Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mid-Terms Study Break: Alexei Yagudin's "Winter"

As a very busy weekend of studying for my upcoming mid-terms concludes, I would like to post a video that is as refreshing as a a blast of fresh winter air. I give you "Winter" by Alexei Yagudin. The 4-time World Champion skated this jovial program choreographed by his coach Tatiana Tarasova at the 2002 Olympic Games. He won the short program en route to the gold medal two nights later.

Yagudin's win was the 3rd straight Olympic victory in a streak of 5 for a Russian or former Soviet Union man:

1992: Victor Petrenko (represented the Unified Team. He represented the Soviet Union in 1998 and Ukraine in 1994).
1994: Alexei Urmonov, Russia
1998: Ilia Kulik, Russia
2002: Alexei Yagudin, Russia
2006: Evgeni Plushenko, Russia

The streak was broken in 2010 when America's Evan Lysacek defeated Evgeni Plushenko by a narrow margin for the Olympic Gold Medal in Vancouver.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brian Boitano's "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera

Little introduction is needed for Brian Boitano's masterful performance to "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera. Vocals are by Frank D. Ambrosio, and the music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This is one of Brian's signature pieces, and it's easy to see why. Brian, the 1988 Olympic Champion, is a true master on ice. His big, bold sweeping movements , his edge control, and his soaring jumps and death drops are a sight to behold. No one can do death drops and spread eagles like Brian.

I have posted two versions of this performance. The first version is from a 1996 Made-for-TV special called "Three Masters on Ice," starring Brian, Scott Hamilton, and Paul Wylie. There is a little bit of commentary from Verne Lundquist and Peter Carruthers. The picture is slightly fuzzy, but still pretty good quality. Version two is from the 1996 World Professional Skating Championships. This version contains little to no commentary, which is a plus, however, the crowd's cheers drown out the music at the end. Also, some of the camera angles are too long, but the picture is clear. So, take your pick of which version you'd prefer. Brian is incredible in both.


"Music of the Night" from "Three Master's on Ice":

"Music of the Night" from the World Professional Championships:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Michael Weiss' 1998 U.S. Nationals freeskate to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven

At the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Philadelphia, Michael Weiss came close to making history by nearly landing the first clean quadruple Lutz in history. It was certainly the first one ever attempted at the U.S. Championships. Weiss' landing was slightly two-footed, but what a great effort it was, igniting the crowd. All the quad talk leading up to the nationals, and after Michael's valiant attempt, created headlines. The year before at the 1997 Nationals in Nashville, Weiss had also come close to landing the first quadruple Toe Loop in U.S. Championship history. At both events, though stealing the spotlight, Michael finished a close second behind rival Todd Eldredge.

Michael, now age 34, was born in Washington, D.C. to an athletic family. His father Greg was a 1964 Olympian on the U.S. gymnastics team. Michael represented the Washington Figure Skating Club throughout his career. For a good portion of his career he trained with coach Audrey Weisiger in Fairfax, VA, and then with Scott Hamilton's former coach, Don Laws on the east coast.

Michael is a 3-time U.S. National (1999, 2000, 2003), a two-time world bronze medalist (1999, 2000), and a two time Olympic team member (1998, 2002). After finishing a close fourth at the 2006 Nationals, behind Johnny Weir, Evan Lysacek, and Matt Savoie, missing out on his third Olympic team, Michael turned professional and joined Stars on Ice. He's been a fan-favorite cast member ever since. My family has seen Michael perform several times and he is always a wonderfully funny and entertaining performer. You can always count on Michael for a good show! He loves to play to the crowd.

Besides being a great showman, Michael is also a family man. He and his wife Lisa have two children, Annie-Mae and Christopher. Michael also gives back to up-and-coming skaters through scholarships through the Michael Weiss Foundation. Michael holds a skating show each year with all the proceeds going toward his foundation.

A great U.S. Champion, a great performer, and a great guy.

Over the years Michael skated to some more hip and contemporary music, such as Santana, Van Halen and Metallica, but my money is on his classical programs. I love this Beethoven piece. Michael really shines. His skating is fused with athleticism, excitement, and a burgeoning artistic sensibility in this performance. It was choreographed by his wife, Lisa.

I can remember watching this performance like it was yesterday. It was in 8th grade and I stayed up late on a Thursday night to watch it. The next day in history class, my friend Don was talking about how he saw on the news that Michael attempted quad Lutz. I love those moments when non-skating fans are interested in the sport! Michael's record-seeking approach to skating created that interest time and time again.

It's also interesting to note that on You Tube, the first comment under this video is from Michael himself. It says: "Thanks for putting this up....funny to watch again. Right at the beginning, as I push my hand to the camera, You can see a small scar on the palm of my's from a fall on the quad lutz about 2 weeks earlier....ha ha. great memory:) "

Only Michael could know something like that, so I believe he wrote it. It's funny to think that skaters may search themselves on YouTube and find the same videos that all of us get so much entertainment from watching! Thanks to You Tube videos I am able to share some of skating's most inspirational, fun, and beautiful moments with all of you.

I hope you enjoy Michael's freeskate to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven from the 1998 U.S. Championships.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao's "Who Wants to Live Forever" by Queen

Three-time Olympic medalists Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao skated this spellbinding short program last season to Queen's "Who Wants to Live Forever" en route to winning their long-coveted Olympic gold medal in Vancouver.

The husband and wife team, ages 31 and 36 at the time, had the perfect comeback last season. After finishing third at the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, plus winning 5 World Championship medals, three of them gold, the only item missing from their medal cabinets was Olympic gold. Shen and Zhao retired after claiming their 3rd World title at the 2007 Worlds in Tokyo, but the lure of trying for the Olympics one more time was too much to deny.

They returned to competition in the fall of 2009, winning gold at both their Grand Prix events and winning their 4th Grand Prix Final victory. With momentum on their sides, they entered the Olympics at the odds-on favorites, and didn't disappoint, claiming that elusive gold medal on February 16, 2010.

The one-year anniversary of that beautiful victory was last Wednesday, and so, in honor of that momentous occasion, I'd like to share this video with all of you. Due to copyright restrictions, the video from the Olympics is not available. Instead I will post their short program from Skate America, held in Lake Placid in the fall of 2009.

Congratulations on the 1-year anniversary of your dream-come-true Olympic win, Shen and Zhao!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Riverdance on Ice: Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz's "Riverdance"

This afternoon on NBC there was a skating special called Riverdance on Ice. The show combined the best of the Irish stepdancing and music on stage with some of the best professional figure skaters in the world. The spirited music and dancing of Riverdance reminded me of one of Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz's signature freedances to the music of Riverdance.

The 2003 World ice dance champions skated their "Riverdance" program during the 1997/98 season. They finished a controversial fourth at the 1998 Nagano Olympics (many felt they were under- marked and should have finished on the podium), and third at the 1998 World Championships in Minneapolis. Bourne and Kraatz's combination of the staccato steps of traditional Irish step with the smooth flowing edges of figure skating is a terrific contrast. This team exhibited great heart and artistic flair each time they skated this program, winning over the heart's of the audiences. Bourne and Kraatz exemplify the best that ice dancing has to offer.

Posted below is a video of Shae-Lynn and Victor's 1998 Olympic skate, followed by their 1998 World Championship one.


1998 Olympics:

1998 Worlds:

Friday, February 18, 2011

TGIF: Maia and Alex Shibutani's "Smile" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance" by Nat King Cole

Dear Readers,

Today is a glorious springlike afternoon in February. It's nearly 60 degrees, the sun is sparkling, and it's Friday. What more could one want?

How about some Maia and Alex Shibutani? This brother-and sister team's skating is as lovely, light and airy as today's mood.

This brother-and-sister team has plenty of charm to spare, but also some of the most fast, precise twizzles in the world. Amazing! In their first season on the senior level, they're a team on the rise. They finished an impressive second at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month, and second at this week's 4 Continents Championship in the company of some of the top skaters in the world. The Shibutani's finished behind their training mates, reigning Olympic and World silver medalists, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, in both events.

Maia and Alex are as smooth and pleasant as can be in their delightful frees dance to legendary Nat King Cole's classic songs, "Smile" and "Let's Face the Music and Dance."

I hope this engaging performance makes you smile!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Inspiration on Ice: Michelle Kwan's "Spartacus"

Michelle Kwan's "Spartacus" performance at the 2005 U.S. Nationals gives me chills (the good kind) every single time I watch it. Her pure passion, conviction, and heart is captivating. Commentator Terry Gannon said at the end of her skate: "She's able to take audiences to places that no other skater can take them." And apparently Michelle was able to take the judges on an emotional journey, too, as they awarded her three perfect sixes, bringing her Nationals 6.0 count up to 38 after this performance.

Michelle is the kind of skater that makes me love the sport even more every time I watch her skate. She radiates such uninhibited joy! She inspires me to pursue my goals with the kind of passion that she exudes in hers.

I hope this performance will make you find an appreciation for the beautiful world of figure skating; a world of poetry in motion.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Mid-Week Boost: Matt Savoie's "Adagio for Strings" by Samuel Barber

Matt Savoie, 3-time U.S. bronze medalist and 2006 Olympian, skated this masterful short program to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" in the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 seasons.

After watching this program from the 2005 Nationals, I wondered, as I often have, why Matt was so underrated as a skater. After this beautiful short program, he was only ranked fourth best. One wonders what more a skater needs to do to be at the top!

What makes Matt so appealing is his sophisticated, fluid, original style. As Dick Button commented during the 2006 Olympics broadcast, Matt uses old skating moves in new ways. He was doing difficult, interesting transitions long before they were required by the new International Judging System. Matt, a skater of great composure and sophistication, is reserved and introverted, and while he may not always reach into the audience with his personality, his elegant style, artistic sensibility, and stellar skating skills speak for themselves. Matt's skating is refreshing and wonderful in every way. Skating doesn't get much better than this! I very much appreciate what Matt Savoie brings to the sport and art of skating.

As a mid-week boost, sit back, relax, and enjoy Matt's "Adagio for Strings."


And for another spectacular Matt performance, check out a previous post I did on underrated U.S. Men, in which I highlight Matt skating to "Solo Amore" by Duetto.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day: G&G's "The Man I Love" by Ella Fitzgerald

Was there ever a more beautiful love story on ice than that of Ekaterina Goordeva and Sergei Grinkov?

Theirs was a case of two skating as one. The 1988 and 1994 Olympic pairs champions were the epitome of the perfect team, on and off the ice. Sergei, tall and dashing, Katia petite and lovely, skated with the grace and ease of a couple in love, which in fact, they were. The couple fell in love in the late 1980s, married in 1991, and welcomed Daria into the world in 1992. The team won over legions of fans after the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, where they won their first Olympic gold medal. Katia's youthful joy and effervescence, along with Sergei's quiet grace and dashing good looks, endeared them to many. As they grew older and fell in love, their love and connection for each other was evident as they skated with such a warm intimacy and passion. Their feelings for each other fused with their love for skating translated to magical emotional experiences for audiences around the world.

After touring for several years with Stars on Ice, Katia and Sergei learned of an International Skating Union rule change, which allowed professional skaters to reinstate into the amateur ranks for the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. G&G decided to reinstate. Though Daria was still a baby, they decided that this was their last chance to compete at another Olympics. Katia and Sergei wanted to compete in another Olympics because 6 years had passed since their first Olympic win in Calgary (when they were only 16 and 21), and this time, now that they were older, and their relationship had evolved, they felt they could use the Games as an opportunity to experience the Olympics from a new perspective. They could experience it with each other as a married couple. They could skate for each other, and for Daria. They could share all the love they had for each other, for their daughter, and for their lives, with the whole world. In Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," they found the perfect vehicle to tell their story, and won their second Olympic gold medal.

Less than a year after their second Olympic win, tragedy struck. In 1995, at the age of 28, Sergei died of a heart attack, on the ice, with Katia by his side, during a practice for Stars on Ice in Lake Placid, NY. I was in 6th grade when I heard the news. I was at my grandmother's house after school, and she told me what she had heard on the television earlier that day. I remember feeling shock-waves of devastation roll through my body. They were my favorite pairs team. I couldn't imagine the skating world without them. I soon realized that the whole world felt this way. The world mourned over the loss of the young husband, father, and Olympic athlete. There was was a major outpouring of support for Katia and Daria.

Shortly after Sergei's death, I pulled out a tape of a performance they had skated to "The Man I Love" by Ella Fitzgerald. I remember watching that performance over and over in the mornings before school, silently honoring their exquisite skating as tears rolled down my cheeks. They were the epitome of romance on ice. With this passionate performance, I hope you will cherish G&G's skating and appreciate the one you love as much as Katia and Sergei did. Happy Valentine's Day!

For more on Katia and Sergei's love story, click HERE to view information about the book My Sergei, by Ekaterina Gordeeva with E.M. Swift.

Also, if you enjoyed this video, click HERE check out a previous post I did on G&G's "Sculptures" program to the music of "Vocalise" by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Their choreography is inspired by Rodin's sculptures.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Unforgettable Tribute: Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin's "Ave Maria"

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin gave the world quite a moment during their freeskate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Caitlin and John skated a breathtaking rendition of "Ave Maria" by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, dedicated to John's late mother Stacy, who passed away from a chronic respiratory disease last February.

John describes his mother as the "driving force" behind his skating career. He could feel her presence with him during Nationals in Greensboro. Feeling inspired to skate for Stacy, John and Caitlin rose to the occasion at a competition like never before.

Although, their stellar performances in the short and long didn't exactly come as a surprise, as they had a solid Grand Prix season, including a bronze-medal finish at Cup of China, it was redemption over last season's National Championships in Spokane, WA. Caitlin and John, 2nd after the short program, and in contention to make one of two spots on the Olympic team, dropped to 6th place in the freeskate, after making several costly errors. Surely they were bitterly disappointed after last year, but this season's sensual short program to "Oblivion" and their magical freeskate to "Ave Maria" made everyone forget about last year's misfortune's. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who was focusing on anything John and Caitlin did in the past, as they floated through their ethereal tribute in Greensboro. It was a heart-felt moment that transcended the competition. It was an instance where results were irrelevant: all that mattered was that John and Caitlin had delivered the most beautiful performance of their lives. John broke down in tears at the end of the program, and I'm sure Caitlin felt relieved that she had lived up to the enormous pressure to help John fulfill his tribute to his mother. I'd imagine that there weren't many dry eyes in the arena. I had tears in my eyes at home watching.

Congratulations to John and Caitlin for delivering one of the most memorable performances in National Championship history, and for becoming the new U.S. National Champions! Thank you for giving skating fans, and the world, a moment of sheer beauty and heart.

Sit back, relax, grab a box of tissues, and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ryan Bradley's "Pure Imagination"

As a mid-week boost, I've decided to post Ryan Bradley's Willy Wonka exhibition program. He skates to "Pure Imagination" -- sung by the great Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka in the 1971 film of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-- and the Oompa Loompa's song.

I saw Ryan skate this in the TV special "Skate for the Heart" on NBC in January, and again last weekend in NBC's broadcast of the Smucker's Skating Spectacular from the National championsihps, and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. This is a fun, whimsical number that is quintessential Ryan Bradley! And don't blink at the beginning or you'll miss his quadruple toe loop! Ryan uncharacteristically missed two quad toe loops in his winning freeskate at the nationals, so he threw a beautiful one into the exhibition as a little redemption. No one blends quads and quirk better!

I hope a little Willy Wonka can bring a smile to your face on this windy, wintry Wednesday!


Cast your votes for USOC Athlete's of the Month!

Dear Readers,

Freshly minted U.S. National champions John Coughlin and Caitlin Yankowskas, and Ryan Bradley, have been nominated by the U.S. Olympic Committee for the team athletes and male athlete of the month awards for the month of January. The poll closes in about 5 hours, but if you get the chance to do so before it closes, please cast your votes for them by clicking on the links below:

To vote for Caitlin and John, click HERE

To vote for Ryan Bradley, click HERE

Monday, February 7, 2011

Disney on Ice: Kwan and Evora and Ladwig skate to music from Pocahontas

Michelle Kwan as Pocahontas:

In 1996/1997 Michelle Kwan skated to music from the Disney motion picture Pocahontas for her exhibition routine. She skates to the songs, "Just Around the River Bend," sung by Pocahontas, "Listen to Your Heart" sung by Grandmother Willow, and an instrumental of "Colors of the Wind." It isn't what I'd call a signature program for Michelle, since she is best known for such masterful pieces as "East of Eden" and "Fields of Gold," but her portrayal of the Indian princess is delightful and charming. As is typical of Michelle, she exudes expression and heart, whether she is skating to Rachmaninoff or Disney soundtracks. This was also not the last time that Michelle skated to Disney music. In 1998 she had a Moulin on Ice TV special, she skated to "Reflections" from Moulin as one of her exhibition routines that year, and also had a Disney Princesses on Ice TV special in the late 1990s.

Michelle skated her Pocahontas program in a pro-am competition in the fall of 1996 in which she was skating head-to-head with 1992 Olympic Champion, Kristi Yamaguchi. There is a fluff-segment before Michelle's performance on the You-Tube video below that builds the drama of the first-ever confrontation of the two skating champions. (In case you're wondering, Kristi won the technical program over Michelle, but in the freeskate, Kristi had an uncharacteristic fall on a double axel during her tango routine, and Michelle Kwan was the winner of the competition.)

Here is Michelle skating as Pocahontas:

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig as Pocahontas and John Smith:

I recall that when Michelle was interviewed afterward about how she felt about the performance, she said that she felt so in the Pocahontas character that she felt like asking, "Where's my John Smith?? Well, during the Smucker's Skating Spectacular from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C., aired on NBC last weekend, we found out that John Smith is alive and well, in the form of Mark Ladwig, silver medalist in the pairs event with Amanda--or should I say Pocahontas?--Evora.

I've read some posts on various skating message boards online where people think it is ridiculous for Mark and Amanda, ages 30 and 26, to be skating to Disney music (I guess you could say that it was more excusable for Michelle since she was only 16 when she used the music), but I don't think it matters what music you use when you skate as beautifully as Mark and Amanda do in this performance. They play the characters well, have spectacular, soaring lifts, and that huge throw triple loop landed on the beat of the music is just divine.

Amanda looks a lot like Pocahontas, even though Amanda is Filipino, and not Native American.

Here are Evora and Ladwig as Pocahontas and John Smith:

What do you think of these Pocahontas programs??

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kurt Browning's portrayal of Shakespeare's Mercutio

In my Shakespeare class last night, a comment was made about Mercutio, Romeo's close friend in Rome and Juliet. Hearing Mercutio's name, and being in the Elizabethan-mindset from reading Shakespeare lately, I am compelled to post Kurt Browning's program from the mid-1990s in which he portrays Mercutio. The character of Mercutio in Shakespeare's famous tragedy is famous for making long, drawn-out speeches, most famously, the Queen Mab speech, depicted above in the cartoon. Mercutio is also known as being a jokester, a free-spirit, reckless, affable, flamboyant, and quick-witted. Incidentally, the name Mercutio is derived from the word mercurial: having an unpredictable or fast-changing mood, which is an accurate description of Mercutio's character. According to my friend Wikipedia, the word mercurial itself derives from the ancient Roman messenger God, Mercury.

(Another interesting tidbit: tonight I was on and noticed that the word mercurial is listed on their words "trend watch." Look ups for the word mercurial have spiked as of Jan. 22. To find out why, click HERE. This is especially relevant to me because I found myself looking up the word mercurial this week because I've seen it several times used to describe Mirai Nagasu in articles about her during last week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships. I am fairly sure that I also saw that word last night in an article about Ryan Bradley in Blades on Ice magazine. It's everywhere!!)

In Kurt's portrayal of Mercutio both the music and the character of the choreography has a light-hearted, jovial, youthful, uninhibited quality, which after reading about Mercutio's character traits, seems to align quite well. Obviously Kurt did his research. I don't know for sure, but I would venture to guess that Kurt's program was inspired by a performance of the ballet Romeo and Juliet. His wife, Sonia, is a ballerina. Though Kurt's skating always has a wonderful musicality and dance-like quality, I especially notice the dance influence in this performance. I love it's detail, character, and spirit.

As always, Kurt's skating is prodigious. I love his quick, light footwork sequences and the moments when he's running across the ice that reflect Mercutio's light heartedness and good humor. His double axels are to die for (no pun intended, for sadly, dear Mercutio is killed in the play).

One note for clarification: at the beginning of this video, there is a short interview clip from Kurt describing his inspiration for his " Lightning Crashes" program by Live. I am not sure why this clip prefaces Kurt's Mercutio routine. Obviously a mix-up.

I hope you enjoy the interpretation of one of Shakespeare's most popular characters by one of skating's most popular skaters! A fitting match indeed!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates' "Luna" by Allesandro Safina

Gone but not forgotten: Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates were absent from last week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships because of an Achilles Tendon injury to Evan that has kept them out of competition all season. (Click HERE to read an article about Emily and Evan's skating layoff).

Emily and Evan, ages 20 and 21, the 2008 World Junior Ice Dance Champions, who have finished 4th, 2nd and 3rd at U.S. nationals the last three seasons, had a bit of a breakthrough season last year as they qualified for the Olympic Games in Vancouver, where they finished 11th, and cracked the top 10 at the World Figure Skating Championships in Torino, Italy. There was much anticipation about their skating this season, as they had just made a coaching change to the top coaches in the U.S., (and arguably, in the world), Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. It was going to be interesting to see what kinds of changes occurred in their skating, in terms of technical difficulty, or in their presentation or packaging. They were beautiful skaters to begin with, but the tandem of Shpilband and Zoueva bring out the best in teams. It's disappointing that they're sidelined this season, but that will only make us anticipate their comeback next season even more.

It's also going to be interesting to see where they stack up domestically against some of the teams that have made a name for themselves this season: Madison Chock and Greg Zuerleine, who picked up a couple of bronze medals during the Grand Prix series, as well as finishing third at last week's Nationals. Maia and Alex Shibutani, who also finished third at both their Grand Prix assignments last fall in their first season as seniors, and clinched an impressive second place at Nationals with a silky smooth freeskate that earned a standing ovation from the audience in Greensboro. The Shibutani's, known for their fast-as-lightening twizzles, elegant posture and body line actually tied Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the technical mark in the short dance in Greensboro. (My guess is that they can overtake Chock/Zuerlein, but will have more close-competition with the Shibutani's). Internationally, Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier from Canada, a team that commentator Tracey Wilson said during last year's Olympics had a bit of a rivalry with Samuelson and Bates, also made strides forward this year, finishing first and second in their Grand Prix assignments, as well as placing third at the Grand Prix Final.

In any case, they were dearly missed at this year's U.S. Championships, as I've really enjoyed watching them since their senior National debut in 2008, where they blew me away with their powerful "Luna" freeskate. Despite an unfortunate fall in that event, they showed a real artistic sensibility and a pleasant, likable, wholesome quality that endeared them to me. I was also impressed with them when I was in attendance at the 2009 U.S. Championships and watched them finish second to Davis and White. Their "Luna" freeskate is still my favorite of their competitive routines. Below is their winning freeskate at the 2008 World Junior Championships in which they skated "Luna," sans fall. It's wonderful!

Here's wishing Emily and Evan a speedy recovery so we can see them skate more beautiful programs next season and in the future!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jeremy Abbott's "Life is Beautiful" freeskate

Jeremy Abbott had an unfortunate freeskate at Sunday's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, N.C. that knocked him off the world team for the first time in three years (note: he finished 4th at the 2008 nationals but went to the World Championships after Evan Lysacek withdrew with a shoulder injury). The fall from Nationals grace for the 2-time Champion came as a shock to everyone, but maybe mostly to Jeremy himself, who appeared poised for a 3-peat. He has been terrific at the Nationals the last two seasons, last year in particular, not to mention that he was incredibly strong, intense, and in fighter-mode during the short program on Friday evening. But a different skater showed up to the Greensboro Colosseum on Sunday. Jeremy looked tentative and as if he was skating to defend, instead of skating to win. After making one mistake, the wheels fell off the cart. It was painful to watch. As a supporter of Jeremy's skating, I really felt sad for him. It's hard to watch one of your favorite skaters struggle, but on the other hand, maybe this setback will light a fire under Jeremy to fight back even stronger.

I should note that Jeremy isn't exactly known for his consistency on the world stage; however, the 2008 Grand Prix Final Champion, finished a respectable fifth at last year's Worlds, and finished 2nd to the World Champion, Daisuke Takahashi at the NHK Trophy last fall, with an impressive debut of his "Life is Beautiful" freeskate (see video below). From that point on, Jeremy has struggled this season because of boot problems, which lost him a lot of training time.

There's nothing worse for an athlete than if you're not comfortable with your equipment. It puts the athlete in a bit of a hopeless situation because no matter how in shape, or mentally prepared they are, if their equipment is a question mark, there's not a solid vehicle to carry you to success. Apparently Jeremy got his boot issues resolved, I believe before the holidays, but that also means that he hasn't had much time to break in his new boots and get used to them. I'm not making an excuse for his performance on Sunday, but it's certainly something that has to play a bit of a factor if you consider the amount of training time, or irregular training schedule he's had this season. It hasn't been easy.

Jeremy's 4th place finish is heartbreak for him, but he's still slated to compete at the 4 Continents Cup Championships later this month. That competition, especially if some of the top men in the world opt to compete, is an important one for Jeremy. It will be the perfect opportunity for him to redeem himself, regain the confidence of the USFSA, and make a statement that he is competitive with the top men in the World. Even if the top men aren't there, if Jeremy can post some high numbers, the numbers will speak for themselves. A great skate would also be a good way for Jeremy to close out his season on a positive note, which will give him something to build on for next season.

Jeremy's "Life is Beautiful" freeskate, choreographed by David Wilson, is a wondrous piece of artistic genius. It is a character-driven piece that tells a story. I have to admit that I haven't seen the movie, so I can't say for sure what story it tells, but in any case, the choreography is soft, subtle, pleasant, smooth, and creative. It would be great if Jeremy could use the Four Continents event to perform it in a way that accentuates the brilliance of the work, and the brilliance of his own talent. When he's on, Jeremy skates like a dream. I truly believe that Jeremy is one of the best male skaters in the world. He's so gifted in every way, but maybe that would shine through more if Jeremy believed it himself when he's out there competing!!

Below is the video of Jeremy's silver-medal performance at the 2010 NHK Trophy with his "Life is Beautiful" freeskate. This is the best Jeremy has performed this program this season, and here's rooting for him to do it even better at the Four Contintents Cup in a few weeks!!