Saturday, August 18, 2018

Blades of Glory: America’s Favorite Olympic Skaters Come to PA

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images via Brandstand PR

*Article was originally written for Philly Happening Magazine, April 2018*

Two of the biggest names from February’s Winter Olympics were American figure skaters Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon. You will have a chance to see both skaters live when they come to a Pennsylvania city near you this week in the Stars on Ice tour. The tour will make stops in Allentown on Thursday, April 19, and Hershey on Friday, April 20. Tickets are on sale at

The tour also features Olympians Mirai Nagasu and “The Shib Sibs,” ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani. (It was just announced that Rippon and Nagasu will appear on season 25 of Dancing with the Stars, which begins Monday, April 30 on ABC).

In the show, skaters will finally break free from this season’s Olympic pressure and perform to fun and entertaining music under show lights. Each skater performs two individual numbers and there are also group numbers. The show is family-friendly and suitable for children of all ages.

Chen,18, appeared on the Kellogg’s Cornflakes box this winter and has appeared in endorsements for American Airlines, Nike, and Coca-Cola. Rippon,28, from Clarks Summit, a borough northwest of Scranton, became an overnight sensation at the Games, with his charming personality and sassy wit. Rippon spent many years training outside the Philadelphia area early in his career. Both skaters won a bronze medal in the Olympic team event and finished in the 10 top of the individual event.

At the Olympics, Chen catapulted from 17th place after the short program to first in the freeskate, and fifth overall, after landing six quadruple jumps. He won the World Figure Skating Championships in Milan, Italy last month.

Former Philly Happening Editor Susan Field recently caught up with Chen on the phone in between SOI rehearsals to find out what fans can look forward to at the show and what his post-Olympic plans are.

S.F.: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! Congratulations on your incredible season and on your World Championship win! What will you be skating on the Stars on Ice tour?
N.C.: I will be skating to my short program from the season (“Nemesis” by Benajmin Clementine). I really loved that program! It will be great to skate it in a show setting. The other program I’m skating is a show program that I put together for the Japan Stars on Ice Tour that I did right after the World Championships in Milan.

S.F.: Tell me more about this year’s SOI Olympic tour. What can people expect?
N.C.: The show is so much fun! It’s an amazing cast with Olympic gold medalists, national and world champions, and a lot of skaters from the U.S. Olympic team. All the skaters have multiple numbers, so you’ll get to see each skater multiple times. You’ll get to see lots of different styles of music and choreography. In the Olympic season, we have a lot more cities on the tour and we get fans that we normally don’t get in the off-Olympic years, so that’s cool.

S.F.: I’m calling you from Philadelphia. The tour stops in two places in PA—Hershey and Allentown. Do you have any PA connections?

My training-mate, Adam Rippon, is from Pennsylvania, but other than that, no. I was in Hershey last year for the Stars on Ice Tour and it was a lot of fun performing there. I’m looking forward to going back there again!

S.F.: A big story in the news recently is that you got accepted to Yale. Congratulations! If you go there, how will you continue to work with your coach in California?
N.C.: I think I’m going to utilize the [college] breaks. He (Raphael Arutyuyan) is willing to come out and see me on the East Coast. As of now, all the concrete details I have is that I got accepted and that I want to keep training with my coach. I’ll have to talk with him more and we’ll figure it out.

S.F.: What do you want to study?
N.C.: The great thing about college is that you can kind of go in as a Liberal Arts major and explore; you can see what your strengths and weaknesses are. I’m interested in studying Pre-Med or Econ., or something along those lines.

S.F.: What an amazing, whirlwind season you had! I think all your fans were so proud of you for the way you fought at the Olympics after a disappointing short program. What’s your biggest takeaway from this season?
N.C.: Honestly, just the experiences of the year. I had no idea what to expect going in. I had the opportunity to perform great the Olympics and to perform awful in the short program, so now I know how it feels going in and out of the Olympics, both good and bad. I gained a lot from a skating standpoint. It gives me a chance to take this experience and go forward in my career.

S.F.: What can we expect from you over the next four years?

N.C.: I want to keep expanding my “artistic horizons” and try different styles and music. I think that will be fun. In terms of technically, I’m not sure what the rules will be for next year—they might make some changes with the jump values—so I’ll have to look more into that when I find out. I know regardless that I’ll try to make it exciting. I’m excited to work on new jumps and to clean up the ones that I already have.

S.F.: I saw you on one of those NBC Olympic preview clips jamming on the guitar. What do you like to play? Does the guitar come on tour with you?
N.C.: It’s a low-key hobby…It’s just something fun that I’ve been trying to work on. I never took lessons— I watched some videos and just learned on my own. I didn’t take it with me on this leg of the SOI tour because I went right from Worlds in Milan to Stars on Ice in Japan to SOI rehearsal in the U.S., but for some other parts of the tour, hopefully I will take it with me!

S.F.: If you could skate with one of your figure skating idols, who would it be?
N.C.: Evgeni Plushenko (the 2006 Olympic gold medalist from Russia). When I skated in Stars on Ice Japan the other week, he was there, too. It’s cool to get to meet skaters who are my idols and to see that they’re just regular people off the ice.

S.F.: What’s something about yourself that most people don’t know?
N.C.: For the most part, I’m pretty introverted. I’ve been so consumed with skating and school over the years, I haven’t had much time for other things, but hopefully going to college will help me to open up and find things that I’m passionate about outside of skating!

To buy tickets for Stars on Ice Allentown or Hershey, visit:

Comeback Kid: Daisuke Takahashi Takes Another Turn at Amateur Skating

Daisuke Takahashi is coming back to competitive skating! He's 32 and he's been away for 4 years, so this seems an interesting choice,but I'll take it! Daisuke is one of the greatest skaters in the last decade and I can't wait to see him again. I just re-watched his 2010 Olympic short program and his 2007 World Championship freeskate and LOVED every second. His movement is unmatched, his knees soft, his lines smooth, the emotion raw....Daisuke, bring it on!

2010 Olympic Short Program:

2007 World Championship Free Skate:

The Artist: Remembering Denis Ten

Last month, Denis Ten was taken from us far too soon. While visiting his home country of Kazakhstan, Ten was tragically murdered. Ten was a beautiful athlete and artist who will never be forgotten. His stunning performances at the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, in which he finished a close second to Patrick Chan, and his come-from-behind freeskate at the Sochi Games, where he finished third, will cement his place in the sport's history. Your fans will always miss you, Denis.

Ten's free skate to "The Artist" from the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pyeongchang Posts: Reflections on the Men's Freeskate

These are the faces of the thrill of skating your best on the World’s biggest stage!

Congratulations to Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the first man to repeat as Olympic Champion since American Dick Button in ‘48 & ‘52! Yuzuru is not only an amazing athlete and artist, he is the model of good sportsmanship. His skate had a couple of minor flaws, but the pure command and magic that he created in Gangneung Arena will not be forgotten anytime soon. He's a wizard on ice.

Nathan Chen showed the world his strength of character— and an unprecedented SIX quads (five of them clean) in the free skate. Talk about redemption!! WOW!

Vincent Zhou threw down everything he had and came away with five quad attempts (four of them clean). He left everything on the ice and I was really inspired. I love the heart he shows. I predict quite a domestic rivalry between Chen and Zhou in the next quadrennial.

Adam Rippon continued his streak of dream programs at the Olympics with his third clean skate of the event. What Adam lacks in quad content, he makes up for with his beautiful artistry, the feeling of flight across the ice, and a killer layback spin! So proud of him for how far he's come!

Jin Boyang continued to deliver better than he has all season, finishing his Olympic debut with an impressive skate that featured only one major error (a fall on a quad toe). Jin has never been known as an artist on the ice, but I have to say that he skated with more command and presence than I've seen him have. What a competitor.

Javier Fernandez skated one of his beset performances to "Man of la Macha," and finally got redemption for missing the bronze in Sochi by the thinnest of margins. Fernandez is known for his charisma and showmanship on the ice, but this "Man of la Macha" program was less schticky and more mature and polished. It was just good, pure, classic skating.

Shoma Uno was last and created an Olympic moment that may have been just short of the gold medal, but it was no less fantastic. Aside from one fall on a quad loop, Shoma threw down everything else and finished the program with his signature cantilever and a flourish of passion. Love Shoma!

It was a men's freeskate to remember and I loved every single second!! I feel so lucky to have watched it live. Very thankful to have skating in my life to bring so much excitement and joy.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Pyeongchang Posts: What Happened to Nathan Chen?

Now that the dust ( or the ice chips?) from last night’s men’s short program have settled, I have some key takeaways about Nathan Chen’s failure to live up to his hype. First of all, the guy is human. Second of all, he is 18. Though Chen’s been a force on the senior circuit in the last two seasons, he’s actually had very little experience on a big, international stage. This is only his second full season as a senior ( his first senior season 2 years ago ended early in an injury that required surgery). He’s only been to one senior World Championship last March, where he finished 6th. It’s not an excuse, but Chen simply doesn’t have the experience of skating under a tremendous amount of pressure in a high stakes situation with intense competition.

To put things in perspective, Yuzuru Hanyu, 23, the reigning Olympic Champion, has been competing on the senior level since the 2010-2011 season and has medaled at the World Championships 5x. Javier Fernandez, who is currently in 2nd, is 26, competing in his third Olympics, and has two World titles under his belt. The other skaters rounding out the top four all have competed in multiple World Championships and have three World medals between them. When you look at it this way, you begin to see just how inexperienced Chen is. (To be fair, even Hanyu, who is one of the greatest skaters in history, fell twice in his gold-medal wining program in Sochi 4 years ago. It happens. The ice is slippery!)

The other factor in last night’s bomb, I believe, is that Chen has been inconsistent all season. Furthermore, each time he competes, he changes which jumps he performs, which is a problematic strategy because he hasn’t been able to get ample mileage on any one program. When on the Olympic stage, when the eyes of the entire world are on you, you can’t go out there without a consistent program that you can do in your sleep. Skaters rely on the ability to go into autopilot and let their muscle memory take over when the pressure is high. Olympic Champion Scott Hamilton always referred to this as the ability to “skate stupid. Don’t think, just do.” With so much program fluctuation, I don’t think Nathan had access to any auto-piloting of the sort!

Lastly, when interviewed after his skate, Nathan said that he didn’t know what happened and he’d have to talk to “his team” to figure it out. NBC commentator Johnny Weir pointed out that Nathan has to be able to figure it out himself. The ability to do this only comes with knowing oneself, which can only happen through time and experience. As unfortunate as last night was, this is the kind of experience that will make him stronger and wiser. Competitive nightmares translate to competitive grit!

All of this said, Chen is 22-points out of third place, and he can make up that difference in just a couple of jumping passes. It’s not over yet! He’s an amazing talent who has single-handedly injected excitement into U.S. men’s skating in the last two seasons and put us back in the conversation for medals for the first time in 8 years. We have not heard the last of Nathan Chen! I’m rooting for him to get Olympic redemption tonight! 💪🏅⛸

Pyeongchang Posts: Reflections on the Men's Short Program

What an incredible night of men’s figure skating! It’s a late night, but was well worth staying up past my bedtime! On a night when one skater soared to the heavens, another skater crashed to earth. Twice.

First Pennsylvania’s own, Adam Rippon, continued to live out his Olympic dream with a perfect performance— and plenty of sass! Defending Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu showed everyone that his reign is nowhere near over. He threw it down and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. He was otherworldly. The other top contenders were also terrific. Skaters from Spain, Japan, and China trail Hanyu by mere points, setting the stage for an epic final tonight!

The biggest heartbreak of the night was Nathan Chen, who had a disastrous outing, making uncharacteristic mistakes and finding himself in 17th place, 22 points out of bronze-medal position. Nathan was widely considered a gold medal favorite, but maybe the pressure was too much for the 18-year-old, who has limited experience on the biggest stages. It’s devastating, but this is sports. Sometimes things don’t go right and you have to find a way to put it past you and rise above. I will be rooting for Nathan to do that in the freeskate!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday Inspiration

This is what it looks like when you land a Triple Axel in the Olympics! Congratulations, Mirai. You're an inspiration!

Alexander Johnson: The Best Short Program Ever!!!

This program is everything! LOVE IT!

Mark Mitchell's "Soon"

Beautiful, classic skating.

Pyeongchang Posts: Reflections on the Team Competition

February 11, 2018:

What a magnificent night of the Olympic figure skating team competition!! First, Adam Rippon was simply sparkling ( and sparkly!), stellar, sublime, and everything he hoped his Olympic debut would be. Next, Mirai Nagasu had one of the greatest Olympic redemption skates that I’ve ever seen! Four years ago the selection committee passed over her for the 2014 Olympic team. Mirai used that heartbreak to reinvent herself as a stronger competitor with the most difficult jump—a triple Axel— in her arsenal. Tonight Mirai realized her dream of skating on Olympic ice again and became the first U.S. woman in Olympic history to land the triple Axel!! So uplifting to see what hard work and determination can do! Lastly, Maia and Alex Shibutani twizzled their way to their most inspired and heartfelt performance of the season. (Plus, bonus points for skating to Coldplay!). At the end of the night, team USA earned its second consecutive Olympic team event bronze medal!

Very proud of our team for skating so many personal bests and handling the Olympic pressure with such grace! ...So many great skating moments already and the individual events haven’t even started yet! We’re in for an awesome Olympics! 🥉⛸❤️🙌

Revisiting U.S. Nationals: Final Thoughts

January 7, 2018:

One final thought on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships this weekend: I would like to thank all the skaters for giving me--and so many others--so much joy and entertainment on a bitterly cold weekend in the northeast when so many of us hunkered down and didn't leave the house at all (not that I would have left the house anyway--5 straight hours of coverage yesterday was a-mazing). It's rare that you have one thing that you're so passionate about for your whole life, and I'm grateful that I found it 24 years ago! The cool that is that I've grown up watching skating and no matter what's been going on in my life, it's has always been there. Through all the sport's milestones, I've been there watching, and for all my life's milestones, skating has been there for me. In a world with so much uncertainty, it's nice to have one constant. All the joy it brings me shines light into any darkness that I might be experiencing. Skating can be a balm over any wound. It inspires me, it rejuvenates my spirit, and it makes me want to chase my dreams and do all things with passion, creativity, good sportsmanship, grace, and humility. So thank you, figure skating, I'm your biggest fan!

Revisiting U.S. Nationals: Men's Final Recap: Expect the Unexpected

January 6, 2018:

I just calculated that this is my 23rd consecutive year watching the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and every year I love it even more! As usual, the men’s event was my favorite. Tonight we saw 18-year-old Nathan Chen extend his undefeated season with an impressive arsenal of quads to secure a 40.72 point victory. Chen has now strengthened his case as a gold-medal threat at the Olympics next month in South Korea. But that result was expected. What happened after that was more interesting. We saw 17-year-old Vincent Zhou attempt 5-quads in a heartfelt effort to prove that he’s not the future of the sport, he’s the here and now. We saw a 26-year veteran come out of nowhere to give the performance of his life when it mattered most. We saw a 28-year-old veteran, who we thought was a sure-lock for the Olympic team prove that nothing is ever sure. We saw another medal favorite crumble under the pressure in a shocking result. Now the Olympic committee has to decide: do they send a veteran who on the night delivered the goods, or do they choose the veteran who on the night did not deliver, but delivered every other time on the world stage? Will they give the nod to youth to cultivate the future, or will they give the nod to the veteran on the strength of his past? We will find out Sunday morning when the official team is announced.

Tonight’s event showed us that on the way to fulfilling a dream, you have to fight tooth and nail, never give up—even when others count you out, to be confident, but not over confident, and to know how to handle disappointment with your head held high. Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you can walk away knowing that you tried. This is figure skating. This is sport. This is life. 💪⛸🏅🌟

Revisiting U.S. Nationals: The Redemption of Mirai Nagasu

January 5, 2018

I’ve been following figure skating for 24 years and some of the best moments always come at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships/ Olympic trials. I was there in Boston 4 years ago when Mirai Nagasu was passed over for the Olympic team, even though she finished third and ahead of Ashley Wagner, who was chosen instead. Mirai skated her exhibition with tears streaming down her face. When many others would have retired, Mirai overcame her bitter disappointment and worked tirelessly to get a second chance.

Four years later—and 10 years after her National title win at the age of 14—Mirai came to this week’s National Championships more prepared than ever before. Tonight she skated courageously and with heart. She threw down the gauntlet and earned a standing ovation en route to a silver medal and what should surely earn her a trip to the Olympics in South Korea next month.

It’s SO inspiring to see someone who has hit rock bottom persevere and overcome everything to experience a personal triumph. This is what sports, and life, is all about. Tonight Mirai’s silver is as good as gold. Congratulations, Mirai Nagasu! 🌟💫🏅⛸