2021 Season Update

Hello again everybody!  Thanks for coming to our website and staying updated with us.  I know it’s been several months since you’ve heard from us, so you probably are curious how we’ve been doing.

Like everyone else, we were affected by quarantine, but not before a major decision had already impacted our careers.  After a successful US Championships where we skated the two best programs of our last two seasons, we realized that we had reached our potential within US Figure Skating.  If our best is going to get us seventh or eighth place, what is the point of continuously coming back to compete at the same competition?  If our clean short program is scored lower than another team with two major errors, why even bother representing a country that has clearly moved on from us?  Jessica and I decided after the US Championships in Greensboro that we were either going to find another way or that we were going to start doing shows instead.

Jessica’s father was born a Swiss citizen and upon her birth he also registered her as a citizen of Switzerland as well.  Although our dream has always been to compete in the Olympics, ultimately, we have to be one of the two best teams in the country to qualify and we saw that our best does not get us close enough to be in consideration with less than two years until the Olympics.  Using Jessica’s citizenship to compete for Switzerland seemed like the best opportunity for us to compete in more events than we ever had and for Jessica to represent a country and heritage that she has always felt proud to be a part of. 

On March 19th, one day before quarantine officially began here in Florida, we set out on a road trip to Atlanta so that Jessica could have an interview at the Swiss Consulate in order for her to get her Swiss passport and proof of citizenship.  When we arrived in Atlanta, we had a preview of what was soon to come; restaurants were closed and the infamous downtown traffic was non-existent.  We stopped by the Olympic park and soaked it all in, even as we had just kissed our Olympic dreams goodbye, we saw the CNN building, which would soon be at the forefront of national news, but most importantly we did what we set out to do: Jessica’s interview was successful and her passport came in the mail a few weeks later.

On our way back from Atlanta was when the chaos begun.  We got word that the rink had shut down; at 3 pm I got a call from my co-workers – work was closed too.  We were being urged to make it back to Florida that day, or else the state borders might get closed up and we may not be able to get back in.  In the wake of the pandemic, nobody knew what to believe or trust; nobody knew how long things would last and to what extent the severity of it would be.  I started to stress out; I had just moved out on my own and suddenly I was left with a ton of new bills and no job to pay for them with.  I applied everywhere I could think of and offered my abilities to friends who would be willing to pay for work.  Ultimately everything worked out, I got paid from my work through the PPP while also doing work on the side like cleaning, meal prepping, customized workouts, tutoring, music editing, and anything else I could think of to make an extra dime to pay my new bills.

Quarantine in Florida was much shorter than in some other states, but I did not waste my time off the ice and neither did Jessica.  I did not want to laze around during quarantine because my normally busy schedule would be hell if I went into it from being a couch potato for so long.  I had myself on a very strict schedule six days a week with 6-7 hours of activities including HIIT workouts, cardio, weightlifting, yoga, dance, pilates, off-ice jumps, plyometrics, and even studying videos of other pair teams and reading books by our sports psychologist.  I wasn’t going to let quarantine negatively affect my abilities and neither was Jessica.  After about a month and a half of lockdown, the governor slowly started opening things back up and we were back in the rink at the beginning of May.

Even with working so hard off the ice, nothing can properly prepare you for putting blades to the ice after a month and a half off.  With that in mind, we eased back into things and started with choreography.  After having success last season creating our short program with our coach, Lyndon Johnston, we decided to try that process again with both programs.  We selected our short program and free skate music as a team and we also choreographed it all together as a team.  For the first time in our careers, we were going to have completely created our own programs. 

The short program music that we selected is Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy and the free skate music that we selected is Where’s My Love by SYML.  Both of these pieces of music we felt really fit our style of skating.  On top of that, being able to create our own programs based on music that we picked meant that the choreography really came from within; each movement was based on what we heard and felt from the music.  This genuineness created programs that we felt really good about and that struck people in ways that they had never felt struck from our competitive programs.  In years past we have always choreographed our own show programs and have had amazing feedback, so we took that same creativity to our competitive programs and it truly worked wonders.  We would do our programs in practice and get all these people telling us how much they love our short program, and then we would have different people say the same thing about our free skate.  It really is awesome to have people come up to you and look at your piece of art and say how much they appreciate it; that is a level of good feeling that is hardly reproduced in other facets of life.

Although we were taking things easy and easing back into things, long term problems still lingered.  Jessica’s wrist was seemingly getting worse (cysts), my neck was an issue again (herniated discs), and so was her foot problem (arthritis).  An MRI on her wrist revealed that she had actually broken it at some point and that it had not healed all the way.  We took a month off (starting in early July) of everything that involved her wrist (nearly everything) and started physical therapy on it as well. When we came back to start doing everything again, it seemed like the physical therapy and time off had actually made somewhat of a difference, even if her genetics made it difficult if not impossible for her to heal all the way. 

The tumultuous season continued and we were trying to figure out what exactly was going on with our status in competing for Switzerland.  We were contacted by US Figure Skating and they told us that they had voted that they would not release us to compete for Switzerland this year and that we would have to wait until next season.  This is despite the fact that we have not competed in international competition since 2018 and have no notable international medals to date!  Although the ISU allows us to be released by our country to compete for another, hidden within our contracts to compete for team USA was a clause that they could hold onto us for two full seasons after our last international competition.  US Figure Skating informed us, however, that we have the opportunity to be released anyways if we pay back all the money they have ever spent on each of us.  This includes flights and hotels to international competitions dating back to 2010 for me and back to 2012 for Jessica!  It’s a joke of an offer to unpaid athletes and really just a spit in the face.  They could not give us a good reason other than “precedent” for holding onto us and putting our careers in limbo even as we are in the last years of our competitive life.  Although we feel that the decision was made unfairly, there is nothing that we can do about it, and sitting around feeling bad for ourselves doesn’t help anything, so we continued on training.

While we could not skate this season for Switzerland, we had already decided that we were competing this year and so we started ramping up training.  However, we did not really know what we were training for.  We had registered for the competitive season for the US Championships and had decided on a competition in Boston as our national qualifier.  Due to our decision to try to skate for Switzerland, we had to turn down all funding from US Figure Skating this year, which made things even more difficult than normal.  Training for a competition that we don’t really care about too much and for an organization that has exerted their power over us just for the sake of showing that they can has been an absolute drag.  We have tried all season long to come in and work hard, but the motivation is not there considering that we have no meaningful events to look forward too. 

The point of switching to represent Switzerland may have been moot this season anyways, considering the global pandemic, but the feeling of being held back remains the same.  With all that in mind and all the uncertainty surrounding this season, we have decided to take the rest of the season off competitively.  We feel that we have nothing to gain by competing in Boston or San Jose and that mental and physical rest is what we need more than anything.  It’s a bit sad for us because we really love our new programs and we wish everyone could see what we have created, but it is just so hard to train when our spirits have been crushed not just by the pandemic, but also by the organization we have dedicated so many years to.  Right now, we are working on some new tricks to try and get into a show for the holiday season, then we have our own holiday show at the rink.  After that we will take a little break before returning to the ice for the next season.  While we really want to show off our new programs that we created, we also want to make sure that we are physically and mentally healthy, while also motivated to train for a full season of competition.  Competing at a high level is no easy task, and if the motivation is not there, it is just so hard to get it done. 

We appreciate all the love and support we have gotten from everybody this year, especially Lyndon Johnston, our coach who has worked so hard for us in these trying times.  We look forward to performing again for an audience some time soon and we hope that you all can see us flying on the ice once more.

-Joshica 🙂

Finding our Joy for Skating

            Hello and thanks for tuning into our blog once again!  This blog is written by Josh, but, as always, is double checked by Jessica.

            The last time we wrote a blog, Jessica just dislocated her left knee.  This was after a diagnosis of arthritis in her right foot, herniated discs in my neck, and my return from tears in both of my feet.  The injury bug was eating us alive mid-season, but we kept our chins up and looked forward to being back in competition.

            Our first competition this year was not until September; Southwest Florida Fall Classic.  At this point we had only returned to training for a few weeks following Jessica’s knee injury, so we decided to do our program with double jumps and just get our feet wet.  Doing an event like this serves the purpose of getting valuable feedback from the judges on the layout of the program and on all the leveled elements; even if it is as late in the season as September.  After Fall Classic we did not have anything planned until November, so I went to California to visit my Grandfather, who was not feeling well.

            The night I arrived in California we went straight from the airport to see my Grandfather, he told us that he was not doing well and he was not sure how much longer he had left.  He passed away the next day.  Although it was sad to see him go, it was a blessing to see him one last time before he passed away.  On top of that, he had fought through 9 years of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, heart problems, and many other health issues that had him in debilitating pain.  When I talked to him the night before he died, he knew that his clock had run out and he had come to terms with it.  He lived a full, happy life and was loved by everyone he met.  Grandpa always encouraged me to chase my dreams and even as he talked to me the day before that fateful day, he inquired about my future and my skating.  I knew that he wanted me to do what I love and love what I do.

            I returned back from my trip in California ready to train for our next event: the newly-formatted US Pairs Final in Allen, Texas.  After a long history of injuries holding us back for the last few years, we were finally able to stay healthy enough to train!  The last two seasons had not been kind to us and we went in to the Pair Final with a goal of skating well regardless of outcome.  Consistent training and having the time to actually build our programs paid off, for the first time in two seasons we put together two programs that we could be proud of.  Were they perfect?  Far from it, but they at least represented what we were capable of.  We finished about a point out of first and had ourselves set up to ride a wave of momentum into the US Championships.

            The few weeks following the Pair Final were a period of rest combined with still keeping our bodies ready.  Sure, we did not come back and run programs full-out right away, but we were still doing our elements, doing watered down run-throughs, and preparing for our annual Christmas show.  We have both always loved to do the Christmas show at the rink because it gives us an opportunity to present ourselves artistically without the constraints of a judging system to tell us how to present ourselves.  Unfortunately, last season Jessica had to do the show on her own due to my injuries.  Funny as it may seem though, I remember the day after I hurt my right foot last season I came in to do walk-throughs of our Christmas program off the ice because I was hoping I could still do the show; it really means a lot for us to do those shows under the spotlights for our friends and family to see.  Because of the artistic nature of the show, our programs have always been a hit and this year we got to close out the show for the very first time.  We finally made it to a point where we can be the stars at our own rink and in our community and I think that means a lot to both of us.

            Somehow, on the final lift of our Christmas show program (our star carry), I injured my right wrist.  I am not sure why or how it got injured on this lift, but I did not even notice it until I got off the ice.  My wrist had been bothering me leading up to the show, but all of a sudden after the show I could not even take my skates off without pain.  I went to the doctor and he said it was probably tendonitis, but could not be sure without an MRI.  Of course, I do not have health insurance (What am I, a billionaire?), so I skipped out on treatment and just did some physical therapy that I found online to treat my wrist.  Combined with a couple weeks off of lifts and anything else that hurt it (pretty much everything; initially even jumping and spinning hurt), I worked my way back up to health.  If you may have noticed at the US Championships, Jessica and I had matching tape on our right wrists because she also has tendonitis along with a ganglion cyst.

            Despite our wrist issues and Jessica’s lingering arthritis issues, we went in to the US Championships as healthy as we ever have.  Just like before the US Pairs Final, we were able to build our training so that we could peak properly for competition.  We showed up for competition with one goal in mind: skate well.  We wanted to skate for ourselves in Greensboro, we wanted to show off the improvements we’ve made over the last two years, we wanted to put out programs that we were proud of, but most importantly we wanted to heed the advice my Grandfather gave me; to love what we do.

            Every practice in Greensboro was fantastic, we hardly missed a beat at all.  We did the most elements during run-throughs of any team there because we treated it just like a normal training week.  We built up our confidence and prepared ourselves for the short program.  When we stepped out for our six-minute warm-up it was our first time on the arena ice, our first time placing our blades on the ice we were to compete on.  The warm-up was a whirlwind, we hit the sals, but uncharacteristically missed the throw loop.  We circled around again for another attempt and still we had a step-out.  I told Jessica not to worry about it because I knew that adrenaline would help.  After the warm-up we got off the ice until it was our turn to do our program.  Stepping back on the ice, waiting for our names to be called I remember thinking, “Wow, I’m here… All this work to get back and I’m finally here.”.  We set into our opening position and I imagined myself in my character’s shoes.  We each went through the program methodically, thinking of our key words and using our time spent with our sports psychologist to our advantage.  Although there was room for improvement on some of the small stuff, we did a program we could be proud of and set ourselves up nicely for the free skate.

            Initially I did not like our free skate draw (we drew first in our warm-up), but in hindsight I am glad we ended up where we did; it gave me less time to get antsy in between the warm-up and the program.  The next day we had practice and we did almost a full free skate, a far cry from what the other teams were doing.  Everything went well except that I doubled my toe in the run-through, but I went back and did it just fine.  The day of the free skate everything went as planned and we had a great 20-minute warm-up for the event as well.  Skating first in our group meant that we had to move through our six-minute warm-up rather quickly so that we would have time to breathe before we competed.  We crossed patterns with another team on our warm-up going into our triple toes and had to circle around to do it; the next time we went into it, again we were close to someone and I still pulled mine off, but Jessica went down.  I told her not to worry about it and we carried on to a good warm-up the rest of the way. 

Once again, I found myself waiting for our names to be called, feeling so very present in the moment.  I took a deep breath as we entered our starting pose and counted out our movements every step of the way.  As I went into our triple toe combination, the thoughts of my mistake on our practice ice the day before flooded my brain.  I could not risk doubling the way that I did yesterday, I thought to myself.  I started off correctly with my key words, but right before I took-off I only thought of “pull in”.  I did pull in on the jump, but because I was so focused on pulling in, I never thought about when to come out.  I fell, seemingly for no reason on replay, except for that I just did not come out in time.  I got up quicker than I thought was possible, and got back into the program without missing a beat (sans the beat when my butt was on the ice).  We got the twist done, smoothly did the axel lasso, and I approached my triple sal knowing that this was where I was to reclaim the program.  I wanted to show that I had changed from the boy who let mistakes domino to the man who moved on and had learned to conquer his doubts.  We both completed the salchows well and moved throughout the next parts of the program with ease; the death spiral and the pair spin were both done to our liking, the throw was an incredible improvement from the pair final and the reverse lasso was probably our best lift in the program.  As we approached the throw salchow I hit a rut and lost my balance somewhat, but I remained focused and ready for the one element we fell on in Allen just two months prior.  I set correctly and made the adjustment that we had fixed since then and threw Jessica into the air and she absolutely nailed it.  Her face lit up with joy and excitement in a way that I have hardly seen before in my five seasons with her.  We skated into the last element and I made the mistake of calling for an extra push into the lift, taking us way far down the ice.  Suddenly our lift was headed straight at the wall, my mind was full of thoughts from the star in St. Paul and from the star in San Jose that came down too.  I wasn’t going to allow it to happen again.  I kept my arm pushing upwards no matter what, Jessica said “don’t!” loud and clear, she had just as much will power if not more than I did at this part of the program.  I took my crossovers around the corner and finished the lift, setting her down and hitting the ending position as Jessica had a smile brightly across her face. 

We had finally done it; we had finally skated a pair of programs that we could be proud of.  We skated for ourselves, we did what we loved and we loved what we did and for the first time in a long time, we were happy on the ice.  As we exited our ending position and took to our bows, I said two things: “Thank you”; thanks for making that last lift work and doing such a damn good job, and the only thing left to say, “I love you”.  We made our way into the Kiss and Cry and reviewed our scores and got a pep talk from Cindy and Lyndon.  Then, we headed back to the locker rooms to change and before we went in I said to Jessica, “I am so proud to skate with you, I am so lucky to share this journey with you, and I am so lucky to have you as a partner.”

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences at the US Championships and everything that went into the events leading up to it.  Look for more news on us coming up in the future, we will make sure to keep you all updated on the 2020-21 season and beyond!

  • Joshica 🙂

2020 Midseason Update: The Injury Bug Bites Hard

          Hello, thank you for returning to our blog once again.  We have had a busy offseason and we wanted to update you all on our status for the 2019-20 season.

The last time you heard from us, I (Josh) just found out that I had torn my left ankle in a similar way to the way I tore my right.  While heartbroken about the injury that caused us to miss the US Championships in January, I remained positive and was on track to get back on the ice within that same month.  Returning from injury is always a little weird; you never know what is supposed to hurt and how much pain is considered “acceptable”.  After all, the muscles and ligaments in the area of the injury are sure to be weaker.  So, as I returned to the ice and felt pain, I just tried to skate and figured it was part of the normal process.  However, the pain would not go away, I could not even make it through a shift at work without having to stop and sit down every 30 minutes.  Somewhat alarmed by this, we scheduled a follow up appointment with my doctor who shut me back down for over another month and gave me the same procedure on my left foot that I had already gotten on my right.  This time coming back to the ice we decided to really take it slowly and took even longer than the doctor had prescribed; there was no rush to return to the ice.  By Mid-March I was finally back on the ice for good and ready for the new season.

            Preparations for this season were made a bit easier because we have decided to keep our short program and our free skate from last year.  However, what many do not know is that we changed our short program after Finlandia Trophy.  Since we never competed it and hardly competed our free skate, we feel completely comfortable doing these programs in competition this year.  In April we had the opportunity to showcase our new short program at a show at Penn State and it was an absolute blast.  We really love our new short program, and we cannot wait to show it to the judges and an audience of skating fans, but before we do that, we must find a way to get away from the injury bug.

            Shortly after our great show in Penn State, I injured my neck on a lift in practice.  This was not the first time I had felt neck pain and I took all the normal steps to make it feel better, but this time was different.  It was so hard to function normally and I was constantly in pain.  Determined to find out what the issue was, I scheduled an appointment and received an MRI.  The MRI revealed that I had four herniated discs in my neck, one of which is touching my spinal cord.  Overall this was not a good diagnosis, however, it was nice to have an understanding of where my pain was coming from.  I took a little time off of lifts and such, but remained doing some basic parts of skating; this injury held us out from debuting our programs at the Sunshine State Games as we were scheduled to do.

            Once my neck started to feel better, we went down to Fort Myers to work with Marina Zoueva and Johnny Johns on polishing our choreography and working on our skating skills.  Although we only got two days there, it was a great time that we feel was truly beneficial for our skating.  Following this time in Fort Myers we got back to work… only to have Jessica’s foot problem from previous seasons reappear.  Feeling that something else might be in play, her doctor ordered a different kind of imaging scan on her foot that revealed that she actually has arthritis in her foot.  This news was a bit of a blow; arthritis can never be cured, only managed.  With this knowledge we have taken a careful approach to our training in order to manage Jessica’s pain.  We took this approach with us to Westminster, Colorado, the site of Pair Camp, and made sure to do each class and exercise intelligently.  Despite having to sit out of a few exercises at pair camp, we really learned a lot while we were there and got some great compliments from Nina Mozer and her team while also showing “the powers that be” what we are made of and how big our potential is for this season.

            We returned home from Pair Camp in Mid-June and got back to work so that we could be ready and trained for Skate Detroit.  Things were going very well and we were just about ready for our “tune-up” competition in Tampa: Orange Blossom Open.  On June 28th we had our final competition simulation before this event and we were in the middle of a clean program when Jessica fell on the last element and dislocated her left knee.  What made the injury quite unusual was that it was a rather routine fall that did not seem out of place (there are two videos from different angles that we have seen), but still it caused her knee to come out of place nonetheless.  I went into my ending position and heard a noise of agony come out of Jessica that I have never heard before; I immediately knew something must have been wrong.  An MRI confirmed that Jessica fully dislocated her knee and had a small tear of her MPFL along with an MCL injury.  Although it was a downer to experience another injury, two things proved that luck is not completely against us.  When Jessica fell and dislocated her knee, she was lucky enough that it popped back into place on its own when she stood up on it.  On top of that, we are lucky that it was her left leg and not her landing leg; undoubtedly a right knee injury would require a longer recovery.  Unfortunately, the injury not only held us out of our “tune-up” event, Orange Blossom Open, but is also preventing us from competing at Skate Detroit.  Skate Detroit is always a great opportunity to showcase our skills and to present how we have improved over the offseason.  This year we will not have that opportunity, but our confidence and positivity remain unwavering.

            Our previous experience with injuries lends to our current experience with this injury.  We start every day off with physical therapy and mobility exercises before we even start warming up. There is no rush to return to full strength, even though we are eager to show what we are made of.  Our current timetable hopefully has us allowed to do everything in one month and perhaps make our season debut at Southwest Florida Fall Classic in Mid-September if we can be ready by then.  We know that the most important thing for our careers right now is to focus on our health first, and then worry about putting ourselves out there for everyone to see.  Whenever that time comes though, we want to be ready for it.  We are endlessly excited to show the improvements we have made this season, and once we are healthy, we will share it with skating fans.

We look forward to this season and showcasing ourselves, but first we must get rid of this injury bug.  Hopefully that time comes soon so that everyone can see our new short program and the changes that we have made thus far.  Thank you for reading about us and we will be sure to update you all in the near future so that you can follow along on our journey.

  • Joshica

2019 Season Recap

Greetings and thank you for reading our blog.  You may be wondering why things have been so silent over the last several months for us and there is good reason for that.

Unfortunately, we will be withdrawing from the 2019 US Championships in Detroit.  This decision was not an easy one to make, but was made with our long-term goals in mind.  In a year plagued with injuries, it was our toughest season so far; however, it also offered a bounty of opportunities for learning.  With that being said, let’s start at the beginning of our tough times this season.

In June, Jessica had a minor injury on a Triple Salchow-Euler-Triple Salchow combination (yes, we were working on these to a varying degree of success).  While this minor foot injury was not a big deal, it seemed to be the first domino to fall in our season.  Although we were close to getting the elusive catch on our twist before the injury, we couldn’t work on it much going in to Skate Detroit and had completely re-worked it while we were in Montreal.  The last few days before Skate Detroit we spent pounding the twist and this unfortunately caused Jessica’s old foot injury to return.  It was an extremely hard time for her to train and thus the difficulties we encountered at Skate Detroit were not unexpected.  After the competition, Jessica got the same procedure done that she had in the 2016-17 season on her foot (an injection of amniotic fluid along with the doctor purposely damaging her tendon to encourage the body to heal itself).  The recovery timetable we were given was three weeks until she was full strength and gave us just the right amount of time to be ready for the challenger in Salt Lake City.

As some skating fans may have noticed, we were initially listed to skate in Salt Lake City…  And then we were listed to skate in Nebelhorn Trophy…  And Finally, we were listed to skate in Finlandia.  Unfortunately, the three-week timetable turned into a lot longer of a recovery than that.  With these sorts of cutting-edge procedures, the exact time of recovery is never sure and different in each case.  While we didn’t show up to Finlandia totally unprepared, building up consistency after Jessica’s re-injury proved to be difficult.  From trouble with her blade mountings, to the return of a foot issue that has been extremely problematic in the past, the season was very challenging for her.  On top of that, she has had two cysts in her wrist (one on each side!) to deal with this season, one was in the spring, the other she just got taken care of.  However, the reason we are withdrawing from this years’ US Championships is not because of her.

On Wednesday November 28th, less than one week after Thanksgiving, I injured my ankle on a stroking exercise of all things.  This came on the heels of a great skating day and at a time where we were finally improving our consistency and getting back to the formula that has made us successful in the past.  A slip and a fall jammed my right ankle into the boards and put a tear in my peroneal tendon along with other syndesmotic tears.  It didn’t seem so bad at first, and I was in fact surprised when the news came back about the severity of the injury.  I got into a boot for a couple of weeks and eventually received the same treatment Jessica did, except I got the (painful) pleasure of being awake during it 😊. 

Preparing for the US Championships was sure to be a challenge, I was scheduled to get back on the ice the day after Christmas and we were hoping to make a last-ditch effort to skate in Detroit.  Luck, however, was not on our side.  On Christmas Eve I rolled my left ankle (not the one that was already injured) and was again in pain.  I got in to see the doctor as soon as I could, but it seemed like the writing was on the wall before we even knew the results.  My MRI came back on January 2nd with the results showing that I had a tear in one of the same tendons I tore on my right side, along with a small fracture in my talus bone (also in the ankle).  I am back in the boot, this time on my left foot, and my physical therapy will now be a 2 for 1 deal 😉.

Although it felt like such a downer at first, we now realize how blessed we are.  This is the first US Championships I have missed since 2008 (10 in a row!), and my first major injury since 2004 (my torn labrum at the end of the 2017 season hardly affected me).  I am so incredibly lucky to have made it this far with a relatively clean bill of health and on January 14th I will hopefully be ready to step back onto the ice for the first time since November.  On top of that, Jessica’s consistency and confidence are at all-time highs; by not having to worry about twists and throws, being able to focus in on the jumps has allowed her to once again realize her strength!

Being off the ice for over a month is an extremely odd feeling and is in fact the longest I have been off the ice since I was 12 years old with a broken ankle.  Additionally, I haven’t been able to work wearing the boot and I also can’t work until I am strong enough to skate (as a server, I spend my whole shift on my feet).  So, I haven’t been making any money and I haven’t been skating which would usually leave time for school… But, in late August I finally received my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (with a minor in Information Systems Management) and, to my surprise, I also graduated Magna Cum Laude!  Without work, skating, and school to do, I truly have not had a lot I could do during my injury recovery besides burn through my pockets, head to the gym, and catch up on all the movies and shows I’ve missed out on over the last few years of being busy 24/7.

Taking time off of literally everything was refreshing to say the least, and that’s not to say that I have done nothing over that period off.  I’m very proud that I made a speech at city hall to enact real change within my community and improve the lives of real people.  It also has made me incredibly eager to get back to work and has rejuvenated my competitive spirits.  Jessica and I feel really lucky to start our offseason before anybody else and although we are disappointed not to compete at the US Championships, we understand how blessed we are to be where we are and we’re ready to prove ourselves as contenders in this Olympic cycle.

Thank you again for reading, and we look forward to continuing to blog for you all,

  • Joshica

Off-season 2018

Hello and welcome back to our blog!  This blog will be co-written by both of us.  It’s been awhile since we’ve blogged and I know we have a lot of catching up to do.

A big chunk of our offseason has come and passed this year, and just like every year, it seems to blow right by us.  From the moment we arrived back at our training base after nationals, we started discussing music choices.  After many hours of listening, we found a free skate choice that we fell in love with, music from the soundtrack to Interstellar.  After seeing Alison Purkiss’ work with her students when she came down to visit our training base last year, we thought she would be the perfect choice to choreograph our free program.  While it is still a work in progress, we are really looking forward to showing off how it fits our strengths.

After we got our free skate choreographed, we went back to Ilona Melnichenko, whom we used last year, to create our short program.  This year we have chosen Never Tear Us Apart by INXS.  We have been training the choreography for just over a month, but we continue to make adjustments to improve and enhance the feeling behind the music. We really like the challenge the music provides for us as well as the number of musical cues that spell out our program for us.

One of the biggest challenges so far this offseason has been dealing with all of the new rule changes. After we had designed our lifts for the new season, keeping in mind the upcoming rule changes, we ended up needing to spend a great deal of time redesigning each lift to maximize our point values once the rule changes were actually released.  We have a new pair spin for this season, and each lift we do is different in some way than the lifts we performed last year.

As we are writing this blog we are actually on our way back from Montreal, where we have spent the last week training; learning from Richard Gauthier, Sylvie Fullum, and many others.  We took this last week to not only re-work our twist and back outside death spiral completely, but to also feel the wonderful environment of being surrounded by so many incredible teams.  There were many challenges we have faced so far trying to make the adjustments Richard and Sylvie pushed on us, but we are confident that it will make us stronger.  The success of our week in Montreal leaves us hopeful for coming back for more training (and more poutine) in the near future.

As for the summer, we have a few events that we are looking forward to.  This upcoming weekend we will receive a critique from a local judging panel in the Tampa area, while we have Skate Detroit after that.  Of course, the goal with these summer competitions is never to win, nobody remembers the Skate Detroit champion; rather, we hope to go out and get valuable feedback from the judging panel that will help us reach the top later in the season.  Skate Detroit provides the perfect opportunity for that, along with the short camp for skaters in the international selection pool that we will be attending afterwards.  We’re not sure if all of our new changes will be ready for Skate Detroit, but we will receive the invaluable feedback we’re looking for nonetheless.

Outside of skating, we have some exciting things going on as well.  Jessica has increased her hours of coaching and number of students and is thriving as a young coach.  On another front, Josh’s educational career comes to a conclusion at the end of August as he will be graduating with a major in business administration and a minor in information systems management.

Overall, we have had another busy and productive offseason.  Improvement for us has been a long climb and we hope to continue climbing until we reach the peak on this wonderful journey together; thank you for sharing this journey with us and for reading our blog 🙂

 

– Joshica

 

End of Season Recap

Well… Where should I start?  Thanks for coming to read our blog.  If you saw us skate at Nationals (or the “US Championships” as we are instructed to call it), then you know where this blog is headed.  If you didn’t, then perhaps you are here to read about how we did.  Either way, let’s talk about the positive things first.  Also, just a heads up that this is Josh writing the blog, although Jessica still proofreads so that we can put her stamp of approval on it too 😉

The US Championships came up so quickly this year that I didn’t even feel like I was “at Nationals” while I was there.  We decided to arrive after the first practice because Nationals has one more practice than every other competition and we just wanted to feel “normal” for this event.  Maybe that contributed to that feeling that I spoke of, who knows?  If you ever come to one of our practices, you’ll know that we don’t miss much in practice, and thus our practices were very successful.  On our 20-minute warm-up preceding the Short Program on Thursday, I took a vicious elbow right to side of my mouth on a triple twist attempt.  I think this contributed to a tentative catch for the rest of the week on the twist; although we have not yet mastered the clean catch of a triple twist, we can do a better job than we showed.  Nonetheless, the short program was relatively clean in term of the big elements; both the side by side jump and throw jump were executed to our satisfaction; we received the highest score for a solo jump and second highest score for a throw in the whole event.  However, we were missing a level on our lift (for reasons unknown) and two levels on our footwork (also for reasons unknown).  We have received a level 4 on these two elements all year long and upon video review they look fine too, so we are not sure where we lost the points, but we did lose a couple of placements off of these small losses.  Regardless, we scored above 60 points for the first time in a short program and we hope to continue that trend.

Friday, we had another great practice and set ourselves up well with a great 20-minute warm-up on Saturday as well.  From the beginning of the free skate I felt a bit off.  I started off by missing the very first part of choreography and my mind was spinning a bit.  We did the twist and triple toe combination and I settled down.  The first lift went well, but then I took too much of a push into the triple salchow and my pattern was taking me right into the wall.  This proved to be an issue that I could not overcome as I stepped out of the jump.  Still, we re-grouped and finally got value for a death spiral!  We followed that with a solid pair spin and a throw loop that we can be proud of.  We felt we did decently on the axel lasso and the side by side spin, despite receiving level 3s.  The tech panel there is known to be a bit stricter on levels than others and that showed through.  Finishing off the program, I rushed the takeoff of the throw triple salchow, which we stepped out of.  Finally, the last element, the star lift, was not successful.  We had set a new pattern just a month ago and unfortunately, I tried to take the corner for the carry portion of the lift too early, which caused Jessica to get in front of me and made the lift come down.  We tried everything we could to save it or even salvage any value but we were unable to.  This was a big loss for us, especially considering the value that the lift can be worth and that it is our big final statement at the end of our program and the end of our story that we are telling.

Although it was heartbreaking to finish a program like that which we had started out so well, not all was lost.  We still broke 100 in our free skate and finished 8th and we take comfort in knowing that a perfect skate probably would have had us only 1 place higher.  Still, we aren’t going to let our disappointment get us down.  Zig Ziglar said, “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.”  I think that could not be any truer for us.  Yes, we may have fallen down, but we have been down before and we have gotten up and reached higher than we did before we fell.  Pairs skating (and probably dance as well) is a little odd because one partner can skate well and feel good about how they did, while the other partner makes mistakes and feels bad about letting their partner down and letting themselves down.  It would be weird if I wasn’t heartbroken, considering all the time, money, and passion I put into my craft.  Should I expect to be perfect every time?  No, but that doesn’t change how I feel.  I always want to get better and of course I want to do perfectly every time, even if it isn’t realistic.  So many skating fans have come up to me in the plane, at the hotel, on the bus, and seemingly everywhere else to tell me how much they enjoyed our skate and how beautiful it was.  Frankly, I’m shocked.  To me it felt terrible, but I know that there were good parts of our performance anyways.  Several judges have come up to me personally and told me how much I’ve grown as a skater in the past few years.  That means a lot to me.  People have come up to the both of us to tell us that we just keep on improving, and that also means a lot to me!

After our performance, Jessica told me, “I always believe in you, you’re the best partner ever and I couldn’t be more proud.”  That was touching and telling of our great relationship with each other.  For Nationals is just one competition in the scope of an entire season.  On one hand I wish that I could undo my mistakes at the US Championships, but on the other hand I realize that despite our shortcomings this season was a success!  We set new ISU personal bests, we have added a triple twist to our repertoire despite how it seemed to be nearly impossible our first two seasons, and even more importantly we are healthy!  Nationals is one week, but training is year-round; I am lucky to have a partner and coach I can enjoy training with so much every day of the year.

 

Our potential has led many great former skaters and judges to lend their advice to us, because they want to be a part of our growth too.  The harsh reality I mentioned earlier, that we would have only been one place higher if we had skated perfectly, needs to change.  We want to be higher than 7th place.  We want to skate well and know that means we are on the podium, not to count on the mistakes of others.  Although we will spend this offseason re-tooling and looking to up our technical ante, we will also make sure to choose programs this season that showcase our strengths.  We want to show up in the summer as clear contenders and hope that we can have a full makeover that convinces both the audience and the judging panel that we are one of the top teams and a definitive option for the next Olympics in Beijing.

 

Now we have a week off of skating before we get right back to it.  Nothing is more motivating for me personally than seeing how amazingly everyone skates at the US Championships.  I know that Jessica is just as anxious as I am to get back on the ice and make improvements.  Although we are tired of our season ending at Nationals, it also gives us a head-start on the next season over our competitors that have post-Nationals assignments.  Last year may have been our #GetUp story, but this year we want to do more than get up, we want to jump up.  We want to fly up and soar higher than our wildest imaginations.  For although we may have fallen down one ring on the ladder of success, if we are flying we can reach even higher than we could climb.  Thank you so much for reading and supporting us throughout this season and we can’t wait to put out an improved version of ourselves next season.

– Joshica 😊

 

Update From Warsaw

Hello and welcome to our latest blog!

Since the last time we wrote, we have made our journey to Poland and back for the Warsaw Cup, the eighth of ten Challenger Series events.  In preparation for the rest of the season, we made some minor changes to our short program with the help of our choreographer, Ilona Melnichenko.  The purpose of these changes was to help us relax while also adding a little complexity, musicality, and speed to our program.  Additionally, we doubled our lesson time with Amanda Evora to spend extra time working on the fine details of both programs and the death spirals we feature as well.

The trip to Warsaw and back was especially long.  We left For Warsaw on November 14th at noon, and landed in Warsaw on November 15th at noon!  There was a six-hour time difference, but it was still an 18-hour travel day consisting of three flights nonetheless.  After touching down in Poland, we headed to the hotel and settled in.  I got assigned to Andrew Torgashev, 2015 US Junior Men’s champion, as my roommate, while Jessica was lucky enough to get her own room.  Wednesday night we had our first of many experiences of Polish food, and went to bed ready to attack our first practice the next day in Warsaw.  From the time we landed in Warsaw to the time we practiced was over 30 hours as we finally got to practice Thursday night.  Practice time overall in Poland was rather limited; initially we were set to practice on Thursday and Saturday with competition on Friday and Sunday and no 20-minute warm-up on either competition day.  This kind of schedule is rather unusual for a competition and we got them to add an official practice ice on Sunday morning, albeit at 6:45 in the morning.

To say we felt confident in practice in Warsaw would be an understatement.  Through our first practice we did not have any step-outs, falls, or anything.  Probably the best practice we could hope for, along with a clean run-through of our short program.  Friday was definitely a strange experience.  With our performance coming at night and no 20-minute warm-up, we had all day to do nothing but mentally prepare for our short.  We did a light workout in the early afternoon and got ourselves ready to show off how we have improved our interpretation of “You Raise Me Up”.  It was a bit of a disappointment to miss the throw in the program; the element just had a little too much height and unfortunately, we could not nail it like we had in practice.  However, we got a better twist in our short than we did in Slovakia, a solid triple salchow side by side that prompted one of the judges to award us a +3, a higher-level death spiral than our last time out, a level 4 footwork and a solid lift.  The only thing that we are left wondering about from the short is that we got a level 2 pair spin, an element we felt we repeated similarly in the free skate to the tune of a level 4.  We felt that we had somewhat improved our interpretation from Slovakia, although we lose some of the effect of the program when there is a missed element.

On Saturday morning we practiced again and had a great, but partial, run thru of our free skate.  All of our elements were solid and once again we felt confident for our program the next day.  Since our practice was early, we headed to the old city area of Warsaw with a friend of mine who happens to speak Polish and acted as a handy tour guide.  We got our third experience of Polish food and definitely could not get enough of the pierogis.  With an early practice coming up, we went to bed early. On Sunday we had practice ice at 6:45, which means we had to take the 6 AM bus to get there and in turn get up super early compared to the other days.  Only Team USA bothered to show up at the early morning practice as the only other competitors at practice were Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson.  After going back to the hotel to grab breakfast and completely prepare, we came back to the rink and got ready to show our long.  Our long program started out in a very unfortunate matter.  As our quest to have an internationally adequate twist has been coming along, we are really trying to catch the twist smoothly.  Unluckily, when I tried to catch the twist, I set Jessica down and she got back on her blade and fell backwards.  This faux pas also gave us a bad set-up for our triple toes which we took a fall on as well.  From there, we recovered somewhat; we followed up the two opening mistakes with a solid level four lift and a triple sal-double toe loop combination that we improvised in after we were unable to do the combo on the triple toe loop.  Although the throws were imperfect, we were able to stay on our feet this time and had solid lifts to go along with it (despite missing a feature on our second lift, it was better than Slovakia).  One of the more disappointing things about the free program is that we got no value on our death spiral.  Between Ondrej Nepela Trophy in September and our event last week we have spent a lot of time ensuring that we had a good death spiral, because in Slovakia we also missed credit on our death spiral.  In practice we are doing a level 3 and getting close to a level 4, but in competition we got nothing.  Still, even with two falls and no value on our death spiral we were close to our technical score in Slovakia which is extremely encouraging.

Although we did not skate our best, we learned a lot from our trip in Warsaw.  We felt like we lost a lot of interpretation when we started our free skate out so poorly and this will be a focal point for us between now and the US Championships in January.  Additionally, we will really hammer the death spiral and twist to improve those to the level that we expect them to be.  While we did not meet our goals for this competition, we did learn a lot about how and what we need to improve for the rest of this year.  We are going to work on adding a three-jump combination to our free skate, ensuring that our death spiral is consistently good quality, and on learning to perform and really skate our programs.

Now we are home with our respective families for a great Thanksgiving weekend, but we are eager to get back to work.  In between now and Nationals we will do a local Christmas show, but our eyes will be set on the prize in San Jose.  We look forward to showing our hard work at the US Championships and cannot wait to put it all out there on the ice at the SAP Center.  Thanks again for reading our blog and we hope to write about our successes in our next blog after the US Championships 😊

 

  • Joshica

 

Mid-season Progress

Hello and welcome to the latest blog for me and Josh.  Last time we wrote, we had just gotten back from competing in Detroit and training in Montréal with many great teams.  Shortly after, we were assigned to Ondrej Nepela Trophy, a challenger series international competition in Bratislava, Slovakia.  Although we hadn’t announced our assignment due to USFS policy (we aren’t allowed to announce it until they do), we had about a month and half to train for this upcoming international and the process was an adventurous one.

Earlier in the year we talked about using a different dressmaker than previous years together; someone we had both used in the past and agreed that she makes beautiful costumes.  We contacted her early on and she agreed to do them.  After sending our measurements and looking at many stunning sketches she emailed us, we sent our deposits and asked for the costumes by Labor Day weekend (well before our international season).  As that weekend rolled around and we didn’t have our costumes we began to grow anxious.  We attempted to contact her every few days to make sure she was working on them and we were very disappointed with her lack of communication.  A couple weeks later and we still hadn’t been updated on the progress of our costumes.  Our competition was just around the corner and we were beginning to feel like we wouldn’t have anything to wear.  Josh had a backup costume for one of the programs, but I had nothing!  We tried every way of contacting her, but she had simply ghosted us.  At one point, Josh called her 12 different times in one day and 50 times in a week; he sounds like Adele in “Hello”.  Luckily, we have a seamstress at our rink who was willing to lend a helping hand.  The weekend before we left she whipped up a beautiful long program dress for me that fits my role of Scarlet from Gone With the Wind and also made Josh a fitted white shirt to go with my red dress.  Both turned out amazing, especially considering they were done over a weekend!  For our short program, I borrowed a classy black dress that Amanda Evora happened to have around.  Thank you Dawn and Amanda for coming to our rescue! Long story short, we never received our costumes and ended up asking for our deposits back after a lot of unnecessary stress and frustration.  We are now working on getting our costumes done for our short program to You Raise Me Up. 

In the midst of all that, Hurricane Irma was approaching.  Initial reports had Irma totally missing our area so we stayed put.  However, as Irma got closer, we were right in its path.  The hurricane was heading straight towards the gulf coast but it was so big that it would be covering the whole state.  As it got closer at a category 4, shelves in the stores were completely barren; there was no water and no bread, but there was plenty of panic.  Gas stations were running out of gas and everyone was fleeing the state.  We waited it out for as long as we could, but after hearing the surge might cover our home and a mandatory evacuation in our county was called for, we packed up as much as we could and drove to a friend’s house that was away from the surge and safe to stay in.  Luckily for us, Irma passed fairly quickly and we were able to head home after only 1 day, but we were without power for 5 days.  The rink had lost power and we were without ice for a couple of days the week before our international.  Fortunately, we were able to skate at a different rink one day and got our heads back in the game after the chaos.  Things are mostly back to normal in Florida, but the occasional sighting of a downed tree or torn down sign serves as a reminder of the destructive force that we nearly caused us devastation.

After all that craziness, we left off to Bratislava.  Arriving in Vienna wasn’t so bad because it was a short bus ride away.  I wish we had a chance to see Vienna too, but I guess we’ll save that trip for another time!  We arrived rather early and actually had practice our first day alongside singles skaters.  It’s strange, but cool to be on the ice while skaters like Keiji Tanaka and Grant Hochstein are pulling quads off.  Of course, we had to navigate our lifts around these quads, which is like an adventure in itself.  The day of the short program, Lyndon had us do a full run through of our program in practice ice.  A clean run-through in practice gave us confidence for the real thing later on. We set a new personal best in our short program by nearly 7 points.  Although we weren’t quite perfect, we felt like we did the short to nearly the best of our abilities while also leaving room to improve.  Similarly, in our free skate we attacked our elements and came out with a result that we are happy with.  We know we can do better, but we are really happy with getting a new personal best overall score and with where we are at this time in the season.

The day after the free skate, Josh and I took a walk from the hotel to visit their presidential palace and the castle in town.  We left with some cool memorabilia and experiences as well.  Later, we spent some time with most of the rest of the American and Canadian delegations and had a great time.  We left Bratislava the next day happy, fulfilled, and ready to get back to work.

The trip to Bratislava and the competition was a success for us; we did a triple twist in international competition for the first time, we got a level 4 on our footwork, and although we had some imperfections, we put out three triple jumps and three throw triples.  Understanding that the differences between us and the people beating us is performance and quality, we set to work on our skating quality right away.  We spent the first week back working on only skating and death spirals (we got no credit in our free skate and we are looking to correct this immediately).  Now, in our second week, we have spent more time on these details and also spent more time with our short program choreographer, Ilona Melnichenko.  We are now actually in the car on the way back from working with Ilona and feel like we accomplished a great deal with her.  Although we didn’t make any drastic changes, we did upgrade the footwork to increase our speed and spent some time detailing other parts.  In addition to working with her on choreography, we also got some help with her from stroking.  Her dance background and keen eye are incredibly helpful for our stroking.  We are returning to train as normal next week and build back up for our next international event.  Our goals are to increase our scores even further for a new personal best, to increase the quality of our elements, and to show a difference in our skating abilities at our next international.  We look forward to blogging for you all again after our next event, thank you for reading and thank you for supporting us (:

– Joshica

Summer Blog

Hello again, thanks for coming to read our blog.  Last time we blogged, we talked about our summer intentions and our music choices; now that we are in the heat of summer we wanted to update you all on how everything is going.

We started off with a local competition called Orange Blossom Open to give us an opportunity to compete our programs before Skate Detroit (albeit only 1.5 weeks before our competition in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan).  This turned out to be a great opportunity for us to try out our twist in competition for the first time.  The anxious nerves on a new element definitely got the better of us there as we received a downgrade on our below average attempt, but nonetheless it was important for us to see how it felt in competition.

Last week we embarked on our journey to Skate Detroit and we had a great time participating in this awesome competition again this year.  We set out to debut our triple twist in Skate Detroit, and we were able to do so without any major problems.  Although our programs had their faults, we accomplished our goal of showing the judges our new element and our new programs as well.  Even though we didn’t get the scores we wanted, we still came away very happy with what we were able to do in Detroit.  Following the competition, US Figure Skating held a minicamp for the pairs in the International Selection Pool.  These activities allowed us to get valuable feedback from judges and technical specialists for our programs and elements this season.  Additionally, we got to have a lesson with jump technician Alex Ouriashev and spend time working with World-medalist Kyoko Ina.  Camp ended with a fun consistency drill where all the teams had to try and land their side by side jumps as many times in a row as possible.  Overall it was a great experience that allowed us to learn and hopefully grow.

Now that Skate Detroit is over, we are in Montreal for a week of training.  Our head coach Lyndon Johnston invited us to come with him as he works with the teams training in this city.  While we are here we will be working with many of the coaches and all of the teams coached by Bruno Marcotte, Richard Gauthier, and even Josee Picard (we will be training at two rinks).  This trip represents an unbelievable opportunity for us and hopefully we can learn and feed off of the energy of the skaters here and come to understand the training habits of some of the best skaters in the world.  We do not yet know of any international assignments, but we hope that our skating can take us to represent the US in international competition and that the improvements we have seen over the last little while (and improvements we are making in the near future) can help us achieve our goals this season.

 

Thank you very much for reading!

 

Music Choices and Offseason Updates

Hey everyone, welcome to our blog. As the 2016/17 season comes to an end, it’s time to get rolling into the 2017/18 Olympic season! Josh and I have been busy picking out music, getting our programs choreographed, and gearing into this upcoming year. We are excited to announce our music choices and choreographers to you all and share a little bit about what we’ve been up to since nationals.

Placing 5th at the 2017 US Championships, we were thrilled with our results and how much we had overcome that season. After battling with injuries and sickness all year, we could finally relax knowing we skated programs to be proud of. I decided to take a week-long trip to Colorado Springs to visit my dad and older brother while Josh took a trip to Minnesota and Chicago to visit friends. We both came home feeling refreshed and ready to get back on the ice.

Once it was time to pick our program music we really wanted to take into consideration our style of skating, what we move well to, and what we feel when we’re in the moment of our programs. For our short program, we will be skating to You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban. When deciding on this piece, we listened to a few different versions, but in the end we went with the original. Every time we listened to it, we could see and feel ourselves skating to it from our hearts. We contacted Ilona Melnichenko, asking if she would be willing to choreograph our short program; Ilona responded with excitement and many creative ideas. With her background in ice dance, we were excited to work with her. Luckily for us she teaches only 3.5 hours away from where we train, so we drove across to the east coast of Florida and spent one long, fun weekend learning crazy transitional moves and being pushed way out of our comfort zone. Eleven hours of choreography later, we had the most challenging 2 minute and 50 second program we’ve ever done together. We love this program and we’re so excited to continue improving it throughout the season.

For our long program music we picked Gone with the Wind. This piece has always been one that I love. After struggling to find music that both of us absolutely loved, this idea came to Josh, and I immediately felt strongly optimistic about it. We listened to it over and over and excitedly asked our coach what he thought. He was all for it and so were we. We asked Phillip Mills to choreograph our long. He has choreographed programs for many national champions, and world and Olympic skaters so we were overjoyed when he excitedly agreed to spend a week working with us. Josh and I are looking forward to debuting our new programs in July at Skate Detroit.

As some of you may remember, Josh had been struggling with a shoulder injury since Cup of China.  A recent MRI showed a tear in his labrum and inflammation in his AC joint, but he was told he wouldn’t need surgery and that there were other options which he could pursue. He ended up getting a cortisone shot to the joint, which was the source of his pain. This seems to help a lot and we have been able to fully train since then. Josh’s injury recovery has allowed us to pick up where we left off on pushing the triple twist, our main focus. As we get back into program mode, we will continue zeroing in on the twist, finding new lift exits, and improving our program components. This will be an exciting year for everyone and we are looking forward to another great season!

Thank you for reading,

 

Joshica 🙂