Interview with Meryl about rescheduled Worlds

Skaters react to rescheduled Worlds

By Alexa Ainsworth | Posted: Mar 24, 12:51p ET | Updated: Mar 24, 4:37p ET checked in with several figure skaters to find out their thoughts on the rescheduling of Worlds. The event was originally planned for this week in Tokyo, but due to the natural disaster in Japan, will be held in Moscow at the end of April.

Meryl Davis, United States - Ice dancer w/ Charlie White

What was your strategy while the status of Worlds was uncertain?

Our strategy was to be ready whenever we were told to go. We talked a lot with our coaches about the fact that it really is a test. It's a sport that's about being ready to compete when you have to. Not being phased by things that may or may not change your typical routine or schedule is really an important part of any sport. We were really focusing on just making sure we were comfortable and confident and ready to go whenever necessary.

Having said that, now that we know when and where we have to be, it's a comfort. We have a month until Worlds and we can go back to the drawing board with our coach and plan our training strategy for the next four weeks.

Was it ever difficult to keep perspective?

I think it's so easy for anyone to focus on themselves and how a particular situation affects them. For us, we were trying to keep perspective and realize while Worlds may be postponed or canceled, at the end of the day it really is figure skating. In comparison to what the people in Japan have been going through, it's just such a minor problem.

Japan is a country so much like our own and a place we have visited many times. We know people over there, have friends over there and fans over there that we're thinking of and want the best for.

How have you personally responded to the tragedy?

I donated to the Red Cross and I've been trying to Tweet about the situation and encourage support. From what I understand, we'll be arranging a benefit show in the Detroit area after Worlds for the relief of Japan. I'm excited to be a part of that.

New 2011 Worlds location: Moscow

March 24, 2011

Moscow new site for world figure skating

By Philip Hersh

The International Skating Union announced Thursday that it has selected Moscow, Russia from six candidates as the substitute host for the World Figure Skating Championships.

The event will take place April 24 - May 1.

The 2011 worlds were scheduled to take place in Tokyo this week but had to be moved as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

``We're all thrilled it will take place this spring,'' U.S. ice dancer Meryl Davis just told me by telephone. ``By trying to hold it as soon as possible, (it) shows the ISU and the federations have been doing all they can for the skaters.''

Russia seemed the most logical replacement candidate since it told the ISU last week it was willing to take over the event because of Moscow's hotel capacity, international airports and large arena.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, it became a foregone conclusion Tuesday when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised support and said his country could handle the finances easily.

The other candidates were: Vancouver; Lake Placid, N.Y. or Colorado Springs; Turku, Finland; Graz, Austria; and Zagreb, Croatia.

Click here for the ISU statement.

While details are still being worked out, a Russian figure skating official told me Thursday the schedule will be essentially the same as what was planned for Tokyo, with official practices beginning April 24, preliminary wounds April 25-26 and the final phases of the competition from April 27-30.

Pairs and men's events would be April 27 (short programs) and 28 (free skate); women's and dance April 29 (short) and 30 (free).

It will be held at the five-year-old Megasport Arena, which has a seating capacity of just over 12,000 for hockey. It would be about the same for figure skating.

``It's nice we have a month now instead of finding out we were going next week,'' Davis said. ``We have time to reset our training.''

Davis said she and partner Charlie White, reigning Olympic and world silver medalists, have decided to give up planned appearances on the Stars on Ice tour to concentrate on training for worlds. They would have skated with Stars on Ice between the originally scheduled end of worlds this Sunday and the April 9 end of the tour's U.S. stops.

Stars on Ice producer Byron Allen told me earlier this week all the affected skaters would be let of of contracts because ``their priority has to be their professional career.''

Marina talks about training Team Canton

Coach Zoueva has recipe for ice dance success

zoueva-584.jpgMarina Zoueva, far left, and coaching partner Igor Shpilband, far right, guided American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White to Olympic silver in 2010. They also coached gold medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

On any given Saturday, master figure skating coach Marina Zoueva can be found at her kitchen table in Michigan, poring over the schedule she creates every week for her skaters.

Zoueva and her coaching partner, Igor Shpilband, are the Russian-born masterminds behind the most prolific ice dance program in today's skating world. They have "permanent" teams that represent four different federations, including Canada, the United States, Lithuania and Russia, and work with nine teams and two girl dancers who are on the search for partners.

Zoueva and Shpilband have five teams who have qualified for the world championships, another qualified for junior worlds, and another for international competition. Their highest-ranked students are Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir - the reigning world and Olympic champions from Canada - and Meryl Davis and Charlie White - the world and Olympic silver medallists from the United States. They also handled the 2006 Olympic silver medallists - Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.

Zoueva is also busy as one of the world's leading choreographers.

Helping Virtue and Moir

Although this is an unusual time in figure skating, with the world championships in limbofollowing the natural disaster in Japan, it was business as usual for Zoueva on this particular Saturday.

Next week's schedule can take three hours or so to complete, and includes information not only for the skaters but for the coaches as well (such as who's going with the skaters and who's staying home to take care of business). She likes looking at everything on paper. It helps her determine who needs extra attention and in what area. Zoueva and Shpilband have others on their team who see the skaters on a regular basis: Jonny Johns and Adrienne Lenda offer coaching support, while Aliona Morgan is the ballet specialist. There are others who are on hand for ballroom dancing or whatever else is needed.

"It is not just a schedule, it is a plan," says Zoueva.

When we last saw Virtue and Moir, it was at the ISU Four Continents Championships, where Virtue stopped skating in the middle of their free dance with pain in her quad muscle. Once home, the coaching team had to work on healing her and making adaptations to accommodate the weakened muscle.

"[The injury] is healed," Zoueva says. "We did many things in order to have fast recovery. We also changed the lift that hurt her leg and now she is really, really, really well."

This season has presented its share of coaching challenges for Zoueva, not to mention training challenges for Virtue and Moir.

"Right now they are training very well," Zoueva says. "Their practice season was not so long because of [the leg surgery Virtue underwent in the fall]. Now with the delay of worlds, it gives her time to keep going and get more preparation."

Growing up

She credits all of her skaters with knowing what to do at competition and in practice, and sees her role as one of a supporter.

"All of them are absolutely great kids," she says. "They grow and compete against each others sometimes for 10 years or more from novice [level]. When other kids come to us we try to give them the right environment and right atmosphere and we do for each team the best. We don't have a favourite. we give all the teams the best we can do."

As far as results are concerned?

"When it is competition time, they have to skate, that is their job. We try to spread attention to all of them and to help if they need something."

In some cases, Zoueva has worked with a skater for many years before he or she becomes a star.

"I have grown all of my Olympic champions from little," she says. "Katya [Ekaterina Gordeeva, a two-time Olympic pairs champion with her late husband Sergei Grinkov] from the beginning, Meryl and Charlie [from age] 13, and Tessa and Scott 14 and 15.

"It feels great to see them succeed. I feel like with every champion I get new knowledge and new experience."

'Keeping their peak'

The world champions for this season are yet to be determined, and Zoueva says that she and Shpilband won't really create a definite plan for worlds until they know what they are planning for.

In the meantime, skaters are skating and coaches are coaching. All according to the schedule.

"Everyone is keeping their peak and working hard to keep their peak," says Zoueva.

"Every day they are better and better."

Worlds to get new site

ROME (AP) Figure skating's governing body hopes to select a new site for its world championships by the end of the week after Japanese officials said they could not host the event this year.

The championships were to have begun Monday in Tokyo but had been postponed because of the earthquake and tsunami.

The International Skating Union had offered Japan the possibility of hosting the worlds in October. But the Japan Skating Federation wrote back over the weekend, saying it was handing the competition back to the ISU.

ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta told The Associated Press on Monday he has asked members capable of hosting the worlds in late April or early May to send offers by Tuesday, and the ISU council will then vote Wednesday or Thursday.

In a letter to members, the ISU said such countries need an arena with at least 8,000 seats as well as a practice rink, about 700 hotel rooms and ability to televise the event.

"I think it's great they've decided to go ahead with worlds," said Meryl Davis, the Olympic and world silver medalist in ice dance with Charlie White. "The main concern was making sure we did what was right for Japan and remaining respectful toward Japan and what it's gone through. Now that Japan has vocalized it's OK with worlds going on, I think it's definitely the appropriate decision."

Cinquanta hopes to have at least three or four candidates, and possibly seven or eight.

"We'll see what comes in and then we hope to have an announcement by Friday," he said. "We're trying to move as quickly as possible. We gave Japan as much time as we could, but unfortunately the situation there is very serious and we've had to move on. But our thoughts are still with Japan."

U.S. Figure Skating told the ISU last week it could host the championships in either the arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., or the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo. Neither arena meets the 8,000-seat threshold, but U.S. Figure Skating believes both would be "strong" bids.

Both cities have experience hosting international skating events; Lake Placid hosted Skate America in 2009, and Colorado Springs recently was chosen as the site for next year's Four Continents Championships. Most larger arenas in the United States are unavailable due to NHL and NBA games.

Skate Canada has also told the ISU it would help out in whatever way it can, and CEO William Thompson said Monday the federation was exploring whether to make a bid for worlds.

"(We) will submit a hosting bid if we can find an appropriate location with arenas, hotels and transportation infrastructure," Thompson said.

The massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeast Japan likely left more than 18,400 people dead.

The Japanese federation also agreed to postpone the ISU World Team Trophy, scheduled for April 14-17 in Yokohama, until 2012 at a date and site in Japan to be determined.

"We've been trying to keep perspective and realize so many people are dealing with things that are true problems and things that are life-changing," Davis said. "At the same time, it is a huge challenge because our sport, like so many, is based on peaking at the right time. ... Now that we know for sure the ISU is going to go ahead with worlds, it is reassuring."

New Montage

Awesome new montage by Amber. Enjoy!


ESPN article about Worlds

Figure skating worlds officially in limbo

The figure skating world championships slated for Tokyo next week are now officially in limbo. This morning's announcement by the International Skating Union -- which, given the obvious magnitude of the disaster in Japan, seemed unnecessarily delayed -- resolved just one thing: The event will not be held at the original site.

ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta didn't rule out any options in an interview with the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh today. Postponement, relocation and cancellation are all still on the table.

Alternate sites in Asia and Europe would seem to be more logical to serve as last-minute hosts than Canada or the United States, whose major arenas are booked this time of year with hockey and pro and college basketball.

Those I contacted seemed confident that the championships will be held.

"We just need two questions answered -- when and where," said prominent ice dancing coach Igor Shpilband, whose suburban Detroit stable includes defending world and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and Olympic silver medalists and U.S. champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

The American duo represents the U.S. team's best world championship medal hopes and their showdown with Virtue and Moir, who have missed most of the season while Virtue recovered from surgery, is highly anticipated.

Davis said she and White are sticking to their training routine, "doing all we can do, which is all we can expect of ourselves."

"While we love and enjoy what we do, and it brings a lot of pleasure to people who watch our sport, what is going on in Japan really brings it all back to earth," she said. "I think it's a really good thing world championships were postponed, because the Japanese people have more important things to think about."

Davis and White were committed to joining the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour for the last six shows, beginning in early April, but may have to bow out depending on what skating officials decide about the timing of world championships, Davis said.

From the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, coach Tom Zakrajsek said his skaters, U.S. men's champion Ryan Bradley and silver medalist Rachael Flatt, have done a good job of maintaining their normal practice routines in a decidedly abnormal situation.

"Certainly, the question mark is difficult, but this is an extraordinary situation," Zakrajsek said. "I try to teach my athletes to be flexible, and this is a major lesson in flexibility. Most of the athletes are very experienced at being in the moment."

Zakrajsek said he and the skaters have worked with "lumps in our stomachs" since the news of the disaster first broke. They had a first-hand view of the stress when members of a Japanese television crew who had come to the rink to film interviews Friday couldn't locate their families.

Bradley expressed relief that the championships won't be held in Tokyo. "Japan is trying to rebuild their country, and we would have walked in there saying 'Hi! We're here to ice skate! Come watch us!' That seems a little silly in the scheme of things."

Still, athletes are used to routine, and Bradley said it's an odd feeling to be up in the air. "We know that five days out we do this, four days out we do that. Now, we don't know when we're leaving or where we're going... but I feel very confident that under any circumstances, I'll be ready to go out and do my best."

Boston-based U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner's first thoughts were for his friend, 2010 world junior champion and 2011 Four Continents silver medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, whose hometown of Sendai was devastated by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Miner's coach Mark Mitchell said the skater was able to establish that Hanyu was OK through social media.

"Twitter and Facebook have been great for all these kids in being able to make sure everyone's safe," Mitchell said.

Most team members had been scheduled to travel to Tokyo this weekend. "What happened in Japan makes worlds, and skating, seem so minuscule," Mitchell said. "Ross is a kid who has a really good perspective and knows there are bigger things in life."

The disaster in Japan has touched everyone in the U.S. worlds delegation, some more directly than others. Yuka Sato, the coach and former world champion from Japan who had a huge role in getting U.S. ladies champion Alissa Czisny back on track this season, told Detroit Free Press writer Jo-Ann Barnas she had some anxious moments before she was able to verify that her parents were safe near their home in Yokohama.

Davis, White: 'Skating takes backseat to tragedy'

If their shot at history has to wait, so be it

By Amy Rosewater, special to

(03/14/2011) - Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White were looking forward to competing this month at the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo to make history.

If Davis and White were to win the world title, they would become the first American ice dancers to reach the top of the world podium. Ice dancing has been part of the world championships since 1952.

But they realize their place in history takes a backseat to the tragedy of historical proportions that has been occurring in Japan. Tokyo had been the planned host of the world championships, which were set to begin March 21, but in the wake of the tsunami, earthquakes and nuclear plant problems, the International Skating Union this morning opted to postpone the championships and possibly cancel them.

The last time the world championships were canceled was 50 years ago when the entire U.S. world team, along with coaches, family members, officials and judges were killed in a plane crash en route to the championships in Prague.

"I definitely think this is the right decision for the ISU to either change the event to a different location or to cancel it altogether,'' Davis said. "It's easy for us to focus on our skating and training, but what's going on in Japan right now is just unfathomable.''

Read entire article HERE.

Tanith Belbin offers her take on six Michigan-trained ice dancing teams

"Meryl and Charlie -- this is the hardest season for any team coming off a great Olympic success (because) the post-Olympic season is so challenging. So to see what they're able to do is phenomenal because they push themselves to another level technically (they've won all five of their competitions this season). Their programs are demanding, and what I've noticed most of all this season with them is their speed and their power. They flow across the ice faster than any other team out there, and I think they absolutely will stand out."

Read the complete article.

2011 Stars on Ice appearances

“Smucker’s Stars on Ice 25th Anniversary Tour" Meryl Davis and Charlie White performances:

  • Friday, April 1st at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY at 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, April 2nd at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ at 7:30 PM
  • Sunday, April 3rd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH at 5:00 PM
  • Thursday, April 7th at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY at 7:00 PM
  • Friday, April 8th at The Civic Center in Portland, ME at 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, April, 9th at Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT at 7:30 PM

Vote for M & C: February Team of the Month

Vote for Meryl and Charlie for February USOC Team of the Month