May 6, 2011
Congratulations to Alyssa Cambria (L) and Vida Weisblum (below) on passing their Senior Moves in the Field tests! They are my first students to pass the new, updated versions of this test and they skated wonderfully. Coaching the new material has been fun – I think the changes are excellent and very relevant to today’s step sequences for singles, dance, and synchro. It seems that most skaters are adapting well to the revisions implemented in September. In general, I’d say that they are finding the loops and the twizzles to be the most challenging. But all that work and repetition is paying off – Bravo!
March 8, 2011
Since watching RISE, I have been thinking a lot about Maribel Vinson-Owen and the impact she has had on our sport. RISE hits home an obvious point about coaching lineage that we don’t often think about: our coach had a coach and that coach had a coach, going back to before there was even film footage to document it.
One of my coaches, Ron Ludington, was Vinson-Owen’s student for his whole amateur career. I was also trained by two of his former skaters: Stacey Smith and Robbie Kaine. All of these coaches have influenced me in different yet profound ways, both directly (in lesson) and indirectly (through example). They have helped to shape who I have become.
Though skaters learn a great deal from emulating other better skaters, and coaches are starting to use video as a helpful teaching tool, skating has been and continues to be largely an oral tradition, passed on from one individual to another. And though the sport is always evolving and coaches bring new ideas to the arena, coaches are mostly imparting the knowledge, the technique and the psychology that they learned from their own coaches.
I can’t help but wonder what techniques and perspectives have trickled down from this iconic woman through my coaches. And, of course, the fact that Maribel Vinson-Owen combined coaching and writing has captured my interest. How else to pay tribute but write an article about her? This week, I am thrilled to have story about her on the yahoo sports site called The Post Game:
To read it, click here.
In researching this article, I called Ron Ludington and he was kind enough to expand on some things he shared in RISE.
He told me that when she threw that chair at him they were both “on edge” because he was late for his lesson. Mind you, that lesson was at 2:30 AM! We are all familiar with the challenge of finding clear ice (and when I first trained with Luddy at the Skating Club of Wilmington, I did skate Pair sessions at midnight) so this tidbit did make me chuckle.
He said, “Maribel and I fought like cats and dogs, but I have nothing but admiration for her. She was an amazing motivator. She taught skaters of all levels and abilities and guided us in the right direction.”
Learning more about Maribel Vinson-Owen and all the coaches and skaters featured in RISE has truly inspired me. I can only hope that, in my own way, I have a positive effect on my skaters and that I am helping to carry on the best parts of the skating tradition.
Thank you for reading.
March 1, 2011
Like many people in the skating world, I watched RISE, with a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. For those of you who don’t know, this is the figure skating movie about the 1961 World Team who perished in a plane crash, on the way to the World Championships in Prague.
Beforehand, I wondered if I should cut my skating lessons short that night in order to rush over and see the movie. I am glad that I did. Likewise, beforehand, I wasn’t sure whether or not to aggressively recommend the film to my skating students, because I wasn’t sure how painful it was going to be to watch. Though it is a horrible tragedy and it is difficult subject matter, it is treated tastefully and has a positive message. The focus is not on the crash itself but on the skaters and coaches who were on the plane. This event had an impact on so many lives and on the American skating community for years to come.
I think my skating students should see this film, as should their parents, as should anyone involved in skating and other sports, too. It is playing again in theaters around the country on March 7. I recommend that you get your tickets now. You can find theaters and buy tickets here.
Not only is it important to learn the history of this specific event, RISE provides us with an all-too rare opportunity to view skating footage from a bygone era. (Like people tracing out figure eights!) It also gives us a chance to understand that skaters of yesteryear, despite their plain costumes and their different skating style, struggled with many of the same challenges as skaters do today. Even back then, some top skaters moved across the country to seek expert coaching, some families were split apart, and some parents pushed too hard. These athletes experienced injuries and disappointing performances, and also victories. Finally, viewers can take a bit of time to consider the skating community as a whole rather than just our own little corner of it. Skating requires so much focus on details that we can easily forget that we are participating in something bigger than ourselves.
The title, RISE, (the ‘i’ of which cleverly depicts a skater mid-jump), is accompanied by a subtitle: Can the end of one dream give rise to another? The documentary’s answer to this question is: YES. A panel of skating greats like Scott Hamilton, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano, et cetera, help us to see how we can be inspired by these athletes from the 1961 World Team.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is how it effectively conveys the concept of legacy and the connectedness of everyone in the skating world. In some way, most of us are either directly or indirectly connected to this event through our coaches or skaters that we know. For example, I was coached by Ron Ludington, who was trained by Maribel Vinson Owen, who is featured in the film.
And many of us have benefited from the Memorial Fund, a very direct form of connectedness. I knew that F. Ritter Shumway set up the Memorial Fund after the crash, but didn’t realize that he did so only eight short days afterwards. Thousands of skaters have been helped by this financial assistance, a very direct form of connectedness.
I was interested to learn that the 1961 National Championships were the first to be televised. And there is an old cigarette advertisement that had the whole theater laughing. There are some photos of the crash wreckage that are not overly gruesome but heart wrenching. There are some compelling stories about skaters who might have been on the plane but were not either due to injury or sickness.
I enjoyed the segments about the SC of Boston and about the Broadmoor rink in Colorado Springs. Before the Broadmoor was razed, my brother and I trained at that beautiful (though crumbling) rink for one summer. We also competed at our first Midwestern Sectionals there and discovered just how beautiful and majestic that hotel is. (We also learned how higher altitude really does affect your stamina.)
Evidently, there was a RISE pre-show hosted by Matt Lauer and Peter Carruthers that our theater didn’t play. But we did see the after-show. This was sort of an Oprah-esque set-up where participants in the film (including the filmmakers) immediately discussed the movie and the topics at hand. It was kind of like seeing the DVD “extras” while still sitting in the theater.
During this portion, both Frank Carroll and Evan Lysacek were interviewed. Evan said something to the effect that, after a performance, it is great to be out on the ice by yourself while the audience applauds, but the real celebration takes place when you step off the ice and hug your coach. The way Evan has so kindly shared his Vancouver victory with Frank Carroll is truly endearing.
I gasped, along with many others in attendance, at Dorothy Hamill’s disparaging comment about the rink named after her, in Greenwich, Connecticut. There were likely many people in our theater who coach or skate there.
As always, I enjoyed seeing Scott Hamilton and think he had some of the most poignant things to say. He said that one of the main lessons he learned from skating is that, “You reap what you sow.” In other words, if you don’t practice hard, and go to the rink even on the days that you don’t want to, you can’t expect to succeed. He also reminded us that when, in any aspect of your life, you fall down, you just have to get back up. (In other words, “rise.”) Maybe these are obvious adages, but it can’t hurt to hear them again, especially from him, and especially in light of the health issues he is going through right now.
My one criticism of RISE is probably not a fair one: I wanted more! While it was fascinating to learn about these individual stories, I didn’t feel like there was enough detail about enough people. I suppose there is only so much ground that can be covered in 94 minutes. And truth be told, this sense of wanting more prompted me, when I got home that night, to pore through the pages of SKATING magazine’s February issue, a large portion of which is dedicated to the crash and the film. I am now also intrigued by Patricia Shelley Bushman’s book, Indelible Tracings: The Story of the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team. So my interest has been further piqued and I presume it has created similar curiosity in many others.
Like I said above, go see RISE on March 7. Many of us have seen that iconic photo of the team lined up on the steps of that fateful airplane. After seeing this film, their faces will look a lot more familiar.
What did you think of the film? Feel free to leave a comment below.
February 14, 2011
Long Black Coat, how do I love thee?
You’re puffy with feathers,
And run from my neck past my knees.
You keep me warm while coaching,
When the rink is below 25 degrees.
You’re big and you’re shapeless,
Like a sleeping bag.
Your only bit of decoration,
Is that North Face tag.
I know you make me look
Twenty pounds heavier than I am.
As I skate down the ice,
I look as wide as the Zam.
You’re so bulky and cumbersome,
I can’t demonstrate a thing.
But the frostbite alternative,
Would certainly sting.
We’ve been together,
For at least seven years.
You’re starting to show your age,
And this brings me to tears.
How will I ever replace you,
What will I do?
I get more concerned,
With every feather you lose.
I’ve worn other jackets,
They just don’t compare.
I need to find your twin,
The question is, where?
I’ve searched the web,
And you seem discontinued.
If I don’t find something soon,
I’ll just have to coach in the —–!
Apologies for the disturbing imagery at the conclusion of this otherwise beautiful poem.
Turns out North Face still makes something similar. The stitching is slightly different and it isn’t as ridiculously long. I ordered it online, here, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to “take it for a spin.”
BTW, lots of great new “skater quotes” in the column over to the right. Thanks to everyone who has been giving me these
November 11, 2010
It’s official: ABC’s Skating with the Stars will premier Monday, November 22. You may remember that Fox tried something like this – called Skating with Celebrities – back in 2006, and, though it had its interesting moments, it was considered a flop. This time around, the Dancing with the Stars producers are taking a stab at it. Already, the show is being criticized because the stars they lined up aren’t all that famous. I think the three most intriguing are probably Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Olympic “freestyle” skier Jonny Moseley, and actress Sean Young. I’m not very familiar with the other three – Bethanny Frankel, Brandon Mychal Smith, and Rebecca Budig – but I applaud them for taking the lunge…I mean plunge.
So I am excited to see this. But mostly I’m afraid….very afraid. And here are 10 reasons why I think you should be too:
1.Inspired by what they see, viewers across the land are going to flood their floors with garden hoses and turn off their heat, until they reach a deep freeze. This way, they can attempt those exotic skating tricks at home.
2.Vince Neil can apparently do a Waltz Jump. He claims to have been figure skater back when he was age 12. Actually, this is endearing. What is scary is that American skating coaches are going to be inundated with calls from other aging rock stars, ushering in a whole new breed of adult skaters. Better start offering tequila at the snack bar.
3. The skating will be so HOT that the ice will melt. Caught up in the glory, skaters and pros alike won’t reach for their guards quickly enough, and the one and only sound that is worse than fingernails scratching across a chalkboard will be broadcast around the world: blades against cement.
4.When viewers see how gracefully all these stars can skate, they are going to think that skating is easy, that it’s a snap. (Of course I’m kidding. It is sure to be an awkward-fest with lots of bent free legs, lurching, and terrifying falls. This will in fact emphasize exactly how difficult this sport is.)
5. Seriously, I predict three severed limbs, and no less than two body casts. On Skating with Celebrities, Bruce Jenner tripped while trying a spin and had to get 16 stitches on his face. Keep in mind that he is a decorated, Olympic decathlete, therefore presumably somewhat coordinated. A few other stars from that show required emergency medical attention. Just be ready to wince for this one. I suggest covering your eyes and peeking through your fingers. In light of the dangers, it’s understandable that they couldn’t lure bigger names: what Hollywood hotshot would risk disfigurement (not to mention the embarrassment factor)? On the flip side, it’s amazing that top U.S. pair skaters Brooke Castile and Keauna McLaughlin agreed to be pros for this, considering that they are still competition material. For them, I recommend what I always wanted to wear as a pair skater: full body padding, maybe some hockey equipment with sparkles.
6. During Skating with Celebrities, actor/hockey player Dave Coulier was so frustrated by those pesky figure skating toe picks that he filed them off. What if Olympic skier Jonny Moseley seeks similar comfort by attaching skis to the bottom of his skating boots?
7. If indeed, as is rumored, Johnny Weir and Dick Button are both judges, there will undoubtedly be a catfight. Fur will fly.
8. The producers of Dancing with the Stars have taken schmaltz to new heights on that show. So brace yourself for cheesy music, hideous costumes and general tackiness on ice. Of course, most skating programming already contains these qualities in spades. Isn’t that why we keep coming back?
9. Love affairs will ignite; marriages will be torn asunder. Lloyd Eisler and Kristy Swanson (who infamously hooked up on Skating with Celebrities) will make guest appearances as relationship counselors.
10. If the ratings are really shoddy, critics (who are just jealous because they are neither skaters nor stars) will use it as proof that skating popularity is declining. Others will go so far to say that it’s the nail in the skating coffin. As a result, rinks will be boarded up and rental skates will be sent over to the troops in Iraq as combat weapons.
Truthfully, I’m just afraid of all the household and organizational tasks I’m going to neglect on Monday nights for the six weeks that it airs. I’ll surely be watching. Will you?
Please share your deepest fears on this subject by leaving a comment below.
Notice that there are lots of new Skater Quotes in the column to the right.
The “Wounded Star” artwork above is by the talented Mr. Rob Strati. To see more of his work, click here.
February 26, 2010
What an incredible two weeks of Olympics viewing. From my futon, I gasped, I cried, and I applauded. This is the most fun I’ve had watching the Olympics in a long time. What now? I suppose we can all resume our former routines and at least be happy to catch some more zzzs. Sure, those four-minute, backloaded, bonus-heavy programs take a lot of stamina, but surely not as much as this late-night spectating.
As excited as I was to watch Ladies Freeskating, I really started to fade while waiting for that last group…I know many of you were feeling the same. A skating friend came over to be my viewing buddy since the Hubs was out of town. We were both frustrated with the fact that we were yawning, so to try and revive ourselves, we dropped to the floor and each did ten push ups. This indeed woke us up. Then we did another 10 (okay, on my part, only four) after marveling at Joannie Rochette’s strong and beautifully-sculpted arms.
I keep saying that the next time these things roll around I’m going to take two weeks off work, so I can properly focus and rest-up for optimal viewing. But the truth is that it was fun to be at the rink, compare notes with fellow coaches, and see what the kids thought of everything. There has been a buzz in the air and a little extra enthusiasm.
As much as I’ve been impressed with the actual skating over these two weeks – the fluidity, the velocity, the beauty and innovation combined with aggression – I think I’m most in awe of the composure we have seen. Not only did these skaters expect a lot from themselves, they carried the expectations of many others: entire countries were watching and hoping. To perform, to focus, and to excel in those circumstances is exactly remarkable as all the sappy, Costas-narrated montages claim. I think these athletes have brought us all a some perspective and probably a lot of inspiration.
And so, as I am already feeling a bit of a void and anticipate some post-Olympics withdrawal coming on, I hope to draw strength from what I have witnessed. I hope my skating students will do the same. I hope we all will.
Now where is that book I was reading way back before Vancouver took over my brain?
Thank you, as always for reading. If you’d like add your own innermost feelings on the Olympics or make fun of me for waxing so sentimental, please leave a comment below.
February 18, 2010
[Best read from the bottom, up.]
9:40 Friday morning
This Olympic-viewing is hard work! A little bleary-eyed (can barely see through these bags that have inflated on my face), but digging the post-game interviews with Evan. Very gracious, well-spoken and appropriately in awe of the honor and the accomplishment.
On the flip side, just read a scathing analysis of the results by Elvis Stojko on yahoo called The Night They Killed Figure Skating. Ouch. Click here.
Am liking the sizzling NBC commercial for Ice Dance: “Cold winter nights just got hotter.” Pumped for Tango Romantica tonight – I don’t plan to insta-blog. I may do so for OD and/or FD. If you’d like a little guidance on tonight’s compulsory event, check out my article on Ice Skating International. Link at the bottom of this post.
Lambiel, Lambiel. Your name rolls off the tongue. I had such high hopes. You remind me so much of my high school star-crush Robert Sean Leonard (of Dead Poet’s Society and now House).
[The Hubs dozed off but he’s sitting back up again…]
Takahashi is fluid. Like water on skates. Way to come back from the Big Quad. Disagree with the pundits that it sucked the life out of the program. Likewise, way to come back from injury.
Weir: The Fallen angel flies again. Gotta hand that one to him. Great performance. And a beautiful ring of roses around his head.
Plushenko skated shaky. The marks are up–
Evan wins!! It comes down to Grade of Execution. Quality over Quantity. That is awesome. Go USA.
And now. To. Sleep.
Thank you for reading.
Viva Lysacek!! Great performance. Not easy to skate first, but he got out there and got it over with…now the waiting game. Prefer the snakes to the feathers. Looked a tad slow and walky in the middle, but Bravo! Sounded like Hamilton almost slipped up at one point and almost said Petrenko instead of Plushenko.
Oda vaults into the air. Looks like his legs are made of rubber and his knees have springs. Call me a Nationalist, but the Chaplin medley just reminds me that Ryan Bradley didn’t make it. And I don’t like to think about that.
Oops, technical difficulties. Thought he tore a muscle but it was just his lace. He should be awarded a lightening bolt superhero costume (like little Lysacek’s) for how quickly he fixed that. Mixed things up a bit.
Florent Amodio: I missed his short the other night but heard a lot of buzz about him. This Amelie/marionette program was cute. Nice to see a lighthearted Long Program since they usually skew serious.
Patrick Chan: Phantom of the Opera is a gorgeous piece of music and very evocative. Chan skates beautifully to it, but I am so Tired of this song. (And/or maybe I’m just tired.) He has a great smile – look forward to seeing it again next time around.
Michal Brezina: Gene Kelly on skates. Like it. An American in Paris? No, A Czech in Canada.
Well, so much for my predictions that Jeremy Abbott would climb up from 15th to win… way to climb uphill within the program, though.
It seems that Kozuka loves the electric guitar. If he wants to keep skating to this for all of his future programs, I am comfortable with that. When they zoomed in on his sit spin I realized the benefit of (and perhaps theory behind) these wacky boards: it looks a little like they’re skating outside in a cartoon world.
Denis Ten: 16 years old, wow! Couldn’t keep up with his music medley – traveled across more borders and decades than I could keep track of.
I don’t know the football stars they just showed, but I do love that they are not only watching figure skating but doing so in public.
To my friend who suggested I host an Olympic party: well, this is it! Online and On the futon. Welcome.
Ahh! The suspense. They’re not even going to start showing the skating until after 10. (I am enjoying the snowboarding, though.)
In the meantime, check out this analysis of The Quad in the NY Times, put together by longtime friend Archie Tse, former pair skater turned graphic guru. Off to the right, you’ll see each skater’s success rate with the Quad – I appreciate all the facts and figures, but I especially like seeing how all that rotational pull contorts their faces…..Click here.
Here comes the showdown: Feathers, Tassels, and Tears vs. the Swinging Sword. I’m going to type commentary as soon as I get home from the rink tonight.
I know some people were offended by Blades of Glory, but let’s face it, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder nailed it. It’s almost as if the men’s figure skating event is acting out that plotline to a T. I’m looking forward to watching Freeskate but would also really like to see Plushenko and Lysacek make amends then perform a “Very Original Dance” later this week.
Actually, all this bravado, the boustier, and the masterful skating made the Vancouver Short Program on Tuesday night the most fun I think I’ve ever had watching a men’s event. I laughed, I (faux) cried and I marveled. I know I should be applauding all the jumps (and they were incredible), but I think the fact that there were two footwork/step sequences made it very entertaining. Favorite footworkers: Lambiel, Takahashi, Abbott. Least favorite footworker: Plushenko a.k.a. Clod the Quad (and, by the way, weren’t his jump landings rather shaky?) Favorite overall program: Kozuka to Jimi Hendrix. Biggest heartbreak: Abbott. Biggest surprise: obviously Joubert. Best twizzler: Lysacek.
Big shout out to The Hubs for today’s artwork and his unique talent to put skates on just about anything for the purposes of CSOM. To see more of his non-skating but incredibly graceful work, click here.
And…check out these other Olympic-y pieces I’ve been working on. Special thanks to Vicki Merten, Wendy Mliner, Cheryl Demkowski-Snyder, Cathy Reed, Brad Cox, and Liz Leamy for advising me on the article about the Tango Romantica. Click down here:
February 16, 2010
[FYI- this works backwards, so read from the bottom then back up, if you'd like. I intend to insta-blog again for Men's Freeskate on Thursday night...I'll sign in as soon as I get home from the rink!]
Shen and Zhao: Well, tanked on a lift, but did lots of high ticket elements late in the program. AND: did a old -school pull-through, but into a lift! Fourth Olympics. Five points ahead after Short. First Place.
NBC didn’t even show or mention the American’s final placements (10th and 13th). But I agree with Dick Button for once: “It was a wonderful evening.” Lots of strong skating and no disastrous falls. Phew!
Kavaguti and Smirnov: I am uncomfortable watching women this thin on the ice. I felt the same way about Sasha Cohen this year. (I am also uncomfortable commenting on other people’s weight, but I fear for their safety and health and fear for young girls they might influence.) (Well, honestly, I fear for these pair girls at any weight.) (But this is just my paranoia.)
Savchenko and Szolkowy: Love Out of Africa. Thumbs up on the spread eagles into the Throw Triple Sal. Likewise for the Spread Eagle/Plank-ish ending to that lift. (Wish the commentators would tell us the name of some of these newer lift positions/ and lift exits. If they need help coming up with names, I volunteer my services.)
Pang and Tong: Woooo hooooo! Only team that prompted me to applaud here from the futon. They’re like ice dancers. Gorgeous. Notice, when he throws her, how much air he takes, himself.
One more to go…
11:15 Time for tonight’s serving of pretzels. And to wonder who on earth named it a “death spiral.” It’s probably the least scary and dangerous of all the elements we are seeing tonight.
My little friend Wiki tells me Potopopovs attempted to change it up in the 60’s, calling the Back Inside a “Cosmic Spiral,” the Forward Inside a “Life Spiral” and the (all too rare) Forward Outside, a “Love Spiral.” I think any one of these would be better than the current name. What do you think? Leave a comment below if so inclined.
10:55 Zhang and Zhang: That fall on his elbows did not look fun. The Hubs gives a thumbs up to their ending position, though.
On Sheherazade: it is a beautiful piece of music, but can we take a break from it? Maybe just take this and Phantom of the Opera and put them in the vault for a while? Maybe just a few decades. In fact, a lot of this music is tired.
On typing while trying to watch the TV screen: challenging.
Mukhortova and Tarankov: The Hubs admits that this is the most he has ever watched any Olympics and any sporting event, period. He says: “Is it a new thing that the guys are wearing such normal outfits? He looks like he just got off his shift at the Banana Republic.” Yes, it is a new thing – seems like lots of teams are following in the footsteps of Sale and Pelletier. ( I believe this is their same music.)
Dube/Davison: “And this guy is from the Gap! That’s just a long sleeve T-shirt and Dockers!” (…maybe I’ll get him in figure skates, yet!)
I’m sad D/D didn’t have a better skate. Was rooting for them ever since the camel spin accident. Can’t imagine doing another one after that and the PTSD she must have had. She looks awesome, though. Still wondering why their scores are so high…? Perhaps my local technical specialist will enlighten? Or perhaps he is asleep, preparing for an early-morning skate.
Also wondering why all the Death Spirals look so slow – possibly because they are trying to hold them for so long.
10:31 Bazarova and Larianov. I dig the one-sided collar. The Russian Jackets are cool. Is it true that they are required to put them on in the Kiss and Cry for promotional purposes?
The back story on Yao Bin: inspiring or heartbreaking? Both, I suppose.
The Hubs on Langlois and Hays: “She’s so little.” Yup, that’s one of the main requirements of a girl pair skater. Liliputian. That, and nerves of steel. Not to mention biceps of steel.
10:03 Evora and Ladwig just skated. Mark is to be commended on his spirals. He is doing his species proud.
Bezic: (approximate quote) “Evora and Ladwig have been together for eight years and never been on the podium at Nationals [dramatic pause] until this year.” I am a sucker for this kind of stuff.
Enormous Throw Triple Loop. And their One handed Reverse Lasso etc etc etc lift: excellent.
Notice how Costas and Co. are suddenly pushing the “personal best” notion since, in this case, the Americans are nowhere near medal contention. I approve and request more of the same. The constant focus on medals is tiresome. (Thank heaven Canada finally got a gold on their home turf – the commentators can now stop harping on this.) I like that the rink announcer is mentioning when the scores are a team’s personal best. This does bring some perspective and context. Then again, every event has different judges and different callers…
9:25 Okay! Just got home from the rink two hours later than expected – dead battery in the parking lot, got a jump, tossed up a salad, now ready to see the skaters jump….
Denney and Barrett just punched in a great, redemptive Freeskate. Bravo! Impressive for being together only 18 months.
The above clipart and in fact this entire insta-blog is dedicated to all previous, current, and future pair skating women. I have an insane amount of respect for you.
To be continued…and in the mean time, check out this humor piece about the Olympics:
February 8, 2010
The time has come to once again catch Olympic Fever. Symptoms include: watching far too much television, envying all that youthful agility and quickness while slumped on your couch gobbling potato chips, and an embarrassing breakout of Nationalism. (After all, it’s only natural to root for your own country.) Fortunately, this affliction comes around only once every four years, and it’s okay to admit to enjoying it.
If you’re anything like me, Olympic Fever will take over your life and you’ll be able to think of little else. Of course, I’ll happily watch all the sports, especially snowboarding, hockey and speedskating, and I’ll marvel at the unique talents of these athletes. But figure skating is and will always be The Main Event. I’ve been thinking in the last few days about my favorite, or at least most memorable, Olympic viewing moments.
The first Olympics I remember watching was the 1980 Games in Lake Placid. As I recently wrote in a piece for Professional Skater Magazine, I distinctly remember watching Tai and Randy pull out of the competition. My brother and I had just started to take group lessons near our hometown in Wisconsin. I didn’t know much about the sport or anything about this pair team, but I was entranced and a little stumped. I watched as Randy did circles on the warm-up and shook out his leg: if he can still glide around like that, then why doesn’t he just compete? I had so much to learn about injuries…and learn I did.
I remember watching Kitty and Peter Carruthers capture the silver at Sarajevo in 1984. They did a crazy thing called a Hydrant where he tossed her up in the air and caught her on the other side as if she was leapfrogging over him. My brother and I were by this time competing in pair and dance at the Novice level so the fact that there was a brother/sister team at the top certainly resonated. Double click on the arrow to play video…
Torvill and Dean’s Bolero Freedance that year also left an impression – I’d never seen anything like it and I guess no one else had either. Double click on the arrow to play video…
Torvill and Dean paved the way for our eventual faves, the Duchesnays. Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay were another brother and sister duo – they competed in 1988 (8th) and 1992 (silver medal). Double click on the arrow to play video…
By the time we watched Natalie and Wayne Seybold compete in Calgary in 1988, we were training alongside them in Delaware. I was injured at the time with a sprained knee from doing Throw Double Axels. Although by this time I could do that Carruther Hydrant with some confidence, I hated Throws and made sure to say so on a regular basis. “I hate Throws,” was like a mantra, but the negative kind, and sure enough Throws retaliated. Conversely, I always admired Natalie’s tenacity and her ability to not just rotate Throws, but land them. Her position was so tight in the air – she looked like a spinning pencil — try as I did, I just couldn’t seem to emulate her. Double click on the arrow to play video…
The Seybolds were kind enough to bring back a poster for us signed by the legendary Gordeeva and Grinkov, which I still prize to this day. Their long program that year was mesmerizing, their unison incredible. The flowers on her dress and the nuanced way that she moved her head made me realize that pair skating could actually be elegant. When tiny Ekaterina Gordeeva looked into the camera and shyly said, “Hello everybody,” in her stilted English, I did a little math: she was exactly one year older than me and approximately half my size! Double click on the arrow to play video…
In fact, every event at this Olympics was exciting: remember the Battle of the Carmens? My heart sank for Debi Thomas, but I remember that she was very cool and composed in the Kiss and Cry interview. She said, “I’m not going to make any excuses.” Double click on the arrow to play video…
And who could forget the Battle of the Brians? Double click on the arrow to play video…
Of course, many great (and not so great) things happened in figure skating in the ensuing years. I watched the Olympics, but maybe because I was focused on things other than skating at the time, the “moments” didn’t really stick. Of course, there was the Nancy-Tanya debacle and Nancy’s hard-won bronze in Albertville. Kristi landed on top. After that, Tiny Tara trumped Kwan in Nagano.
The next moment I’ll never forget was watching Sarah Hughes win in 2002, Salt Lake City. That was, to me, an amazing Olympic moment…the kind that dreams are made of. Hughes was at the right place at the right time, stars aligned, and she skated well, proving that it’s what you put out there on the day of the competition that matters. This is what makes skating exciting (and also sometimes devastating). Double click on the arrow to play video…
I found Sale and Pelletier’s long program that year to be equally inspiring. Of course, the judging scandal revealed afterwards was less so. Double click on the arrow to play video…
What memories will be made on ice this year? We shall soon know. I’ll be watching closely, rooting for Team USA, and I presume you will be, too.
Here is the NBC broadcast schedule (and there will be a lot of preview/recap coverage on the Universal Sports station):
Pairs Short: Sun Feb 14, 7-11 pm
Pairs Freeskate: Mon Feb 15, 8-midnight
Men’s Short: Tues Feb 16, 8-midnight
Men’s Freeskate: Thurs Feb 18, 8-midnight
Dance Compulsories: Fri Feb 19, 8-11:30 pm
Original Dance: Sun Feb 21, 7-11 pm
Free Dance: Mon Feb 22, 8-midnight
Ladies Short: Tues Feb 23, 8-midnight
Ladies Freeskate: Thurs Feb 25, 8-midnight
Thanks for reading/watching! What are your favorite moments from years gone by? I’m sure you have very different ones from mine. Please leave a comment below.
January 15, 2010
The 2010 U.S. Championships are underway in Spokane, Washington and the Olympics are right around the corner. In the next six weeks, the sport of skating will reach its graceful tentacles into the minds of millions. During this time, we insiders may be called upon to answer some difficult questions, such as: What’s up with this judging system? And: Why did beautiful so-and-so get beat by that robot who fell twice? Or, one of my favorites: Is there actually such a thing as a “Kiss and Cry” area? Is that what you guys really call it?
Yes, as a matter of fact, this is where skaters and their coaches anxiously await their scores then react to them. This rinkside nook is usually decorated with black or royal blue carpeting and a few fake plants. The term Kiss and Cry apparently originated in Finland in the late 1970’s and was bandied about while they were setting up the rink for the 1983 Worlds. Believe it or not, Kiss and Cry is now an official term utilized by the International Skating Union.
I have mixed feelings about this term. As someone who grew up in the sport and has now made it my profession, I naturally want skating to be taken seriously. After all, we know this is a challenging, rigorous, and sometimes dangerous sport and this terminology makes it sound like fluff.
Then again, as someone who grew up in the sport and has now made it my profession, the term also seems…well, fitting and quite funny. After all, what everyone loves about skating is the human drama – witnessing the reactions afterwards is a big part of the show. Who can forget tiny Tara Lipinski leaping around like a baby kangaroo? Or the shock and awe of Sarah Hughes? I myself cried when the elegant Alyssa Czisny and her coach Julianna Berlin found out she won last year. When a synchro team discovers that they have won, the ensuing jumps for joy in the Kiss and Cry register on the richter scale; conversely, bad news can raise water levels for miles around.
Because the Olympics are looming, the emotions in the Kiss and Cry at Nationals this year will surely be amplified. True, some skaters won’t reveal much (they’ll hold it together until the camera moves onto someone else) and others will let it all hang out.
I’ve been wondering recently if there could be other names for this area and started to do some brainstorming. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…
• The Hug and Sob
• The Smooch and Sweat (FYI, research has shown that Botox injections can calm down the sweat glands.)
• The Huff and Puff (This moment proves that you either just put in the extra effort, or that you probably should have done a few more run-throughs.)
• The Tears and Tiramisu (Submitted by my husband who I think is onto something: if the scores aren’t good, there should be complimentary tiramisu…)
• The Celebration/Devastation Zone (Doesn’t really roll off the tongue…)
• The Sit Tight-n-Smile (How much of your personality has been dampened by a media trainer?)
• The Squint and Try to See Your Scores (It may be time to get contact lenses.)
• The Land of High Fives and Regrets (I think this will be the title of my novel.)
• The Put Your Guards on Before You Ruin Your Blades Area (Sure, you can be a good girl or boy and put them back on right by the door, but isn’t it easier to do so while sitting down?)
• Gateway to the Rest of Your Life (After all, there’s always next year, or college, or coaching, or just some good old fashioned rest and recuperation… It seems like those previous four-ish minutes were the most important of your life, but there’s a whole world out there, and fortunately most of those experiences won’t be caught on camera…)
Well, I’m not sure I’ve come up with anything better than “Kiss and Cry” but perhaps you have suggestions? Please click on “comments” below.
Thanks for reading and good luck to all the skaters in Spokane!
If you receive the Professional Skater Magazine, check out my highly-informative article regarding the Olympics on page 11 of this month’s 25th Anniversary issue.