Monday, January 31, 2011

Congratulations to all the 2011 National Champions!!!

Congratulations to all the National Champions from this weekend's U.S. Figure Skating Championships from Greensboro, N.C. It was a wonderful event, and by far the strongest post-Olympic season Nationals that I can remember! A superb job by all the participants! I thoroughly enjoyed every moment!

Below are pictures of the winners from each discipline, courtesy of Ice Network.

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin won their first pairs title with an exquisite, heart-felt, rendition to Ave Maria, dedicated to John's late mother.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White captured their third-straight ice dance title with a complex, technically-precise Tango freedance.

Alissa Czisny captured her second title with a flowing, dream-skate to captivating George Winston music.

Ryan Bradley clinched his first championship over fresh faces in the men's event with enormous jumps and plenty of humor in his "Amadeus" program.

Getting to Know You.... Richard Dornbush and Ross Miner

Richard Dornbush

Ross Miner

During yesterday's phenomenal men's U.S. Figure Skating championship, skating fans around the country were given a formal introduction to two rising stars, 19-year-old Richard Dornbush, the silver medalist (who came from 7th place after the short to actually win the freeskate), and 20-year-old Ross Miner, the bronze medalist.

If you're a well-read skating fan, subscriber of Ice Network, or surfer of skating on YouTube, etc., you've probably read about or watched the previous accomplishments of Richard and Ross at the junior level, but yesterday was the first time their skating was shown on national television, exposing their talents to the die-hard and casual skating fans alike. They have been called talents of the future, but after their stunning, clean freeskates yesterday, they are no longer on the radar for the years to come, but are contenders right now!

As they head to the senior World Championships for the first time in their careers, I wish them both the best wishes for a strong senior debut that will help to lay the foundation for their career in years to come. Last year, Adam Rippon placed an impressive 6th at his first Worlds, so hopefully both Richard and Ross can follow suit. Along with Ryan Bradley, who will be making his third trip to Worlds, these two talents will try to place high enough to secure three spots for the U.S. at the following year's Worlds.

I found myself Googling both Richard and Ross yesterday to get more information on them. The best I could find was their bio pages on the athletes pages on Ice Network. Check out the links below to learn more about these fresh faces in the world of U.S. men's figure skating!

For more information about Richard Dornbush, click HERE.

For more information about Ross Miner, click HERE.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

U.S. Men's Figure Skating Championships: An Event of Epic Proportions!!

There is no other way to start off this post than by giving a huge, well-deserved CONGRATULATIONS to the new U.S. Men's Figure Skating Champion, Ryan Bradley!! As one of Ryan's biggest fans, I've followed his career for many years, and watched as he always came up just short at the big championships, despite always putting on a great, and arguably, the most entertaining, performances of the competitions. After the devastation of coming within 6 points of making the Olympic team last year, it was such a wonderful moment for everyone, but most importantly for Ryan himself, to have him back this year for all the right reasons: for his fans, and for himself. It paid off in a big way as he now owns the prestigious title of the best men's skater in the United States! What a triumph!!!

I am so happy and proud for him. He has really earned everything about this moment. Good for him and good for the sport of skating! It's fantastic to have a champion who puts the audience first. Ryan truly brings his own authentic, unique, and just plain fun twist to the sport. He gives himself to the audience, and takes the sport seriously, but not too seriously, and that's why his skating is just so damn enjoyable and refreshing!

Ryan's win shows us all a few things:

1.) good things come to those who wait. Since this is Ryan's 11th appearance at senior nationals, he has certainly waited patiently, continued working hard, and never gave up on his skating dreams on the way to achieving this remarkable victory! He has shown tenacity, mental fortitude, and the fight of a champion. Young skaters, take note!

2.) There is no age limit on championship figure skaters. People have been saying that Ryan is "old" at age 27. Old? Ha! Remember when Plushenko nearly won his second Olympic title last year at age 27? Remember when Todd Eldredge won the nationals and finished 6th at the Olympics at age 30 in 2002? Remember when Elvis Stojko competed at the same Olympics at age 29? Remember when the Olympic pairs champions at last year's Olympics competed at ages 31 and 36? Age is truly a relative term. Sure, Ryan may be older than the 18,19, and 20 year olds that are skating, but just because he's older than them, doesn't mean that he is old! I'd like to see those younger skaters be pulling off quad-triples with ease when they are 27. So there!

3.) Never say never!

4.) You can't predict figure skating!

On that note, I will attempt to recap the amazing, surprising championship that was. (The videos aren't available yet, but at a later date, I hope to post the performances).

I was taking notes throughout NBC's broadcast of the final two group of men's skaters--and actually, I also got to watch the Johnathan Cassar, who skated in the 2nd group on Ice Network just before the broadcast began. I wanted to try to do what's called "live blogging," and post my comments instantly, but having a computer on my lap wasn't really conducive for me pacing, crossing my fingers, wringing my hands, giving standing ovations, and jumping up and down in my living room. And yes, that is actually what I do during figure skating competitions. It's not so odd--it's what anyone does when they root for their favorites during a sporting event. Why should this be any different? (Come to think of it, I'm not sure how I managed when my sister and I attended the Nationals 2 years ago in Cleveland, Ohio. How did we handle all the stress and excitement while planted in our seats!?) My notes are far from perfect, but I did what I could, when I wasn't jumping up and down! :)

Jonathan Cassar:

--Age 24. Skating to the magnificent soundtrack to "Schindler's List" by John Williams.

--begins with a footwork sequence, which is different than most of the skaters who start with jumps. Nice triple lutz, double toe combination; Triple toe loop, double axel, triple salchow, deathdrop with "Fratianne" position on back sit spin, as Ice Network commentator Tonia Kwiatkowski spoints out; hand down on triple lutz, awesome spread eagle--a beautiful highlight; triple flip, double toe combination with a little three turn coming out of the second landing; triple loop double toe, double axel, great spins!

--Love his artistry. He cares about every note of music and every movement! Beautiful skating. I could watch him all day! Has a big impact on the audience because they give him a standing ovation! (A lack of triple axel and technical content seems to be what holds him back. The quality of his overall skating is strong. I have a feeling Dick Button likes him!)

Technical score: 63.28; Component Score: 68.50; Freeskate total: 131.78; Competition total: 187.76

Adam Rippon:

--Age 21. Skating to the beautiful Piano Concerto No.2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (one of my all-time favorite pieces of music).

--Coming into the freeskate in a disappointing 9th place. Looking for a strong comeback in this performance. Looks focused and relaxed as the opening strains of the Rachmaninoff masterpiece washes over him.

--A simple, understated costume.

--Opening triple axel that he "really needs to conquer" says Scott Hamilton: tilted backward, three turn coming out into double toe loop; big double axel; wonderful Rippon-lutz; so far, the choreography, by the genius David Wilson, is exquisite; great footwork sequence; He is using the music really well; second triple axel: swish!! Triple flip, triple toe: swish!! Tano Lutz with double toe with arm over head; triple loop, great footwork and use of the music; Sandra says that she thinks he had a "turning point" during this performance where he really started to fight back; nice triple salchow; good ending spins.

!!!! Standing ovation!!! I jumped up and clapped at the ending. What a fine performance! Sandra says: "he's such a beautiful skater. He has it all!"

Technical: 76.36; Components: 77.42; Freeskate: 153.78; Comp. total: 220.04

Richard Dornbush:

--Age 19; fresh off a big victory in the junior ranks: the Junior Grand Prix Final. Finished 11th in last year's senior nationals debut, and entering the freeskate in 7th place.

--Gets into the "Sherlock Holmes" character instantly. Love the costume. Vest, tie, and pocket chain! Very Sherlockian! Scott says: "Should just be another day at the office for him. He's competed more than anyone in this event" [because of his competitions on the junior level].

--Fantastic, gripping, driving music to "Sherlock Holmes" soundtrack. [I didn't like the movie, but I loved the music!] Excellent skating music, and Richard is capturing the character perfectly!

--big triple flip; flies into an easy triple axel, triple toe combination--it seems like almost an after thought; triple flip; good jumping technique and spins, too. This is the first time I'm seeing him and I'm thoroughly impressed. He's really delivering this performance brilliantly, both in character and in technique. Sandra: "This program accentuates the casualness with which he goes about his business."; huge, easy triple axel; triple salchow; triple flip, double toe, double toe with arms over head; double axel, double axel; so far I'm blown away!!; triple loop; love the hitch-kicks during the footwork sequence at the end; and his playing to the crowd throughout! The music adds great drama and tension!

--What an astounding debut! And it looked sooo easy. This guy knows how to compete and perform: a deadly combination!

-- Sandra says: "Just an outstanding performance on so many different levels! He performed, he had fun, he was warm and engaging!"

--Scott says that his friends in the skating world know him as "Ricky" and now he wants to be known as Richard. [Considering Richard "Dick" Button is the greatest skater in the history of the sport, the name "Richard" in skating has pretty good luck on its side!]

--Standing ovation! I am beyond impressed! I can't remember when I've enjoyed a skating performance more. I'm joining his fan club!! A future national champion for sure!

Technical: 83.27; Components: 74.59; Freeskate: 167.85; Total: 225.56

Armin Mahbanoozedeh:

--enters freeskate in 8th place, which incidentally is where he placed in last year's nationals.

--Has deferred admission into Dartmouth to focus on skating this year.

--Skating to the soundtrack of "Avatar." Coming off a great bronze-medal performance at Skate America during the fall Grand Prix season.

--huge opening triple lutz, triple axel (Scott comments: "He owns and operates this jump"); the music builds as he flies into a perfect triple flip, triple toe combination; nice triple loop; looks very in control; nails second triple axel double toe combination; spread eagle into triple flip, variation on sit spin; triple salchow; double axel, double toe, double loop; the audience gets into the music an Armin gains momentum; he has a huge smile on his face as he performs his closing footwork sequence; lots of excitement at the end!!

--Standing ovation!! Well done!!! What an event!!

Technical: 77.40; Component: 70.88; Freeskate: 148.28; Total: 215.05

Keegan Messing:

----Just turned 19 about a week ago. From Alaska. Keegan is a real powerhouse! I had the opportunity to see him skate this summer when my sister and I attended the Liberty Summer Competition in Aston, Pa, and we were surprised at how fast and powerful he is! So explosive! (Elvis Stojko would be proud!)

--Sandra comments: "Keegan turns figure skating into an extreme sport. Look out!" Scott describes him as: "Aggressive, athletic, and explosive".

--Skating to "The Hulk"." Costume looks a little young, but appropriate considering the music; huge quadruple toe with hand down; triple lutz, double toe, fast spins! Good low, centered sit spin position; triple axel double toe; He gives every ounce of energy; needs to work on his presentation, transitions, flow, finesse, and audience connection. Sandra says: " I love his wildness, his passion...and it's refreshing to see this kind of power in a performance."; triple loop; triple flip, double toe, double toe; triple lutz at the last note of music! Wow! Talk about excellent stamina, and high-energy! As Tom Hammond says, "a young dynamo!"

Technical: 76.56; Components: 66.94; Total: 143.50; Total: 213.29

Douglas Razzano:

--Age 22. Coached by former Canadian pairs skater, Doug Ladret, who skated in Stars on Ice with Christine Hough. [Always loved their skating!] Douglas is entering freeskate in 5th place after an excellent short program that contained what Scott called a "magnificent" quadruple toe loop and a triple toe, triple toe combination. Quite an accomplishment for Douglas, who only finished 15th last season.

--Skating to a variety of tangos.

--Opening with a huge, beautiful triple axel; quad toe loop--a little turn out, but a good attempt! Triple axel--couldn't hold on to the landing--great recovery with a strong triple lutz; needs to work on relating to the audience; really nice triple toe, triple toe combination! Spread eagle into triple salchow; triple loop.

--A respectable performance! A good accomplishment to be skating in the final group of men, and to hold things together after a mistake! Big improvement from when I saw him skate 2 at Nationals two years ago. This is certainly a good building block, and a performance to work from.

Technical: 71.29; Components: 66.86; Deduction: minus 1.00; Freeskate: 137.15; Total: 206.76

Ross Miner:

--Just turned 20 last week. This is his senior nationals debut. A great accomplishment to be in the final group at his debut. He was set to debut last year and suffered a high-ankle sprain.

--My sister and I had the chance to see Ross skate this program at the Liberty Summer competition in Aston, Pa in July. We really enjoyed his easy, smooth style of skating.

--Skating to "Casablanca" soundtrack.

--A very simple costume of black and white.

--Opens with a nice footwork sequence, ala Cassar.

--big, beautiful triple axel double toe at the crescendo o the music; nice triple lutz, triple toe combination. Sandra says: "Boy, he's not intimidated at all, is he?"; triple axel; has a really easy going, relaxed quality to his skating; acts out pouring and taking a drink to represent the scene from the movie; nice triple loop; really smooth skating; nice triple lutz; he is making this look very easy!; spread eagle into triple salchow, double toe, double toe; Sandra: "he's really using the music to his advantage. He's using it to pull back and push through. There's beautiful pacing to this program." ; nice triple flip; double axel; does what Tonia Kwiatkowski has referred to as an "A-frame" spin, which I'm not a fan of. (He does it fine, it's just that it's not a flattering position).

--Wow! Another wonderful debut!! Great program!

Technical: 81.80; Components: 74. 56; Total: 156.36; Total: 224.35

Jeremy Abbott:

--Age 25; skating to music from the score of the Oscar-winning movie "Life is Beautiful."

--A soft, subtle costume.

--Sandra says: "It's so important to not skate defensively and to put the performance ahead of the win."..."This is one of the most beautiful long programs I've ever seen."

--The choreography is brilliant! Very soft, controlled and Wylie-esque in its style.

--Nice opening triple lutz, triple flip, nice triple axel, double toe combination--he was smart to not go for the triple,triple after he lost momentum on the landing of the first jump; .....

--from this point, the performance started to crumble, and I couldn't bring myself to take any more notes!! He put his hand down on his second triple axel, and fell on a triple lutz (which is an easy jump for him!)

--The program is beautiful and accentuates his best qualities--Sandra says that it shows off a "levity" in his skating--but without the technical, he has left the door wide open. It's so heartbreaking to see Jeremy fall apart like this, particularly after his magnificent freeskate at last year's nationals, which was one of the best performances in the history of the national championships, in my opinion!

--This is a very disappointing, heartbreaking performance. :( I feel terrible. As hard as it is to watch, I'm sure it was a lot harder to be the one going through it.

--As Sandra commented, this program is "a jewel." Perhaps Jeremy should keep it for next season and perfect it. This program is still developing, since he only competed with it three times this season. It would be nice to see the program evolve next season.

Technical: 66.91; Components: 79.86; Deduction: minus 1.00; Freeskate: 145.77; Total: 224.16

Brandon Mroz:

-- Just turned 20 last month. Skating to a great piece of music: "On the Waterfront" soundtrack By Leonard Bernstein. Choreography by Tom Dickson.

--Brandon enters this freeskate in 3rd place. He finished 6th at last year's nationals, which was a big disappointment, coming of a 2nd place finish at the 2009 championships. He's had a good international season this year, finishing 2nd and 3rd at his Grand Prix assignments.

--I don't get the costume and the glove on only one hand? (When Paul Wylie skated to this music he wore a red and black flannel shirt. I think I need to see the movie to understand where these costume inspirations are coming from).

Opening quadruple toe loop: fall out; triple axel, double toe loop; triple lutz; triple loop; needs to emote more to the audience. He's very introverted. The tension and excitement of the music is good, but I'm not sure if he's matching that. Sandra thinks that "like Jeremy" he is skating "defensively" trying to avoid mistakes instead of attacking. Gread second triple axel!; triple lutz, triple toe (foot down on the out flow of that jump); triple salchow; triple flip, double toe, double toe; seems to be gaining strength; slightly off the music at the end. Good recovery from last season. Good performance, but not great. He skated it better during the Grand Prix. It didn't have that much impact, but he's going in the right direction! I give him a lot of credit, and I think that's a good performance to build from.

Technical: 73.66; Components: 68.22; Freeskate: 141.88; Total: 213.49

Ryan Bradley:

--Age 27. Comes into this portion in first place, after a stellar short program performance to "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" featuring an enormous quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop combination and an explosive triple axel.

--Definitely the sentimental crowd favorite. He's skating to the music from the "Amadeus" soundtrack, which he used last year. It's a spoof on a classical freeskate, and it's great! The audience knows they're in for a treat!

--As Sandra points out, "this championships is Ryan's for the taking!" He has a 12-point lead over Richard, who sits in second, after the short program. Scott comments that the show means as much to Ryan as the result (but you have to think that the result is on his mind a little bit at this point!) He gets into character instantly, even before the music starts. And at this point, I'm not even taking notes because I am pacing around my living room!

--Quadruple toe loop--fall out. Uncharacteristic! Second quad, fall out. (This is when I Playful footwork sequence; huge triple axel!! Triple lutz; his spins seemed to have picked up speed! Great connection with the audience during another fun, playful footwork sequence; At this point I feel incredibly nervous as Scott states that in order for him to win this national title he needs to land his next four jumping passes "CLEAN!". I start tying my scarf in knots as he enters his next jump: a gigantic triple axel into a triple toe loop comination. Scott yells: "OH MAN! How did he do that??" At this point, I let out a huge shout and jumped up and down! That was CLUTCH! Followed by a nice triple loop, more playing to the crowd with a mischievous smile; triple salchow, double toe, double toe; nice triple flip out of no speed! You can hear cheers from the crowd as he does his final spins! He is even playing to the crowd during his bows! Hugs the flower girl! Scott comments on what a people person he is, and what a popular champion. "THE most popular champion!"

--Scott says: "No one could have predicted this event!" Sandra: "It's crazy" Scott: "It's wild!"

--Ryan does an impromptu backflip, much to the delight of the fans!! As he comes off the ice, his coach comments, "You were fighting!" (And it was certainly a fight!)

--Sandra comments that he "lights up any room that he enters. Filled with charm. He gives so much to the sport!"

--When the scores are posted, Ryan and his coaches are in shock! The audience, myself included, erupts when they realize he is the winner!!!! What an awesome victory!!!!

Technical: 78.17 ;Components; 73.34; Freeskate: 151.51; Total: 241.90

What an incredible event! Congratulations to the top 4: Ryan Bradley, Richard Dornbush, Ross Miner, and Jeremy Abbott (who missed 3rd place, and the world team by .17. Ouch!!) I can't remember when I've enjoyed a National Championship more. Wow!!

Now that I've finished typing up my notes, the event actually ended 5 hours ago and I'm still riding a high! I just called my sister and she said that the competition is still "swirling" in her head and she can't stop thinking about Ryan's win!! Me, too! What a night!!

GOOD LUCK to Ryan Bradley and Jeremy Abbott!!

I'd like to send the best of wishes to two of my personal favorites, Ryan Bradley and Jeremy Abbott, as they both skate for gold at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships from Greensboro, N.C. They enter the freeskate in first and second. NBC's LIVE broadcast of the event is from 4-6 p.m.

I am beyond excited for the skating, which starts in T minus 3 minutes.....

I'm sending Ryan some good karma so he can get some much-deserved redemption!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ryan Bradley Set to Work the Crowd in Greensboro Tonight

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Men's short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships will commence from Greensboro, North Carolina. The men's competition, always my favorite event, will feature some veterans--2-time and reigning champion, Jeremy Abbott, and 2007 silver medalist, Ryan Bradley. The 2009 silver medalist, Brandon Mroz, will also be fighting for a top spot, as well as challengers, Adam Rippon, and Armin Mahbanoozedeh. It's going to be a fantastic event. I can't wait!! Unfortunately, the short program won't be broadcast on television, only for those who subscribe to Ice Network ( The freeskate will be broadcast LIVE on NBC on Sunday afternoon from 4-6 p.m.

Click HERE to read an article that was posted on Ice Network today about Ryan Bradley's return to national competition. As I had the opportunity to interview and meet Ryan last April, I can attest to the fact that he's a class-act. He's courteous, friendly, and a downright entertaining skater. He's a fan favorite for sure, and a sentimental favorite, as well. Good luck to Jeremy, Ryan, Brandon, Adam, Armin, and all the rest!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Evan Lysacek Named 2010 SportsMan of the Year!

Congratulations to Evan Lysacek, the reigning Olympic Champion for being named the 2010 SportsMan of the Year by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Lysacek is only the second U.S. male figure skater to receive this honor, joining Scott Hamilton, who was named SportsMan of the Year in 1981.

Click HERE to check out the press release on

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kyko Ina and John Zimmerman's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman's 2002 Olympic freeskate to "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini" was the crowning moment in their amateur skating careers. Though they finished off the podium in 5th place at those Salt Lake City games, their nearly flawless performance had energy, emotion, and excitement to spare. I felt they should have finished in at least 4th place, but given how wonderfully they skated, it was clearly a moment of personal triumph for Kyoko and John. You could tell by the elated looks on their faces that they were so thrilled and proud to have delivered the performance of their lives at the very moment that it counted the most: at the Olympics--and on home soil to boot-- and that is what was most important to them on that evening in mid-February 2002. It was a moment of pure satisfaction for the athletes, coach, and audience alike. There's nothing better than seeing a team put it together when it counts the most. Medals are irrelevant.

The 3-time U.S. National Champions were coached by the legendary Russian coach, Tamara Moskvina, and her creative and athletic influence was undeniable. Under her tutelage, Kyoko and John blossomed into an impressive American pair, who went on to win the bronze medal at the World Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan, the month after the Games. (I don't believe another American pairs team has medaled at Worlds since).The two went on to have a long and successful career touring with Stars on Ice.

I was lucky enough to see them skate live several times. I always enjoyed them immensely. If I remember correctly, John and Kyko often skated first in the show to warm up the crowd and get the party started! Their innovative, high-flying, acrobatic lifts, speed and power, coupled with their popular, crowd-pleasing musical selections, such as Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, U2 and Maroon 5, proved to be a winning combination for them. They were exciting, interesting, and fun to watch.

Kyoko and John are now unofficially retired from performing, and I really miss seeing them on Stars on Ice. Kyoko recently made a comeback to skating, after taking a couple years off. She skated on the popular Canadian reality show, Battle of the Blades, in which former professional hockey players are paired with figure skaters. John and his wife, the beautiful Silvia Fontana, a 5-time Italian national champion and two-time Olympian, now coach at a rink in Florida. Among their students, they coach reigning U.S. National pairs Champions, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett.

A friend of mine, who is a reader of this blog, recently commented to me that she enjoys all the videos I post on this blog because the skaters and the music they skate to are wonderful combinations that are pleasing to the ear and eye (and soul, I might add). She said, "The skaters and the music deserve each other." This Olympic performance of Kyoko and John's is such a case, in my opinion. Incidentally, during the same conversation with my friend, she gushed over how much she loves Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." Though I love it, too, I hadn't thought about this piece of music for some time. Her comment made me think of Kyoko and John's Olympic performance, which inspired me to share it with you all today. You can all thank Melissa for inspiring this post! And to Melissa: I hope you enjoy this performance to one of your favorite pieces of music. You'll have to let me know later if you think the skaters and the music "deserve each other"!

I find the choreography terrific, and the music seems to flow out of their movements. They are not skating to the music, they are one with the music. This is truly a dynamic and unique performance. Kudos to Moskvina and the phenomenal Artur Dimitriev, the only skater in history to win two Olympic pairs titles with two different partners ( Natalia Mishkutenok in 1992, and Oksana Kazakova in 1998. He also won an Olympic silver medal with Natalia in 1994), who helped choreograph this piece. Artur, always one known to skate with gusto and reckless abandon, seemed to have quite an influence on John's movements in this program. John, always a charismatic skater in his own right, thrived with this choreography. Kyoko, often known for her calm, cool and collected demeanor, exudes enthusiasm in this freeskate, which goes to show that with the right music and movement, a skater can become rejuvenated.

My final note is a comical one: last year, my sister and mom were talking about some skating. Somehow John Zimmerman's name came up. My mom asked, " Is he the one that skated with Yoko Ono?"

A little name confusion. It can happen to the best of us! (She was right though that both woman had a partner named John.)

Without further ado, enjoy Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A mid-Week Boost: Caryn Kadavy's "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" By Celine Dion

(In photo: the lovely and talented Caryn Kadvay, right, with 2 other skating beauties, Elena Berezhnaya, left, and Kyoko Ina, center.)

In any given skating show, Caryn Kadavy, a native of Erie Pennsylvania, is a sure-bet for a strong, beautiful performance. She's a polished, professional, and expressive as they come. Caryn, a 4-time U.S. national medalist between 1985-1988 (three bronze and one silver), and the 1987 World Championship bronze medalist, qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Caryn skated very well in the short program, finishing sixth and qualifying for the prestigious final group of skaters in the freeskate. Unfortunately, an illness caused her to withdraw from the event.

Caryn was coached by the legendary Carlo Fassi, who coached Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill to Olympic gold medals. Prior to Fassi, Caryn worked with another legend in the sport, the always inventive Toller Cranston of Canada. The influence of these skating luminaries, along with Caryn's natural talent and years of professional skating has caused her to blossom into quite an amazing performer. Her skating is a pleasure to behold.

To boost your spirits mid-week, here's a classic Caryn performance to "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" by Celine Dion.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Four Short Videos to Beat the "Monday Blues": Video #4: Yu-Na Kim's "Danse Macabre"

Video #4: Yu-Na Kim's "Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Saens is in a word: stunning. Yu-Na used this sophisticated program in the 2008-2009 season. Here she performs it beautifully at the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships in Las Angeles, California. Yu-Na's performances in L.A. set the tone for last season, where she won every competition she entered in the fall of 2009 and the Olympic gold medal in February.

Yu-Na's "Danse Macabre":

Four Short Videos to Beat the "Monday Blues": Video #3: Michelle Kwan's "The Feeling Begins"

Video #3: Michelle Kwan's "The Feeling Begins" by Peter Gabriel is a shining example of Michelle Kwan's awesome athletic abilities. Michelle skated this program at the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships in Washington, D.C. with vigor, verve, intensity, and strength. In this program, particularly during the spiral sequence, Michelle, a fierce competitor, displays her "Michelle Kwan fighter face," as my sister calls it. She would not be denied in this program. She finished first in the short program, and went on to win her 5th world title 2 days later. What a champion!

Michelle's "The Feeling Begins" :

Four Short Videos to Beat the "Monday Blues": Video #2: Evan Lysacek's "Firebird"

Video #2: Evan Lysacek's "Firebird" by Igor Stravinski. (This is a variation on his short program from the Olympics, which he performed at the Caesar's Tribute to the Golden Age of American Skating in December). Evan's 6-foot 2-inch frame, affords him long, flowing skating lines. Evan combines smooth jumps and spins with dramatic flair. He is a 2-time U.S. National Champion, 2009 World Champion, and I am proud to say, the reigning Olympic gold medalist.

Evan's "Firebird":

Four Short Videos to Beat the "Monday Blues": Video 1: Jeremy Abbott's "Day in the Life"

Dear Readers,

The following videos are ones that are sure to bring some happiness, enjoyment, and inspiration into your Monday afternoon! All four videos are wonderful short programs from four excellent championship skaters. What's not to like about that?

Video #1: Jeremy Abbott's "Day in the Life" by the Beatles, as performed by Jeff Beck. Choreography is by 2003 World Ice Dance champion, Sha
e Lynne Bourne.

Jeremy skated this outstanding short program at the 2010 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships last January in Spokane, Washington. With this skate, Jer
emy landed himself in first place after the first portion of the competition. He went on to win his second consecutive U.S. title a spot on the Olympic team. Jeremy is a rare skater who seamlessly combines athleticism with the heart of an artist.

Enjoy Jeremy's "Day in the Life" :

Friday, January 14, 2011

Denise Biellmann: Swiss Powerhouse Extraordinaire

I first saw Denise Biellmann skate the first time I watched the tape Magic Memories on Ice tape as a 10-year-old in the early '90s. My Aunt Kitty, an avid skating fan, gave me a copy of the tape during a family visit to her home in Forest City, Pennsylvania. It was the first time that she discovered that I was interested in the sport. All I can remember was talking to her about how Surya Bonaly of France had been a world tumbling champion before becoming a skater. Anyway, since my Aunt was a life-long skating fan-- she had a signed photo of Scott Hamilton displayed on an end table in her living room among family photos--she thought it would be nice to share the skating video with me. I am most thankful for receiving a copy of that wonderful film because it educated me about all the skating greats. One of those skaters was Denise Biellmann, an athletic powerhouse and superb spinner from Switzerland.

Denise was born in Zurich in 1962. She was groomed to be a skating champion by her mother, Heidi. Heidi had once been a promising up-and-coming skater, but had to put her career on hold during the outbreak of WWII. By the time the war was over, Heidi's prime had passed, so she channeled all her skating dreams and efforts into her daughter, Denise. From what I understand, she coached Denise throughout Denise's career, which was considerably short, but successful. Denise, a 3-time Swiss champion, won the 1981 European and World titles. At the World Championships in 1878, a 15-year-old Denise stunned the world by becoming the first female to land the difficult Triple Lutz jump. (The first man to land a Triple Lutz was Donald Jackson of Canada at the 1962 World Championships). At the 1981 Worlds, Denise won the title, with an exciting routine, which featured an incredible, innovative spin, which became known as "The Biellman." (Depicted above). In the spin, she grabbed her skate from behind, pulled it over her heard, and continued to gain speed as she rotated.

Denise was a spinning trend-setter with this spin, as skaters all over the world have made this beautiful, dynamic spin a highlight of their programs for years. It requires a great amount of flexibility, strength, and skill to pull this move off well. The Biellman spin remains the only spin named after a person, under International Skating Union regulations. (There are several spins that are unofficially nicknamed after skaters, but not officially under ISU rules. For example, Dorothy Hamill had a spin nicknamed "The Hamill Camel," which isn't really a camel spin, but rather a transition from a back camel to a back sitspin, but that's not the official name in the rulebook. )

Now, with the new judging system, The Biellman spin has become a major point-getting spin. Skaters also use a variation of The Biellman position in spiral sequences. As for The Biellman spins, only a few skaters, such as Alissa Czisny do them any justice, but no one can do it quite like the skater who made it famous.

Below is a clip of Denise performing her trademark spin, followed by a blurring "headless spin." This clip is from a professional competition in 1995.

At the 1980 Olympics, Denise won the freeskate, but only finished 4th overall, due to lower placements in the other portions of the competition. The following year she won her one and only world medal, a gold, and retired. I don't know why Denise retired so early, at the age of 18. I never heard any information about the end of her career, and I can't seem to find anything about it online. I suppose it doesn't matter, but it does pique my interest. Perhaps Denise could have accomplished more skating-firsts, and had a chance to contend for a medal at the 1984 Olympics, where she would have only been 21, but maybe she felt that she reached her peak after winning her world title?

Denise continued to skate in skating shows and perform her trademark spin throughout her professional career, which is a testament to her extraordinary physical condition and athleticism. During the boom of professional skating competitions in the mid-1990s, when Denise was in her early 30s, she was still performing her physically-demanding spin with ease. Not to mention that she skated with great speed, enormous consistent triple jumps. She was a machine! What a tremendous athlete!

I very much enjoyed watching Denise compete in all the made-for-TV competitions in the mid-90s because you could always count on her for exciting, technically strong performances. Denise may not have been an "artistic" skater, but she did show growth in her presentation skills in the latter half of her career. I appreciated her skating skills, and her unbelievable physical condition.

In this 1995 program that I've posted below, Denise skates to "Push It" by hip-hop group Salt 'n Peppa and "Let the Beat Control Your Body" by Dutch group 2 Unlimited, is one that I fondly program. My sister and I loved Denise's awesome speed, power, and total command of the ice. The second piece of music, was from a CD titled "No Limits," which is apt for Denise, who truly knew no-limits as she flew across the ice. She was like a fitness instructor at the disco on skates! She worked it, and pushed it...pushed it real good!

At the end of the program, commentator Scott Hamilton quipped to co-commentator Verne Lundquist: "I don't know about you Verne, but I'm going back to the hotel and working out after this!"

Consider this video a motivator to get up off the couch and move!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy 25th Birthday, Joannie Rochette!

Happy 25th birthday to a very special skater, Joannie Rochette. I profiled Joannie recently in my tribute to Canadian Figure Skaters , and praised her not only for her beautiful skating, but for her courageous bronze-medal-winning performance at the 2010 Olympics, just days after her mother's sudden death.

In the performance posted below, Joannie skates an exhibition "Fly" by Celine Dion, in honor of her mother, about a month after the Olympics.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Moment of Sheer Genius: Michelle Kwan's "Ariane" by Jules Massenet

"Ariane" by Jules Massenet was Michelle Kwan's freeskate from the 1998-1999 season. Here, she skates the program at the 1998 World Professional Championships, which that year, was open to amateurs and professionals. Michelle was only 18 here. What a performance! Brilliant!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday Bonus Videos!

Bonus Video #1:

Enjoy this lovely exhibition performance to "Falling Slowly" by 5-time U.S. National Champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. This particular video is from 2008 Cup of China exhibition, but I was lucky enough to see them skate it live at the 2008 Penn State Ice Show in State College, Pa and at the 2008 Stars on Ice show in Wilkes Barre, Pa. It's one of my favorite Tanith and Ben programs!

Bonus Video #2:

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's "Pink Panther" Freeskate. The German champions, reigning Olympic bronze and World silver medalists are undefeated with this light-hearted freeskate this season. Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Update on Olympic Champ Yu-Na Kim

Click HERE for an update on reigning Olympic champion, Yu-Na Kim, and for more information on the programs she will skate at the World Figure Skating Championships in Toyko, Japan in March.

I Googled the music "Arirang," a traditional Korean folk song that the article says she will skate to her in long program. I found two video montages of Yu-Na skating to "Arirang" on You Tube that fans have put together. The music is beautiful. I can't wait for Yu-Na to skate to this music! I can feel an epic performance coming on!

Yu-Na video montages to "Arirang":

Michelle Kwan Plans to Travel to Singapore as Public Diplomacy Envoy

Click HERE to read an article on Ice Network about Michelle Kwan's plans to travel to Singapore as a Public Diplomacy Envoy.

O Canada! A Tribute to Canadian Figure Skating: Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon's "Somewhere in Time"

Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon are a simply delightful husband and wife ice dancing team. Both are natives of Montreal, Quebec and began skating together in 1995. Marie-France and Patrice 8-time World Team Members, and 2-time Olympians. They won silver at the World Figure Skating Championships, in 2006 and 2007, both times behind Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria. They are 8-time medalists at the Canadian Championships: 3 silvers and 5 golds.

Marie-France and Patrice withdrew from the 2006 Olympics after Marie-France suffered a terrible fall out of a rotational lift, landing on her hip, during the Original Dance portion of the competition. The moment drew a loud gasp from the crowd. The world watched as Marie-France had to be carried off the ice by Patrice. The couple feared the worst--that her hip was broken--but fortunately, it was only badly bruised, swollen and sore. Unable to recover in time to skate the Free Dance two days after the fall, Marie-France and Patrice had to exit the competition. Withdrawing from an Olympic Games--an event athletes work toward and dream about their entire lives--is unfortunate in any circumstance, but maybe even more so in this case, because Marie-France and Patrice had been skating the best of their careers during the fall Grand Prix season leading up the Olympics, finishing first in both their individual Grand Prix events (NHK Trophy and Skate Canada), and third at the Grand Prix Final. They seemed to have hit their stride and found their special style, garnering rave reviews for their poignant "Somewhere in Time" freeskate. There was a lot of buzz about this pair leading into the Games, and they expected to challenge for a medal. It was devastating for the team, and all skating fans, when Marie-France and Patrice had to withdraw.

As a true testament to their work-ethic, competitive drive and determination as athletes, only weeks later, Marie-France and Patrice were skating better than ever at the World Figure Skating Championships in their home country of Canada, at the 2006 Worlds in Calgary. Throughout the competition, they were neck-and-neck with the talented Bulgarian team, and only narrowly missed out on a gold medal. Their second-place-finish, though maybe a bit bittersweet considering how close they were to gold, was still an impressive victory for them. Not only was it the team's first world medal, a dream for any elite athlete, they had done so with grace, sparkle, and heart, only weeks after a suffering a serious injury and the heartbreak of withdrawing from an Olympic Games. Marie-France and Patrice may have finished second, but they certainly won the hearts of the crowd, who recognized the scope of their accomplishment, and appreciated the beauty and emotion of their skating performance.

Marie-France and Patrice's freeskate was exquisite! Their performance was a magical moment in their careers. Anyone who witnessed it, in person, or on TV that night, will remember how their skating grabbed you by the heart from the first strains of music, and didn't let go until well after the final note. It was everything a skating performance should be. What a triumph on ice!


Marie-France and Patrice's "Somewhere in Time" freeskate:

O Canada! A Tribute to Canadian Figure Skating: Joannie Rochette's "The Firebird" by Igor Stravinski

At the Olympics in February, 24-year-old Joannie Rochette captured a the bronze medal, becoming the first Canadian woman to medal at an Olympics since Elizabeth Manley's silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Games in Calgary. What makes her accomplishment even more incredible is that Joannie's mother, Thérèse Rochette, died of a heart attack just days before the competition began. Some thought that Joannie would withdraw from the skating event to grieve for her mother and spend time with her family, but Joannie decided that her mother would want her to compete, since medaling at the Olympics, was a dream that she and her mother had shared. No one will forget Joannie's courage and strength as she skated on Olympic ice under immense pressure, all while going through heartbreak. Joannie was an example of bravery, determination, and the power of the Olympic dream. She skated perfectly in the short program, and only made some minor errors in the freeskate, none of which marred the elegance and raw emotions of her heroic "Samson and Delilah" program. Unfortunately, I am unable to find a good version of Joannie's Olympic performances at this time, due to copyright violations, so I will instead post another one of her terrific performances.

During the 2004-2005 season, Joannie skated to "The Firebird" by Igor Stravinski. It was a dynamic program that lead her to two Grand Prix medals: a gold and a bronze, en route to a bronze medal at the Grand Prix final. Joannie also skated this program at the 2005 Canadian Championships, where she skated wonderfully, to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd, winning her first national title. Joannie is the first Canadian female skater to win national titles at the novice, junior, and senior levels. She went on to win five more national titles, finished 5th at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and 2nd at the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships. Joannie has elected to take this season off, and her future competitive plans are undecided.

Joannie is a powerful jumper, a beautiful artist, and a lovely, courageous person. Bravo to a fine Candadian champion! I hope you enjoy watching her skate.

Joannie's "The Firebird" by Igor Stravinski:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ryan Bradley's Return to U.S. Nationals Later This Month

Ryan Bradley, an always entertaining crowd favorite, the 4th place finisher at last year's U.S. Nationals-- one of my personal favorite U.S. skaters-- is returning to the nationals this year, for the fans, and for a win, as chronicled in an article on Universal Click HERE to read the story.

Monday, January 3, 2011

O Canada! A Tribute to Canadian Figure Skating: Elvis Stojko's freeskate from the soundtrack of "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story"

Elvis Stojko is a Canadian figure skater who will always hold a special place in my heart. One of my first clear memories of watching skating during childhood is of Elvis competing in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. It was a bitter cold Saturday night in mid-February. My mom, sister, and I were sitting on the living room couch watching the men's freeskate on TV. I remember commentator Verne Lundquist saying something to the extent of, "the next skater is going to combine Martial Arts with figure skating and show the world Martial Arts on ice." I turned to my mom, and said, "How is he going to do that?" She replied, " Let's watch and see." What ensued was one of the best (if not the best) performances of the night: an explosion of athleticism and power, infused with a subtle beauty and simplicity of movement. The sweeping, poignant soundtrack from the movie "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" was the perfect backdrop for the statement that Elvis was trying to make: that martial arts and skating can be combined to create a new kind of art. Elvis, a black-belt in karate, actually invited Bruce Lee's widow to watch him skate at the Olympics, though she respectfully declined.

No one had ever seen martial-arts inspired skating before, and Elvis proved that while the combination was non-traditional (much to the dismay of the extremely traditional Olympic judges), it was highly exciting, and beautiful in its own right. I feel a strong connection to this "Dragon" program. It's like a window into my childhood. Whenever I watch it, memories from watching this at 10-years-old rush back to me. It's magical!

Elvis finished a controversial second in the Olympics, behind Russia's Alexei Urmonov, who skated with a very traditional, conservative style that the judges loved. (The Olympics was Alexei's one-- and only-- major international win in an up-and-down career.) Elvis didn't let his second-place finish at the Olympics get him down. He skated phenomenally at the 1994 World Championships in Chiba, Japan, narrowly missing history as the first skater to land a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop combination. Elvis turned out of the triple toe loop on the tail end of a beautiful quadruple toe loop. It was a minor miscue that did not disrupt the technical precision and grandeur of the performance. Elvis was awarded a 6.0 for technical merit, which was extremely prestigious and rare in the old judging system. He won the gold medal, the first of three World Championship titles.

Elvis' commitment to pushing the technical advancement of the sport, and staying true to his own style at all costs, refusing to conform to the conservative, traditional skating that the judges preferred, is one of the reasons that I admire Elvis and his skating so much. Elvis refused to have his skating style dictated by someone else--even if it meant that he might be able to win more titles if he did. Elvis was truly a martial artist on ice. A warrior with the heart of a champion.

There is a great deal more about Elvis' competitive career that I could say in this post, but in order to keep this post from becoming a novel, I will save some of the commentary for a later date. I have many great Elvis Stojko performances to highlight. I grew up watching the majority of Elvis' career, so I feel emotional attachment to it. I have great respect for him as an athlete and contributor to the world of figure skating. He has made Canada proud!

Enjoy Elvis Stojko's masterful 1994 Olympic and World Championship Freeskates to "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story." The first video from the Olympics, features somewhat less commentary (by Scott Hamilton) than the second video, which has constant talking from Japanese commentators that interfere with the effect of the program. However, the second video, from the World Championships, features Elvis' fantastic attempt at a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop combination, so both versions are well worth watching in their own right.

Elvis' silver-medal winning performance at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games:

Elvis' gold-medal-winning performance at the 1994 World Championships:

A Feel-Good Skating Story

Good Samaritan Returns American Pair Skater Amanda Evora's Lost Olympic Ring. Click HERE to read the story from

Above (Amanda Evora with her pairs partner, Mark Ladwig, the 2010 U.S. National silver medalists).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

O Canada! A Tribute to Canadian Figure Skating: Jamie Salé and David Pelletier's "Come Away with Me" by Nora Jones

Jamie Salé and David Pelletier were thrust into the spotlight in a big way during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, when they were at the center of a monumental media maelstrom: the judging scandal in the pairs event. Jamie and David, who originally had been awarded highly-controversial silver medals, behind gold medalists, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia, were later upgraded to co-gold medalists after an internal assessment by the International Skating Union discovered foul play in the judging of the competition. The International Olympic Committee's decision to award a set of co-gold medals was a completely unprecedented action, but under the wacky circumstances, only seemed fair. Since the scores from the dishonest judge were thrown out, the votes for the Russians and the Canadians were split 4-4 from the eight remaining judges on the panel. The result truly was a tie. Both teams handled the bizarre situation with dignity and grace.

Following the scandal at the Olympic Games, Jamie and David, newly-crowned North American sweethearts, went on to have a prosperous professional career. They skated in a few of the last professional competitions (which are virtually non-existent today), and toured with Stars on Ice. Jamie and David were married in 2005, and acted as commentators for many skating events. In 2007, they welcomed a son, Jesse Joe Pelletier. In June, the couple announced that they have filed for divorce, but will continue to skate together. They are slated to skate in this year's 25th-anniversary Stars on Ice tour.

Jamie and David are 3-time Canadian champions, 2-time 4 Continents Champions, 2-time Grand Prix Final Champions, and the 2001 World Champions. They are best known for their "Love Story" freeskate, which they used in the 1999-2000 season, and revived for the 2002 Olympics, where they skated it to perfection. It remains an iconic Olympic performance.

The performance I've chosen to highlight is one that I was fortunate enough to see live during Stars on Ice in 2003. Jamie and David skated to "Come Away with Me" by Nora Jones. I remember being mesmerized. This program is soft, and sensual. Jamie and David are outstanding athletes, sparkling performers, and terrific role models for how athletes should handle themselves under fire. They've had a grand effect on pairs skating, and I'm delighted that they are once again touring with Stars on Ice this year so all their fans, such as myself, will have the opportunity to enjoy their superb skating in person!

Enjoy Jamie and David's "Come Away with Me":