Smooth’s Podium PIcks: US Figure Skating Championships 2021

2021-toyota-u.s.-figure-skating-championships

The 100th anniversary of US Figure Skating will be one for the record books.  Last year’s Skate America in Las Vegas was the first of its kind, a competition performed in a “bubble” to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Protocols will be the same this week, as the US Figure Skating Championships takes place in the same arena. Because of the pandemic, regional competitions took place for junior and senior skaters. And for the first time, skaters had to compete virtually, submitting their programs by video. Unfortunately, the competition had its share of problems, as four teams and one ladies skater were forced to withdraw because of possible COVID-19 exposure. Despite the loss, the competition will continue this Thursday, with the Pairs short and Ladies short programs.

Official program with senior and junior participants located here!

10232020_2020skam_m_sp_191_nathan_chenMen: With no known positive tests confirmed, the field looks to be set. Nathan Chen dominated the men’s event at Skate America last year, and is, by far, the odds -on favorite to win his 5th straight US title. A number of skaters look to block his path, including 2015 US Champ, Jason Brown. Brown caught a bad break when Skate Canada was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. He trains in Toronto with coaches Tracy Wilson, Brian Orser, and Karen Preston. Despite the lost competition time, he’s still a major player this weekend. Vincent Zhou took a step back during last year’s US Nationals finishing 4th. But he had a solid program at Skate America last year, taking silver. Tomoki Hiwitashi was the surprise podium taker at US Nationals, finishing 3rd. He took 4th at Skate America and looks to make the podium again.

Skaters to watch: Camden Pulkinen is one skater you should keep your eyes on. He’s had some success in juniors, but is still looking to transfer that to the senior circuit. He was 7th at last year’s nationals and finished 9th at Skate America. Ryan Dunk is also a former US junior champion in 2019. He was 11th in men’s seniors in 2020.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Nathan Chen
2. Jason Brown
3. Tomoki Hiwitashi

gettyimages-1210998391-e1610127823462Ladies: Alysa Liu is supposed to be the favorite, but there are three factors that may get in the way of the two-time US Ladies champ from making it a three-peat. First, the lack of competition, as she opted out of this season’s Grand Prix. Second, a growth spurt, as she’s grown three inches since last year. And third, the large field of ladies skating, led by Mariah Bell. She had the free skate of her life at last year’s Nationals, finishing 2nd and is coming off her first Grand Prix title at Skate America. 2018 US ladies champ, Bradie Tennell still has the fire to get her title back and has been a consistent skater this season, finishing 2nd at Skate America. Amber Glenn is also a top contender, having finished in 5th place at Skate America last fall.

Skaters to Watch: Senior skater Paige Rynberg was a last minute withdraw because of COVID-19 exposure. A bad break, as she won the virtual qualifying event. This leaves 17 skaters in the field this weekend. Keep your eye on Audrey Shin. She made her senior debut a memorable one, as she found the podium at Skate America, finishing 3rd. This will be her first competition as a senior and she could make a splash in Vegas. Karen Chen will also be a factor.  Of course, the story to root for is former two-time US champ and Olympian, Gracie Gold. She’s fought hard to get back to Nationals two years in a row after a difficult period.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Mariah Bell
2. Bradie Tennell
3. Alysa Liu

gettyimages-1202126949-e1585759847813Pairs: This category was hit hard by the pandemic. Sarah Burden and Matthew Rounis, Winter Deardorff and Mikhail Johnson, and Brynne McIsaac and Mark Sadusky were all forced to withdraw because of COVID-19 exposure. The loss drops the field to 9 teams, with the team of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier being the slight favorite in the event. The newly formed pairs duo surprised audiences by winning their first ever competition together at Skate America. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson were caught a bit of guard, but were able to take 2nd. 2019 US pairs champs Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc will look to get back that spark after a poor showing in Las Vegas, as they finished 4th.

Team to watch: Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov had their best Grand Prix competition showing, finishing 3rd at Skate America. They finished 6th at last year’s nationals and look to improve their showing.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier
2. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc
3. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson

hubbell_and_donohue_short_program_new_16x9Ice Dance: Two teams clearly are at the top of the list. Madison Chock and Evan Bates come into the competition as the defending champions. But they decided to opt-out of the Grand Prix series due to the pandemic. Still, they’re the slight favorites to win back-to-back titles. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue didn’t opt-out, and won Skate America with a strong performance. They look for their 3rd US title this weekend. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker also participated at Skate America and went home with a 2nd place finish. They look to improve on their 3rd place showing at last year’s nationals.

Team to watch: Skate America medalists Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko were forced to withdraw from the competition because of COVID-19 exposure. They were expected to contend for a medal this weekend. Their absence leaves an opening for the remaining eight teams. Keep your eyes on Caroline Green and Michael Parsons. The team missed the podium at Skate America, finishing in 4th and were 5th at last year’s nationals.

Smooth’s Picks
1. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
2. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
3. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker

The US Junior Championships take place January 20-21. Here are our picks to win.

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Men – Lucas Broussard

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Ladies – Isabeau Levito

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Pairs – Anastasiia Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia

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Ice Dance – Oona Brown and Gage Brown

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Skating, US Nationals | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Athletes Turning to Porn For a Living is Still a Rare Phenomenon

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Continuing the conversation on my last blog entry, Melissa Bulanhagui (shown above) turning into Jade Kai is unique, as she became the first former figure skater to become a porn star. She made the switch by getting involved in webcamming.  She parlayed that into an exclusive deal to shoot for PornHub. 

Making that kind of career switch is very rare. In fact, only one athlete has been known to have participated in Olympic competition and went on to a career in porn.  With the advent of websites like OnlyFans and FanCentro allowing for exclusive content, you may see more athletes showing their wild side.

Here are a few other athletes that made the switch.

verona

Verona van de Leur – Voted Dutch Sportswoman of the Year in 2002, the decorated gymnast’s downward spiral began following an injury which curtailed her sporting aspirations.

After spending two years homeless and enduring a fractious legal battle with her father, Van de Leur hit rock bottom when she was imprisoned after being convicted of blackmail in 2011.

She says redemption came by working as a porn actress. “Actually I have no regrets because I was living on the streets … I would still do it, so I don’t have any regrets, not the way I did it, no,” she told CNN.

She retired from the business in 2019, but still maintains a website filed with adult content.

Official Websites: Verona’s Adult Film Website

Verona’s Gymnastics Website

melo

Melo Imai – Back in 2006, she represented Japan at the Winter Olympics in Turin as a snowboarder. The then 18-year old abandoned her dreams of Olympic glory for softcore porn after a brutal halfpipe wipeout at the Turin Games caused her to fall out of love with the sport.

Upon her return to Japan, she suffered public humiliation, with commenters calling her “a waste of tax money” and “a national embarrassment”.  Imai supported herself over the years by working in bars, and soon became a hostess and then an escort, working three days at a sex parlor. She moved on to appearing in television programs as a ‘Tarento’ (or celebrities who regularly appear in mass media in Japan, especially as panelists on variety shows.) and as a nude model in pornographic magazines.

Between 2014 and 2016 she appeared in over a dozen nude gravure DVD’s, a genre of softcore pornography. She later stated, “For many athletes, the Olympics are the peak of their career, but for me it was a nightmare.” She suffered from depression, and gave up the sport.

“After the Olympics, I was making as much as a company president, and sometimes I’d go party at a host club and drop $9,000 in a single night,” she said about her gig as a porn star.

Imai returned to snowboarding in 2017, and won gold at the All Japan Snowboarding Championships in 2018.

andrea

Andrea Absolonová – Andrea was better known by her pseudo name, “Lea De Mae”. Born in Czechoslovakia, she was a member of the Czech high diving national team. She injured her spine in an accident diving from a 10m platform when she was training for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

She recovered from her injury, but did not qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Her problems persisted, so she retired from professional sports. After her career ended, she was persuaded by a photographer to pose nude and eventually decided to participate in the adult film industry.

She performed in 80 films in her porn career. In July, 2004, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. Despite a medical fund set up for her in Prague by fans and fellow porn actors, she died later that year in December at the age of 27.

IAFD: Lea DeMae Biography

lea

Lea Lexus – Born Laura Stan, Lexis’ gymnastics talents saw her become a five-time national champion for Romania, before she quit the sport due to injury at the age of just 14. “I had a double breakage in a muscle,” she said. “Recovery took six months.

After being out for half a year, I was mentally done with gymnastics.”  She eventually found her way into porn which took her to America, where she is now one of the biggest names in the hardcore scene. According to IAFD.com, she’s starred in 688 films during a 13-year career.

She’s currently a Production Manager for Brazzers.

IAFD: Lea Lexus Biography

Posted in Adult Films, Olympics, Winter Olympics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Angel is the Centerfold”, the Transformation of a Former Figure Skater into a Full-Fledged Adult Film Star

While telling this story, I’m reminded of the top 40 hit from the 80’s by the J. Geils Band, “Centerfold”.

She was pure like snowflakes
No one could ever stain
The memory of my angel
Could never cause me pain

Years go by I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine
And there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in-between

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
Angel is the centerfold

That’s pretty much the reaction I felt when I found out who adult film star Jada Kai really was.

melissa-bulanhagui

Her real name is Melissa Bulanhagui, a former figure skater who competed at US Nationals from 2005 to 2008 and again in 2010 and 2011. She attended the University of Delaware and skated out of Newark, Delaware with the Skating Club of Wilmington. Her highest placement at senior nationals was 8th in 2008. She also captured regional titles in 2006 as a junior and 2010 as a senior.

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In 2012, she competed for the Philippines and won their national ladies’ championship two years in a row (2012, 2013). She would also win bronze at the 2013 Asian Open Trophy (shown above) and competed at two Four Continents Championships, finishing 15th in 2015. That year, Melissa would retire from competitive figure skating.

Career Results from ISU (isuresults.com)

In 2019, she made a bold decision to enter the world of the adult film industry.  In an interview with fellow porn star Asa Akira, Melissa discusses what led to her journey into porn.

“I won (Philippine) nationals and Olympics qualifiers were around the corner, and when I asked the team about the application, they said ‘oh, we’re gonna send the junior champion instead…’ I had sacrificed everything, and I was good.”

“I was burning out, I started drinking so much more.”, she said.

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Dissatisfied with where she was at, when an old friend said he was going to California, she went with him. Looking for work she could do remotely; Melissa became frustrated and decided to watch some porn to relax.

She said: “Then I came across webcamming. I started watching documentaries on them and so I tried it and I made like $200.”

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Melissa now shoots with Pornhub.  “I was able to make cash that night, so I just started doing it. I told my roommate and he was so supportive.”

Wanting to take control of her situation, she began to make her own content.

She said: “I wanted to grow my career a little bit more, and then I got an offer from Reality Kings on their new channel called ‘true amateurs’ and I shot three scenes for them.” Her roommate, porn star producer, director and performer Jackie Knight is also in porn.

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Melissa is still relatively new to the porn world, having been in 24 months. The average career in porn is approx. 3 years.

She said: “I started webcamming two years ago, or three years ago almost.”

According to IAFD.com; Melissa, under the Jada Kai name, has performed in 28 films, mostly online.

Earlier this year, Melissa discussed her experiences on Instagram with pairs figure skater John Coughlin.  Coughlin was accused of unwanted sexual advances on a number of female skaters.  In January, 2019; Coughlin committed suicide one day after being suspended from figure skating for unspecified allegations.  Other skaters have come forward publicly, including former US skater Ashley Wagner.

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As for the future, it’s unknown where her journey will lead to.

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/officialjadakai
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/officialjadakai/

Posted in Adult Films, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2020 Rostelecom Cup

2020-rostelecom-cup

The Grand Prix circuit returns with regional competition from Moscow. Skaters who have their home skating base in Russia will compete this weekend. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, there are 60 skaters scheduled to compete.

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Men – Defending European Champion Dmitri Aliev of Russia faces stiff competition in this year’s event. Teammate Mikhail Kolyada returns to the ice after missing last season due to health problems. Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili also looks to take the podium. Also contending is Russia’s Andrei Mozalev, who will debut at the senior level.

Name

Nation

Vladimir LITVINTSEV

AZE

Alexander LEBEDEV

BLR

Morisi KVITELASHVILI

GEO

Dmitri ALIEV

RUS

Petr GUMENNIK

RUS

Makar IGNATOV

RUS

Mikhail KOLYADA

RUS

Artem KOVALEV

RUS

Andrei MOZALEV

RUS

Roman SAVOSIN

RUS

Evgeni SEMENENKO

RUS

Ilya YABLOKOV

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Dmitri Aliev (RUS)
2. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO)
3. Andrei Mozalev (RUS)

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Ladies – Lots of drama, as two of the top skaters in the world, Alena Kostornaia (center) and Alexandra Trusova (right), left coach Eteri Tutberidze to skate for Olympic champ, Evgeni Plushenko. Don’t feel bad for Eteri, as she still has Anna Shcherbakova (left) under her wing. All three are favored to medal this weekend. Other skaters looking to make the podium are Sofia Samodurova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Elizaveta Nugumanova. Evgenia Medvedeva was supposed to skate, but is still experiencing issues with her back and is out of this weekend’s competition.

Name

Nation

Anastasiya GALUSTYAN

ARM

Ekaterina RYABOVA

AZE

Viktoriia SAFONOVA

BLR

Eva-Lotta KIIBUS

EST

Alina URUSHADZE

GEO

Anastasiia GULIAKOVA

RUS

Alena KOSTORNAIA

RUS

Elizaveta NUGUMANOVA

RUS

Sofia SAMODUROVA

RUS

Anna SHCHERBAKOVA

RUS

Alexandra TRUSOVA

RUS

Elizaveta TUKTAMYSHEVA

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Alena Kostornaia (RUS)
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS)
3. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)

aleksandra-boikova-and-dmitrii-kozlovskii

Pairs – Reigning European Champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii are expected to get a challenge from Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov. World Junior Figure Skating Champions Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov will be making their senior debut this weekend, as are Ksenia Akhanteva and Valeri Kolesov & Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev.

Name

Nation

Ioulia CHTCHETININA / Mark MAGYAR

HUN

Kseniia AKHANTEVA / Valerii KOLESOV

RUS

Iuliia ARTEMEVA / Mikhail NAZARYCHEV

RUS

Aleksandra BOIKOVA / Dmitrii KOZLOVSKII

RUS

Iasmina KADYROVA / Ivan BALCHENKO

RUS

Anastasia MISHINA / Aleksandr GALLIAMOV

RUS

Apollinariia PANFILOVA / Dmitry RYLOV

RUS

Smooth’s Picks
1. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (RUS)
2. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS)
3. Apollinariia Panfilova and Dmitry Rylov (RUS)

victoria-sinitsina-and-nikita-katsalapov

Ice Dance – This will be a battle between two of the top Russian ice dance teams. Reigning European Champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are expected to lead the competition, along with Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro. Both will get a challenge from teammates Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Egor Bazin. Of the non-Russian competing, Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambruvelicius & and Ukraine’s Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin.

Name

Nation

Viktoria SEMENJUK / Ilya YUKHIMUK

BLR

Anna YANOVSKAYA / Adam LUKACS

HUN

Allison REED / Saulius AMBRULEVICIUS

LTU

Elizaveta KHUDAIBERDIEVA / Egor BAZIN

RUS

Ekaterina MIRONOVA / Evgenii USTENKO

RUS

Annabelle MOROZOV / Andrei BAGIN

RUS

Victoria SINITSINA / Nikita KATSALAPOV

RUS

Anastasia SKOPTCOVA / Kirill ALESHIN

RUS

Tiffani ZAGORSKI / Jonathan GUERREIRO

RUS

Alexandra NAZAROVA / Maxim NIKITIN

UKR

Smooth’s Picks
1. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerreiro (RUS)
3. Allison Reed and Saulius Ambruvelicius (LTU)

———————————————————————–

cupofchina2020

2020 Cup of China – A very sparse group of teams and skaters competed in Chongqing, China in late October. Here are the results from the event.

Men

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Boyang JIN

CHN

290.89

1

1

2

Han YAN

CHN

264.81

2

2

3

Yudong CHEN

CHN

226.21

3

3

Ladies

           

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Hongyi CHEN

CHN

186.53

1

1

2

Angel LI

CHN

148.33

2

2

3

Minzhi JIN

CHN

135.43

3

4

Pairs

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

SP

FS

1

Cheng PENG / Yang JIN

CHN

223.90

1

1

2

Yuchen WANG / Yihang HUANG

CHN

175.40

2

2

3

Daizifei ZHU / Yuhang LIU

CHN

140.37

3

3

Ice Dance

           

Rank

Name

Nation

Points

RD

FD

1

Shiyue WANG / Xinyu LIU

CHN

206.84

1

1

2

Hong CHEN / Zhuoming SUN

CHN

192.26

2

2

3

Wanqi NING / Chao WANG

CHN

171.90

3

3

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Russia, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Skate America 2020

2020-Skate-America

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the figure skating world heavily this year.  The ISU has cancelled this year’s Junior Grand Prix events and has changed the format of the Senior Grand Prix to a regional competition.  But a number of important events have been cancelled due to the severity of the virus in countries where events were to have taken place.   Most severely affected was Canada, where the country lost last season’s World Championships in Montreal, and just recently, this year’s Skate Canada, which was scheduled to take place next weekend in Ottawa.  Right now, the city has seen a rise in confirmed positive cases, which has forced it to increase its level to prevent the spread.  Also affected was Grenoble, France, where ISU officials have decided to cancelled the International de France due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

As of this blog entry, this year’s Skate America is still scheduled to be held in Las Vegas.  Because of the regional format, a number skaters are getting a chance to perform internationally for the first time on the senior level.   To address health and safety protocols, there won’t be an audience allowed in the arena, and skaters will be in a “bubble” for the duration of their stay, which means they won’t be allowed outside of the arena or the hotel they’re staying at.  The big story of this weekend is who had the best training preparation during the pandemic.  After so many months off the ice, will some skaters falter and flop, or will it be business as usual? 

downloadMen – Nine of the twelve skaters participating this weekend are from the United States, with three international entries.  At the top of the list is Nathan Chen (shown left), the three-time Skate America champ and will look for a fourth title.  His main competition will be from Canadian Keegan Messing, who is currently ranked #12 in the world.  He finished 4th at last year’s Skate America.  Vincent Zhou was 3rd in the world in 2019, and is looking to get back to top form this weekend.  Camden Pulkinen begins his second stint on the senior circuit.  His best finish was 4th at last year’s Skate Canada. 

Here’s the full list of 12 skaters, including competition links.

NameNation
Keegan MESSINGCAN
Alexei BYCHENKOISR
Daniel SAMOHINISR
Nathan CHENUSA
Tomoki HIWATASHIUSA
Joseph KANGUSA
Alexei KRASNOZHONUSA
Jimmy MAUSA
Ilia MALININUSA  
Maxim NAUMOVUSA
Camden PULKINENUSA  
Vincent ZHOUUSA  
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Vincent Zhou (USA)
3. Keegan Messing (CAN)

tumblr_pmteyq8Rse1uwc1x0o1_1280Ladies – In a mostly weak field of skaters that aren’t quite on the level of Japan and Russia, there are still a few skaters that can put together strong performances that will please the judges.  Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell (shown right) are the top skaters in the field of 11 Americans and one skater from China.  Bell’s best international finish was a win at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2019. Two 3rd place finishes in Grand Prix action gives her a fighting chance this weekend.  After winning at US Nationals in 2018, Tennell has take a seat to eventual champ Alysa Liu.  That may have broken her confidence internationally, as she took 2nd at last year’s Skate America.  But she’s still a top contender this weekend.  Amber Glenn was looking forward to a strong international season when COVID canceled her season.  She looks to improve on her 7th place finish at Skate America last season.

Here’s the full list of 12 skaters, including competition links.

NameNation
Shan LINCHN
Starr ANDREWSUSA
Mariah BELLUSA
Karen CHENUSA
Amber GLENNUSA
Gracie GOLDUSA
Finley HAWKUSA
Pooja KALYANUSA
Paige RYDBERGUSA
Audrey SHINUSA
Bradie TENNELLUSA 
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Mariah Bell (USA)
2. Bradie Tenell (USA)
3. Amber Glenn (USA)

gettyimages_1199304436Pairs – The lack of international competition hurts the Americans in the short run, but this could be a preview of nationals in 2021.  At the top of the list is Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson (shown left), who finally broke out with a 2nd place finish at last year’s US Nationals.  A chance at Worlds was wiped out by COVID, so this is their chance to get their first Grand Prix competition title.  Two teams on their tails are Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, who won at US Nationals in 2016.  Their best GP finish was 2nd place at Internationaux de France and a Four Continents title, both in 2018. Ashley Cain-Gribble & Tim LeDuc fell off after winning the US pairs title in 2019.  They’re looking to improve on their best Skate America finish in 2018, when the finished 3rd

Here’s the full list of 8 teams, including competition links.

NameNation
Anna VERNIKOV / Evgeni KRASNOPOLSKIISR
Ashley CAIN-GRIBBLE / Timothy LEDUCUSA
Jessica CALALANG / Brian JOHNSONUSA
Emily CHAN / Spencer Akira HOWEUSA
Tarah KAYNE / Danny O’SHEAUSA
Audrey LU / Misha MITROFANOVUSA 
Alexa SCIMECA KNIERIM / Brandon FRAZIERUSA
Olivia SERAFINI / Mervin TRANUSA
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson (USA)
2. Ashley Cain-Gribble & Tim LeDuc (USA)
3. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea (USA)

Ice Dance 

hubbell_and_donohue_short_program_new_16x9The loss of Madison Chock and Evan Bates hurts this competition, but there are still some outstanding teams ready take to the ice in their place.  At the head of the field is Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (shown right), who are currently 3rd in the world in ice dance.  The two-time defending champs look to make it three in a row, but they face Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, who are looking for their first Grand Prix competition title since winning at NHK Trophy in 2018.  They also won the title at Four Continents in 2018.  Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko won Junior Grand Prix titles in Minsk and Austria in 2017 and have a best finish in Senior Grand Prix action at Rostelecom Cup in 2018.  They will figure into a podium slot this weekend. 

Here’s the full list of 8 teams, including competition links.

NameNation
Emily MONAGHAN / Ilias FOURATIHUN
Christina CARREIRA / Anthony PONOMARENKOUSA  
Molly CESANEK / Yehor YEHOROVUSA
Caroline GREEN / Michael PARSONSUSA 
Kaitlin HAWAYEK / Jean-Luc BAKERUSA 
Madison HUBBELL / Zachary DONOHUEUSA
Lorraine MCNAMARA / Anton SPIRIDONOVUSA 
Eva PATE / Logan BYEUSA 
Bold: Senior GP Debut

Smooth’s Pick

1. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
3. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko (USA)

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Predictions, Skate America, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth Jazz and More Endorses Joe Biden for President, Begins Radio Ad Blitz

Joe-Biden-and-Kamala-Harris-1

For the first time since 2012, Smooth Jazz and More will weigh into the presidential campaign.

Starting Monday September 28, the station will be running two 1-minute campaign ads for presidential candidate, Joe Biden. The ads will run at random during our station ID’s “free of charge” to the Biden campaign up until the night of November 3rd. The long-time internet radio station ran campaign ads for President Barack Obama “free of charge” in 2012. Obama defeated GOP candidate Mitt Romney to win a second term in office.

We predicted exactly what’s happening right now. The ruining of the economy left over by Obama. The rise in anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred on the part of Donald Trump and his supporters. The lack of a COVID-19 plan that would have saved tens of thousands of lives. The hijacking of a Supreme Court justice position just before elections could change the country for years to come.

The stakes in this election couldn’t be clearer. Will the country dive into a fascist dictatorship, or will it climb back to gain it’s footing as a democratic leader in the world? We’re doing our part to make sure we can stop it in its tracks.

That’s why we’re endorsing Joe Biden for president.

But it’s not just a new president that will make things better for America. There needs to be a complete overhaul of Congress. That means holding on the House and taking over the Senate.

If you haven’t registered to vote, then go to vote.org to sign up.

If you are registered, then make a plan to make sure your vote is counted. That includes voting in-person and take all precautions to prevent exposure of COVID-19.

If you can’t make it on November 3rd due to health issues, then request an absentee ballot at votefromabroad.org. If you have already received your ballot, please send it back immediately to prevent any voting irregularities.

Ensure that your vote is counted by completing a back-up ballot. Here’s how:

Just remember that 106 million people didn’t vote in 2016. Because of that, Donald Trump won the election by way of the electoral college, and only in swing states by approximately 77,000 votes. We can’t let that happen again.

Vote, but more importantly, VOTE BLUE TO SAVE AMERICA!

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Wild Two Weeks and a Half Weeks at Smooth Jazz and More! New Music Returns, Website Finally Updated!

A number of unforeseeable events took place that forced us to go automated for the last 17 days. It’s taken us almost a week for a full recovery, but we’re finally able broadcast live and update our website.

All this took place in July 25th, when our computer hard drive crashed. Because of this, we were unable to add new music to our daily playlist and we were reverted to our AutoDJ server as a backup. We purchased another hard drive on August 1st, but there were technical problems with that. We finally received a replacement for it last Sunday, however we needed to download all of our backup files. The download of 253 GB’s has taken almost a week, but we’re finally back up and running. We’ll have a large number of new music releases over the last two and a half weeks we will be adding starting this Saturday. A big thanks again to Carbonite Automated Backup, which allowed us to get all of our files back. This was the second time we’ve had to depend on their services. The yearly subscription fee was well worth it.

This leads us to announce our August Featured Artist. This month’s artist is saxophonist, WaKaNa. The Japanese smooth jazz artist was discovered by us in 2016. She’s been hard at work looking for exposure with her projects. Four years and two albums later, WaKaNa has made her presence felt on both sides of the Pacific, with the help of fellow musicians Greg Manning and Darren Rahn. Her latest release is entitled, “Go for the Sound” and we’re playing that and many of her previous releases for the rest of the month of August.  Go to our website for more information on WaKaNa.

The end of August also means the return of Smooth’s NFL Football Picks. The big story is the continuing pandemic of COVID-19. As of right now, the league has decided to forgo the pre-season and start the year without fans for the time being. A number of players and officials have elected to opt-out of participating due to the pandemic. As of right now, 59 players have tested positive for the virus.This has thrown the season into a great sense of unpredictability.

Regardless of everything that has taken place, we will be selecting our pick on who will make it to Super Bowl 55. This years game is scheduled to be played in Tampa, which is one of the hot spots in the COVID-19 pandemic. Our pre-season picks will take place on Thursday, September 3 at 8:30 am Eastern Time (-4 GMT), with our Week 1 picks starting on Thursday, September 10 at 8:30 am Eastern Time (-4 GMT). We hope you join us all season long.

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20 Steps to Get Over Someone You Love

A man and a woman holding a broken heart

Nothing hurts more than someone who you’d never thought would hurt you. It breaks your spirit and drowns your soul. It’s been over six weeks since my breakup with Nazira, someone I thought would be my friend forever.  It’s a long haul, but somehow, I’m dealing with my loss. I found a list of things to do if you’re trying to get over a bad break up and I also made my own observations having to deal with it.

  1. Cry a river, if you must. – I can’t tell you how long I cried when I finally found out the reason why she cut off all communications with me. Two days, three. Maybe four days and even then, I was a basket case. But crying did a world for me. These were real tears and tears is a normal part of the human process.
  2. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. – My thought process was all over the place when it happened, and I could not think straight. But once I was able to get my mind in order for the grief, I was able to better understand what had happened. It was then that I could at least take steps to process a plan to move forward.
  3. Realize that you can’t do anything about it anymore. – Nazira had her mind made up long before I met her in 2018, and I wasn’t in the equation. I’m not sure I was even in the picture to begin with. Once someone makes up their mind to do what they want, it’s “game over”.
  4. If you can’t forgive the person yet, at least forgive yourself. – This whole time, I was never bitter with Nazira. Just confused that I didn’t have closure or an explanation. I knew who she was and what she was all about. It still didn’t make it any easier when the end came.
  5. When you’re ready give yourself permission to heal. – Healing mentally is no different than healing physically. You can feel the pain in a broken bone or cut. But a broken heart is much more emotionally painful and takes longer due to the lingering memories that continue. I was ready to move forward from my grief. Some aren’t so lucky.
  6. Learn to accept that this person was important to you, but the past is the past. – I’ll always love Nazira. She was there when I needed a friend after my separation and divorce. I always thought she would be there for me. That’s what makes it so hard. I’ll be there for her, and if she wants to reach out to me for anything, the door is always open.
  7. Stop the blaming and let go of the anger. – During this whole time, I’ve never had lingering anger towards Nazira. But there’s a part of me that keeps saying, “Why?” Not knowing why gives me resentment. But if she doesn’t want to discuss anything, then that’s on her. Time to move forward.
  8. Get rid of the things that remind you of that person. – I gave away my Kyrgyz vodka and cognac to a friend, photos of Nazira and my trip were put on a USB drive and stored in my bedroom drawer physical mementos, including our photo together were put in storage. If I need to reminisce of good times with her, they’re only a few steps away.
  9. Cut all possible communications with this person. – I got rid of everything.  All instances of social media.  My last correspondence to her was a week ago. I simply said, “We may be no longer close, but I’ll always be here if you need me.” It will also be the last one I send her. The ball is in her court.
  10. Engage in physical exercise and outdoor activity. – Since my breakup six weeks ago, I decided to go bike riding once a week. It has been an exhilarating and spiritual experience that took away a lot of pain and suffering. Brisk walks have been the norm, as well. In the process, by weight has gone down to 229 lbs.
  11. Clean up this mess…literally. – I also took a look at my surroundings and I wasn’t happy with what I saw. My apartment was given a thorough cleaning, and it’s amazing what you can find once things are arranged properly. Found $5 dollars in change in the process.
  12. Take baby steps—do things slowly, one day at a time. – You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.
  13. Be patient and never give up on yourself. – The whole time, I’ve always believed that this breakup was a chance for me to move forward. It was just a matter of if I was able to accept the challenge.
  14. Forget the past and focus on the present. – It’s not New Year’s, but Auld Lang Syne comes to mind. Let bygones, be bygones. Be happy with who you are and get your act together. My mom always used to say to me during tough times, “This, too shall pass.”
  15. Look forward to what the future may bring. – Frank Sinatra once said, “The best revenge is massive success.” When my breakup happened, I became occupied with competing my writing project. I envisioned finally finishing my book, and I’m happy to report that I’m about 2/3rds finished with that project.
  16. Learn from the experience. – Thru all this, I learned that despite all that happened, I shouldn’t lose my ability to love someone. Life is like a game poker. You can play your hand or fold for the next one.
  17. Open your heart to possible new relationships. – And with that, I’ve been able to meet other people and start a new friendship with someone. Whether it leads to a long lasting relationship or more (Marriage?), it’s anyone’s guess. Stay tuned!
  18. Find comfort in the company of your family and friends. – This is where social media comes in. In reaching out on Facebook, I received dozens of words of encouragement from people around the world. It helped so much that many understood my grief gave me hope.
  19. Seek professional help—visit a therapist or join a support group. – Even though you can reach out to friends and family, it’s important to talk to people who are skilled on relationship issues. Clergy, therapy and psychiatrists and the go to people to help you deal with your struggles. EAP programs thru work help me along the way.
  20. Take time to love yourself. – Which leads to the old saying, if you can’t love yourself, then you can’t really expect to love anyone else. It starts with taking care of you. Move around often, be proactive about nutrition, limit junk food that your brain consumes, invest in your sleep, be intentional in how you spend your time, and make time for rest and relaxation.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over Nazira, but I can at least know that I’ve taken the necessary steps to improve my ability to cope.

#MovingForward

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The Bitter End: A Friendship Thought to Last Forever Comes Crashing Down to a Devastating Conclusion.

(This was originally posted on my Facebook page with a limited audience. I’ve decided to share this on my blog in the hopes that some who are experience the same trauma of the loss of a relationship can get the help they need.)

I’ve finally achieved acceptance…and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  

Forgive me for the long post. It’s one of my most painstaking entries, and it’s a way for me to cope. For over a month, I’ve been struggling on how to deal with the sudden end of a friendship I never thought would happen in a million years. I’m still not at 100% percent, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be where I used to be.

But I’ve come to terms with what happened and felt the need to come clean about everything.

My relationship began with Nazira came at a very important time of my life. I was just coming off the end of a 15 year marriage. I needed a friend, someone to help me cope with my break up. She was there at the right place and the right time.

For five years, I learned about Nazira’s country, her culture and her life. She shared stories about her loss, having become a widow at a young age and raising a daughter as a single parent. Her life was not easy. She had periods of despair, having lost her job and was estranged from her family. As a token of my generosity, I was offer to help her as best as I could. I never asked for anything in return. That’s what my mom taught me.

Meeting Nazira and her daughter, Aisana for the first time in 2018 was an emotional moment for me. It brought our friendship together in real time. My memories of visiting Kyrgyzstan were breathtaking with its snow capped mountains peaks to its clear blue valley streams.

But underneath it’s beautify was a dark side. It’s vast unemployment, it’s extreme poverty and desperation. It was a hard life for people who are unable to afford to escape Kyrgyzstan’s economic grip. That’s what Nazira wanted. Not thinking twice, I offered to help. She applied for a temporary visa in Canada in November 2018. After submitting all the paperwork and non-refundable fees, she was told she needed to submit more information. She did and in January 2019, she was denied entry for reasons Canadian Immigration stayed that, “there was no guarantee she would return after her visa expired”. Strictly bureaucratic. Being a US citizen was an option, but I’m was reluctant to consider given the political climate there.

This April, she posted a photo of her wearing what appeared to be an engagement ring. I didn’t think much of it, nor did she explain anything to me. So I told her, “yeah, let’s do it! As soon as this pandemic is over!” The next month came the horrifying realization I thought possible. She unfriended me on Facebook and on Instagram. No explanation made or offered to me. Stunned and shocked, I reached out to her daughter, who told me the bad news. She had recently hooked up with a former classmate in March and decided to take his hand in marriage.

I was crushed. For the last four weeks, I’ve experience lows I hadn’t experienced since losing another loved one in this kind of fashion in 1991. The depths I’ve gone through was painstaking, with times contemplating alcoholism, drug abuse…or even death,

I was devastated…but should I have been?

The signs were there, but I either couldn’t face the fact that she didn’t care about me, or I didn’t want to believe the unthinkable, because I thought by doing what I thought was the right thing, I would feel appreciated. In the end, I wasn’t even on the same level of her own priorities. Hence, the sudden shutdown of our friendship on social media. Real friends don’t do that. I went with my heart open, but in the end it was left crushed.

I learned so many lessons over the last few weeks, from ‘not putting your eggs in one basket.’ to ‘value friendship like you value your bank account’. But most important lesson I’ve learned is that, we all go through this. We’re not perfect. We’re going to get burned by someone, there’s no question about it. But we have to pick ourselves up and find the courage to move forward.

My biggest challenge for me will be to have to deal with Facebook memories every day. Once in a while, I’ll have to see a memory of something I sent to her. Then, see a photo of her and her new man in her profile. I vowed not to allow my feelings to get the worst of me and post derogatory comments, nor will I berate or write ill will towards her. In the end, it was her decision to move on, not mine, and I’m not a part of her future. But that doesn’t mean my door is closed.

In closing, as tragic as everything has been the last month, there are still some good to be had. One is the reconfirming of my daughter, Aisana, who also did not take the news of her mom’s decision very well. Even though she’s never asked for help in the past and isn’t used to it, I’ve offered her my support if she ever needed it down the road. It really meant a lot to get my first Father’s Day card from her. I’ve never cried so much. Her birthday is in August and I hope to send her something special. And if down the road Nazira wanted to talk to me about everything, I would be more than happy to chat with her, though I don’t see that happening anytime soon or later. I’m not angry or bitter at Nazira. I still love her and I’ll always will care about her and Aisana’s well being. But it’s time for me to move forward from Nazira. Just like the Motel 6 TV commercial always ended, “…we’ll leave the light on for ya.“

In this case, My door will always be open for her.

————–

Now, I do have some good news. I’ve started meeting people and though it’s too early to explain who she is and where she’s from, I am taking it very slowly. There will be times when I may compare her to Nazira, but I won’t make it obvious.

More good news! This situation has led me to rekindle my creativity. I’ve began reforming one of my scrips into a novel. It will be completed in another month and I hope to have it published by the fall. My Long Island family will appreciate the story I bring you.

Finally, gracious thanks are in order for my Facebook friends worldwide who have come to my aid in dealing with my grief. Special shout outs to my skating peeps who reached out to me in support. The figure skating community is a small but close knit family and is known to pool together in times of crisis.

I also felt the need to speak out about my bout with grief and depression because as an African-American/Canadian, we need to speak out more about our mental health. I’m not ashamed about talking about my grief and depression. If it can help others, we can only get better together by speaking out. I’ve tagged those who’ve reached out to me personally. If I didn’t tag you, please know that it’s not intentional, but I do appreciate your support.

Peace, out! ❤️🙏🏾

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Smooth Jazz and More Temporarily Shuts Off Stream To Support Blackout Tuesday

On Tuesday between 9am and 10am Eastern time (-4 GMT), our webstream will go silent in support of Blackout Tuesday.

Smooth Jazz and More will join thousands of broadcasters, media companies and music artists in their show of support for the black community against systemic racism, bigotry, police brutality and the unjust murders of black men, women and children by law enforcement.

The death of George Floyd on May 25th by Minnesota police while in custody was a powder keg that sparked outrage nationwide and around the world after years of similar incidents in the United States by law enforcement. It has led to protests and subsequent riots, which also led to arrests, looting, injuries and, in some cities, death.

A number of record labels also announced on Instagram that they will take part in the Blackout, and hope for change.

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