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Seize the skate

January 19th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Saturday we spent watching the US Figure Skating Championships. Ted posted his thoughts and tonight I have time to write mine…

In one of the many clips of coverage hyping Michelle Kwan’s chance to win a record-tying ninth national title, the skater in an interview commented on what it takes to win. She said that she can’t be afraid to make mistakes. And she also talked about giving everything she has to the skate, not holding back anything.

Ironically Michelle’s long program skate Saturday night seemed devoid of carpe diem abandonment. She didn’t make any major mistakes. But watching her skate to Bolero seemed almost torture. Yes, neither Ted nor I are big Michelle fans. The music with its repetitive melody turned into an endurance test as we waited for her to finish her program and get her medal, title and record. Her Bolero lacked romantic energy integral to the piece. While taking her bow on the ice Michelle looked frustrated with herself, and later confessed that it wasn’t one of her best skates. Too nervous and a long wait to get to the ice.

The glory of the night belonged to 2004 junior national champion Kimmie Meissner who landed a triple axel jump, becoming only the second American woman ever to do so. At 15, she is too young to go to worlds, the next competition, so she had nothing to lose by trying to add the triple axel to her program, a jump she had only been able to land for a week since recovering from injury. After success with her practice during the warm-up, she decided to put it in her program and it not only made her the star of the night but also catapulted her into third place behind veterans Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen.

During the Saturday evening hours of tv, we also saw on segment on the dangers of pairs skating. It was the kind of footage to make a mother swear her daughters will never be allowed to go out with a boy around a rink. One man featured in the piece, a rising star in American pairs, Paul Binnebose (accident article here) fell onto the ice during a pairs practice routine in 1999, fracturing his skull and suffered while waiting on the freezing rink for emergency care to arrive. His face was also affected; just the image of him was powerful. Discussion of helmet use revealed that pairs skaters find head protection to be more dangerous than helpful. They’d rather take the risks.

All these impressions from this years championships, including Michelle Kwan’s explicit advice and the sorrow of the death of Angela Nikodinov’s mother, combined to paint a picture that reminded me how ephemeral life is. I like good skating but it is those passionate routines, the ones where the athletes pour not only their bodies but their spirits into their performance, that grab me. Seize the day, seize the skate and others will be seized by the emotion exuded. It is a language spoken without words, quiet but powerful. You don’t need to be a skating judge to know when this kind of gift has happened.

Watching the Stars on Ice television program the other weekend also spoke to me of taking the moment at hand. Two -time Olympic gold medalists Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov were one of my favorite pairs. Sadly Sergei Grinkov died at a young age, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Now Ekaterina Gordeeva skates solo. The show played a clip of the couple from the year he died. Michaela commented on Gordeeva’s flowing long white gown, saying “she looks beautiful.” Then the contrast to see a clip of her skating alone in the show’s current tour. Seeing this couple again reminded me to treasure what I have and who I have in my life.

Some of the skaters in the Stars on Ice tour are not in the shape they once were. It’s both sad and strange to watch them skate, these medalists far from their glory days. But yet another reminder to take what I’ve been given when I’ve got it. There is a season for everything under the heavens. Am I doing what I should be doing with this time and in this place I have now?

Skating reminds me of how ephemeral life is. But also how fun it is to live on the edges (literally!). I can’t do a triple axel or even skate around the rink. But I want to be living that kind of life where I’m not afraid to make mistakes. Where I’m giving it all I have. Where I’m trying that triple axel…and smiling about it later.

More skating links:

I was curious whether I could find a site on the physics of ice skating and a quick Google search led me to this site with links to a couple papers on the forces, speed, height and distance of jumps. Here’s another helpful collection on The Physics of Ice Skating.

Darren Barefoot’s wife, Julie Szabo, was a competitive skater and this video he posted tells a bit of her story and gives a glimpse into what it’s like to be a girl on the ice. It’s sentimental and beautiful, inspiring in many ways. I let my daughters watch it and they sat mesmerized before the computer, enjoying Julie’s Skating Life.

Tags: news

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Darren // Jan 19, 2005 at 9:15 am

    Nice summary, and thanks for the plug. One possible correction: I think Kimmie Meissner is only the second woman anywhere to land a triple axel in competition (she did cheat it a bit), not just in the States.

  • 2 Julie // Jan 20, 2005 at 12:21 am

    Thanks, Darren.

    I did a little research…

    According to this article,
    there are at least five other women who have landed the triple axel in competition. Three Japanese skaters, one Russian and now two Americans. Midori Ito of Japan was the first to land one, in 1989.

    The Japanese women are the powerhouse to watch: Miki Ando has landed a quad. The American reign may be coming to an end…or is at least in need of some challenge…

    “Until Meissner rocked the Rose Garden, the women were flatlining with the same stuff winter after winter. More notable than nobody landing a triple-axel since Harding was that nobody had even tried one.”

    While looking around I found this triple axel diagram:

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