Movie Review of RISE

March 1, 2011

courtesy of US Figure Skating

Like many people in the skating world, I watched RISE, with a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach. For those of you who don’t know, this is the figure skating movie about the 1961 World Team who perished in a plane crash, on the way to the World Championships in Prague.

Beforehand, I wondered if I should cut my skating lessons short that night in order to rush over and see the movie. I am glad that I did.  Likewise, beforehand, I wasn’t sure whether or not to aggressively recommend the film to my skating students, because I wasn’t sure how painful it was going to be to watch. Though it is a horrible tragedy and it is difficult subject matter, it is treated tastefully and has a positive message. The focus is not on the crash itself but on the skaters and coaches who were on the plane. This event had an impact on so many lives and on the American skating community for years to come.

I think my skating students should see this film, as should their parents, as should anyone involved in skating and other sports, too. It is playing again in theaters around the country on March 7. I recommend that you get your tickets now. You can find theaters and buy tickets here.

Not only is it important to learn the history of this specific event, RISE provides us with an all-too rare opportunity to view skating footage from a bygone era. (Like people tracing out figure eights!) It also gives us a chance to understand that skaters of yesteryear, despite their plain costumes and their different skating style, struggled with many of the same challenges as skaters do today. Even back then, some top skaters moved across the country to seek expert coaching, some families were split apart, and some parents pushed too hard. These athletes experienced injuries and disappointing performances, and also victories. Finally, viewers can take a bit of time to consider the skating community as a whole rather than just our own little corner of it. Skating requires so much focus on details that we can easily forget that we are participating in something bigger than ourselves.

The title, RISE, (the ‘i’ of which cleverly depicts a skater mid-jump), is accompanied by a subtitle: Can the end of one dream give rise to another? The documentary’s answer to this question is: YES. A panel of skating greats like Scott Hamilton, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano, et cetera, help us to see how we can be inspired by these athletes from the 1961 World Team.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is how it effectively conveys the concept of legacy and the connectedness of everyone in the skating world. In some way, most of us are either directly or indirectly connected to this event through our coaches or skaters that we know. For example, I was coached by Ron Ludington, who was trained by Maribel Vinson Owen, who is featured in the film.

And many of us have benefited from the Memorial Fund, a very direct form of connectedness. I knew that F. Ritter Shumway set up the Memorial Fund after the crash, but didn’t realize that he did so only eight short days afterwards. Thousands of skaters have been helped by this financial assistance, a very direct form of connectedness.

I was interested to learn that the 1961 National Championships were the first to be televised. And there is an old cigarette advertisement that had the whole theater laughing. There are some photos of the crash wreckage that are not overly gruesome but heart wrenching.  There are some compelling stories about skaters who might have been on the plane but were not either due to injury or sickness.

I enjoyed the segments about the SC of Boston and about the Broadmoor rink in Colorado Springs. Before the Broadmoor was razed, my brother and I trained at that beautiful (though crumbling) rink for one summer. We also competed at our first Midwestern Sectionals there and discovered just how beautiful and majestic that hotel is.  (We also learned how higher altitude really does affect your stamina.)

Evidently, there was a RISE pre-show hosted by Matt Lauer and Peter Carruthers that our theater didn’t play. But we did see the after-show. This was sort of an Oprah-esque set-up where participants in the film (including the filmmakers) immediately discussed the movie and the topics at hand. It was kind of like seeing the DVD “extras” while still sitting in the theater.

During this portion, both Frank Carroll and Evan Lysacek were interviewed. Evan said something to the effect that, after a performance, it is great to be out on the ice by yourself while the audience applauds, but the real celebration takes place when you step off the ice and hug your coach. The way Evan has so kindly shared his Vancouver victory with Frank Carroll is truly endearing.

I gasped, along with many others in attendance, at Dorothy Hamill’s disparaging comment about the rink named after her, in Greenwich, Connecticut. There were likely many people in our theater who coach or skate there.

As always, I enjoyed seeing Scott Hamilton and think he had some of the most poignant things to say. He said that one of the main lessons he learned from skating is that, “You reap what you sow.” In other words, if you don’t practice hard, and go to the rink even on the days that you don’t want to, you can’t expect to succeed. He also reminded us that when, in any aspect of your life, you fall down, you just have to get back up. (In other words, “rise.”) Maybe these are obvious adages, but it can’t hurt to hear them again, especially from him, and especially in light of the health issues he is going through right now.

My one criticism of RISE is probably not a fair one: I wanted more! While it was fascinating to learn about these individual stories, I didn’t feel like there was enough detail about enough people. I suppose there is only so much ground that can be covered in 94 minutes. And truth be told, this sense of wanting more prompted me, when I got home that night, to pore through the pages of SKATING magazine’s February issue, a large portion of which is dedicated to the crash and the film.  I am now also intrigued by Patricia Shelley Bushman’s book, Indelible Tracings: The Story of the 1961 U.S. World Figure Skating Team. So my interest has been further piqued and I presume it has created similar curiosity in many others.

Like I said above, go see RISE on March 7. Many of us have seen that iconic photo of the team lined up on the steps of that fateful airplane. After seeing this film, their faces will look a lot more familiar.

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What did you think of the film? Feel free to leave a comment below.


What an incredible two weeks of Olympics viewing. From my futon, I gasped, I cried, and I applauded. This is the most fun I’ve had watching the Olympics in a long time. What now? I suppose we can all resume our former routines and at least be happy to catch some more zzzs. Sure, those four-minute, backloaded, bonus-heavy programs take a lot of stamina, but surely not as much as this late-night spectating.

As excited as I was to watch Ladies Freeskating, I really started to fade while waiting for that last group…I know many of you were feeling the same. A skating friend came over to be my viewing buddy since the Hubs was out of town. We were both frustrated with the fact that we were yawning, so to try and revive ourselves, we dropped to the floor and each did ten push ups. This indeed woke us up. Then we did another 10 (okay, on my part, only four) after marveling at Joannie Rochette’s strong and beautifully-sculpted arms.

I keep saying that the next time these things roll around I’m going to take two weeks off work, so I can properly focus and rest-up for optimal viewing. But the truth is that it was fun to be at the rink, compare notes with fellow coaches, and see what the kids thought of everything.  There has been a buzz in the air and a little extra enthusiasm.

As much as I’ve been impressed with the actual skating over these two weeks – the fluidity, the velocity, the beauty and innovation combined with aggression – I think I’m most in awe of the composure we have seen. Not only did these skaters expect a lot from themselves, they carried the expectations of many others: entire countries were watching and hoping. To perform, to focus, and to excel in those circumstances is exactly remarkable as all the sappy, Costas-narrated montages claim. I think these athletes have brought us all a some perspective and probably a lot of inspiration.

And so, as I am already feeling a bit of a void and anticipate some post-Olympics withdrawal coming on, I hope to draw strength from what I have witnessed. I hope my skating students will do the same. I hope we all will.

Now where is that book I was reading way back before Vancouver took over my brain?

***

Thank you, as always for reading. If you’d like add your own innermost feelings on the Olympics or make fun of me for waxing so sentimental, please leave a comment below.

I was interested in what Timothy Goebel, 2002 Olympic Bronze medalist, thought of the scathing article Elvis Stojko wrote about the Men’s results, called “The Night they Killed Figure Skating”. (To read it, click here.) Tim sent me this rebuttal:

“In my last season of competitive skating my coach, Audrey Weisiger, had a great quote: “Adapt, or die!”. Referring to the new judging system, she was noting the importance of being able to make changes to a program mid-season, in order to maximize points.

Evan, and many of his peers, have done just that. They have adapted. While I do agree with Elvis that the current system fails to appropriately encourage and reward risk, there are improvements the new regime has brought to the sport, as well. The most important, perhaps, is the importance placed on quality. Evan did not do a quad. Elvis is correct in saying that Evan’s jumps weren’t close to the techinical ability of Evgeny- they far exceeded his. Plushenko gave a gritty performance, and is a phenomenal competitor, but the jump quality was lacking. He barely hung on to his solo triple axel, and although Evan had a slight break in his axel combo, it was better. Lysacek did a beautiful triple lutz-triple toe, Plu barely squeaked by on his solo lutz, and did a scratchy triple lutz-double toe. Grade of execution counts for a lot, as it well should, and in every case Evan’s execution was stronger.

Another positive step the new system makes, is rewarding a well balanced program by giving bonus to difficult elements late in the program. Plushenko has one of the best triple axels in the business. He could easily do it in the bonus, but he elected not to. He front-loaded his program, and Evan spread his difficulty throughout. I appreciate how difficult that is- in the Salt Lake City Olympics, the second quad sal in my long was around the 3 minute mark. It requires a lot of training to make the big tricks happen late in a program, and Evan did so with ease.

I do not like to see the quad being such a rarity in the sport these days, and I do think that the system needs a major overhaul to encourage athletes to take risk. However, athletes must adapt to the system that they are competing under. With the help of Lori Nichol and Frank Carroll, Evan constructed a program that uses his strengths to maximize his points. He did what he needed to do to be successful within the constructs of the current system, and delivered two of the strongest programs he could possibly skate under a great deal of pressure. And that is the sign of a true champion.

In order to help the sport move forward, I would like to see a dialogue open between the ISU and former athletes who have performed multiple quads in competition. Elvis, myself, and many of our peers have invaluble competition experience for understanding the difficulty in executing these jumps. I agree that the system needs some major adjustments. Working together with the ISU, I am confident that we could come up with a point spread that would encourage and reward athletes to attempt more difficult elements, and do so without turning the sport into a jump contest.”

Thank you, Tim. Well put.

This week, on Slate.com I think I have officially outdone myself, as far as self-deprecation and sarcasm: Click down here:


To read a riff proposing some, ehem…other Olympic Sports, Click down here:

Happy Olympics!

Men’s Freeskate: Insta-Blog

February 18, 2010


by Jocelyn Jane Cox

[Best read from the bottom, up.]

9:40 Friday morning

This Olympic-viewing is hard work! A little bleary-eyed (can barely see through these bags that have inflated on my face), but digging the post-game interviews with Evan. Very gracious, well-spoken and appropriately in awe of the honor and the accomplishment.

On the flip side, just read a scathing analysis of the results by Elvis Stojko on yahoo called The Night They Killed Figure Skating. Ouch. Click here.

Am liking the sizzling NBC commercial for Ice Dance: “Cold winter nights just got hotter.” Pumped for Tango Romantica tonight – I don’t plan to insta-blog. I may do so for OD and/or FD. If you’d like a little guidance on tonight’s compulsory event, check out my article on Ice Skating International. Link at the bottom of this post.

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12:15

Lambiel, Lambiel. Your name rolls off the tongue. I had such high hopes. You remind me so much of my high school star-crush Robert Sean Leonard (of Dead Poet’s Society and now House).

[The Hubs dozed off but he’s sitting back up again…]

Takahashi is fluid. Like water on skates. Way to come back from the Big Quad. Disagree with the pundits that it sucked the life out of the program. Likewise, way to come back from injury.

Weir: The Fallen angel flies again. Gotta hand that one to him. Great performance. And a beautiful ring of roses around his head.

Plushenko skated shaky. The marks are up–

Evan wins!! It comes down to Grade of Execution. Quality over Quantity. That is awesome. Go USA.

And now. To. Sleep.

Thank you for reading.

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11:34

Viva Lysacek!! Great performance. Not easy to skate first, but he got out there and got it over with…now the waiting game. Prefer the snakes to the feathers. Looked a tad slow and walky in the middle, but Bravo! Sounded like Hamilton almost slipped up at one point and almost said Petrenko instead of Plushenko.

Oda vaults into the air. Looks like his legs are made of rubber and his knees have springs. Call me a Nationalist, but the Chaplin medley just reminds me that Ryan Bradley didn’t make it. And I don’t like to think about that.

Oops, technical difficulties. Thought he tore a muscle but it was just his lace. He should be awarded a lightening bolt superhero costume (like little Lysacek’s) for how quickly he fixed that. Mixed things up a bit.

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11:10

Florent Amodio: I missed his short the other night but heard a lot of buzz about him. This Amelie/marionette program was cute. Nice to see a lighthearted Long Program since they usually skew serious.

Patrick Chan: Phantom of the Opera is a gorgeous piece of music and very evocative. Chan skates beautifully to it, but I am so Tired of this song. (And/or maybe I’m just tired.) He has a great smile – look forward to seeing it again next time around.

Michal Brezina: Gene Kelly on skates. Like it. An American in Paris? No, A Czech in Canada.


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10:40

Well, so much for my predictions that Jeremy Abbott would climb up from 15th to win… way to climb uphill within the program, though.

It seems that Kozuka loves the electric guitar. If he wants to keep skating to this for all of his future programs, I am comfortable with that.  When they zoomed in on his sit spin I realized the benefit of (and perhaps theory behind) these wacky boards: it looks a little like they’re skating outside in a cartoon world.

Denis Ten: 16 years old, wow! Couldn’t keep up with his music medley – traveled across more borders and decades than I could keep track of.

I don’t know the football stars they just showed, but I do love that they are not only watching figure skating but doing so in public.

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9:50

To my friend who suggested I host an Olympic party: well, this is it! Online and On the futon. Welcome.

Ahh! The suspense. They’re not even going to start showing the skating until after 10. (I am enjoying the snowboarding, though.)

In the meantime, check out this analysis of The Quad in the NY Times, put together by longtime friend Archie Tse, former pair skater turned graphic guru. Off to the right, you’ll see each skater’s success rate with the Quad – I appreciate all the facts and figures, but I especially like seeing how all that rotational pull contorts their faces…..Click here.

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Here comes the showdown: Feathers, Tassels, and Tears vs. the Swinging Sword. I’m going to type commentary as soon as I get home from the rink tonight.

I know some people were offended by Blades of Glory, but let’s face it, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder nailed it. It’s almost as if the men’s figure skating event is acting out that plotline to a T. I’m looking forward to watching Freeskate but would also really like to see Plushenko and Lysacek make amends then perform a “Very Original Dance” later this week.

Actually, all this bravado, the boustier, and the masterful skating made the Vancouver Short Program on Tuesday night the most fun I think I’ve ever had watching a men’s event. I laughed, I (faux) cried and I marveled. I know I should be applauding all the jumps (and they were incredible), but I think the fact that there were two footwork/step sequences made it very entertaining. Favorite footworkers: Lambiel, Takahashi, Abbott. Least favorite footworker: Plushenko a.k.a. Clod the Quad (and, by the way, weren’t his jump landings rather shaky?) Favorite overall program: Kozuka to Jimi Hendrix. Biggest heartbreak: Abbott. Biggest surprise: obviously Joubert. Best twizzler: Lysacek.

Big shout out to The Hubs for today’s artwork and his unique talent to put skates on just about anything for the purposes of CSOM. To see more of his non-skating but incredibly graceful work, click here.

And…check out these other Olympic-y pieces I’ve been working on. Special thanks to Vicki Merten, Wendy Mliner, Cheryl Demkowski-Snyder, Cathy Reed, Brad Cox, and Liz Leamy for advising me on the article about the Tango Romantica. Click down here:

Thanks for reading and thanks for all your comments on those previous insta-blogs both here and on FB – makes it really fun. 🙂

By Jocelyn Jane Cox

[FYI- this works backwards, so read from the bottom then back up, if you’d like. I intend to insta-blog again for Men’s Freeskate on Thursday night…I’ll sign in as soon as I get home from the rink!]

Midnight:

Shen and Zhao: Well, tanked on a lift, but did lots of high ticket elements late in the program. AND: did a old -school pull-through, but into a lift! Fourth Olympics. Five points ahead after Short. First Place.

NBC didn’t even show or mention the American’s final placements (10th and 13th). But I agree with Dick Button for once: “It was a wonderful evening.” Lots of strong skating and no disastrous falls. Phew!

Good night!

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11:45

Kavaguti and Smirnov:  I am uncomfortable watching women this thin on the ice. I felt the same way about Sasha Cohen this year. (I am also uncomfortable commenting on other people’s weight, but I fear for their safety and health and fear for young girls they might influence.) (Well, honestly, I fear for these pair girls at any weight.) (But this is just my paranoia.)

Savchenko and Szolkowy: Love Out of Africa. Thumbs up on the spread eagles into the Throw Triple Sal. Likewise for the Spread Eagle/Plank-ish ending to that lift. (Wish the commentators would tell us the name of some of these newer lift positions/ and lift exits. If they need help coming up with names, I volunteer my services.)

Pang and Tong:  Woooo hooooo! Only team that prompted me to applaud here from the futon. They’re like ice dancers. Gorgeous. Notice, when he throws her, how much air he takes, himself.

One more to go…

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11:15 Time for tonight’s serving of pretzels. And to wonder who on earth named it a “death spiral.”   It’s probably the least scary and dangerous of all the elements we are seeing tonight.

My little friend Wiki tells me Potopopovs attempted to change it up in the 60’s, calling the Back Inside a “Cosmic Spiral,” the Forward Inside a “Life Spiral” and the (all too rare) Forward Outside, a “Love Spiral.” I think any one of these would be better than the current name. What do you think? Leave a comment below if so inclined.

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10:55 Zhang and Zhang: That fall on his elbows did not look fun. The Hubs gives a thumbs up to their ending position, though.

On Sheherazade: it is a beautiful piece of music, but can we take a break from it? Maybe just take this and Phantom of the Opera and put them in the vault for a while? Maybe just a few decades. In fact, a lot of this music is tired.

On typing while trying to watch the TV screen: challenging.

Mukhortova and Tarankov: The Hubs admits that this is the most he has ever watched any Olympics and any sporting event, period.  He says: “Is it a new thing that the guys are wearing such normal outfits? He looks like he just got off his shift at the Banana Republic.”  Yes, it is a new thing – seems like lots of teams are following in the footsteps of Sale and Pelletier. ( I believe this is their same music.)

Dube/Davison: “And this guy is from the Gap! That’s just a long sleeve T-shirt and Dockers!” (…maybe I’ll get him in figure skates, yet!)

I’m sad D/D didn’t have a better skate. Was rooting for them ever since the camel spin accident. Can’t imagine doing another one after that and the PTSD she must have had.  She looks awesome, though. Still wondering why their scores are so high…? Perhaps my local technical specialist will enlighten? Or perhaps he is asleep, preparing for an early-morning skate.

Also wondering why all the Death Spirals look so slow – possibly because they are trying to hold them for so long.

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10:31 Bazarova and Larianov. I dig the one-sided collar. The Russian Jackets are cool. Is it true that they are required to put them on in the Kiss and Cry for promotional purposes?

The back story on Yao Bin: inspiring or heartbreaking? Both, I suppose.

The Hubs on Langlois and Hays: “She’s so little.” Yup, that’s one of the main requirements of a girl pair skater. Liliputian. That, and nerves of steel. Not to mention biceps of steel.

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10:03 Evora and Ladwig just skated. Mark is to be commended on his spirals. He is doing his species proud.

Bezic: (approximate quote) “Evora and Ladwig have been together for eight years and never been on the podium at Nationals [dramatic pause] until this year.” I am a sucker for this kind of stuff.

Enormous Throw Triple Loop. And their One handed Reverse Lasso etc etc etc lift: excellent.

Notice how Costas and Co. are suddenly pushing the “personal best” notion since, in this case, the Americans are nowhere near medal contention. I approve and request more of the same. The constant focus on medals is tiresome. (Thank heaven Canada finally got a gold on their home turf – the commentators can now stop harping on this.) I like that the rink announcer is mentioning when the scores are a team’s personal best. This does bring some perspective and context. Then again, every event has different judges and different callers…

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9:25 Okay! Just got home from the rink two hours later than expected – dead battery in the parking lot, got a jump, tossed up a salad, now ready to see the skaters jump….

Denney and Barrett just punched in a great, redemptive Freeskate. Bravo! Impressive for being together only 18 months.

The above clipart and in fact this entire insta-blog is dedicated to all previous, current, and future pair skating women. I have an insane amount of respect for you.

To be continued…and in the mean time, check out this humor piece about the Olympics:


Medals and Pretzels

February 15, 2010

Okay, pair short program results are in. USA 10th and 14th, room for improvement, but a decent showing. Some of the scoring at the top is cause for pause. I will have to consult with my local Technical Specialist to see what’s what.

NBC just put up the results with some of the countries/flags all jumbled. Oops. Or, in the the words of my 3 year old nephew: Oopalah.

Upwards and onwards for Freeskate tomorrow night. I will have to stretch and digest all these pretzels in order to be ready….

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10:38: Pang and Tong, favorite program so far. “Free and joyous”, yes. Scores lower than I expected, but then again I’m no Technical Specialist…

I really have no right to comment on costumes, considering what I have worn in the past, eh hem, not to mention what I’m wearing right now…but – I vote No for Nude Fabric on guys.

Question: are Split Triple Twists getting more and more lateral?

Better stop clowning around, the Germans are up.

10:35 pm…Trying to decide which is more cute: The two-inch tall Tamara Moskvina standing on a box in order to see over the boards or the adorable Pelletier and Sale all gussied up in the media booth.

Holy Blue Unitard!

Trying to decide: Is the blue/green landscape design on the boards distracting or cool? I like the way it looks but the skaters don’t show up all that well against it…

Am noticing that pair footwork/step sequences are getting a bit more dance-y. Me like. Along the same lines: I like Kavaguti’s longer skirt. I guess that entrance into the Throw Triple Loop wasn’t too shabby either.

Dube just fell on her jump. That’s a shame. The scores are high – very confused.

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Scott Hamilton during Bazarova and Larinov: (approximate quote) “They used to call them one and a half pairs because of the difference in the size.” My brother and I used to call them Giant and the Pea couples. (It is possible/valid that they called us the Giraffes.)

I am digging the NBC countdowns “x minutes to figure skating” in the lower right hand corner.

Hannah Kearney, Gold medalist in Freestyle Mogul answering the question, “What events are you going to watch?” “Definitely figure Skating because it epitomizes the Winter Olympics.”

Evora and Ladwig: Sweet Throw Triple Loop!

The Hubs on Mark’s costume: “I like his outfit – it’s so normal.”

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Opening ceremonies, check. Ohno last night, check. Snack food, check.

On deck: Pairs Short.

I am not sure which was better: Shen and Zhao’s beautiful yet strange back outside death spiral just now or my beautiful yet strange husband’s impromptu and passionate “skating” across the hardwood floor.  One point deduction for his fall; he crashed and burned against the dining room table.

I personally never made it to the Olympics, though it could be argued that I trained for them…sort of, in an abstract way, well, they were far far off in the distance.  I trained alongside Olympians, does that count? I know that when you fall trying just about anything in Pair skating it smarts. Watching these girls defy gravity makes me cringe a bit.

USA’s Denney and Barrett: Awesome Throw Triple Lutz!

It’s strange to watch skating, in PJs from the futon.  Am I jealous of these tiny bodies, their flexibility? Yes.

Oh, well, all that’s long over, but it’s nice to eat pretzels.

Sour grapes? No. Sourdough.


Favorite Olympic Moments

February 8, 2010


The time has come to once again catch Olympic Fever. Symptoms include: watching far too much television, envying all that youthful agility and quickness while slumped on your couch gobbling potato chips, and an embarrassing breakout of Nationalism. (After all, it’s only natural to root for your own country.) Fortunately, this affliction comes around only once every four years, and it’s okay to admit to enjoying it.

If you’re anything like me, Olympic Fever will take over your life and you’ll be able to think of little else. Of course, I’ll happily watch all the sports, especially snowboarding, hockey and speedskating, and I’ll marvel at the unique talents of these athletes. But figure skating is and will always be The Main Event. I’ve been thinking in the last few days about my favorite, or at least most memorable, Olympic viewing moments.

The first Olympics I remember watching was the 1980 Games in Lake Placid. As I recently wrote in a piece for Professional Skater Magazine, I distinctly remember watching Tai and Randy pull out of the competition. My brother and I had just started to take group lessons near our hometown in Wisconsin. I didn’t know much about the sport or anything about this pair team, but I was entranced and a little stumped. I watched as Randy did circles on the warm-up and shook out his leg: if he can still glide around like that, then why doesn’t he just compete? I had so much to learn about injuries…and learn I did.

I remember watching Kitty and Peter Carruthers capture the silver at Sarajevo in 1984. They did a crazy thing called a Hydrant where he tossed her up in the air and caught her on the other side as if she was leapfrogging over him. My brother and I were by this time competing in pair and dance at the Novice level so the fact that there was a brother/sister team at the top certainly resonated. Double click on the arrow to play video…

Torvill and Dean’s Bolero Freedance that year also left an impression – I’d never seen anything like it and I guess no one else had either. Double click on the arrow to play video…

Torvill and Dean paved the way for our eventual faves, the Duchesnays. Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay were another brother and sister duo – they competed in 1988 (8th) and 1992 (silver medal). Double click on the arrow to play video…

By the time we watched Natalie and Wayne Seybold compete in Calgary in 1988, we were training alongside them in Delaware. I was injured at the time with a sprained knee from doing Throw Double Axels. Although by this time I could do that Carruther Hydrant with some confidence, I hated Throws and made sure to say so on a regular basis. “I hate Throws,” was like a mantra, but the negative kind, and sure enough Throws retaliated. Conversely, I always admired Natalie’s tenacity and her ability to not just rotate Throws, but land them. Her position was so tight in the air – she looked like a spinning pencil — try as I did, I just couldn’t seem to emulate her. Double click on the arrow to play video…

The Seybolds were kind enough to bring back a poster for us signed by the legendary Gordeeva and Grinkov, which I still prize to this day. Their long program that year was mesmerizing, their unison incredible. The flowers on her dress and the nuanced way that she moved her head made me realize that pair skating could actually be elegant. When tiny Ekaterina Gordeeva looked into the camera and shyly said, “Hello everybody,” in her stilted English, I did a little math: she was exactly one year older than me and approximately half my size! Double click on the arrow to play video…

In fact, every event at this Olympics was exciting: remember the Battle of the Carmens? My heart sank for Debi Thomas, but I remember that she was very cool and composed in the Kiss and Cry interview. She said, “I’m not going to make any excuses.” Double click on the arrow to play video…

And who could forget the Battle of the Brians? Double click on the arrow to play video…

Of course, many great (and not so great) things happened in figure skating in the ensuing years. I watched the Olympics, but maybe because I was focused on things other than skating at the time, the “moments” didn’t really stick. Of course, there was the Nancy-Tanya debacle and Nancy’s hard-won bronze in Albertville. Kristi landed on top. After that, Tiny Tara trumped Kwan in Nagano.

The next moment I’ll never forget was watching Sarah Hughes win in 2002, Salt Lake City. That was, to me, an amazing Olympic moment…the kind that dreams are made of. Hughes was at the right place at the right time, stars aligned, and she skated well, proving that it’s what you put out there on the day of the competition that matters. This is what makes skating exciting (and also sometimes devastating). Double click on the arrow to play video…

I found Sale and Pelletier’s long program that year to be equally inspiring. Of course, the judging scandal revealed afterwards was less so. Double click on the arrow to play video…

What memories will be made on ice this year? We shall soon know. I’ll be watching closely, rooting for Team USA, and I presume you will be, too.

Here is the NBC broadcast schedule (and there will be a lot of preview/recap coverage on the Universal Sports station):

Pairs Short: Sun Feb 14, 7-11 pm

Pairs Freeskate: Mon Feb 15, 8-midnight

Men’s Short: Tues Feb 16, 8-midnight

Men’s Freeskate: Thurs Feb 18, 8-midnight

Dance Compulsories: Fri Feb 19, 8-11:30 pm

Original Dance: Sun Feb 21, 7-11 pm

Free Dance: Mon Feb 22, 8-midnight

Ladies Short: Tues Feb 23, 8-midnight

Ladies Freeskate: Thurs Feb 25, 8-midnight

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Thanks for reading/watching! What are your favorite moments from years gone by? I’m sure you have very different ones from mine. Please leave a comment below.