Nationals in Greensboro! We have tickets for both the Senior Ladies and Mens finals. But we want more. We. Want. Star. Sightings. We want Brian Boitano.
We begin our conquest by watching the senior men on the specially built practice ice rink. Jason is incredible. When you’re on practice ice each skater gets a turn to run through his program but the other skaters can remain on the ice working on elements, they just need to stay out of the way. It works.
Fan Fest is fun. We munch free foods, the girls do a free photo opt. We would like to get on the concourse but you need a ticket. Pairs competition is in progress and our tickets are for the evening. We decide to get some lunch at the Stanley’s Barbeque across the street. It’s good and cheap.
As we’re leaving, the girls spot Max Aaron just sitting down to the counter with his dad. Flashing ahead I can tell you that he secured fourth place on the podium. He was so elated when he finished his skate that he sank to his knees and then lay face down on the ice. He’s adorable. The girls are shy. We tell them he’ll be flattered. He is very gracious and just like that we’ve scored our first notch.
Back at the coliseum, Emily goes to find power for her phone charger. We have quickly learned to do this at every opportunity. I decide to try for the concourse again. They’re queueing up folks outside the lobby doors waiting for the pairs ticket holders to exit. I’m near the front. We’re trying to get a good spot in line for the mens’ autograph session. Em & Lydia join me. By this time the line is crazy long. Finally we’re in and we bolt for the autograph line. By the time we find it, we just miss the cut off by about four people. “Do we know anyone?” I ask. We start scanning the line. “Yes!” shouts Emily. She has spotted a skating friend who kindly adopts Lydia. That was close but we made it. Max was at the signing table too. Lydia reminds him that he already signed her book. “Dinner,” his memory clicks in place. They share a laugh.
While we’re waiting for Lydia to get her autographs, Emily spies Rohene Ward, choreographer extraordinaire. A former champion, Rohene is Mr. Flexibility and he can spin in both directions, little things like that. Another photo opt.
We find our seats and for the next two hours watch some amazing skating by the top twenty-two ladies. Karen Chen is so tiny. She looks like she’s about Lydia’s age. We stay for the awards and then head for the hotel.
Sunday morning I get separated from Em & Lydia and find myself in the Schiffman’s Diamond Club exclusive parking lot. Upon entering the building I’m told that I need credentials. Or a ticket. I’ve got my ticket. “That’s all you need,” says the lady at the desk. She scans my ticket and puts a pink wrist band on me. “This will let you go anywhere today.” I thank her and head upstairs. I’m on the concourse. I’m in the arena! I see the champs practicing for the closing number. I go closer for a better view. There’s hardly anyone around. So many top notch skaters in one place! I text Emily.
They’re at Fan Fest making posters waiting for public time on the practice ice to start. I know how to get them into here. I go get them. They’re skeptical. Trust me I say. We trudge around the building looking for my parking lot. We walk and walk. Emily is totting the skates. It’s a big building. Finally we get there and they get their pink wrist bands. We go upstairs. Now the ladies are practicing for the exhibition. We sit front and center and watch. Again there’s hardly anyone around.
We decide to get some lunch. We pick random seats to sit and enjoy our snack. We assure the attendant we will be gone long before the ticket holders arrive. “Is that Gracie?” I ask Emily spying blond hair on a tiny girl standing in the next section over. She looks. “It’s…ASHLEY!” She and Lydia throw everything in my lap and bolt. Success. A private moment with Ashley Wagner.
It’s time for public practice ice. The girls lace up and hit the magic ice. There are free skates for you to borrow, but as one little skater proclaimed. “These are so dull. I feel sorry for anyone that uses public skates. I can’t skate!” Our girls can, they are looking good!
The girls skate for a good while and then the ice gets crowded and they’re finished. Right where we leave the ice is the back door curtain to Fan Fest. I tell Emily we could cut through there. She says we’ll get stopped. We go the long way around and once there discover a chat session with the ladies’ champions. It’s fun to watch. Then as they are wrapping up Emily figures out that they will exit through the shortcut curtains. “Run,” she says to me and Lydia. I offer to tote the skates but she shakes me off. We run. We get there just as Karen Chen is coming out. Score! And Gracie! Double score!!
We’ve done so well. Still no Brian Boitano but everyone else!
It’s time for the men’s finals. We settle in our seats to watch the top twenty. They do not disappoint. About half way through the participants we notice Ashley and her boyfriend sitting not ten seats away from us also watching. All the girls around us are grabbing photos and paper for an autograph. We smile. Our moment was better. The guys do not disappoint. Everyone earned their place on the podium. We’re hoping they’ll stick around for awhile after the ceremonies but they need to get ready for tonight. We are happy. As we are leaving, Emily says, “Look Mom, it’s Brian Boitano.” He is on a panel on the concourse chatting for the Icenetwork. We could stick around and chat with him but Emily is trying to beat the forecasted ice and snow. Goodbye Brian Boitano, we hope you had as much fun as we did!