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.


Upcoming Skating on TV

Sunday, November 21 at 4 p.m. on NBC: Watch Improv on Ice--and vote!

On November 21st vote for the skater who can improv the best! Watch Improv-Ice on NBC to see eight great Olympic, World and US and Canadian champions perform ala improv to today's hottest hits AND to the live music of legendary rock icons Foreigner. After the broadcast, go to cast your vote. The stellar field includes reigning Olympic Champion Evan Lysacek, Olympic Bronze Medalist Joannie Rochette, World Champion and reigning Improv-Ice champion Jeffrey Buttle, Olympic Silver Medalist Sasha Cohen, reigning US Men's Champion Jeremy Abbott, reigning US Ladies Champion Rachael Flatt, 2009 US Ladies Champion Alissa Czisny and US Silver Medalist Ryan Bradley. The results of the national on-line poll will be revealed on the broadcast of Riverdance on Ice on NBC on February 19th.

Monday, November 22 at 9:11 p.m. on NBC: Skating with the Stars!

Monday, November 15, 2010

ON THE RADAR: Armin Mahbanoozadeh

Armin Mahbanoozadeh is officially on the skating world's radar after his excellent bronze-medal-winning freeskate at last weekend's Skate America in Portland, Oregon. Congratulations, Armin!

The 19-year-old placed 8th in his first senior U.S. Championships last year, and will no doubt challenge for a podium finish this year. Originally from Great Falls, Virgina, Armin represents the Washington Figure Skating Club. He trains in Wilmington, DE. under Priscilla Hill, former coach of 3-time U.S. Champion, Johnny Weir. Armin, known affectionately as "The Persian Prince," was accepted into Dartmouth University, but deferred admission to focus on skating this year. For more information on Armin, check out his personal Web site.

My sister and I really enjoyed watching Armin for the first time on NBC's coverage of the U.S. Championships in January. We got to see him skate live at the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa in July. He skated a spirited short program to "Mario Takes a Walk"and "Prelude" by Jesse Cook. He was great!!

It looks like Armin is definitely on the rise this season and I can't wait to see what he does in upcoming competitions. Watch for him!

I've posted his Jesse Cook short program and his Avatar freeskate from Skate America below.


Short Program:


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ryan Jahnke's "Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor"

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 Jahnke, the 2003 U.S. National bronze medalist and World Team member.

Ryan, now 32-years-old, trained in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Broadmoor Skating Skating Club throughout his amateur career. His long-time coach was Diana Roynayne. His choreographer was Tom Dickson, who also choreographed for Matt Savoie. (Dickson created terrific pieces for both skaters, but then again, he had terrific athletes and artists to work with in Matt and Ryan).

Ryan has recently developed a skating Web site called The site is a forum for skaters to buy and sell new and used figure skating items. Between 5-90 percent of every purchase raises money for registered figure skating clubs, teams, and charities.

Just as I wrote in the last post about Matt, I don't know that much about Ryan. This is due in large part to the fact that he didn't receive as much on-air attention from TV commentator, and didn't have as many press articles written about him as other U.S. skaters during his career. But this is in no way indicative of Ryan's ability and achievements as a skater. Besides, it doesn't matter what you know about a skater, all that matters is how their skating makes you feel.

My first real memory of Ryan is from the 2003 National Championships in Dallas, TX. I remember watching it on TV from my college dorm room. It was BIZARRE! There were a number of catastrophes: skaters getting injured, skaters having costume malfunctions, skaters having competitive meltdowns, you name it! One of the biggest surprises of the day--and a good one at that-- was Ryan, who was ranked 8th in the nation at the time, defeating the reigning Olympic bronze medalist Timothy Goebel in the freeskate. (Nothing against Timothy, but it was wonderful to see a lower-ranked athlete finally skate up to his potential and trounce the competition. Booya!) Ryan finished second in the freeskate and moved up to third overall. He earned a spot on the World Team for the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington D.C. later that year.

Despite the fact that Ryan did not medal at the U.S. Championships again in his career, it doesn't matter. He gave skating fans many memorable performances that will stand the test of time, including his national freeskate in 2004,( which I feel should have put him on the podium), and the program posted below: Ryan's 2004 Skate Canada Freeskate to "Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor." Not only do I love the music, I love the way Ryan skates with such in-the-moment passion, beautiful edges, spins, and artistry. Wonderful!! At one competition with this program, Paul Wylie, who was commentating on the event, said that you can't teach the kind of passion that Ryan skates with. Coming from Wylie,a skater who "pours art into souls," that's a huge compliment. I completely concur!! Medals? Who cares?! Ryan is an amazing skater whose qualities can't be quantified in gold, silver, and bronze.

On a side note: In the spring of 2004, Ryan was the special guest performer at the Penn State University Ice Show. I was a Penn State student at the time, but currently at its Altoona branch, about an hour from main campus. When I found out Ryan was going to be skating, I made the trip from Altoona to State College to see the show. As I was waiting in line for my ticket, I saw Ryan standing in the lobby, just looking around. What struck me was that no one seemed to recognize him! No one came up to him to ask for an autograph or to compliment him on his brilliant freeskate at the U.S. Nationals just months earlier. I really wanted to go up to him to tell him what a great skater I thought he was, but nerves got the best of me and I didn't. I regret not being more outgoing! However, despite not meeting him, I did get to enjoy his skating in the show. It was exciting to see him skate live, and I'm so glad I made the trip!

I hope you enjoy the performance posted below as much as I do!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Matt Savoie's "Solo Amore," by Duetto

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.

The first skater in this category that I will be profiling this week is Matt Savoie of Peoria, Illinois.

I have to admit that even though I remember watching Matt skate on TV for many years, I don't know that much about him, aside from the basic stats. I had to look up some information on him in order to write an informed piece here. I think my lack of knowledge on Matt is due in large part to the TV commentators not giving Matt as much on-air attention as other more highly-tauted U.S. skaters like Michael Weiss, Tim Geobel, Johnny Weir, Evan Lysacek, etc.

Matt never quite managed to crack into the upper-echelon of the sport, and I don't know his intentions, but in my opinion, when I watched Matt skate, I never saw him as one with a fierce competitive instinct who went out there to win, but rather as a sensitive artist, who always tried to do things differently, whether it be a unique entrance into a jump, or an interesting spin position. He was truly a "skater's skater," as Kurt Browning called him during commentary for the 2006 nationals. (A "skater's skater" is an all-around skater who other skaters look up to and admire their overall skating skills. ) Matt appeared to skate for the love of the sport. However, he obviously was driven to succeed, or his career on the senior level wouldn't have spanned for as long as it did through 2 Olympic cycles. He narrowly missed making the 2002 Olympic team and stayed in competition for another 4 years to have a chance at making the 2006 Olympic team, which he did, by the way, finishing a very admirable 7th.

Throughout his career, Matt, now 30-years-old, finished in the top 5 at U.S. Nationals for 6 years, which included 3 bronze medals (2000, '04, '06). He is also the 2006 4-Continents Championship bronze medalist. Matt has a master's degree in Urban planning and is currently in law school at Cornell University.

Despite never breaking out of the third-place position at U.S. Nationals, Matt was a wonderful, complete skater for many years. His skating was marked by deep, smooth edges, excellent musicality and artistic sensitivity. His athletic ability was nothing to scoff at. Matt was very talented in many aspects of the sport. In the video below, you'll see that Matt lands a clean triple axel, the only man to attempt that jump in the competition.

In this first-rate performance from 2005's Marshall's Idol Competition (a spoof off of American Idol with 3 judges critiquing the skaters), Matt was magnificent. His skating truly embodies everything the sport is all about. As I remember, the judges enthusiastically praised Matt for the purity of his skating. All three judges put him first, though the audience chose Johnny Weir and Michael Weiss to move on to round 2 instead of Matt and Tim Geobel. Matt definitely had my vote!! I love this program, and I hope you do, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski's "Requiem for a Dream" and ....Johnny Moseley, 1998 Olympic Moguls Champion!

In light of the press release I just posted about the "Skating with the Stars" premier on Nov. 22 on ABC, I've decided to post a video of Brooke Castille and Ben Okolski's stunning national championship win in 2007. The beautiful Brooke Castile will be one of the stars on the Skating with the Stars show. (She will be paired with 1998 Olympic gold medalist in Moguls, Johnny Moseley of the U.S.)

With this dynamic free skate featuring a high-flying split triple twist and powerful throw jumps, Brooke and Ben captured the U.S. National Championship. Brooke, originally from Detroit, and Ben, from Tuscon, trained in Grosse Point Michigan throughout their amateur career, which included third place finishes at the 2008 nationals and the 4 Continents Championships.

I saw Brooke and Ben skate live at the Marshalls Showcase in 2007 in Reading, PA, following the conclusion of the 2007 competitive season. They were still riding the high from their national win and first world championship appearance, and skated with speed, verve, and attitude. I imagined them having a long, successful pairs skating career; however, that didn't exactly pan out. Brooke and Ben were hampered with injuries throughout their careers that prevented them from gaining momentum or recreating the success of their 2007 nationals win. Despite all that, they are one of my favorite U.S. pairs! Their quality of skating, power, grace, and artistry are undeniable.

When my sister and I attended the 2009 U.S. National Championship in Cleveland, Ohio, we had the pleasure of seeing Brooke and Ben perform an enchanting freeskate to "Claire de Lune" by Debussy, choreographed by the magnificent, Marina Zoueva. With some mistakes, they finished 5th, but I still remember how absolutely gorgeous the program was--by far the most beautiful of the evening. Afterward, while out in the lobby, my sister and I saw Brooke signing autographs. We went up to Brooke and told her how "enchanting" the performance was. She signed our program!

Last season Brooke and Ben skated the same "Claire de Lune" program at the nationals. Again, they made some costly errors, and finished just off the podium in 4th, but the magical quality of their skating that evening will always be remembered. I remember feeling quite moved by their lyricism and gentility. (I will definitely post that program at another point in time when I highlight some of my favorite U.S. skaters).

Last spring, Brooke and Ben announced their retirement from amateur skating. Both will remain involved in the sport in the coaching and choreographing realms. I hope that they perform again from time to time, too!

Please enjoy their powerful rendition of "Requiem for a Dream"--their 2007 National Championship gold-medal winning performance!

In Skating with the Stars, Brooke will be paired with 1998 Olympic Champion in Moguls, Johnny Moseley of the U.S.

I remember watching Mosely's thrilling Olympic win on TV. He subsequently became a freestyle skiing and Olympic superstar and is now a commentator for the sport. Most recently at the Vancouver games in February, I very much enjoyed his insightful and enthusiastic commentary. A quick internet search about the moguls star led me to information I never knew before: Moseley was born in Puerto Rico and became the first Puerto Rican ever to be selected to the U.S. Ski Team. Here's a video of Moseley's awesome 1998 Olympic Gold medal run:

Skating with the Stars premiers Nov. 22 on ABC

"Skating with the Stars" premiering Nov. 22

Reality show hits ABC at the end of the month (after Dancing with the Stars season ends)

(11/03/2010) - An amazing cast of stars -- including a Grammy®-nominated rock star, a bona fide "Housewife," a daytime diva, an Olympic champion skier, a super-suave actor and an actress who has graced some of the most unforgettable films - will compete each week on a spectacular ice rink in the sensational two-hour series premiere of "Skating with the Stars," Monday, Nov. 22 (9:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.

All six couples will take to the ice with their professional partners for the first time in front of a live audience on Monday, Nov. 22, with couples performing high-paced ice dancing moves and dazzling figure skating routines. Couples will need to be perfectly in sync, since the ice is unforgiving of even the smallest mistake. The couple with the lowest ranking following the judges' scores and the public's votes will be sent home the following week.

The six celebrities hitting the stunning ice rink this season, as announced tonight by "Dancing with the Stars" hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke during the live "Dancing with the Stars the Results Show," are:

REBECCA BUDIG - Daytime Emmy Award nominee and fan favorite Rebecca Budig returned to the role of Greenlee Smythe in December 2009 on "All My Children." Budig has also made many guest appearances and served as co-host for ABC's "The View." Other credits include hosting for WE's "Full Frontal Fashion," hosting for ABC Family's "The Bachelor" after-show round ups, as well as ABC's "Hope & Faith." Most recently Budig starred in "The Perfect Child," "The Beast," "Out of Practice" and "CSI."

BETHENNY FRANKEL - Bethenny Frankel has a knack for making healthy food taste delicious, a talent that has elevated her to national prominence as a celebrated natural food chef, the creator of the sought-after Skinnygirl Margarita, The New York Times best-selling author of Naturally Thin and The Skinnygirl Dish, and a spokesperson for Pepperidge Farm. Frankel attended the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. Her wit, wisdom and humor first came to national attention when she was named first runner-up on NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." Network executives next put her center stage on Bravo's hit series "The Real Housewives of New York" for three seasons. Her next series, the spin-off "Bethenny Getting Married?," premiered to the highest ratings ever in Bravo history. Frankel currently resides in New York City with her husband, daughter and dog Cookie.

JONNY MOSELEY- Jonny Moseley has amassed an impressive list of titles and medals as a skier, but it is his ability to bring a crowd to its feet that defines his career. In his quest to deliver the ultimate performance, Moseley has combined the discipline required of an Olympic athlete, the ability to thrill required of an X-Games athlete, and the creativity and imagination required of a free-skier. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1975, he hit snow for the first time when his family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1978. In 1993 Moseley was selected to the U.S. Ski Team and, after narrowly missing a spot on the 1994 Olympic team, he began preparing for the 1998 Olympic Games. In 1997 he put school on hold and became a full time skier. He won the first two World Cup events of the 1997/1998 season, and secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Moseley arrived in Nagano, Japan in February of 1998 and, one week later, won the first American gold medal of the Games with what had become his signature move, the 360 mute-grab. In 2006 he achieved another of his goals and graduated from UC Berkeley. In 2007 he was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame and became the narrator of the Warren Miller films. Moseley continues to do his weekly radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio and also TV work, and he is proud to represent Sprint and act as Chief Mountain Host at Squaw Valley, USA.

VINCE NEIL - International superstar, accomplished businessman and heartfelt philanthropist Vince Neil exemplifies all things rock and roll. Neil's unmistakable voice leads some of the greatest rock songs of this generation, including "Shout at the Devil," "Home Sweet Home," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart," "Same Ol' Situation," and the recent "Saints of Los Angeles," which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Hard Rock Performance. With 15 years since his last solo album, Neil released his solo CD, Tattoos & Tequila, followed by his New York Times best-selling book of the same name. He continues to expand his entrepreneurial efforts, which include Feelgoods Rock Bar and Grill in West Palm Beach and Las Vegas; Vince Neil Ink, a Las Vegas based tattoo parlor and apparel shop with two locations; Tres Rios tequila; The Skylar Neil Memorial Foundation ( -- a tribute to Neil's daughter, whom he lost to cancer in 1995 -- which has raised over $2 million to help combat childhood cancer; and his latest venture, Vince Neil Aviation. In addition to selling 80 million records around the world as the frontman for Mötley Crüe, he began a career as a solo artist in 1993. With one loafer in the world of business and a steel-toe boot heavily planted in rock n' roll, Neil is the epitome of a modern rock star, living a life of luxury, continuing to create current music, writing, finding new businesses that interest him, and giving back through his foundation.

BRANDON MYCHAL SMITH - Brandon Mychal Smith plays super-suave Nico Harris in the Disney Channel sitcom "Sonny With A Chance." Smith also recently starred as Stubby in the Disney Channel Original Movie, "StarStruck." In 2006 he won a Family Television Award and a Young Artist Award for his portrayal as Tayshawn in the Emmy Award-nominated television movie, "The Ron Clark Story," opposite Matthew Perry. His other film credits include "Gridiron Gang," opposite Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and "Weapons" with Nick Cannon. Smith landed a role in the 2002 season finale of "The District," and has since guest-starred on several other television shows, including ABC's "The Forgotten," Disney Channel's "That's So Raven" and "Phil of the Future," "The Shield," "Bones" and "Without a Trace." Born May 29, 1989, Smith is an avid roller skater. He makes his home in Los Angeles and is very close with his parents and younger sister, Kimberly.

SEAN YOUNG - Sean Young has starred in some of the most iconic movies of all time, from "Blade Runner" with Harrison Ford to "No Way Out" with Kevin Costner and "Ace Ventura" with Jim Carrey. She has brought her passion for acting and creating characters to the small screen as well, where she is currently starring as the devious Meggie McLaine in "The Young and The Restless." While no stranger to splashy headlines and a perennial mainstay of the gossip mills over the years, Young takes it all in stride. She has recently starred in a number of independent movies: "The Republic," "Random Encounters" and, most recently, "The Black Dove," which she just finished shooting in Cincinnati. A trained dancer in her youth studying at the American Ballet in New York, Young hopes to bring the love she has for dancing and incorporate it into her new adventure, "Skating with the Stars."

"Skating with the Stars" is produced by BBC Worldwide Productions. Izzie Pick ("Dancing with the Stars" and the UK's "Strictly Come Dancing") and Phil Edgar Jones ("Big Brother" and "Celebrity Big Brother") serve as executive producers. Paul Osborne ("I'm a Celebrity...Get me Out of Here!" and "Secret Millionaire") will serve as co-executive producer. Alex Rudzinski ("Dancing with the Stars") will direct.

(Press Release Courtesy of

Skating a 'Cool' Option for Students

Here's a blast from the past: a 2004 article that I wrote about the figure skating classes offered as Kinesiology electives at Penn State Altoona. The article was published in the student newspaper The Altoona Collegiate Review that I was a co-editor of. The skating classes were taught by Amber Yandura, a former skater, who while growing up, trained at rinks in the Baltimore and D.C. areas with former U.S. National Champs, Michael Weiss (a 3-time men's singles champion, 1999-00; '03), and Philip Dulebohn (2003 National champion in pairs with partner, Tiffany Scott).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder's "The Piano" movie soundtrack

This week's theme is Le Fantastique Français (The Fantastic French.)

Dear readers,

Due to time constraints, I won't have time this evening to go as in-depth with my post about Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder as I have about the other French skaters I've written about this week. That is in no way a reflection on Isabelle and Olivier being less interesting,accomplished, and wonderful than the others. I hope to write about Isabelle and Olivier another time in the future, at which point, I can give them a write up that they deserve.

Isabelle, born in Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme and Olivier born in Belfort, France, began skating together at a young age. They skated together for more than two decades before announcing their retirement after the Olympics in Vancouver in February. Isabelle and Olivier are the 2007 European Champions, and the 2008 Grand Prix Final and World Champions. They missed the 2009 skating season due to Isabelle's shoulder injury, and then Isabelle announced that she was pregnant, causing the team to miss training and all of the season leading up to the Olympics last fall. Isabelle gave birth to her son, Loic, on Oct. 1, then resumed training for the 2010 Olympics, where they finished 6th. It was not the placement they were hoping for, but with the circumstances, it was respectable.

Isabelle and Olivier skated this beautiful, intricate free dance to the poignant, haunting soundtrack of the movie "The Piano" to capture the gold medal during the 2008 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweeden.

The film "The Piano," according to Internet Movie Database is about "a mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation."

Isabelle and Olivier stayed very true to the film in their on-ice portrayal. I haven't seen the film, but apparently one of the characters in the movie has a tattoo on his neck, which is why Olivier has (an artificial) one on his neck for this program. Isabelle and Olivier also include sign language throughout this skate. At the start they both sign, "Watch our program, we will tell you our story." I love the sign language. Love the music, love the skating, love the edge control, love the program!! One of my favorite highlights is around the 1 min. 8 seconds to 1 min. 14 seconds mark where they both become parallel to the ice. Tres beau! J'adore!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brian Joubert's "Metallica Medley"

This week's theme is Le Fantastique Français (The Fantastic French.)

Ever since he burst onto the senior skating scene at the 2001 Skate America competition, Brian Joubert has been considered skating's heartthrob. The 26-year-old from Poitiers, France, may attract attention for his good looks, and rightfully so, but that is not why I'm choosing to feature Brian in my list of fantastic French skaters. Brian is a phenomenal, pure, natural jumper, and has helped to push the sport athletically over the years. Brian deserves recognition for his ability to consistently land quadruple jumps and quadruple jump combinations over a long period of time.

Brian's skating accomplishments are especially notable since at 11-months old, he suffered a serious, life-threatening illness, and had one kidney removed. Because of this, Brian chose to skate because it was considered a less-violent sport than some of the other ones he favored. He began skating when he was 4-years-old with his two older sisters. Brian started out as an ice dancer, but switched disciplines when he became intrigued with the high-flying jumping and exciting technical aspects of singles skating.

Brian has won 6 French National titles,6 French Masters titles, 3 European Championships, 1 Grand Prix Final Championship, and 6 World medals, including gold in 2007. Despite these victories, Brian has had a somewhat up and down career, not without injury, illness, disappointments, and setbacks. He continues to persevere.

Brian has endured two Olympic disappointments. He finished 6th in 2006, but that was nothing compared to the utterly devastating, downright humiliating Olympic experience in Vancouver in February, where he finished a lowly 16th. Brian had entered the event as the reigning World bronze medalist. To this day, I don't think anyone, including Brian, knows why he had the meltdown that he did.

Despite his nightmarish situation in Vancouver, Brian fought back at the World Championships a month later in Torino, Italy. He wasn't perfect, but he was impressive, considering everything. Brian won bronze, his 6th world medal-- a true testament to his athletic firepower and longevity in the sport. (FYI: Brian has won 3 world silver medals ('04,'06, '08),one gold ('07), and 2 bronze medals ('09, '10).

The photo below is Brian on the podium at the 2007 Worlds in Tokyo, Japan, when he won world championship gold. Silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan is on the right, and bronze medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland is on the left.

Though he's always pushing the sport technically, and has often been outspoken about the importance of the quadruple jump, Brian has been criticized for remaining somewhat stagnant artistically. Brian has good skating skills, his spins have improved tremendously over the years, and he is well-liked by audiences, but there's something missing in his skating that would make the difference between him being a great skater and a great artist. Brian also tends to skate with similar choreography to the same musical genres each year. For example, he skated to Metallica, Safri Duo, and The Matrix and The Matrix unloaded for a number of seasons. While they were all very good program, it would have been nice to see Brian skate out of his comfort zone and try different styles of music and choreography. For this season though, I couldn't be happier to report that Brian has finally decided to branch out! He's working with renowned choreographer David Wilson and skating to Malaguena in the short program, and Beethoven's Symphony No.9. Brian has never skated to classical music EVER. I can't wait to see his evolution! I'm sure he's going to be great, er, fantastique!

The videos posted below are an interview with Brian right before his 2008 World Championship "Metallica" freeskate, and then the video of his program. Brian finished second to Canada's Jeffrey Buttle. Some argued that Brian, who skated a brilliant technically-packed, energetic program, should have won, but he was coming from behind after a 6th place finish in the short program (after receiving a bogus, controversial music violation for his music containing lyrics) and came up just short of his second consecutive World title. Judging from Brian's reaction after his freeskate, I think that he thought he was going to win, but looking at the big picture, despite the result, this freeskate contains some of the most beautiful, pure jumps with smooth, soft landings that I've ever seen. Sometimes, it's about the journey, not the result. If you're able to give the skating world a thrilling memory, then maybe, in the words of Metallica, "nothing else matters."


ESPN Interview with Brian:

CLICK HERE to see Brian's 2008 World Freeskate to "Metallica Medley"

Adam Rippon and Patrick Chan Skating Crash

I just saw this video of American skater Adam Rippon colliding with Patrick Chan of Canada during a practice session during last weekend's Skate Canada international skating competition. Adam, the skater in the cream-colored shirt with blonde hair, obtained a black eye and a stiff shoulder. Adam and Patrick both recovered well and won medals: Patrick gold, and Adam bronze.

Who says skaters aren't tough?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Laurent Tobel's "Austin Powers," from the movie soundtrack

This week's theme is Le Fantastique Français (The Fantastic French.)

If you take one look at Laurent Tobel, you'd think him an unlikely candidate to be a successful figure skater. The Frenchman, who is between the height of 6 foot 2 and 6 foot 4 (my sources vary on this), and whose "personality and body language suggests baffoonery" (From Ice Cream, by Toller Cranston, pg. 254), has made a career out of surprising others with his unorthodox appearance and quirky sense of humor. My favorite part of his skating is his facial expressions. He has this ability to make zany, hilarious faces that say more than words ever could.

While Tobel, the 1999 French national champion from Savigny, never medaled at a major international event, and didn't crack into the top 10 at the World Championships during his amateur career, he made quite a name for himself while performing a variety of crowd-pleasing parodies in exhibition performances, such as an awkward, fumbling, ugly ballerina skating to Swan Lake. I had the pleasure of seeing Tobel skate his Swan Lake parody during a run of Champions on Ice in 2002. The picture below is of Tobel skating a parody of Carmen. The photo says it all!

During his amateur career, Tobel also skated some memorable character-driven programs. In 1997, he skated to music from The Pink Panther. I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine that he played the role of Inspector Clouseau. Tobel held an imaginary magnifying glass and looked for clues throughout the program. He competed with this routine at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In his book Ice Cream, Toller Cranston writes of witnessing Tobel skate his Pink Panther program in the men's qualifying round. He writes:

"Above and beyond phenomenal jumping content (including a triple Axel/triple toe-loop combination), he performed with a comedic sense that enthralled the audience in a way that no competitive skater in the sport's history has ever done. A master comedian, Laurent poked fun at himself (and the judges as well, I thought). The real genius of the routine, choreographed by Allen Schramm, lay in the fact that every member of the audience seemed to comprehend Laurent's thoughts and underlying motivations. When the performance ended, the crowd erupted into a prolonged standing ovation.... Later that evening, he entered the skater's dining room with other members of the French team. All the athletes in the room stood up and offered a second standing ovation. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before," (pgs. 255-256).

For the 1999-2000 skating season, Laurent's freeskate was set to music from the Austin Powers soundtrack. Laurent played the part of Austin Powers. You will notice his outfit is iconic Austin Powers. Laurent incorporated many hilarious mannerisms and facial expressions. His best, most memorable performance of this routine was at the 1999 Skate Canada event. From what I remember, the skaters who competed before Laurent, which included three world champions: Elvis Stojko of Canada, Todd Eldredge of the U.S., and Alexei Yagudin of Russia, had not delivered the goods. Instead, it was Laurent who threw down the gauntlet, landing an impressive triple Axel/ triple-toe combination right off the bat (so amazing because of his large frame). He performed with energy, quirk and personality to spare. He fell on his final triple flip jump, but who cares?

What's all the more incredible is that the fire alarm started going off in the middle of his program---someone had pulled it as a prank--and instead of becoming distracted, or stopping his program--Laurent continued reeling off triple jumps like never before. You could even say he was on fire!

Sit back, relax, and prepare to laugh. Laurent is tres unique! Amusez-vous!

(Note: in the beginning of the video, the screen turns blue for a moment. Just wait, the video will resume immediately afterward.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Philippe Candeloro's "The Godfather"

This week's theme is Le Fantastique Français (The Fantastic French.)

Philippe Candeloro is by far one of the most entertaining and charismatic French skaters in history. Born to an Italian bricklayer and a French mother in 1972, Philippe grew up in Colombes, a suburb of Paris. He showed an early talent for sports. When his elementary school class took a field trip to the ice rink, Philippe showed potential on skates, too, and began taking lessons. As his skating career developed, Philippe,a strong jumper capable of receiving high technical merit marks, learned to bolster his artistic impression scores by playing characters on the ice. Some of his more memorable(or notorious) character programs were Conan the Barbarian, The Godfather, Lucky Luke, D'Artagnan, George of the Jungle, and Braveheart (see below.)

Philippe also became known for taking his clothes off on the ice, often skating shirtless for hundreds of screaming fans. The chapter about Philippe in Toller Cranston's book Ice Cream, an opinionated listing about 30 of the most interesting skaters in history, is titled: "Chippendales Dancer in Skate Boots."

While I greatly enjoyed all of Philippe's character routines--they always made me laugh-- I don't think that he needed to use a character to make himself appear to be an "artistic" skater. I always felt that Philippe was very artistic--he just didn't convey it in a conventional way. Ever the showman, Philippe was a skater who put the audience first, the judges second, maybe more so than anyone else ever has. Case and point: His 1998 Olympic freeskate included a sword fight for goodness sake! (I will post that video later). Scott Hamilton once quipped that Philippe valued the audience more because the judges didn't pay to get in the arena! He was there to put on a show!

Kurt Browning, commentating for NBC at the 1994 World Championships in Chiba, Japan, called Philippe the most "emotional" skater in the competition. Skating to Nino Roto's captivating film score from "The Godfather" soundtrack, Philippe portrayed the Godfather in a vulnerable, masculine way, all with a touch of subtle humor and inventive, original movement,such as his signature move the "Candeloro Spin," in which he spins cross-legged on the ice. His emotion and sensitivity, coupled with often superb triple jumps is why Philippe had excellent results in 1994 with his Godfather program. With it, he won Olympic bronze in Lillehammer and World Silver in Chiba.

Philippe had an up-and-down career after that (though he did win bronze at the 1995 Worlds in Birmingham, England), but rose out of nowhere to claim another impressive bronze medal at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. He went on to have a very successful professional career, winning the World Professional Championships, and touring with Champions on Ice and his own tour of Europe called Candel Euro. (Love the name. Or should I say, J'adore!!)

I remember watching Philippe skate "The Godfather" routine during the 1994 Olympic broadcast on a bitterly cold evening. I was still in elementary school and it was the first Olympic mens event that I had ever watched. My sister and were so entertained by his program that we couldn't stop talking about it. We declared it our favorite of the night. I remember that later, maybe a few days afterward, we were still enthused. We told my grandmother all about the program, and how Philippe had made a face at the end of his "Candeloro Spin," as if to say "yikes!" for falling on his final triple axel attempt. We imitated the face to show her what Philippe had looked like.

When Philippe skated "The Godfather" routine again a month later at the World Championships (the video clip below). I was too young to stay up late to watch it, so my dad taped it for me. The next morning, out of sheer anticipation, I got up when the sun was just rising to watch the skating. I was so excited by the utterly epic performances of Philippe, who finished second, and gold medalist, Elvis Stojko of Canada. I was also so grateful that my dad taped the competition for me that I made a thank you card for him with a drawing of Philippe on the front. I still have the tape, but I am not sure what happened to my drawing of Philippe!

Philippe's "Godfather" program is on my short list of all-time favorites. It always reminds me of when I first fell in love with watching the sport and takes me back to a time when I was a little girl who was too young to watch late-night competitions and drew pictures of skaters for fun.

J'adore Philippe! Amusez-vous! (Enjoy!)