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January 1, 2008

Hey Everyone!

It's been a while and a lot has happened since my last entry.

I left on Halloween for The Media Market Gala in Germany. It was really cool. All of the skaters in the show had a program with live music. We had music sent to us beforehand so it could be choreographed before the show. When I got to Germany I did a sound check with "my band," Tubes in Town. They are a cover band, and the song that they performed was, "I'll Still Be Diggin' on James Brown". I questioned when I first heard the song, “How am I going to skate to this”? It was so different from anything I had ever skated to before. Everything worked out and I had a great time skating in the show and with the live band. The cast of skaters in the show were all great as were the producers of the show. I feel really fortunate for the opportunity.

A week following the German Show, I went home for the weekend to celebrate my birthday and prepare for my long trip. I left for Japan on the 14th of November and skated at Chukyo University in Nagoya, Miki's home rink. The rink was beautiful! You have to pinch yourself when you walk in the door, all of the floors are marble with walls of glass and it's only for figure skating. It's a skater's dream rink with Olympic-sized ice and mirrors at one side of the boards. As soon as you walk into the rink you immediately notice the big pictures of the other skaters who are members of the Chukyo rink. The pictures begin with Mai Asada, Kozuka, Mao, Miki, and the 2007 Ladies World podium. I stayed in a dorm right behind the rink on the campus. I went to Japan with Nikolai before he left for NHK Trophy. The week of NHK was the week right before the Junior Grand Prix Final. Nikolai thought it would be best if he sent me to work with Valter Rizzo the week before the Final and he would meet me in Poland for the competition.

I left for Italy on November 26th. I learned that getting out of Japan was not as easy as arriving. While at the airport when I was leaving Japan I had a little problem with my luggage. I was over-weight. I explained my situation to the woman at the counter but she didn't seem to understand. Seven ladies that worked at the check-in desk all tried to explain to me that my luggage was over-weight and I tried to explain to them that I knew and if there was anything I could do. One told me that if I had a credit card she could simply just charge 100,100YEN (about $900) on it. I almost died when she told me that. Finally, another woman had asked me if I lived in the US (after seeing that I had a US passport). I told her that I did and she replied that I was free to go without charge. Travelers arriving from the US do not have to follow the baggage restrictions. It took an hour to straighten out but I might still be there if the airport staff was not so patient and helpful.

I made it to Italy in one piece. Skating in Italy was fun and a relaxing environment for training before the Final. I would usually skate with Valter's dance team that also qualified for the Final, Isabella Pajardi and Stefano Caruso. I skated at two rinks while in Italy, one in Sesto San Giovanni and the other in Bergamo. All of the people I met were so kind to me. In Bergamo, they were so generous. They gave me many club jackets and uniforms. "Olympic Dream" is the name of their club. They explained they named it this because everyone should have their own personal "Olympic Dream". Whether to land their first axel win a competition, or to actually compete in the Olympics, they should pursue their dream. I stayed with Valter's family right outside of Milan. Staying there was really comfortable because it felt like home. I stayed in Italy for 10 days before leaving for the Final in Poland. When I got to Poland I felt prepared. I had a good week of hard training in Italy and I knew that if I stayed focused I would have no problem skating. My short program felt good. I had fun doing the program! Going into the long program I was really nervous. I had so many thoughts going through my head. I remember questioning myself if I was truly ready. Finally I sat down and told myself to just “shut up.” I turned my mind off and did what I had done a million times in practice. I skated a clean long but know that I can skate better. I want to have stronger landings and to have level 4 on all my spins. I was happy that I could tune negative thoughts out and focus on the task at hand. I got off the ice and was happy with how I had skated. Sitting in the kiss and cry I saw my long program score come up and I knew it was good but I also knew how strong the competition was. I turned to Nikolai and asked if it was enough. He didn't answer me and just pointed to the final scores as they flashed up. I had scored over 200 points! The first junior to ever do that! I also noticed that 1-4 were all from the US. In skating you always have to think about yourself and what you can do to skate better. You may travel as a team, but it's not a team sport. You compete as an individual. Standing on the podium and seeing three American flags go up… it's hard to explain… I was so proud to be on Team USA. We made history, the first medal sweep for the men at the JGPF! It was a great feeling. To make the experience even better, I was asked to make a speech on behalf of the athletes at the closing banquet. This meant I had to write a short speech and present it in front of the judges, the skaters and ISU officials. I think I was more nervous for this than the actual competition. I couldn't think of anything to say. Without the help of Chrissy Hughes, Kristine Musademba, Douglas Razzano, and some final corrections by our assistant team leader Sara Kastner there would not have been a speech. It went really well and I have to thank all of them for helping me. I have a lot of good memories from Poland.

After the competition Nikolai told me that I was going to Torino, Italy to skate and to watch the Senior Grand Prix Final. I would go back to Japan after the GPF to practice and possibly perform in a show. I stayed an extra day in Poland to visit with my Mom and to rest. We both flew out on Tuesday to Copenhagen. She made a connection to Newark and I connected to Milan. I was off to Italy for a second time. When I was in Torino I had the chance to meet the president of US Figure Skating and the president of the ISU. It was an honor and they offered congratulations. I also met some of the other US Figure Skating officials who were very positive and made time to talk to me. Watching the competition I learned a lot. Seeing it all happen in person, I sat back and really took in everything in front of me. It made me better understand what it really takes to be one of the world's best. I think it's an experience that will help me when I'm skating senior next year.

When the competition was over I left for Japan. I skated at the same rink in Nagoya for a few days before leaving for the show, Christmas On Ice. I was very excited to find out that the cast included, THREE Olympic Champions! Shizuka, Ilia Kulik, and Plushenko. We did five shows in three days. It was a lot work but a very enjoyable experience. Everyone in the cast was really great to me. Shizuka was the star of the show. All five shows were sold out. Before each performance Shizuka went out of her way to tell me to enjoy myself. I really did enjoy myself when I skated there. The Japanese fans are INCREDIBLE! Thank you Japan for your enthusiastic welcome!

I left Shin-Yokohama on December 25th, Christmas, at 2:30 p.m. and made it back to the States at 3:30pm. Japan is 14 hours ahead of the East coast. I celebrated Christmas twice and was SO happy to finally be home. Even thought I don't get to see my brothers and sisters that often while living in New Jersey it's easier being 100 miles away than 10,000 miles away. While being away from home, traveling and training in amazing places around the world I learned the meaning of the phrase "There's no place like home". There really is no place like home. It was a present in itself just being home for Christmas. When I got to the airport all of my brothers and sisters were waiting for me with posters that said "WELCOME HOME". In the excitement of finally being home I realized that I had left my carry on bag holding my costumes on the plane. I wasn't thinking when I ran back to go and get it and needless to say, going backwards through security didn't go over very well. I ended up shutting down the entire airport for 10 minutes (I flew into a smaller airport near my house before anyone thinks I shut down JFK or Newark International). I got my bag back and I was officially and finally home!

I'm now taking everything I learned and will be using it to help me to work hard and skate well at Nationals coming up in a few weeks. I'm glad to be back, training at the Ice House again! I'll be sure to write soon. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive!

Thank you again!

I hope everyone has a very happy, healthy and successful 2008!

Adam Rippon

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