Sunday, January 24, 2016

This Will Restore Your Faith in Figure Skating: Part 3: Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani's "Fix You" by Coldplay

This program has given me chills all season. What has also given me chills is that this team has been grossly under-marked all season (and throughout their careers), always coming up short to their U.S. compatriots--a team who is strong, but whose superiority, is often in question. After finishing second at three U.S. Championships, and third at two, the Shibutanis were primed to earn the one title that they knew in their hearts that they truly deserved.

Finally, yesterday at the U.S. National Championships in St. Paul, MN., the brother and sister team of Maia and Alex Shibutani, rose out of the ashes like a pair of majestic phoenixes and flew across the ice with prowess, conviction, and a raw emotional energy that pulsed through the arena with the undulating beat of Coldplay's masterful composition.

When they hit their ending pose, facing the audience, it was a culmination of their greatest national skate, and one that seemed to say:
" We have arrived."

To be fair, the Shibutanis arrived years ago, but this is the first year that their true selves have emerged. This Coldplay program is a genuine reflection of the struggle of their careers: being so technically perfect, yet being denied, being "almost," but not quite. All the frustration and criticism fueled them to face their demons and silence their doubters. Throughout the years, the Shibutanis have never lost sight of who they are and what they are capable of doing. Last night, everyone else finally saw that, too, with a program that left the audience on its feet, and tears in the eyes of those watching at home.

In a discipline where so much of the performances are "put on," featuring caked-on make-up, forced smiles, and campy-rehearsed routines, Maia and Alex delivered something that was stunningly unique; something that was as organic as it comes, a seeming natural extension of themselves. And it was damn brilliant.

Nothing made me happier than seeing the judges award the title to the best in show, when so often, other factors are at play. As my brother-in-law says, "Figure Skating: where the judges make shit up." In a sport that earns that reputation from the average viewer (and he's absolutely correct,) I love, love, love when the judges get it right.

Congratulations, Maia and Alex. You truly deserve all of your success!

My faith in figure skating has been restored!

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