Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 6: Paul Wylie's "Why God Why" from Miss Saigon

Nothing to say here other than "Magnificent." If only skaters today skated like this.

Day 7: Liz Punsalan and Jared Swallow's "The Race" from 1991 Worlds

I remember seeing clips of this years ago on one of my skating highlight videos. Last night was the first time I watched it in its entirety, and I couldn't believe I haven't watched it sooner. So worth watching!
This program is a must-see!

At the 1991 Worlds in Munich, five-time- U.S. Champions Liz Punsalan and Jared Swallow skated to a song called "The Race" by German band "Yello." They drew their inspiration from the Indy 500 and played two race cars racing against each other: through the trials, into the pits for a tire change, and finally to the race where one will win and one will crash. Such a cool and creative concept! I've never seen anything like it. Later in their careers, this husband-and-wife team were known for such sophisticated, sultry, and mature performances; this was something totally different: funky, fun, and fresh. Loved every second of it!

Day 8: Gracie Gold's "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift

If there's been a criticism of 19-year-old Gracie Gold's skating, it's that she hasn't found her style yet; she hasn't started skating from the heart. Well, maybe that's true. I agree that some of her competitive pieces are lovely and classic, but don't seem authentic to the person that Gracie is. Have you ever listened to a skater's music and thought to yourself, "I wonder if they actually picked that music themselves, or if they even actually like it all?" That's how I feel sometimes about Gracie's programs, but not with her exhibition pieces, which really seem to showcase a fun-loving, spunky 19-year old. Gracie's face seems to light up when her favorite music is playing.

I love this exhibition to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." Gracie is having a lot of fun, and so am I. I hope that Gracie will let more of her personality filter into her competitive programs over time, but for now, we can enjoy her show programs and appreciate her skating for what it is: pretty darn good!

Day 9: Brian Orser's 1988 "Sing Sing Sing"

If Scott Hamilton is considered "American Skate God for life," then I'd have to say that Brian Orser is the Canadian equivalent. Orser is an 8-time Canadian National Champion, a 6-time World medalist (he won gold in 1987) and a 2-time Olympic silver medalist in 1984 and 1988. In recent years, he has become a world-famous skating coach. He was finally able to strike Olympic gold as the coach of South Korean skating phenom, Yu-Na Kim, who won gold in stunning fashion in Vancouver. Orser is the coach of the most-recent men's Olympic champion, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, and he also coaches Spanish skating star, Javier Fernandez.

This 1988 Olympic short program to "Sing Sing Sing" is pretty spectacular. It's on-point with jumps, spins, and choreographic impact. Such energy and command. Orser at his finest. Enjoy!

Day 10: Robert Wagenhoffer's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" Exhibition

Here's another name that not many of you may know, but believe me, once you watch him skate, you'll never forget it. Robert Wagenhoffer was a 2x U.S. National medalist, 3rd in 1981, 2nd in 1982. He also skated pairs and finished second in the 1979 Nationals with his partner, Vicki Heasley. He retired in 1982 and joined Ice Capades. I wish I knew why he retired so early--he had such incredible potential. Brilliant, actually.

Wagenhoffer died of AIDS at the age of 39 in 1999.

Looking back at old tapes of his skating, Wagenhoffer has no weakness. Superb skating skills, deep, controlled edges, excellent spins and jumps that seem to soar. Not to mention his musicality and creativity. He is the inventor of a move called "The Wagenhoffer," a combination of an Arabian and a flip that I believe I've seen only Robin Cousins and Alexander Fadeyev do in exhibition.

I've watched this exhibition countless times in the last few years. I love it. I appreciate and admire Wagenhoffer's skating so much. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Day 11: Mark Cockerell's 1984 Olympic Freeskate

Many of you may not have heard of Mark Cockerell, but you should take note. I first heard of Cockerell during an interview that Nancy Kerrigan once gave. She said that she was inspired by some of the male skaters of the 80's, citing Mark Cockerell for his technical ability and his amazing triple toe-triple toe combination.

Upon further research, I learned that Cockerell was the first man to perform a triple-triple in the Olympics (the 3toe-3toe) at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. (Incidentally, Kerrigan also had a beautiful triple-toe-triple toe combination in her repertoire. She performed it perfectly at the 1994 Olympics; quite a feat considering no one else in the competition was doing triple-triples, as far as I'm aware).

My research also provided a good reason as to why Cockerell isn't that well-known. He was on the Olympic team in 1984 with two of the greatest U.S. champions of all time: Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano. Hamilton went on to win that Olympic event, and Boitano the next one four years later. Talk about being out of the spotlight when you're sharing a team spot with those two!

Cockerell was the 1976 World Junior Champion in its inaugural year, finished third at the U.S. Championships in 1983 and 1984, and finished 2nd to Boitano in 1985. From what I've read, Cockerell, originally of California, has gone on to become a successful skating coach. He's directed skating clubs in the past. In the most recent article I read, he was coaching in Massachusetts. He was formerly married to a Russian singles skater, who performed in Ice Capades, and they have a teenage daughter who is also a skater.

When I first watched Cockerell's Olympic freeskate, I was overcome with the Olympic spirit. I wish I knew more about Cockerell's Olympic journey, and why the audience gave him such a warm and boisterous ovation at the beginning and end of his skate. From what I gather, there was a large American contingent in Sarajevo, and considering Cockerell started the freeskate in 17th place, I'm sure they were trying to offer him as much encouragement as they could. Their support seemed to pay dividends, as Cockerell skated a performance that felt very natural, free, and full of that kind of joy that only the Olympics seems to bring out. It was so refreshing to watch a skater enjoy himself to the point that you could feel his spirits soar, see the smile on his face, and the crowd responded accordingly.

I don't know about you, but I really like this performance. I find Cockerell's jumps powerful and exciting, and I wanted to see him do even more difficult content. His skating seems to include all the moves that get audiences excited: split jumps, butterflies, etc. His triple-triple combination at 1:10 is awesome, and I love the kneeslide into double axel at 3:55. I've never seen anyone else do that---so cool.

This performance makes me happy and I've become a Mark Cockerell fan. Happy Day 11 of the holiday season!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 12: Nancy Kerrigan's Janet Jackson medley

Just discovered this video after not seeing it since the mid-1990s. I remember loving this when I was in middle school!Just watched it again and still enjoyed it just as much as I did back then. This exhibition stands the test of time: Janet Jackson hits and "the best of" Nancy Kerrigan choreography from her competitive days. People can say what they want about Nancy Kerrigan, but I always loved her skating, particularly in that 1994-1995-era when she was in her prime, and I still admire her now. Hope you enjoy this blast from the past!

Fifth Annual 12-Days of Christmas Skating Countdown

It's that time of year again! In the two weeks leading up to Christmas, I will post a skating video every day to celebrate the season with some of my favorite skating performances. This will be the fifth time that I have done this particular series. It's hard to believe that I have had my blog now for five Christmas seasons, and I wouldn't be surprised if I post some of the same videos again. My favorites have remained favorites over the years and are worth highlighting again at this time of year.

If anyone is actually reading this, blog activity has been low as I continue to acclimate to my new life: new city, new job, new apartment, new responsibilities and social life! All good problems to have, but hasn't left me a lot of free time to sit down and post inspiration on these pages. Hopefully the holiday season will get me back in the swing of things, and it's always something to strive for in the new year.

I hope you enjoy the Fifth Annual 12-Days of Christmas Skating Countdown. Thanks for reading :)