Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year from Field of Gold!!

May 2011 bring us all much happiness and good health! Cheers to excellent skating in the new year!

O Canada! A Tribute to Canadian Figure Skating: Brian Orser's 1988 World Championship Freeskate

Brian Ernest Orser was born in Belville, Ontario in 1961. He is the most accomplished Canadian figure skater in the country's history, with eight national titles, two Olympic medals, six World medals, including one World title. From 1982 to 1988, Brian did not finish off the podium at any competition. In 1985 he was made a Member of the Order of Canada, an honour for merit administered by the Governor General-in-Council, on behalf of the Queen of Canada. In 1988, he was promoted to Officer.

Brian retired from amateur skating following the 1988 competitive season, and went on to have a remarkable professional career. He toured with Champions on Ice, Stars on Ice, and even won an Emmy award for his role in the skating movie Carmen On Ice, starring Katarina Witt and Brian Boitano. Brian Orser is in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, and the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame. He is the director of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club. He coached Korean phenomenon Yu-Na Kim to Olympic gold in 2010 and currently coaches rising American star, Adam Rippon.

Had it not been for the compulsory (school) figures, for which the sport of skating is named, Brian would have been a two-time Olympic champion. His compulsory scores, which back then, combined with the short and long program scores to determine the winner of an event, held him back in both the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, in which he finished 2nd to the great American champion, Scott Hamilton, and again in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, in which he finished second to another great American champion, Brian Boitano.

To non-skating fans, Brian may be most well-known as one of the Brian's in the much publicized "Battle of the Brians"-- the name that the press dubbed the showdown between Orser and Brian Boitano in the 1988 Olympic Games. Orser entered that competition as the reigning World Champion, a title he had taken away from Boitano on Boitano's home soil in Cincinnati the year before. Since the Olympics were taking place on Orser's home soil in Calgary, much was made of the rivalry between the two skaters. Would Boitano redeem himself from losing his World Title to Orser? Would Orser, with his home-crowd advantage, hold off Boitano? To top it all off, both skaters were skating to military-themed programs. The drama and tension built as the competition drew nearer. In the end, Boitano placed ahead of Orser in the compulsory figures, Orser defeated Boitano in the short program (and even earned a perfect score of 6.0), but Boitano reigned supreme in the freeskate, capturing the gold medal. While it must have been bitterly disappointing for Orser-- and I believe I read somewhere that he felt he had let his country down-- he was terrific in the freeskate, none the less. He wasn't as clean as Boitano, though, making one minor mistake on a triple flip, and that may have been the difference.

Weeks later at the World Championships in Budapest, Orser was back in fighting form. He actually defeated Boitano in the freeskate, but still finished second overall based on his results in the other portions of the competition. Orser's freeskate is featured below. It is a stunning final amateur effort, capping a fantastic skating career. Canadian commentator Toller Cranston (a skating trailblazer himself), who calls the event in the video, said that Orser's performance, in his opinion, was one of the best in skating history. Stay tuned after the freeskate to see Brian's scores in the Kiss & Cry: 6.0!

I agree with Toller Cranston that Brian's freeskating performance was exceptional, only adding to the great amount of respect and appreciation that I have for him as an athlete, skater, and person. I have greatly enjoyed and admired Brian's skating since I started watching skating more than 17 years ago, and I continue to enjoy his influence on the skaters that he coaches today. It's wonderful seeing Brian at the boards and in the Kiss & Cry with the new generation of skaters. I know, for sure, that they're in good hands! The future of the skating world is bright with Brian Orser as a contributing member!

Enjoy this performance from a true Canadian skating legend!

Brian Orser's 1988 World Championship freeskate:

O Canada! A tribute to Canadian Skating

Canada has given the skating world some of its greatest, most memorable skaters in the history of the sport. In my week-long tribute to Canadian skaters, which begins today, I will highlight some of my favorite Canadian skaters, whose competitive successes, artistic contributions and warm personalities have not only made the sport better, but given skating fans countless years of enjoyment.

O Canada!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Holiday Bonus: Jeffrey Buttle's "Ave Maria"

Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and the 2008 World Champion, is one of the most beautiful, inventive artistic skaters in recent years. Under the new judging system, which rewards a skater's transitions, connections, footwork, and execution of elements, Jeffrey thrived, challenging others to rise to his standards of intricate, smooth, artistic skating. He's one of my all-time favorite Canadian skaters.

Enjoy this holiday "Ave Maria" exhibition from the 2005 Holiday on Ice show.

Jeffrey's "Ave Maria" :

A Holiday Bonus: Daisuke Takahashi's "Phantom of the Opera"

At the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo, Japan, Daisuke Takahashi turned in this stunning performance. Though he finished second to Brian Joubert of France (whose winning performance I highlighted on a previous blog post), many felt that he deserved to win. Her certainly won the hearts of the audience, and set himself up as one of the best skaters in the world.

Daisuke is the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion--the first ever male World Champion from Japan. He continues to be a hot skater in the world circuit, electrifying audiences and judges with his showmanship and technical ability. What's not to love?


Takahashi's "Phantom of the Opera":

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 1: Michelle Kwan's "Tosca"

What better way to say Merry Christmas than to post Michelle Kwan's "Tosca" program from the 2004 U.S. Figure Skating Championships? It is the epitome of brilliance! I get chills and tears every single time I watch it. Michelle Kwan brought it technically, and with plenty of heart and raw emotions to boot. She earned 7 perfect scores of 6.0 and her 8th National championship.

I've never seen a performance like this since. NO ONE can skate like this. Michelle is the one and only. She is simply the best! Magnificent!!


Michelle's "Tosca":

Friday, December 24, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 2: Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's "Vocalise" by Rachmaninoff

Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's "Vocalise" by Rachmaninoff is poetry in motion.
The exquisite program, choreographed by their long-time choreographer, the talented Marina Zoueva, is based on Rodin's sculptures.

Auguste Rodin, a French marble sculptor created sculptors, such as, "The Kiss," (above) depicting a sensual relationship between man and woman. "The Kiss" was originally called "Francesca da Rimini," as it depicts 13th century Italian noblewoman, Francesca da Rimini, immortalized in Dante's Inferno (Circle 2, Canto 5) for falling in love with her husband's younger brother, Paolo. Having fallen in love while reading the story of Lancelot and Guienevere, Paolo and Fancesca gave in to their passions, and were caught by Francesca's husband, who killed them. In the sculpture, the book can be seen in Paolo's hands, and the lover's lips aren't actually touching, suggesting that they've been interrupted in the midst of their passions.

Gordeeva and Grinkov never had a forbidden-love situation, and rather, they had a fairy tale romance, until Sergei's untimely death in 1995 at the age of 28, but I believe what their program to "Vocalise" represents is just sheer beauty, romance, and passion. If Rodin's sculptures could skate and tell their story, surely, they would look as Gordeeva and Grinkov do in this seamless fusion of art and movement, where sensuality mingles with strength, gentility, and pure love.

Merry Christmas Eve!

G&G's "Vocalise" :

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 3: Paul Wylie's "JFK"

Paul Wylie's "JFK" is a fantastic piece of skating and art. In the typical Paul Wylie-fashion of telling a dramatic story on the ice to bold, yet sensitive music, with intricate choreography, Paul Wylie's performance to "JFK," from the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, is something to behold. And oh, that footwork! Dick Button would surely flip for this program!

This performance is included on one of Stars On Ice's highlight films and I have from time to time, watched this performance on repeat. Paul Wylie and his skating is a gift to the world!

Here are some comments about Paul's performance from You Tube viewers that have commented on this video:

--"Paul skates with the same sort of dignity, grace, and passion President Kennedy had: a lovely tribute to a lovely man."

--"Gave me chills throughout my body. Nothing short of brilliant."

--"Powerful command of the ice and the story he is telling. Always marries the emotional with the technical... complete package skater... a skater's skater. The end with the solemn trumpet solo is heartbreaking and beautiful!"

Without further ado, here's Paul's "JFK":

For more on Paul, click HERE to check his "Schindler's List" program.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 4: Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao's "Turandot"

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao's rendition of "Turandot" at the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships needs little introduction. It is one of the most emotional and beautiful moments in sport. Xue Shen had injured her ankle at the championships, and received injections to relieve the pain. Her courageous battle through this flawless freeskate, and the raw emotions on her face make this performance all the more poignant.

What's interesting is that my sister and I were actually in the arena (the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.) just before the start of the pairs competition. We were there to see the women's qualifying round competition. My uncle knew someone who connected us to getting free seats in one of the suites, and we had a spectacular time watching Michelle Kwan, among others! But anyway, as we were leaving the arena, the crowds started to pile in for the pairs event. We wished we were staying for that competition, and I wished that even more once I saw the wonders of the competition on TV later. Shen and Zhao were extraordinary! Just extraordinary! I gravel at their skates!

I don't think I need to tell you that this performance won them their second-consecutive World Championship. They went on to become Olympic Champions in Vancouver last February!

This performance will definitely bring some cheer and joy on this day in the Christmas countdown! :)

12 Days of Christmas: Day 5: Todd Eldredge's "First Knight"

Todd Eldredge's "First Knight" program from the 1996 World Championships has always been one of my favorites. In part because Todd has always been on my short list of favorite skaters, so anything he does is pretty darn good in my book, but this particular program is the perfect blend of his athletic and artistic ability, and is just plain wonderful!! I love the music, the tension, the drama, and Todd's soaring, smooth jumps, fast spins, and choreography are perfectly timed to the accents of the music. This is the kind of performance that every skater dreams of!

I can remember watching this performance on TV back in 1996. I was in sixth grade and was doing my homework on the living room couch. I remember being so excited that Todd was delivering this performance of a lifetime. This is the kind of performance you can really get behind!! I can't recall for sure, but if my reactions then were anything like they are now when I watch epic performances, I probably lept off the couch and gave Todd a standing ovation! After Todd's competitive fall-from-grace in the early 1990s, 1995-96 marked his impressive comeback, and this incredible freeskate elevated Todd to the title of World Champion!

It was impressive that Todd could deliver this grandiose performance after coming off an uninspired second-place finish at Nationals two months before, where he lost the National title that he had fought so hard to regain from Scott Davis the year before, and was defeated handily by Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a former 2-time pairs champion with Kristi Yamaguchi had struggled to find his place in the skating world after Yamaguchi left their partnership to focus on singles skating (which obviously proved to be a good choice for her, as she won Olympic gold soon after splitting). Galindo knew he'd never find another partner like Kristi, so he focused on singles skating, too, but never finished higher than fifth at the Nationals. He also experienced a variety of personal and competitive hardships that made him an emotional and sentimental favorite with his the skating world, and his hometown crowd of San Jose, California, where the championship was held. Galindo delivered a show-stopping freeskate and won the U.S. title--an enormous victory for himself, and for everyone who had supported him throughout his career. What a moment!! It's certainly one of the most emotional and memorable moments in U.S. skating history, at least for me.

It must have been that unexpected loss to Galindo that fueled Todd to regroup, refocus, and deliver a Blockbuster freeskate to the music from "First Knight," a movie-starring Richard Gere, at the World Championships in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Todd became the first U.S. Men's World Champion since Brian Boitano's 1988 victory. Skating to a movie soundtrack, something Todd is known to do, paid off big-time in this case, as Todd won the part he had always wanted: that of the skating World's leading man! (Incidentally, Todd was the only U.S. man to win World gold until Evan Lysacek did in 2009 when the World's were held in L.A.)

Please sit back, relax, and enjoy Todd's brilliant "First Knight" freeskate! I LOVE it! If this doesn't make you leap off your couch and cheer for Todd, then what will??

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Congratulations to Brian Joubert!

Congrats to Brian Joubert for his 7th French National Championship win!! This is a significant win for Joubert in his quest to regain his confidence-and reputation-- following a disappointing, disastrous Olympic season. He was expected by many to lose his national title to up-and-coming star Florent Amodio, so now Joubert has the satisfaction of having proved all his naysayers wrong! As it turns out, Amodio did beat Joubert in the freeskate, but was too far behind Joubert's short program lead to catch up overall.

Next up for Joubert: European Championships in 2011!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 6: Yuka Sato's "Hat Full of Stars" by Nikki Holland

Yuka Sato is a "skater's skater." That means that other skaters look up to her and admire her quality of skating because she has it all. Yuka has always been known for her deep, soft edges, her flowing lines, her fast footwork and spins, and smooth jumps. A perfect example is the exquisite opening double axel jump at the start of the program. Divine! Look at that deep, flowing edge that she holds!!!

Yuka, the 2-time Japanese National Champion and the 1994 World Champion, still skates professionally, gracing us with her presence in the Stars on Ice Tour. I've seen her skate in that show many times and each time it feels like an honor to see her skate. In person you can really appreciate her deep, soft edges and first-rate skating qualities. She really stands out and is an absolute delight to watch!

In addition to being an accomplished amateur and professional skater, Yuka is also a pairs skater with her husband, Jason Dungjen, a former 2-time U.S. National pairs champion and 2-time Olympian with Kyko Ina in the mid-to-late 1990s. I haven't seen them perform together lately, but for several years Yuka and Jason performed together in shows and they were great!

With Jason, Yuka is also a coach. They are proving themselves to be quite the coaching tandem at that! They coached Jeremy Abbott to his second-consecutive National title in January, with what I believe to be, arguably one of the best national championships performances in history. (If that doesn't make a highlight video, I don't know what will!) They just coached Alissa Czisny to the Grand Prix Final victory two weeks ago. Yuka also choreographs for up-in-coming Japanese skater Takahiko Kozuka, who is coached by Yuka's father, Nabuo Sato.

Incidentally, Yuka's father, now a legendary coach, was a competitor at the 1960 Olympic Games, and her mother, Kumiko, was a competitor at the 1964 and '68 Olympics. Talk about excellent skating genes!!

At the 1998 World Professional Championships, Yuka skated this enchanting program to "Hat Full of Stars by Nikki Holland." Yuka is everything a skater should be, and so is this performance. As one viewer on You Tube commented about this performance, it is "A Timeless Vision." Another viewer commented: "I love Yuka Sato. I can watch her over and over again. Call me a purist, but that is the kind of skating that I like: gentle, effortless, flowing, with power and athleticism and speed in one, perfect package!"

Thank you, Yuka, for this quintessential skating program that will continue to enchant viewers for ages. You are indeed a "timeless vision." Happy 6th day of Christmas!

"Hat Full of Stars":

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7: Ilia Kulik's "A House is Not a Home" by John Pagano

Ilia Kulik is a phenomenal athlete. His jumps are so big, light, and natural--seemingly springing up out of nowhere. Brian Boitano, while commentating at the 1996 World Championships, where Kulik finished second to American champion Todd Edlredge, said that it is almost as if Kulik is being pulled by strings up into the rafters as he jumps. His outstanding, pure jumping technique helped Ilia win the Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Olympics for his homeland of Russia. Ilia interpreted music quite well then, but at the tender age of 20, he was yet to mature as a performer on the ice. Five years later, at the 2003 Ice Wars competition, Ilia, showed the world that he had developed into a mature, sensitive, artist, who truly had the whole package: wonderful jumps and all around wonderful skating. I remember loving this program the first time I saw it, and I still love it today. Ilia is fantastic! I marvel at his skating!!

Ilia, who some say is the Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike of skating (Ilia even had a small role in a Hollywood film, in the 2000 film, "Centre Stage"), is one of the most naturally-talented and gifted skaters that the skating world has seen. I hope you enjoy this delightful performance to "A House is Not a Home." Happy 7th day of Christmas!

Holiday Surprise!

Look what I discovered on my front stoop yesterday! What a pleasant surprise! Thanks for the beautiful skating arrangement, Cindy Walker!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8: Kristi Yamaguchi's "Reflections of Passion" by Yanni

Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 National, Olympic, and World Champion, is yet another example of a skater who had stellar success as an amateur, but continued to reinvent herself and improve as a professional skater, in a pro career that spanned more than a decade. Kristi has always been a positive role model for the sport, and continues to stay in the public spotlight, whether it be as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2008 (which she won with partner Mark Ballas!) acting as a judge on programs, such as Thin Ice, which aired on Fox in March, or as a host for ice shows, such as Improv Ice, which aired in November on NBC. She is married to a retired professional hockey player, who she met at the 1992 Olympics, and is the mother of two young daughters, Keara and Emma.

In the 1994-1995 pro. season, at the tender age of 23, Kristi competed with this lovely program called "Reflections of Passion" by Yanni. I first saw it on TV during Ice Wars in Nov. of 1994, and loved it! The music, the grace, the beauty! Kristi called this program "Skating 101," as its focus is on the purity of the skating: no gimmicks, just clean, simple, beautiful skating. I love how the music is both grand and gentle, and Kristi's skating reflects those qualities. She's a wonderful competitor, artist, and champion.


"Reflections of Passion":

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Cecilia"

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Cecilia" program was created as a tribute to Simon and Garfunkel in the mid-1990s. The song is a wonderfully fun masterpiece, and so is this performance by the 1984 Olympic Gold medalists. Jayne plays the "cool girl" and Chris plays the nerd, who chases after her the whole program. Chris did the choreography and it's inventive, quirky, and entertaining. Quite simply, Jayne and Chris are a wonder!

On You Tube, under the video of "Cecilia," one viewer commented:

"They are brilliant and it cheers me to know how creative humans can be. Thank you so much, Jayne and Chris!"

I second that!

I hope you enjoy "Cecilia!" Happy 9th day of Christmas

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10: Scott Hamilton's "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith

Scott Hamilton is an American treasure. Yesterday's profile skater, the incredible, Kurt Browning of Canada, once called Scott the "Skate God for life." Scott, a 4-time national and world champion, and the 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist, combines superb skating technique and endless charisma, warmth, personality, and humor on the ice. He has the rare ability to project his personality to the last row of seats in huge stadium arenas. Though Scott had an outstanding amateur career--he had an undefeated 15-competition winning streak from 1980-1984--he is perhaps best known for his prolific professional career. Not only is he the founder of Stars on Ice, one of the most popular skating tours in the country, Scott has performed so many memorable comedic and character-driven skating masterpieces, including, "Hair," "Cuban Pete," "In the Mood" and "Figaro" that skating fans will not soon forget. No matter what kind of mood you're in, Scott's larger-than-life personality, facial expressions, and choreography will make you laugh, smile-- usually both!

Scott's versatility, audience appeal, and excellent skating skills is what afforded him one of the longest and most professional skating careers. He turned professional in the spring of 1984, after winning his 4th world title, and continued skating on tour until 2004. Scott still performs from time to time, but not as often now due to health reasons. In 1997, Scott endured a battle with testicular cancer. More recently, he had radiation to dissolve a benign brain tumor. Fortunately, he is healthy today and is the proud father of two little boys, Aiden and Max. Through all his health scares Scott has been nothing but optimistic and courageous. He used his misfortunes as a vehicle to motivate others not to take life for granted, and to remain positive and persistent in the battle against cancer. Scott is a phenomenal athlete, performer, commentator, man, and role model. What a guy!

Please enjoy one of Scott's most popular professional programs to "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith. Scott used this program at the 1994 Gold Championship--a competition that put Olympic champions from three different Olympics against each other. Scott skated brilliantly in both segments and won the championship over Brian Boitano (gold in 1988 Olympics) and Victor Petrenko (gold in 1992 Olympics). Scott says it was one of the most significant victories in his entire career. I remember watching it on TV with my family. Scott was awesome and we went wild for his "Walk This Way" freeskate routine!! This particular recording of the program is not from that event, unfortunately, but it is the only video of this number that I could find! It's not the best recording, but you can still enjoy the purely-Scott style of skating! Enjoy the show! As commentator Verne Lundquist says at the beginning, "It's a Scott classic!" Merry Christmas!

"Walk This Way" by Aerosmith:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 11: Kurt Browning's "Singing in the Rain"

Kurt Browning is one of the best skaters in the history of the sport. As a 4-time World Champion, 4-time Canadian Champion, and the first skater to be credited with landing a quadruple jump in competition (a toe loop at the 1989 World Figure Skating Championships in Budapest, Hungary), this Canadian skater's successful amateur career was merely a "warmup act for one of the most stunning professional careers of the century," writes Toller Cranston in his book Ice Cream: Thirty of the Most Interesting Skaters in History.

What can Kurt do? A better question would be, what can't Kurt do? He's got it all. A prime example of his unmatched abilities and the special qualities he brings to the sport of skating are exhibited in this "Singing in the Rain" number that was featured in one of Kurt's made-for-TV specials back in the 1990s. The show originally aired in Canada, but I was able to catch it when it aired on PBS in the States many years ago. As Kurt explains in the video package that prefaces the number, he loved watching the legendary American song-and-dance man, Gene Kelly, while growing up in Caroline, Alberta Canada. Kelly became one of his idols. As a tribute to Kelly, who is well-known for his role in the 1952 comedy musical "Singin' in the Rain," also starring Debbie Reynolds, Kurt steps into the shoes, er, skates of his idol and creates his own version of "Singing in the Rain." (Skating in the rain?)

To honor the 11th day of Christmas, I've posted Kurt's fabulous program, and as added bonuses, I've posted a link to the scene from the movie "Singin' in the Rain" with the great Gene Kelly that inspired Kurt's program, and a clip from an episode of the TV show, GLEE of the glee club's very own hip,modern version of "Singing in the Rain," featuring guest star, Gweneth Paltrow! Lastly, I have posted a link to reigning Olympic Champion, Evan Lysacek's "Singing in the Rain" freeskate that he used in the 2004-05 skating season. This program helped put Evan on the map, as he won his first national and world medals (two bronzes) with this lively, jovial freeskate. This gives you an idea of how influential Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" was: it's inspired generations and myriad versions of the iconic musical number!

Without further ado, please sit back, relax, and watch Kurt skate up a storm!

Kurt's "Singing in the Rain" :

Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" : click HERE

Glee's version of "Singing in the Rain" :

Evan's version of "Singing in the Rain" :

A Final Exam Weeks Boost: Alissa Czisny's "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Barbara Steisand

Back in 2003, my parents sent me a box of Krispy Kreme donuts as a special treat during final exams week. The donuts were an unexpected boost during a week of late-night studying and last-minute cramming. Now, 7 years later, I am once again in college, and in need of a boost during finals week! These days, I'd rather something besides donuts to give me some extra energy (although if someone sent me Krispy Kremes, I certainly wouldn't turn them down!) This afternoon, I found just what I was looking for: an inspired skating performance by Alissa Czisny, full of the kind of hope and magic that nourishes any soul.

This performance is from last weekend, after Alissa won the prestigious Grand Prix Series title that has always been a dream of hers. Coming off of a rough season last year that included her drop from 1st in the nation in 2009 to 10th in 2010, destroying her chances to make the Olympic team, Alissa went into this season looking for a bit of redemption. After claiming gold at Skate Canada, bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard, and gold at the Grand Prix Final, Alissa has proven that she has what it takes to be among the World's best. She's catapulted from 12th to 6th in the International Skating Union World Rankings, and is within striking distance of the top.

This weekend's win proved to Alissa that her persistence in the sport is paying off, and yes, dreams do come true. This grand Barbara Streisand version of "You'll Never Walk Alone," coupled with stunning skating and a feel-good story, make this performance one that brings a smile to my face. Now, back to studying!

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 12: Klimova and Ponomarenko's "Romeo and Juliet"

The husband and wife team of Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko have always been known for their flair for the dramatic, innovative lifts, and classical, passionate skating. The Russian team is also the only figure skaters, in any discipline, to win Olympic medals in every color. They won bronze in the 1984 games, silver in 1988, and gold in 1992.

In 1995, Klimova and Ponomarenko performed this captivating performance to "Romeo and Juliet." My family was fortunate enough to witness it live at a Champions on Ice show in Philadelphia. It was mesmerizing! This performance transcends skating and becomes drama on ice.

12 Days of Christmas, Skating Style:

The 12 Days of Christmas, Skating Style!

*For the next 12 days, I will countdown to Christmas with 12 special, unforgettable skating performances that are sure to bring cheer into your holiday season. You want joyous skating? Look no further!

Wishing you all a beautiful holiday season. Happy Skating!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Congratulations to Alissa Czisny!

Alissa Czisny's winning programs from this weekend's Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China.
These subtle, elegant programs are the strongest competitive routines that Alissa, the 2009 U.S. Champion, has ever produced in a competition to date. Congratulations for putting it all together when it counts, Alissa!! We knew you could do it! Bravo!

Short program: Violin Concerto, Op. 35, in D/Romance by Jascha Heifetz

Free program: selections from Winter into Spring by George Winston's album Reflection

Congratulations to Meryl Davis and Charlie White!

Meryl Davis and Charlie White's winning tango freeskate from this weekend's Grand Prix Final Championships in Beijing, China. This is Davis and White's second consecutive Grand Prix Final win. They've been peerless this season--their Olympic champion training mates, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are injured. Meryl and Charlie are building momentum to win their 3rd, consecutive U.S. title in January and perhaps a first world title in March. They look crisp, clean, and in character here. Congratulations, Meryl and Charlie!


Freeskate: music from Il Postino and Forever Tango soundtracks

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Irina Slutskaya and her new baby

Irina Slutskaya, 31, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist, and 2-time World Champion ('02, '05), and her husband, Sergei Mikheev, welcomed a new baby girl, Varvara in October. The couple also has a 3-year-old son, Artem.

Slutskaya and good friend, Michelle Kwan, were heard-rivals during much of their amateur careers. Slutskaya, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and a 7-time-European champion--she was the first Russian woman to ever win that title in 1996--is the most successful Russian female skater in history.

Congratulations to Irina and family!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Michelle Kwan's "Winter Song" by Ingrid Michaelson and Sarah Bareilles

I had a really long, hard day today. By 4:00, I was mentally fried, not to mention cold, tired, and hungry. While waiting to meet a friend in the common area of the library, which is connected to the University coffee shop, I heard some music that I thought I recognized. I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was, but its soft, tranquil sound intrigued me, and drew me closer. As I reached the foyer of the coffee shop, I instantly knew that the song was a beautiful, tender piece by Ingrid Michaelson and Sarah Bareilles called "Winter Song." I automatically envisioned Michelle Kwan gliding across the ice in her trademark spiral that embraces us with its freedom and joy. I stood in the foyer, leaned against the wall, smiled, and truly felt at peace for the first time in days. (And could the timing be any more perfect for "Winter Song" and images of skating than on a cold, snowy December day?)

Michelle Kwan skated to this song at last summer's All That Skate (Yu-Na Kim's ice show) in Korea. It was the first time Michelle had performed in years. When I first watched a video of the performance on You Tube, I remember feeling overcome with emotion. The performance, a brilliant combination of lovely vocals, exquisite skating and raw emotions, is something to cherish. This performance shows why there is only one Michelle Kwan. Simply divine!

I am so grateful that I happened to be at the right place at the right time today so that I could hear "Winter Song" playing in the coffee shop, and immediately be transported back to a moment of simplicity and joy. Thank you, Michelle Kwan!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's "Out of Africa"

Last season, German pair Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's freeskate to "Out of Africa" by John Barry was simply magical, marvelous, get the idea!

The first video from the 2010 World Championships in Torino (where the pair finished 2nd) features no commentary so you can enjoy the beauty and reverie of the music and movement.

Video 2 is from the pair's gold-medal winning performance at the 2009 Skate Canada, which includes commentary from Peter Carruthers and Andrea Joyce on NBC's broadcast.


Friday, November 26, 2010

A Black Friday Treat: Brian Boitano's "Shenandoah/ They Call the Wind Maria"

Brian Boitano skates this masterful performance in the 1998 World Professional Championships. I love Brian's bold, sweeping, powerful movement. My favorite parts begin at 3:35 in the video with Brian's spread eagles and stunning death drop. I love watching the crowd rise at the end. Gives me chills!

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

ON THE RADAR: Javier Fernandez

Today's "ON THE RADAR" skater is 19-year-old Javier Fernandez of Madrid, Spain. He is the 2010 Spanish National Champion. He finished 14th in his Olympic debut in February-- the first time a skater from Spain had competed in the Olympics in more than 50 years--8th at the European Championships, and 12th at his first World Championships in March. Javier recently finished 5th at Skate Canada with an entertaining freeskate to "Pirates of the Carribean."

Javier, capable of a gorgeous quadruple toe loop and high-flying triple axels, is a skater who pays attention to the choreographic details of his programs in that he incorporates humor and plays to the crowd. His "Pirates" freeskate includes a moment where he mimes drinking whiskey and a "drunken" footwork sequence ensues! Javier has a spirited presence on the ice, and I'm sure working with the gifted choreographer and coach, Nikolai Morozov (who was yesterday's ON THE RADAR skater, Adam Rippon's former coach) also helps bring out the jovial pirate character he plays on the ice.

Upon watching Javier's skating, my sister, Devon declared, "I like his skating quality! It's imaginative and refreshing!"

Indeed, Javier is an exciting new face on the international scene. His skating is as refreshing as a few glugs of cold whiskey would be for a pirate after he's set sail on the high seas!

Enjoy Javier's "Pirates of the Carribean" freeskate from Skate Canada!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ON THE RADAR: Adam Rippon

Today's On the radar skater is Adam Rippon of the U.S. He finished 5th at last year's U.S. Championships with an impressive freeskate. With the absence of three of the top Americans this year (Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir, and Ryan Bradley), Adam is in fine position to challenge for a top spot at this year's nationals in January. Along with Armin Mahbanoozedeh (previously profiled on ON THE RADAR), Adam will give 2-time reigning champion Jeremy Abbott a run for his money in vying for his 3rd U.S. Championship in a few months. It's going to be incredibly exciting and I can't wait! The plot thickens among these three, as not only did Adam win last year's prestigious 4 Continents event, and finish 6th to Jeremy's fifth at Adam's world debut in March, showing that he's competitive with the best in the world, Armin beat Adam for a bronze medal at the recent Skate America event. What this equals is an intriguing rivalry between these three talented contenders!

Adam incidentally is from Clarks Summit, PA, near the Scranton area, which is a stone's throw away from my hometown in Stroudsburg, in the Poconos. Adam, the oldest of 6 children, was born deaf, according to his Wikipedia entry, but an operation at Yale University when he was young, allows him to hear almost perfectly. However, on the recent Skate Canada broadcast, commentator Terry Gannon says that Adam was born with a serious eye infection, (no mention of being born deaf was made) and it wasn't discovered until he was 8-months old that he had 80 percent hearing loss. He had corrective surgery, and treatment afterward. (I believe Terry Gannon over Wikipedia since Gannon's facts come from sports researchers, who probably checked the facts with Adam).

The stories about Adam's early hearing troubles aside, Adam certainly doesn't have any trouble interpreting music, as musicality and artistic interpretation are two of his strengths. Adam is also a wonderful jumper and spinner. An incredible talent! He's a natural on the ice, and I am very much enjoying his growth as an artist, athlete, and person in his amateur skating journey so far.

Adam has two beautiful programs choreographed by Canadian choreographer David Wilson this season, but instead of posting one of those programs, I'm going to show you his short program from last season to a moving instrumental version of "Dear Father" by Neil Diamond. With this engaging performance at last year's Trophee Eric Bompard competition in Paris, France, Adam made a statement that he was a contender! He finished third overall.

Watch for Adam's awesome signature move, the "Rippon Lutz"--a triple lutz jump with both arms over the head. The irony is that the "Rippon Lutz" takes 1998 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano's famous "'Tano Lutz"--a triple lutz jump with one arm over the head--to the next level. Adam's coach, Brian Orser, was Boitano's chief rival throughout his career. The two Brian's went head to head in the highly-tauted "Battle of the Brians" at the 1998 Olympics in Calgary. In his free skate last season, Adam performed a "'Tano Lutz" directly before upping the ante with a "Rippon Lutz" on the other end of the rink. This season, he performs his "Rippon Lutz" in the early part of his freeskate, and later performs a "Tano Lutz" in combination with two double toe loops with his arm over his head. Talk about a point-getting sequence!

I know you'll enjoy Adam's 2009-2010 short program!!

A little redemption: Johnny Weir, Melissa Gregory, and Denis Petukhov's "Fallen Angels"

For those of you who tuned in to last night's debut of Skating with the Stars, and were disappointed, (as is the general consensus among people I know, including myself), please watch the below video, which features one of the show's judges, 3-time U.S. National Champion, Johnny Weir, and one of the show's pro skaters , 6-time U.S. National medalist Denis Petukhov (paired with actress Sean Young on SWTS) and his on-and off-ice partner, Melissa Gregory, as redemption for the contrived cheese-fest last night. "Fallen Angels" is an innovative, magnificent routine that was the brainchild of Weir, Petukhov and Gregory, on the long plane ride home from Toyko, Japan after the 2007 World Championships. I had the pleasure of seeing its live debut, at the 2007 Marshalls Showcase exhibition event in Reading, PA in April of '07. The program was such a success that the trio was asked to perform it at other exhibitions, including on the last ever Champions on Ice tour around the country that summer. "Fallen Angels" is a powerful vehicle for three superb skaters. You won't be able to look away! Enjoy!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Battle of the Carmens: Round 1

Which Carmen do you like better? Please leave a comment with your pick! The winner of this round will compete against another Carmen performance in round 2!

Alexei Yagudin's Carmen from 1997 Cup of Russia:

Evgeni Plushenko's Carmen from 2002 Winter Olympics:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ladies, This is How it's Done...

If you've been watching the Grand Prix series this fall, you may have noticed that there has yet to be a female skater who has made a name for herself this season--no one has created buzz or set an early standard. Though the fall competitions are traditionally the time to test out new programs, and work out kinks before the top competitions later in the season, it is also the time of year to set the tone for the rest of the season, to emerge a skater to beat, or a skater on the rise. No females have done that this season. While the men's field hasn't been perfect this fall, a number of skaters have turned in strong, exciting performances: Jeremy Abbott, Florent Amodio, Daisuke Takahashi, Armin Mahbanoozedeh and Adam Rippon, to name a few. In comparison, the women need to step it up! A reader of this blog, Cindy Walker, made this insightful comment that really hits the nail on the head:"The men are outstanding. The women are like female birds, pale alongside the bright plumage of the male."

If you've noticed, besides when I write about Michelle Kwan, I haven't posted much about female skaters this season. I have yet to be truly inspired, (though I am a fan of Alissa Czisny's new long program to the music of George Winston). Since no one has really captured my attention this season, I've decided to reminisce a bit and post three great short programs from the Grand Prix Series of years past. The first is Michelle Kwan's 1996 Skate America short program to "Dream of Desdemonda" (a fictional continuation of the story of Shakespeare's Othello). It is sophisticated, elegant, mature, and dramatic!! It has always been one of my favorite short programs! The next two videos are reigning Olympic Champion Yu-Na Kim's stellar short programs from the 2008 and 2009 Skate Americas. Both programs, the first to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens, the second to a James Bond Medley, are dynamic, powerful, and brilliant!!

See it is possible to throw down the gauntlet (aka: lay the smack down) during the fall competitions, so take note competitive female figure skaters!!

Michelle Kwan's "Dream of Desdemonda" from 1996 Skate America:


Yu-Na Kim's "Danse Macabre" from 2008 Skate America:

Yu-Na Kim's "James Bond Medley" from 2009 Skate America

As requested from a blog reader, Yu-Na Kim's "James Bond Medley" from 2009 Grand Prix Paris :

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ryan Bradley's "Country Medley"

Me with today's highlighted skater, Ryan Bradley in April, following the Penn State Ice Show in State College, PA.

This week's theme is underrated U.S. Men: The purpose of this week's posts are to highlight some of the superb U.S. skaters who glided under the radar throughout their careers. Today's profiled skater is Ryan Bradley, the 2007 U.S. National silver medalist, 4th place finisher at the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Championships, 2010 U.S. men's Olympic team alternate.

Today is also Ryan's 27th birthday. Happy Birthday, Ryan!!!

My first memory of Ryan is from the 2004 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Atlanta, GA. I remember watching the men's competition on a TV in the upstairs of my house as I packed my suitcase in preparation for my trip back to Penn State after winter break later that day. Considering the disastrous men's event at nationals the year before, I wasn't expecting too much from the competition, but boy was I wrong! The 2004 Championship proved to be significant not only because the top 6 men in the competition skated great, putting the disappointments of the year before behind them, but also because it marked the arrival of a new, talented generation of U.S. men's skating, which included Johnny Weir, Evan Lysacek, and Ryan Bradley. These three skaters would be top contenders for the next six years. Out of all of them, Ryan stood out to me--one, because he was the same age as me, and two, because of his incredible showmanship and ability to incorporate humor and unbridled excitement into his skating.

From the first strains of Ryan's "Country Medley"--an intentional selection to play to the Atlanta crowd--I could tell that Ryan was going to stand out from his competitors because his approach was immediately different. He didn't look serious, or nervous, as one might be at a national competition. Instead, he looked revved up and ready to perform! And did he ever!

He gets into character, looks into the audience, and performs for the fun of it to make other people happy. He's a truly authentic performer who is doing his craft for all the right reasons. Okay, so at times, he loses his concentration and doesn't deliver all of his planned program content, but each time I watch this, I find myself saying, "Who cares??" He's not what you'd call a refined or beautiful skater, but I don't think that's what he's going for anyway. Ryan has always been true to himself, and true to his fans, and that's why he's so appreciated!! (Though I still feel he's underrated, hence why he's being profiled during the Underrated U.S. Men week. Ryan is brilliant at what he does, but maybe not as well-known, or as accomplished, in terms of titles, as Weir and Lysacek). If Ryan's skating doesn't bring a smile to your face, I don't know what will!

Ryan, originally from St. Joseph, MO, lives and trains in Colorado Springs, CO., under coaches Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin. While Ryan hasn't officially announced his retirement from amateur skating, he is not competing this season, as far as I know. He's performing in a variety of skating shows this fall, including Improv on Ice, which airs on NBC next Sunday (Nov. 21).

On another note, Ryan was the guest skater at the 2010 Penn State Ice Show. As soon as I found out this news, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to cover this exciting event for a local news source. Not only did I want to spread the word about Ryan performing so as many people as possible could see him, (and to help raise money for the wonderful Penn State figure skating program), it is also a lifelong dream of mine to combine my two passions and write about figure skating. (When I was 10, I announced that I wanted to be a figure skating commentator, but over the years, the dream evolved into wanting to be a figure skating researcher, to a reporter, and skating magazine staff writer! Skating blog writer is a more recent dream that is currently being realized!) Ryan's visit was a perfect opportunity for me to cover a skating event, and it was just extra fortunate for me that he is one of my favorite skaters. The stars seemed to align, so I jumped at the chance. As a PSU Journalism graduate, I had the credentials to make an article happen, and was lucky enough to find a news outlet that was interested in running the story.

I found Ryan's e-mail through his home rink's Web site, and sent him an e-mail asking if I could do a phone interview with him about the upcoming PSU Ice Show. Ryan got back to me immediately and agreed! I was impressed with his prompt reply. When it finally came time to interview him, Ryan couldn't have been any nicer during our phone conversation. I was a little star-struck at first, as you can imagine you might feel with someone you've watched on TV and read about in magazines, but Ryan was so easy to talk to, and that was a great relief to me. ( Not that I didn't think he would be, but it just made me feel more comfortable during the process). He was very laid back, humble, interesting and quotable. I will never forget how amazing it was to finally accomplish my goal to publish something about skating, and the fact that Ryan was so kind and gracious, made the experience that much nicer! It was so satisfying to be able to share my love for skating with other people. I hope that I get more opportunities to do so!

I also had the opportunity to meet Ryan at the PSU Ice Show. Just as he was in our interview, he couldn't have been any more friendly and polite when I met him. He even signed my copy of the article and wrote, "Thanks for everything!" Imagine, him thanking me, when he was the one that accommodated me! I know everyone involved in the show really enjoyed meeting him and was so impressed with how genuine and down-to-earth he was. What I appreciated most is that I know how busy he was around the time of our phone interview, how deflated he must have felt from his disappointing season, and how tired he was when he came to State College for the ice shows, and yet he was still 100 percent friendly, courteous, entertaining, and respectful. What a class act!

Come to think of it--and somehow I had almost forgotten about this--my sister and I also briefly met Ryan at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He was in the lobby a little while before the competition began. We went up to him, asked him to sign our program, and told him how we couldn't wait to see his skating later that day, because he was always so entertaining. His response was something like, "I try!" The thing is, I don't think Ryan has to try very hard--he's a natural performer who loves to make the audience laugh and smile--and it works!

Please check out the article I wrote about Ryan and the Penn State Ice Show in the April 15, 2010 Altoona Mirror Life section.

For more information on Ryan, check out his official Web site.

Don't miss watching the video of Ryan's 2004 U.S. championship freeskate to
"Country Medley" posted below. It's so much fun!

Evan Lysacek Nominated for Sportsman of the Year

Check out the article on about Lysacek's Sportsman of the Year nomination.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Moseley Wants to Skate Like a Star

Check out this article that was posted on today about 1998 Olympic freestyle skiing moguls champion, Johnny Moseley, one of the stars who will be competing on Skating with the Stars on ABC. The show premiers on Monday evening.

Jonathan Cassar's "We Insist" by Zoë Keating

This week's theme is underrated U.S. Men: The purpose of this week's posts are to highlight some of the superb U.S. skaters who glided under the radar throughout their careers. Today's profiled skater is Jonathan Cassar, currently ranked 12th in the U.S.

I discovered Jonathan Cassar's skating two years ago when my sister and I saw him compete live at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. We saw him skate his short program to 'We Insist" by Zoe Keating,and were immediately hooked on his skating! He's a hidden gem!

Jonathan, 23, may not have the technical content as some of the U.S. men who are performing triple axels, triple- triple combinations, and quadruple jumps galore, but what he does have is fabulous deep edges, spread eagles to die for, and beautiful artistic presentation.

Jonathan formerly trained in Detroit and has recently moved to California to train with Frank Carroll, the coach of the current Olympic Champion, Evan Lysacek (and the former coach of Michelle Kwan). I hope the coaching change proves successful for Jonathan. He's a diamond in the rough!! It's a shame that more people haven't heard of him/ seen his skating!

I couldn't find a great recording of the short program that first attracted me to Jonathan's skating in 2009, but I found a decent recording that should be sufficient to give you an idea of Jonathan's talents as an artistic skater. His choreography is detailed and interesting. His musicality and movement is top-notch. Watch for his superb spread eagle sequence starting at 1 minute and 42 seconds into the program. Awesome!

For more information on Jonathan, check out his Web site.