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Bye Bye Alexei

December 5th, 2003 · No Comments

Yes, it appears Ted and I may actually regret the fact that we did not have TV access before February 2002. All these years we were living without TV and missing out on some excellent skating…

Through tuning into the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, we became acquainted with some skaters who appeared to have a lot of potential. We looked forward to watching them in future seasons. We believed their medals were only the beginnings of many more winnings.

Sadly though, for some, their performances in Salt Lake City became the peak of their competitive careers. At age 16, Sarah Hughes won the gold medal with a fantastic long program, a fairy tale moment, yet after an uneven season last year, she has decided to focus on being a freshman at Yale this fall.

And Alexei Yagudin, who skated two captivating programs, receiving more perfect 6.0 scores than any other man in history, ended up taking last year off the ice due to a hip injury. At Skate Canada earlier this fall, he announced his retirement from competitive skating.

Ted and I were recently watching our recording of the televised Skate Canada competition, including Alexei’s farewell, with a montage of moments from his career. We regret that the only skating of his we were able to see was at those 2002 Olympics. It would have been fun to have watched him grow as a skater, to have seen him win his world championships in previous years.

And there’s something about seeing someone who is so excellent at what he does. Yagudin’s charisma and choreography, his athleticism and art, his skill and strength are already missed. His old rival, Evgeny Pluschenko has the podium all to himself now, but even though he is improving, he can’t quite compare to Alexei.

Although I don’t know much about who Alexei is off the ice, there is an excellence in his skating that is worthy of honor. There’s something sad and wistful in saying goodbye to what was wonderful. What he had was so rare, no one out there now can match it.

When writing about this, I am remembering what C.S. Lewis wrote : These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire…they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. If I may be so bold to say, there is something in Alexei’s skating that speaks of this country never yet visited, a hint of heaven. It is there in all beauty, in all that is wonderful, all that is excellent and worthy of praise.

While we were watching Yagudin’s goodbye speech and clips, this proverb came to mind:
Do you see a man skilled in his work?
He will stand before kings;
He will not stand before obscure men. Proverbs 22:29

And it looks like Alexei isn’t going to disappear forever or become obscure. He will now be one of Brian Joubert’s coaches. Joubert, of France, has a new Matrix-themed program this season. If we didn’t recognize the music – from checking out the Revolutions CD at the library! – the black suit with columns of green digits helped. But still, seeing Joubert on the ice – although his style already resembles Yagudin – won’t be the same as seeing Yagudin skate.

Bye bye Alexei. Thank you for your excellence on the ice, and for what we could see in your skating: pieces of perfection, hints of heaven, the echo of a tune we will fully hear someday….

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