Worlds: The Gospel According to jcm
Now I know why bloggers do LIVE blogging at events. Because, once you return home, the memories are so vivid, and the experience so rich, the post threatens to be Biblical in length. Since I didn’t take my laptop with me and wanted to balance Worlds with getting out on the town, and exploring nightlife/restaurants with friends, I now attempt to squeeze an elephant through a funnel (so to speak).
An historic moment happened at Staples Center, with the first meeting of jumping clapping man, and Aaron of Axels, Loops & Spins. You could call it the figure skating bloggers’ Convention of the Century (jk). It was great to catch up on favorite moments during our seemingly short break, over my gin and tonic. We enjoyed texting throughout the competitions… as we were also Tweeting to our blogs. I respect his expertise and knowledge greatly. He is a master, and I a mere “grasshopper”.
The most amusing moments progressed after we discovered Richard Callaghan sitting 15 or so rows down from us, in Section 117, at the men’s free skate competition. Sometime around the half-time break some new arrivals walked down to him and flashed their tickets. Apparently sitting in their seats, he and his companion (a very handsome 20-something) stood up and moved back about 10 seats (to about 5 in front of us). Then, about 1 set later the actual owners of those seats also showed up, bumping Callaghan and his companion again, into a completely different section. Wouldn’t you think a world class coach would have his own seats? Apparently not.
The LIVE Difference
My respect for skaters and their sport goes through the roof when I attend a skating event in person. It’s an experience that just can’t be matched by TV or youtube watching. You don’t get the filtered, highlights-only version you do via those media. You come face-to-face with the full range of best and worst moments, and witness skaters both rising brilliantly to the occasion and others dropping the ball miserably. And, you see it up-close and in-person, with all the sweat, tears, and ice. For some it prooved to be their night, and for others, a night with only lessons to take away.
In particular, seeing top skaters Savchenko/Szolkowy, Yu-Na Kim, and Tomas Verner LIVE really drive home what separates the greats from the near-greats. They cast their spell, time seems to stop around you, you are transported, if a pin dropped you’d hear it, every move has intent and connection to the music, and the emotional catharsis as they complete their program is immense… the hoards rising out of their seats, perhaps accompanied by tears, and a long standing-O ensues. Even some skaters I don’t enjoy all that much on TV “read” better LIVE, like Miki Ando, whose dramatic and rapid arm movements always feel busy, but here they had more visual room to fill out, and just felt more natural.
All of the factors that have to align for these skaters to seize the moment is daunting: training conditions, travel factors, sleeping in foreign countries, jet-lag, ice quality, boot fit, blade sharpness, health, personal mood, meals/food, crowd response, skating order, and on and on. The gravity of these factors become even more evident when you yourself travel to a competition and then witness the performances before you.
I’ve heard commentators allude to the concept of “winning the warm-up”, but you only fully grasp the concept when you witness one LIVE. Oda and Voronov had fantastic warm-ups. The crowd followed each swarming movement and applauded each jump landed.
Who would ever have guessed that Jeremy Abbott, a skater who some thought could walk away with the gold, and ’08-’09 season US Nationals and Grand Prix Champion would finish 11th (the worst Worlds’ finish by a current US champion since World War II)? Or, that Carolina Kostner would finish 15th in the LP, after landing 5 singles (“pops”), and not a single triple? Boy did she ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Had her boyfriend just text’d her “It’s not you, it’s me”!?
Personal triumps belonged to Elene Gedevanishvili (now coached by R. Wagner and Elaine Zayak), and Alena Leonova, who both skated very strong LPs. Gedevanishvili was touted as a future champion by Scott Hamilton and Johnny Weir when she hit the scene seasons ago, but was sidelined by lack of training after being forced out of her homeland of Georgia. Glad to see she’s back in the game! And, Leonova was clearly thrilled to perform so well in her first Worlds. She is not a beautiful skater, but like Butyrskaya before her, a fighter and emerging competitor. An honest, thrilled reaction in the kiss-and-cry always has me rooting for a skater, no matter where they are from.
Also, we were deeply moved when, after a terrible fall and crash into the boards, FRA’s Candice Didier was helped off the ice by medics, but returned before her 3 minutes were up to complete her program, securing France’s Olympic berth. She is a slight girl, so how she pulled through to do some very extended spirals while injured was beyond me. The audience rose to it’s feet and showed its true appreciation.
It’s wonderful to connect with skating lovers all around you at competitions. We sat next to a wonderful couple from San Diego. We shared turns spotting skating celebrities seated nearby (Tara L., Boitano, Mukhortova, Lysacek, etc.), memories of past competitions (they had seen Hamilton and Zayak win at the ’81 Nationals), and factoids about skater’s records and top finishes.
Our seats were da bomb. We were in Section 117. Thankfully, for the saturday’s ladies’ LP, Kwan, Costas and Button were parked on a landing a stone’s throw away. That added to the drama and gravitas of the event. Since the event was in LA, I think nearly every skating champion and celeb from the past few decades must have been there. I jokingly swore that the only former US greats that weren’t in the arena were Fleming, Kerrigan, and Harding.
Like in the recent Oscars, where 5 former winners in each main acting category introduced the new nominees, the podiums were flanked by former champions: Angela Nikodinov, Lisa Marie Allen, Tiffany Chin, Debbie Thomas, and so on. I hope they continue this tradition (I presume its new).
Yet again a competition was won without it (aka Lysacek). It seems most skating fans and skaters have a love/hate relationship with it. In many ways it attempts to pull focus from of other equally valuable components. However, when witnessed LIVE, the beauty of the quad is breathtaking. It offers a thrill like no other… well, perhaps like downing a pack of Red-Bull. Ponsero, Oda, and Verner landed textbook quads in the competition, and sold me on their worth.
The Exhibition highlights included Joubert’s performance to Rufus Wainright’s Hallelujah. What an unexpected choice that was. And, it was the first time I’ve seen him really let his guard down and do something vulnerable and moving. When Joubert skates, even aside from his jumping ability, he gives off such a magnetism and confidence it is truly disarming. Verner claims he is “shy”. You wouldn’t believe it when you see his Michael Jackson program. It is so engaging and amusing, one of my easy favorites of the night, including Thriller, Off the Wall, Remember the Time and more. Oh yeah, and Kim’s The Gold by Linda Eder won hearts, as usual.
After Abbott flopped and Mroz skated well but not winningly, it was unclear whether we would secure 3 berths for US men at the Olympics. As Evan’s LP drew nearer and nearer, we knew he had to be on the podium to secure them. Thankfully, he blew any concerns out of the water.
Amazingly, if you look at the final scores for the US ladies, we were just 1 double axel away (Alissa Czisny’s) from securing 3 berths for the ladies in Vancouver.
— “This is the Word of jcm”