Detroit Free Press preseason article

Freep.com

October 20, 2010

Local skaters ready to hit the ice

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are back — but other dancers are out with injuries

By JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

On and off the ice, figure skating has always been associated with drama, even in the off-season. But the last eight months since the Vancouver Olympics have been especially eventful on the local scene.

In the past month alone, injuries have knocked out two prominent ice dance teams from the Arctic Figure Skating Club in Canton -- one for the entire season.

U.S. bronze medalists Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates had been eager to show their new look since leaving the Ann Arbor FSC last spring to be trained by coaches Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton. But in late September, Bates underwent surgery to repair a severed Achilles tendon as a result of a training accident, effectively ending their season.

The news is better for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Canadian Olympic gold medalists and reigning world champions. For the second time in two years, Virtue had surgery for a painful condition in her legs, but the team expects to be back this season.

With the 2010 ISU Grand Prix series kicking off Friday at the NHK Trophy in Japan, the Free Press checked in recently at two of the area's top clubs to view programs and play catch up. An update:

HELPING HANDS: In four seasons, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White went from being rookies on the senior circuit in 2006 to winning the Olympic silver medal in Vancouver last February.

It's way too early to predict the future for siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, reigning U.S. junior champions who are making their Grand Prix senior debut at the NHK Trophy.

But one thing's for sure: They're grateful to have the veteran presence of Davis and White -- with whom they train at the Arctic FSC -- competing alongside them in Japan.

"By no means are we intimidated by their success -- we trained with them all last year and saw how they worked," said Alex Shibutani, 19, "There's a lot of respect and appreciation for what they do."

Maia Shibutani, 16, said fans will notice something different about her compared to last season: A smidgen over 5-1, she has grown nearly 3 inches. Her brother has noticed.

"There's an adjustment period when you're lifting someone who's a little longer," he said.

THE SHORT OF IT: The NHK Trophy will be the first time the compulsory dance won't be held at a Grand Prix competition. The International Skating Union has dropped it as a stand-alone segment, rolling it into the original dance to form what's now called the "short dance."

"It's definitely nice that we don't have to worry about that third event," White said. "It will be better for the crowds, easier on competitions. And looking forward to the (next) Olympics, people will be able to come out and enjoy ice dancing more and understand what's going on."

For extra analysis, White can turn to Tanith Belbin, who'll be doing some TV commentating this season. Belbin and Ben Agosto, five-time U.S. dance champs and 2006 Olympic silver medalists, retired from competitive skating after taking fourth in Vancouver. But Belbin has returned to the Detroit area to be with White, her boyfriend. She's also taking classes at Eastern Michigan, he said.

RIDING IT OUT: The situation isn't ideal, but there's no choice for Jeremy Abbott: The two-time defending U.S. men's champion will begin the season in the same skating boots that he wore all last season.

"They're pretty torn up, literally held together (on the inside) by tape," Abbott said with a laugh. "They're soft like bedroom slippers."

Abbott and his Detroit Skating Club coaches, Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, spent nearly all of September trying to correct mounting issues with his new boots. They hope to have the problem resolved after the NHK Trophy.

As a result, Abbott won't be attempting a quadruple jump in his long program in Japan.

"It's a long season," Dungjen said. "It would be great to get him in the Grand Prix final (in December), but I think at this point, if he goes with the two triple axels in that program and does it well, I think with his ability, his second mark can carry him through and then we can go back and slowly get the quad back in. It's such a big ticket item, and when you have equipment (issues), it's not a good combination."

LOOKING GOOD: Fedor Andreev, former Canadian men's singles competitor, is improving by the day as an ice dancer with partner Jana Khokhlova of Russia at the Arctic FSC. Khokhlova is a former world bronze medalist (2008) with Sergei Novitski, who has retired. The Moscow-born Andreev -- who's the son of Marina Zoueva -- and Khokhlova will compete for Russia.

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

Related content

Skating opener

What: NHK Trophy
When: Friday-Sunday in Nagoya, Japan.
Locals: Men's singles -- Jeremy Abbott, Detroit Skating Club; ice dance -- Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Arctic FSC; Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (Arctic FSC); Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (Detroit SC).


1 Comentário:

Anonymous said...

Poor Meryl, it's hurt a lot!!

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