45 Years

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A lot can happen in 45 years.

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Me, last fall (this is the only picture today that is mine.)

Like me! I’ve been happening for 45 years and I’ve happened to pack a fair bit into that time frame.

World views have changed, the climate has changed, musical, social and clothing styles have changed- I’ll note that I remain a huge fan of the music from the 70’s but not so much the clothing- and the world just keeps spinning around on its axis knocking another year off its list.

In 45 years the world went from rotary dial phones and party lines to instant messaging and real-time video chats!

While its remarkable all of things that can happen within 45 years, its equally remarkable for the things that didn’t happen in all that time.

It took 45 years for Canada to proudly put a woman figure skater back on the top step of the World podium.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond, en route to World gold!

I watched with tears streaming down my cheeks as the talented, powerful yet graceful Kaetlyn Osmond of Marysville, Newfoundland soared through her Black Swan routine nailing each element with her trademark flow and speed and landed herself on the top of the podium.

It hadn’t been done since Karen Magnussen won World’s in 1973.

Josee Choinard tried but always succumbed to her nerves. Jennifer Robinson wore the Canadian crown for almost a decade when it seemed like Canada couldn’t produce a serious ladies competitor. Jennifer never, ever threatened the podium. And Joannie Rochette came close with the silver medal but not the elusive gold.

 

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Canada’s Joannie Rochette at the Vancouver Olympics

Joannie had the goods. She was fast, daring, talented and beautiful. She was strong-willed and dedicated and she finally showed she also had the mental fortitude when she competed in Vancouver days after her mother had flown in from Montreal and then died from a heart attack.

Her coaches kept her in a private, secluded bubble and the press gave her some respectful breathing room as everyone wondered if she would compete in her home country or not.

She was the current World silver medalist from 2009, though, and Canada was really hoping to get another lady on an Olympic podium since Liz Manley stood there, in second place back in 1988. Joannie’s short program was wonderful and clean and I’ll never forget the image of her collapsing onto her knees, sobbing when she finished.

She earned Olympic bronze that year, which Kaetlyn was able to repeat in South Korea this year.

 

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Kaetlyn’s sassy Olympic short program in February (in Chloe & Isabel earrings from me!)

She leapt up 10 placings from her appearance in the Sochi games 4 years ago and was amidst a bit of a skating controversy despite the media’s lack of attention to it.

It wasn’t Kaetlyn’s fault. It wasn’t the judges’ fault, nor was it the fault of the 2 Russian skaters who won gold and silver. Its sort of the fault of the new International Judging System (IJS) that was implemented after the Salt Lake City Games where a judging scandal in the pairs event (Russians and Canadians again, go figure!) necessitated a change from the old 6.0 scoring.

The Russian champion, Alina Zagitova had all of her jumps in the second half of her program- everything done in the second half gets bonus points because if you’re a normal skater, it gets kind of hard to leap into the air the correct way, spin 3 times, maybe reach back, pick, and leap up again for 2 or 3 more rotations and land on your toe-pick and look pretty after 2 or 3 minutes.

 

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Zagitova after her long program to win the Olympic gold last month.

If you’re a pre-pubescent 15 year-old, though, you don’t know what exhaustion feels like and your body can jump-jump-jump to its heart’s content. Its a completely unpleasant routine to watch because of the layout and also because she throws her arms in the air above her head on every single jump (another point-getter in the IJS.) (Suggestion- limit it to 2 hands-above-head jumps, please!)

These IJS bonus points are there to create an objectified way of scoring skaters. Like goals scored in hockey or a time stamp for a runner, its figure skating’s way of making things fair and keeping personal preference or nationality away from the judge’s bench.

However, for the first time that I’ve really noticed, it made for ugly routines and unappealing skating for the two Russians, unlike the stylishly-crafted routines (done by Lance Vipond) of Kaetlyn’s.

 

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More of Kaetlyn’s Olympic short program

Zagitova landed everything. Her training-mate, Evgenia Medvedeva landed just about everything but she also had a strategically created routine with arms up and big tricks near the end but it was a more pleasing routine. Kaetlyn skated with tremendous height to her jumps, flow going in & coming out of them with strength and style.

I would have put Zagitova in third.

And in an Olympic year, not everyone continues on to the World championships held just weeks later. Joannie Rochette understandably did not in 2010. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir didn’t compete in Milan this month at world’s after their Olympic glory and neither did the Olympic men’s champ, Yuzuru Hanyu.

Even Evgenia Medvedeva skipped a chance to reclaim her World title this year but young Zagitova joined Kaetlyn, Carolina Kostner, Gabby Daleman, and the 3 American Olympians, Tennel, Nagasu and Chan in Italy for the final event of the figure skating season.

 

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Carolina Kostner after her amazing short program in Milan

Imagine the skating world’s surprise as home-country Carolina Kostner skated to 1st place after the short! Carolina, herself looked shocked and the incredible 32 year-old got to take home a shiny gold medal (they do a “small medal” ceremony for the short program podium).

Also with a small medal was Zagitova in 2nd, less than a full point behind Kostner. Kaetlyn, fighting back the post-Olympic blues, was 4th.

The post-Olympic blues exist. Not that I speak from experience but I sure would have loved a shot at that kind of depression. Highly decorated Michael Phelps is speaking out about the crash after such a high, especially when a medal or 2 is involved and I read in one of Kaetlyn’s interviews that she really had to rally to get her mind in the game for World’s.

 

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Kaetlyn & Ravi realizing she had won bronze in South Korea. What a high! (Michael Slipchuk from Canada is off on the left.)

Rally she did, though, and after several skaters, including the surprising Wakaba Higuchi from Japan who leapt to the top of the scoreboard an hour earlier, the sad and uninspired performance of Carolina Kostner who made several mistakes in front of the supportive Italian crowd,  and the shock of all shocks when Zagitova tumbled to the ice (and off the podium), Kaetlyn had the skate of her life and leapt into first place on World ice.

Two deserving Japanese skaters joined her on the podium, Higuchi in 2nd and Satoyo Miyahara in 3rd.

 

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Miyahara and her teensy, tiny jumps heading for the bronze.

Zagitova and her coaches were speechless. They’ve commented since that they will review everything and try to figure out why their 15 year-old skated so terribly that day. Carolina has shrugged her shoulders and is happy with her small world medal but hasn’t announced if she’s retiring or not.

The medals were placed around the ladies’ necks and the flags were raised. All 3 took to the ice, Kaetlyn wrapped in a Canadian flag and they did their victory lap, waving to the crowd. Nobody told Kaetlyn that they’d laid a carpet down and there is ample footage out in cyberspace of her nailing it and crashing to the ice.

Everyone is giggling and smiling, including the 2 Japanese skaters who helped Ms.Osmond back to her feet. Typical Canadian, she just laughed it off.

 

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2018 World’s podium (before the wipe out)

And Canada once again has a ladies world champion.

She hasn’t been back to Canada yet to receive a hero’s welcome in either of her “home towns” of Marysville or Edmonton, Alberta. She jetted off to Japan for a 2-week stint of Stars on Ice. She’ll be back in the land of the maple leaf for the Canadian 2-week Stars on Ice tour soon and I’m sure she will be adored.

I wonder if they’ll make a Kaetlyn Osmond doll like they did with Karen Magnussen (I had one! I have no clue where it is….)

 

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The K-Mag doll of the 70s!

 

At this point Kaetlyn says she is committed to continuing to compete and even wants to feel an Olympic rush yet again.

I’m so glad I’ve been here these 45 years to be a part of this. I’m so proud of my friend, Ravi, who has coached Kaetlyn since she was 10 years old. How lucky we all are to hopefully see more of this talented athlete and hey, I’m looking forward to seeing if Zagitova survives puberty (many Russian ladies are dumped at that point) and to see what she brings to the table. Will Carolina continue? How about Miriah Nagasu and the other American ladies? We need to get American ladies back on top, too.

Until next season’s B events roll around (check out Salt Lake city in the fall for the International classic- these skaters on a test run! I’ve been twice and its super cheap and super cool!), its all speculation. Regardless, GR8 SK8, Kaetlyn Osmond!

 

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Canada’s Josee Choinard, so pretty, so talented, so stylish. Just could never get the mental hang of it.

 

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Zagitova at World’s, still hoping to hold it together at this point.

 

APTOPIX Italy Figure Skating Worlds

Oh, Canada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Winter… or, More Stories for the Christmas Letter

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Fun on the horse trailer yesterday! (Note: non of the figure skating photos that follow are mine.)

Lots of zany things happen on the Fyfe farm and I’ve happily shared a lot of them with you all. When one goofy moment or accident has occurred during our more than 20 years together Alistair and I often said, “that’s a story for the Christmas letter.” This epic winter is one more story.

The tremendous snow load coupled with two heavy rain episodes over the past 2 months has made for extremely difficult and damaging conditions. Old time locals are quick to point out that they had snow amounts like this 20 and 30 years ago but what is drastically different is that back then it got cold, everything froze and remained frozen until late February or March. You can handle snow situations like that.

But when we got the first and then second rain events after dumps of snow this winter it created a horrid layer of soft slush that made plowing a real challenge.

And then more snow!

 

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Some of “the Crew” hard at it.

Sadly the rain also caused buildup in the troughs where sections of our enormous roof meet at 90 degrees and snow wasn’t able to slide off like other areas of the roof and for the first time in 11 years, we have ceiling, wall and possible floor damage.

As the snow melted it had nowhere else to go but inside our ceiling and then down the insides of the walls. This was discovered when I kneeled in front of the wood stove one night and my knee was sopping wet.

Enter the insurance company (I sent pictures more for record, not expecting them to leap into things so quickly.) Our adjuster was out the next day and within 2 days we had a restoration company as well as a snow removal company descend upon us.

 

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Living room- you can see the drywall damage on the back wall.

And now we have a few of these bad boys scattered throughout the house with large fans surrounding them. It sounds like we’re living in an airplane hangar in most areas of the house.

 

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Master bathroom

Thankfully our house is large enough that we can escape quite comfortably to the main guest room which has no damage and no big, blue DriEaz unit and fans whirling away. The cats were put off the first 24 hours but they’re both curled up by the woodstove right now, which has its own DriEaz and fan-friend right there.

Unfortunately our landscaping took a hit with all of the heavy equipment that was up here to move snow from here to there. Part of the problem is the size of the house & yard but after 2 full days of rumbling, back-up beeping and hauling snow, most of the house was cleared  out.

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Mountain of moved snow with Alistair for perspective. Back-yard “view”.

Until this morning when another foot lay on the ground to welcome another wintery day.

And more snow is falling and Big Red’s engine block heater is dead and today it decided to get cold & windy and a part on the huge red snowblower broke and Alistair has had to widen the driveway back & forth with the tractor bucket and twice he’s got trusty Big Red stuck and twice Big Silver was able to winch him out and our back deck is completely busted under the weight of the snow from above as well as the snow from our roof and we don’t know what insurance will cover and Restoration Dude actually said, “those walls are going to have to go.”

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The 1st time Big Red got stuck last week (thank-you, Big Silver, for the pull!)

 

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Today’s shenanigans. Note the new snow on top of the vet box today!

My sister was checking in on me and asked how I was coping. She was giving me permission to lose my shit but I told her the truth.

I’m good.

That might not be the case if Alistair weren’t here, or if we had lost power for any significant amount of time, or if the pet food and my wine supply were getting low but, really, things could be so much worse.

And the Olympics are happening which is a huge part of my inner peace and happiness right now even if tears are streaming down my face every night I watch figure skating.

 

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Team Canada for the gold in the team event!

There have been awesome highs and incredible lows. The medalists themselves have not been surprising although there definitely have been some skating surprises!

The pairs event saw medal hopefuls, Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot from Germany in 4th place after their individual short program. She looked like she was going to rip his throat out with her bare hands during their interview and he was pale, obviously shaken and absolutely silent. Aliona has competed in 5 Olympics. She got 3rd at the last one and her partner wanted to move on to real life afterwards. She basically hand-picked Bruno and trained, no, groomed him to be an Olympian of her caliber.

 

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Pairs finalists- no surprises here but a nerve-wracking way to get to this.

And they won the long program with a touching, stunning, emotional performance and tears flowed and nobody was upset with them standing atop the podium. Sui & Han, the youngsters from China with their own tale of injuries, highs and lows were 2nd with a mistake in the long and Canada’s Duhamel & Radford finally stood on an Olympic podium by themselves.

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This picture says it all at the outdoor awards ceremony.

While I never wanted to see that glaring yellow and black polka dot dress from the skaters representing Russia, it was heartbreaking to see Evgenia Tarasova fall to pieces as their marks came up after their long program. It was uncharacteristic to see them falter during their skate, particularly when they had been in second place after the short.

Skating is like that. Ice is slippery.

 

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Nobody wants to see exceptional athletes falter at the Games

The world joined me in watching Nathan Chen struggle mightily in his second short program of these Olympics. Slips, shakes and wipe-outs, the quad king faltered so horribly that he was in 17th place after his individual short program and in obvious shock in his interviews.

He had had to wait to skate following Yuzuru Hanyu’s fabulous, perfect short program, the cheers and screams of his fans, the tossing of every Pooh-bear South Korea could sell onto the ice, the gathering of said Pooh-bears, the announcement of Hanyu’s 111-point score (!!) and once again, the shouts and applause from his pronounced fan base. Normally when you skate 2nd, you hang right around the ice surface, you keep your skates on and you don’t cool down. I think he started to cool down and it was too long, too loud and too amazing of a break when he heard that score.

 

He laid low and his coach, Rafael Artuniun let him work things through with gentle encouragement and the next night we watched him make history with a routine packed with 6 quads (5 were outstanding!), style, charm and finesse. He won the long program after being such a mess the night before.

 

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Nathan and Coach Rafael after his brilliant, record-breaking long program.

Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan, the reigning Olympic champ after Sochi 4 years ago, stood on the top step on the podium again even though Chen’s freeskate outscored his. Hanyu has a quirky quality about him and his confidence, training and sheer talent got him through an injured ankle (kind of an important part of a figure skater’s body) and the media circus that followed him.

His teammate, Shoma Uno skated well enough but also made just enough of a mistake to win the silver medal, a first for him on Olympic ice. He still looked petulant on the podium at times; I’m not sure if he envies Hanyu’s following or his gold medal but Uno often appears annoyed at his placement unless he’s standing up top. I don’t know him, though, so maybe he’s just shy. Regardless, he’s a beautiful skater and deserved the scores he received.

 

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Spain’s first bronze medal in Olympic figure skating! 

Rounding out the top 3 is the talented, charming Spaniard, Javier Fernandez. This one got me crying again because of all that he has done to promote figure skating in Spain. He didn’t know how to train or even glide across the ice let alone project emotions to an audience when he signed on with Tracy Wilson & Brian Orser in Toronto but he worked hard and he never gave up. He’s won World titles so its no shock to see him here but its touching and its tender and he was just so. freaking. happy. to win bronze.

 

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Men’s Olympic medalists!

Tonight the Beautiful People will take to the ice in Ice Dance. Everyone skates to the same beat and one pattern of their routine will be the short-pattern Rhumba but the routines will all vary significantly. The men will all likely have low cut tops and the moves will be sexy and flirty and we’ll all hold our breath as the twizzle sections begin. I can’t wait.

Alistair continues to move snow from here to there as I type and hopefully we’ll get Big Red into town for his new engine block heater to be installed this week.

We will wait & see what our restoration crew says tomorrow after these dehumidifiers and fans ran all weekend and then we’ll wait & see what the insurance company says and where we go from there.

 

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We did it! 

Through it all we’ll continue to share on social media (@tanyafyfe on Instagram) with grins and smiles and Aloha music playing in the background. There’s no point getting upset with the weather- there’s not a damned thing I can do about it so might as well have some fun and just be patient in moving snow from here to there.

Maybe if they made snow removal an Olympic sport, Alistair and I would be favored gold medalists. Would we represent Canada or the US, though? Now THAT would be a story for the Christmas letter!

 

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Training for Olympic snow shoveling!

Think positive thoughts for Tessa & Scott, the ShibSibs, Cizeron & Papadakis, Hubbel & Donohue and all the great skaters who will Choctaw, twizzle and sizzle their way through their short dances tonight. I’m sure I’ll be crying.

 

Enjoy the heck out of the ice dancers and then the ladies afterwards later in the week. Congrats to all the athletes in every sport for making it to the pinnacle of sport in PyeongChang. The Olympics are ON!

 

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Alistair can compete in the combined event: snow-removal and ice sculpting!

 

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Yesterday, outside our front door after “the Crew” finished. There’s over a foot of new snow back there now, though. 

 

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Waiting to be winched out of the pile of snow today!

 

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We managed to find some Aloha yesterday once all the work was done. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its Olympic Week!!!

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The Olympics!!!

Its here! Its here! Amidst international tensions and frustrations and with all the drama required for the heralded sporting event that occurs every 4 years, South Korea will be welcoming the world this week for the twenty-third Olympic Winter Games!

While I’m particularly glued to the figure skating events, I absolutely love watching all of it. I love seeing the skiers fly down the slippery mountains at break-neck speeds; I get a huge kick out the high-flying snowboarders whose first gold medal hero was Ross Rebagliati from Canada; I shake my head at the sheer insanity of laying on a board on your back as the lugers do their thing in that tiny tube; and curling and hockey both have a poutine-fed grip on my heart.

 

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We thought about making an Olympic push… note, this photo and the very last one are mine. All of the other photos are not my photos.

But it is the figure skating that will have me with tears streaming down my face as I watch. They’re tears of joy and happiness and they come from an athletic and artistic part of me.

The Games officially start on Friday, the 9th with the opening ceremony that night. NBC once again has broadcasting dibs and they tend to do a great job. Tara Lipinski and Johnny Wier are former top-tier American skaters who handle a lot of the commentary and I find them to be hilarious (I can’t wait to see Johnny’s outfits!) and also pretty accurate in the things they talk about.

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Alina Zagitova en route to the European gold medal

Predictions? I have a few thoughts, but remember, ice is slippery. Irina Slutskaya coined that phrase years ago and she’s absolutely right.

In the ladies event, while everyone assumed Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva would win because that’s all she does, her country-mate might have something to say about that. Skating her long program to one of this year’s several Swan Lakes, 15 year-old Alina Zagitova has the arsenal and the grit to win it all.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of her style yet because she’s only 15. Evgenia is a bit of an artist and skates with more maturity at all of 18. They both have the ability to stand on the top step of the podium when the last event of the figure skating competition ends Feb.22nd.

 

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Carolina Kostner

Speaking of skating with maturity, the one pure artist in the field also has a chance to once again win an Olympic medal. Italy’s Carolina Kostner (Caro to her fans) skates with joy, passion, style and finesse. Oh, and she can jump, too. She can also rock a sparkly green unitard with flesh-tone cutouts like pretty much nobody I know. She will turn 31 on Feb.8th, and she was an innocent young Italian flag-bearer back in Torino.

 

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Kaetlyn Osmond!

Who do I want on the podium? Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond and not because she’s from the Great White North. It has more to do with her coach, Ravi, who was one of my great skating friends growing up. Kaetlyn lost her Canadian crown last month and I’m hoping its put some fire underneath her. She usually has a solid short program but she needs to bring 2 clean routines to the rink in order to beat clean Russians. She won silver at World’s last year behind Medvedeva so she’s no stranger to success.

 

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Kaetlyn & Ravi at the Olympics in Sochi 4 years ago

I’m not ruling out our new US national champ, Bradie Tennell because she has the goods, too, but isn’t well-known on the international scene and that counts somewhat in figure skating although the Olympics is known for once-in-a-lifetime performances from American skaters. (Sarah Hughes, Paul Wylie, Tara Lipinski…)

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USA’s Bradie Tennell

The men’s game was supposed to be a contest between Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno but Hanyu has been sidelined with an injury for a lot of the season. He didn’t even compete at Japanese nationals or the recent Four Continents and there is a bit of a buzz he won’t be 100%. Uno is coming off a 2nd-place finish at Four Continents and he can be a bit of a poopy-pants when he doesn’t win.

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Shoma Uno, Four Continents a couple of weeks ago

His skating is sublime, though, and the little guy can jump. China’s Boyang Jin is the guy who beat him at Four Continents and he’s a quad-machine himself. He doesn’t have the style or maturity of many other competitors but if it comes down to a jump-off he could be up there.

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Spanish heartthrob, Javier Fernandez

If we’re talking less jumps and more quality skating then Javi Fernandez, shown here after winning his 5th European title last year (he won his 6th last month), has to be part of the discussion. He trains with Hanyu at Brian Orser’s barn up in Canada and his Charlie Chaplin routine is a lot of fun when he nails the jumps.

The Russians have a couple of guys who could contend and Adam Rippon will hopefully be entertaining despite not having a reliable quad (he’ll have plenty of media time, I’m sure, given the fact he’s the first openly gay US skater to compete at the Olympics) and Canada’s Patrick Chan is a master of gliding and fancy footwork. (P Chiddy is also training in Edmonton with my friend, Ravi now, too!)

But the one everyone will be gunning for is the young American, Nathan Chen. I’ve talked about him here and how he is the quad master. He is insane with his amazing technique and he’s artistic, too! The sky is the limit for the US Champion and while I’m not sure we need to see 5 quads in one routine or that young men’s backs and knees are going to hold up to that kind of stress, Chen is going to make this one interesting competition (especially now that he’s ditched his terrible duds and has suited up in some snazzy Vera Wang!)

 

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Nathan Chen at US Nationals

The pairs event has some drama and we aren’t even in PyeongChang yet. The IOC has banned Russia from sending a contingent of athletes, which sucks big time because Russians are usually dominant in many winter sports and they make it exciting. In Sochi they pulled off an elaborate doping scandal (they switched out the vials of pee) and the IOC is holding them accountable to it (glad some governing parties have the balls to do that.)

Medvedeva gets to go, though, as do other petitioned athletes but they will not have the Russian anthem played if they medal and they won’t do the ceremonies under the Russian Flag. For whatever reason, Russian pair skater, Ksenia Stolbova, who won silver in Sochi with partner, Fedor Klimov, is banned. She wasn’t named in the doping scandal but she’s still not allowed to go. They’ve had a rough couple of seasons and they weren’t on my hot list but it still stinks to have that taken away from her.

 

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Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres at Europeans last month

I think if France’s James & Cipres skate clean they could medal. The judges want to give them medals and we all want to watch them skate (seen their Sounds of Silence routine? **shudders**) but they have to be solid. China’s pairs teams are always top notch and with Cong and Han being reigning World champs it would be cool if they won. (Mostly because they are both super short and it would make for a cute podium picture if they were on top and the guys on either side would be way taller.)

 

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Tiny but tough!

Canada’s Duhamel & Radford will be heartstring favorites and I think the American hubby-wife Knierems could be media darlings but the event belongs to Russians Tarasova and Morozov who, with their La La Land routine, have won everything they’ve entered this year. While I can’t fathom that hideous polka-dotted outfit on the top step, they are lovely, talented skaters who are fun to watch.

 

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Evgenia Tarasova & Vladamir Morozov. And polka dots.

I’m not emotionally ready to talk Ice Dance just yet. I know Alistair will be shaking his head at me when we’re watching Tessa & Scott and I’m crying away. Their ethereal training-mates, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have the World record in points as of Europeans last month and I fear that they could win the title. Tessa & Scott have 2 fabulous routines and there is this thing about them when they skate- you can’t take your eyes off of them and they are so sexy and cool you want to be just like them. There are the twizzling Shib Sibs, too, and their Coldplay long program is outstanding and you can’t rule out Russians Bobrova & Soloviev.

(Tessa & Scott are carrying the Canadian flag in the opening ceremonies, too… more tears!)

The short dance is the Rhumba, remember, so everyone has to do a section of that set pattern dance while mixing in Latin dance moves and low cut tops for the men. Ice Dancers are generally the Beautiful People anyhow and this short dance and several top couples have the ability to make you blush while watching (while grinning madly at the same time.)

So I’ll save the Ice Dance for the Olympics.

 

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Papadakis & Cizeron… they are pretty incredible.

Team events start with the men’s short, then pairs, ice dancers and the ladies all happening next weekend. Its a fun, slightly more relaxed event where everyone cheers each other on in the Kiss & Cry area. The solo events start on the 13th with the pairs short and their long the next day. They are followed by the men, the ice dancers and, finally, wrapping up yet another Olympic experience will be the ladies.

I cheer for all the countries and all the athletes. I want to see them all bring it and have their special Olympic moments. I love talking skating so feel free to share your thoughts and comments or hook up with me on Facebook because I’ll certainly be posting there during the Games.

5 days to go! Bring on the XXIII Winter Olympic Games!

 

Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir

 

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Evgenia Medvedeva

 

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I’ve always enjoyed Italian ice dancers Anna Capalini & Luca Lanotte

 

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A toast to the Olympics. Ravi’s and my late coach, Dr.Helmut May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow, Ice and Sun

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Front door views a few days ago

With the snow storm we had last week I still haven’t made much of a dent in the snow removal even though my shoulders and back beg to differ.

I did manage to shovel out one of the rigs and also made it into town one day after a week of being snow-bound up here at the farm. The shoveling took place over 3 days and provided a profound sense of relief that I could get a reliable vehicle out if I needed to.

It also gave me a little “I am woman, hear me roar” shot in the arm, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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Things are even wider now after I got the truck out of there.

We are still dealing with continual power failures throughout the county as snow-laden trees eventually give out under the heavy weight and topple onto electrical lines. Yesterday was particularly bad as we’d had a tiny bit of drizzle and wind and I had no juice for over 4 hours.

I was just starting to get the candles out when the house surged back to life and I could turn the propane fireplaces off and the computer back on.

The drizzle also got the snow on our roof moving…

 

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Right outside the garage door this morning. Surprise!!!

And once again I’m faced with the dilemma of having nowhere left to put the snow!

 

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the path to the garage…

I managed to shovel out an area to access the pathway and Cleo and I did just fine. My shoulders and back aren’t talking to me like they did when I first picked up the shovel last week so I’m feeling pretty Mighty Mouse right about now.

And the sun has been out today which makes this ridiculous amount of snow actually appear pretty. I love seeing sparkles where I walk with the blue sky reflecting on the brilliant white snow that crunches beneath my feet.

 

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Look- blue sky!!!

My reward for moving snow from here to there or for coming up with heating and cooking options when I was without power for hours is the television viewing on-hand this weekend.

First up is the PGA Tournament of Champions held annually in Kapalua, Maui. Not only do I get to see palm trees, leaping whales, a brilliant ocean and some great golfers, I get to re-live the actual course on the phone at night with Alistair as its a course we have played a few times and both really enjoy.

 

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Our first time playing the Plantation Course in 2015.

Its cool knowing the way a hole slopes or how huge that ravine on the 8th is when watching some of the top players on Tour battle it out. Dustin Johnson has a great lead right now and I’m DVR-ing today’s final round so I can buzz through commercials later on while I’m eating my supper.

 

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The Plantation Course at Kapalua. (not my picture)

I can almost feel the trade winds flutter my skort and the warm, humid air that coats my skin when we’re on the islands and I can smell sunblock and the ocean and I can almost taste a mai tai and hear the cubes of ice jingle against the glass and I feel the Aloha that exists around and within me and the golf station plays our much-loved Hawaiian tunes as they fade in and out of the tournament.

Its a lovely break from the grey, white and blue world I’ve been buried in for over a week.

 

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Ahhhh… golf at Kapalua (2016)

 

During my visual return to paradise I’ll pause the ukulele music and swaying palms while I watch my other DVR-ed weekend highlight: the US figure skating national championships happening in San Jose right now!

While there haven’t been any dislocated shoulders the American skating world has still provided its share of drama.

Sadly, Ashley Wagner once again wore her poopy-pants face as her troubled season continued. To put it simply, she just didn’t land the jumps. 5th after the short, 3rd in the long and 4th overall, the US former national champion and one-time World silver medalist came up short when it was time to choose the Olympic team.

 

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Ashley, Ashley, Ashley. (not my picture).

Ashley likes to call herself “assertive” and “outspoken” but I have found her to be just a tad annoying. She has claimed that the judges gave her low scores to intentionally hold her down, which is likely untrue but maybe they have found her to be annoying as well.

She’s a good skater but she’s had a rough season. I don’t know what or who is to blame but she doesn’t light up the rink like she has in the past. She has a top coach, lots of sponsorship this year, gorgeous dresses… but you still have to rotate and land the jumps.

And don’t get pissy when the 3 women who earned medals get named to the Olympics. Ashley was 4th four years ago at Nationals and they gave her an Olympic berth instead of Mirai Nagasu, who that year won bronze. Ashley was “outspoken” then about her right to be named to the team so shut up this time.

 

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Mirai, Bradie and Karen (not my picture).

Who’s going to South Korea in 33 days, then? Boom, Mirai Nagasu earned her way with her silver medal-winning, triple-axel attempting, confidant, mature program. I’m so happy she redeemed herself after a couple of low years after they selected Ashley to go to Sochi over her.

And fresh, charming, Cinderella-esque Bradie Tennel gets to go after she won our hearts and the national title! She skated with tremendous consistency, flow and style and her huge jumps are something to watch.

Rounding out the group is last year’s national champ, Karen Chen. She hasn’t had a stellar season but the fact she placed 4th at the world championships last year is why we get to send 3 women to the Olympics and her bronze-medal performance this weekend is worthy of the 5 rings.

 

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Adam Rippon earlier this season (not my photo).

Not to be outdone by the women, the men’s Olympic selection had some drama only this time it came from the selection committee.

No surprise that quad-tastic Nathan Chen swept the competition. He finally had a great look thanks to Vera Wang costumes and deserved top spot on the podium and a ticket to South Korea.

And while I’m not surprised Adam Rippon is going despite a poor long program and 4th place finish last night- he did have a super Grand Prix season and is one of our top men in all aspects of skating- I’m shocked that the committee left Ross Miner off the team.

 

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Ross, 2nd, Nathan, 1st, Vincent, 3rd and Adam, 4th (pewter medal) (not my picture).

 

Ross has been a steady men’s competitor for years, seems like a super nice guy and was Olympic-inspired enough to bring the house down last night with his Queen-medly-quest and he won the silver medal. Why on Earth is he not going to the Olympics?

Isn’t the whole thing about having that one amazing moment in time? I agree that the national podium shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all for Olympic and World team members but why did they jump over 3rd place Vincent Zhou, who is young but has an arsenal of quads, and give Miner the boot?

Maybe I just answered my own question there. Quads. Medal tallies.

 

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Hubby-wife duo, the Knierems are the lone pairs reps for the US heading to the Olympics. (not my picture.)

Figure skating has tried changing their judging system around after the scandal in Salt Lake City to prove that its a legitimate sport and that nothing political happens in the background but not sending Ross Miner to the Olympics just put a political rubber stamp on the whole thing.

And yet, I continue to love the sport.

Next weekend will be similar but different.

I’m sure I’ll have buckets of snow to look at and move from one place to another.

Golf will still be played with Aloha as the tour moves to Oahu.

And my friends in Canada will be working their sequined butts off at their own national championship in Vancouver.

 

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Go, Tessa & Scott! (not my picture)

The best part about next weekend, though, is the fact that Alistair will be here to share it all with me.

We have never been to Oahu so we won’t have the same feelings watching the golf but the palms, the water, the whales and the Aloha will still be there. And maybe Rickie Fowler will debut another decidedly non-uptight, untucked Hawaiian shirt on the golf course!

And Alistair can use the big manly-man tractor and snow blower to make more sense out of our landscape.

 

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Our “patio” area this afternoon

Because I’m not making much sense out of what’s out there right now by myself! Now… its time to watch the Free Dance. Go, Shibutanis!

 

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Ah, Kapalua… the famed par 3 8th and that pesky ravine!

 

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I’m so happy for Mirai! (Clearly not my photo)

 

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The 2-tiered deck behind our bedroom today after “the slide.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Different World

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Pretty skies over central and western Montana last week

I had an extended drive home to Montana from Bismarck, North Dakota last week which provided an opportunity to reflect on these past ten years since we moved to Seeley Lake.

There isn’t much about our worlds that has stayed the same. Other than the fact Alistair spends half his time in Bismarck and I primarily live in Seeley Lake, most aspects of our worlds are completely different now.

While Alistair still runs an urgent care, Walk In clinic in downtown Bismarck, he now works for Sanford Health, not MedCenter One and he’s in a different building than he was in 10 years ago.

As far as careers go, I was working 3 days a week in Missoula and 2 days here in Seeley Lake and I hadn’t leapt into opening my own clinic yet.

 

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Cute little clinic I eventually opened.

Alistair and I spent Christmas apart that very first winter and we hadn’t even taken possession of our beautiful mountain home yet.

I was still skating well and able to land double jumps because I had been coaching regularly while working part time at a veterinary clinic before we came to Montana. I managed to skate in Missoula a few days a week the first year and even guest skated in the club’s year-end ice show.

 

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Missoula skating club program. I loved that dress!

 

While I had a blast returning to the ice in Canada to coach this past summer, there’s no way I’d be able to curve around the ice in a pretty spread eagle and then 3-turn into a double loop like I could in Bismarck 10 years ago.

In fact, I could barely get up after kneeling to line up a putt after the first week of high level choreography, power skating, stroking and general coaching.

Speaking of lining up putts, I would have laughed hysterically if you had told me, 10 years ago, that Alistair and I would be addicted to golf now.

 

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Seeley Swan Veterinary golf team members…. the first round of golf for us together!

 

What began as a whimsical day of laughter and drinks as we swung and missed and broke golf clubs at the local pond hockey fundraiser has turned into an obsession. One that we’re both jonesen’ for now that both of our courses have closed for the season.

We have a course in Washburn, North Dakota we enjoy playing on and one here in Seeley Lake. Both are often pretty quiet so we can play “Fyfe Golf” and shamelessly hunt for balls to keep the cheap Doukhobor and the even cheaper Scotsman happy. And both courses are beautiful, as well, each with its own unique quirks and challenges.

 

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Playing at Painted Woods in ND this summer.

We take our clubs with us everywhere, even on flights and we’ve been able to enjoy rounds in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, a teensy town outside of Regina, Kenmare, Medora, Fernie, Whitefish, Missoula, Helena, and all over Kauai, the Big Island and Maui. We’ve both improved immensely and we can’t wait to get back out there!

We even made time to hit the indoor driving range when I was back in Bismarck last week. We both got the Big Bucket and hit balls until our shoulders sagged and our thighs were sore. And we loved it!

 

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At the indoor driving range last week!

And I’m reminded of another change right now as the house is full of the unmistakable smell of yummy food that’s been simmering away for hours. While I was a good cook 10 years ago its as though my culinary skills are now on steroids since I won a Rouxbe online cooking course earlier this year.

Its a win-win for everyone who visits because of the cool things I’ve learned and the things I’ve tried. Steamed chicken? Who knew? The ridiculously challenging Pasta Boscaiola full of creamy mushrooms and diced prosciutto- Wow!

 

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Steamed lemon-garlic chicken I tried for the first time a few nights ago.

I’m learning the how’s and why’s of things and creating flavors and flavor profiles that I never understood before. I could follow a recipe just fine but now I actually get the order of things and how to maybe make something better. I usually only do the online lessons when Alistair isn’t here and it has been a fun addition to my life. Right now I’m simmering my own chicken stock (I just added the Bouqet Garni) that I’m making using chicken bones & bits I normally would have thrown out from roasted chickens that I never used to make but we just love to eat now!

 

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Simmer away, my pretty! (pre bouquet garni.)

I’ve also re-invented myself in that I took the time when I closed my clinic to live the childhood dream and write a book. Then I learned all about self publishing and since I began I have created a series of 3 upbeat, light-hearted, won’t-make-you-question-life-God-or-the-world, teen fiction books that are loved by people of all ages.

Lost and Found in Missing Lake, the first book, was a dream come true, even if it was pretty frightening putting myself and my imagination out there. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd books are fabulous works of art done by our friend, Ben Brick who is a graphics artist and this winter I’m focusing on trying to get the books some more attention.

 

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My 3rd book, published this spring! 

I just love writing and creating characters and worlds and I’ve been able to combine my passion for veterinary medicine in this series and its been so well-received that this winter instead of getting going on book 4, I’ve decided to work with a media marketing group and try to grow my distribution.

I want to share more of Luke and Tabitha’s story with my fans but it would be even better if I could have way more fans to share it with.

I do get to write all year with this little blog thing I now do that I certainly didn’t do 10 years ago. Heck, I had no clue about social media 10 years ago and thought blogging was for people with nothing better to do.

 

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Me, writing last week’s blog.

No offense, Bloggers. I didn’t think much of golfers 10 years ago, either!

The blog has been great for my writing and for promoting my book and for connecting with individuals around the world. It has, most importantly for me, though, been an unexpected outlet for me to share my thoughts, fears and worries when I have to face choices and loss with our animal companions.

Sadly, 10 years ago we had 4 dogs and 11 cats (3 of them were barn kitties.) In the 10 years we grew to a family that included another dog, 2 guinea pigs and up to 3 ferrets at our peak.

 

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Cleo, Casey, UB and Harry… not all that long ago, really.

A blessing to closing my clinic was being able to spend such amazing quality time with all of these cool spirits and I’ve been sharing their stories with the blogosphere. It has been wonderful having you all get to know “the kids”

Phillipa, Calypso and Luigi were outstanding ferret ambassadors and I wish I could be singing Christmas carols on the Sing-Song Saddle with them to share with you all right now but, sadly, that’s not the case.

But I was able to write through my feelings and sort of sort them out through my fingers on this screen. 10 years ago I had my journal (which I still maintain) and now I have this platform as well.

 

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Do you know how hard it used to be to get them all facing the camera?

Our horse collection was a lot larger 10 years ago and included our gorgeous stallion, Dash, who we had to say goodbye to a couple of summers ago. The broodmares, Raven and Cocoa are now buried alongside my riding horse, Spyder, along with Flash and Brutus as these 10 years has taken its toll on the herd.

The remaining bunch are wintering again in North Dakota and their fuzzy hair coats are a sign that the cold weather is coming.

 

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Siblings, Fumie & Frankie just last week!

Its pretty mild in North Dakota so far this winter, though. I just got off the phone with Alistair and he was outside on the tractor moving hay from here to there for a large part of the day and never had to come inside or shove his toes into a heater to get warm.

I’ve strained my broth and have it cooling and its almost time to put the noodles into the crock pot. I had a brisk walk up the driveway with our one remaining pup, Cleo, who is 14 and also isn’t the same as she was 10 years ago.

She has a wicked heart murmur (not as loud as Loki’s was, mind you), she’s completely deaf and her back legs don’t do what they’re supposed to all of the time. We keep her on meds for arthritis and she’s inside most of the time and she seems content to just be with us.

 

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Miss Cleopatra last week in Bismarck

And we never used to go to Hawaii but that is a part of our world now and the Grand Prix final of figure skating happened this weekend and a good friend is there with his Canadian champ and I wear glasses to read and Alistair now makes me Caesars and he’s a martini-man instead of a scotch man and our Relaxation Grotto out back is finally coming together where 10 years ago it was a deck and I sleep better and more than I used to, give or take a random insomnia spell, and my hair is shorter than its been in years and I sling bling and I’m working on something else that is all a part of improving my marketability and I really, really want people to read my books!

A lot has happened in 10 years for the Fyfes and some of its been a wild ride and other times we’ve just coasted through the changes like pros, often not even aware changes were occurring.

Thankfully our love of big breakfasts and yummy meals with good coffee or a fine wine together hasn’t changed.

Neither has the ongoing crib match.

 

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Who ARE these people?

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My first book event in Bismarck!

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We love Aloha!

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2005 with a very young Cleopatra in Bismarck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coach Came Back

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Back on the ice! Virden, Manitoba last month.

My first language is Figure Skating.

First career language, that is.

I trained, competed, performed, and coached through the first 35 years of my life. I even skated, performed and coached off and on during vet school and after I became a veterinarian.

 

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2007, my Bismarck skaters during a video-review session

I’ve always enjoyed coaching and sharing my knowledge and love of skating with skaters of all ages and levels. The language flows fluently from my mouth when I explain the correct take-off for the flip and lutz jumps, how the skater has to mimic a pole vaulter with maintaining the momentum while vaulting themselves off of that extended toe pick behind them.

It reaches out through my arms and hands as I try to explain “Stupid Big Arms” with wide-sweeping, overly dramatic arm moves.

Its the language I used to speak without words when I could whip off killer flying camels or ridiculously consistent double toe-loops.

 

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1995, Watford City with the first Raise The Roof crew! I could still whip off the skills back then…

As I close in on turning 45 I have had to accept the changes to my body that I haven’t been in control of. Granted, the little extra around the tummy is my doing but my limbs don’t bend like they used to and my feet and thighs were inconsolable after the first few days back on the ice.

But I loved it.

I was given tasks to choreograph competitive routines and tweak ones that had already been designed earlier in the summer. Choreography has been a passion of mine ever since I was a young skater. I had my own routines but I also made new ones up to everyone else’s music at the rink. As I got older my coaches allowed me to have some creative control over my routines and I loved the task as a professional coach.

 

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Showgirl in Japan, 1992

So it was a blast to add swoopy arm moves and running turns to Caitlyn’s instrumental ‘Dog Days of Summer’ routine; I laughed as I threw sword-fight arms and dramatic lunges into both ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ routines for Cambrie and Haley; Abby got some fun footwork and funky arms for the part of her music that was heavy on the drums; I introduced more of an emotional welcome to Kiana’s Michael Buble routine; Charlotte worked on lengthening her reach and getting more dramatic as we repeatedly got down in our knees and held our poses to ‘Batman’; and Kylie’s arms, hands, elbows and feet are that much sharper with her Irish music.

And I learned some bad-ass moves myself when I got to research and then choreograph a pre-novice competitor’s long program…. to ‘Bollywood’.

Gasp!

Who knew there was so much Indian dancing on the Internet?

 

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Not Indian dancing but a fun routine the girls would sometimes do before the coaches hit the ice.

Creating and skating Lynice’s ‘Bollywood’ routine was a blast, particularly when both of us remembered what we were supposed to be doing and even more so when the moves hit the right notes of the music. If she competes well this year the routine could be seen on the national stage in Canada which is a dream for me and the routines I’ve created.

Paige and Rudy, the former Olympian Canadian pairs skaters who grew up in this very same rink with Coach Patti and some of these current skaters took one of my show routines I did for them overseas years ago. It was a Celine Dion piece (how Canadian is that?) and it was pretty fun.

 

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Rudy, me and Paige at the Salt Lake City International competition a few years ago.

As much as I missed UB and Cleo (who I left with their Daddy in Bismarck, ND) and as much as I missed the kitties, Sport, Bebe and Jockey (who Jessi took care of for us in MT), I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in long days of hard training for 2 full weeks in Virden.

I loved the routine of my morning latte at Timmy’s. Where one of the women began recognizing me and told me to “have a great day, my friend.” Just like that… my new tribe!

 

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My morning pit-stop.

Tim Horton’s is as much a Canadian institution as the Tragically Hip is our national band. And about that… my hosts had the radio playing and I got to hear Canadian Content, or Con-Can once again. The Bearnaked Ladies, Jan Arden, Sarah McLaughlan, the Hip, Bryan Adams and even Gordon Lightfoot played in the background.

I’d take my yummy latte to the rink where head coach, Patti, who I stayed with, would hand out our lesson sheets and discuss what we were doing in group lessons for the day and I’d bind my aching, blistered feet into their cement blocks for the day and off we went for 7 or 8 hours to create figure skaters!

 

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1993/94 season with my young protégé, Tyler… who was coached by Patti the following year and, years later, moved to Virden to coach for 2 years, himself! There is symmetry in everything…

Patti also had a handful of dedicated hockey players who had booked a private group all summer for power skating. Thankfully I had my hockey skates to strap on (which weren’t anywhere near as painful as the cement bricks that encased my wounded feet) and my power skating ‘bible’ to refer to and Coach Fyfe was back teaching the four phases of the forward stride, running starts, how to push down into the ice and Russian stroking passes.

Coaching power skating is, obviously, a lot different from figure skating but there are similarities.

The students were all pre-teen through teen years with their own background stories and drama happening away from their coaches’ eyes. They all wanted to be the best that they could be at their particular sport. Each of them had appropriate questions and answers during our lessons or they came armed with them the next time. And they were all high-achievers, dedicating several hours of every single day for 6 weeks to develop and hone their craft while many of their classmates were lounging by beaches or doing whatever it is that normal kids do during their summer holidays.

 

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Power Skating coach for the Jr. A Bismarck Bobcats on the lower left. Not sure this gang appreciated my drills as much as the young men in Virden this summer…

It was different from when I coached power skating to the Bismarck Bobcats in the early 2000’s. Those guys “had” to work with me twice a week thanks to their Canadian coach, John, who understood the value of having some sweet skating skills and speed. No sense being the best puck handler or goal-scorer if you can’t get to the puck first, right?

So the coach came back, as the title says, and the coach had fun.

And I got to explore golf courses in both Virden and Rivers, Manitoba thanks to Patti, Julie, Lil, Cindy and my dear friend, Karla.

 

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Fab, fearsome foursome in Virden!

I also got to play our ND golf course, Painted Woods with Alistair on weekends when I drove the 4 hours to get down to Bismarck.

 

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Painted Woods, just before I went back up to Virden for one more week!

And we’re back to smoky Montana next to the highest priority fire in the nation with hazardous air quality and a Red Flag Warning now through tomorrow night where I can’t quite see the nearby hills and mountains and half the community is on pre-evacuation orders and the horse trailer is hooked up and our foyer is full of important things hubby boxed up for me before he had to leave yet again for ND. And there was a bit of tragedy on the ND Fyfe Farm and our horse herd is one head smaller while I was in Virden but Alistair was able to handle it veterinary-style when he knew nothing more could be done. And I’m back to my online cooking course where I had the knowledge and confidence to make my own chicken stock during the day today and I’m super excited to get going on the Stir Fry course but I’m going to whip up my tasty garlic & shrimp quinoa for supper with my freshly made stock.

But more on all of that another time.

This blog is about me speaking fluent skating again. Its about making friends from other clubs and other communities and even other countries. Its about being cool inside a lovely, big ice rink on hot summer days. Its about enjoying learning about other skaters, coaches and parents and maybe making the time to hit a few golf balls with one or two of them. Or enjoy a fresh-cooked meal in an outdoor kitchen. With a Caesar expertly made by my Canadian friends.

 

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One of Coach Tanya’s specialties! 2010 here in Seeley Lake.

 

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My last day on the ice with my Bismarck girls before I moved to Montana 10 years ago.

 

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Virden skaters (Brekken and Shanna) who had my camera in the locker room my last day there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shanna & Haley, more locker room giggles

 

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Like an Oscars selfie… how many skaters can we get in here? I love that they did this for me so I will remember their happy faces (and wild hair… it was Crazy Hair Day…)

 

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My favorite skating partner (2010).