Story and Photos by Gina Capellazzi, Team FSO website administrator
Beyond the headlines of the quadruple Axel and the stories of the champions, 2022 Skate America marked Grand Prix debuts for number of skaters. There were some other special stories that came out of the event, from meeting fellow competitors to competing on home ice.
Figure Skaters Online’s Gina Capellazzi spoke with some of these skaters that had other accomplishments and victories, beyond the podium. She is highlighting them in what she has coined — “Norwood Notes.”
Meeting Kaori Sakamoto
While many people inside The Skating Club of Boston were hoping to meet or take a photo with Kaori Sakamoto, there was one person, in particular, hoping to take a selfie with the World Champion. That person — Isabeau Levito.
During the short program press conference, the 15-year-old World Junior Champion was asked if there was anyone at Skate America she was looking forward to meeting, and Levito responded, very nervously, “Kaori!”
“She’s so strong, so powerful,” she added, as Sakamoto sat beside her smiling. “I feel she’s so free on the ice, so I was definitely excited to see her here. Every time I was in the locker room, I was like ‘Should I go ask her for a selfie with her?’ Yeah, I’m definitely most excited to see her here. It’s just cool.”
Following the press conference, Levito did get her selfie with Sakamoto. Team USA’s Amber Glenn gave Levito her cell phone to take the photo as Levito’s photo wasn’t easily accessible at the time.
Receiving late assignments
Team USA pairs team Valentina Plazas and Maximilian Fernandez have competed quite a bit this season – U.S. Classic, John Nicks Pairs Challenge, Finlandia Trophy, along with national qualifying series events. After Skate America, they will add another competition to their already busy fall schedule.
Plazas and Fernandez, who were the host pick to compete at Skate America, found out just before leaving for Norwood that they will be competing at Skate Canada next week. The team, who is making their senior Grand Prix debut, now have two Grand Prix assignments.
“Before we got on our plane here, we found out that we got Skate Canada,” Plazas said.
“We have competed so much (already), so it’s great to have a second Grand Prix,” Fernandez added. “We fought for this position. It’s just an honor to have a second Grand Prix.”
Like Plazas and Fernandez, who received a late Grand Prix assignment, fellow Team USA’s Maria Mokhova and Ivan Mokhov, were added to the Skate America roster on Oct. 17 to replace Anastasiia Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia, and also received a second Grand Prix, Grand Prix de France on Oct. 20. Team USA’s Dinh Tran also was added to the Skate America roster for Eric Sjoberg on Oct. 17. Canada’s Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac also found out after Skate America that they would be heading to Skate Canada to replace Miku Makita and Tyler Gunara.
“I really liked the crowd cheering for us,” Germany’s Letizia Roscher said.
“It was so nice to skate in front of such a large audience again,” Team USA’s Liam Kapeikis noted.
“It is wonderful to be at Skate America, we don’t take for granted the opportunity to compete in front of a home audience, it doesn’t happen that often,” Evan Bates, of the United States, mentioned.
“It was a fun crowd. It was really special to be in front of an American crowd, but we definitely felt the support from everyone,” Team USA’s Kaitlin Hawayek added.
“The crowd was wonderful. They were so crazy, loud and supportive, it’s really touching,” Gracie Gold, of the U.S., announced. “Five stars for the crowd.”
Birthday at Skate America
Korea’s Junhwan Cha had a lot to celebrate at Skate America. He took home his fifth bronze medal of his Grand Prix Series career, and also celebrated his 21st birthday on Oct. 21, the day of the men’s short program.
Following the men’s short program press conference, Cha was surprised by his coach, Brian Orser, and his friend and training mate Jason Brown with two cakes. The media in attendance joined Orser and Brown in singing happy birthday.
Cha seemed quite surprised by the gesture!
“I was really not trying to think about my birthday. I just wanted to focus (on the competition),” Cha said, noting that his fellow competitors wished him a happy birthday at practice. “I was really happy that they noticed it was my birthday so that was a great experience for me, competing on my birthday.
Competing on home ice
It’s one thing to compete in front of your home country, or to compete at a rink where you have competed previously. But it’s another thing to compete a Grand Prix event at the rink you train at every single day. That was the case for Italy’s Daniel Grassl, who recently moved to the United States to train under Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva at the Skating Club of Boston.
“It was very nice to compete here on the home ice,” he said, noting that he has been training in Norwood for two months now. “It’s very difficult because I miss my family and everything, but when I went to the ice, I was feeling confident.”
Hanging with the media
Brown served as a social media host for Team USA. He could be found talking to the Team USA athletes following their performances and conducting video interviews for social media. He also participated in the press conferences, asking questions to the skaters.
Some of his questions included:
“Alexa and Brandon, ‘Stranger Things’ theme short program, what song saves you from Vecna’ curse?’
“Alexa, I know you are an avid reader. The past Olympic cycle has come to a close. As we start this next chapter, what would your title be?”
Brown told Figure Skaters Online and Ice-Dance.com that he enjoyed being on the other side. Follow Team USA on social media to see his video reports!