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Unseen Skaters' Special Section for 2005 U.S. Nationals
An Unseen Skaters special. December 31, 2004.

Unseen Skaters is pleased to feature “Spotlight” interviews with a number of skaters who will be competing at the 2005 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon, January 9-15. These skaters were chosen for a variety of reasons -- some because they are excited to be going to “big” Nationals for the first time at the novice or junior level; others because we believe they have interesting perspectives to share; and still others because they sent back their answers to our questions in time!

We have also excerpted quotes from our past interviews with skaters who have qualified for 2005 Nationals. They are listed below in the order in which they were originally published, from the most recent and earlier this season (June 2004) to the oldest (May 2001).

Unseen Skaters congratulates all the skaters who have qualified for 2005 Nationals -- may you all skate and compete to the best of your abilities! If you or your team would like to be featured here after you return home from Portland, please send an e-mail to: . We normally conduct our interviews via e-mail. We will also continue our tradition of interviewing competitive skaters throughout the year (with our main focus on Novice to Senior), and not only those who have qualified for Nationals.

-- Sylvia, Editor-in-Chief & Anna, Web Editor

New Spotlights
Stephanie Rosenthal (senior)
Braden Overett (senior)
John Coughlin (junior)
Caroline Miller (junior)
Anna Peng (junior)
Trina Pratt & Todd Gilles (junior dance)
Craig Ratterree (junior)
Traighe Rouse (junior)
Nate Bartholomay (novice)
Melissa Bulanhagui (novice)
Eliot Halverson (novice)
Grant Hochstein (novice)
Austin Kanallakan (novice)
Kirsten Olson (novice)
Brittney Rizo (novice)
Tiffany Yu (novice)

Skater Quotes from Past Interviews

Senior in 2005: Dennis Phan, Mauro Bruni, Jordan Brauninger, Katy Taylor, Angie Lien, Megan Williams-Stewart, Katie Beriau (pairs), Brittany Vise & Nicholas Kole, Alissa Czisny, Katherine Hadford, Yebin Mok, Shaun Rogers, Nicholas LaRoche, Shanell Noji, Tiffany Vise (pairs), Jennifer Don (singles & pairs).

Junior in 2005: Princeton Kwong, Molly Oberstar, Douglas Razzano, Jeremy Abbott, Megan Oster, Crystal Shum, Tommy Steenberg, Julia Vlassov & Drew Meekins, Christine Zukowski.

Princeton KwongSpotlight on Princeton Kwong, age 14 (June 2004):
"My flute teacher, Robin DeMartini, says that my competitive skating spirit is a plus to flute performance. My coach, Sergei Ponomarenko, also reminds me to 'breathe' before I execute a jump, kind of like taking a big breath before playing a long phrase in flute music. In both disciplines, once I’m on the ice or stage, the program, no matter how difficult, will come so 'automatic' that it leaves me no instance to get apprehensive while I’m in the middle of it. So, as soon as I hear my cue, I just 'go.' Classical music has influenced my taste for melodic and rhythmic styles and also has a good training of timing of the different elements in my skating programs."
complete interview

Molly OberstarSpotlight on Molly Oberstar, age 15 (June 2004):
"I love being able to express myself in skating. I love the rush you get when you finally master something you've been working on for a long time. I love the joy of flying around the ice. The feeling is unexplainable."
complete interview

Douglas RazzanoSpotlight on Douglas Razzano, age 15 (May 2004):
"I think my coach, Doug Ladret, has had the biggest impact on my skating because he has taught me good technique and good work ethic, and also helps me get through the bad days... I love to skate because I love learning new elements, and I love the feeling of skating well and having success! Also, because I love the challenge!"
complete interview

Dennis PhanSpotlight on Dennis Phan, age 18 (May 2004):
"I love to skate because at competitions I get this rush. A rush that I don't get when I do other sports. It's just this feeling I get and that's when I know that I am supposed to be doing this. I also love skating because I get to travel all around the world, seeing the cultures, and experiencing how other people live. How can I ask for more? I get to travel around the world, but at the same time I am doing what I love, too."
complete interview

Spotlight on Jeremy Abbott, age 18 (January 2004):
"I absolutely love skating! I love the artistic and physical elements of it. I love the rush of competing and also improving and competing/winning against my own standards!"
complete interview

Update with Mauro Bruni, age 19 (January 2004):
"Of course it was a thrill to qualify for Nationals the year I moved up to Senior. It was a big surprise to me at the time because Easterns was full of really quality Senior Men this year. I can't say that I want to win Nationals this year... even though I do! This year I can only look forward to skating well in front of thousands of people for the first time!"
Editor's Note: And he did just that with his heartfelt free skate performance to "Miss Saigon" in Atlanta.
complete interview

Spotlight on Megan Oster, age 14 (January 2004):
"Working toward my goals is a daily incentive to keep practicing and doing what I love to do... My goal for [2004] Nationals is to place in the top 3 and/or skate clean."
Editor's Note: Megan achieved her goal by winning the Novice Ladies bronze medal in Atlanta.
complete interview

Update with Jordan Brauninger, age 16 (January 2004): "Everyone wants to skate the best that they can when it matters the most. I have been fortunate enough to skate to the best of my ability when the chips are down five times as near as I can figure. I have usually lost when that happens because I am rising to the level of the competition, really skating "better" than I can. But after that happens, after I raise the bar for my personal best, that level is expected and I can duplicate that performance with no pressure."
Editor's Note: Make that six times "when the chips are down," counting his clutch, bronze medal-winning performance at the World Junior Championships in March 2004.
complete interview

Katy Taylor, age 13 (June 2003):
"Well, four months later it's still kind of hard for me to believe that I placed 2nd [in Novice] in the whole country! I'll never forget skating in the big arena with the Dallas Nationals' logo painted on the ice and hearing all my family and friends who came from Houston to cheer me on! I'll also never forget hearing the ABC theme music come on as we took the ice for our 5 minute warm-up. That was really cool!"
complete interview

Crystal Shum, age 14 (April 2003):
"I started skating when I was nine and a half. I started ice skating by watching my cousin skate in one of her competitions and I thought it was really cool, so I tried it and I loved it... I love skating so much because I love being competitive."
complete interview

Angie Lien, age 22 (January 2003):
"I am definitely from the old school of skating. I absolutely love/loved figures!! I think that has helped me so much in my skating. I loved figures because they were challenging and such a change of pace from freestyle, but I also loved doing all sorts of edge stuff. I love learning new edge patterns to warm-up with. I loved doing loops, rockers, paragraph three's, etc. I only made it to my 7th test and never got to take it, although it is always a thought in the back of my mind. I passed my 6th figure the summer before I went to Novice Nationals and I competed figures from Preliminary to Intermediate. I think this was very beneficial to my skating. I was sorry to see them leave. I think that figures really did help my lutz take off! I've done an outside edge since day one with all of my lutzes, but it also helps that I really like doing that jump! I really enjoy the exercise, but most of all I really just like being on the ice, and when I'm away it's so hard. I just want to get back out there. There are those days when you just don't want to be there and I think that happens to most people. I really just like to skate and show people what I can do, especially my family. In the last few years I've just been taking it one year at time. I think at this point in my life that's how I need to take it. I think it's working just fine for me and I'm happy."
complete interview

Mauro Bruni, age 18 (January 2003):
"I don't really have any definite long-term goals for my skating, like winning the Olympics or anything like that (although that would be nice!). I've always dreamed of being a precise and consistent skater, and I feel that if I can achieve this, success will come along with it. I love skating because I can get lost in my movements on the ice. I love just playing music and not having to think about anything - I let my body take over and the music brings the moves to life."
complete interview

Katy Taylor, age 13 (January 2003):
"I'm not sure what I like the most about skating because I really like everything about it! It is so much fun to skate real fast around the ice, and I like the thrill of big jumps and fast spins! I like the challenge skating offers and the feeling of satisfaction when you accomplish something new! I keep going day after day because there is so much to learn and you always want to skate faster, jump higher, and spin faster, so you must practice, practice, practice!!!"

Megan Williams-Stewart, age 15 (January 2003):
"I started skating when I was three years old. My mom was a speed skater so I would skate in the middle as she practiced around me. The thing I love most about skating is, even through the hard times, once you get past them, you feel like you've accomplished something."
complete interview

Katie Beriau, age 17 (November 2002):
"I first started skating on a pond near my house when I was about three years old. I began taking group lessons at age six. Since then, I've always loved skating. My long-term goal in skating is to become a national competitor and become the best skater I can be by always skating to my full potential. [Editor's Note: She has achieved her goal of being a national competitor by qualifying for 2005 Nationals in Senior Pairs.] I love the speed and excitement that skating has. It lets you just let go of everything and express yourself. I like the motivation that skating has also given me, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. I'm always able to stay motivated and determined in whatever I do, and I love how skating keeps me going positively."

Tommy Steenberg, age 14 (November 2002):
""I began skating when I was six. Watching the 1994 Olympics was what got me interested in skating. I enjoy everything about skating. Competing, jumping, spinning, footwork, and doing programs is really fun for me."

Julia Vlassov & Drew Meekins, ages 12 and 17 (October 2002):
Julia, on how they paired up in 2002:
"My parents told me the night before the tryout that I was going to try out with this kid named Drew. I had no idea who he was."
Drew: "Skating is great because it gives me a chance to express myself on the ice. I love being out on the ice with just my partner. I also love competing and the adrenaline rush it gives me."

Brittany Vise & Nicholas Kole, ages 14 and 18 (September 2002):
On their most influential force(s) in their skating:
Brittany: "Parents, for the support they give."
Nick: "My first coach, Robert Nardozza, because he taught me to have fun in skating, and my dad who passed away in October 2001 for all he did for me so that I could skate."

Alissa Czisny, age 15 (August 2002):
"I have many memorable skating moments! This past year, one that I won't forget, was at [2002] Nationals. I had to skate first in the short program - right before Michelle Kwan! It was so exciting to be on the same warm up ice with such a beautiful skater, and then to be able to watch her compete her short program as I stood by the boards, just having completed mine."

Christine Zukowski, age 12 (June 2002):
"I was watching the 1994 Olympics. My mom said I turned to her and exclaimed, 'I can do that!!' A couple of weeks later, I went to a mom and tots class at a rink down the road and I have been skating ever since. My short term goal is to medal at Nationals this year as a Novice. I also would like to be able to do all five triple jumps by the end of this season. [Editor's Note: She achieved both of these goals one and a half years later at 2004 Nationals by winning the Novice gold medal and landing 5 different triples in her free skate.] My favorite aspect is going to competitions. I love to travel and like having the opportunity to make new friends. I also love the rush I feel when performing in front of the spectators and judges."

Katherine Hadford, age 12 (May 2002):
"[2002] Nationals was very exciting for me this year because I was part of the US Team 2006 [Novice] athletes competing in it. In prior years I was just there to watch (2001 in Boston and 2000 in Cleveland), but this time I got to compete and to share my talents, rather than watch others share theirs. Being part of the team gave me the greatest feeling of accomplishment!"

Yebin MokYebin Mok, age 18 (April 2002):
On her Korean name and what it means:
"It's Yebin. Ye means 'artist' and bin mean 'welcomed guest.' Mok means 'Harmony.'"
On her "philosophy" when it comes to landing jumps:
"#1 pure confidence; believing in yourself is the most important thing
#2 timing; when timing's off, you'll fall or cheat the jump
#3 technique; I would rather fall on a clean jump than land a cheated jump consistently because cheated vs. clean is like vegetables and fruit. It seems similar but it's completely different. And I feel falling on a clean jump is much closer to the real thing than landing cheated jumps consistently."
On what motivates her to skate:
"Honestly I don't know what motivates me to skate. I just like skating, I feel very blessed to skate. And I'm happy when I'm skating."

Shaun Rogers, age 16 (March 2002):
"I love jumping, and performing is very self-satisfying. I've also made many friends, some of whom are very important to me."

Nicholas LaRoche, age 18 (February 2002):
"My favorite element in skating would have to be my triple lutz. It's a very large jump for me, and with the speed I get it's very exciting. Winning Nationals [Junior title in 2002] was definitely an amazing feeling. I knew I had a chance to win these Championships, but to actually have achieved this goal of mine was overwhelming. I have had problems with the long program in the past, but with all my hard work, I proved to everybody, including myself, that I am capable of being the best!"

Sandra Jean Rucker, age 14 (December 2001):
"My favorite thing to do in skating is ... gliding across the ice, jumping up into the air, and spinning three times around. Doing triples is hard work, but I love the challenge of skating. Skating is so much fun!"

Shanell Noji, age 13 (November 2001):
"I skate because it's what I love to do and I feel free on the ice. Whenever I'm having a bad day, as soon as I step onto the ice, everything is totally forgotten and I'm in a whole different world. What I like best about skating is competing, jumping, and to conquer all challenges. Just when I think I can take a break, I find out I need to work even harder to be successful. In ice skating, you have to be physically fit, technically strong, artistic, musical, and theatrical. Ice skating challenges me physically, mentally, and emotionally."

Tiffany Vise, age 15 (November 2001):
"The thing that I love most about skating is getting the reaction from the crowd on my skating!! I love competing. It is so much fun to meet new kids and be friends with them! Also, skating at a competition and feeling like it is all worth working hard for!!"

Jennifer Don, age 16 (June 2001): "There is some sort of magical quality about skating. It is an ethereal sport that meshes beautiful artistry and dynamic athleticism. I love to skate for people and it is a great feeling to know that others enjoy watching you skate."

Alissa Czisny, age 13 (May 2001):
"I began skating before I was two years old. My mother began skating when I was about eighteen months old, and I didn't want to stay home with a babysitter, so my sister and I went with my mom to skate at the ice arena in Bowling Green, Ohio. It was like a playground for us. It's not difficult living with and training with Amber, my twin sister. We both enjoy competing against each other, because that makes us train harder. We also have to handle our own victories with humbleness, and learn to use our defeats to improve our skating. It makes home life much easier. I think we get more nervous for each other than we do for ourselves at competitions."

Headshots copyright © their original owners. Skate photograph copyright © Dave Amorde.  Unless otherwise noted, all content is copyright © 2000-2004 Unseen Skaters.  All Rights Reserved.  Do not reproduce elsewhere without permission.