Greetings from Rouen, France.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 started out like any other day, but ended with the ICE’Kateers on the other side of the ocean.
We all met at our home rink for a 2 hour practice. The girls sported their red, white and blue outfits. It was a sight to see and a great way to get us in the mood for our trip. Practice went well as the coaches couldn’t have asked for a better last practice before we left for our travels.
The flight was a quick 10-hour journey. For those who slept on the flight, it was over in a blink of an eye. For those who stayed up to watch movies, well, let’s just say, it wasn’t so quick for them.
Our first order of business, unofficial practice in Rouen. We headed straight to the arena from the airport, careful not to fall asleep on the way. After some rain upon our arrival at the airport, the day was beautiful in Rouen. We stretched outside and warmed up next to the river Seine. It doesn’t get any better than that.
We used this 30 min practice to just get a feel for the ice and do a couple of no-hold run throughs.
But the most special part of our practice was at the end. The Haydenettes, our fellow Team USA companions this trip, had practiced before us and stayed to watch us do our practice. At the end of our practice, Hayden did a ‘USA”cheer for us. That was great. The smiles on some of our girls’ faces were beaming. It really brought home the feeling that we are not the ICE’Kateer team competing against other senior teams… but rather, Hayden and the ICE’Kateers were a united team, a team cheering and rooting for each other…. a team that represents Team USA!!!! We knew this was going to be an awesome week.
Finally, after leaving Los Angeles 17 hours before, we arrived at our hotel. After a short walk to a local restaurant and dinner, our day was complete.
Day two at Rouen, Thursday, Jan 31, 2013
Thankfully we were able to sleep in this morning. Our first practice wasn’t until 12:30 PM. We had 2 great practices on the practice rink as well as the competition rink.
After lunch we had 3 free hours before the team parade through town, so the girls had an opportunity to explore Rouen. Our hotel is in a perfect location… we are basically in the middle of town with tons of little shops. The girls enjoyed an afternoon of shopping and exploring.
Three hours later, it was time to participate in the skater parade.
When we arrived at the meeting area, there were hundreds of athletes lining up behind their respective flags. We found the American flag holder and lined up with Hayden, Skyliners and Braemar.
A drum line led the parade as we walked through downtown Rouen. What an exciting experience. The girls were chanting “USA” as they danced and paraded down the road. Everyone had their cameras out videoing. People would come out of the stores to watch. If they were walking, they would stop to watch. And those who lived along the streets would come out onto their balconies to watch.
It was quite a celebration. And then at the end of the parade, all the athletes gathered and perform a flash mob dance.
After the parade, it was time for the draw and dinner.
What a fun filled day.
Tomorrow, it will be back to business starting with an official practice followed by a 10:20pm performance. It will be a long, but exciting day.
Hello again from Rouen.Friday, Feb 1, 2013
The girls got to sleep in today.
At 11:30am it was time to start getting ready for official practice. Spirits were high and everyone seemed relaxed.
At the arena, we found a quiet place to warm up. It was just behind the ticket window. While we were warming up, we could see busloads of elementary school children being bussed in to watch the official practice. They were so cute. There must have been a reflection on their side of the glass because you could see them sticking their noses up against the glass to see in. When they saw our girls, they would wave at us with excitement. Our girls would wave back and you could see instant smiles not only on the school children, but on our own girls as well.
What an awesome crowd they have at official practice! We have never experienced anything like it before. They had thunder sticks and making lots of noise, cheering and screaming for all competitors and really enjoying the skating.
After the performance (official practice), the school children were giving our girls a high fives as we walked back to our locker room. Our girls were so appreciative, some saying it was one of the most exciting skates they have ever had…
Because we skated so late in the evening, we were lucky enough to be able to watch Team Breamar compete. They were beautiful. Clean and soft in the knees. After a fantastic skate, they were sitting in 3rd after the short program.
We were so excited to have our own skate that night. Being first after the ice cut, we were able to enjoy the crowd during the intermission. They were dancing, and singing and just excited to be watching the competition.
The girls had a great short program, and a great time skating it. Between the crowd and ambiance and the performance it was truly a memorable night.
Saturday, February 2, 2013.
After an early official practice after a late night we were thankful for the break during the day to get some sleep before our free skate performance that night.
Right before we stepped into the arena to compete, the Haydenettes were warm up near the entrance to the arena and cheered for us as we walked by. What a great feeling as you are walking off to compete. This competition has great crowds and it was so much fun to take the ice to chants of USA.
And there was a special treat at the end of the competition. As we were walking out, one of the LOC members said, we cannot go. They needed one of our girls to go out onto the podium to receive an award. Hugh? Yes, they give a trophy to the countries whose combined scores were the best in the competition. Finland had the best combined score, followed by Russia and then the United States. So, one of our girls, along with two other Team USA girls, got to stand on the podium and watch the American flag being raised alongside Finland and Russia at the end of the night. What a special treat.
Our final day in France, Sunday, Feb 3, was spent exploring Paris.
As we reflect on all the things that we did during our stay, we did sooo much and had some great experiences to take home with us. It is always the goal of the ICE’Kateers to make lasting memories. I am sure the girls will have fond memories of this trip for years to come.
A big thank you to our team leaders, Dann Krueger and Justin Dillon, Dr Gayle and the other Team USA delegation, Skyliners, Team Breamar and the Hayenettes. It was an honor to travel with them and they helped our trip to be a wonderful experience.