Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two-Year Anniversary Post: Michelle Kwan's "One More Time" by Laura Pausini

In honor of the two-year anniversary of the creation of my blog, here's one of my favorite Michelle Kwan exhibition performances to "One More Time" by Laura Pausini from the Message in a Bottle soundtrack. This performance is a true gem from figure skating's most vibrant jewel, the great Michelle Kwan.

Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog in the last two years!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Yuna Kim's "Die Fledermaus" and "Miss Saigon"

Yuna Kim's 2007/2008 competitive programs to "Die Fledermaus" and "Miss Saigon" were always my favorites. Enjoy!

"Die Fledermaus" short program:

"Miss Saigon" freeskate:

Daisuke Takahashi's "Cyber Swan" and "Romeo and Juliet"

The 2007-2008 season was an incredible one for the reigning World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi. His material was out of this world, with genius Nikolai Morozov, Daisuke's coach and choreographer at the helm. Daisuke's "Cyber Swan", a techno remix of Swan Lake, was the "signature" program of the season, according to 1992 Olympic silver medalist and commentator, Paul Wylie. Daisuke's freeksate to "Romeo and Juliet," though more traditional, was also a powerhouse number.

I rewatched the 2008 4 Continents Championship last night, the competition that many skaters use as a tune-up before Worlds. Daisuke was unreal. He blew away the competition in both the short and the long, running away with the title and a great deal of momentum leading into the World Championships. In hindsight, Daisuke probably put a little too much effort into his 4 Continents Championship because he peaked too early. By the time Worlds rolled around, Daisuke just didn't have enough gas left in the tank and finished just out of the medals in 4th. But regardless of the Worlds finish, Daisuke's performances at the 4 Continents Championship are a sight to behold. Enjoy!!

"Cyber Swan" short program:

"Romeo and Juliet" freeskate:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Incredible Comeback Kid: Tanja Szewczenko's Crowning Moment at the 1997 Champions Series Final

Last night, while going through old skating tapes, I came across this exhilarating performance by German skater Tanja Scewczenko. Tanja was only on the international scene for such a short time that I had almost forgotten about her as the years have passed, but this performance quickly reminded me why her skating was so special in the mid to late 1990s.

I first saw Tanja on TV at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, where she was hyped as the next German ladies superstar in a long line of great German ladies skaters, such as 1980 Olympic Champion Annette Poetsch, and the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Champion, Katarina Witt. Katarina had reinstated as an amateur for the 1994 Games, though Tanja had beaten her in the National championships leading up to Lillehammer. Everything seemed to be falling into place for the 16-year-old. I remember Tanja as a pretty, spunky skater with youthful exuberance and big jumps. She is also well-known as the skater with whom Oksana Baiul, the eventual winner of the Games, collided with on the practice ice the day before the freeskate. In the collision, if I recall accurately, Oksana bruised her ribs and side, and suffered a nasty cut on her leg. I don't know what Tanja's injuries were in the collision. A month following the Games at the World Championships in Japan, Tanja again experienced a freak accident in practice. I'm not entirely sure of the details, but she showed up to the freeskate with a bandage covering her chin. Despite the facial injury, Tanja skated well and captured the bronze medal, yet another harbinger, so it seemed, of the great things on the horizon for the German teen.

I don't recall seeing Tanja in the following season, but I understand that a a severe and nearly-deadly combination of viral infections knocked her out of competitions following her respectable 6th-place finish at the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton. Tanja did not compete until the following fall during the 1997/1998 skating season. When she did return to the ice, it was in winning-fashion, defeating the 1996 World bronze medalist (who went on to become a 2-time World Champion in later years) Irina Slutskaya, and 1995 World Champion Lu Chen and eventual World Champion later that season, Maria Butyrskaya, in her two grand prix events. At the Grand Prix Final in Munich, then called the Champions Series Final, Tanja was again ill. I don't know the whole story, but before the freeskate, the commentators said that they were surprised that she hadn't withdrawn from the competition, as it had appeared that she was going to collapse after finishing her short program. Whatever her illness was, it didn't show as Tanja skated the performance of her life, electrifying her home-crown with high-flying triples and an energetic presentation that radiated heart and unbridled joy.

Though Tara Lipinski, reigning World Champion and eventual Olympic Champion, skated a solid, inspired freeskate herself just moments after Tanja's career-defining skate,and won the gold medal, it was Tanja's performance that brought commentators and audience-members to tears. Tanja's skate was one of triumph, overcoming illness, injury, and pressure from skating her her home country. A beautiful moment!

The future looked bright for Tanja heading into the 1998 Nagano Games just months later, unfortunately, she was one of the many athletes to catch the flu in the Olympic village and was forced to withdraw.

After withdrawing from the Games, and no doubt heartbroken, my knowledge of what happened to Tanja goes fuzzy. I didn't see her compete again, so obviously she retired. This was very disappointing for myself and for skating fans, who always rooted for Tanja as the underdog and enjoyed her vibrant skating and personality. However, maybe for Tanja, enough was enough. A skater's life is difficult and that is only compounded when injuries and illness are constant. I've read that Tanja went on to become an actress on German daytime television and even appeared in German Playboy, as did Katarina Witt, who Tanja was compared to so often in her skating career.

Without further ado, please sit back, relax, and partake in a truly exciting moment of pure beauty in figure skating as Tanja defeats the odds and rises to the occasion at the 1997 Champions Series Final:

Sunday Skating Inspirations from the 1997 Skate America in Detroit

Was watching some old skating tapes this morning and was inspired by the following performances:

Michelle Kwan's "Rachmaninoff" short program:

Tara Lipinski's short program to "Anastasia":

Elizabeth Punsalan and Jared Swallow's "Tribute to Elvis Presley" freedance:

Michelle Kwan's freeskate to "Lyra Angelica":

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharudlidze's "Dark Eyes"

Classic Russian pairs skating.

Skating Tribute to "Time to Say Goodbye" by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli

Yesterday I was telling my friend Melissa about how bittersweet it will be to leave the town I've lived in for nearly the past three years. This move, while not happening just yet, is inevitable in the near future as my life is evolving in new directions. I said to her, "I guess it's just time to say goodbye." Immediately I thought of the powerful and beautiful song "Time to Say Goodbye," sung by two of the most gifted singers, Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli. The duet version of the song, a variation on Bocelli's single of the same song, "Con te PartirĂ²," which translates to "I leave with you," is one of the best-selling singles in history. For more interesting facts about this song, click HERE to read the Wikipedia entry.

When I mentioned this song to Melissa, she admitted that she had never heard it before. Gasp!! I feel sorry for whoever has never heard this magnificent song and I feel the need to share it immediately!

I told Melissa that "Time to Say Goodbye" is a very popular song for figure skaters to choose for their exhibition skates. Over the years I've enjoyed watching wonderful performances to this song by some of the world's best skaters. Below, I will share some of the best "Time to Say Goodbye" skating programs with you. Enjoy!!

Marina Annisina and Gwendal Peizerat perform at the 1998 Olympic exhibitions in Nagano, Japan. Marina and Gwendal were bronze medalists at the event.

Evan Lysacek performs at the 2007 show Fashion on Ice with Sarah Brightman singing live.

Patrick Chan skates in the 2009 Festa on Ice show to Bocelli's original single " Con te PartirĂ²"