Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Inspiration: Michelle Kwan's brilliant Rachmaninoff short program

I had a wonderful, beautiful day today in Happy Valley (State College, PA) for the Penn State game and therefore feel inspired to post this resplendent performance by the one and only, and my hero, Michelle Kwan.

Michelle's 1998 Nationals short program to the music of Rachmaninoff, in which she earned 8 perfect scores of 6.0 for presentation is a signature piece for the 9-time National Champion. Michelle's skating is full of ease and joy. It's graceful and delicate yet powerful and controlled. This performance is pure, majestic, and infused with heart. I remember watching this on television when I was in 8th grade and being moved to tears. Truly transcendent!!

Thank you for giving us this beautiful, memory, Michelle!

Michelle's Rachmaninoff short program:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Inspiration: Todd Eldredge's "1492" Freeskate

I just watched Todd Eldredge's bronze-medal winning performance from the 2001 World Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver this morning on VHS and clapped at the end of the program! Not that it's unusual for me and my family members to give Todd a standing ovation--he's always been a favorite of ours. We root for the underdog and for the guy who displays persistence and heart in difficult situations.

Todd's career was an up-and-down one, marked by disappointment at 3 Olympic Games, but also marked by many memorable victories, including 6- U.S. titles, 6-World Championship medals, one of which was a gold in 1996. Through all the ups and downs, my family, and hundreds of other fans, supported Todd and cheered him on. In all the years of watching Todd's skating, I never once saw him display anything but good sportsmanship and sincerity.

When my family and a family friend went to see the 2002 Stars on Ice tour in Wilkes Barre following the Salt Lake City Olympics (where Todd had finished a heartbreaking 6th in his last chance to win an Olympic medal. He had fallen in the short program, but came back with a fantastic freeskate to "Lord of the Rings" two nights later), he skated an exhibition to "Your Song" from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and then his Olympic freeskate. Both times, Todd earned a thunderous standing ovation that began well before his performances ended! I will never forget the energy in the building and the admiration we all felt for Todd. Despite never winning a medal at the Olympics, none of us loved his skating any less.

Todd knows how to build a program and finish with momentum, speed, and excitement. That's one of the best parts of his skating--he knows where to place his highlight moves on just the right notes of music, and always closes his programs with split jumps and his trademark blurring combination spin at the crescendo of the music. You have to appreciate the quality of his skating and his ability to rise to the occasion under the pressure of competition.

The significance of Todd's "clutch" performance at the 2001 Worlds means a lot more if you consider that he had been out of eligible competition for the two seasons prior to this World Championship. It can be exceedingly difficult to take any time off in the skating world and expect to return in peak competitive condition. The 2001 Worlds was Todd's comeback performance on the road to making a bid for the following year's U.S. Olympic team. He was also the oldest man in the competition, skating here at the age of 29. The two skaters that finished on the podium with him, Evgeni Plushenko, the gold medalist, was 18, and Alexei Yagudin, the silver medalist was 20. Todd's bronze-medal was a wonderful accomplishment, and I for one, think he should have finished second! In any case, this was a great moment in his career and is among one of my favorite of Todd's competitive freeskates.

Enjoy Todd's 2001 Freeskate to "1492"!!

Todd's "1492":

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paul Wylie's "The Untouchables"

Young skaters of the world take note:

In this winning performance to "The Untouchables" from the 1993 World Professional Championships, Paul Wylie's exceptional ability to interpret music and captivate an audience with verve, vigor, and virtuosity is on full display!

They don't make 'em like this anymore, folks.

Bravo to Paul, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist, for a first-class performance--- and furthermore, thank you to You Tube for letting us revisit this program for years to come!

Enjoy Paul's "The Untouchables" :

Click HERE to see Paul Wylie's "JFK" program

Click HERE to see Paul Wylie's "Schindler's List" program

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy 21st Birthday Yu-Na Kim!!

Happy Birthday to the 2010 Olympic Champion!

As a celebration for the lovely and talented Yu-Na's birthday, here's a video from the 2007 Cup of China Grand Prix competition in which she skates to music from the operetta "Die Fledermaus" (the bat) by Johann Strauss. This was always one of my favorite programs of Yu-Na's. She skates with lighthearted exuberance to this wondrous piece of music.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rudy Galindo's "Ice Castles"

Click HERE to read an article that was published on last week about 1996 U.S. National Champion Rudy Galindo's upcoming induction into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame. I am so proud of Rudy for his achievement! He deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments as an amateur skater, both in singles and in pairs.

My family has had a soft spot for Rudy, ever since he captured our hearts in a thrilling, unexpected victory over reigning champion Todd Eldredge at the 1996 Nationals in Rudy's hometown of San Jose. His freeskate to "Swan Lake", and the emotions that followed as Rudy found out he won the championship, are two of my favorite moments in all the years I've been watching the sport. I still get chills when I watch the video.

Rudy's story of overcoming a split with his one-time pairs partner, Kristi Yamaguchi, with whom he won 2 National titles, loss, hardship, and poverty to become the best skater in the nation and the third-best skater in the world, catapulted him into stardom. Rudy's story was published in a book soon after his winning season. He continued to delight audiences on the professional circuit and on Tom Collins' Champions on Ice tour for many years.

I had the pleasure of seeing Rudy skate live twice, once back in 2002, and another time more recently at The Caesar's Tribute: A Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating in Atlantic City in December. Both times, Rudy performed his iconic "Village People" medley, featuring the songs "In The Navy", "Macho Man" and "YMCA." He was terrific!!

Rudy combines impeccable skating technique with beautiful lines, unique spins, and plenty of personality and passion. Below is a video of Rudy skating in the 1997 Legends of Figure Skating Competition, the year after his retirement from amateur skating. Rudy skates to the theme from "Ice Castles," an inspirational skating movie with a music perfectly suited to Rudy's elegance and grace.


Rudy's "Ice Castles":