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Asian, for being gay,” he said quietly outside the rink. “I had rocks thrown at me while I was walk- ing home from school. I’ve moved a lot because whenever I felt like I was being bullied, I just moved, just disappeared. But I think it’s import- ant to tell my story.

“Te first time I attempted to take my life

was when I was 17,” he continued. “I was living in Tennessee. I didn’t feel like I was good enough to be alive. When they released me from the hos- pital, they encouraged me to continue to skate as part of my therapy.” Trough skating, Bui feels accepted and

connected. “I’ve met all these amazing adult skaters and

they’ve become my family,” he said. “Tey are my motivation to stay alive. Tey help me to survive. Whenever I have a bad day, I go onto the ice and I envision once a year having a family reunion with these guys. Tey treat me with so much love and respect.” Silver medalist Ho exemplifies that spirit. As each of his competitors came off the ice, Ho handed each man a red rose as congratulations for making it to the U.S. Adult Championships. “I always give flowers to all of my friends,”

Ho said. “But this year I stopped by Albertsons [grocery store] and saw a dozen long-stem roses and I just bought them. I thought ‘Tere’s 12 ros- es; one for all of us.’” Bui fought back tears as he received his rose

from Ho. “I’m Asian, so I cry,” Bui said with a laugh as

he gave Ho a hug. “Life is so short. I have to joke. I’m not going to let people take away my joy.”


Choeleen Loundagin (Santa Rosa FSC) and

Bilal Kheir (Peninsula SC) won gold with a score of 68.95, more than 15 points higher than the silver medalists. Teir program to the Dragonheart soundtrack included fantastic speed and edges, as well as a throw double loop, throw double Salchow, side-by-side double flips, a Group 5 toe lasso lift and two Level 4 spins. Teir only mistake occurred on the death

spiral, where they lost momentum in the middle. “Te death spiral didn’t quite work out, but

it was still really good and very fun,” Loundagin said. “It’s nice to see I can still do it.” Loundagin, a 45-year-old sport psychology consultant and skating coach, was an accom- plished singles skater but had never skated pairs until the age of 39. She won this event in 2007 with William

Abel, but was pleased to team up just last year with Kheir, a 34-year-old figure skating coach and adaptive exercise therapist attending his first

U.S. Adult Championships. “I think the experience is great,” Kheir said.

“It feels like a real nationals. It’s as important to me as it was when I first competed at U.S. na- tionals in 2001 in novice pairs with Kadee Leish- man.”

And his expectations on pairing up with an adult skater who started pairs late? “It was the first time I had a partner with whom I connected,” Kheir said. “It feels easy. Even when it’s hard it’s easy. It’s such a friendship that it makes it easier to skate together.” Courtney Baga (FSC Bloomington) and

Pete Biver (St. Paul FSC) secured the silver medal with a score of 53.22. Highlights from their romantic program set to Romeo and Juliet included a double Salchow-double toe-Axel se- quence, side-by-side double loops, a Level 4 spin and a Level 3 forward-inside death spiral. Biver, 36, competed at the 2012 U.S. Adult

Championships and the difference between the two events was striking, he said. “Last year was really intense because we

were training three to four hours a day to pre- pare,” Biver said. “Tis year I had a really busy coaching schedule, so we were skating about one hour a day and training a little off-ice, too.” Te two skating coaches emphasized that for them this was all about the fun of skating and to push themselves artistically. “Tis year it was pure fun; the camaraderie

was great and I didn’t feel like there was pres- sure,” Biver said. Te 23-year-old Baga agreed, adding that

Biver still feels the strong competitive drive. “He gets more competitive than I do some-

times,” she said. “It was nice for him to have something fun for a change, and a good change for both of us in our lives to have something fun

(l-r) Courtney Baga/Peter Biver, Choeleen Loundagin/Bilal Kheir, Carol Cooper/Ethan Burgess, Jan Calnan/Mark Stanford

and positive to work toward.” While Baga is new to pairs, having only

started in the fall of 2012, Biver said that work- ing with Baga was the best part of the journey. “It’s fun to skate with her,” Biver said. “She’s flexible so she brings a lot to the moves and the choreography.” Carol Cooper and Ethan Burgess


troit SC) captured the bronze medal with 43.82 points. A Level 4 death spiral and some high-lev- el lifts helped the duo earn a spot on the podium. Burgess has skated pairs for about 20 years and competed at the U.S. Championships as re- cently as 2012 with partner Laura Lepzinski. He also is known for being Jon Heder’s stunt double in the movie Blades of Glory, as well as appearing on television’s “Skating with the Stars” in 2010 as partner to reality TV star Bethenny Frankel. Cooper, on the other hand, only learned to

skate just three years ago. “It was on my bucket list,” Cooper said.

Choeleen Loundagin and Bilal Kheir




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