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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lets Talk Skating

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Javier Fernandez in his short program, heading towards a 5th European crown yesterday. (none of these photos are mine except for the very last one)

 

As busy as I like to be, always having a few things going on, when its championship skating season my world grinds to a bit of a halt. Especially now with icenetwork, which broadcasts international events live (for an annual fee, of course).

The Grand Prix series was going on before Christmas with events in the States, Canada, France, Japan, Russia and China. These events feature skaters who have qualified to be there based on the previous season’s results with a bonus entry for each host country. They are also a way for skaters to earn money during the season, which is necessary for equipment, ice time, coaching, living expenses and travel fees.

 

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Grand Prix Final podium, l-r, Satoko Miyahara, Evgenia Medvedeva, Anna Pogorilaya

The series culminates in a Final with the top 6 skaters in each event competing for the big bucks. It was wonderful watching how the series unfolded and which skaters most likely will be vying for World titles.

Following the series each country hosts their own national championship. You can imagine how hopped up I was when Canada and the US held theirs on the same weekend! (I’m sure Alistair was just thrilled).

I’m stoked that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are back and wow, are they looking amazing. They haven’t competed since their silver medal at the Sochi Olympics but they aren’t showing any rust or lack of stamina.

 

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Tessa & Scott en route to gold at the GP Final

They have changed coaches and are now in Montreal training with the current world champions, Papadakis & Cizeron. While the skating world is cheering Virtue & Moir’s return, Papadakis & Cizeron might not be. They have been beaten by the older Canadians at every outing they’ve been matched against each other this year. The French are saying the right things like, “It makes us train harder” and “they inspire us” but I’m sure they’re pissed.

 

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Papadakis & Cizeron, this weekend at Europeans, which they won

A fun extension of the domestic championships last weekend was this current weekend’s European championships. Euros has been a very prestigious event for decades, often more important than the World championships many years ago. There is no continental equivalent although there used to be a North American championships long before the Grand Prix series evolved.

I loved watching what I could of Euros this year which were held in the Czech Republic. As keen as I am I wasn’t getting up at 5am to watch the early, less skilled and lesser-known skaters and I missed most of the short programs because of other things going on but I made a point to catch the final groups of the mens and ladies events.

 

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Carolina Kostner, back in action in the short program at Euros

First things first: Caro is back! Italy’s Carolina Kostner, at the age of 29, is back after a ridiculous ban that kept her off competitive ice for 2 years. Basically, she told officials who showed up at her house that her then-boyfriend, an Olympic speed walker who was being tested for drug use, wasn’t home. She didn’t know why he asked her to say that but she did. Love is like that.

Its also fickle because she kicked his ass to the curb when she (and the rest of the world) found out he was using performance-enhancing drugs (for speed walking… who knew?) and that her career was jeopardized because of that one little lie.

The moral here is don’t use drugs and don’t lie. The real story, though, is that most skaters with an incredible career like Kostner’s, including the bronze medal from Sochi, would have laid down and called it good. Toured in the ice shows. Rest on your laurels, that sort of thing.

Not Carolina. She kept herself in shape and she trains with grumpy Alexei Mishin and darn it all if she isn’t kicking some sparkly butt out there!

 

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Long program. Vivaldi. Ethereal.

Carolina is an artist as well as a skater and fans of the sport are so lucky she has the grit, strength and balls to come back. She was beautiful in simple colors and she brought her game to Ostrava and took home the bronze medal.

The gold was won by a skater 12 years younger than her. How do you like that?

 

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European ladies podium- Pogorilaya 3rd, Medvedeva 1st and Carolina beaming in 3rd

The ladies were lovely and Medvedeva seems unbeatable. I don’t necessarily like her program, which tells a story of a woman whose partner leaves for work on Sept.11th and then never comes home. Not really the fluff and stuff of normal skating routines but she commits to it and does a good job. The triple lutzes, triple-triple combos and amazing spins help, too.

 

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Papadakis & Cizeron on top at Europeans. Whew, no Tessa & Scott to contend with! Cute Italians in 2nd and Russians in 3rd.

Its a new world now since Tessa & Scott won Olympic gold on home turf in Vancouver in 2010. That basically ended the Russian dominance of the ice dance podium. And as much as I joke about the French team, they are absolutely fabulous and they totally deserved another European crown.

As much as I enjoy all events, this year the European men were probably my favorite to watch. Not just because it was really cool to see the 25 year old Spaniard, Javier Fernandez quad his way to his 5th title (its only ever been done at Euro’s once before, by Ondrej Nepala), but because there are some new names coming out of the woodwork who may be forces to reckon with.

For starters, men’s figure skating is an entirely different world from Kurt Browning & his Casablanca routines… pausing in the middle of the ice to fake pulling out a smoke… that sort of thing doesn’t get points in the new judging system nor will it garner any bonus Grades of Execution.

 

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A Canadian classic.

Yet it was what skating had more of in the 80s.. more individuality and more story-telling. I’ve been a bit leery of the potential for cookie cutter routines coming out because of the point system but I think men’s skating has started to combine the uniqueness that was present in the 80s with the jumping requirements of the Now.

I’m excited about new guys like the Latvian, Deniss Vasiljevs. I’ve never heard of him but what a great performance complete with the jumps. His edge control, flair, speed and musicality were magnificent and no shock seeing him with new coach, Stephane Lambiel.

 

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Vasiljevs… loving this guy!

18 year-old Ivan Pavlov from the Ukraine was sharp and has super springy knees. Italy’s Ivan Righini played the Zamboni on his quad and triple axel but nailed everything else with flair during his Elvis-themed routine. (There was that one awkward guitar-strumming moment, though… what is it about some Europeans who just can’t get the moves? Victor Petrenko comes to mind…)

I enjoyed the lanky 24 year-old German, Paul Fentz, who skated to Pink Floyd tunes. Who knew Brick in the Wall would work on the ice? The guy has some mad skills but needs to get some spin lessons under his belt but it was still so enjoyable watching another skater I had never heard of.

 

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Brezina at Rostelecom cup from a few years ago

Sadly, again, it wasn’t baby-faced Michal Brezina’s event. This kid burst onto the scene (much to the delight of female fans) years ago but has never captured the promise he brought with him. He has 2 quads. He can land them. He’s musical and flexible and he knows how to entertain. Maybe it will come together for him at World’s this spring.

Its exciting to see the quads incorporated into unique, exciting routines. The European men will need them when they face off against the Japanese, Chinese and now American threats. What’s that? A real American threat in men’s figure skating?

 

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Nathan Chen. Quad-meister at the Grand Prix Final.

Yeah. His name is Nathan Chen and you should remember it. His artistry isn’t where Yuzuru Hanyu’s or Patrick Chan’s are but its getting there. The kid does quads like you wouldn’t believe, 2 in the short and 4 in the long. Insane. Who has that strength and endurance? And he’s working at looking good while doing it.

Next up is Four Continents, in South Korea, Feb.14th-19th. Its a test event for the Olympic games next winter and features athletes from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. There are a lot of serious low-level skaters who represent under-represented countries but it is a taste of international exposure for these kids and they get to see the big names, like Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond and the American Shibutanis compete in person. US silver medalist, Ashley Wagner has chosen to skip the event and train for the last big hurrah, World’s, which will be March 29th- April 2nd in Helsinki, Finland.

 

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the Shibutani’s on their way to the gold medal at last week’s US Championships

I can only hope our local NBC affiliate and dish network decide to get along by then because not everything at the big events gets shown on icenetwork. Keep your fingers crossed for that!

I’m thankful to have my safe little addiction in going back to my roots in the ice rinks. I love sharing my love of the sport, too, and sometimes think I’ll coach again someday. Figure skating is a world of sparkly things, spandex and beautiful people wrapped up in music, toe picks, quads and death spirals. Its a lovely distraction from the real world.

 

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Podium at the Grand Prix Final. Sorry, P&C!

 

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Javi, en route to his 5th title (spin photos always look a bit weird)

 

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Kurt Browning… Casablanca.

 

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BC Pre-Novice dance bronze medalists. Check out my groovy hair!