Monday, 22 February 2010

Beauty on Ice

Early in the winter of 1990 I caught the Chicken Pox. Out of school for a week, I had nothing better to do than sit around and scratch. So my mom mummified me in wet sheets (to sooth the itching) wrapped me in a blanket (to keep me warm) and plopped me on the sofa in front of Olympic Figure Skating. I decided then that I was going to be an ice skater when I grew up. You might have guessed how far that dream went. (Hint- I've been ice skating exactly one time :( I have never, however, fallen down.) And so began my love of figure skating, and I watched it whenever I could. I even have a few specials taped that I still watch occasionally.

I don't know if I'm older and so the magic is gone, or I look with a more critical eye, but many of the figure skaters this year just didn't seem to be very exciting. Johnny Weir excepted- let's move on. The men were pretty amazing. And I'm glad that Lysacek won the gold. Moving to Pairs, I'm glad the Chinese couple won the gold as well. Back to them in a moment. The pairs were great this year - and somehow the more falls you had the higher you scored...? But as much as I LOVE watching them, I kept finding my mind wandering off. The groups were technically good, but not terribly interesting. Even Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo's Free Skate left me bored (I thought that the Silver medalists had a much better Free Skate. It was the very first Pairs short program, skated by Shen and Zhao, that was what I was expecting out of pairs.

Set to Queen's Who Want's To Live Forever, it was a Perfectly Beautiful program, and because of that program, I think that they deserved to win. The way they skated that brought to mind the couple, also (eventually) a husband and wife, who are arguably the best pairs skaters in the history of the sport: Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov.

That isn't their best performance, but it's one of my favorites. Here is their Junior World Championship program from 1984:

Yes, she's so tiny! The pair was often referred to as a One and a Half, rather than a Pair- which is one of the reasons that they could do some of the amazing stunts that they did- she was little and he was strong enough to toss her through the air- in almost every video somebody comments about how high into the air he throws her. Another reason that their skating was so compelling, other than the fact that they were both incredible skaters right from the beginning, was their love story. Watch skaters today and you will see two people skating on the ice at the same time. Gordeeva and Grinkov skated with each other and hardly took their eyes off of each other during their later performances (something that can be seen a bit in Shen and Zhao's short program). If you start at the beginning of the list (from the site I'll provide below), you can see a marked difference in their skating once they become a couple.

(sorry about the intro bit)

Anyway, I'll stop gushing and let you enjoy the show. Here you'll find a fairly complete list of their competition videos. I highly recommend watching Scheherazade (1991)- it's a pretty bad quality video, but well worth it. (You should also check out the Melancholy Man program)


Shen and Zhao's 2010 Olympic Short Program

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