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February 10, 2010 - Image 11

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2010-02-10

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8B
PERSONALSTATEMENT
V0 LU NT E E R I N G FO R T H E O LYM PICS during the gymnastics competition, noticed that hanging out with Cana-
as well as women's archery, boxing, dians after an American team lost
kayaking and the last softball game an event was the safest way to avoid
~\ to ever be played in the summer foreign ridicule. I learned not to
games. ask what I was eating, but rather to
The highlight for me was undoubt- embrace all the delicious food I was
edly track and field. The women's presented.
BY KRISTIE SAVAGE 4x4 placed first, and then LaShawn More than once, I tried to correct
Merritt and Jeremy Wariner took someone when they referred to soc-
home the gold and silver in the cer as football, only to be scorned
T hough the Beijing Olympics rades, and I was proud to be on this the weeks were scheduled in such a 400m. Even if I describe the races in and ridiculed before realizing that
were the world's premiere adventure with them. way that we were allotted equal time detail, trying to illustrate the expe- Americans are the only people in the
sporting event in 2008, my We spent the summer traveling for work and tourism, and so we rience of sitting in the Bird's Nest world who don't call the sport by its
experience with the games began through China, acquainting our- were able to experience the cultural stadium, I wouldn't be able to do it "proper" name.
one year earlier. My sister and I had selves with the territory and its cus- eye-opening of a place so different justice - no two people's experience In short, I learned to embrace cul-
..een accepted into a humanitar- toms in preparation for our return than ours. was the same. tures other than what I was used to.
ian volunteer group focused on the the next year. We worked with pan- But most importantly, The people I met, the food I ate and
Beijing Olympics, and as our plane das, cleaning up their playscape and , my time in Beijing was the experiences I had while in Bei-
touched down in China in the sum- feeding cubs. We wandered through We were able to experience a learning experience jing were amazing and unforgettable.
mer of 2007, we were greeted by our the 2,000-year-old Terracotta unlike anything else. When I opened myself to new
fellow American students who easily Army. We engaged in a traditional the cultural eye-opening of a I discovered the quick- things, I had fun. Foreignness is not
stuck out in the crowd of thousands Chinese tea ceremony. And then the ,, est way to make friends in a scary thing - embrace it. The sto-
of Chinese citizens. weeks were over and we were back place so different than ours. China was to say "Happy ries I shared when I returned home
The group was an absolutely in the U.S. recruiting other college Birthday" in Chinese, were far more interesting and amus-
brilliant and diverse collection of students for volunteer work at the regardless of whether or ing with the help of exotic influences.
p>eople: a Formula One racer from 2008 Olympic games. Besides visiting the Great Wall not it's true; showing an interest in I can't wait to see what the upcoming
MIT, a girl with a three-week plan When August rolled around and Tiananmen Square, we also had learning their language went a long winter games hold for me.
of matching outfits and jewelry, a again, I returned to China, this time the chance to attend some of the way. I found that telling an Ital-
blonde dread-locked hippie from with six University volunteers I had sporting events. I watched eventual ian volleyball player "ti amo" would - Kristie Savage is an
Madison, Wis. These were my com- recruited to come with me. Luckily, gold medal winner Nastia Liukin probably get you an autograph. I Engineering junior.

COACHES
from Page 7B
For Yasa and Yuri, that means cre-
ating programs that highlight the
personalities of their students and
listening to advice coming from the
international Skating Union.
When Yasa heard that the ISU
was "moving in a direction away
from the depressing and dying piec-
es of the free dance" that dominat-
ed the sport for years, they selected
the romantic "Canto Della Terra"
for what they hoped would be Bates
and Samuelson's first Olympic free
dance. It has been a successful pro-
gram, as it secured their place on
the Olympic team at the national
championships last month.
It's the partnership between
teams Bates-Samuelson and Yasa-
Yuri that has put the Ann Arbor
Figure Skating Club on the map.
Samuelson and Bates's unique pre-
"entations of the programs that Yasa
and Yuri tailor to fit their personali-
ties and highlight their skating have
garnered international attention in
the short amount of time they have
been competing at the senior level.
The drive forward has brought the
team to achieve what Bates calls
"the greatest sports dream."
"I think a lot of the supporting
comes from each other and a lot of
the pushing comes from the coach-

es," Alexis Bates, Evan Bates' sister
said in a phone interview last week.
"The end is the same. They are the
same. They are one team. It's not
Bates or Samuelson. It's Bates and
Samuelson."
Precocious as they are, Samu-
elson and Bates will soak up this
first Olympic experience, knowing
that their youth grants them the
possibility of future Olympic trips
- at least two more would not be
out of the question. As they close
this chapter of their short careers,
a unique opportunity sits on the
horizon for Yasa and Yuri and their
proteges.
In four years time, the best ice
dancers in the world will travel to
Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter
Olympics. Following the Vancouver
games, Samuelson and Bates will
again begin preparing for a future
Olympic medal bid. The possibility
of taking skaters back to Russia for
the games raises complicated emo-
tions for their coaches.
"We both feel like very new citi-
zens," Yasa said. "We're both very
excited to be United States citizens,.
but also we have Russian roots. I
think it would be great to go back
to Russia and bring the results of
our work from so many years and
to compete against the coaches that
we trained with and the skaters that
we skated with. It would be a won-
derful experience for us."

ICE DANCING
From Page 5B
White points to the "significantly
higher" scores he and Davis had
earned compared with Belbin and
Agosto in non head-to-head com-
petitions. On top of that, Davis
stresses that being U.S. Champions
is more important than beating any
specific team.
"Going into international com-
petition as your country's top
team is more important than beat-
ing Tanith and Ben," she said. "It
really makes a difference to the
judges from other countries to hear
us introduced as the U.S. national
champions instead of just U.S. No.
2. And when you're going up against
the national champions from Rus-
sian and Canada, it was really
important to establish ourselves at
the top of our country."
Over the last two generations,
American ice dancing had been
slowly gaining respect in a sport
dominated by Russian teams. In
2006, when Belbin and Agosto won
their Olympic silver medals, it had
been 30 years since the United
States had last won an Olympic
medal in ice dancing.
Still, no American has ever won
the Olympic gold, leaving the door
wide open for Davis and White to
make history.

The sheer magnitude of the
world stage at the Olympics is both
the most exciting and slightly con-
cerning part for the team as they
take their final practices at their
home rink before flying to Canada
tomorrow.
Davis compares going from a
competition of just strictly ice
dancing to a multi-sport event like
the Olympics, to a football player
going from a high school field to
playing at Michigan Stadium.
"This is an incredible opportu-
nity, but you don't want to do any
more or less than we've been doing,
even though the audience is that
much bigger," Davis said. "I'm just
excited about the chance to show
the world what we've been putting
our hard work and sweat into our
whole lives."
And what might be most daunt-
ing is after a lifetime of hard work,
Davis and White will have just one
shot at impressing the judges. That
means just less than three minutes
to make U.S. Olympic history.
But the biggest pressure for these
Olympic rookies isn't the chance to
be gold medalists - it's making sure
not to miss out on any part of the
experience in Vancouver.
"The only way to say it is it's
unbelievably cool," White said.
"The worst thing that can happen
is that we miss out on the Olympic
experience." E

WHAT'S THE
ONE THING
YOU WANT
TO DO BEFORE
YOU
GRADUATE?
The Statement is
Currently taking
suggestions for its
first ever Bucket List
issue.
Tell us what you'd put
on your bucket list.
Send your suggestions
to calero
@michigandaily.com

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