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Three young actresses go from the ice rink to the screen

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While now is very much an exciting time for Tetona Jackson, who has breakout roles in the HULU series All Night and the film All Styles (currently available on Showtime on Demand), her first tastes of the spotlight were on ice. Jackson grew up skating in the Los Angeles area—first at the Culver City Ice Arena (gone, but not forgotten) and then at the Skating Edge in Torrance—testing and competing.

“Skating was basically my entire life,” said Jackson, whose coaches were Derek James and Charlene Wong with choreography by Lorna Brown. “I would wake up, train, go to school, do homework and then go back and train. I actually did independent study for two years, so I could focus on skating. I competed and I loved it.”

Her biggest inspiration was Scott Hamilton, but Jackson also admired Surya Bonaly and Kristi Yamaguchi and looked up to Michelle Kwan, who had also been coached by James as a young skater. Toward the end of Jackson’s competitive career, Kwan’s sister, Karen Kwan Oppegard, taught at Skating Edge.

After competing at the U.S. Figure Skating National Showcase, Jackson realized the performance aspect of skating was what inspired her most. While recovering from an injury and deciding whether she would continue skating, Jackson heard Feld Entertainment, producers of Disney on Ice, was preparing to mount a national tour of High School Musical on Ice. One of the choreographers at the rink, Cindy Stuart, was involved with choreographing the show. Thus began Jackson’s pro career.

Rehearsals were intense, but Jackson thrived. Cast in the role of Taylor McKessie (played in the films by Monique Coleman), she also understudied Gabriella Montez (portrayed on screen by Vanessa Hudgens). The show ran about two and a half years. When it ended, Jackson didn’t know if her professional skating career would continue.

“Me being a black skater, I didn’t know if there were any other principal roles,” said Jackson.

Judy Thomas (in charge of casting for Disney on Ice) said a new princess themed show was being planned and Disney’s first African-American princess, Tiana, who hadn’t even debuted on screen yet, would be included in the ice show Disney on Ice Let’s Celebrate. Jackson was offered the role.

“Instantly, I said yes,” said Jackson. “That role was a lot of fun, but also nerve racking, since I was the first Tiana to appear anywhere.”

After several years of touring, she made the decision to get off the road. Back in Los Angeles, Jackson threw herself into dancing and acting. Having brought characters to life on the ice, she had a tremendous sense of performing. As she’s immersed herself in the world of auditioning, time and again the discipline and resilience from skating have been crucial.

“As a skater, training from such a young age—there is a discipline to getting up every morning at 4:30 and go skate,” she said. “My work ethic from skating is something I’m so thankful I am able to bring to acting.”

Jackson hasn’t skated in quite a while, but she’s itching to go back and train for fun. You never know if it could lead to an acting role.

Such was the case for acting sisters April and Violet Brinson, who were called upon to roller skate throughout the HBO limited series Sharp Objects. They’d grown up ice skating in Texas and Oklahoma, so when they were cast as friends of one of show’s main characters, they brought out their skating skills.

The teenage sisters, began skating just for fun as little kids in Austin, Texas, and then became more serious when the family moved to Oklahoma. Their coach was former Bulgarian competitor Boyko Aleksiev. They each skated for about six years, competing in regionals and sectionals and testing up through the junior level.

“We were both really passionate about skating,” said Violet. “It was something unique.”

“We’re both really artistic,” added April.

While the Brinsons played their Sharp Objects roles with a bit of cheeky humor, in the final moments of the series, they were revealed as being accomplices to murder. The show didn’t air until almost a year after filming wrapped, so they steadfastly kept the plot twist to themselves. They hope more acting roles are coming their way and they’re open to all genres.

It was great to bring their skating background into Sharp Objects, their most high profile roles to date.

“We were both really excited to get to use that skill we had worked so hard to develop in another area we’re passionate about,” said April. “And it was really nice to get back on skates, even though they’re not ice skates.”

They haven’t been ice skating since moving to Los Angeles about two years ago, but they if there is a role that involves figure skating, they vow to get their skills up to speed.

“I would be so down for that, I would love it,” said Violet. “We learned discipline from skating. We also learned how to take corrections and apply them quickly, which is a valuable in acting.”

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Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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