Sunday, February 14, 2010

Show Me the Kwan

I didn't think I was going to be excited about the Olympics this year. I've always been a Winter Olympics junkie (well not always - they didn't interest me until 1994 when the whole Nancy & Tonya scandal was ensuing, but it made me a long-time figure skating fan) but this is the first Olympics that has experienced the full-on absence of Michelle Kwan.

Michelle has always been my favorite skater. I have rooted for her since the 1994 Nationals when, in the wake of the world's attention on Nancy and Tonya, Michelle jumped to second place and was named an alternate to the Olympic team after Nancy was granted a place despite her injury. She was a beacon of hope in a sport that had been besmirched by goons and hit men.

In 1998 she was the odds-on favorite to win the gold medal in Nagano after a near-perfect performance at the U.S. Nationals. But she piqued too soon and, in heartbreaking fashion, watched her wunderkind teammate, Tara Lipinski, steal the gold from her hands.

Salt Lake City was supposed to be her year of redemption, but the pressure of expectations and a fall on a triple flip in the long program sent her from first place to third place. My heart broke for her a second time.

A lack of a gold medal certainly did not hurt Michelle's career. Nine national and five world titles to her name, she was deemed "the greatest skater never to win gold" and is probably the most beloved skater to ever grace the sport. But, as the world watched her 3rd attempt at redemption fizzle away in Torino, my heart broke for her once again.

She didn't need a gold medal. She just deserved it. Her heart, passion, ability, and perseverance deserved it.

So as I sit down to watch the pairs short program tonight, I'm going to try really hard to be excited about figure skating again. But with Michelle's permanent absence from figure skating now written in stone, all I can think about is, "Where is the heart, the passion, the perfection?"

I wish there were more performances like this in today's skaters:

I'm just hoping that some skaters at the 2010 Olympics find a way to inspire me again.


  1. Beth, you know I love ya, but please be open to athletes outside of the US to inspire you!!
    Shen and Zao, a smuch as her outfit was...unfortunate, were fabulous! And their comback story makes me smile. Then of course there are many canadian favourites, including a men's single who is just the cutest 19 year old.
    The french couple are breaking the race barrier (finally!) which is nothing but exciting.
    South Korea's kim Yu-Na is so graceful, it's beautiful to watch.
    Japan's Miko Ado is spectacular too.

    Historically, Katarina Witt was just...holy shabow!! And then our own Elizabeth Mannly will forever be in my heart.

    So...when looking to be motivated, don't be afraid to look outside of the red white and blue!

  2. I'm not trying to imply that I don't love skaters from other countries. In fact, I'm not rooting for the American pairs - I want the Chinese or German pair to win. When it comes to pairs and ice dance, I've always loved skaters from other countries that beat the Russians because I hate how they've always just been handed gold medals when they haven't deserved them. I'm not saying that I'm not rooting for anyone. I don't want to sound like I don't respect other skaters. I'm just saying I haven't felt moved in a really long time. Yes, I agree that Kim Yu-Na is amazingly graceful but she doesn't make me feel anything. No one moves me to tears anymore. I think part of the reason for this is because the new judging system, while inherently more fair than the old 6.0 system, is just trying to collect points, and so many of the programs look identical to each other.

    In my defense, I would like to point out that I rooted for Sale and Pelletier long before they were robbed of the gold medal in 2002.

    And, if Joannie Rochette could just keep herself vertical, I think that she could be that skater that moves me to tears. But due to her inconsitency, she hasn't been able to deliver that magical performance in international competition.

  3. I think another problem too is that figure skating isn't televised here in the U.S. as much anymore and so I barely know these skaters. There used to be such a saturation of it during the skating season but now I'm lucky if I see 2 competitions on TV a year. I would imagine skating is given more respect north of the border.

    Oh! How could I forget my love for Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko? I used to be so infatuated with Elvis. I wanted to bare his children when I was in high school. :p

  4. ok, you're forgiven with that last Elvis comment. and lol @ "if Joannie Rochette could just keep herself vertical", so true. yet third? I mean, i just don't get the new scoring system either.

  5. What is Elvis up to these days? Is he coaching? Commentating? I don't hear anything about him here in the U.S. Just wondering if he's still in the public eye in Canada.