45 Years

Standard

A lot can happen in 45 years.

me

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.

 

sk8blog

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.

 

sk8blog7

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.

 

sk8blog4

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.

 

sk8blog6

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.

 

sk8blog3

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.

 

sk8blog9

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.

 

sk8blog5

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.

 

sk8blog10

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.

 

sk8blog2

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….)

 

sk8blog12

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!

 

sk8blog8

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

 

sk8blog11

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

 

APTOPIX Italy Figure Skating Worlds

Oh, Canada!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the Waves

Standard

I somehow managed to skip a few blog posts but I’m happy to report that I’m back!

P1020013

Me. Back!

I don’t usually write my blogs when Alistair is here, which is a 2 week stretch every 2 weeks. But I also didn’t write when he was back in Bismarck and I don’t really have any excuses.

Well, other than the fact our house was full of huge, noisy dehumidifiers and whirling fans that necessitated the TV volume being cranked and forced us to take up residence in the guest room. We couldn’t hear the phone and we had to shout at each other in just about every room in the house. Even the non-stop running dialogue inside my head raised its voice.

And there has been the emotional roller coaster of the Olympics and just now the World Figure Skating Championships. (I will share more about World’s another time…) And I’m working on a fairly large online project but that, too, is for another time. Not to mention my book marketing which will be ramping up in April…

And then there was the skunk.

skunk

Hi, Boris. (Not my critter cam)

I had noticed a skunky smell in our barn one morning but it wasn’t overly intense. I had noticed it a few times in the fall as well but Jockey never indicated that any winter roomies had moved in.

Until that same afternoon, when Alistair and I were packing and preparing for a much-needed return to Aloha and we heard some rustling next to Jockey’s big litter bin. Alistair bent down and was trying to move the dog crate over and suddenly a large black & white fluffy tail appeared.

Ah, yes, life in the forest.

 

skunk2

More of Jessi’s Critter Cam footage

Jockey said his name was Boris and that he’d hibernated in our barn all winter. When he did get out to eat the little fart was noshing on our very expensive, top quality Royal Canin cat food.

Which was all well and good until Boris decided to spray the barn one morning while we were gone. We aren’t sure if Jockey had said, “That’s IT” about his yummy food or what but our wonderful house/pet sitter, Jessi is a capable Montana gal and she set up the Critter Cam in the barn and arranged for a local friend to set up a trap.

As it turned out, Boris buggered off on his own and the barn is smelling better and Jockey has the place (and his food) all to himself again.

Or at least until Boris brings any new girlfriends back.

Or Boris is a Natasha….

 

P1010970

Last week. Grey skies don’t matter when you’re on an island.

But I won’t bother thinking about that now because I still have my glow from a week spent on Kauai. Its been a rainy winter over there, which we were expecting, but that didn’t matter thanks to 70-plus-degree weather, a near-empty golf course, sandals and mai tais. We had 2 sunny days with mild trade winds and our laughter and smiles shone through the camera lens from Poipu Bay Golf course once again.

P1010975

Right before we teed it up for the first time in months!

The head pro, Chad and some of the workers like Kerry and Mike remembered us from 3 years ago (hard not to remember Alistair’s Driver head soaring through the air) and we felt like Ohana each of the 3 days we played there.

 

golfpic3

Alistair on the 15th tee.

Alistair hadn’t been back to the islands in well over a year and my trip to the Big Island was shrouded in heartbreak last fall so this trip back to Kauai, our favorite of the Hawaiian islands was uplifting for our spirits and our souls.

We even tried something new in a catamaran-type of dinner cruise around to the Na Pali coastline, which is only accessible by air or water. All of the tour books and even the crew of the Blue Dolphin II were open & honest about likely high winds and seas during the winter months and they weren’t kidding.

 

hawaii

Just before shoving off from Port Allen!

The poor gal from Spokane seated next to me didn’t make it very far before she got to see breakfast and lunch again. Another gal was slumped next to her boyfriend most of the trip after doing some “reverse eating” of her own. The 2 of them were downstairs, where the food was served after we’d made it to the stunning cliffs and as the boat surged, lurched, rolled and dove, I swear Spokane looked worse than a corpse

 

hawaii3

The Na Pali coastline from the water!

For a couple of kids who grew up riding BC Ferries to Vancouver Island & back, the waves and wind were actually kind of fun. Captain Roy and his crew seemed calm and capable and they were able to get us all the way around to see the famous cliffs.

 

hawaii4

Cue the Jurassic Park music….

It was another way for us to discover Hawaii and all her magnificent beauty. Another way to appreciate how ancient Hawaiians existed in valleys with their taro fields and fishing villages. And another way for us to understand why so much of the state needs to be protected from massive developments and forays into commerce.

It was another way to put goofy smiles on our faces as we breathed in the humid air and all of the surrounding Aloha.

hawaii5

Looking back from where we came along the coast.

We also did the “cabana-thing” for the first time in all of our trips to the islands. It was part of our Sheraton package and Alistair was in conference all morning so we figured, “why not?” Adding to the incentive of lounging by the pool all day was the fact 2 friends from Seeley Lake happened to be escaping Snowmageddon at the same time. Michelle and Missy happily joined me that morning and then Alistair stayed for most of the afternoon in our bright red, private cabana.

cabana

Michelle and I (Missy’s photo)

It was neat sharing island time with friends who had endured the same trials and tribulations with the fire last summer and then the never-ending snow this winter.

And, as per usual, we made a couple of friends with Jeff on the golf course, the funny Alaskan couple on the Na Pali cruise (the wife was attending the same medical conference as Alistair… go figure!) and Crystal, our social media angel.

You see, our last day there was supposed to be spent on the tees, fairways and greens of Poipu Bay Golf course but the weather had other ideas. We had a night flight out of Lihue but had to check out of the Sheraton so we kicked around the island exploring a few places.

 

hawaii7

Our last day, the Menehune fish ponds

What’s a trip to Kauai without a quick peek at the Menehune fishponds? Or a spin up to the very wet and rainy Wailua Falls where we joined the other tourists in snapping a quick picture?

P1020014

Wailua Falls… where Tattoo did his “Da Plane, Boss” thing… come to think of it, he might have been of Menehune descent…

And what’s a day of kicking around Kauai if you don’t whip up the Coconut coast to the kind-of deserted Coconut Marketplace? (That place used to have an awesome breakfast restaurant and several kitschy stores and local artists but its woefully quiet now).

It also had my wallet, which I had left there but didn’t realize until we made it all the way back down south through traffic to explore the Kiohana plantation.

Talk about a sinking feeling, knowing we had to get back up there, with the possibility that someone may have borrowed my wallet and its contents. With us leaving the island that night.

hawaii9

the ocean in front of the Sheraton, churning like my stomach was when I realized my wallet wasn’t with me!

 

Being the modern woman that I am, I got onto Facebook, where Crystal, from Texas, had been trying to reach me. She and her new husband were also at the marketplace and a worker from one of the stores had found my wallet. They discussed options and my wallet made it to the Island Market food store.

I had already contacted the marketplace’s office and got another woman involved in the search. Meanwhile, Crystal reached out privately to a few of my Facebook friends and asked if they had a phone number for me.

My wallet made it to the office, then back to Island Market, all while Crystal, her husband, Alistair and I talked and texted on our phones. Alistair drove in the traffic and I eventually met Justin, the Island Market manager and one of their cashiers who said, “That wallet has been here twice today!”

 

hawaii2

the photo I immediately sent to Crystal.

And Crystal Friended me and she will soon be receiving some lovely Chloe & Isabel bling that both Alistair and I picked out for her.

Do we know how to vacation or what?

And now we’re back to the mainland and Alistair is back in Bismarck and he’s back to work and I’m back in the guest room. Thankfully, the dehumidifiers and fans are gone and I can hear my thoughts once again.

And I feel lighter after our little holiday- emotionally and physically. The proverbial weight of winter has lifted, even though I’m still surrounded by reminders. Aloha hot tubs and my Hawaiian music in Big Red helped me keep a smile on my face this winter. It helped knowing we had Kauai to look forward to, too.

 

P1020017

Our front yard today.

The chickadees are chirping, the sun has some Montana warmth to it and the snow is melting. Granted, its revealing the damage to our beautiful home and yard but at the same time it is disappearing which will allow for the next phases of our insurance claim to occur.

 

P1020015

The deck off of our master bedroom. Or, what’s left of it.

Much is being revealed on the outside of the home while drywall will be coming down this week to reveal the extent of damage to the inside. Some of our pretty white and lavender lilacs will spring back while I know others will not have survived.

 

P1020022

Cleo helping me investigate the front yard today

Our own spirits are refreshed and recharged and I’m choosing to look at our Montana ranch the same way- it will get its own rebirth this spring.

I’m no fool to believe that there won’t be challenges ahead or that I won’t fight back an occasional tear or two, or that its going to be sunny, smooth sailing from here on in.

Challenges and change build character. I know we’re up for it. We’ll handle the waves with smiles and laughter, holding on with both hands just like we did up Kauai’s northern coastline last week.

And you know I’ll take pictures the whole way!

 

golfpic4

Golfing “island style”

 

hawaii8

Supper one night at Tidepool’s

 

hawaii10

Ready for some waves!

 

hawaii6

Happy explorer, riding the waves off Kauai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epic Winter… or, More Stories for the Christmas Letter

Standard

 

P1010890

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!

 

P1010885

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.

 

P1010888

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.

 

P1010889

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.

P1010908

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.”

P1010872

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

 

P1010914

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.

 

Oly7

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.

 

Oly6

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.

Oly3

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.

 

Oly3

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.

 

Oly2

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.

 

Oly

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.

 

Oly2

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.

 

P1010898

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!

 

P1010894

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!

 

P1010903

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

 

P1010902

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

 

P1010917

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

 

P1010905

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Its Olympic Week!!!

Standard

 

blog15

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.

 

100_2450

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.

blog5

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.

 

blog7

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.

 

blog16

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.

 

blog17

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…)

blog14

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.

blog

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.

blog13

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!)

 

blog18

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.

 

blog12

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.)

 

blog16

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.

 

blog11

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.

 

blog10

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

 

blog6

Evgenia Medvedeva

 

blog9

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

 

doc

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow, Ice and Sun

Standard

 

P1010744.JPG

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.

 

P1010746

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…

 

P1010749

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!

 

P1010750

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.

 

P1010753

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.

 

238

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.

 

kapalua18

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.

 

p1010453

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.

 

blog8

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.

 

DS3dI_uVwAAaMck

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.

 

blog5

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.

 

DS6UfR9XcAA47so

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.

 

skate4

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.

 

blog11

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.

 

P1010752

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!

 

232

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

 

blog15

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

 

P1010756

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Olympic Season Upon Us

Standard

 

skate

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.

 

P1070242

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.

 

skate15

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.

 

blog6

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.

 

blog5

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.

 

blog4

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.

 

blog7

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.

 

blog12

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.

 

blog13

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.

 

blog14

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.

 

blog8

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.

 

blog2

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.

 

blog15

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.

 

blog3

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.

 

blog11

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!

 

blog10

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.

 

blog9

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.

 

blog16

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.

 

12525095_10154690855522538_9165950141215329147_o

We miss you, Gracie. Get well!

 

skate3

Pairs podium at Skate America last weekend.

 

249252_10150193640350528_3806712_n

Canadian showgirl in Japan… strike a pose!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Week of Watching Worlds

Standard

 

4LadiesAwards_r1k7oo00_ce5gn6h8

World’s ladies podium from Helsinki, Finland (not my photo)

Its the time of year when the figure skating world culminates in one spot to crown its new champions and I sit on my ass with coffee in-hand and watch, mesmerized.

I’m mesmerized by the incredibly beautiful costumes, the intricate, challenging choreography, the focus and intensity of the athletes and their coaches and most definitely the level of skill required to compete at the senior level nowadays.

When I grew up, my idol, Katarina Witt won World and Olympic championships with a triple loop as the top jump in her arsenal.

 

katarina_witt_s12

Katarina Witt, 1980s (not my photo)

Now women absolutely must have a triple-triple combination and everything up to and including a triple lutz. And that’s just the women. The men’s and pairs disciplines have upped the ante making for tremendous challenges for the skaters and coaches.

This season the quad-fest that is the men’s event started to evolve early on. I thought I was finally watching creative routines that included one or two quadruple jumps (usually a toe and salchow) as well as beautiful movements and step sequences that tried to tell a story.

Until Nathen Chen blew everything out of the water at US Nationals back in January.

 

srmensfsnathan_chen1_d7wvfldy_i0zuh7ye

Nathen Chen at Nationals (not my photo)

With two quads in the short and four in the long, including a quad flip in combination, Mr.Chen took the sport in an even more aggressive direction. And yet, he is quite balletic. Critics used to nail men like Elvis Stoijko for including too many quads because it took away from the artistry of figure skating but you can’t say that about Nathan. He was already an accomplished ballet dancer before he chose to pursue skating as his sole focus and it shows in his arms.

 

ChenSP_0em2pwpo_ushlxn95

Nathan Chen, this week in his short program at World’s

He arrived in Helsinki for this week’s World Championships with a lot of expectation on his shoulders. Not only was there buzz that he would quad his way to the top of the podium, he was also expected to earn back three births for the US men into next year’s Olympics.

Pre-Olympic years force more pressure onto skaters from countries with more than one who can rightfully earn a trip to the biggest event of them all. If a country has one skater placing in the top 10 at World’s the year prior to the Olympics, that country gets to send one to the big show.

If you have two skaters whose placement numbers total thirteen or less, that country can send three skaters to the Olympics.

So not only do you have to skate lights-out, you also have to place high enough that everyone in your home country doesn’t hate your guts for losing a spot.

 

ChenFS_qwc6ishs_ukidhn4c

Chen during his ambitions long program yesterday at World’s (not my photo)

Chen’s coach brazenly told reporters and fans that his pupil was going to go for six quads in his long program. He nailed the two in his short but sadly fell on the triple axel so he needed something ambitious to beat the men ahead of him and get that podium finish.

And he tried.

But it didn’t quite work out. He landed four out of six quads and ended up in sixth.

He did, however, help the US earn a third spot on the Olympic team because team-mate, Jason Brown (who fell on his inconsistent quad but dazzled everyone with his brilliant moves and effortless footwork) placed seventh. Six plus seven equals thirteen. Whew!

 

HanyuSP_fezzxjb3_y2iywihx

Hanyu’s electrifying short program at World’s this past week (not my photo)

Japan made skating history by having two of their men take the top two spots on the podium with Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. While it was no surprise to see Hanyu on top again (he is the current Olympic champion, after all), he got there in a round-about way.

I love his short program to Purple Rain, by Prince, including the wicked knee slide thing he does to the high-pitched electric guitar part of the song but it hasn’t been received the same way by all of the judges.

And if you don’t land all of your jumps it isn’t going to receive top scores, either. His wonky landing on his first quad combination landed him in fifth place, which he admits was pretty depressing.

 

HanyuFS_mto8lybd_uy1pq1ve

A different, incredibly focused story for Hanyu’s long (not my photo)

Thankfully his team helped him keep his head together and his confidence high and he went out and performed one of the most incredible long program’s in men’s history. His focus was intense (see above photo), his choreography exquisite and his jumps were so solid and of such high quality they looked like doubles. He landed… no, he nailed four gorgeous quads and two triple axels and deservedly won back his championship title.

 

 

HanyuKC_4wqdmjtk_nmkzvuiq

Celebrating with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson his unprecedented 223.4 point score for his outstanding long program yesterday (not my photo)

It is worth trying to find a video online if you’re a skating fan because the routine is sublime. I love when everything can come together for an athlete- the planning, the preparation, the training, the practice, the coaching, the hard work and finally the fulfilment. Way to go, Yuzuru Hanyu!

And good for Shoma Uno, who sometimes can be a bit pissy and petulant when things don’t go his way. He also is a wonderful skater and artist on the ice with probably the softest knees of the current leading men.

 

 

JinSP_zzoio1el_55ryohlu

Boyang Jin of China during his Spider-Man short program at World’s (not my photo)

 

And great work Boyang Jin of China who wrapped up the men’s podium for the second time in a row. It was the first time ever that men from all Asian countries placed in the top three.

 

MensMedalists_gao21213_q0zfxp4a

The Men’s medalists at Worlds! (not my photo)

While I enjoy seeing things work out wonderfully for an athlete like Yuzuru, its heartbreaking to see things completely fall apart. Such was the case of Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya, last year’s bronze medalist.

A good skate in the short had her in 4th place, within one point of the podium. She had been known, up until last season, as one of those skaters who could have a complete and total meltdown on the ice. Sadly, THAT Anna showed up to skate her long program.

 

PogorilayaSP_ttjiej2o_x8ra3ugd

Pogorilaya, looking good during her short which landed her in 4th (not my photo)

Oh, dearie, me, it was awful. I mean, after the third fall I was kind of thinking (wishfully, sort of) that she would just get off the ice. It wasn’t just wipe-outs, either. There were stumbles on other landings, triples popped into singles and slow, off-centered spins. After the grim-faced performance she dropped to her knees and sobbed. To the point where it became uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

The crowd rallied to show their support and she eventually got up and made her way to the boards but she once again dramatically fell to her knees to bawl some more. Hey, I get it, it sucks, we’ve all had a bad skate, its embarrassing and demoralizing but please, for the love of all things holy, get your ass off the ice. Thankfully her coaches dragged her off.

 

7KostnerLadiesFS_vtaur1ch_eerc522c

Elegant Carolina Kostner in her long program (not my photo)

While nobody else had quite the mess of a routine, many of the ladies were off during their long programs. The ethereal Carolina Kostner of Italy, back in action after an international ban, placed sixth with a few boo boos. She doesn’t have a triple lutz in her current arsenal so if you’re going to compete with the big girls you had better land everything else solidly.

She didn’t.

 

ChenSP_5zmworsw_e7iys4us

Karen Chen of the US during her short program this week (not my photo)

Neither did the spunky new US Ladies Champion, Karen Chen competing at her first World Championships. She bore a lot of pressure because she bombed at the Four Continents championship last month, causing many to question her selection to the World’s team. See, the ladies, like the men, had the challenge of earning back a third spot for the Olympics.

Everyone figured Ashley Wagner would pull off a top spot. She won the silver medal last year and she likes a good fight for her long program but nobody knew what to expect with the newbie, Chen.

 

WagnerSP_tft60ms3_uher3zr4

Wagner during her funky short program, which placed her in 7th

Ashley sat in seventh after a sub-par short and then completely underwhelmed everyone in her long. It was actually a somewhat boring routine where her pesky under-rotation demons returned and she didn’t land all of her jumps.

Her coach looked more annoyed than anything as she awaited her marks.

Chen looked up at the scores before her warm-up and saw that Ashley placed lower than expected. So not only did she have to prove she deserved to be there, she also had to place well for all of America.

Thankfully, the diminutive skater did, earning a well respected fourth place behind the Russian and two Canadians.

 

P1060948

???????

Yeah, you read that correctly. Two Canadians. Women. On the podium. At World’s.

Its simply never happened before. While Canada is known for creating amazing skaters and hockey players, we just haven’t been able to do it with the women. Its been discussed for decades why we could only produce a Liz Manley and a Joannie Rochette every now and then but not alongside another top tiered woman.

Until now. When Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetyln Osmond put their skills, training and mental preparation all together at the right time and the maple leaf flew high two nights ago.

 

3DalemanLadiesFS_xcswl6m7_hguexisq

Gabrielle Dalemen, 3rd after the short, en route to the bronze medal here during her long (not my photo)

Gabby was in third and held that spot even after following the champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, and hearing the roaring crowd after her record-breaking scores had been announced. That can be a bit rattling when you step out onto the slippery surface but Daleman held it together and put on a fun, sassy show to that old warhorse, Rhapsody in Blue.

Skating immediately after her team-mate, miss Osmond, who trains in Edmonton with my dear friend, Ravi Walia, put on her own jumping clinic with a mature, silky, elegant long program featuring a soaring triple-flip, triple toe and blurringly fast, centered, gorgeous spins.

 

2OsmondLadiesFS_le1njnif_kg7dz6c0

Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada, ready for that silver medal at World’s (not my photo)

Both girls gave intelligent, sweet and friendly interviews together (you can look them up at cbc.ca) and proudly wrapped themselves in the same Canadian flag after the medal ceremony.

On a side note, watching as the camera zoomed in I noticed Kaetlyn’s earrings… Through my friendship with Ravi, I had offered to sponsor some jewelry to the Canadian champion back in January. She and I spent a morning online in my Chloe & Isabel boutique (www.chloeandisabel.com/boutique/tanyafyfe… you have to check it out now, right?) and she chose the sophisticated Bianca collection. Which includes lovely, on-trend ear climbers.

 

P1060946

Which she appears to have worn during her short program…

 

P1060947

And in her silver-medal winning long program!

Who would have known?

My beaming smile was more for the ladies’ placement than the bling, though, but it still made me chuckle.

 

P1060951

Ladies medalists, live, at World’s

So Canada gets to send three women to the Olympics! Huzzah!

And we get three ice dance teams as well thanks to Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir returning to competitive skating this season and winning everything they entered, including World’s. It wasn’t simple, though. In first place after their awe-inspiring short dance (to Prince songs), Scott stumbled during their free dance and the two-time former World champs from France actually won the free dance.

 

2PapadakisCizeronFD_un0cmwc3_d1szz674

France’s Papadakis and Cizeron after their emotional, strong, high-scoring free dance (not my photo)

The French had to settle for silver behind their training-mates, Virtue & Moir. American cutie pies, the Shibutanis finished in third. Sadly, the US team, Hubbell & Donohue, who were in third after the short dance, tumbled and missed the entire twizzle element which sadly sent them tumbling down to ninth place.

 

9HubbellDonohueFD_k7t7g1dn_xnt7o9vy

I thought Hubbell & Donohue were finally going to claim some glory this year but it wasn’t to be. (not my photo)

Ice Dance is art on ice, with athleticism thrown in for fun. The skaters are all beautiful (I think its a requirement nowadays), they all fly around the ice (especially the Shib-sibs) and they perform dangerous, acrobatic moves that leave the audience breathless as they watch. The Olympic showdown will be fabulous.

The Pairs event wasn’t so hot for Canada or the US this year, particularly since the Americans only had one team finish in the top ten… meaning the United flight to South Korea next February won’t be as full with only one team getting to go to the Olympics.

The former two-time World Champs from Canada, Duhamel & Radford, fell off the podium thanks to a pesky hip injury that flared up for Eric. They are always exciting to watch and they finished in seventh, which isn’t that terrible. (Maybe I should have sent Meghan some earrings?)

 

8DuhamelRadfordPairsFS_9qnpg744_s359yeud

Skating their free program at World’s, Meghan Duhamel & Eric Radford (not my photo)

They’re right behind their team-mates, meaning Canada gets to send three teams.

The brand new World Champions are from China and hardly competed at all this year. Sui & Han sat out while she had both feet operated on several times to repair shattered ligaments that are the result of years of Chinese level throw jumps.

 

1SuiHanPairsFS_pipjm4kq_9lcbk2mv

Han throwing Sui into orbit (not my photo)

I’m happy for them that they won. The world has watched them grow up together on the skating stage and this is perfect after all that they have endured.

Behind them is the somewhat newer team of Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot. They represent Germany, where neither of them is from but you just have to let that go. In third were the Russians, Tarasova & Morozov, arguably the tallest male red-head to ever grace the ice.

 

4PairsAwards_8h8a60e8_srqpvbaj

World pairs podium (not my photo)

So, while nothing got done around the house, I was relaxed and able to fully enjoy watching World’s this year. Our Siamese cat, Sport, watched much of it with me from my lap, my shoulders or the back of my chair.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on the state of figure skating, the point system, the outfits, the lack of scandals, the Russian drama, the choreography or whatever. Figure skating is my first language and I still speak it fluently.

 

1VirtueMoirFD_ovkmxry5_dt43hoo2

Virtue & Moir, golden again! (not my photo)

 

1MedvedevaLadiesFS_me944da1_23ii7o16

Evgenia Medvedeva, gold medalist again during her weird, 9-11 themed long program (not my photo).

 

FernandezFS_xbszom11_5juynbtf

Former two-time World champ and global heart-throb (sorry, ladies, Miki Ando has him) Javi Fernandez of Spain won the short but (as you can see) wiped out in the long, falling off the podium and into fourth place.

 

4DanceAwards_takoh6zs_61yjfgcx

The Beautiful People of ice dance (not my photo)