Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reflections of an Olympic Figure Skating Season

As the Olympics began this year, I was skeptical that any of the four figure skating events would inspire or delight me. As a long time figure skating fan, my passion for the sport has waned quite a bit in the past few years. I used to know the name of every skater from every country and I could rattle off the Olympic medalists in each of the four disciplines from every Olympics since 1976.

I can't do that anymore.

Skaters' names from the past elude me and skaters' names of the present strike no familiarity. The 2006 Torino Olympics were a huge disappointment in terms of stand-out performances so I was expecting Vancouver to be the same. I assumed my passion for figure skating had ebbed.

But Vancouver surprised me. Rather than holding back as so many skaters did in Torino, everyone seemed to skate with wild abandon. Say what you will Evgeni Pluschenko, but Evan Lysacek was brilliant. His jumps were smooth, his footwork was sharp, and his choreography perfectly timed.

The ice dancing event this year was by far the best in Olympic history. Nowhere in the scope of the competition was there outcry over the corruption of the judging panel, and for the first time a North American team won gold and silver. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, along with Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States skated two of the most inspiring Olympic performances I've ever seen. I never wanted to be a Canadian so much in my life as I did the night they won their gold medal and the entire arena swelled with pride and emotion as everyone sang "O Canada" together.

The ladies event did not dazzle me as much as the other disciplines (which is a first for me as the ladies event what I used to always look most forward to) but what it lacked in bedazzlement, it made up for in emotion as Joannie Rochette, only days after experiencing the death of her mother, skated to a bronze medal finish. The strength she found to pull off a performance like that was so heart-wrenching and I was equally touched by Scott Hamilton's commentating through his own tear-filled eyes.

So while my love of this sport may have subsided over the years, it will never fully go away. The Olympics will always bring out a very opinionated side of me that will suck me right back into the world of a passionate skating spectator. I'm already setting my DVR for 2014 in Sochi.

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