Tuesday, January 26, 2010


RockCenter Skating Rink

Things are about to get sporty around here.

We're nearly two weeks away from the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics. And as you've probably figured out by now, I love me some Olympics.

To kick things off - let's talk about skating! (There are few things I like to discuss as much as skating. And since there aren't many others out there who also like to talk about skating, I often end up discussing it with myself. That's an unfortunately true story.)

The national figure skating championships concluded this past weekend in Spokane, WA. The results determined the team of skaters who will journey to Vancouver next month to represent the U.S.

My friend (and former roommate) Abbey-Denise invited me over on Sunday to watch the televised broadcast of the event.

A little background: The U.S. men's competition has been dominated in recent years by the Johnny Weir-Evan Lysacek rivalry. I'm sure you've read all the articles about it.

You haven't? Well, here's what you need to know: the galloping peacock parody in Blades of Glory was based on one of Weir's actual costumes (his was a swan). In contrast to Weir's artistry and feathers, Lysacek has positioned himself as the more serious sportsman, focusing on the technical (and point-garnering) aspects of the sport. There is no love lost between these two skaters, and they make no effort to hide that.

I've been a big fan of Lysacek since his 2005 season. While Weir is admittedly talented, he is inconsistent. Lysacek is more focused, more athletic, and (in my opinion) more charming. Heading in to the national championships, I expected to find myself cheering for Lysacek once again.

But when Abbey-Denise and I tuned in on Sunday, the Evan Lysacek we saw was covered in feathers (?!) and looking just a tad gangly and frenetic. He flubbed a few jumps and failed to impress.

And that's when Jeremy Abbott skated in and stole my heart.

I had somehow missed his win at last year's national championships. (In my defense, I was living in Brooklyn at the time. I missed a lot out there.) But this year, when Jeremy took the ice and skated two spectacular programs, I took notice.

I also took notes. Here is a rough transcription of our viewing of Jeremy's long program:

US Championships Figure Skating

[Jeremy takes the ice and begins a smooth opening footwork sequence]

Me: Look at his edge-work! The way he feels the ice! You know? There are just no wasted movements!!

Abbey-Denise: Yeah, I guess.

[Jeremy lands his opening quad jump]

Me: [enthusiastic clapping] Nice! His transitions are so purposeful.

[Jeremy lands a triple-triple combination; the music swells in intensity]

Me: I don’t know, there’s just something about him…something that reminds me of Kurt Browning.

Abbey-Denise: Oh, yeah?

Me: Yes, he has such grace and artistry, but there’s also such power. His skating is smart. Just like Kurt.

[Music softens.]

Me: You see!? There’s a vision, a passion in Jeremy’s eyes. He wears his heart on his sleeve.

Abbey-Denise: Do you want another drink?

Me: Wow. Wow. Wow. He has great arm movement and positioning. And extension. And his direction changes…wow. WOW.

[Jeremy nails his last jump of the program]

Scott Hamilton (on the TV): Game over!

Me: [kneeling on couch; hands clasped together; eyes tearing] Abbey, he's AMAZING!

[Music swells again, as Jeremy enters his last footwork pass]

Scott Hamilton (on the TV): That was a beat down, is what that was!

[Jeremy begins his final, flawless spin]

Scott Hamilton (on the TV): How do you defend your national title? You kick everybody’s back-side, that’s how! You are looking at your U.S. champion!

Me: [weeping silently]

Sandra Bezic (on the TV): That performance gave me shivers.

Me, too, Sandra. Me, too. And bravo, Jeremy. Bravo.

We'll see you in Vancouver.

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