Monday, January 21, 2013

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, and Nicole Bobek's 1998 Freeskates

At the 1998 U.S. Championships in Philadelphia, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski and Nicole Bobek skated three unforgettable freeskates. Michelle's made history by earning eight out of nine perfect scores of 6.0. Combined with her seven scores of 6.0 in the short program, Michelle swept the championship with near perfection. Her win was even more impressive coming off a stress fracture in her foot, which made her a question mark coming into the championship. All three skaters, under enormous pressure, rose to the occasion and delivered the goods in the city of Brotherly Love. I was an eighth grader at the time; I remember being brought to tears by Michelle's "Lyra Angelica" ("Angel's Song"), an ethereal composition of simplicity, freedom, and the passion to skate. The great American champion from the 1970s, Janet Lynn, described the performance as joyful.

Going into the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the top three American women were considered a triple-threat; some thought they would sweep the podium, much like Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan did at the 1991 World Championships where they made history. Kwan, Lipinski and Bobek even had a commercial contract with Campbell's Soup leading up to the Games, appearing in television commercials. The skaters were called the "Souper Stars on Ice."

Campbell's had a promotion where if you mailed in a certain number of soup labels, they would send you an Campbell's soup bowl autographed by Kwan, Lipinski, and Bobek. Knowing how much I loved skating, my mom's co-workers clipped soup labels for weeks and gave all of them to my mom, who mailed them in, and got me many of these fantastic "Souper Stars on Ice" bowls. I must have at least 8 of these bowls. I still have them to this day and enjoy them very much!

Enjoy the magical performances of America's top three in 1998:

Michelle Kwan's "Lyra Angelica":

Tara Lipinski's "The Rainbow" :

Nicole Bobek's "Invitation to Dance" and "Victory March" by Verdi:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

In Honor of Michelle Kwan's Wedding Day: "Kissing You" by Dess'ree from the Romeo and Juliet Soundtrack

I just found out that Michelle Kwan got married today!!

Click this article from People magazine to find out more details.

The People article notes that Michelle incorporated the song "Fields of Gold" into her wedding. This will mean something to skating fans who know that Michelle's program to "Fields of Gold" by Eva Cassidy is one of her most lauded. She skated this program as her Olympic swan song in 2002 in Salt Lake City after winning the bronze.

In honor of today's joyous wedding occasion, here is a program Michelle skated in 1999 to "Kissing You" by Des'ree from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack. This seems like a fitting selection for today's nuptials.

Michelle has brought her fans much joy and happiness over the years with her marvelous skating, warm, humble personality and good sportsmanship. Here's wishing Michelle and her new husband much happiness and success as they embark on their new life together.

Countdown to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Brian Boitano's 1994 Freeskate to "Lincoln Portrait" and "Appalachian Spring" by Aaaron Copeland

In the years leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, Brian Boitano, 4-time U.S., World, and 1998 Olympic Champion, petitioned before the powers that be to change the rules and allow professionals to reinstate to amateur competition. Boitano wanted to return to Olympic competition because he had a strong desire to grow as a person and athlete. He told ABC Sports commentators, "You cannot live on what you've done; you have to keep making challenges for yourself and not rest on the past." He also said, "The greatest feeling you can have is if you've challenged yourself and won."

The International Skating Union and the U.S. Olympic Committee agreed to Boitano's request. Subsequently, the rule change was known was "The Boitano Rule."

At the 1994 U.S. Nationals in Detroit, an event that is now infamous because of the assault on Nancy Kerrigan, Boitano returned to national competition after a six year absence to make his bid at making the U.S. Olympic team.

Though not his greatest performance from a technical viewpoint, Boitano's freskate to Aaron Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait" and "Appalachian Spring," is classic skating at its finest.

Commentator Dick Button, 1948 and 1952 Olympic Gold medalist, said during the broadcast: " This program, an exercise of simplicity-- grand movements, strong edges caressing the ice, not an ounce of mannerism."

The spread eagle section in the middle of the program is evidence of the power and beauty that holding a simple edge can have, a contrast to the frantic footwork and windmilling arms that we see in many programs in men's skating today.

Boitano's freeskate features the shaker song, "Simple Gifts." The lyrics go, "Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free..." These words ring true to Boitano's skating as he fills the space of the arena with a freedom and simplicity that is profound.


Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Meryl Davis and Charlie White's 2010 Original Dance to Indian Music

Meryl and Charlie's 2010 Indian Original Dance is innovative, intricate and engaging. Enjoy the program that became a worldwide sensation on Youtube.

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Michelle Kwan's "East of Eden" by Lee Holdridge

There is so much that I could say about Michelle Kwan's 2001 U.S. Championship short program to "East of Eden;" however, all I will say is, please watch this. It gives me chills every time.

The 2001 Championships, where Michelle won her 5th U.S. title, were held in Boston, Massachusetts. I'm excited to announce that thanks to my wonderful and generous boyfriend,Sahil, I will be attending next year's U.S. Championships and Olympic trials in Boston. It would be amazing if Michelle Kwan was in the house!

Enjoy "East of Eden":

Ode to Chen Lu: "Spring Breeze" from the 1996 World Figure Skating Championships

True to the name of the piece of music, Chen Lu's skating here is subtle and soft. In her bid to defend her World title, Chen arrived in Edmonton, the site of the 1996 World Championsips, on top of her game. In better shape than ever, the skater was also equipped with first-class masterpieces choreographed by the brilliant Sandra Bezic of Canada. Though Chen ended up finishing second to Michelle Kwan in both phases of the competition, her performances rise above the judges' marks.

Enjoy Chen Lu's "Spring Breeze" :

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski's "Requiem for a Dream"

One of my favorite U.S. pairs freeskates in recent memory. Brooke and Ben are the complete package. It's unfortunate that injuries held them back from achieving the international success that I think they could have had as healthy athletes, but this U.S. Championship win in Spokane, Washington, is a moment to applaud. My sister and I also had the pleasure of meeting Brooke at the U.S. Championships in Cleveland in 2009. She was just as lovely in person as she appears on the ice. In Cleveland that year, though Brooke and Ben struggled and finished 5th, their "Claire de Lune" freeskate, choreographed by the talented Marina Zoueva, was an artistic marvel.

Enjoy Ben and Brooke's "Requiem for a Dream":

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Jenni Meno and Todd Sand's "Nessun Dorma" by Puccini

Jenni Meno and Todd Sand picked up their second U.S. Championship title in 1995 in Providence, Rhode Island. In what one could call a "dream freeskate" the pair exuded a rare elegance and passion that resulted in six perfect scores of 6.0 for presentation.

Enjoy Meno and Sand's "Nessun Dorma":

Monday, January 14, 2013

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Double Header: Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "Eleanor's Dream/ Eleanor Rigby" (2008) by The Beatles, and "Samson and Delilah" (2009) by Camille Saint-Saëns

Two powerful, stunning, dramatic, and exciting performances by the 4-time U.S. Champions (and I don't see why not 5-time champions after this weekend), Meryl Davis and Charlie White. My sister Devon and I had the honor to see them skate their "Samson and Delilah" freeskate at the 2009 U.S. Championships in Cleveland, en route to their first U.S. title.

Without further ado, enjoy two of my favorite "Marlie" freeskates!

2008 Freeskate to "Eleanor's Dream/ Eleanor Rigby":

2009 Freeskate to "Samson and Delilah":

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Countdown to the U.S. Championships: Great Moments in U.S. Championship History: Naomi Lang and Peter Tcherneyshev's 1998 Latin Freedance

This isn't my favorite freedance of the 5-time U.S. National Championships, but it is the first time I saw them skate, and I immediately took notice. Peter and Naomi finished 3rd at this Championship in Philadelphia and began their impressive winning streak the next season.

I always felt that Naomi and Peter were under-marked on the world stage. Nevertheless, these two shone in the national spotlight. In 2002, at the Salt Lake City Olympics, Naomi became the first athlete of American Indian descent to compete at the Olympic Games. (Peter is of Russian heritage).

Enjoy this exuberant Latin freeskate from two great American Champions.

Double-Header: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's exhibition "Somewhere" and 2012 freeskate to "Pina"

Ingo Seuer with his students Aliona and Robin.



Elvis Stojko's 1997 "Dragonheart"

At the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, Canada's Elvis Stojko won his third--and final--World Championship title with his historic "Dragonheart" freeskate. Elvis soared into the record books by landing the first Quadruple toe loop-Triple toe loop combination in World Championship history. A month earlier he made history at the Champions Series Final (now called the Grand Prix Final) by being the first-ever to land it in any competition.

This is one of my favorite freeskates by Elvis. The music is powerful yet vulnerable and beautiful. Many criticized his artistry over the years but I always loved Elvis' athletic, aggressive style. I always feel an authenticity in Elvis' skating, which is his unique style as an artist. Scott Hamilton always says that one of the reasons he loves figure skating is because watching skaters on the ice gives you a glimpse of what kind of people they are off the ice. From watching Elvis, I can glean that perhaps Elvis is focused, determined, aggressive, and genuine off the ice. The fact that he exudes qualities that endear him to skating fans shows, in my opinion, that he did have his own kind of artistry; whether or not the judges liked it is another topic entirely, but no one can deny his athletic contributions to the sport.

Enjoy Elvis' "Dragonheart."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat's "Man in the Iron Mask"


...How did this only get second place?

Ode to Chen Lu: "The Last Emperor"--1995 World Championship-winning Freeskate

At the 1995 World Championships in Birmingham, England,18-year-old Chen Lu of China won her country's first World Championship gold medal. Skating to music from the film, The Last Emperor, with sophisticated and unique choreography by Canadian great Toller Cranston, "Lu Lu" paid tribute to her Asian heritage and made history in one fell swoop.

Lu had been a 2-time World bronze medalist ('92, '93) and won bronze at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. She finally broke out of the third place mold in Birmingham,with France's Surya Bonaly and USA's Nicole Bobek trailing.

This was the first time that I remember seeing Lu Lu with her hair grown-out and pulled back. In the years following, Lu Lu would continue to transform into a truly striking woman.

Enjoy Chen Lu's 1995 World Championship-winning freeskate!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ode to Chen Lu: "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy

In 1994, 17-year-old Lu Chen won her country's first ever Olympic figure skating medal. Considering the enormous strides that China has made in figure skating since then,in pairs skating in particular, Chen is considered a front-runner in the sport, the first one to put figure skating on the map in China. Chen's impressive Olympic campaign, in Lillehammer, Norway came in the wake of the Tonya-Harding/ Nancy Kerrigan saga, and then the Oksana Baiul/Nancy Kerrigan rivalry. Quietly, subtly, and with seamless grace, Chen glided onto the medal podium, finishing third with two gorgeous and demanding performances.

In the short program, Chen skated to the ethereal "Claire de Lune" by Claude Debussy. Though she timed her Triple Lutz-double toe loop combination too close to the barrier and stumbled into it and a camera in between jumps, the rest of her program flowed with delightful elegance. "Claire de Lune" is French for "moonlight." In my mind, it is not too hard to imagine that Chen is skating this enchanting performance on a moonlit pond under the stars on a still winter evening.

I began watching figure skating regularly starting with these 1994 Games...this was the first time I heard "Claire de Lune." I was transfixed. It is still one of my favorite pieces of music.

Enjoy the lyrical grace of China's own premier skating superstar.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alissa Czisny's "Sabrina"

I just read a very inspiring article about Alissa Czisny, the 2009 & 2011 U.S. National Champion, who has been sidelined with an injury all season. Alissa is a simply gorgeous skater and has proven to us all many times that she is a lovely person and courageous athlete, as well.

Enjoy this beautiful freeskate to music from the soundtrack of the Audrey Hepburn film "Sabrina," which won Alissa a bronze medal at the 2007 U.S. National Championships. If this program is not everything a figure skating routine should be, then I am looking in the wrong place. Alissa--and her artistry--sparkles.

Here is the interview with Alissa, from

Renewed Czisny ready to return to ice in Omaha
Two-time national champion talks about bouncing back from disappointment, hopes for redemption

Alissa Czisny is attempting to regain the form she showed in winning 2011 Skate America. (Getty Images)

By Vladislav Luchianov, special to
(01/03/2013) - For Alissa Czisny, the past several months could hardly be described as "the life in pink."
After starting 2011-12 with gold and silver at her two Grand Prix assignments, and then placing second at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Czisny's season took a turn for the worse. She managed just a third-place finish at the lightly regarded International Challenge Cup and followed that by coming in 22nd at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships.

Unbeknownst to the skater and her coaches, she competed in Nice, France, with an undiagnosed injury. (After the event, Czisny said she would not have gone to worlds if she had known she was injured.)

Last May, an MRI revealed that Czisny had a torn labrum in her left hip, and after undergoing surgery June 6 in Nashville, Tenn., she began the recovery period. This season, she received an assignment to the NHK Trophy but withdrew in order to continue her rehabilitation.

As recently as late 2012, there were doubts about whether she would participate in the 2013 U.S. Championships, which will be held Jan. 20-27 in Omaha, Neb. These doubts were dispelled when Czisny confidently and happily said: "Yes, I will be competing at the U.S. nationals!" talked with Czisny about her recovery period, difficult times in her career and new hopes. A hip injury is not an easy thing to deal with. What was the most difficult part of the recovery?

Czisny: This hip injury marked the first time in my career that I was sidelined with a major injury; consequently, this whole process has been a new experience for me. Being off the ice for four months and being unable to use my hip effectively (and, by association, most of the muscles surrounding that area) were two of the most difficult parts of the recovery period.

However, learning from those, I have become increasingly grateful for my ability to skate again and have tried to be more patient with myself during the whole recovering process. What are your thoughts on the upcoming U.S. championships?

Czisny: I tried my best to be prepared for the NHK Trophy in late November, but there was just not enough time to recover and prepare for that competition. However, now I have had a few more months to recover and train for nationals. I'm looking forward to competing again! Last season for you had its ups and downs. How did you cope with all the difficulties, and whose support was the most valuable during the not-so-easy times?

Czisny: Last season was a very trying season. While it started out decently, my season become increasingly frustrating as it went along. I could not understand what was going wrong, and I kept trying my best each day, kept searching for the answers to my questions. When I thought things were turning around for the better, I would have another disappointment. My season grew increasingly worse, no matter how hard I tried...and we all know how spectacularly terrible my season ended!

It took a lot of courage to keep my head up and keep going after worlds. Fortunately, there were a few people who stood by me and were there for me: my family, who always supports me and loves me unconditionally; my coaches, who didn't give up on me; and a few close friends, who hugged me, supported me and made me laugh again. Was that period similar to what you experienced after the 2010 U.S. Championships?

Czisny: While both periods of time were heartbreaking, they were each different in their own ways. The part of the experience of last season that was most difficult was that I thought I finally had the pieces of the puzzle in place: My previous season was fairly successful, and my coaches and I were building on the foundation we had set.

It seemed as though I was doing everything that I could possibly do to make the season good, but nothing seemed to be going right. It is hard to face the possibility of not knowing or understanding what went wrong, when you know that you tried to do everything right. Sports fans have expectations of an athlete's performance at competitions. When those expectations are not met, they can become critical of that athlete. What do you think about it?

Czisny: No matter what we do, what we accomplish, what we fail at, how we act, or even who we are, we will always face criticisms from somewhere, from someone. As athletes, we face an even broader range of criticisms coming our way, because we have the opportunity and responsibility to perform in front of many people.

And it's easy to criticize athletes; after all, we are the ones who put ourselves out in the spotlight, in front of so many people. Yet, what sports fans don't always tangibly understand is the sacrifice and dedication, the hard work and heartbreaks, the long hours and hurting bodies, the courage and fortitude that it takes for athletes to give everything they have for those few minutes of competition.

Some athletes might long for the glory of praising comments, might ache to hear the criticizing judgments, yet at the end of the day, all of us athletes can only answer to ourselves -- and God -- whether or not we have done our very best and have no regrets. We can't control how others critique us, but we can be in charge of our own efforts and our own behaviors. Do you feel that fans sometimes don't understand that sports are, for lack of a better term, just sports? That they're a big part of an athlete's life but not the whole life?

Czisny: For us athletes, skating is just a sport, yet it is so much more than that. It is our passion, our livelihood, our way of life. But at the same time, we must also remember to keep perspective: Skating is only a sport, a game we play for a short duration of our lives, and it is not everything in life! We may fail or we may succeed -- and most likely, we will do some of each -- yet, ultimately, our results should not and cannot determine who we are inside. What are your programs for this season?

Czisny: I'm excited about my programs this season! My coaches and I decided to keep my short program from last season (Edith Piaf's "La Vie en rose"), a decision which I'm thrilled about, since I love that program. My long program is choreographed by Marina Zoueva, and I really enjoy skating this program! (Author's note: Czisny hasn't announced her free skate music yet, and she wants to try to keep it quiet until the U.S. championships.) What aspects of your skating are you planning to change?

Czisny: This season has been a completely new experience for me. I have had to start over again, working to regain my strength and control and stamina, as well as working on all the aspects of my skating. Being off the ice for four months doesn't help one's jump consistency either! Yet, despite having to go back to basics, I've enjoyed the process of regaining my skating abilities. And I've definitely become more appreciative of just how intricately an athlete's body must work in order to meet the physical demands placed on it.

In honor of Les Misérables: Michelle Kwan's "On My Own"

Understated beauty.

Jeffrey Buttle's "Prelude in C Minor Sharp" by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Love this!!

Click HERE to see the program.

Stephane Lambiel's "William Tell Overture"

Isabelle and Paul Duchesney's Beethoven's Seventh Symphony

Countdown to the New Year: Day One: Natalia Mishkutenok and Artur Dimitriev's "Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2"

This performance is one of the reasons I fell in love with figure skating 19 years ago.
Mind-blowingly brilliant.

Happy New Year!!