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:

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