The U.S. Championships is always an event with high drama and emotion. A lot is at stake for the skaters—spots on the World Championship team, as well as the possibility of international competition assignments for the following year. Amongst all the excitement, pressure, and those “wow” moments, there were a few tearjerker moments as well.
Figure skating is a sport that provides many moments of pure joy, when everything falls in to place and a skater performs at their best. You see it on the grand stage, on TV at the Olympics, but it also happens in cold rinks around the country—when someone lands an axel for the first time, or skates a clean program at a local competition.
It happened for Adam Rippon in the senior men’s long program, when he skated his best performance ever—including a fantastic, nearly-clean quad lutz. He was overcome with emotion in the kiss and cry (pictured), and I have to say that I was too, while sitting on my couch at home. I shed a few happy tears along with Adam, and I bet many of the other viewers at home and in the arena did, too.
But there are also the moments that can be heartbreaking, when months and years of training come down to the few minutes of a competition program and, for whatever reason, the skater doesn’t perform well. Mirai Nagasu’s untimely crash into the boards on a back crossover during her long program was one of these moments. She started out so strong, with a triple flip-triple toe-double toe and a double axel-triple toe, and most fans wanted to see her skate well after she missed out on the Olympic team last year. But unfortunately, it wasn’t her night. Mirai finished the program as best she could with what was later diagnosed as a hyperextended knee and bruised cartilage. This situation had many skating fans asking why the “skating gods” couldn’t cut Mirai a break, since she has dealt with a lot of disappointment on the ice lately. But the strength and courage she displayed in finishing her performance–despite all those disappointments–are as impressive as a perfect free skate.
There are also moments where you realize that skating is about much more than the score on the jumbotron or who stands on the podium when all is said and done. The ups and downs of a figure skating career not only have the power to bring us joy or teach us to get up and try again when we fall, but to heal in times of struggle. That was pretty plain at the end of Jeremy Abbott’s performance in the short program, when he looked skyward and raised his arm in a moving tribute to his father, who recently passed away from Parkinson’s disease. Putting blade to ice is one of the best remedies for figure skaters, no matter what the trouble might be.
From the happy to the difficult to the poignant, skating never fails to move us. Yes, even sometimes to tears.