By Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz
U.S. Ice Dancing 2012 pewter medalists Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt know exactly what makes their now seven year partnership work. It is mutual respect and trust for each other, both on and off the ice.
“One major thing that makes our partnership work is that our personalities complement one another well,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “We have learned from each other and grown immensely as individuals and as a team. Our goals have been the same since the day we started skating together and our commitment to all aspects of training never wavers.”
Part of this commitment includes relying on each other on the good days and the bad days.
“We are also very supportive and understanding of one another and we always try to be there for each other if one of us is having a rough day, “ Kriengkrairut said. “Regardless of the circumstances we can depend on each other to give one hundred percent every day.”
The 2014 season brings big changes for this team. Kriengkrairut and Giulietti- Schmitt now train in Novi, Michigan with Coach Igor Shpilband, after training several years in Ann Arbor with long time coaches Yasa Nechaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko. The move has been a positive one thus far, with the two kicking off the new season winning the free dance at the Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships in historic Lake Placid, New York, in August.
“Igor has endless resources to help us in specific areas of our skating. Having such a large collaboration of efforts helps the whole package come together,” Kriengkrairut said. “After seven years of the same coaching style and approach, our new environment is drastically different and has taken some time to get used to but it has been a very positive change so far.”
One resource is the addition of Coach Barbara Fusar-Poli, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist, who recently began working with the team on developing their interpretation of the dialogue of the music. “Barbara brings a whole new element,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “She has a great eye for the finer details.”
Kriengkrairut added “Barbara is so creative and exudes such a genuine emotional connection with the music that it’s contagious. She inspires us to let go and be more bold, to really capture the dialogue in the music so there is a convincing connection between us.”
“We’ve also enjoyed working with Alexei Gorshkov who has helped us with our Finnstep, and with Michael Lee, a professional mime and acting coach, who has helped us with character development as well,” Kriengkrairut said.
The two are also enjoying Shpilband’s classical choreography incorporated in this year’s free dance.
“We decided right from the beginning to go a more traditional route this year,” Kriengkrairut said. “I have personally always been drawn to the lyrical style and I love exploring that more with our free dance. The music is so powerful and passionate, which really allows us to enhance our connection with each other and bring a new style and maturity to the ice.”
They are also concentrating on off ice ballroom dancing to enhance their short program.
“We’ve had a lot of ballroom experience with our ballroom coaches Stephen and Susan McFerren over the past seven years, so it helps that we are familiar with the style and carriage off the ice. Now they are helping us transition the style and carriage onto the ice which requires some tweaking here and there since it obviously has a much different feel than on the floor. They have played a huge part in choreographing parts of the short dance this year, bringing out true quickstep and Charleston characters,” Giulietti-Schmitt said.
Of course the 2014 U.S. Championships, where the two hope to achieve a spot on the podium, is also important because of the upcoming Olympic year, and a coveted spot on the Olympic team.
“Regardless of it being an Olympic year, we wanted to bring some changes to our skating,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “We’ve already developed a great foundation and are confident that the whole package will develop over the course of the season.”
Kriengkrairut states they are totally committed to their daily goals and are constantly pushing themselves.
“Whatever happens, we are continuing to approach this season with the same mental approach as we have every other season. Each day we train with a purpose: to be better than the previous day and to enjoy the process,” Kriengkrairut said. “Small improvements add up over time. There are always days that may feel rough but there are also always days where the hard work doesn’t feel like hard work at all because we truly love what we are doing. We are so engrossed in the process that before we know it we have developed something great, and that it extremely rewarding.”
This mindset has also served them well off ice. Kriengkrairut recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. Giulietti-Schmitt graduated in 2008 from Eastern Michigan University with a geology degree. Both plan to further pursue their fields after their competitive career. Kriengkrairut wants to attend medical school and Giulietti-Schmitt wants to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning. Both agree that studies and skating engrained qualities that are important in all aspects of life.
“It has taught us the importance of discipline, perseverance, time management, organization and that the best results come from genuine passion and love for what we do,” Giulietti-Schmitt said.
Skating taught them that even bound within a set of rules there is still freedom for individual variation, and the same is true with their studies.
“Once the structure is developed the opportunity to flourish is unbound,” Kriengkrairut said. “Having both skating and school has shown us that the beauty of learning is that it is limitless and such an approach can be applied to anything we are passionate about.”
They also share their talents with young skaters. Giulietti-Schmitt is a coach and director of the Learn to Skate Program at the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club, and both have been dedicated performers with the Skate Dance Dream Shows, offering young people a chance to skate and dance their way to their dreams with current competitive skaters and dancers.
“The thing that is most satisfying about teaching young kids is seeing the pure enjoyment they have for skating and how excited they get when mastering a new skill,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “Teaching has made us better competitors and individuals in many ways. It constantly reminds us why we love the sport so much. It has also taught us how to be patient, humble and appreciative for all the things that have made it possible for us to be where we are today.”
In the end, it is the challenges and epiphanies of daily training that keep them going.
“We love the process of approaching things that seem impossible and learning to make them possible. We then train to where it become something we can do half asleep, which sometimes happens with all our training and coaching,” Kriengkrairut said, jokingly.
In the end, both enjoy finding new ways to become more creative, passionate and precise.
“Sometimes skills aren’t mastered quickly but there is nothing better then when it finally “clicks” and we understand what needs to be done,” Giulietti-Schmitt said. “Knowing that perfection doesn’t exist is frustrating at times but it is also the motivation that pushes us to grow as skaters.”
Kriengkrairut and Giulietti-Schmitt discovered much about themselves during their seven years together, and they have developed a curiosity to unveil even more about themselves than ever before.
“We have had seven years together already,” Kriengkrairut said. “We are just enjoying the process. We have nothing to be nervous about and nothing to lose. We have great material and are really happy with the way things are going so far. We are extremely excited to push ourselves and see how it will all evolve over the course of the season.”
It is this curiosity that has given them a large appetite for more.
See the gallery below for photos of Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt. Photos courtesy of Jacque Tiegs.