ice. Quick thinking on our part, Peter had me take off my guards and jump over the boards to get on the ice for warm up, while he ran down to the other side to stand with the other coaches. Now this is a story! I think if anything, it helped me to calm down and not worry so much about trying my first quad in competition.

When I did take the ice, I was totally channeled in to Peter and what he was saying. I felt confident and ready to go for it. I nailed my first ever quad in competition, tacking on a triple toe and receiving 16.15 points for my combination. Now, I did fall on the triple axel that followed, but rebounded nicely with a triple lutz from steps. I also received all level fours on my spins and a level four step sequence that received a +3 from one of the judges. My score of 79.89 was the highest I had ever gotten in a short program and Peter and I were very satisfied.

However, my new “gag order,” as it has been called, went into effect almost immediately and I wasn’t allowed to talk about the program. We were there to do a job and it wasn’t over until the final note of my long program. That long program went pretty well, if I may say so myself. I flipped out of my first quad and fell on my second, but managed to land all of my planned jumps after that point (minus leaving off a triple sal on the end of my final jump combination). The feeling wasn’t quite the same as it was in the short, but Peter was proud of me and I was proud of myself for keeping the level of skating high throughout the program.

My overall experience at Detroit was great. The competition made me realize again that I can compete with the best skaters in this country and be competitive. My scores from here would have held up very well at Nationals. My goal for this season, and you can doubt me if you want, is to make the 4 Continents team. I told Peter and Karen that they have to keep reminding me of this every day. I am ready to push and do the work it takes to get back to the top. Thinking about a goal and then saying it and living it are two very different things. I’m a big believer in the power of prayer and positive thinking. If I convince myself that I am good enough to make the team, then God only knows what I am capable of. I’m learning to not set limitations for myself.

My final little piece of information that I would like to share has to do with my idol, Michelle Kwan. Today (8/1), she came in to the rink to watch us skate. I politely had asked someone to go in the office and see if she wouldn’t mind watching my LP run through. I was a little nervous because my long is a series of pieces that she had also skated to. In a way, my program pays homage to her for inspiring me for all of those years of skating and all of the things she has done since her skating career has concluded. I did a pretty solid run through, only missing the second quad. After I skated, I looked up and saw her smiling and clapping from the office window. Needless to say, I bowed to her and was beaming from her response.

For the last twenty minutes of the session, Karen went and asked Michelle to come out and look at some of my quads. Michelle and I have previously talked about the quad and she has seen videos of my landing it, but she has never seen it in person. Let’s just say I was feeling the pressure! I went out and it took me a few tries, but I finally hit one for her. It was probably just as gratifying of a feeling as landing it in competition! It’s nice because now Michelle has gone from someone I place up on a pedestal, to someone I can talk to about skating and ask advice. She gave me a few helpful tips on the toe and on triple loop (both of our least favorite jump, I think!). She also talked to me about my program and how much she liked it. This was a very high honor for me! It’s a bit of a risk to skate to such signature Michelle pieces, especially for and in front of Michelle! But anyways, now I’m starting to gush and blabber… I would just like to say how great it was to have a twenty minute, one on one “lesson” from the one and only Michelle Kwan. This was definitely one of the highlights of my skating career, thus far.

Alright, my “gag order” is back in effect. I’m going to sign off for now, but hopefully soon I will be able to come back and write more.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and God bless!

Grant

Journal-June 23, 2012

June 23, 2012

Hi everyone! I’m writing my first official journal entry since moving to California! These past few months have been very exciting and I can’t wait to share everything with you!

Skating has been awesome. I am so fortunate to be able to train at such an amazing facility with so many elite level athletes. I look forward to each and every session on the ice and have really been enjoying putting in the work. And boy have I been putting in the work! I feel as if my consistency is building and my level of difficulty in my programs is continuing to advance. Not only that, but my confidence is improving as well. This is the first time in a while that I can truly see myself as being a contender for the upcoming season. I think that probably has something with being able to train with Evan Lysacek! Being around high level skaters has made me realize how much I want this and how far I’m willing to push myself to get it. The Olympics are only one season away and if I want to realize my dream of being on the Olympic team, I have to achieve success this season. Yet, I’m not putting the same amount of pressure on myself like I usual do. I’ve been working hard and am going to let my hard work speak for itself.

I believe that I’m going to be competing a short program at LA Open in the middle of July and then debut both of my programs at Glacier Falls in the beginning of August. Unfortunately, I won’t be back to defend my title at Collegiate Nationals this season. Because of the confusion with moving I can’t get enrolled in a college full-time for the fall semester. I think I’m going to be taking a year off from school just to focus on skating. I haven’t decide, but maybe I will go back to school for Spring 2013.

Okay, so the moment you have all been waiting for. I know I’ve been babbling on and have been avoiding telling you for quite some time now, so here we go. My music selections for this season are:

Short Program:
Selections from “La Califfa” by Ennio Morricone as played by Yo-Yo Ma
Long Program:
Selections from the films “King Arthur” and “Troy”

These are two very different choices of music and the goal was really to show of the diversity in my skating. My short program was choreographed by Karen Kwan and my long program was choreographed by both Karen Kwan and Peter Oppegard. I’m very excited about these programs! What is really cool about my long program choreography is that Karen and Peter have never worked on choreographing a program together. This is the first time that they have put their artistic talents together to create a program. I feel very honored by that fact. I hope all of you will love the programs as much as I do!

Before I forget, I will be skating in the “An Evening on Ice” show put on my Nick LaRoche and the US Athletic Foundation. I haven’t decided on a piece of music to skate to yet, so if anybody has any choices feel free to email or tweet me your suggestions. Then it will be my turn to put my artistic abilities to the test!! I hope to see a few of you at the show!

Alright, I think that is all for now. Before I go I want to give a special shout out to Christina Gao who is texting me as I write this, asking for a shout out in this journal entry. So here we go… “Hi Christina! I miss you! I’m really proud of you for getting accepted into Harvard and I know that you are going to excel as both a full time student as well as a skating superstar. I’m so happy that we have matching best friend cups from IKEA and that you sent me so many of your senior pictures. Come visit me soon!” I hope that is acceptable.

Okay, good-bye everyone! Hope you have enjoyed this journal update!

Grant

Journal-March 11, 2012

Hello!!

Boy has it been a long time since I have written a journal update. It seems like almost a lifetime ago. I don’t really feel like writing a big recap on my season, but I will only say that I was very proud of my effort that I put out at Nationals this year. It was definitely the best long program I have ever done at Nationals before. It was also the first time I have ever broken 200 for a final score. I guess now I have a lot of news to share with you all.

At this time I would like to announce that I am making a coaching change from Lindsay O’Donoghue in St. Clair Shores, MI to Peter Oppegard and Karen Kwan-Oppegard in Artesia, CA. This is a decision that has been very difficult for me to make. Lindsay has been my coach since the very beginning when I started skating thirteen years ago. I have also worked with Maria Moscato for the past seven years.  The reason this decision is so difficult for me is because I have nothing but love for these two coaches.

My relationship with Lindsay has evolved into one of a family; I have even spent the past two years coaching her oldest daughter Ryleigh. I think that the relationship we have is the reason why my coaching situation has worked as well as it has. In the time that Lindsay and I have worked together we were able to accomplish so many wonderful things on the ice. I have competed at Nationals seven times, finishing as high as 7th as a senior in 2010 and winning the pewter medal as a junior in 2009, finishing 5th at both the 2010 World Junior Championships and 2009 Junior Grand Prix Final, winning the silver medal at the 2009 Junior Grand Prix of Hungary, the gold medal at the 2008 Gardena Spring Trophy, and two consecutive U.S. Collegiate National titles.

But for me, my time with Lindsay has been more than just about the skating. She has been a guiding light for me through many difficult times in my life, including the divorce of my parents in 2005. She has helped teach me many important life lessons and provided stability in my life when I felt there was none. I respect her immensely and I will never forget anything she has taught me. Without Lindsay I would not be the skater that I am today.

Though this decision is sad for me in many respects, it is also very exciting in others. I am very much looking forward to training under Peter and Karen! I spent some time in Artesia working with them and of all the try-outs that I had, I feel that they are the right coaching team to take me to the next step in my skating career. The training environment at the East-West Ice Palace is very positive and motivating. I have always had to motivate myself in St. Clair Shores and it will be a wonderful change to train with other National, International, and Olympic level athletes on a daily basis.

I will be moving to California right after Easter. Though I am not necessarily looking forward to the long drive (especially with Kingston in the back seat!) I cannot wait to get there to start training! It will be a difficult move, especially since my semester will not be finished at school until the end of April. However, my professors at Wayne State University have been very understanding and are going to work with me to make sure I can complete my semester successfully.

There are many decisions still up in the air, but with time my life will get organized once again. This is a very big change for me, but I know it is the right one. I cannot reiterate enough how thankful I am to Lindsay and Maria for everything they have done for me over the years. I would also like to take some time to thank the following people for their unwavering support:

  • The entire staff at the St. Clair Shores Civic Arena for always making sure I had enough ice time to be as successful as I possibly could.  Your support has meant so much to me.
  • My choreographer Jodie Tasich for helping to develop my second mark and skating skills. I know this wasn’t easy for you, but after three years I finally know how to do a proper Choctaw… sort of!
  • My off ice trainer Marnie Williams and all of the CrossFit Crew for pushing me in the workout room every day to be a stronger and more fit athlete.
  • My physical therapist Betsy Jones for always being there when I call with one ailment or another and listening to my ridiculous conversation while doing it. Without your dedication I would probably be handicapped right now!
  • My friends at the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club who have always stood behind me in good times and bad. You all know who you are. You would always patiently listen to me and then yell at me to stop being a girl and pull myself together. I needed that!
  • The St. Clair Shores Hockey Association for all of your financial and moral support. I don’t know where I would be without your generosity. 
  • To all of the kids at the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club, I hope I have been a positive role model and influence in not only your skating careers, but your real lives as well. I may not have been perfect, but if anything, I hope that I have taught you to dream big and skate with your heart. Do not let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough, skate for you, and make yourselves proud.
  • To my skating students, even though I have taught you many things on the ice, I really believe that you were the ones teaching me. There were so many laughs along the way and words cannot describe how much I am going to miss our time together. I am so proud of all of you!!!
  • Steve and Kathy Page. You have become family to me. Your support has always meant the world to me and you truly have been my biggest cheerleaders. I love you both so much.
  • And last but not least, my family. You have sacrificed so much for me throughout the years.  I am so thankful for everything you have done for me, even though I may not always show it. I hope that I can continue to make you proud, and be the type of skater you have always dreamed I would be.

I know I am missing so many people right now, so I would like to give a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who has supported me through my thirteen years at the St. Clair Shores Figure Skating Club. This rink will always be home to me!

Here is to a new beginning!

Grant

 

Journal-July 3, 2011

Hello everyone! I realize it has been quite a while since I have written last and we have a lot of stuff to cover so let’s get right to it!

To start, I posted a video link of my short program to “Clair de Lune” on YouTube and have gotten a great response from everyone. I love the program and I’m glad that you all do as well. What I really enjoy about it is that I’m not “playing” something or being a character. I’m skating to show that I love skating. The program is about the simplicity and beauty of skating. The moves are clean and relevant, not unnecessary with over the top choreography that we so often see in these programs in the IJS system. I feel like the program shows what skating is meant to be. I hope you will all get a chance to see the program live, whether it is at a summer competition or at Nationals. I love it!

For my long program, it took us quite some time to decide upon music. I think I chose music like four different times before we actually chose the final piece which is….. drum roll please…… “The Mission”. Now, before anybody says it, let me say it. “The Mission” is a piece of music that has been used by many people and you are probably thinking, “Hmm… how can he make this program original when the music has been used over and over again.” Am I right? Okay, well, here is my answer. The music was cut by Lenore Kay who you may remember cut music for the Kween herself, Michelle Kwan. Bonus point one right there. Secondly, I spent about 10 hours choreographing it with my (can I now say long time?) choreographer Jodie Tasich. Bonus point number two.

Also, I did my research and went to my local library to rent the movie in order to better get the feel of what the movie was about. I was blown away by the drama of the film and the lessons it teaches. I feel that by doing this I can really relate to the music and skate as if I am telling the music what to do, not vice versa. Bonus point number three. Oh and did I mention I have a wicked awesome straight line step sequence? Bonus point number four and the game goes to Mr. Grant Hochstein.

This program is so cool and in many ways different from anything else I have done before. We used a bunch of different pieces from the Ennio Morricone original soundtrack and also pieces from the John Williams version. I don’t like the term “modern” because I don’t feel that I’m a “modern” skater. It still has classical influences so I have decided to call it my “impressionist” program. It’s going to be out of this world!

For summer competitions we are doing things a little differently that I have done them in the past. My first summer competition is going to be Collegiate Nationals in Sun Valley. I won this competition last year and let me just say, having that $5,000 is very helpful, especially since I do not receive envelope funding this season. Hopefully I can repeat as Champion! This means I am not going to be able to compete at Skate Detroit because it is the same week and since my coaches are needed there with their other students I am going to be putting myself through this competition. This will be a unique experience, but I think it is going to make me rely on myself for strength and mental toughness. It will make me grow as a person and as a skater (not height wise of course, but that would be really nice if it did!)

My second event will be the Thornhill Summer Skate in Canada. We decided to do this competition because I have never competed there before and from what I have heard, it is a very good event. I am looking forward to the challenge of competing against the Canadians and showing them what I’ve got!

I’m trying to think if I’ve missed anything skating wise. I don’t think so, but if I did I will write another journal to fill you all in.

In terms of my real life, I just moved to a new apartment in Midtown Detroit. It is literally a block away from the campus of Wayne State University which is really nice! I am looking forward to not having to wake up early to get to class and being able to walk across the street to get there, rather than have to drive twenty minutes during rush hour. It takes me about five extra minutes to get to skating, but I think this is an even tradeoff and since my car is a lease and I am paranoid about going over on miles, I will actually be ahead of the game. Kingston is a little worried about the apartment, but he is afraid of everything so I am hoping he will eventually get over it.

The only drawback is that I live on the fourth floor of my building and there is… wait for it… no elevator! So walking up four flights of stairs after skating to let Kingston out, walking him back down to go to the bathroom and then walking back up four flights is kind of a drag. But I am saving money and really enjoying the urban living experience!

Okay, that is all for now! I hope everyone has a fantastic Fourth of July and we all remember how fortunate we are to be Americans! And for all of you non Americans reading this, however few you may be, I hope you also have a fantastic July 4th, even if it isn’t your national holiday!

Grant

Journal-April 7, 2011

April 7, 2011

Hi Everyone!!

I know this has been and still is a whirlwind season for everyone. It’s been kind of crazy hasn’t it?!? In this journal entry I think I’m going to sort of recap my season and give you all the plans for this coming season.

So last season was kind of a downer in many ways for me. I think coming off of such a strong season in 2009/2010 I was expecting much more from myself. The main problem was that I didn’t put two strong programs together… ever. During my summer competitions I did great short programs and awful… and I mean awful long programs. I would get into my long program and it was start to go bad almost right away and I would try so hard to fix it that it made things worse. Then at my club’s competition I did a decent short and a better long. I thought things were headed on the right track finally! Finlandia Trophy brought a disaster of a short program that put me down into sixth. I then skated probably the best long program of my career to finish 2nd in the long and fourth overall, missing the podium by .01. Skate Canada also brought a mess of a short program and this time a pretty good long, it is actually my highest international long program score I believe. Right after that I had Sectionals… another bad short. Then, I skated another brilliant long program and finished 2nd. Nationals brought its own set of problems. I was finally able to put together a solid short program. Being in 10th wasn’t ideal, but I just wanted to skate well. Then… enter the flu!! The fact that I was able to skate with a 102 degree temperature and do as well as I did is an accomplishment in itself. However, for me 12th place is not acceptable!!

So for this season I have been working extremely hard already. In March, I went out to Delaware to work with the Performance Analysis camera and boy was that interesting! I looked like a little space man! From there I travelled to Colorado Springs to work with Kathy Casey on triple axels. I can finally do a skid! Lindsay and I worked really hard on this and it was not easy. I think that it is necessary though in order to have a consistent triple axel. And what do you know… the skid works! I’m really excited to be landing this jump pretty consistently so I will be having it in the short and two in the long. Quad Toes have been coming along nicely too!

I started choreography on my short program yesterday, but I’m not going to reveal the music until after Worlds. I will tell you though, that it is a piece that I’ve wanted to skate to really badly for the past few years now and I finally got my way! It is a slightly different version from the original but I think it makes it more personal and will give me a better connection with the judges/ audience. The program so far is brilliant. Jodie always does a great job for me, but this is her best work so far J I haven’t decided anything for the long so feel free to send along your suggestions!

Thanks for all of your support!

Grant