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Manatee’s Olympians ready to go

SARASOTA — Whether they win a medal or not at this month’s Winter Olympics, the experience stands to be amazing, overwhelming and exhausting for the four pairs figure skaters who train at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex.

Consider the following:

After flying coach class to Vancouver in a commercial jet Monday, Caydee Denney, Jeremy Barrett, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig — and coaches Lyndon Johnston, Jim Peterson and Alison Smith — will check into a hotel near the airport and immediately be whisked to a giant warehouse, where tailors will await.

Inside, they’ll see shelves stacked with winter coats, sweat pants, socks, hats, gloves, shirts, shoes and other items supplied by the United States Olympic Committee for Friday’s opening ceremony.

They’re likely to feel as if they’re extras in a movie or about to take a long voyage to a land with no Wal-Marts.

“It’s called ‘processing,’ ” Barrett said of the warehouse. He was alongside girlfriend and USF Sarasota-Manatee student Evora for a private reception Saturday night at FineCraft Custom Cabinetry in Sarasota off Cattleman Road.

“They give you so much stuff that you are told to mail most of it back home,” Barrett continued. “You get an Olympic ring. I think they size it in the warehouse and send it home for you. Our outfits, which have white pants and blue coats, have been designed by Ralph Lauren.”

Processing takes a full day, he says. When it’s over, the four and their coaches will be whisked to the Olympic Village, which, if Barrett’s descriptions are right, makes the warehouse appear routine.

They’ll get credential cards that allow them to go into a 24-hour cafeteria and order anything they want. And their rooms are so large that, after the Olympics, they will be turned into condominiums, he said.

Oh, and if they want to see skiing, they let an assigned secretary know within 24 hours of the event. If they plan to have a visitor accompany them, the USOC must do a complete background check.

From Tuesday to their short program next Sunday, the skaters will have two practices a day.

They will have media sessions every day.

Their long program is Feb. 15.

Phew.

A USF send-off

If the warehouse and the Olympic Village aren’t unusual enough, imagine Barrett’s surprise Saturday night when he walked into the reception and shook hands, or hoofs, with Rocky “D” Bull, the mascot for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

USF has adopted Evora & Co. and has done it with humor.

“We take full responsibility for her training,” joked Arthur Guilford, regional chancellor. “Now we have an athletics department. We have Amanda.”

About a 100 guests were on hand and all enjoyed Guilford’s quips. Everyone knows that Florida is not famous for ice skaters.

“We have great dancers on our Tampa campus,” said USF Manatee-Sarasota student Dana Mininson, who joined fellow students Lilah Ali, of Sarasota, and Alyssa Anderson, of Bradenton, in giving Evora an official send-off.

It’s no secret that Barrett and Evora are dating.

There are many stories surrounding these four skaters, but one of the most ironic has to be that on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, Barrett and his partner, Denney, will compete in the short program against Evora and her partner, Ladwig.

“Essentially, I will be trying to beat my girlfriend on Valentine’s Day,” Barrett said. “We won’t be talking skating that night.”

Barrett said Evora “is totally all right” about the fact that he is partnered with Denney.

“I couldn’t be Amanda’s partner because she has been partner with Mark for many years,” Barrett said. “Amanda is fine with everything.”

Barrett and Evora have been assigned the same condo in the Olympic Village, since they live together now in Carlton Arms on State Road 64, Barrett said.

And as for that advice by the USOC to bring something from home to help you adjust to the long strange trip, Barrett and Evora don’t have to worry.

They have each other.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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