Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shall We Dance? Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko's 1992 Olympic Freeskate

After spending the last couple of weeks profiling Japanese skaters in my tribute to the people of Japan, for the next week or so, I'm going to focus on highlighting some exquisite ice dancing routines. I have a tribute to Japan part 2 in mind, but that will come a bit later down the road. I want to change things up, and there's nothing more refreshing and invigorating to the spirit than watching sublimely beautiful dancing on ice.

The first program that came to mind for me was Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko's 1991-1992 freedance to Johann Sebastian Bach's "Air from Suite No.3" and "Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor." Bach's music is emotional, haunting, grand and soft all at once, making it a unique blend of beauty that mirrors all that makes up the sport and the art of ice dance.

Marina and Sergei, a married couple from Moscow Russia (who now reside and coach in California), had an incredible amateur career that spanned from the early 1980s until the early 1990s, in which they steadily climbed up the ranks. They won the Olympic bronze medal in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, and finally the coveted gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. Along the way, they also amassed eight World Championship medals (five silvers and three golds), and seven European Championship medals (three silvers, four golds).

Though I did ever see them compete as amateurs, I saw them skate many times as professionals, both on TV, and once on Champions on Ice, and was always blown away by their dynamic, dramatic, passion-infused programs. This 1992 Olympic freeskate is a perfect example of that. It is art come to life; a magnificent artistic achievement that I haven't seen matched in the Olympics since perhaps Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir's ethereal freeskate in Vancouver last February. (Tessa and Scott do not have a bold, dramatic style, like Marina and Sergei, but their athletic and artistic virtuosity moved me in the same way that this Klimova and Ponomarenko program does. Both are stunning displays of excellence and heart.)

A comment from a viewer of this video on You Tube sums this program up best: "One of the most passionate, seamless, and elegant free dances ever performed, to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever."

Marina and Sergei represent all that is superb about ice dancing.

Enjoy this masterpiece of Olympic proportions!

If you enjoyed that Marina and Sergei performance, check out their "Romeo and Juliet" program that I featured in my 12 Days of Christmas countdown in December:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Tribute to the People of Japan: Midori Ito's 1988 Olympic Freeskate

Midori Ito helped to put Japanese figure skating on the map in a big way. After stealing the show from the front runner's at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary with her amazing triple jumps, her bright smile and joyful charm, Midori was labeled the "next big skating star". The Nagoya native delivered by becoming the first Japanese woman to win the World Figure Skating Championships the following year in 1989 in Paris, France. She also made history by becoming the first woman in history to land a Triple Axel jump in figure skating history and in World Championship competition. (She landed the Triple Axel previously that season in a regional and an international event).

(Some background on the Axel: The Axel jump was invented by Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen, who performed the jump for the first time in 1882. While Paulsen executed a single Axel, America's Dick Button, a 2-time Olympic Champion ('48, '52), performed the world's first Double Axel at the 1948 Olympics. Forty years later, Canada's Vern Taylor became the first man to land the Triple Axel at the World Figure Skating Championships. American Carol Heiss, the 1960 Olympic Champion, was the first woman to land a Double Axel in 1953, preceding Midori's astounding triple by 35 years. The Triple Axel-- the most difficult of the triple jumps-- and all axel varieties, are dangerous because of the precarious forward outside edge takeoff.)

In practices, Midori was completing Triple Axel, Triple Toe Loop combinations--an astounding, never-been-done-before by a woman feat!! Astounding! Check out this video clip from 1992:

Midori jumped onto the skating scene--quite literally--at the 1981 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. The 11-year-old reeled off an array of triples, winning the free skating portion of the event. Since she had only been 20th in the school figures portion, she finished 8th overall. Standing only 3 feet 11 inches tall, and weighing 53 pounds, Midori was nicknamed "The jumping flea." And what a technical phenom she was!

Making her senior international debut in the fall of 1983, Midori finished a close second to eventual Olympic Champion Katarina Witt of East Germany, creating quite a stir in the skating world. Midori won her first senior Japanese title in 1985, but was unable to compete at the subsequent World Championships because of a broken ankle. Her fifth place finish in Calgary three years later signaled that the 18-year-old was a serious medal threat in years to come. Her speed, power, high-flying athletics, and youthful charisma captured the hearts' of the audience. The crowd in the arena, gave her a standing ovation, all the way up to the back rows. After claiming gold at the Worlds in Paris the next season, Midori finished second to American Jill Trennary in the 1990 Worlds in Halifax, and went on to claim Olympic silver behind Kristi Yamaguchi in Albertville, France in 1992 at the age of 22.

In Albertville, Midori's famous Triple Axel proved to be a blessing and a curse. The jump that made her famous was now an expected part of her repertoire, and the pressure to complete it and gain a valuable technical advantage over her competitors was immense. Always a technician, never one to focus on artistry, many felt that Midori needed the all-important jump to be in medal contention, especially a strong American contingent: Tonya Harding, who had landed a Triple Axel of her own at the 1991 Nationals and Worlds, Nancy Kerrigan, a sophisticated elegant artistic skater, and Kristi Yamaguchi, the reigning World Champ, who was the perfect blend of artistry and technical proficiency. In the short program, Midori fell on the Triple Axel and found herself in 4th place behind the three Americans. In the freeskate, Midori fell on a Triple Axel at the beginning of her long program, but rallied to land a variety of clean triples and a stunning surprise Triple Axel attempt near the end of her freeskate to catapult herself over Tonya Harding, who was third after the short program, and Nancy Kerrigan, who had been second. Midori ended up second behind Kristi Yamaguchi. Kerrigan finished third, Harding, fourth. (Interestingly, Kristi also had a fall in her freeskate, but her first place after the short program, combined with her effort in the freeskate was enough to secure her the gold medal).

After retiring from amateur skating following The Games, Midori continued to land the Triple Axel on the professional circuit. She made a brief return to amateur skating in the 1995-1996 season after feeling pressure from her federation to make a comeback for the 1998 Winter Olympics, which were scheduled to be held in Nagano, Japan. The pressure had an adverse affect on Midori and her skating. She turned in a lackluster performance at the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton, which is no surprise, considering she had been declared anemic and had been seen clutching her stomach in practices. She just wasn't the same skater and was clearly skating because she felt forced to, not because she wanted to. Regardless of that last amateur appearance, Midori's image could never be tarnished. She will forever be an important, exciting, and seminal skater in Japanese skating history, and in the sport of figure skating, in general.

Has the world ever seen a better jumper? As you watch the video clip below of her ambitious, joyous 1988 Olympic freeskate, you be the judge!

Here are some memorable quotes from the commentators during this performance:

Dick Button to Jim McKay: "Jim, this program is a triumph of athleticism!"

Jim: "Five feet tall, 98 pounds, full of talent."

Dick: "If sport and art are going to do battle in figure skating, in this program, athletics will win."

Peggy Flemming: "I think she has such a wonderful charisma with this audience!"

Enjoy Midori's 1988 Olympic long program:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Tribute to the People of Japan: Takeshi Honda's "Don Quixote" by Leon (Ludwig) Minkus

Takeshi Honda (Left) with Daisuke Takahashi

As the third installment in my series of posts to pay tribute to the people of Japan through honoring their figure skaters, who are a credit to their amazing country, I am profiling the great front-runner champion in Japanese men's figure skating history: Takeshi Honda. Today is also Takeshi's 30th birthday, which provides an additional reason to pay homage to this skating star.
Happy Birthday, Takeshi!

Takeshi burst on to the skating scene as a precocious teenager, winning his first Japanese National title at age 14. He finished 13th at his first World Championships in 1996, and steadily climbed the ladder (with the exception of two finishes that were lower than the previous year in '98 and '00), culminating in a bronze medal at the 2002 World Championships in Nagano, Japan---the first medal for a Japanese man since Minoru Sano won World bronze 25 years earlier.
Takeshi repeated this feat the following year at the Worlds in Washington, D.C.

Over the course of his career, Takeshi won six Japanese National titles, the inaugural 4-Continents Championship in 1999, nine Grand Prix medals, and the 2003 Asian Winter Games title. During his career, Takeshi was the only world-class Japanese men's singles skater on the scene. His accomplishments and presence on the world-stage, made him a forerunner and a role model for up-and-coming Japanese skaters. Takeshi really put men's figure skating on the map in Japan. Today, the Japanese men are a growing force in skating. The reigning World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist is Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda is a perennial medal winner on the Grand Prix circuit, Takahiko Kozuka turned a lot of heads by winning 2 golds during the Grand Prix this season, and Yuzuru Hanyu is the 2010 World Junior Champion.

Though he was often an inconsistent competitor, Takeshi's pure jumping-talent was the key to his early successes. At the 2002 Olympics, commentator Scott Hamilton said that Takeshi was one of the most gifted jumpers that he's ever seen! As Takeshi's career progressed, he also became a more musical, artistic skater. He was always a likable athlete, and though he was never known to emote too much on the ice, his raw talent had the ability to excite audiences. I remember, in particular, that his 2003 Worlds freeskate to music from Riverdance, complete with fast-staccato footwork sequences, was a crowd favorite. Unfortunately for Takeshi, after winning his second World bronze medal, he was plagued by injuries and never competed at a World Championship again. He retired from competitive skating in 2006 and now serves as a commentator and coach.

It's amazing to me that Takeshi peaked at the age of 21 in 2003. More often than not, male figure skaters continue to get better with age, and peak in their mid-to late 20s, but in Takeshi's case, since he had started to win medals so young, for him, at the age of 21 he almost considered old! (Michelle Kwan experienced a similar phenomenon. Her career at the senior level started at age 12, so by the time she was 20, people thought she was ancient!) It's unfortunate that serious injuries kept him from competing at the World stage again, because he never really fulfilled his full potential, but I am nevertheless grateful to have witnessed Takeshi's career. My sister and I always enjoyed Takeshi's skating. Though I'm not sure that I ever heard him interviewed, he always presented himself in such a humble way, that I always imagined him to be a very nice, pleasant person. He was a classy skating champion, and a good representative of Japan. I miss seeing him skate!

As a two-time Olympian, Takeshi had the honor of competing in his home country in the 1998 Games in Nagano, where he finished 15th, and at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he finished just off the podium in 4th. In the short program, which is the video I've posted below, Takeshi skated better than I've ever seen. He executed a quadruple toe loop, triple toe loop combination, and finished third, behind Russian Alexei Yagudin (the eventual gold medalist) and America's Timothy Goebel (the eventual bronze medalist). In the freeskate, Takeshi skated well, but made a few minor errors and couldn't hang on to a medal. With Yagudin and Goebel skating tremendous performances, not to mention the outstanding redemptive freeskate from Evgeni Plushenko-- who had finished a surprising fourth in the short after falling on a quad attempt-- but rallied to win the silver medal, it was exceedingly difficult for Takeshi to squeak out a medal with a couple of mistakes.

While I'm sure he was disappointed, after coming so close, his cumulative effort in Salt Lake City was impressive, and something to be proud of. You can't scoff at a 4th place finish at the Olympics, although, in some ways it may be the hardest finish to swallow, as it's so close to the medals. I'm also sure that Takeshi never imagined it would be his last Olympic appearance. He was only 20-years-old in 2002, and was planning on continuing to compete and contend for an Olympic medal at the 2006 Games, when he would only be 24 (theoretically, in the ballpark of the peak age for male figure skaters).

In any case, despite ending his career on a bitter note after suffering through injuries, Takeshi is still an important figure in Japanese figure skating. I am sure that he, personally, and as an athlete, is a major influence in the careers of the current Japaense men's skating stars: Takahashi, Oda, Kozuka, and Hanyu.

I hope you enjoy watching Takeshi's wonderful Olympic short program to music from the ballet "Don Quixote" by Leon (Ludwig) Minkus. Also note that in this video, you will see Takeshi's coach, Doug Leigh, at the boards. Doug Leigh also coached great Canadian champions Brian Orser and Elvis Stojko, who each have 2- Olympic silver medals to their credit. Doug did a great job working with Takeshi, and this short program is a perfect example!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Tribute to the People of Japan: Daisuke Takahashi's "Tango de Roxanne"

In light of the recent disasters, I have been thinking a lot about the people of Japan. My heart goes out to those who are experiencing heartbreak and hardship, as a result of the tragedies. I wish and hope that Japan will have a successful recovery.

I want to use my blog for the next week or so to pay tribute to Japan through showcasing the talent, beauty, grace, and heart of Japanese figure skaters, who are a true testament to their extraordinary country.

In today's post, I'm highlighting the reigning Olympic bronze medalist and World Champion, Daisuke Takahashi. Born March 16, 1986 (happy belated birthday!), this 25-year-old is the first Japanese man to win an Olympic medal in singles. What's so wonderful about Daisuke is that not only is he a wonderful athlete, capable of quadruple jumps--in fact he attempted the never-been-done quadruple flip in competition last season--he's also a fantastic artist. The level of passion that he brings to his competitive and exhibition routines is unmatched.

Daisuke first caught my attention in 2006 when he skated in the Olympic Games to one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No.2". Commentator Dick Button brought my attention to Daisuke's pure edge control as he caresses the ice in his back crossovers. His beautiful skating style and musicality makes his presentation sparkle.

Daisuke is a 4-time Japanese National Champion, a 2-time Four Continents Champion, and the 2007 World silver medalist. The latter performance is one of my favorite Worlds skates in recent memory. Talk about uninhibited joy! Daisuke really stole the show and nearly snatched the gold from eventual winner, Brian Joubert of France.

This routine I am posting today is to "Tango de Roxanne" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, which Daisuke skated in the exhibition following the 2007 World Championships. It's clear that Daisuke was still on fire from his silver-medal win because this performance was charged with energy, speed, attack, and his trademark passion! I remember the first time I saw this on TV from my living room in State College, and I was completely blown away. His straight-line footwork sequence and spins toward the end give me chills! If there was an exhibition competition here, Daisuke would win because he really threw down the gauntlet!

I hope you enjoy Daisuke's "Tango de Roxanne" as much as I do!

To see Daisuke's stunning "Phantom of the Opera" freeskate from the 2007 World Championships, click HERE to view my post from December.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Tribute to the People of Japan: Yuka Sato's "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy

Dear Readers,

In light of the recent disasters, I have been thinking a lot about the people of Japan. My heart goes out to those who are experiencing heartbreak and hardship, as a result of the tragedies. I wish and hope that Japan will have a successful recovery.

While I am disappointed that the championships may not happen, obviously that loss is nothing at all in comparison to what has happened, and is happening, in Japan right now.

I want to use my blog for the next week or so to pay tribute to Japan through showcasing the talent, beauty, grace, and heart of Japanese figure skaters, who are a true testament to their extraordinary country.

In 1994, the year I first seriously became enchanted with figure skating, 21-year-old Yuka Sato became only the second Japanese World Champion, male or female, in history. (Midori Ito had been the first Japanese skater to win the World title in 1989. At that event, Midori also became the first woman in history to land the 3 1/2 revolution Triple Axel.)

I have my own special connection to Yuka's skating. After falling in love with watching skating in 1994, I longed to try skating myself. I had memories of skating in second-hand, double-blade training skates on frozen patches in my family's driveway with my brother as a child, but had never skated at a real ice rink. I had visions of gliding serenely on a fresh sheet of ice, reflecting like glass, floating with as much ease and grace as the skaters I watched for countless hours on the VHS tapes of the Olympics and World Championships. Finally, around late March or April of 1994, my mom said she would take my sister and I skating at Ice-a-Rama in Analomink, Pa. My mom had gone skating as a child at the same rink.

The rink was on the grounds of a run-down honeymoon resort that back in its heyday, had apparently been a very nice destination, as many places in the Poconos, a former hot-spot for honeymoons, had been. Though the rink was dilapidated, I didn't care. I was going skating! I spent a lot of time preparing for this big day. I even checked skating books out from my elementary school library. I have memories of sitting at my Nana's kitchen table one day after school, copying information from the book about how to execute basic skating moves, such as stroking, crossovers, and T-stops. I was serious about skating and had grand visions for my experience!

I watched Yuka's World Championship freeskate, over and over for inspiration. I loved the joy on her face, and the sounds of the cheering crowd as she flew across the ice in a royal blue dress with silver sparkles down the front, reeling off triple jumps, footwork sequences, and a final blurring scratch spin.

When I finally stepped onto the ice, I was upset when I discovered that all the moves I had watched Yuka, and other skaters, do, weren't as easy as I had expected. The ice was discolored, rough and bumpy, and my ankles ached in the shabby brown rental skates made of old, worn leather. I was in such discomfort that I told my mom, after a relatively short while, that I couldn't continue and wanted to go home. Bitterly disappointed, I removed my skates and trudged reluctantly to the mini-van. My skating dreams had been dashed! My feet and ankles continued to throb after I got home. Once we got home, with a heavy heart, I ascended the stairs to the upstairs den and pressed play on the VCR. I watched Yuka Sato's Worlds freeskate again, feeling waves of disappointment that my much-anticipated trip to the rink hadn't been the Yuka Sato-esque experience that I had hoped!

However, everything worked out in the end as I recovered from my disappointment and went back to the rink many times following, usually with my sister and my friend Julia. It was always a special day when we went skating! That summer, I taught myself how to do a spiral (well, my version of it) and all was right with the world again!

Over the years, Yuka Sato has been one of the skating world's most revered skaters. Known for her pure, deep edges, soft, supple knees, and quick, intricate footwork, and graceful, ethereal artistry, Yuka has long been regarded as a "skater's skater"--a skater who has no weakness and whose stellar skating skills are admired by other skaters. Yuka has capitalized on her many talents in a long-running professional skating career. As one of Japan's forerunners in a nation that is now burgeoning with skating superpowers, Yuka is an important skater in Japanese figure skating history, and in the skating world in general. She's a gem!

The video posted today is Yuka's "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy, performed on the Stars on Ice tour last year. I had the pleasure of witnessing Yuka skate this live at Stars on Ice in Wilkes Barre last April. It's simply glorious. "Claire de Lune", which means moonlight in French, is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, subtle, and delicate pieces of music I've ever heard. It's a divine work of art that is a complementary backdrop to Yuka's understated and sophisticated grace. Under the theatrical spotlights, it's easy to imagine that Yuka is gliding through brilliant pools of moonlight.

I couldn't find a perfect version of this video. The only ones I found were recordings from fans in the audience, complete with someone walking in front of the camera, a baby's cry and a little boy asking, "Mommy, where's my program?" toward the end of the tape --but it's better than nothing. This performance is too special to miss, so even though the video doesn't begin until a few moments after the beginning, and is cut off before the end, you still get a taste of what makes the combination of Debussy and Sato so exquisite. My biggest regret is that the video cuts off before you can see Yuka's gorgeous layback spin.

For one of my literature classes, I memorized a Modernist poem by William Carlos Williams, two lines from the poem, simply entitled, II, remind me of Yuka's skating:

"petal lays its glow upon petal" and "petals radiant with transpiercing light."

I hope you enjoy the video post in my tribute to the people of Japan by honoring their figure skaters, who have given the world so much delight.

Yuka Sato's "Claire de Lune" by Debussy:

For another memorable Yuka Sato performance, click HERE to see a previous post I wrote featuring her "Hat Full of Stars" program.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ekaterina Gordeeva's "Smile"

On yet another cold, dreary, incessantly rainy day this week, I'd like to post an uplifting performance by the lovely and effervescent Ekaterina Gordeeva.

Katia skated to "Smile" during the 1998 skating season as a tribute to her dear friend Scott Hamilton, who at the time, was battling testicular cancer. Scott toured with Katia and her late husband Sergei on his tour Stars on Ice for several years, and the three were very close, until Sergei's tragic death in November of 1995. Scott stood by Katia and her young daughter Daria, providing moral support and friendship during some of her darkest times. Scott also offered Katia the opportunity to tour as a singles skater on Stars on Ice, once she decided to return to the ice. Since Scott had stood by Katia, she was an equally loyal friend and supporter to him during his battle with cancer. "Smile" is an encouraging song that makes one think of the simple pleasures in life and the value of a good attitude. It perfectly aligns with Scott's own extreme positive attitude, which made him a wonderful role model during his fight with cancer.

On this dark and rainy day, I hope that Katia's "Smile" will make you do the same.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman's "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi

In light of Kyko Ina and John Zimmerman's return to Stars on Ice (click HERE to read article from, I've decided to post one of my favorite Ina and Zimmerman Stars on Ice programs: "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi.

The 3-time U.S. Champions skated this program in the 2002/2003 tour. My family and I went to see Stars on Ice that year, as we do most years, and I remember absolutely loving this performance. Kyko and John really blossomed as performers with the SOI tour, and this "Bed of Roses" number is a perfect example.

I hope you enjoy!!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Vintage Scott Hamilton: "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" by Frank Sinatra

On this glorious, sunny Monday afternoon--which is even more glorious, considering the gloom, torrential downpours and flooding of yesterday-- I'd like to share a little vintage Scott Hamilton with you. Scott skated this program to "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" by Frank Sinatra during the 1995/1996 professional season. Scott was supposed to debut it in the fall of 1995 at a pro-competition at which Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov were also scheduled to skate in, until Sergei's untimely death. Scott decided to dedicate this program to Sergei for the rest of the season. At one point in the middle of the program, and at the end, Scott looks up to the sky. One has to think that he was looking up to his dear friend Sergei.

What's wonderful about this program is that it is marvelously understated in contrast to Scott's usual over-the-top antics and humor on the ice. Scott's purity of technique is one of his hallmarks, and he showcases that seamlessly here. This program has a cool, breezy, jazzy, feel enhanced by solid triple jumps, quick footwork, and a simple authenticity of performance. The presentation is warm and genuine.

My favorite part of the program are the three beautiful "falling leaves" that Scott does proceeding his blurring footwork sequence toward the end. The falling leaves are a throwback to an older more pure style of skating from a generation long before the quadruple jumps and complex combination spins of today's International Judging System. Here, Scott shows us that less is more.

Scott is a master of blending the classic skating moves with new and exciting ones, such as the back flip that is his trademark. However, Scott actually stumbles a bit at the end of his back flip here, his only miscue, in an otherwise terrific performance. The back flip almost literally doesn't seem to work with the rest of the traditional fare served in this skate.

This is Scott at his finest, and a reminder, at least for me, that Scott doesn't need the gimmicks in his skating to be great. Even though I love his humorous programs full of wacky costume changes and props as much as the next person, I love the simplicity of this performance even more. Scott's true skating skills and abilities shine through, and that is what made Scott a 4-time National, World, and 1984 Olympic Champion in the first place.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Spring Break Celebration: Stéphane Lambiel's "The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi

It's hard to believe that I've held off this long without posting the magnificent Stéphane Lambiel on my blog. The 25-year-old Swiss skater is on my short list of favorite skaters. I guess I was waiting for just the right moment to showcase his talents.

In his amateur career, which only just concluded a year ago, Stéphane was in the thick of most competitions because of the strength of his multi-faceted arsenal of skills: quadruple jumps, fantastic spins that are both innovative and fast, and beautiful, passionate artistry.

Stéphane continues the tradition of amazing Swiss spinners that spans from Denise Beillmann, who popularized "The Bielmann Spin" to Nathalie Krieg, who made the Guinness Book of World Records for how long she could hold a spin, to Lucinda Ruh, who set a World Record for most continuous spins.

The Swiss star was born in Martigny to a Swiss father and a Portuguese mother on April 2, 1985. His hometown is Saxon and he lives in Lausanne.

Stéphane won his first World title at age 19 in 2005, and repeated again at age 20 in 2006. He finished 3rd at the World championships in 2007. He is a three-time Olympian (2002,18th/ 2006, 2nd/ 2010, 4th), a 3-time European silver medalist, and an 9-time Swiss National Champion.

Stéphane brings something truly special to the sport of figure skating. I appreciate his ingenuity, his passion and commitment to the craft. He is never afraid to push his artistic limits and share himself with audiences. He's a warm, charismatic performer.

In honor of my first day of Spring Break, and the changing of the seasons, I've decided to post one of my most beloved Stéphane performances, "The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi. He skated this during the 2005/2006 season. His unusual costume, depicting the 4 seasons, earned him the nickname of "Little Zebra."

In this video, from the 2006 Worlds in Calgary, Stéphane "brought it" in a head-to-head battle with France's Brian Joubert. In a surprisingly deep post-Olympic field (the Worlds following the Olympics are often missing the top athletes), Stéphane's victory was not an easy one. He fought for it every step of the way, and I think the struggle is what brought out such a brilliant performance.

My description of the program won't do it justice, so I will let you view the magnificence for yourself. Hopefully after this, you will be a fan of the "Little Zebra" too! He's a first-rate athlete and artist! I'm really proud to share this performance with you!