FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020, file photo, Mariah Bell performs her senior women's free skate program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Greensboro, N.C. When U.S. skaters and a few foreigners training in this country kick off the season at Skate America this weekend, it could be a rare opportunity to display their wares. So they will relish the chance to get on the ice for competition, knowing that two Grand Prix series events and the Grand Prix Final have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and prospects of national and word championships being held are uncertain.(AP Photo/Lynn Hey, File)

Skate America opens shortened, coronavirus-impacted season

Skate America opens shortened, coronavirus-impacted season

When U.S. figure skaters and a few foreigners training in this country kick off the season at Skate America this weekend, it could be a rare opportunity to display their wares.

So they will relish the chance to get on the ice for competition, knowing that two Grand Prix series events and the Grand Prix Final have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and prospects of national and word championships being held are uncertain.

“Being an elite athlete during this unprecedented time has definitely presented its challenges,” says Mariah Bell, whose sensational free skate at the U.S. championships in January earned her a silver medal. “Right before the 2020 world championships were set to happen they were cancelled, which was disappointing given that myself — along with all the other athletes set to compete — had been training hard and were very excited.

“Not being able to have access to all the training time that we would usually have in the summer was difficult. I find solace in knowing that all of the athletes are in the same situation and know that what is going on in the world is far more important than figure skating. It is our job to do everything we can to keep ourselves and those in our communities safe.”

Bell will headline the women’s competition in Las Vegas that also includes U.S. Olympians Bradie Tennell and Karen Chen. At 15, two-time national champion Alysa Liu is still too young for senior internationals.

Two-time world winner Nathan Chen, winner of the last four national titles and three Grand Prix Finals, leads the men’s field. 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou also will compete.

Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, also two-time U.S. champs, will be featured in ice dance. Of note in pairs is former American champion and 2018 Olympian Alexa Knierim debuting with new pairs partner Brandon Frazier after Knierim’s husband, Chris, retired from skating.

No fans will be allowed inside the Orleans Arena for the competition Friday and Saturday.

“I think at this point, with other competitions being understandably cancelled, anyone is grateful for any opportunity they can get their hands on,” Zhou says. “And just as with any other competition, the size or depth of the field and/or the circumstances shouldn’t change the fact that I need to be focused on my job and on being the best I can at the moment, taking things step by step and remaining in a good frame of mind.

“In Colorado we weren’t able to skate for maybe two months … but we had soft openings for a very limited number of people earlier than some other places, probably. The biggest challenges for me have been staying fit and keeping my stamina up, being able to retain the pixel-perfect, so to speak, muscle memory required to do difficult elements. Overcoming these challenges just involves being patient and trusting in the process of finding the sweet spot again.”

That sweet spot could be difficult to recapture given how skaters’ schedules have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s entirely possible Skate America will be the only significant competition in the 2020-21 season for these skaters.

“The skaters need to take every opportunity they’re given to compete and feel the vibe of competition,” says Johnny Weir, the three-time U.S. champion who will handle analysis of the event for NBC, NBCSN and the Peacock streaming service along with Tara Lipinski and Tanith White. “The skills you do in practice every day are important for your mentality and your standing in the skating world, but competition is an entirely different animal.

“I’m thankful for the skaters that YouTube and the internet exists because every time you put new material out there judges around the world are watching, as are your competitors, and these are important political steps in a judged sport. If you hide while many of your rivals are in the spotlight, you lose your advantage.”

Barry Wilner, The Associated Press

Figure Skating

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lieutenant Commander Nicole Robichaud welcomes members of the Liberian Coast Guard aboard the HMCS Moncton for training with Royal Canadian Navy off the coast of Monrovia, Liberia, Africa. (Contributed photo by Corp. Ryan Moulton)
Red Deer-raised woman finds her sea legs as commander in the Royal Canadian Navy

Cdr. Nicole Robichaud started out as a local sea cadet

Rode
Feddema adds size and grit to RDC basketball Queens

Iris Feddema has known for several years what she wanted her future… Continue reading

A local photographer captured the contrails of two planes that crossed in the sky over north Red Deer on Wednesday. (Photo contributed by Eric Fischer)
Photo: Planes criss-cross over Red Deer

A local photographer captured the contrails of two planes that crossed in… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

A man injects hydromorphone at the Providence Health Care Crosstown Clinic in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
NDP lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

NDP lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

Low-carbon bucks: Conservatives pitch consumer carbon pricing through savings account

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo responds to a question about vaccines during a weekly news conference, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 in Ottawa. Njoo says a faster vaccine ramp-up alone would likely not have thwarted the third wave of COVID-19 in many parts of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine point man aims to ensure more predictability for shipments

Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine point man aims to ensure more predictability for shipments

Evan Siddall is pictured in Ottawa on September 21, 2017. Former head of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Evan Siddall has been named as the next chief executive for Alberta Investment Management Corp. He will succeed Kevin Uebelein. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AIMCo names former CMHC head Evan Siddall as next chief executive

AIMCo names former CMHC head Evan Siddall as next chief executive

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canadian home sales up 76% year-over-year, set new March record: CREA

Canadian home sales up 76% year-over-year, set new March record: CREA

WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims addresses the airline's annual meeting in Calgary, Tuesday, May 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet CEO Ed Sims finds Air Canada aid package ‘bittersweet’ as talks drag on

WestJet CEO Ed Sims finds Air Canada aid package ‘bittersweet’ as talks drag on

The TMX broadcast centre is shown in Toronto on May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
S&P/TSX composite, Dow Jones and S&P 500 set record highs as mood rises on economy

S&P/TSX composite, Dow Jones and S&P 500 set record highs as mood rises on economy

A man wearing a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 checks his phone as the sun sets in English Bay in Vancouver on April 5, 2021. Canada's existing mobile phone services and consumer groups will get a landmark ruling from the CRTC this afternoon. The regulatory ruling could shift some of the market power held by Rogers, Bell and Telus, which collectively have more than 90 per cent of the country's subscribers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
CRTC to allow smaller wireless players better access to national networks

CRTC to allow smaller wireless players better access to national networks

Most Read