Archive for the ‘elvis stojko’ Tag

Vancouver Games: Week 1 Supersized Recap

I’m battling a terrible cold and sore throat. Staying up past midnight nightly watching these Games likely hasn’t helped. Why, oh why is the left coast on such a delay? More advertising dollars for NBC? Pathetic! I’m sure a lot of potential viewers drifted away because of this poor decision.

Opening Ceremonie$


When I sat down to watch the opening, all I could think of was how unlucky Vancouver was to have to follow Beijing. Beijing spent over $300+ million, and have a culture that is already primed to partake in such a large-scale, perfect orchestration of the masses. However, I respected Canada’s aim to keep it less expensive (even if that still meant a walloping $30+ million). After all, the Olympics are important for national pride, and international athletic competition and camaraderie, but it shouldn’t replace feeding mouths and rebuilding cities.

We Are the World…again, REALLY? At least J-Hud was in the mix, making it a bit more legit. In the initial, historic portion of the ceremony, I really appreciated the strong presence of the indigenous native nations, particularly the aboriginal people, and the nod to their cultural impact.

The greeter minions (see photo, in background), decked out head to toe in snowy white, looked like rather vacuous members of an Eskimo cult, or life-sized “It’s a Small World…” mascots, courtesy of Disney. One in particular caught my eye on multiple close-ups. He was highly entertaining, and had the infectious enthusiasm and gloriously bad dance moves of one of The Wiggles. I was reminded that believing you’re really good is half the battle in convincing others that you actually are. The female greeters also called to mind the great ole winter icon Suzy Chapstick.

In the parade of athletes, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many figure skaters bearing their flags: Kevin van der Perren (Belgium), Julia Sebestyen (Hungary), Alexandra Zaretsky (Israel), Song Chol Ri (N. Korea), and medal contender Stéphane Lambiel (Switzerland)! NOONE waved their flag with more fey elegance than Stéphane. I was struck by some of the more memorable athlete names: Hubert von Hohenlohe (sounds like a drunk ‘n merry Austrian prince), and Bjoergvin Bjoergvinsson (what were his parents thinking?)!

K.D. Lang was channeling Wayne Newton. She sounded fantastic singing Leonard Cohen’s (unfortunately overdone) “Hallelujah.” Her voice is very well-preserved, after 25+ years as a recording artist. The digital video images projected on the floor were stunning, especially when a simulated school of orcas (spouting out their air holes) passed across the ocean surface. The artistic highlight of the ceremony was the aerial dance “Who Has Seen the Wind”, performed by Montreal’s Thomas Saulgrain, to Joni Mitchell’s acoustic recording of “Both Sides Now.” It was spiritually transcendent, filled with sincere wonder, and his journey reminded me a bit of Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.”

The most compelling moment was the minute of silence, for Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (Team Georgia in photo, above right). How rare it is for a group of that enormity to share in silence, and what a reminder it was that modern society works far to hard to fill up all the still or quiet moments in life. Silent meditation is so rife with meaning…as much or more so than activity. Near the end, Measha Brueggergosman did her best Jessye Norman impersonation, complete with protruding neck veins, unhinged jaw, and mother nature/goddess delivery. I enjoy her art, and appreciated her inclusion, but this presented her as an operatic caricature.

Overall, the host country did a great job of milking their budget, as it didn’t feel cheap at all, and the silly mishaps were easily forgiven.

Continue reading recap —>

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Skaters Who Blew Through the Technical Ceiling

We can all recall witnessing those mind-blowing moments, when we thought that skaters had finally hit the technical ceiling, or reached the outer extremes of what their sport would allow, and yet they managed to push past it again!

Sonja Henie’s “herstoric” first single axel, and Dick Button’s historic first triple jump (3Lo) seem like child’s play now. The technical achievements, primarily in jumping, aren’t the only thing that keeps me watching this sport, but truth be told, they are one damn good reason. I notice that anymore I can hardly get through a televised professional skating show, from start to finish. Apart from their over-produced, cookie-cutter feel, they also lack the on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrill that these competitive elements offer. There is of course a downside to the big jumps and constant raising of the technical bar, and that is the toll that takes on a skater’s body, sometimes shortening a career (case in point: Lipinski and Yagudin), but even more simply, robbing the audience of clean programs.

I could find no single online link that detailed the jumping “firsts” and records of the last three decades, so I created one! What’s so striking about this listing is that it calls out how rapidly our sport changes. Surely, the rate of these new developments will have to slow, as there are some absolute limitations, barring technological interference (more like those seen in today’s competitive cycling and swimming). The 10 year gap between Midori Ito’s and Ludmila Neledina’s triple axels may be evidence enough that this slowing has already begun. [Click here for a jump abbreviation legend.]

Quad Firsts


1988 – Kurt Browning (CAN): single quad (4T, with a three-turn on the landing: Worlds). Neither Alexandr Fadeev’s quad (’84 Olympics) nor Josef Sabovcik’s quad (’86 Europeans) were ratified, due to flawed landings.

1994 – Min Zhang (CHN): clean quad at the Olympics.

1997 – Guo Zhengxin (CHN): two quads in one program (4T + 4T/2T: Worlds). These were also the first single quad, and quad combo in one program.

1998 & ’99 – Timothy Goebel (USA): quad salchow (’98 JGPF); three quads in one program (’99 Skate America)

2001 – Sasha Cohen (USA): documented ladies’ quad in practice (4S: Skate America).

2002 – Miki Ando (JPN, age 15): ladies’ quad (4S: Jr. Worlds). Surya Bonaly’s quad toe (’91 Worlds) sadly was underrotated.

Also notable:

2006, Brian Joubert (FRA): three quads in one program (4T/2T + 4S + 4T: Cup of Russia). [I have heard this wrongly cited by commentators as the first time.]

A comprehensive listing of notable quads: Wikipedia

Ladies’ Triple Axel Firsts


1988 – Midori Ito (JPN): single triple axel (NHK Trophy). [She landed 18 total triple axels in competition. See her land 10 double axels in a row here.]

1991 – Tonya Harding (USA): two triple axels (SP & LP) in one competition (Skate America). The SP 3A was the first ladies’ 3A combination (+ 2Lo).

1992 – Midori Ito: triple axel at the Olympics.

2008 – Mao Asada (JPN): two triple axels in one program (GPF).

For ladies, a 3A is still notable, as only six have landed them in competition, including these three others: Yukari Nakano (JPN), Ludmila Neledina (RUS), and Kimmie Meissner (USA). Yes, there’s even a video collection of them.

Jump Combination Firsts


1981 – Midori Ito (age 12): ladies’ triple/triple (3T/3T: Jr. Worlds).

1990 & ’91 – Kurt Browning: triple salchow/triple loop (’90 Nations Cup); three triple/triples in the same program (3A/3T + 3F/3T + 3S/3Lo: ’91 Worlds).

1991 – Elvis Stojko (CAN): quad/double (4T/2T: Worlds).

1996 – Eric Millot (FRA): triple loop/triple loop (Worlds).

1997 – Elvis Stojko: quad/triple (4T/3T: GPF)

1998 – Timothy Goebel: American quad/double (4S/2T: JGPF).

2001 & ’02 Evgeni Plushenko (RUS): quad/triple/triple (4T/3T/3Lo: ’02 Cup of Russia, and three times since). According to Wikipedia, he supposedly landed a four jump combo at ’01 Worlds (4T/3T/2Lo/2Lo), and a six jump combo in his EX at Europeans (3/3/2/2/2/2), but no posted videos verify this (the ’04 CoP now restricts combos to a max of three jumps). [It is estimated that he has landed over 100 quads in competition.]

Also notable (and possible firsts):

1998 – Tara Lipinski (USA, age 15): triple loop/triple loop + triple toe/half loop/triple salchow in one program (Olympics).

2002 – Sarah Hughes (USA) two triple/triple loops in one program (3S/3Lo + 3T/3Lo: Olympics).

2004 – Shizuka Arakawa (JPN) two triple combos in one program (3Lz/3T/2Lo + 3S/3T: Worlds). She also landed a 3/3/3 in practice!

More Ito, Pairs’ Firsts, & Spin Records


1984 & ’89 – Midori Ito: first woman in competition to land five major jumps (’84), and six major jumps (’89).

2003 – Lucinda Ruh (SUI): Guinness World Record for the most continuous spins (115) on one foot (NY).

2006 – Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, Jr. (USA): throw triple axel (US Nationals, and Olympics)

2007 – Natalia Kanounnikova (RUS): Guinness World Record for fastest spin (308 rpm) recorded on ice (Rockefeller Plaza)

2007 – Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent (USA): throw quad salchow (Trophée Eric Bompard). However, I believe Wikipedia may again be wrong, as Zhang & Zhang (CHN) appear to also have landed an earlier 4STh (’06 National Games).

The Future?


2007 – Weir & Galindo (USA): same sex throw triple axel (Champions on Ice, practice); 2009 – Weir & Lambiel (SUI): same sex 3ATh (practice)

2009 – Evgeni Plushenko: triple axel/quad toe loop attempt (practice)

[My sources are not infallible, so I welcome informed corrections.]

…but you can’t take the gay outta skating

Aaron at Axels, Loops & Spins has brought to the public forum some important perspectives on the recent controversial Skate Canada PR campaign. Thankfully, jumping clapping man’s voice is a part of this commentary. See the complete story Time to ‘Man Up’ on the Ice?,” on gay.com’s Gay Sports Blog.

Blades of Glory

Here’s the excerpt including my commentary:

What are gay fans of figure skating saying about all this? “We need to get to the place of embracing the fact that our sport NEEDS, and should encourage and nurture BOTH the artistic and athletic skating qualities” says jumping clapping man, Figure Skating fan and fellow blogger. These are the yin and the yang, or right and the left brain of figure skating. When both “sides” thrive, they offer a certain tenuous equation that makes skating so compelling, a symbiotic relationship that encourages the constant evolution of the entire “package” of a skater and the system, and therefore maintains the interest of and debate among fans and foes alike.” jcm continues, “Sadly, for the Canadian Federation, Elvis Stojko, and/or skating fans/critics to try to make this into a simple discussion of gay vs. straight is small-minded, offensive, and abhorrent. It’s as comedic as Miss California purporting that marriage should ONLY be between “opposite” sexes… when a large part of pageant fans and supporters are gay men. In the skating community we clearly have the same large fan base. No, it’s not the whole fan base, but it’s a large enough part that our voice should be heard, and is likely no minority.”