Twizzle Talk


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“I, Tonya” Movie Review

I finally saw “I, Tonya” last night. The movie — about Tonya Harding, the skater on the other side of Nancy Kerrigan’s infamous knee-wacking in 1994 — is already winning big during awards season and has several Oscar nominations.

I generally struggle with on-screen portrayals of figure skating, because filmmakers so rarely get it right. Anybody else remember the scene in “Ice Princess” where a character drives a zamboni through the woods to smooth the ice surface of a pond? As if the ice could take the weight of a zamboni…if it even still worked after driving through the woods.

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“I, Tonya” got a few skating quirks right. Some humorous, like Harding’s coach donning a fur coat at competitions as a status symbol, which had me cracking up in the theater. My first coach always pulled out her fabulous fur for my competitions, too. Harding’s costume recreations were also impeccable. The skating scenes, while shot at camera angles that made me rather dizzy, were largely accurate in terms of jump set ups and how skating actually looks — there were no gravity-defying “iron lotus” moves like in “Blades of Glory.”

And the actors’ performances were phenomenal. Allison Janney is a force to be reckoned with as Harding’s abusive mother, and Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harding is uncanny. My issues with the movie lie with the screenwriters and filmmakers.

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2018 U.S. Nationals Debrief: The Good & The Bad

The good, the bad, the happy, the sad…that’s me singing some Al Green after a crazy 2018 Nationals. Despite all the drama, I’ll stick with skating forever.

Watching the 2018 U.S. Nationals was more of an emotional viewing experience than I bargained for. I needed some time to digest, hence, why this post is coming almost two weeks after the event. I was so excited for the senior events to get started, and then was emotionally exhausted by the time it all wrapped up on Sunday night. Here’s why:

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Hubbell/Donohue Interview: Figure Skaters Online

Before the senior events at U.S. Nationals get going in San Jose tomorrow, one more preview article from Figure Skaters Online, with ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue:

For the past three years, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have been the bronze medalists in the ice dance event at the U.S. Championships.

They finished third in the short dance at Worlds in 2017 before a disastrous fall on a twizzle in the free dance took them out of the medals.

They have qualified for the Grand Prix Final three years in a row, but missed the podium by less than a point in December.

This year, Hubbell and Donohue have had it with “almost.”

“I’m not here to get third place for the fifth time at Nationals, that’s not an option,” Donohue told reporters in a U.S. Figure Skating media call on Dec. 28.

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Image Source: Figure Skaters Online

Read the rest of the article on Figure Skaters Online for how Hubbell and Donohue plan to reach their goals at Nationals, and how they’ve changed their programs since the Grand Prix Final:

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue Set Sights on First U.S. Title


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Vincent Zhou Interview: Figure Skaters Online

It’s almost time…U.S. Nationals starts next week! The competition is earlier than usual this year, since the Olympics kick off on Feb. 8. In the remaining days before the competition begins in San Jose, the stars of U.S. skating sat down for interview calls with the media, and I got to participate in a few of them with Figure Skaters Online.

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Image Source: Figure Skaters Online

Here’s an excerpt from my story on Vincent Zhou, defending silver medalist in the men’s event:

Vincent Zhou was riding high at the end of last season. The 2017 U.S. silver medalist and World Junior Champion, 16-year-old Zhou was turning heads with his arsenal of quad jumps and sparking talk of an Olympic berth.

But that momentum didn’t quite carry over into his first full senior season. His Grand Prix showings were inconsistent, with a fourth place at Cup of China followed by a ninth place finish at Internationaux de France. He was second in the free skate in China, climbing back from eighth place after the short. But overall, it wasn’t the strong, consistent Zhou we saw at the end of last season.

“We didn’t obsess over what went wrong, because that can lead to negativity and lots of stress,” Zhou said in a U.S. Figure Skating media call on Dec. 27. “We just discussed with a clear mind changes to make based on how I was feeling. We realized we were pushing too hard.”

Read the rest of the article on Figure Skaters Online to hear how Zhou has adjusted his training going into Nationals and his goals for the competition:

After an inconsistent Grand Prix campaign, Vincent Zhou retools training for Nationals


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Tara Lipinski Interview: Figure Skaters Online

“Going into this Olympics in South Korea it feels very surreal [to be on the prime time broadcast team], but it’s also my 20th anniversary and feels like the start of this career that I’ve always wanted,” said Tara Lipinski, 1998 Olympic Champion. 

She was answering my question about her transition from skater to broadcaster, and the sometimes-difficult path that elite and Olympic athletes have when their competitive days are over. More on what Lipinski calls her second career, and which legendary commentator she looks up to, in my piece for Figure Skaters Online:

On 20th anniversary of her Olympic gold medal, Tara Lipinski looks ahead to new chapter


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My Picks for the U.S. Olympic Team: Pairs & Ice Dance

While there are plenty of variables and speculation in the men’s and ladies’ events at U.S. Nationals, the pairs and ice dance seems to be much more straightforward.

A reminder of the three tiers of selection criteria from U.S. Figure Skating, via Phil Hersh:
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In pairs, Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim have earned the one U.S. spot. After a horrific year of injuries/illness last year (plus a few this year, too, with his knee problems), they are still working their way back to the top form that earned them a spot in the 2015 Grand Prix Final. They showed off a quad twist on Instagram recently and said on Ice Talk that they plan to add it back into the program for Nationals, so they are definitely getting there.

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Image Source: Mercury News

Scimeca Knierim and Knierim have the highest placements and scores of any U.S. pair team in any event of the three tiers, and are still the only U.S. pair to break 200 points internationally. While side-by-side jumps can be a problem, their pair elements are stunning. It won’t be enough for them to figure into the medal conversation, with the international pairs field as stacked as it is, but they could help the U.S. in their quest for a team medal. Hopefully they make it an easy choice and take their U.S. title back at Nationals, because a rough performance there could throw all of the above into question for casual viewers (a la the Wagner-Nagasu controversy of 2014).

In ice dance, Madison Chock/Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue, and Maia/Alex Shibutani are, without a doubt, the U.S. Olympic team. I listed them in alphabetical order here because I think it is anyone’s game at Nationals. Yes, the Shibutanis had the most successful fall campaign, with two golds on the Grand Prix and a bronze at the final, but they didn’t have to skate against the two Olympic favorites, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir or France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guilluame Cizeron, on the Grand Prix, like their U.S. counterparts did. And the three teams were separated by less than a point overall at the Grand Prix Final. The Shibs beat Hubbell and Donohue by 0.6, and Hubbell and Donohue were only 0.25 ahead of Chock and Bates.

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The top 3 U.S. ice dance teams pictured at 2017 Nationals, along with pewter medalists Elliana Pogrebinskiy and Alex Benoit (far right). Image Source: IceNetwork

I enjoy all these teams and think it will be an exciting dance event at U.S. Nationals — though I must say I’m pulling for Hubbell and Donohue this year, after their impressive rebound from disappointment at Worlds last year. Their skating is the best it’s ever been and it’s time for them to move up from that bronze medal position. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold in San Jose!