An Olympic Season Upon Us

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Savchenko & Massot of Germany en route to gold last weekend in Lake Placid. (None of these photos are mine except for the one that I am in below.)

I’m happy when I’m figure skating.

There is nothing like gliding on the ice with the cool breeze whooshing my hair from my face as I hear the edge of my blade rip into the ice or when I just know I’m going to nail a landing even when I’m rotating in the air on a jump.

I felt free and pretty when I skated well and the sport gave me confidence to address and attack all other aspects of my life.

As obvious as it seems, the sport taught me to get back up after each and every fall, no matter if it hurt my body or my dignity and no matter how many people were watching.

I learned to take responsibility for my actions through skating. It was nobody else’s fault when I singled a lutz or dropped my shoulder on a take-off.

 

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Returning to the ice as a coach this summer in Manitoba.

I so enjoy the smile on a student’s face when they try something I’ve suggested and it actually works.

Or when one of my former students shares photos of their own children now wearing ice skates. One of my main goals as a coach is to instill the love I have of the sport onto my skaters. If they love it enough to put their own kids into the sport then I’ve done something right, regardless of how many gold tests they pass or gold medals they win.

 

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Canadians Meghan and Eric at Skate Canada last month

And I absolutely love watching great skaters enjoying themselves as they perform to the best of their abilities. Its fun watching people have fun!

Which is why I was able to cap off this season’s Grand Prix last weekend with a smile on my face, a Caesar  in my hand, a cat or two in my lap and hubby on the couch next to me.

Last weekend was Skate America, held in Lake Placid, NY, home of lots of historic on-ice memories for figure skating and hockey fans. The international skaters competed over 3 days and on top of the usual drama this sport provides, there were some absolutely bizarre events that took place.

Like the last group of the men’s free program.

 

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Daniel Samohin, lopsided arms and all.

It started with a hard fall on a quad for Israel’s Daniel Samohin. The guy is a powerhouse and he’s well known for some wonky air positions and hard-ass body slams but this time his off-kilter, under rotated body came crashing down onto his shoulder. You could almost see it pop out.

He immediately threw his left arm out erratically in font of him, trying to get the clearly dislocated shoulder back into place. He called out for them to kill the music (which seemed to take forever) and for some medical assistance (which never came) and gingerly made his way off the ice.

I’ve got to say, that was a first for me as a viewer and judging from the horrified, tear-streaked faces among the audience, I’m not alone there.

 

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Adam Rippon, drama king

Next up we had American, Adam Rippon, who has a flare for drama and a penchant for full-body spandex. There was a bit of a delay as the referee had him attend to errant sequins all over the ice (not sure if they were from his own body bling or not) so he got to regroup with his coach before eventually starting his program.

Which led to a missed quad lutz and then another weird fall which caused him to get up and just stand there with a dazed look on his face. As his music continued he sort of rubbed his shoulder, the crowd groaned and then he took off to complete the rest of his program perfectly. Rightly so, he earned the silver medal behind countryman, Nathen Chen.

 

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Nathan Chen, gold medalist

But even Nathan’s routine was strange because the Quad King, who was the first man to ever land 5 quadruple jumps in one program last season, who was a dancer before a he committed full time to skating and actually has artistry to back up the jumps, and who rarely ever misses a jump, kind of bombed on a few elements. He looked as confused as everyone else but he had racked up enough points in the short and with the jumping passes he nailed to take the gold medal.

And there was a weird 15-minute delay during the final group due to a computer glitch for the judging panel.

The next day, the ladies provided some surprises as well as a sort of surprise. Sort-of. Kind of, in a way, not really, though, but I’ll explain.

 

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Bradie Tennell

Bradie Tennell was my favorite surprise of the entire event. Who is she,  you ask? (Everyone was asking that question!) Bradie happens to be the bronze medalist at Skate America who is competing for the first time as a senior lady who only got one international assignment this season. She was fabulous!

Lyrical, graceful, charming, Bradie has it all,  not to mention a full arsenal of triple jumps that are fully rotated and as strong on the landing as they are when she takes off. I was tickled watching her because the States is in a bit of a quandary without an Ice Princess right now.

The states is known for having elite female figure skaters. Jill Trenary, Caryn Kadavy, Elaine Zayak, Michelle Kwan, Nancy Kerrigan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen…. these ladies were sparkly wonders who claimed top podium positions over the last 20 years.

 

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Ah, Sasha Cohen!

 

But this year? With the Olympics (provided Trump doesn’t piss North Korea off anymore) just a couple of months away? Nobody?

Sadly, if you are wondering about Gracie Gold, the much hyped former US champ who oozed class, talent and style a few years ago, is sitting the season out.

 

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Gracie Gold, in better times.

Gracie announced she was skipping the Grand Prix season due to treatment for depression and an eating disorder. You may be surprised that this isn’t more common in a sport where we go through puberty in spandex in front of the entire world.

It actually is common, you just don’t hear about it. The powers-that-be have always tried to hide eating disorders under the rug so that parents will continue to put their kids into skating. I’m sure gymnastics is the same way.

Tai Babalonia of the US, who skated pairs with Randy Gardener was the first popular skater to address eating disorders but many have been quiet about the subject ever since. I lost a skating colleague, Barb Phipps due to organ failure from her bulimia back in the 80’s. And Russia’s Olympic darling, the expressive, determined, bendable Julia Lipnitskia has retired just this season admittedly to seek treatment for her own eating disorder.

 

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Lipnitskia, helping Russia win the Team Event in Sochi.

Figure skating isn’t without its demons but I’ll leave that for another time because we need to get another Ice Princess for this country so that every little girl and her parents can watch the Olympics and want to be just like her!

I hope its Bradie Tennell who stands on top of our national podium in January. I think it needs to be gold for USFS to name her to the Olympic team, though, because she’s unchallenged but she’s the only one of our top ladies who has sparkled and shone this season so far.

 

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Ashley Wagner, short program, Skate America

Try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to love Ashley Wagner. Its not that I don’t like her. Heck, I don’t know her personally. But I find myself rolling my eyes whenever she talks about being the “underdog” or when she reminds everyone of her “determination.” She won bronze at Skate Canada this fall with 2 so-so programs and lot of under-rotations because the other women didn’t skate up to their standards.

She came into the long program in Lake Placid needing to be determined because her short program kind of sucked.

It fell apart in dramatic fashion, though, after a missed opening triple-triple and a landed jump combination. She did a spin and then just stopped. Not quite like her training-mate, Adam Rippon. It was different. She had a poopy-pants look on her face and she stopped and stood there before eventually going over to her coach.

 

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AshWags. Standing there (that dress, though!)

Raf, her coach, gestured at her to go & talk to the referee and just like that she withdrew.

To media she has implied that this event wasn’t important enough for her to continue to skate with an apparent skin infection on her ankle. Personally, if I hadn’t been training well and my skin was sore in my boot, I would have withdrawn ahead of time and allowed another skater to participate.

So my hopes aren’t super high for Ashley, nor are they high for our current national champ, Karen Chen, who has changed both of her programs a couple of times already this season. (She bombed at Skate America). Mirai Nagasu is a dark horse and she has landed triple axels this year but she’s a headcase with no transitions and pleasing choreography.

 

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Mirai Nagasu last season. When she’s on she can be very good!

The American team will be strong in Ice Dance, at least and I’m once again so happy to see the Shibutanis having a successful season so far.

The Shib-sibs have returned to Coldplay to weave a fabulous tale with their free dance. I enjoyed watching them skate because they looked like they were having the time of their lives at Skate America.

 

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The Shibutanis. Coldplay. Gold medals. Boom.

They’ll have to face the glorious French ice dancers as well as the Italians, all of the Russians and the beloved Canadians, Tessa and Scott at the Olympics, though, not to mention the other strong American teams and I’ll admit to hoping the Canadians come out on top.

 

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Tessa & Scott’s edgy, latin-themed short dance.

Their short dance this season combines latin themes with the set-pattern-dance, the Rhumba (all of the teams have the same short dance theme, which means many of us will be needing a smoke after the event is over.) Scott and Tessa ooze sex appeal and their chemistry on the ice is unrivaled.

Then there’s their free dance to Roxanne from Moulin Rouge (wiping more sweat from my brow.) Their knee bend is phenominal, their moves are incredible, and the choreography is outstanding. I want to be like them when I grow up!

 

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From Skate Canada earlier this season en route to another gold medal.

In pairs right now everything is up in the air (see what I did just there?)

France has the sexy Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres. Canada’s former world champs, Duhamel and Radford won Skate Canada but they are veterans whose bodies might not be able to hold those triple lutz landings. American pairs teams haven’t produced an ounce of excitement this season so far and tend to not fare well internationally anyhow.

Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova & Vladamir Morozov (the tallest figure skating red head I’ve ever seen) are a threat for the podium thanks to their consistency and what seems like a really sweet connection to one another but China has Sui and Han, the current world champs and I don’t know if anyone can beat the diminutive dynamos.

 

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Tarasova & Morozov in France last month, heading for gold.

The Chinese team has grown up and matured on the global stage and despite his stature, they really whip out the tricks. Their quad split-twist is a thing of beauty and they even go for a throw quad now and then. Its really fun watching them have fun especially now that they’ve learned to relate to one another on the ice.

 

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Wenjing Sui & Cong Han

Clearly I can talk about figure skating for hours. As I’ve said before, its my first language and I’m fluent in it.

And its sparkly and pretty and athletic and dynamic and musical and graceful and artistic all at the same time. Especially when its done right!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the state of figure skating if you have any and I’d be the first person to be thrilled if Ashley Wagner wins back her national title and skates her heart out in South Korea. Her work is cut out for her facing Russian phenom, Evgenia Medvedeva and Canadian, Katelyn Osmand but we’ll see.

You never know what will happen on the ice. Its slippery out there.

Which all adds to the drama that I love so much! And while I won’t go into the costumes this season, I’ll merely state that ombre is the new black.

 

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We miss you, Gracie. Get well!

 

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Pairs podium at Skate America last weekend.

 

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Canadian showgirl in Japan… strike a pose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “An Olympic Season Upon Us

  1. kathy graham

    ok Tanya, as always you have a flair and way with words! Your humor I love! Still smiling and the costumes I liked! Enjoy the Season!

    • I didn’t get going too much on the costumes this season… I’m remarkably unimpressed with several of the men who look like they could be parking cars at fancy restaurants… sure, there’s a minimalist or 2 every season but this year they are well represented, lol! Glad you enjoyed it, Kathy! Thank you for reading & sharing!

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