Before I begin, thank you all for your comments and encouragement with regard to my last post. They truly did help, and just the simple act of sharing what I was going through helped as well. I think I can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s been a little while now since the US Figure Skating Championships (shorthand for which is simply “Nationals” in skating circles), and I believe I can think/speak about them with some coherency by this point.
First, the good. And was there ever good. Overall, the quality of skating at this Nationals was better than I have seen in over a decade. Certainly the best I’ve seen since the new judging system was put in place (yes I know it’s been around long enough we can’t really call it new, but hey, I grew up on the 6.0 system and even though I *get* the whole point system it still seems foreign and strange to me, and I have to ask Carl every single time if the scores are really impressive or not, because while I always knew that a 6.0 was awesome, I can’t always remember the numbers here, whereas the engineer can keep it all straight without trying). I was actually excited to watch, instead of watching in hopes that something would happen to make me remember why I love this sport. It gives me hope that maybe, finally, we are starting to get our feet under us again as a skating association.
Pairs is still struggling. It would be nice to see more than just our top team sticking together instead of switching partners every so often. It’s not a square dance, chums. It’s a dedicated, hard, tiring journey. The most important factor in a pair team is trust. How can you build trust when you know that both you and your partner are willing to jump ship at the first sign of trouble? I’m not saying that your first partner has to be your final one, no matter what – Meno and Sand weren’t each other’s first partners, nor were Sale and Pelletier, nor Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, etc. (Also, I will have you know I spelled those latter two names correctly, the first time, without looking it up.) But it’s a sad statement that the American team that has been together the longest has been together for eight years. That’d be about a starting point for the Chinese.
Having said that, I really do like Castelli and Shnapir, in part because Shnapir reminds me of my cousin Peter (same height and build, same un-self-conscious air, same friendly grin). (Except Peter loves hockey and considers figure skating an insult to the ice, poor deluded lad.) And my fingers are crossed for them to land that quad throw salchow at the Olympics, not because I think it will put them in medal contention, but simply because it’d be awesome.
I thought Denney and Coughlin were all right, but not spectacular, so I wasn’t too upset about them missing the Olympic team, though disappointed on their behalf, naturally. I sincerely hope that Zhang and Bartholomay stick together for at least another four years, because while they might not be able to make an impression on the world scene now, I honestly think they have a ton of potential, and I’d love to see them as honest-to-goodness contenders at the 2018 Olympics.
Ice dance, now … oh my. I stood up while watching Davis and White, because I didn’t think I could take it sitting down. And then I forgot to breathe until they were finished. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit in the arena and watch it live. Well, I can almost imagine it, because I got to watch Bourne and Kraatz skate Riverdance live at the ’98 Worlds (shut up, yes I know I’m old), and I’m pretty sure this would have been even better. And that’s something I never thought I’d say. Anyone who doesn’t think ice dance belongs in the Olympics needs to watch this. And if you still don’t think ice dance belongs in the Olympics after watching, then … I’m not sure you get what the Olympics are all about. It’s sport, and more than sport. It transcends sport, and isn’t that what the Olympics are all about? Sport becoming something more, something greater, something that celebrates the human spirit? Tell me this doesn’t do that. You can’t. It’s perfection.
I was thrilled also with Bates and Chock (how can I not root for the team with one partner named Bates?). (Fun side note: there’s a good chance we’re actually distantly related; as I understand family lore, there were two Bates brothers who came to America from England back in the day. One came to NY state and settled in the Thousand Islands region, and became my great-something-grandfather. The other settled somewhere in Michigan, which is where Evan Bates trains and went to college, at least, though I’ve never been an obsessive enough fan to see if that’s actually where he’s from. But still. I totally can claim I have a cousin who’s an Olympian, right?) Their routine was fabulous, and if it weren’t for Davis and White, it would have been my favorite of the competition. Love the Shibutanis as well, not least for the fact that their programs never gross me out over the fact that they’re brother and sister practically making out on the ice (I don’t really like ANY of the dance teams that are over-sexualized in their routines, but it’s especially nasty when they are siblings). Even aside from that, though, the ShibSibs are just plain fun to watch.
I think both our pairs teams and our dance teams heading to the Olympics are going to do this country proud, and if Davis and White don’t bring home the ice dance gold, you’ll be scraping me off the floor where I collapsed in shock and horror.
I realize that I am way too wordy to keep the entire competition to one post, so I’ll do this one now, and give you my thoughts and opinions on the men and ladies in the next.