Mao Asada has been the talk of the figure skating world since 2006, when she was too young to go to the Torino Olympics, despite being that year’s Grand Prix Final champion. She won an Olympic silver medal in Vancouver in 2010, is a three-time world champion, and finished 6th in Sochi in 2014 before taking last year off from competition. But she is making a comeback this year and has started out strong with victories at the Japan Open and Cup of China. Her season-long comeback reminds me of her epic comeback at the Sochi Olympics, where she climbed from 16th after a disastrous, mistake-ridden short program all the way up to 6th with an inspiring long program. If she can skate like this again, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with at Worlds in Boston in March. Take a look back at Mao’s 2014 Olympic long program on this Flashback Friday:
Inspired by Ashley Wagner’s Skate Canada victory last weekend, let’s take it back five years, to the last time an American lady won Skate Canada. For this week’s Flashback Friday, Alissa Czisny and her glorious spins taking gold at Skate Canada 2010 in Kingston Ontario:
For this week’s Flashback Friday, rather than reminiscing about a favorite skating performance, I thought I’d go with my two favorite skating costumes. When I was around 11 or 12 years old, it was my dream to grow up to be a figure skating dress designer. I had taken one after-school sewing class–where I made a blanket and a pair of pajama pants (which ended up being several inches too short because I mismeasured the fabric)–so I thought I was well on the way to my goal. And the two dresses I’m about to write about were definitely the kind of costumes I saw myself creating. Now, be forewarned, because there is a trend here. And it’s a sparkly one. In no particular order, my two favorite skating dresses of all time (so far) are:
Nancy Kerrigan’s long program dress at the 1994 Olympics
And Sarah Hughes’ long program dress at the 2002 Olympics
These two are my favorites in terms of pure beauty and style. They both pop against the white ice–Nancy’s with the nearly 12,000 rhinestones and Sarah’s with the lavender color. Nancy’s dress is (very famously) a Vera Wang creation and Sarah’s was designed by renowned skating dress designer Jef Billings. To me, these dresses are quintessential ‘figure skating.’ Glamorous, beautiful, and they complement the skater’s body movement without being distracting (and you skating fans know how distracting some bad dresses can be). The detail on both of these dresses is also impeccable.
There are other costumes that I love that perfectly fit the character of a program without being the most beautiful dress. Sasha Cohen’s 2006 short program gypsy dress comes to mind. Not only was it a stunning color, but it immediately established the gypsy character of the program, skated to a Russian folk ballad, “Dark Eyes.”
In the case of my two favorites, neither skater was portraying a specific or well-known character, so the dress could be inspired by fashion rather than a character’s dress or costume. Taken on their own, both Nancy’s and Sarah’s dresses are beautiful works of art and don’t need the musical or character explanation that some other skating costumes do.
What are some of your favorite dresses? Or men’s costumes? I’ve got a few favorites on that front too, so stay tuned for that in a later post. Since I never did pick up enough sewing skills to create these beauties, I’ll stick to admiring them from afar.
Ashley Wagner skating to Moulin Rouge at the 2015 U.S. National…wait…just kidding. Ashley at the last week’s Japan Open, skating the same long program she used last season:
The red hair is new and there are also a bunch of new transitions, which I loved. But the program is the same one.
Typically, figure skaters have a brand new short program and long program each season. Sometimes skaters will keep a program for a second season if they were unable to perform it at many events, whether that was because of an injury, mid-season program change, or recovery in a post-Olympic season, etc. I hadn’t realized that Ashley was keeping last year’s long program until I checked out Jackie Wong’s Japan Open coverage, and it seems like I’m way behind the times. The Worlds 2016 Twitter account had this info in May:
And Jackie had it in his program music preview in July. Nobody seems to know any rationale behind the decision, besides some murmurings on this thread on the Golden Skate forum. I’ll definitely be interested to hear why she kept this program (Maybe in this month’s cover story of Skating magazine featuring Ashley and Adam Rippon? Which I am eagerly awaiting in my mailbox.).
I think it is a strong character and powerful music that clearly inspires her, so it’s a good decision from that perspective. And she has continued to develop and make changes to the program, so it is not as though it is totally stagnant. And we have seen before how much more calm and confident Ashley is when skating a program she loves: when she switched back to the fan favorite Samson and Delilah in the middle of the Olympic season when her Romeo and Juliet program wasn’t working. Say what you will about her not winning a medal at the Olympics or Worlds that year, but the skating itself was vastly improved when she switched back to the program she loved and, in particular, a strong and powerful piece of music. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a good decision for her mental approach. Time will tell if the fans get bored by it.
Back in my college days, I skated on the synchronized skating team at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. I’d never done synchro before, and after 18 years of singles skating, I fell in love with the sport. From the support of skating on a team, to the challenge of moving in unison with 15 or more other girls, to the excitement of creating difficult, innovative moves with our coach, I loved it all.
It was also one of the most impactful learning experiences of my skating career. As freshmen, we finished last in our division. Determined to improve, we worked tirelessly for four years to be the best skaters and team that we could be. Focusing on improvement and challenging ourselves rather than on specific results actually led us to the best result possible: we won the 2011 Midwestern Sectional Championships as seniors. To go from last to first was fantastic and unforgettable and a tribute to hard work and team spirit.
Notre Dame Figure Skating hosted the 40th Annual Tri-State Synchronized Skating Championship on campus last weekend, which was a big moment for the club. It was the first ever figure skating competition held at Notre Dame and was a great event. The Fighting Irish skating team also posted their season’s best score on home ice at the event. Inspired by this recent success, I thought I’d do a little flashback Friday to our gold-medal winning program in 2011, set to the Broadway musical Hair:
Midori Ito of Japan is the 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist, 1989 World Champion, and the first woman to land a triple axel at the Olympic Games.
She is also the reason that 4-year-old me would jump around my family’s living room, asking people to “watch me do a triple accident!”
In the early 90s, I loved watching skating on TV with my mom—Midori, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Nancy Kerrigan. I also apparently had some sort of hearing comprehension problem, mistaking Midori’s axels for “accidents.”
For this week’s Flashback Friday, let’s return to Midori’s 1992 Olympic free skate. I loved watching this as a young kid, but can appreciate it even more now. She missed her planned triple axel at the beginning of the program, but threw another one in during the last minute of the program and nailed it. What guts! Take a look: