by Dana Manson and Lily Brouwer
We just finished an amazing week in Neuchatel, Switzerland! Throughout the week, we skated, ate a lot of interesting food, and explored the city. One of our favorite moments from this week was when we were fresh off the plane at our first practice. A young Swiss girl asked us all if we could sign her skate. We were very flattered to inspire the skaters at the rink. Seeing her enthusiasm for the sport was a great start to our trip. The weather this week was warm and sunny… a nice contrast to the snowstorm we just had in New York. You could see the Swiss Alps from across the lake at our hotel, except on the two competition days when it was raining. We wore our scarves over our faces to keep our fake eyelashes from falling off! We enjoyed the food here a lot. When we were at one of the first restaurants we visited, we asked for steak. Surprisingly, the waiter asked if we preferred horse or beef. You could imagine this was new for us. However, some adventurous girls ordered the horse, and apparently it was pretty good! In some of our free time, we got to experience the town of Neuchatel, which is filled with many cute boutiques and coffee shops. There was also a really cool hill filled with art and a castle with a gorgeous view. We enjoyed practicing our French at the stores and resting up before the competition began.
The short competition day was a blast. We had a great official practice, followed by some time to rest before the event. On the way back to the rink, we sang “Defying Gravity,” a team tradition, while walking to the rink with our huge boombox. We definitely got some stares from the locals! Stepping out onto the ice, we could feel the U.S. energy. The cheering section was so loud and enthusiastic! Going into our short we felt confident and excited. We were flirty and fun, performing up at the judges. Although technically it wasn’t our best skate, we improved upon a lot of our other aspects of the short program that night. Afterward, we went to an Italian restaurant to celebrate “Being Italian” (the theme of our short program) for the night. Our team leader, Jeanette, gave us a great speech before heading off to bed in anticipation of the long.
The free skate competition day was even better! We woke up and had our favorite breakfast at the hotel, filled with croissants, pancakes, fruit, and cute little jams! We had official and then rested in preparation for the event. After getting bussed to the rink (due to the rain), we had a dance party in the locker room to pump ourselves up to compete last in our group. Again, stepping onto the ice hearing “United States of America” was one of those feelings you can’t get anywhere else. After being a little caught off guard by the wrong music playing in the beginning, we nailed elements in the program that we had been working hard to improve our scores on. We were very happy with our skate, and are looking to continue to improve in these next few weeks before nationals. We are also beyond proud of our other two USA teammates, Chicago Jazz and Fond Du Lac Blades, for placing 1st and 3rd respectively in the Junior event! Way to go USA!
We will miss Switzerland as we head home, but we are excited to trade these mountains for snow in Kalamazoo in three weeks at Nationals! See you there and good luck to all teams!