Twizzle Talk

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Flashback Friday: Skate America 2016

When I moved to Chicago this summer, one of the things I was most excited about was that it was the host city for the 2016 Skate America. Yes, I just saw unforgettable live skating at the 2016 Worlds in Boston. And yes, I also got to attend the 2014 U.S. Nationals in Boston. And yes, yes, one of my good skating buddies told me it just wasn’t fair that I keep living in cities that host awesome skating competitions.

But in seriousness, I am really grateful for the opportunity to see some of today’s most incredible skaters live and in person. Watching on TV is great (and that’s what I’ll be doing for U.S. Nationals next week, no doubt), but there is something about the emotion and electricity of being in the arena, about being close enough to see the expressions on the skaters’ faces as they control their nerves and deliver flawless performances, selling it to the last row.

So I was pretty excited to show up to the Sears Centre, site of Skate America, with my all-event ticket this past October. On this Flashback Friday, let’s count down the reasons it was awesome:


As in…Shoma Uno’s QUAD FLIP. But it wasn’t just any quad flip—it was light and airy, with great height and landed with exquisite knee bend (wow, that last phrase is definitely from the Dick Button canon). He had such command of the jump, and of his whole program:

I really enjoyed Shoma’s performance at Worlds last year, and it’s great to watch him come into his own this season.


As in three Notre Dame Figure Skating alums reuniting to watch some awesome skating:



As in the number of times I cried: two. Once when Mariah Bell brought the house down with an incredible long program:

I loved all the spirals in the choreography, plus, she just oozed ease and grace throughout the performance.

And the second time during Jason Brown’s free skate. Not only did he land his first quad in competition, but he skated a moving, understated, and flawless performance. If you don’t watch the whole program, at least skip ahead to 5:46. One of the competition volunteers was epically weeping at the boards after his program, and Jason gave her a huge hug. He’s the sweetest (I can confirm, because we got to meet him after the medal ceremony and he was gracious and generous towards all the fans.).


As in one awesome ponytail pose from Maia Shibutani:

The Shib Sibs’ “That’s Life” short dance was superb: sharp, crisp, hip hop movement, and a creative cut of music, mixing Sinatra’s version of the song with Jay-Z. It’s my favorite of all the hip hop short dances this year, because it’s so clever and well done.

Were any fellow skating fanatics at the Sears Centre, too? What were your favorite moments?


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Flashback Friday: Belbin & Agosto in the Hall of Fame

The 2016 class of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame is being inducted this weekend at the U.S. Championships, so let’s finish up my Flashback Friday series on the inductees (Evan Lysacek here, and Sasha Cohen from last week).

Olympic silver medalists and five-time U.S. ice dancing champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are the team that made me pay attention to ice dancing, to love the storytelling and appreciate the incredible power in the discipline. And to convince my middle school self that ice dancing was more than European teams in oddball, barely-there costumes, skating around like weirdos, to be honest. I’ve featured these two on Flashback Friday before, with my favorite of their exhibition programs. This week I’m going to turn it over to The Skating Lesson, and share their awesome interview with the team from November 2015:

At nearly two hours, it is a long one (I listened to it while multitasking and cleaning up my apartment). My favorite parts were their discussion of their emotions and nerves during the 2006 Torino Olympics. They talked about being so nervous they were asking themselves, “Why do we do this?! Why do we put ourselves through this?” I’m pretty sure every skater can relate to those pre-competition emotions, even if we’ve never been on such a grand scale as the Olympics. I love that commonality.

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Flashback Friday: Sasha 10 Years After Torino

Even though I keep putting 2015 on all my to-do lists and journal entries, it’s time for me to accept that it is 2016. Which also happens to be 10 years since the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. What?!

It doesn’t feel like 10 years since I sat in my parents’ family room, inches from the TV, cheering on Sasha Cohen in her epic “Dark Eyes” gypsy short program and her (though imperfect) triumph of mental toughness to “Romeo and Juliet” in the free skate. But time has passed and a lot has changed for Cohen, the Olympic Silver Medalist in 2006 and a 2016 inductee into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Forbes caught up with Cohen, for some reflecting on her skating career and the 10 years since Torino. My favorite excerpts from the four-part piece:

On being proud of her silver medal: “I had tears, but they were mixed. I had some tears of disappointment earlier [at not winning gold], but at the same time I was really proud. I think that was a pivotal day for me to be able to keep believing, to pick myself up when I didn’t know whether anything was still possible. It was very rewarding.”

On going back to school: “I’m going to school on my terms now, because I want to. I had a limited education. All my energy was diverted to sport. The people that shaped the world had just passed me by. That made me sad. I decided to not tour as much and make time to be a student full-time.”

You can read the entire thing, with links to all four parts, here, for this week’s Flashback Friday. Next week, our flashbacks with the U.S. Hall of Fame inductees continue: Belbin & Agosto are on deck.

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Flashback Friday: Evan Lysacek 2006 Exhibition

Happy 2016, everybody!

U.S. Figure Skating recently announced their 2016 Hall of Fame inductees, my personal favorite Evan Lysacek among them. That, combined with the fact that I randomly heard the song “Run It!” on the radio the other day, reminded me of his fabulous “How to Pick Music” exhibition program from 2006. The man has moves. Let’s revisit for this Flashback Friday:

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Flashback Friday: Shib Sibs Grand Prix Victories

American ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won their first Grand Prix title since 2011 at last weekend’s NHK Trophy. Their other Grand Prix victory was also at an NHK Trophy.

Let’s flash back to their 2011 win:

I love the exuberance and enthusiasm of this program. And don’t they look so young?! The Shib Sibs were clearly great then, and would go on to win bronze at Worlds that year. But bringing it back to the present day, I loved watching that 2011 program in contrast to this year’s free dance. Check it out from their NHK victory:

They’ve increased their speed and connection with each other, and their interpretation really captures the nuances of the music (Coldplay’s “Fix You.”). That twizzle sequence is exquisite—not only in the execution but also in the use of the music. The commentators (love those British Eurosport guys!) say at the end of the performance that they didn’t want it to end, and I’ve got to agree. And isn’t that the mark of a great skating performance? Making it all look smooth and effortless so your audience feels at ease and gets lost in the performance. There is nothing worse than those programs where the skaters are just gritting their teeth and making it through, both for the skaters themselves and the audience.

I feel like this free dance, as well as the 2011 program, is a great vehicle for them in that the brother-sister dynamic isn’t detrimental to the performance, as it can be for the more romantic rhythms, like the tango, for example. Well done, Shib Sibs. Can’t wait to watch them take on everyone at the Grand Prix Final, Nationals, and Worlds with this fantastic piece.


Flashback Friday: Mao Asada

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: