Category Archives: Ice Skating Blog

Skate Sharpening: What You Need to Know

by Eric Neubauer for

How freqsharpening ice skatesuently should skates be sharpened?
Typical sharpening for figure skates frequently range from every 5 weeks for a daily skater to every nine months for a once-a-week skater. In general, ice skates need sharpening about every 100 hours of skating as long as care is taken to avoid damage from stepping on metal, concrete or any other hard or abrasive material. Pond ice may contain dirt and stones. One accidental step on concrete will probably ruin the last sharpening. Hard guards and soakers can be used to protect the blades while walking to and from the ice and when the skates are carried in a bag. Always dry off the blades after skating to prevent rusting and make sure the hard guards are also dry if they are going back on the blades. Skates need sharpening when they start to slide sideways too easily. An experienced skater can often tell when the skates are getting dull but beginners can’t, so look for feet skidding sideways when pushing or doing crossovers.

What do I need to know about getting ice skates sharpened?

The first thing to find out is where. The right place in your area might be the rink, a skate shop or a sharpening specialist. The simplest approach is to ask several more advanced skaters where they go. At a minimum you should make sure that you can get a correct hollow radius and level edges. If the sharpener doesn’t know what a hollow radius is or have a square to check the levelness of the edges after sharpening, it might be better to go some place else. The grinding stone is dressed to a circular shape to make a hollow along the bottom of the blade. The hollow radius usually ranges from 3/8″ (deeper) to 3/4″ (shallower). Beginners usually prefer a 5/8 or 3/4″ hollow. Advanced skaters usually use a 3/8 to 1/2″ hollow.

Can I tell if my skates have been sharpened correctly by looking at the blades?

You can compare the radius of the hollow with the edge of a penny. If the penny fits exactly, the radius is 3/8″. If it can roll back and forth a bit, the radius is greater than 3/8″. If it touches at both sides but doesn’t reach the bottom, it is less than 3/8″ and a beginner will have a lot of trouble stopping. You can also check the levelness by balancing a pen or pencil across the blade. If the pen slopes toward either side, the edges are not level. Two other easy things to check are to make sure the bottom of the blade curves smoothly from front to back with no sub-curves and that the bottom toe pick hasn’t been ground off. Both of these problems will make the blade virtually useless for edges, spins and jumps.

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A Look Back at the Mens Skate in the 2014 Winter Olympics

by Katherine Ruch

They began the broadcast with lots of drama. Evgeni Plushenko hurt his back in the warm up and then for a solid 5-10 minutes they talked of nothing else! They replayed the triple axel where he tweaked his back about ten times, and when he was first to skate, they showed a dramatic moment where he skated over to the referee and they announced that he was withdrawing for “medical reasons.” He has been in an amazing four Olympics and he has had so many back surgeries over the years that I had a hard time trying to count them all. At first he said he was retiring after this Olympics only to announce later that he wasn’t ruling out trying to go to the Olympics in 2018! Doesn’t exactly seem like the smartest thing to do, health wise, if you ask me. I mean, it would be nice to be able to continue walking after one’s figure skating career is over…

Jeremy Abbott was seeking redemption for not performing as well as he had hoped in the Vancouver games He had a very technical and artistic program planned, choreographed by Olympic Gold medalist Robin Cousins. He fell on the first jump, a Quad Toe and slammed into the boards. He stayed on the ice for several seconds after that really hard fall and then somehow managed to finish the rest of the program. After he finished skating, he said “that really hurt” to his coaches. His recovery after a fall like that was truly incredible!

Jason Brown had a great skate in his Prince program. His participation in these games came after a very impressive showing at Nationals that blew the minds of many including myself! Now he has quite a YouTube following and I believe his ponytail has its own twitter account. He skated really well, managing to finish high enough in the standings after the short to be able to skate in the final flight in the free skate. Even though he doesn’t have the Quad yet, he overall skating quality is quite amazing. Totally unaffected by the pressure, he seemed quite at home on the Olympic ice even.

Hanyu of Japan had a short program that was nothing short of phenomenal. I don’t remember him making any mistakes whatsoever and his program was both highly technical as well as artistic. He even broke 100 with his short program score and managed to receive the highest score ever recorded for a short program.

Javier Fernandez of Spain was the 2013 World Bronze medalist and was considered to be a legitimate contender for a medal. He had some crazy landings on some of his jumps and frankly I’m surprised that he managed to land them. He still finished in medal contention however!

Patrick Chan of Canada went in as the favorite to win a gold medal being such an amazing technical and artistic skater. He has even finished in first place at the last three World Championships! He had a few mistakes so he was in 2nd place heading into the free skate.

Daisuke Takahashi of Japan was participating in his 3rd Olympics! He had an overall good program with the only rough landing being on the Quadruple Toe. As an expressive skater with a fair amount of difficult technical elements, he also finished the short program within medal contention.

With the unfortunate fall in his short, Abbott went into the long program in 15th place. Jeremy is such an artist on the ice and I loved this program which was actually choreographed by Jeremy and his coach Yuka Sato. Even though he had a personal best with this program, it simply wasn’t enough to earn Jeremy a medal. While I was disappointed for Jeremy, I was amused by what he said to the media after they accused him of choking in international competition. He’s right, you know, stating that none but the people who have been in that position know what it is like to try to demonstrate an entire career in several minutes! The pressure must be unimaginable!!!

Peter Liebers was 6th at last months Europeans and was happy to be in the final flight of men going into the free skate. His Dad even competed against Scott Hamilton back in the day. Talk about keeping skating in the family.

Jason Brown was also thrilled to be in the final group. He skated a fairly good program but made a few little mistakes like two footing the landing on his triple toe. His program didn’t seem to have the same magic that it did at Nationals and you could tell that he was fighting for every single element. I know that he was probably overjoyed to make it into the top ten.

Javier Fernandez and Daisuke Takahashi were in medal contention coming out of the short but it simply wasn’t their time. Denis Ten who represents Kazakhstan and won Silver at least year’s Worlds seemed to come out of nowhere between the short and the long. He skated so well in the long that he jumped up in the rankings and won the Bronze medal. Coincidentally, his Bronze medal marks the only time anyone has medaled from his country in skating and happens to be the only medal won at these Sochi games!!

Going into these games, Patrick Chan seemed like an obvious choice as to who would win Gold seeing as he has won Worlds so many times since Vancouver. While Chan and Hanyu  both made mistakes in the free, Hanyu had such a score built up in the short that he simply couldn’t be beat! I think Patrick might have jinxed himself by thinking that the event was going to be won or lost by what happened in the long. Regardless, it was definitely an exciting event and I hope all the athletes go home knowing they did the best they could. The Gold went to Hanyu, the Silver went to Chan and the Bronze to Dennis Ten. Why can’t we have the Olympics every year?!?

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A Look Back at the Figure Skating Pairs event in the 2014 Winter Olympics

Ice Skating World Logoby Katherine Ruch

It has taken me a few days to write about the Pairs because each event of the skating has had so much drama involved that it’s been hard to catch my breath! I wonder if you feel the same way?

Let us begin with the short programs: Duhamel/Radford of Canada had one of my favorite short programs out of all the pairs. While they had the highest start value, a couple of stumbles and a weird landing on the side-by-side triples caused them to lose some points. I think they were underscored personally but I’m no technical specialist. I did enjoy the music which Eric composed himself and they had awesome entrances and transitions in and out of their elements.

Savchenko/Szolkowy of Germany recently created a new program to old music. Supposedly in practice, some of the elements requiring unison had been a little off, but they performed it the best they had in Sochi according to the commentary. They have won the Worlds four times and vowed to come back and win Gold after getting the Bronze in Vancouver. Not exactly underdogs but how can you not root for a team that had been fighting to get to the top for four years? They were in second place after the short. I am still trying to recover from her very brightly colored pink unitard. I’m not sure my eyesight is ever going to quite right now…

Volosozhar/Trankov of Russia were probably the favorites going into the competition seeing as they are the reigning world champions. They competed against each other in Vancouver, and together they are what the commentators referred to as a “dream team.” They have the technical experience, artistry and pressure from Russia all in their favor. They appeared to be flawless and got the highest score ever by a pair in a short program. They were leading after the short. Maybe they are robots, too…

Pang/Tong of China were competing in their fourth Olympics! After this, they plan to retire and get married after twenty years of skating together! They had a great emotional connection after working really hard on their artistry. They got the Silver in Vancouver. I think they should get extra points for being 34 because that’s about 104 in ice skating years!

Castelli/Shnapir of the the U.S. hope to crack the top 10. They had a better skate than they did in the team event achieving their personal best. I love their music because it seems unique and fresh, you really can’t go wrong with Santana right? They will definitely be a pair to watch in the future.

Zhang/Bartholomay of the U.S. really are surprise Olympians and I couldn’t be more thrilled for them! Why were they so prepared to rise to the occasion at Nationals you ask? They started doing run throughs of their program in March of last year. Achieving their personal best, this team is one to watch in the future as well!

In terms of the long: Castelli/Shnapir skated their James Bond program which I love. They had a step out on the side-by-side triple toes and a step out on the quad Salchow, but they did get credit for it being fully rotated which is definitely something to be proud of! They achieved another personal best and with some more time together they should be able to accomplish great things.

Stolbova/Klimov of Russia were in third place after the short. I didn’t find their program all that impressive. I can’t even seem to recall what they even skated to to be perfectly honest. They didn’t have any mistakes, but their program didn’t seem that special to me.

Volosozhar/Trankov, aka the favorite Russians had one of my least favorite programs! They skated to music from Jesus Christ Superstar and had costumes that were orange in color. I don’t care what shade of orange you wear, it makes me think of traffic cones or the University of Tennessee, a hated place when you are a UK basketball fan. They were once again virtually flawless with a hand going down on a triple loop.

Pang/Tong were the last of what I saw on the Telly. I have to admit, I had to skip a good portion of their program. The music from Les Mis is beginning to make me feel a little insane.

Volosozhar/Trankov finished first, Stolbova/Klimov finished second and Savchenko/Szolkowy finished third. I felt really bad for Savchenko/Szolkowy. They had trained for four years and yet they found themselves in the same spot as they were in Vancouver. I was very happy for Castelli/Shnapir who cracked the top ten (9th), just as they had hoped.

NBC did something that I found to be a bit lousy. They didn’t even bother to show the long program of Zhang/Bartholomay. It doesn’t seem very supportive of a U.S. pair team for one of their programs to not even be shown on the television in their own country. I wonder what their rationale was with that decision. I guess we may never know. Next up, the Mens event!

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Jason Brown’s “Skate to Remember” at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships

19 year old Jason Brown put on quite a show in Boston this past weekend.  His long program was spectacular, resulting in an overall 2nd place in U.S. Nationals.  It earned him a trip to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

Watch this replay to see Jason’s jumps and artistry in the Free Skate, which were outstanding and second to none.  Congrats Jason and all the skaters representing the United States of America.

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Reflecting on Ice Skating’s Greatest Scandal

by Katherine Ruch

I went to Canada after Christmas and it seems like I brought the weather back home with me! The weather here was awful on Monday and Tuesday! Considering that we rarely see the low teens or single digits, -4 felt a little bit surreal to be perfectly honest. I thought I had come home so that I wouldn’t freeze to death!

Since Hell didn’t freeze over, they still had Learn to Skate classes as usual on Monday! The school system was even closed both Monday and Tuesday so the fact that I left the house at all made me feel like we should probably all ‘be committed.’ The most shocking thing was how many people were there considering the extreme cold! Why were the kids out in full force? The Winter Olympics at coming!!

While 2014 has started out significantly better than my 2013 did what with having a broken foot and all last year, I found myself subconsciously guarding my knee caps on Monday.  Why? January 6th marked the 20th Anniversary of the infamous “whack heard around the world.” Whether you were involved in Figure Skating at the time or not, it was hard to miss the images of Nancy Kerrigan in what I think was a white dress holding her knee and crying; and the absolute media circus in the days that followed!

I know I was only 8 years old back in ’94 but I don’t really remember watching a lot of skating prior to that point. I just don’t think they showed it on the television. I know figures weren’t nearly as fun to watch as the high flying jumps or the fast moving spins but I don’t think it was doing away with those in competition that got the attention of the television stations. After all, the time period following figures and before Nancy vs. Tonya seemed rather stagnant in terms of Figure Skating coverage. The attention that was all of a sudden focused on Figure Skating really had to do with exposing the ugliness that can be hidden underneath all that can seem to only shimmer with perfection.  It wasn’t pretty.

While I hope that nothing quite that eventful happens at this week’s U.S. Nationals, I wonder what it would take to capture the media’s attention once more for something positive. I for one don’t want the soap operas that can go on behind the scenes to ever detract from the beauty of what happens on the ice!

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Recapping 2013 NHK

Alissa Czisny and Katherine Ruch Regionals 2013

Alissa Czisny and IceSkatingWorld blogger Katherine Ruch

by Katherine Ruch

I did it!! I actually managed to watch all of NHK coverage that was broadcasted on NBC last weekend! Granted the TV video was significantly better than anything I’ve been able to watch on Ice Network, but I was seriously disappointed that they didn’t broadcast any of the Pairs Skating or the Ice Dance! I know an hour and a half, or even two, isn’t enough time to broadcast everything but doesn’t that just mean that they need to allow more time for figure skating coverage seeing as it is an Olympic year? Just my opinion…

I watched the Men’s programs first. Takahashi won, Oda placed 2nd, Abbott placed 3rd and Rippon finished out the top 4. Takahashi’s freeskate is to Beatles music, and while it is technically superb, I hate to see anyone skate to music that reminds of me of anyone else’s program in the same season. I was happy to see Abbott medal in this competition because I always appreciate the artistry that is found hidden within his technically challenging programs! My absolute favorite program among the Men in the Freeskate was Javier Fernandez! I really enjoyed his music choice, costume and overall skating!

Next, I watched the Ladies. Mao Asada won, Elena Radionova took 2nd, Akiko Suzuki took 3rd. Gracie Gold finished 4th and Mirai Nagasu finished 8th. Mao was fabulous but Akiko’s Phantom program which I had previously found dazzling fell flat for me this time around. I know Elena is only 14 but she looks so thin to me that I wanted to pull her off the ice and force feed her a cheeseburger! I do wonder if Gracie was rattled by the fact that Frank Carroll didn’t make the trip to Japan or if Mirai’s freeskate was affected by the computer issues that caused a 20-minute delay for her program. Despite the delay, Mirai’s Bond program was my favorite among the ladies probably because I absolutely loved her dress!

Next, I watched the Free Dance on my computer since it wasn’t being broadcasted on the Telly! Davis/White placed 1st, Cappellini/Lanotte placed 2nd and the Shibutani’s finished 3rd. Davis and White’s program to Scherezade was technically and artistically superior and I just don’t understand why these programs weren’t shown on the television! The Shibutani’s program to Michael Jackson was the most unique and refreshing thing I have seen in quite some time! I think that they have certainly benefited from the time they have spent working on choreography with people from “Dancing with the Stars!”

Finally, I watched the Pairs competition on Ice Network. The winners were Volosozhar/Trankov, Peng/Zhang were 2nd and Sui/Han were 3rd. What do you notice about these names? No one from the US placed in the top 3! Castelli/Shnapir placed 4th with a Bond program that I loved and Denney/Frazier finished 5th with a program that had some lovely moments as well!

Be sure to tune in next weekend for the Cup of Russia on NBC from 2-4 on November 24th. I will be wearing a fur hat just for the occasion.


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Recapping Skate Canada 2013

figure skating app for mobileby Katherine Ruch

It’s hard to believe the Olympics are less that 100 days away! Our Halloween here in KY got postponed due to severe weather, so I caught up on watching Skate Canada from a makeshift shelter of sorts. Needless to say, I survived the storm and didn’t even have to break into the Halloween candy from stress. This year has been my first experience with Ice Network and the jury is still out as to whether or not I think it’s worth the money, only time will tell I suppose!

The United States was represented in the Pairs event by Denney/Frazier and Davis/Brubaker who finished 5th and 6th in that order. While 5th place is not too shabby in the grand scheme of the international scene, I’m not sure that is where anyone wants to place in one of the few events leading up to the Olympics. More disconcerting is the fact that Denney/Frazier who finished one place ahead of Davis/Brubaker were still about 35 points behind the winners, Berton/Hotarek of Italy.

The Ice Dance event was won by Virtue/Moir, followed by Weaver/Poje and Hubbell/Donahue of the United States. Virtue/Moir are very clearly the Canadian favorites heading into Sochi. I was very happy to see Weaver/Poje perform so well! Weaver seems to have recovered quite well from an ankle injury during the last season. Hubbell/Donahue seem to be a more cohesive team on this ice this year which is always a good thing to see heading into this Olympic season from any US dance team.

In the Ladies event, the U.S. was represented by Gracie Gold who finished 3rd, Christina Gao who finished 4th and Courtney Hicks who finished 6th. The event was won by Lipnitskaia of Russia, followed by Akiko Suzuki of Japan and Gracie Gold of the United States. I was very impressed with the technique of Lipnitskaia, the energetic 15 year old from Russia whose Artistry will only improve with time.My favorite program was skated by Akiko Suzuki who had a wonderful Free Skate to Phantom of the Opera. Gracie Gold was leading after the Short Program and ended up finishing 4th after the Free.

As soon as I went to watch the Men’s Skating my frustration with Ice Network grew. They didn’t have videos posted of the Mens Free Skate Programs and I don’t understand why. This event was won by Patrick Chan of Canada followed by Yuzuru Hanyu and Nobunari Oda both representing Japan. The United States was represented by Joshua Farris who finished 5th, Jeremy Abbott who finished 6th and Ross Miner who finished 10th. Farris moved up from 8th in the short to finish 5th. Abbott moved from 4th after the short down to 6th.

This weekend I will be found in front of the television watching the Cup of China. I will definitely be trying to watch as much of it as I can live because it sure beats hoping the feed works on the computer, especially when you are trying to watch it during a severe thunderstorm! Cup of China will be on NBC from 1:30-3:30 ET on Sunday November 3rd.

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Figure Skating Needs a Good Scandal

by Katherine Ruch

This past week, I headed to Louisville to watch some of the Eastern Great Lakes Regional Competition. The morning came early since the rink is about an hour and a half from my house. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad it’s only an hour and a half away seeing as it could have been held in Michigan or someplace that is too hard for me to get to in a simple day trip! The problem is that I’m not a morning person but seeing as it is figure skating in an Olympic year, I was able to rise to the occasion. Honestly I wouldn’t have minded making a trip twice or more during the week to watch more events but skating and coaching kept getting in the way. I did manage to make it to watch the Junior and Senior Ladies events.

The second that I walked into the rink I remembered why figure skating needs a good scandal. I’m not sure if there were hardly any spectators in attendance because of the schedule, seeing as it was early in the afternoon on a Tuesday, or if people just didn’t know about it.  But it was such a great chance to watch some really wonderful skating. Perhaps people outside of the figure skating world don’t realize that events like these are one of the qualifiers for the U.S. Nationals and, ultimately, the Olympics.

Following the Tonya vs. Nancy events of 1994, there was a dramatic upswing in figure skating interest as can be shown through television viewing. After the problems with judging at the Olympics in 2002, the 6.0 system died and was replaced with IJS. While I know IJS has its merits, I’m sure I’m not alone in missing the excitement of Michelle Kwan getting nothing but 6.0 marks. Plus, I hear from people outside the world of figure skating that they find the IJS confusing. I hate to admit it but I find it confusing too and I’m a figure skating coach!

Alissa Czisny and Katherine Ruch Regionals 2013

Alissa Czisny and Katherine Ruch

The following skaters from Eastern Great Lakes will be competing in the Senior Ladies Division at Sectionals: Alissa Czisny, Amber Walczyk, Chelsea Christopher and Alicia Hsu, respectively, after placing in that order at Regionals. Alissa, who didn’t have a bye to Nationals after being plagued by injuries over the last couple of years, seems to have recovered well. I was amazed at everything the people in the Senior Division are able to do but Alissa did seem to breeze right pass them, scoring almost 20 points higher than Amber, who finished 2nd in terms of total score.

We will have to see how the Regionals all over the country  pan out over the next couple of weeks. It should be an exciting year. Next week is Skate America, one of the events that is part of the Grand Prix Series, which is oddly enough being held in Detroit, home of 94’s “whack heard ’round the world.” Hopefully nothing quite like that will make the world of figure skating more interesting as we head into the Winter Olympics this time around.  However, from the absence of spectators at Regionals, we might need some type of scandal to capture the public’s imagination.  What are your thoughts?


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Figure Skating Injury and Learning the Art of Patience

figure skating app for mobileby Katherine Ruch

I am currently more aware of the impact that injuries can have on skating than I ever cared to be. I slipped on some hardwood floor stairs while wearing socks at the end of last December, and not only was I not able to put any weight on that foot for 16 weeks, but I had to stay off the ice for almost 6 months. For any skater or coach, this can seem like a death sentence.

I’ve known for a long time that I was never going to the Olympics as a skater (I would love to go as a spectator, coach or a broadcaster), because I didn’t start skating till I was 17 years old. I admit, I became interested in skating during the Nancy Kerrigan era, but with Horseback Riding, I never had the time to do it until high school. When I was in that first Learn to Skate Class, I never dreamed I’d ever figure out how to skate backwards much less coach in this often interesting sport of Figure Skating.

After mastering the art of those Backward Swizzles, somewhere along the way I hoped to be able to do an Axel or maybe a double. Considering how hard it is to do a Waltz Jump at this current juncture, it starts to seem a little unfeasible. I’m hoping to make a full recovery but in the meantime it seems like I have no choice but to learn the art of patience. It will take a whole year for my foot to get back to 70% from what all those scary Internet articles are telling me. I’m competing in an Adult Competition next month and doing nothing but Artistic Programs. Why those you might ask? I don’t have to jump in order to be competitive.

For a couple of 2010 Olympic Champions hoping to return and claim the Olympic Gold once more (Russia 2014), it seems that they have become injured at the most inopportune time. The 2010 Olympic Mens Figure Skating Champion Evan Lysacek recently pulled out of the U.S. International Skating Classic which occurred earlier this month. The cause was a torn abdominal muscle. Lysacek is also expected to compete at Skate America and U.S. Nationals. Only time will tell whether he is able to recover from this latest injury in time for the Olympics in Sochi.

I read an article just this morning with news that the 2010 Ladies Olympic Champion in Figure Skating, Yuna Kim has dropped out of the Grand Prix. Kim has dropped out of both Skate Canada in October as well as Trophee Bombard in November citing an injury to the metatarsal in her right foot. It sounds like she will need at least six weeks to recover and a Korean Skating Union official stated that “she may need further rehab after treatment.”

I’m not sure that these injuries could occur at worse times for these two Olympic Champions. I guess only time will tell as to whether they are ready to compete for the Gold once more in Sochi. I wish both of them the best of luck in terms of a speedy recovery. It might seem that in the meantime, the door has been left wide open in terms of who the future Olympic Champions will be in these events!

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Kate McSwain’s First Choreography Reel

by Kate McSwain

Okay! So here it is. My first choreography reel: a “collage” of a lot of my work thus far! Thank you so much to the skaters who supported me and skated for me in this.

You are the reason I do what I do. Special thanks shoutout to: Jeremy Abbott, Rachael Flatt, Wesley Campbell, Alex Johnson, Sarah Zanolli, David Ings, Garrett Kling, Sean Marshinski, Jodi Porter Haller and Kimberly Felton!


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