Two Filipino-American skaters will represent Southern California at the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Aubrey placed second, earning Silver Medal at US Figure Skating Championships. On that strong performance, she received her first international assignment from Team USA, and competed at the 2019 Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Henry placed 7th overall at US Figure Skating Championships. He’s getting ready for the new season after taking some time off for an adventure to Shanghai, China.

By Helen Mendoza

Southern California teens Aubrey Ignacio (15) and Henry Privett-Mendoza (16) will compete next week at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI.  They have a lot in common: a love of skating; big families, and they’re both US Figure Skating novice level competitors. Together, these two Filipino-American skaters are bringing island style and a champion’s grit and determination to the championships.

For Aubrey Ignacio, who was crowned the 2019 Pacific Coast Sectionals Novice Ladies’ Champion in November, this is her first trip to the US Championships.  Aubrey fought through a back injury and faced tough competition to win gold in Utah. “I’m so proud and blessed to have watched Aubrey mature both as a person and a skater this season,” says proud mother Ophelia Ong. Prior to her championship performance in Utah,  Aubrey earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships.  In 2018, she was the Southwest Pacific Regional Intermediate Ladies’ Champion.  Aubrey is coached by Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson. Her short program was choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Her long program, a medley of songs from the Broadway show, “On Your Feet: The Musical”, was choreographed by Jamie Isley.

Henry Privett-Mendoza also fought through injuries for much of the 2018-19 season.  “It was tough being hurt,” said Henry. “I had to be really patient, keep working to get better, and trust that it would come together.” That patience and hard work paid off when Henry won the 2019 Southwest Pacific Coast Regional Championship in October and then followed up by placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.  For Henry, who picked up a US Championship medal in 2015, this is his 5th trip to nationals, qualifying at every level he’s competed. Henry is coached by Robert Taylor and Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a USFS Hall of Fame inductee, is also Henry’s choreographer.

Aubrey represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and Henry skates for the Figure Skating Club of Southern California.  However, together at nationals, they are proud to be part of the great tradition of Southern California skating, and to represent their Mabuhay! heritage. The 2019 Geico US Figure Skating Championships Novice Ladies and Novice Men competitions will be held on January 21-22 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  The competition will be live-streamed through the USFSA Fanzone at https://usfigureskatingfanzone.com/.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen Mendoza is a film/video producer, writer, and photographer. She is a vocalist and a founding member of Vox Femina Los Angeles. She is also a mother of two and lives in Los Angeles with her wife.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou Make U.S. Men’s 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Team; Zhou Responds to Racist Tweet

Part 2 of the press conference here.

On Sunday, Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou were named to the U.S. Figure Skating Team:

“U.S. Figure Skating announced today the men who will compete at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as part of the U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Team.

The men’s singles team is Nathan Chen, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou.

Nathan Chen is the 2018 U.S. champion, successfully defending his 2017 title. Chen entered the 2018 U.S. Championships as the only undefeated male skater in the 2017-18 season, winning two Grand Prix Series titles and the Grand Prix Final. Chen is the only man in the world to receive credit for landing five different types of quadruple jumps in international competition.

Adam Rippon is the 2016 U.S. champion, and placed fourth at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships. After winning silver at both of his Grand Prix Series assignments this season, Rippon earned his second-straight trip to the Grand Prix Final, where he placed fifth.

Vincent Zhou is the 2018 U.S. bronze medalist. He won the 2017 U.S. silver medal and ended last season as the 2017 World Junior champion. Chen has won U.S. titles at the intermediate (2011), novice (2012) and junior (2013) levels.

Alternates for the 2018 men’s Olympic Team have been named as Jason Brown (first alternate),Ross Miner (second alternate), and Max Aaron (third alternate).”

 

There was absolutely no doubt, especially after Saturday’s performance, that Nathan Chen would be named to the 2018 U.S. Men’s Olympic Figure skating team. However, the second two spots were up for grabs after some disastrous performances by Adam Rippon and Jason Brown at Nationals. Ultimately, Rippon was selected to be part of the team due to his body of work the past year and beyond.

Palo Alto native Vincent Zhou, was selected as the third member of the men’s figure skating team. To be honest, I don’t really follow Zhou even though he lives in the next town over, and only usually follow figure skating during the Olympics unless I happen to catch it on TV.

After the press conference, I had the chance to ask Zhou a question towards the end of the concurrent individual interview sessions of the press conference, asking him what was about Palo Alto that produced athletes such as Jeremy Lin and himself. He obviously recognized what I was getting at and responded (minute 5:56)

At first, I think I had noticed one reporter seemed to be a little put off by the question, as if it was not relevant (which annoyed me and definitely reinforced my thoughts on diversity in the newsroom). However, after Zhou answered my question, an Asian/Asian American reporter (I think from a local Chinese language television news station) asked about the racist tweet sent less than several hours ago after Zhou won the Bronze (minute 8:04):

(Of course that spineless racist tweeter deleted that tweet. I’d love to really found out who that tweeter was …)

To be honest, I was a little surprised that Zhou had received such a tweet, since I had not heard of other such racist tweets regarding Mirari Nigasu, Karen Chen or even Nathen Chen. But in the press conference, Zhou reiterated what he had tweeted. After that response, I felt that I was definitely happy to have asked my question regarding Zhou and his Asian American background.

Since I knew Nathan Chen was going to bombarded by reporters, I wanted to focus in on Vincent Zhou (and also, since he lives in the next town over, I figured I might be able to interview him down the road – though I haven’t had a chance to interview Jeremy Lin yet …). With some time remaining, I moved over to see what Chen was answering:

I think at this point in time, Chen is highly likely to medal at the Olympics and has a very good chance to win the Gold. From the past few days of observing Chen, he is supremely confident and a bit stoic and a bit matter-of-fact, something that his teammate Adam Rippon said that he was quite the opposite (with Chen nodding in approval of his description of their skating styles and personalities).

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen Make U.S. Women’s 2018 Olympic Figure Skating Team

Press Conference:  2018 U.S. Women’s Olympic Skating Team Selection

I had the real honor and pleasure to witness history live in San Jose, California (15 miles from where I live, 5 miles from where I currently work) to see two Asian American women, Japanese American skater Mirai Nagasu and Taiwanese American Skater Karen Chen skate at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where they respectively came in 2nd & 3rd:

“Mirai Nagasu (Pasadena FSC), the 2008 U.S. champion, earned a silver medal with 213.84 points, ahead of Karen Chen (Peninsula FSC), the 2017 U.S. champion, who secured the bronze medal with a score of 198.59 points. Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner (SC of Wilmington) finished fourth with 196.19.”

You can watch the press conference of that that here.

So the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Figure Skating team will consist of:

Bradie Tennell is the 2018 U.S. champion. She won the U.S. junior title in 2015 and the bronze medal at Bridgestone Skate America earlier this season. Her short program score of 73.79 at the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships marked a new U.S. record.

Mirai Nagasu is the 2018 U.S. silver medalist. She won the U.S. ladies title in 2008 and placed fourth at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is the second American woman in history to land a triple Axel in international competition.

Karen Chen is the 2018 U.S. bronze medalist. She won the U.S. ladies title in 2017, and is the 2015 U.S. bronze medalist. Her fourth-place performance at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships secured three ladies spots for the United States at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.

Alternates for the 2018 Olympic Team have been named as Ashley Wagner (first alternate), Mariah Bell(second alternate), and Angela Wang (third alternate).

After the press conference, Tennell, Nagasu & Chen sat down for press interviews for about 30 minutes. Here are about, in total, 5 minutes of video clips:

Note: I focused on Chen since I wanted to ask, but didn’t get a chance, to see – if she knew – if she was possibly the first Taiwanese American to represent the United States for women’s individual figure skating.

Asian Americans and Asian Canadians in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

640px-2011_WFSC_5d_432_Maia_Shibutani_Alex_ShibutaniNorthwest Asian Weekly recently published a list of Asian Americans in the Sochi 2014 Olympics.   While figure skater Mirai Nagasu is not going and snowboarder Chloe Kim cannot go, ice dancers like Alex and Maia Shibutani, Madison Chock, and Felicia Zhang are.  The article mentions that short track skater J.R. Celski is half Filipino.  John has already mentioned that hockey player Julie Chu will be at Sochi.

Continue reading “Asian Americans and Asian Canadians in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics”

Words of Wisdom from Skater Dr. Michelle Kwan

Last weekend, two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan was a commencement speaker at Southern Vermont College and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She noted that she’s probably the only current student (at Tufts) who is also giving a graduation speech. Kwan has already achieved so much as a skater, but when she “retired” at age 28, she had to rethink what she wanted to do for the rest of her life after focusing so much on skating.

I thought her words of wisdom were truly that:

“I suppose this is a common mistake. Whether it’s winning a competition, finishing a degree, getting the right job, paying off a loan, or finding the perfect partner — we always imagine that at some point all the waiting, worrying and striving will finally be over. We expect some magic moment of arrival, when all the pieces settle permanently into place, and life can finally begin.  But I’m starting to realize, and maybe you are too, that things usually don’t turn out that way. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, and everything right where we want it, there’s always some new challenge to contend with. So even while we pursue our goals, we shouldn’t put off enjoying life, thinking happiness waits for us at some far-off destination. We should take life on its own terms, and look for happiness in the here and now.”

Given everything Kwan has accomplished, she’s still figuring out what to do with her life. It’s somewhat reassuring to know that even from those who “have it all” from the outside, there are struggles that we all have to deal with in each of our own ways. As I start to approach “middle age,” I found it always easy to look retrospectively what one should have or could have done – as well as  deal with things you had no control over. Today, Asian Americans, especially those raised by immigrant parents, are especially “goal driven” and in the process, miss enjoying the journey.

When I graduated from business school, Ted Turner was our commencement speaker. One of his pieces of advice was to set a goal so high so that it was unattainable, so that (as I interpreted it) you could always enjoy the journey. He spoke of how his father framed his entire life on becoming rich and making $1 million a year. When he reached that goal, he had no idea what to do next, was miserable and eventually killed himself  but putting a gun to his head. So when you think everyone has everything figured out, don’t be too surprised when you learn that even the most successful could be in the same boat as you.

Mirai Nagasu Joins the U.S. 2010 Olympic Women Figure Skating Team

Over the weekend, Arcadia, California native and sixteen year old Mirai Nagasu came in second place in the 2010 US Figure Skating Championship to secure a spot on the U.S. women’s figure skating team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Earlier in the week, Nagasu came in first during the short-program competition (see video). Ever since I was a kid and watched Dorothy Hamill skate, I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport. I’ll never forget when I got to see Michelle Kwan skate live in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics short program. She came in first at this event, later capturing the bronze overall.

Also over the weekend, The New York Times did an interesting story on the propensity of Asian American and Asian women to dominate the sport of figure skating:

“Eight of the 23 women scheduled to compete Saturday in the long program at the United States championships were Asian-Americans, who also excelled here among younger skaters… Without compulsory figures, skating became more like gymnastics. Jumping assumed a new urgency. Younger skaters could excel. The key to jumping is to leap high and spin quickly and tightly through two, three or four revolutions before returning to the ice. Asian skaters are often small and willowy, which can be an asset when jumping… Other cultural factors are also at play, coaches said. Discipline at home often transfers to discipline at the rink, Carroll said. Audrey Weisiger, a prominent Chinese-American coach, said: “A lot of Asian families really drive their kids, and I don’t mean in the car. They’re not allowed to be marginal.””

The article also mentions that former Olympians such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan have a lot to do with inspiring, especially Asian American women, to take up the sport. I’m sure that is the case and why I believe that Asian American role models outside of traditionally accepted passions, careers and vocations are important. Of course, the drive and expectations can have a negative effect as well – where Asian Americans (especially women), might feel put an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves.