Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Very Icy Weekend

But in the best way possible! Over the weekend, Kie, Sibei, and I went to the Cup of China figure skating competition held here in Beijing every fall. It's part of the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, which is a series of six competitions held around the world each fall, where the top international skaters compete for medals and money, but also to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, which is also being held in Beijing this year (I miss it by five days, darnit!)I was really excited to be here for the Cup of China, though- I'd never gone to a major international skating competition before, and with the conversion rate, tickets were really cheap! To go to every event, the cost was $50, and that was for the best seats. Had we wanted to buy the nosebleed student tickets, we could have gone for only $10. To go to the Grand Prix event in the US, Skate America (which is next weekend, I think), would cost $100 for the cheapest seats, so this was quite the deal!

The competition was held at Capital Indoor Gymnasium, which is only about 15 minutes away from Renmin. It's also where the Chinese national skating team practices, and was a location for the Beijing Olympics. (What it hosted, we're not sure - it was kind of a small venue)Walking in, I was surprised by the size - having watched youtube videos from last year's competition held in the same place, I was expecting it to be bigger. All the better to see the skaters, though, and we had seats right behind the judges, which was great. The skating itself was fantastic, but I won't go into massive analysis of it - but one of the US's men and a pairs team were on the podium!

The best part, other than watching the skating, was getting to cheer on the US skaters in a foreign country. Had we been in the US, it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun, since everyone else would have been screaming just as loud. Here, however, the audience's response to non-Chinese skaters was...lukewarm, at best. Whenever one of our skaters took the ice, we screamed when they were announced, we yelled in unison, "Go !!!!". Several of the skaters looked at us and smiled after hearing their names, and the audience surrounding us tended to look at us, too.

Over in the corner of the arena, we saw a few people waving an American flag, and during one of the breaks went over to say hi. They ended up being the officials and parents with the skaters, which was cool. One of the pairs skater's moms told me, "You have no idea how nice it is to hear an American accent!" and I said, "Oh believe me, I do!". Her daughter ended up winning bronze, and we watched/cheered at the medal ceremony with her. The other parent who was there is the father of Ross Miner, one of our mens skaters. He told us to make sure we made lots of noise, since Ross hates the silence. Having been encouraged to keep screaming our hearts/lungs (?) out, we yelled when Ross was about to get his scores, "We love you Ross!", and he held his hands up in a rock start pose in response. We yelled it for our other mens skater, Brandon, too, but he was busy talking with his coach. After finishing his program and getting changed, Ross came up and said hi and gave us all a hug (He said, "You guys said you love me, we gotta hug it out!). Getting to meet him was a lot of fun, and he stuck around for awhile and talked skating with us.

That was the best part of cheering, getting to see the skater's responses, whether it was actually coming up to say hi or just a smile. That was something that I think is unique to going to a competition abroad as opposed to one in the US - like I said, in the US everyone is screaming. Getting to meet the parents, team doctor (also from Chicago!), and other officials was one of the highlights of the event, and would probably be less likely to happen in the US. Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting back to working on my skating tomorrow. :)

Oh, and there was one other person we yelled for while they were waiting for the scores. Mirai Nagasu, our National Silver medalist, is coached by Frank Carroll, who in the sport of figure skating is legend--wait for it--DARY. An absolute god among skaters. So while Mirai was waiting for her score, we yelled, "We love you, Frank!". While he did not respond with a rock star pose, the brief smile on the normally stoic coach's face made my night. :)

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