Detroit Free Press SOI article

POSTED: APRIL 30, 2010

Figure skating royalty at the Palace Sunday

Local Olympians star with touring show

BY JO-ANN BARNAS FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

The Smucker's Stars on Ice Tour drops by the Palace for one show at 4 p.m. Sunday. The cast features a slew of performers from the Detroit area, including a few who competed at the Vancouver Olympics. Jo-Ann Barnas of the Free Press caught up with some of them.

TEAM MICHIGAN: The list of scheduled skaters with state ties grew by two when it was announced this week that U.S. ice-dance bronze medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the Arctic Figure Skating Club in Canton will be added for several shows beginning with the Palace stop. Other skaters with Michigan ties are Vancouver Olympic ice-dance silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White; 2006 Olympic ice-dance silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto; two-time U.S. men's champion Jeremy Abbott; 2009 U.S. ladies gold medalist Alissa Czisny; six-time U.S. men's champ Todd Eldredge; and 1994 ladies world champion Yuka Sato.

Other cast members include Sasha Cohen, Michael Weiss and Miki Ando.

NO LYSACEK: Men's Olympic champion Evan Lysacek isn't scheduled to perform at the Palace.

He's currently managing dueling professions: he's also competing on "Dancing with the Stars" with professional partner Anna Trebunskaya.

GOLDEN OLDIE: Todd Eldredge lived in Michigan for 15 years until he moved two years ago to Florida, where he coaches with his longtime mentor, Richard Callaghan, in Ft. Myers. Eldredge trained in Rochester Hills in 2002, when he won his sixth U.S. title and qualified for his third Olympics.

Now in his eighth season with Stars, Eldredge, who'll be 39 on Aug. 28, said he's jokingly referred to as "Grandpa" by some of the skaters.

"Mirai wasn't born when I competed in my first Olympics in Albertville (in 1992)," Eldredge said of Mirai Nagasu, 17, who placed fourth in the ladies event in Vancouver.

But Eldredge isn't an old fogey on the ice. Until suffering an injured back a few weeks ago, he was training his triple axel.

JUST A TRIM: Perhaps it's not the headline grabber of a few weeks ago, when White confirmed to the Free Press that he's dating Tanith Belbin (who's moving to Detroit this summer). But many of White's fans will be surprised to learn that his head of curly blond locks are gone -- thanks to a recent trip home for a cut.

LIFE ON THE ROAD: White and Davis, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills and West Bloomfield, said touring with Stars has made them better performers.

"Getting to go out there and skating for the joy of it -- it's something you lose when you grind it out through the year," White said. "We're getting back to really loving skating."

Davis said: "Even the bus rides have been fun. We've all gotten really close over the last month or so. It's a family-type atmosphere."

MASTERFUL MENTOR: Jeremy Abbott, who placed ninth at the Olympics, said his favorite performer on tour is Yuka Sato, who's Abbott's full-time coach at the Detroit Skating Club.

"It's been nice to get to know Yuka on a completely different level," he said. "She's exquisite to watch on the ice. Her skating is incredible. When I get a chance, I go out and watch her in the show."

ANOTHER YEAR: Czisny, who split with her longtime coach (Julie Berlin) after nationals, has been working with Sato on tour but said she hasn't announced who'll coach her next season.

"I promised myself another year," Czisny said of competing. "I want to see how it goes."

Contact JO-ANN BARNAS: 313-222-2037 or jbarnas@freepress.com. Read more in her Olympics blog at freep.com/olympicsblog.

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