The best word to describe the difference in atmospheres for the figure skating nationals and last summer's Olympic Swimming Trials is subdued.
While there were light shows, poolside pyrotechnics, waterfalls and medal stands rising from the floor below for the Swim Trials, the most dramatic part of the skating set-up at the CenturyLink Center is the Puffs Kiss and Cry room, where contestants sit with their coaches and wait for their scores.
That room will be seen a lot the next two days on NBC as the free skate finals in all four events are televised nationally.
Another noticeable difference is the volume level of the public address announcer. While the voices of the Swim Trials were constantly encouraging fans to yell louder — especially when record times were within reach — the voices fans heard Thursday and Friday rarely rose louder than a whisper.
One thing the skating bunch has on the swim fans — no one threw a teddy bear or faux flowers into the pool.
Hochstein gets crowd on his side
Friday's final skater got one of the biggest cheers of the men's short program competition because he knew how to play to his audience.
Once Grant Hochstein got into the kiss and cry room to wait for his scores, he pulled out a cornhead favored by Husker fans at University of Nebraska sporting events.
The crowd also showed its appreciation for Hochstein's gesture by booing what they thought was too low of a score — 65.68. That put Hochstein, who competes for the Skating Club of New York, in 11th place heading into Sunday's free skate.
Galindo, Nichol enter Hall of Fame
Three-time national champion Rudy Galindo and choreographer Lori Nichol officially were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame Friday night between the second and third groups of men's singles skaters.
Scoring throws some for a loop
There were gasps of dismay — and more than a few boos — when a seemingly perfect performance by Caroline Zhang received poor scores from the judges in Thursday night's opening segment of the senior ladies competition.
After all, Zhang had just received a standing ovation for a program that included a virtuoso jump combination (triple loop-triple loop) that only a few skaters even attempt. (It was the signature move of Olympic champion Tara Lipinski in 1998, and rarely done since.) And then she easily tossed off two more tough jumps, plus all of the required spins and footwork.
What went wrong? Blame not just the judges but the technical-review officials, who have slo-mo video review that the audience does not. Their sharp eyes caught “cheats” in both triple loops, which caused the first one to lose points for “underrotation” and the second to be downgraded to just a double. The net result was a score of only 3.8 points — a loss of upwards of six points from what a “clean” combination could have received.
Even worse, she also got dinged for underrotating another jump (her triple flip), her footwork was classified as only the less-difficult level 2 (the aim is level 4) and then lost more points in the set of marks that judge the overall strength of skating skills, transitions and speed.
The result was a mediocre score — 49.99 — and just 12th place.
Also causing a shock to the audience was the seemingly too-high score awarded later in the night to Agnes Zawadzki, despite a glaring fall on her double axel.
The judges' score sheets provided the explanation there, too: Though she did lose some points on that jump, she more than made up by getting the highest triple-triple score of the night (10 points), recording a big score on her triple lutz (7.40) and also completing one of the night's few sets of level 4 footwork.
The result was a strong score of 65.31 and second place, just 2.26 points behind leader Ashley Wagner.
— Steve Beideck and Jan DeKnock