2007 Skate America – Live From Reading Blog

By Michelle Wojdyla

Exhibitions are about to start on Ice Network, and I just came back from the first chance in three days to step away from the laptop to watch skating on a real TV. While it wasn’t the prettiest ladies free skate, the programs show promise. The technical panel was handing out downgrades like I’ve never seen before! I hope the rest of the Grand Prix panels hold the other competitions to the same standard.

The geek in me enjoys going over the protocols to see who got what and how the different judges graded the execution. My favorite has to be the free dance for Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali. On their opening rotational lift, one judge gave +2 and one gave –3. Nice. Caroline Zhang’s straight +3s for her free skate’s layback spin? Wow. Is she the first to do that?

Here are some random thoughts from the 2007 Skate America:

1. Ran to the grocery store this morning for tea and cat food. Was shocked that I did not run into Nikolai Morozov. Did you ever see that episode of “The Flintstones” when Fred is cloned? “That. Does Not. Computer.” I’m just saying…

2. Massimo Scali’s Ghenghis Khan meets Ilia Averbukh look kinda scares me.

3. Daisuke Takahashi’s short program may be my all-time favorite men’s short program ever.

4. Folk/Country is my new favorite OD. The costumes are insane. The variety is so much fun. After six gazillion tangos last year, we couldn’t have had a better choice this season.

5. The kiss and cry was rather minimal. Perhaps a better option would have been a horse and buggy with lots of hay, and the skaters could climb on up it to receive their scores. The backdrop could feature cornfields and Hex signs around a shopping outlet complex.

6. If I ruled the world, I would ban all white in skating costumes. Little bits are ok in a pattern. No all-white outfits in competition lighting. Don’t complain that you don’t look good on TV or the photographers didn’t get good photos of you. Just stop wearing it. When they start making the ice black, ok. But until then? No. Bad.

7. It is really difficult to make all-black work on men, too, especially if it involves long sleeves. In exhibition lighting? Should be banned, too. Well, unless your objective is to look like a disembodied head. But that will scare the kids in the audience and make them cry and that’s not very nice.

8. Seriously people? Color is your friend. Embrace it. Work it. Save the black for nightclubs and your white for Easter.

9. Patrick Chan rules.

10. Commentators: less is more. Really.

11. It was really nice to not be woken up by a fire alarm.

12. The new trend of referring to Skate America as SKAM? In a sport that has a history of judging controversies, is this really a good idea?

13. Emily Hughes must have really ticked someone off to make them run multiple mid-jump shots of her. At least she didn’t get downgraded on a perfectly good triple toe in her free skate.

14. The protocols should be posted on the official ISU result page after each phase of the competition. The media get them right away. Why shouldn’t everyone have access?

15. Meeran Trombley and Laureano Ibarra should be so proud of their Grand Prix debut!

16. Nathalie Pechalat’s OD dress is stunning. And very photogenic. Because it’s not white.

17. Now that Daisuke Takahashi is training in New Jersey, I want to see a Bon Jovi exhibition from him. He’s got the hair.

18. I miss Terry Gannon. I miss Terry Gannon proudly pointing out the twizzles to Susie Wynne. I miss Susie Wynne, too.

19. Congratulations to all involved in getting the 2007 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships named Sports Event of the Year! It was such an amazing week and so well deserved.

20. $29.95 for a season pass to Ice Network is the best money a skating fan can spend.

The camera work on the video feeds is top notch. Getting to see every compulsory dance? Wheee! (Would love to have a commentary-free option available.)

Thank you to everyone who emailed, IMed and called me. It was very much appreciated. Special thank you to Sasha for our post-midnight discussion on prescriptive linguistics and sentence structure in translated works.

Make sure to check out all the photos Michele Peltier has worked so hard on this week. Many more to come! We’ve also got some blogs headed your way.

Hope you enjoyed ice-dance.com’s coverage of Skate America! See you in a few weeks for our coverage of the three U.S. Sectional events!


OCTOBER 28, 2007

The sun came out this morning and clearly reflected on the Ice Dance competition.  At the end of the day the results for both Men’s and Ladies’ had competitors and spectators sitting on the edge of their seats as there were no clear winners.  A series of falls, popped or shortened jumps, plagued the single skated events so that the jumbo-tron was the final source of placement information while speculation circulated in the air.

This was not the case in the Free Dance.

When the last two teams took to the ice the audience was quite aware they were witnessing mastery of movement and music.  When the music ended after Tanith and Ben’s performance those that were seat bound, either in the audience or in front of a five-inch video on the computer screen at home, were quite aware they had witnessed something of beauty.  And this is exactly what ice skating is supposed to be all about—being taken on a journey as pure as looking upon any piece of art, or hearing a superb composer perform.

This was captured in Reading today—in the Ice Dance time slot, which unfortunately did not get any play I’m told on by the national network that used the two hours of televised time to show the last six skaters in the Men’s and Ladies’ long programs.  America missed out again on what is captivating about this sport and where the energy and innovation rests.

The season promises to be competitive and alluring. 

Luckily, we all have a front row seats so-to-speak at Ice-Dance.




OCTOBER 27, 2007

In Reading, all anyone is thinking about is the various degrees of water. On the outside, the count is five and a half inches of rain falling in two days and all in an almost balmy 67 degrees. On the inside of the arena, the crowd is captivated by the frozen consistency of water as the skaters take to the ice, and the fog wafts over to Nancy Kerrigan’s podium.

Reading is known as the birthplace of outlet shopping; and it was obvious spectators took advantage of the skate-free morning to visit Vanity Fair and Osh Kosh B’Gosh as some of the empty seats in the arena were occupied by the big yellow and white shopping bags.

There was almost a feeling of carnival, or certainly a different sense of costuming with Halloween only four days away as the first Ice Dance warm-up group came through the door. Indeed, there was a moment of silence before the shock of colors, war paint, and flowing Flamenco gowns was replaced with the old, “Oh, it’s okay, it’s only the ice dancers” took over and anticipation mounted for the OD theme of “Country-Folk” .

For eighty minutes the audience was transported on a world journey that traversed to Russian, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the gentle hills of Appalachia. Dance teams wowed the crowd with authentic costumes which oddly enough still featured a bevy of the treasured Austrian crystals. The end result was a captivated audience and a score board that showed little movement except for a slight shift in the 4th and 5th place positions. Tanith and Ben rounded out the performances with a spectacular and engaging “Folksy” program, a polar opposite of their King and Queen of the Prom ice personas, but one that obviously enlisted even more followers to their vast camp.

The end note of the day was the Ladies Short Program where the American audience found what they have been searching for since Michelle Kwan took off her skates without giving her fans an opportunity to say good-bye in a final emotional performance. The search ended with the skate of Caroline Zhang, whose diminutive figure is only enlarged with her incredible spins and Kwanesque spirals. At the end of the night, Zhang’s program earned a standing ovation from an inspired crowd and a vault into third place.

As the crowd emptied onto the freshly washed Reading streets, under an almost golden full moon, the talk of the day was, as always, “Do you think the Ice-Dancers worry about popping out of those costumes during a performance?” and the brightness of the new star on the ice, Caroline Zhang, or CZ as they’re calling her.

I’m not sure that name fits however; she sure seems like the real thing! 



OCTOBER 26, 2007

There is something tangible that quivers in the air of a working-class moderate town when ice skating comes to call. We have felt it in Spokane, and we’re seeing it in Reading, Pennsylvania. Some might call it excitement, some might call it getting into the competitive edge, but we know it as Skate America—the flagship of the Grand Prix events.

This is an area of the country that is rooted in steel, so finding stainless blades on the ice is just as captivating to the local residents as it is to the fans that travel each year to whatever city hosts this premier of events.

A rainy fall evening in late October would probably have daunted the crowds at other arenas in other towns, but Reading turned out to welcome and applaud our national skating athletes as well as embrace the protégés from other countries. The east coast, living in a near drought for months, welcomed the pouring deluge with almost shouts of joy, and although the crowd was not as large as those attending the current World Series game, or a major NASCAR event, they stand, or sat as the case may be, just as passionate.

I arrived at the arena with nary a mishap, other than finding the end of by raincoat belt trailing behind me in a sodden lump that resembled a dog leash that had lost its canine attachment. Not to be daunted, I tucked the end in my pocket and went to the first coffee stand for their largest cup and was pleasantly surprised at the price (two bills back from a five!) and taste—almost Dunkin Donutish!

I like to arrive early just to watch the crowd and savor the events. Nothing opens a skating competition for me like watching a group of pony-tailed seven year-olds with programs in hand waiting for a chance to get Kimmie or Tanith’s autograph; maybe it just reminds me of standing on deck while my own daughter quested for Michelle or Tara’s moniker.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I get a little teary when the announcer’s voice comes on. A hush falls over the arena and it feels as though we are all sitting a little straighter and angling for a better view as we see the sparkles in the far corner—the first warm-up group for CD.

As the first five teams take to the ice, there is a feeling of warmth that is not intensified by the last sips of coffee.

You “Ah” at Tanith, Meryl and Kim’s dresses—each like a spectatular one-of-kind Christmas ball and then you fall into the spell-like aura as the practice pattern begins.

It is a peaceful feeling.

The wait is over.

You are home.