Ice Network

Lewis chronicles Aussie adventures in JGP blog

Ice dancer takes readers behind the scenes from season-opening event
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Chloe Lewis and partner Logan Bye snuggle with Vinny the koala. -Chloe Lewis

Team USA ice dancer Chloe Lewis is competing at the Junior Grand Prix in Brisbane, Australia, this week. She is keeping a blog for icenetwork.

Saturday, Aug. 26

On Saturday morning, the dancers and ladies took part in final practices. Shortly after, while the ladies were performing their free skates, the ice dancers headed back to the hotel for a quick nap. Kaitlin [Nguyen] and Ting [Cui] both finished strong, ending the competition fifth and sixth! Next, it was our turn to compete, and our teammates were there to cheer us on. As you know, we were in fifth after the short dance but ready to fight and move up in the standings with a strong free dance.

To be completely honest, we were feeling a bit discouraged and surprised to be where we were after the short dance because we felt we skated a solid program. We had also set a goal of reaching the Junior Grand Prix Final this year, so we knew in order to do that, we needed to skate at least as well in the free dance if we wanted the chance to move up in the standings.

We were first to skate in our group, and the five-minute warm-up went really well. I felt excited and confident going into it, and I remember genuinely enjoying the program from start to finish. Unfortunately, it was not the program we needed. I bobbled on the twizzle and Logan [Bye] lost his balance on the choreographic twizzle, causing the overall impression of the program to be below what we were looking to achieve. We both knew that it would be very hard to pull up even with a strong skate, so when we finished, we were immediately aware that we would not achieve the goal we set for ourselves in January.

As almost every competitive skater knows, when you work so hard for something and don't achieve that specific goal, there's a pretty deep disappointment and letdown. Logan and I are reflecting on the various factors that led us to end where we did; we cannot just brush it off and move forward but will fight even harder at our next JGP and work to skate two strong programs for our country and ourselves. It's sometimes hard to remember that the journey for every athlete is different. Some people are able to quickly reach their goals or find success, and for some, it takes longer.

So, while not surprised after receiving our free dance scores, we were very let down. However, we know that remaining disappointed doesn't help us move forward, so we lifted our chins back up and remain focused on the big picture. Fortunately for Team USA, Eliana [Gropman] and Ian [Somerville] skated really well and finished fourth, and we couldn't be happier for them. They were also supportive of us, understanding that we were feeling a bit bummed.

Normally, we don't communicate much with our Russian competitors because of the language barrier, but there was something special about this JGP that brought us all together. We managed to talk and spend time with both Russian teams and got to know them on a personal level. After the free dance, they were in complete support of us, which really lifted our spirits.

Shortly after the event, there was a skaters party. Everyone dancing together on the little dance floor was a lot of fun and a perfect way to end our experience in Brisbane. Once the party concluded, we had our final team meeting. I had such an incredible trip, mainly due to the amazing team I shared the ice with. We all got to know one another so much better throughout the week, laughed as much as we talked and even worked on our Aussie accents and yoyo skills! I know I'll truly miss the team, but I have so many fun memories that I'll remember forever.

After the meeting, some of us hung out with members of the Canadian team, while others went to sleep. We were just talking and chilling in a hotel room all night, but it flew by and before I knew it, it was 4 a.m. I got a little sleep before shoving my things back in my suitcase and getting on the bus to the airport.

Despite the disappointment Logan and I experienced at the end of the competition, I'm leaving with the fullest of hearts and memories that will last a lifetime. I made new friends, held a koala, watched Dmitri [Ilin] belly dance at a Turkish restaurant, fulfilled a lifelong dream of going to Australia and so much more.

Special thanks go out to U.S. Figure Skating, the best team leader ever in Ann Barr, my coaches, Logan and my family. I'd also like to thank the rest of the team for being so supportive.

To the fans, thank you for allowing me to share my experiences and for reading my blogs. We're ready to fight on!

Friday, Aug. 25

I wasn't really sure how to start this blog, as yesterday didn't go anything like I had hoped. But I don't want to get ahead of myself, so I'll just start from the beginning.

The ladies had the day off from competing, so they went to the koala sanctuary with their coaches and had an incredible time (of course). We started the day around 8 with a morning practice, which went really well. I was feeling very prepared and excited for the competition later.

After our practice, we went back to the hotel for a couple of hours to rest up for the competition. As I was getting ready, I Facetimed with some of my closest friends back home. This is kind of a ritual for me, and it's truly the best way to kick the nerves out of my system because my friends never cease to make me laugh and remind me just how ready me and Logan [Bye] are to kill it!

We went back to the rink, grabbed some lunch and went to warm up for the short dance. I can honestly say I felt more prepared and excited to compete, and ready to show everyone what we have been training, than ever before.

We took the ice for the five-minute warm-up and felt great. The energy from the crowd was awesome; even though there aren't a ton of seats in the arena, they were filled with enthusiastic fans. We skated second in our warm-up, and everything seemingly went well. I felt very connected to the music and to Logan, I felt solid in my edges, and I was genuinely having fun. It's an awesome feeling when you are just enjoying sharing what you love to do with an audience that is openly appreciative of what you do.

We finished the program feeling good about it, and our coach was proud of us and happy with the skate, which is most important to me. Unfortunately, we lost some levels on our cha cha and on our footwork, and we lost some other component marks. Although we did not end up where we wanted, we are ready to do the same thing in the free, only with better levels and components. We plan on giving it everything we have, because that's all we can do. The rest is out of our hands.

Later, we went to watch the men's free skate. Eric [Sjoberg] skated really well and had a super engaging, intense program that I really liked. He finished eighth in a very strong field of men. Alex [Krasnozhon] went on to win the event with another awesome program!

After the event was over, a bunch of us went to a Turkish restaurant for dinner. We had a really lovely meal, with lot of laughter to boot, that just filled me with so much warmth. I'm so happy that I've gotten to bond with my teammates on this trip.

During the dinner, a belly dancer made her way from table to table, choosing people to dance with. Logan and Dmitri [Ilin] were lucky enough to be chosen, but I don't think she expected them to have such impressive belly dancing moves…they almost outshone her!

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and went to sleep. We still have a job to do in the free dance, and we plan on giving it everything we have. I'm excited to watch the ladies do the same.

Thursday, Aug. 24

Today was another eventful day, as it was the start of the competition for men and ladies.

We had breakfast with the majority of the team, as usual, and then all went our separate ways. I went to my room to chill and get ready for practice, which always takes ages due to my arch-nemesis, winged liner. After finally accepting defeat to two uneven wings, I met Logan [Bye], Eliana [Gropman] and Ian [Somerville] to catch the bus to the rink.

At practice, both teams did their free dances, which went well. Afterward, we stretched, ate lunch and talked a little with some of our Russian counterparts. It's interesting to make friends with someone who doesn't speak your language fluently because you both understand about half of what the other person is saying. It makes for a lot of hand gestures and hilarious made-up words. Even so, I have really been enjoying talking to the two Russian teams more, and I have so much respect for the amount of English they do speak and the way they put themselves out there to try and make conversation in an unfamiliar language.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel for a little bit before coming back to watch the ladies short. Ting [Cui] skated really well (other than her spins, she said, though I couldn't tell) and is in fifth going into the free. My roommate, Kaitlin [Nguyen], was incredible as well, but she made a mistake on one jump and is in sixth. It was so much fun to watch them skate, as I'd never seen either of them before. Sadly, I somehow I forgot to take pictures of them, but I'll make sure to include some from their short programs in tomorrow's blog!

Before the men's short, we went back to the hotel again, played a quick round of Mario Kart (in which neither myself nor Eliana did very well) and then returned to the rink. Eric [Sjoberg] is in eighth after the short, and Alex [Krasnozhon] is in first. It was an exciting event to watch, and it was fun to see their programs for the first time as well.

Finally, we had dinner at the rink, came back and played a little more Mario Kart -- only this time we played really well! Hopefully, ending the day on a good Mario Karting note is a sign of what's to come tomorrow for the short dance.

Today may have not involved koalas and kangaroos, but it was exciting in its own ways, and I'm happy the competition is off to such a great start. I'm seriously excited to get our sass on tomorrow for the short dance!

Wednesday, Aug. 23

It's Thursday morning here in Brisbane, but I'll be telling you all about Wednesday. By the time the end of the day rolled around, I was way too tired to recount the exciting events that had taken place. In brief, yesterday was one of the most MAGICAL days of my life.

I woke up early (as always) and went down for breakfast. I sat with some of the team as well as some skaters from other countries such as Israel and Mexico. After breakfast, I made plans with Logan [Bye], Eliana [Gropman] and Ian [Somerville] to go to the koala sanctuary. This was the first place I researched when we got the letter informing us that we would be traveling to Australia. We all took an Uber out there, and as we approached, I was literally squealing with excitement.

Walking into the koala area, there were lots of beautiful birds and other adorable creatures, but I had two things on my mind: koalas and kangaroos. There were "koala forests" of short trees with the cutest little koalas curled up, asleep in the branches. They actually looked fake, and when the workers carried them through the sanctuary to move them around, they really looked like teddy bears. I was absolutely in love.

After waiting in line for maybe 10 minutes, I got to hold a beautiful baby named Vinny. Although he was heavier than expected, that minute honestly filled my heart with so much love! We actually had a little moment where Vinny looked directly at me and we were almost touching noses...call me the Koala Whisperer!

After taking tons of photos with Vinny and the others with their koalas, we left for the kangaroos. The kangaroos were roaming freely in a giant park that extended farther than I could see but was separated by a gate so they could leave the humans and have some privacy if they wanted. They were all extremely chill and didn't care when we came up to them. I spent most of my time with a momma and baby kangaroo, and I fed the mom a little bit. Seeing the mom laying with her baby was one of the sweetest things I've ever experienced. The baby also nursed from the mother's pouch, which was adorable. Aside from kangaroos, there were some very odd-looking birds in the park that somewhat resembled trees.

Finally, the time came to leave, as we had to make it back in time for the short dance draw. We all had to basically tear ourselves away from the sanctuary, but I think I can speak for us all when I say that we will never forget the incredible experience. That may sound dramatic, but I am a true animal fanatic, so this was not a casual experience for me.

After changing, we took the quick bus ride to the rink for the draw. We drew second, and Eliana and Ian drew fourth, so we will both be in the first warm-up group (of two).

We had a little bit of time to chill at the rink after, and we practiced some yo-yoing before warming up for our first official practice. Logan and I skated our short dance, and it was a good practice overall. The ice felt more normal than on the previous practice, as we had gotten used to it, and my body was also more adjusted to the colder climate. I had a really fun time on the practice, as our short dance consists of Jennifer Lopez selections; it's super sassy. I love skating in my short dance costume as well; it helps me embrace the sass.

After practice, one of our competitors and friends, Alex Vakhnov (from Russia), tried out the yo-yo, which has obviously been quite a hit here, and then we all went to stretch and cool down.

By the time we got home and changed, we were all hungry for dinner, so we (when I say "we," I always mean Logan and I) went back to the rink and ate with Alexei [Ilin], Eliana and Ian, and Ting [Cui]. When we got back from dinner, we all went to Logan and Alex [Krasnozhon]'s room to play Mario Kart and watch The Blacklist.

It was a really fun day, and I am looking forward to today's practice and whatever other adventures the day brings!

Tuesday, Aug. 22

Today was another awesome day in Australia. I woke up pretty early due to jet lag and headed down for breakfast. A few team members were there eating already, so I joined them, and we had a fun time laughing and talking for a while. After testing out Vegemite, we eventually dispersed to our rooms.

Our practice wasn't until 1:15, so we stayed at the hotel until it was time to leave. I spent my time Facetiming friends from home, talking to my parents and practicing yo-yoing. (Today was actually the first time I've EVER successfully yo-yoed!)

We left for the rink around 12. When we arrived, we got our accreditation and spent some time exploring the rink. The building is nice and has a cool upstairs area that looks over the ice. There is also a very well-equipped warm-up area for the skaters, which is always a plus.

After practice, we went back to the hotel to change before heading downtown again. This time I went with Logan [Bye] (Lewis' partner); our coach, Greg [Zuerlein]; the other U.S. dance team, Eliana [Gropman] and Ian [Somerville]; and their coach, Dmitri [Ilin]. It was so fun exploring with all of them because although we have done lots of sightseeing with Greg in various countries and cities, we have never visited a new city with Eliana, Ian and Dmitri. We had a delicious dinner and saw a stunning sunset on the river. Once again, the early sunset did NOT help me to keep my energy up, and because the sun set at 5:30, I've been seriously struggling to keep my eyes open for hours.

When we got back from downtown, we met up with the rest of the team for a birthday celebration for Eric [Sjoberg]. After that, everyone went back to their rooms for the night.

I'm in bed now, so I guess this marks the end of today's shenanigans. Looking forward to another fun day tomorrow...good night from Brisbane!

Monday, Aug. 21

We arrived at the airport in Brisbane around 6 a.m., but I feel very well rested because I slept for the majority of the 15-hour flight. We met some other of our U.S. teammates at the airport and took a quick bus ride to our hotel. The hotel property is very pretty and has lots of palm trees and flowers. The weather also couldn't be better, as it is sunny but not too hot, and the sky is blue -- basically, the way I've always imagined the weather would be on the "perfect day" in Australia.

Logan and I didn't have a practice today, so after settling into our rooms, we headed to downtown Brisbane. Downtown was really interesting and had a cool mixture of architectural styles. The Brisbane River weaves through the city, allowing beautiful views of the waterway from many points in the city. We walked along the waterfront, went into some shops, ate at a cafe and took tons of pictures.

When we got back to the hotel, we were all so exhausted that we could barely keep our eyes open, but we still had to go to the team dinner. At dinner, everyone was practically falling asleep in their food. It didn't help that the sun set so early; by 6:30, it felt like it was 10. Ann [Barr] (our team leader) gave us each the nicest "goodie bags" in JGP history, and even though we were all exhausted, we still had a fun dinner full of laughter.

Thinking back on the day now, the things that stand out to me the most about Brisbane are:

  1. The weird yet adorable birds that are as common as pigeons but the size of geese and flaunt beaks like anteaters.
  2. Cars driving on the reverse side of the road is much more off-putting than I anticipated.
  3. It gets very dark very early.
  4. The city is outstandingly clean and confusing to navigate because of the very bendy river flowing through it.
  5. The weather is lovely, the foliage is much different than in North America/Europe, and the creatures I've come across are pretty comical.
  6. To conclude, I already love it here and can't wait to see more.

I apologize if this entry was confusing and traveled in a million different directions. I assure you it's because I'm a *little* tired; the next time you hear from me, I will be much more coherent. Good night from Brisbane, and good morning to everyone back home!