Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
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 touniversalsports.com 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
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!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski's "Requiem for a Dream" and ....Johnny Moseley, 1998 Olympic Moguls Champion!
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
This week's theme is Le Fantastique Français (The Fantastic French.)
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
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:
Who says skaters aren't tough?
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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 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!)