Thursday, October 02, 2008

Skating for a cause at USC's Galen Center

From the LA Times by Helene Elliott...

It seems like the Summer Olympics ended about 10 minutes ago, but the Vancouver Winter Games are fast approaching -- they're just a little more than 16 months away.

To start getting you in an Olympic frame of mind, the World Figure Skating Championships will be held at Staples Center in March, and it's a biggie because the results will determine how many skaters each country can send to Vancouver, Canada. That makes this whole season a crucial one for skaters who want to establish or reestablish themselves on the international scene, and a star-studded group with big Olympic dreams was on the ice Wednesday at the Toyota Center in El Segundo preparing for a show that will kick off the Olympic buildup.

Two-time U.S. men's champion Evan Lysacek and Mirai Nagasu of Arcadia, who won the U.S. women's title earlier this year at the tender age of 14, were two of the standouts rehearsing Wednesday for the McDonald's Family Tribute on Ice, which will take place Friday at USC's Galen Center and will be aired on NBC Nov. 16.

The show, to be hosted by "Dancing with the Stars" champion Kristi Yamaguchi -- once better known as the 1992 Olympic figure skating gold medalist -- will feature live music from Nick Lachey, promote World Children's Day on Nov. 20 and support the company's fundraising efforts for children's causes.

As a longtime supporter of Ronald McDonald House, Lysacek is especially inspired for Friday's show.

"We're glad to be a part of it and team up with such a philanthropic organization," he said.

"The show itself [is] gonna be phenomenal. Performing with live artists gives us a little bit more perspective about the music. We're just so used to putting a CD in the tape deck and playing it over and over and you don't hear it. When the music is coming from right there you really get into it and it's a cool experience."

Lysacek, who finished fourth at the Turin Games, is eagerly looking forward to this season and the World and Olympic competitions. He spent a good chunk of this summer training in Russia with renowned coach Tatiana Tarasova, who urged him to train with the Bolshoi ballet to enhance his artistry.

"I did an hour and half of ballet a day in addition to eight hours a day on the ice in Russia. It was really intense, but it was the best thing for me," Lysacek said. "It gave me a newfound respect for dancers because nothing I did in my training on the ice made me as sore as that ballet."

"I'm really proud of my programs and I hope I can do them justice. I've been working really hard, and I've had months more than any prerparation I've had for any season before."

"I just have a new appreciation for skating after a lot of stuff that happened last year with injuries and a lot of stuff that was out of my control. I just feel lucky to be healthy and to be able to skate every day. I'm probably looking forward to this season more than any before."

The same is true for Nagasu, who will make her [international] debut at the senior level.

"I just want to get experience and have fun," said Nagasu, who grew over the summer from 4-foot-11 to 5-foot-2 and is still getting accustomed to her new height.

"Less than a year ago I was standing below the wall, so my eye level [was] with the wall and that's where I looked at during my jumps. Now that I'm taller it's hard to focus on where I want to look because if I look at the wall again, then I lean too much forward and it throws me off."

Performing in a show so close to home means she can invite her best friend. "I didn't even know USC has an ice rink," she said.

Tickets are available through the USC ticket office, or at the Galen Center.

More to come as more skaters finish their rehearsals ...

read more | digg story

Also at the LA Times is a great story by Helene Elliott on Kimmie Meissner.

And another one by Evan Lysacek himself!

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