Saturday, June 5

While I enjoy reading your insight on various topics in figure skating, I was surprised to find that you be a student as I thought you are a professional figure skating journalist! May I ask what brings you this much of the knowledge? Do you also skate?

I was just a fan for a long time, and met some very knowledgeable and informed people along the way. I started skating purely for enjoyment a few years ago. I had a coach and progressed fairly quick, but now I just go to the rink every once in a while to make sure I am keeping up on my (lack of) skills..

Journalism never really intrigued me because I absolutely hate writing about topics that I have no interest (which is what I would spend plenty of time in school doing), and specifically in skating I hate reading interviews with skaters that are supposedly exclusive, but they repeat the same thing we have already heard 50 other times. I really just like writing in my own style, and being able to post whenever I feel like it or whenever I have exciting news. However, if a major media or sports website saw my work and liked my writing style and my occasional information sharing, I might consider it. Hint ;-)

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Gotta disagree with you about D/W getting unmotivated. You forget that Samuelson and Bates have go to Igor and Marina, and I suspect they'll provide the same time of rivalry that Virtue/Moir did. Thought?

Well as long as Virtue/Moir are competing, they will also be there! I think it'll take a while for Samuelson/Bates to move up far enough to pose any kind of threat to Davis/White, if at all. And now that the Khoklova/Andreev partnership seems to be a reality, I think mommy will put all of her effort into making her sure her son is the one who is moving up the ranks first :)

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What's your favorite upper-body variation (hands/arms, specifically) in a layback?

I think I got this question a while ago and couldn't come up with an answer so I disregarded it. Still.. I really don't know! You?

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Re: Ice Dance and pacing for the Olympics. Do you foresee this "youthening" up as a continuing trend? Perhaps with I&K this quad? Or do you think dance will return to its tradition of favoring veterans (D&W, and potentially V&M if they stay till Sochi)?

I&K are definitely getting any early push from the fans, and the judges at Junior Worlds obviously loved them, too. Whether they can keep that momentum for four years, I don't know. But with Domnina/Shabalin, Belbin/Agosto, Delobel/Schoenfelder, Zaretsky/Zaretsky, all either retired or most likely done, there is a lot of room in the middle of the pack for newer or other junior teams to start on the trek that Virtue/Moir and Davis/White did. We will see in 2011 if those two teams still have the fire in their bellies that they did this season. I think V/M will retire before 2014 comes around, and I think D/W might get sidelined or unmotivated a bit but return strong for Sochi. Just a feeling, as usual.

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Is it just me or did this last Olympics seem particularly warhorse heavy, with regards to music selections? I can't recall it ever being quite this bad. You think this is a sign of things to come or just a random occurrence?

I think it happens more frequent in the Olympic seasons because some skaters resort to "safe bets". One great example from the 2006 Olympic season was Elena Sokolova skating to Nessun Dorma for her short program. Even though her crossovers and posture were far from beautiful, there was something about the program that made it work for her when she was on (2006 Worlds)-- and it was probably the music itself.

While I would like to hope that the trend dies out, I don't think it will any time soon. There are some choreographers that really want to take chances with obscure and new pieces, while others seem bored with their jobs and pull out the "Greatest Hits of Skating" CD every time they are called to duty. Then again, I think many of the skaters themselves don't have a very large music knowledge, and many of them gravitate towards the hits because they just sound good.

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O.K. I did ask you your honest opinion of why JW was pushed out of favor with the USFSA and why he is not given credit for all he has done to bring new younger fans to an ageing sport. Plus I don't know what the SLC scandel mess is! What happened to this

Ok you replied in a later Formspring saying that you know now what the SLC scandal was all about, so I'll skip highlighting that.

I really don't think that Johnny was pushed out of favor with the USFS. I think that he was a breath of fresh air in 2004 and even 2005 when the IJS was just starting up, but his skating looks very similar to what it was in 6.0. I think many of the other men that have passed him up in the standings have adjusted their skating to fit the new system much more, and that's why he hasn't continued his climb to the top. I hate going on and on about Johnny because the thing is that I really do not have anything against him, I just wish he would have had stronger programs this year... then I would have been on the bandwagon screaming robbery, too.

The men are really where it's at these days. I always used to much prefer the ladies but that is not the case anymore. I think there are so many incredible personalities and story-tellers ON THE ICE now that if any young kids watched a mens competition at a major event, they'd want to do just the same. Sadly, I think Johnny leaves his personality off the ice.

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Of notable Swiss skaters over the years, where would you rank them in terms of their spins?

I think Ruh was the best, easily. I don't know about the rest. Lambiel had great variation and speed in his spins, but he also didn't always have the best flying camel position (it actually started off extremely poor), and he really traveled on the headless spin that he ended his combination spins with so often. Not taking anything away from him, but if you want the best of the best, that's where Lucinda had the advantage. Remember also that Ruh (and Krieg and Biellmann, obviously) skated pre-IJS and the requirements for spins were very basic. There were no levels designated for the number of features, but Lucinda always pushed herself and came up with unique positions. I guess I'd have Krieg following and Biellmann last. Denise obviously has a spin named after her that is very popular now, but she wasn't the first lady doing it and she always took a long while to actually catch the foot. Nothing against her though, I loved her skating.

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How would you describe each year of a quad, in terms of strategy and pacing for the Olympics?

The first year is when the skater really needs to get out there and start working their way up the standings (if they aren't already a medal contender). At the very least, they probably need to be somewhat successful in the junior ranks. The second and third years are when they need to continue to climb in the results, and hopefully in the third year they land themselves on or near the podium. Obviously the Olympic year is when you want to go for your two strongest programs, and hopefully from the previous seasons, the skater(s) has found the right style for them. The ladies gold medalists are usually the ones who are fresh faces at the beginning of the Olympic cycle (with the big exception of Arakawa in the last six Games), while the men are usually already in strong contention before the cycle begins. Lysacek was a World medalist in 2005, Plushenko obviously had World/European medals since 1998, Yagudin was on the World podium in 1997, and so on. Pairs seem to follow the trend of the men with longevity really paying off, while ice dance this year strayed from the norm as the top two teams were just establishing themselves during the last Olympics.

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Have you any ideas for what music you would pick for various skaters for 2010/2011?

I have had some ideas, yes, but I haven't really taken time to spend a day or two going through newer CD's listening for the perfect pieces. I'm just as sick of the "classics" as most people!

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Re: Murakami's technique. I should clarify, do you think it's a technical issue that could hurt her during/post-puberty? I think of how Zhang's deficiencies weren't as problematic in her junior days, but it certainly caught up with her in the seniors.

It's difficult to tell. I used the Nakano issue and she managed her technique differences throughout her puberty and until the end of her career. Zhang is one of those that grew and wasn't able to keep the same outrageous technique that she had when she was extremely tiny and light. Meissner and countless others are also examples of not the most perfect technique not working once their bodies started changing.

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What topics/skaters/issues would you like to discuss that you currently aren't asked about as much?

Honestly, anything. The area I know most about is probably the 1999-2004 or so seasons. I started college the following year and didn't follow skating as insanely close again until halfway through the 2010 season.

As far as the topics/issues, I like discussing ANYTHING when it comes to figure skating, so no question is dumb or silly. Ice dance is obviously my weak discipline, and I'm still learning a lot about it. But whether it is about the history of skaters themselves or judging or technique or music choices, or whatever else.. I like it all!

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Somebody earlier suggested that Lambiel could help Daisuke with his spins - but don't you think that spinning is one of those elements that a skater either has an innate ability for or doesn't? How much can a skater really improve his/her spins?

You can definitely improve your spins. But like I said earlier, a great spinner doesn't mean that he/she will also be a great teacher of spinning. I do think much of it comes from either having that balance and feeling initially, but skaters have definitely been able to go from poor to above average spinners with some work.

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What was your reaction to Denney/Barrett going to David Wilson for their LP? Surprise that Jim P. approved this or expecting that he'd have them make this kind of move eventually?

I'm not surprised. They have the excitement that is missing in most of the American pairs, but they really don't skate with connection and everything they do seems to be as one and not a pair. I have no idea which route David is going to take them, but he's definitely come up with some real magic in the past. I think it's a good move.

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About men's fs. Why do you think the avg age of WCs has gone up in last few years? It was normal for skaters aged 19-21 to win titles, names like Plushenko & Lambiel come to mind. Now 21 y.o. Kozuka, whom I love, is considered an up and comer. Why?

I think it was really rare to have someone like Plushenko already on the World podium at 15 and really dominating in the years afterwards. More or less the same for Lambiel. Stephane had some really strong showings early in his career (2002 Euros, 2003 Worlds qualifying), and I'm sure that really helped build steam.

As far as Kozuka, he's still at the "up and coming" stage because he still has yet to really break loose and skate with a freedom. I think that pretty much everyone sees the amazing potential and the perfect basics he has, but until he breaks out and really skates like he can be the best in the World, he's always going to have that title of being a future threat. Remember, he was already in the top 6 in the world in 2009, yet he's thrown into the "future" group with names like Amodio and Fernandez-- who have yet to be in the top 10 at Words and are younger.

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Any truth to the alleged David Pelletier - Tessa Virtue affair?

I don't have any official confirmation, and while I used to find gossip like this really fascinating and exciting, I don't really... follow?.. it much at all anymore. But from what I've heard, I think they were talking at one point.

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Do you think that Johnny Weir will compete next season? Also why didn't he do any SOI shows this year, I think all the rest of the U.S. Olympians did....

The SOI not inviting Johnny thing has been done to death, and I don't really have an opinion on it. You can Google search the situation to read about what other people have to say. I am not a big fan of show skating so I haven't followed it as close as I should. HOWEVER, I think that Johnny has so much going on otherwise that he isn't hurting for money or opportunities. I think his big fuss about not being invited to the tour was only started after other people fueled the fire, and he jumped ship.

And no, I don't think he will compete next season.

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Given that skating's Summer Olympics counterpart, gymnastics, has a team event, what sort of FS team format could you see being most successful/reasonable at the Winter Olys? (Hypothetically speaking, of course, since we know it probably won't happen.)

I think it would have to end up something like the World Team Trophy format, but the problem is that doing a short and long program alone is already so exhausting to the skaters. Adding another short and long program during the same Olympics would just add a lot more stress and fatigue for the skaters. I realize that Michael Phelps is able to swim a ton of different races in the course of one Olympics, when you include prelims, semis, finals, etc, but he practices for that and is an extremely rare case. Figure skaters have been trained their whole lives to usually skate one short program/original dance and one free skate/dance, so throwing in a whole new competition would be a lot of work in my opinion.

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Friday, June 4

Why do you suppose so many of Switzerland's top skaters are known for their spins? Lambiel, Ruh, Krieg, Biellmann, etc.

It's in the water!

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Do you think Murakami's unusual picking technique on her toe jumps will end up hampering her senior career?

Not necessarily. I think she was a bit over-marked at World Juniors but not too much. Yukari Nakano was able to finish in the top 5 in the world three years in a row with her wrapped leg technique. Different approaches work for different skaters. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of Murakami's technique in general, but I think she has a future.

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I was just reading a question from 3 months ago and do you really think all Russian men stink at skating now?

I don't think they stink, I just don't see a future champion in any of them as of right now. The IJS has killed the dynamic, in-your-face arm movements throughout the program that some of the Russians love so much for their choreography. I'm not hating, just being honest.

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I saw your blogg on Jamie Sales opinions on Johnny Weir. First of all who is she? I know she won a medal but I have never heard of her. So her contribution to FS couldn't have been that much. Who cares about her nasty opinion. I want to ask you why you do

She was co-gold medalist at the 2002 Olympic Games in pairs, and was the 2001 World Champion. She and David Pelletier came and went relatively quick as far as the competitive scene goes, but she does have those titles under her belt. And no, I'm not getting into the whole SLC scandal mess. It is what it is.

Her opinion is just as much valid as mine, and she was the one asked about the subject. If someone asked me about something, I'm going to give my honest opinion as well. I don't know that I really cared THAT much, but I think what she said had some points that I agree with.

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Do you know when the Grand Prix assignments will be out? I heard the meeting is June 11-12, but I am not sure if that's accurate.

It will probably be right around then. :)

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Thoughts on Daisuke - do you think that Lambiel not only doing choreography for Daisuke but also to give some advise on spins? I believe that Daisuke needs to improve a bit on his spin though he has improved a lot after his knee injury and the operation.

Stephane helping with spins might not be a bad idea, but I also think that Daisuke is scoring well enough that it isn't an urgent matter. Like I mentioned in the response to whether Stephane would be a good choreographer-- you never know if someone who is a "master" at something will be a good teacher. Do you think Alexei Mishin ever did quadruple toe loops or triple Axels? ;-)

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Do you think Evan is a jerk or do you think he is just kind of boring?

Hmmm. I don't want to turn this Formspring all gossipy, but I think he comes across extremely awkward all the time because he's trying to be someone that he isn't. When he talks during interviews, it sounds like he's trying really hard to speak with a deep voice. He also tries to be careful with not showing much emotion, but we've all seem him jumping up and down backstage several times upon hearing he has won events.

As far as boring-- I have a much different personality than Evan appears to have, so I probably would find him boring :-)

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I know this isn't an FS question, but do indulge me. What do you think of the new Formspring layout?

I like it! It's a lot cleaner, and I like how when you answer one question, another one pops up rather than just listing all of them at once. It makes it exciting to see what the new questions are :-)

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Hi, I just wanted some clarification on a question you answered on transitions. Are elements that lead directly into jumps (ie: steps, eagle, ina bauer) counted as transitions or part of GOE for difficult entry?

My own understanding is that it should be part of the GoE for the jump entry. I think that most judges would also keep it in mind while scoring transitions, as well, but I'm not sure if that is what is supposed to happen. I mentioned in my prior response that if it looks like all of the elements are isolated, ie. think of a practice session-- there might be steps into all of the jumping passes, but if the skater is doing crossovers the entire time otherwise, I don't think that is a good program transition-wise.

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Thursday, June 3

Thoughts on Mirai Nagasu - do you think she's had her fifteen minutes and in 2014 will be ecllipsed by younger skaters like Christina Gao? Or is she really the future of US Ladies figure skating?

We will see if some of the US ladies really start pushing towards the spots at the top next season. Four years is a long time to predict (where was Lipinski in 1995, Hughes/Cohen in 1999, Meissner in 2003, etc?-- they were all just barely starting to make names for themselves). Mirai really has to deliver all season long and prove that she is past the under-rotating of her jumps. I really feel that the USFS WANTS her to be the future, but another meltdown at Worlds (like in the free skate this year), and I think it might be really hard for them to keep her at or near the top.

I know this question had nothing to do with Rachael Flatt, but while on this general topic... I think that unless ALL of the ladies already near the National podium/coming up the ranks have an absolutely miserable year, Rachael is going to have a tough time getting back to Worlds. I don't know why, but I see her falling out of favor real quick.

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Am I alone in thinking including transitions in the PCS is redundant since there is already a transitions credit in the GoE and a choreography mark for how the program is constructed?

I definitely think that the transitions and choreography mark could be combined. Would we make the four remaining components all equal weight at 25% though? (Skating Skills, Performance/Execution, Choreography/Transitions, Interpretation). I would really have to think about that one. But at the very least, I do think that the two go hand-in-hand most of the time. Strong choreography generally has plenty of transitional moves, and vice-versa. NOT always, though.

As far as GoE, that is for the elements themselves. I understand transitions to be the way the elements are linked. Think of it as if you are seeing a program with a step or two into a triple Lutz, then the skater strokes around the rink doing back crossovers for 10 seconds, and then does a few turns into a triple flip. If all of the elements are looking like they are isolated, then I'd say the skater really doesn't have any transitions EVEN IF there are steps into each of the jumps, etc. But if the skating in between the elements appears seamless and includes a variety of moves in the field/one-foot/multi-directional skating, then I'd say that the skater has good transitions. I hope that makes sense.. this is another one of those answers where I feel a visual aide would help a lot more than my writing!

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Can you explain the difference between a serpentine and a circular step sequence, or are they the same? I think Lambiel has/ had some beautiful ones in his career, loved his SP straight sequence.

Circular is exactly that, generally done in a circle focusing around the middle of the rink (taking up near equal length and width). However, it can also be done in a circle in either of the "corners", although it is not common. A serpentine sequence starts at one end of the rink and follows a wide S-type shape to the other end of the rink. If you need more explanation, let me know. I think this is one of those visual things vs. trying to read it!

With the IJS system, the exact definitions of the shapes started to change. It used to be no problem to do just a simple straight-like or circular step. Now, with all of the content that the skaters have to pack into the element, the sraight-line sequence, for example, usually looks a little bit wavy, sometimes even seeming like the skater is doing slight S-shapes down the length of the rink-- that is perfectly acceptable.

Spiral sequences for the ladies also used to be required in either a circular or serpentine shape. I think (but I'm not sure on this one), that two years ago, the ISU gave up that concept and told the ladies just to perform a spiral sequence in any shape, as long as it had the required number of positions and each spiral was held long enough.

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Duhamel/Radford Partnership

As I exclusively reported on March 18th, Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have paired up and will compete next season. There were still some questions about the accuracy of this information, and both skaters have been completely quiet about it on their Facebook accounts. That is, until their Bermuda vacation. Here are some pictures from the trip, and I'm pretty sure it's a good confirmation of their status as a pair!

Do you think Lambiel will be a great choreographer?

This is honestly a tough one, even though the answer seems like it would clearly be yes. I know I have done many things in life that have come extremely easy to me, but when I try to train someone else in doing them, I find that the way I try to explain it doesn't come across at all what I am going for. However, I do think Stephane will have plenty of great ideas, and I am hoping that they will rub off on Daisuke, and whoever else he may end up working with.

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What do you think are the 3 top changes to come out of the recent ISU symposium. What are you most/least pleased with ??

I'm going to hold off answering this until the changes are actually instituted. Then I will go on my raving and/or ranting spree depending on which things passed :-)

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Some people really know everything about the technical side of figure skating and IJS and all that. I understand it a little bit, but most of the time still not enough to fully understand the scores of some skaters. You have any tips for me how to learn?

It definitely takes some time to remember all of the little rules and when things get multiplied or factored, etc. I think a good way to really learn is to watch a competition after it has finished, and keep the protocol from the event close by. As the skater performs the elements, you can see what the assigned level was and what the GoE's looked like from each of the judges. It's not the perfect way of learning, but if you are a casual fan who wants to understand more, I think it's a good start. Reading through all of the material is tiring, and the wording can be extremely complicated and frustrating at times!

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Do you know what happened to Aunt Joyce? HIs blog and formspring don't exist anymore!

It is my understanding that the blogger has decided to take the website down due to personal reasons. :(

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Wait... Do you help some skaters find music?

Sometimes, I offer up my suggestions. I've been asked for ideas before, but it is most certainly not a "job" that I have. :)

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What do you think about Lysacek's skating style? I don't know much about the technical aspects of fs, and Lysacek gets a lot of wank from fs fans for being "ugly" and "robotical". You seem to be unbiased and competent, so I'd love to hear your opinion :)

I'm honestly not a huge fan of his skating. I think everything he does is decent, but there is nothing about him that really stands out or makes me really get into his performances. There are so many men down the ranks that always have a story or presence, while Evan kind of just goes out there and performs all of the elements with a solidity. There was an excitement and a tension in his Olympic free skate, but that was because he skated well on the most important night of his life-- not because he created the excitement through his skating (if that makes sense).

I'm not taking anything away from his Olympic gold though, because I think he deserved it.

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You mentioned picking music for skating programs... how do you choose? Are there any particular requirements? What are the differences between the music for a short program and a free skate?

I don't really "pick" music for the skaters; I just really watch their styles and come up with what I think would be good ideas. There have been some international skaters who have chosen my suggestions, and I'm always willing to give my input.

As far as the differences between a short program and a free skate... I think that the short programs I usually envision are all about one concept and usually the music doesn't have many changes of tempo or velocity. The free skate, though, is where you are able to tell a story and different pieces meshed together to tell it are what I usually go for. Not always the case though-- it really just depends on the concept I come up with. Example: I found a really gloomy, dark piece of music that would be great for a mens short program for next season, but it's a bit too monotonous throughout. I found a techno remix of the song that could be woven in during the footwork sequences and spins that picks up the speed and excitement. We will see if it gets used... I have a skater or two in mind that I think it would really work for :-)

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What do you think about Johnny Weir, Jeremy Abbott and Evan Lysacek's competitive careers? Should they retire or do they have still a few years in front of them? (And who do you think is more likely to continue?)

Weir and Lysacek, I would guess, are both done. Weir has so much else going on with his life that I can't see him being motivated to go skate for hours a day again. He seems happy with all of his other ventures anyways. Lysacek-- I think his lack of motivation is going to come from having won everything he could possibly win. He's won an Olympic title and a World title, and been around long enough that I'd also guess he's done. Jeremy Abbott needs to really believe in himself. You can see the panic in his face when he skates. If he can find some sort of confidence, I think that the consistency will come. I don't know if he has another four good years in him, but he's definitely not done just yet.

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Do you think cynthia phaneuf will ever make the world podium?

I really respect Cynthia and I was so glad to see her put together two strong performances at Worlds, but I think her technique is still too inconsistent to ever expect that kind of performance on a regular basis. My answer is no, but I wouldn't hate it if she proved me wrong.

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Do you think that joannie rochette will compete next year?

That's a tough one. I think that she'd love to go for another Canadian title which would mean she'd probably have to do the Grand Prix series, etc, in the fall season. However, I reported a few months ago that Scott Hamilton wants to revitalize the professional competition scene, and has plans to do so during the winter of 2011-- that would be when Rochette would have Nationals/prepare for Worlds. I'm sure the money is going to be very enticing if the plans follow through. On the other hand, the only way I personally think she'd stay amateur is if she feels she can win the World Championship. She definitely isn't staying until 2014 Olympics, and she already has a World silver medal. If Yu-Na decides to take next season off, the chances of Rochette staying in might be much stronger.

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Hi Tony, I was excited about the news, but are's you getting Takahashi mixed up with Takahiko (Kozuka) in this article??

No, it is my understanding that Lambiel will work with Takahashi!

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Wednesday, June 2

One World Champ To Choreograph For Another?

This, to my knowledge, has not been reported anywhere else yet. I have heard from a reliable source that current World Champion Daisuke Takahashi will be working on choreography for a new short program with none other than 2005 and 2006 World Champion Stephane Lambiel. Note that I said A new short program, and not THE new short program. I have also heard that Takahashi will be having two programs choreographed, and he will decide which one he will skate competitively during the 2011 season. Not sure yet on who the other choreographer is, though. I'll edit it in when I confirm. Pasquale Camerlengo (husband of two-time World ice dance Champion Anjelika Krylova) is still slated to choreograph his free skate.

And so starts the part of the off-season where rumors and big news are bound to come up quite frequent. I have always tried to do my best to stay quiet until I am really sure of the things I put my name to, but keep in mind that once again, this is no official announcement!

Updated: This information is now confirmed.

Another update: I hear that the choreographer for the other short program is Shae-Lynn Bourne. We will see if Daisuke sticks with his original plan of having two programs choreographed, after Lambiel works on the first program in two weeks.