Editorials and Commentary
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08/25/02 - My life continues to be great. The rink's summer camp went really well, but it was exhausting. Most of the coaches took a week long break when it was over, and so did I. I went up to San Jose to visit my friends, (Antoinette's family - she is the "cat's lair lady"). I skated at Logitech Ice a few days during the week. The afternoon public was very nice - their AM freestyles are a little high octane for me on their center rink. There was a more low key freestyle on the North Rink that I did a couple of days. It is nice to have the season starting. The NAC events & the early season competitions are well under way & I am looking forward to going to Golden West next weekend & starting my spectating season. Although Antoinette & I have tickets to Skate America, I think we are going to skip it this year. Looks like Regionals, Nationals & Worlds will be my events this season.Antoinette didn't purchase Nationals tickets, but she is beginning to make regretful noises, and I would not be surprised if she purchased some of the events at least. Watching the kids train at HealthSouth is so fascinating. Not only is it great skating, but watching the development of the programs throughout the summer & watching them work with their coaches is very thought provoking. It is interesting to see the false starts in the choreography, the way the skaters try to develop a feel for the music & get the flow of the piece as a whole. I also love watching the coaches skate - the ease with which these folks move on the ice is just awe inspiring to me. So secure and smooth with every little movement. I love watching it, but it can be very depressing too!! I know that no matter how long I work, or how hard I work, I will never come close to that speed and flow. I love learning how to do everything & I love skating, but it is a sad reality that I can not even begin to appoximate the skating I see and love. Oh well, at least I will have a good understanding of how it all is supposed to work. Oh - I have yet another pair of new boots. They are Jacksons this time - custom & heat moldable. They weigh A LOT less than the Harlicks & the heat molding does make for a very fast break in period - I was able to do pretty much everything on my first outing.
Oh - off the topic of skating: My friend's kid is amazing. He is just barely 3 and can recite the first 20 or so presidents in order from memory. He can sound out some words in his books already too. One very clever baby. And still extremely cute too. Very verbal. Very amazing kid.
04/09/02 - Well. - my life is just magic. I am at a great rink with excellent coaches and a bunch of other great people. I can't imagine a better life. It is definitely wierd transitioning from being a "severe" figure skating fan to a participant skater. I am not a complete psycho - I know these are just regular people who happen to be able to do this amazingly magical awesome stuff on the ice..... but some days it all just gets a little wierd to be ....straddling the divide? crossing over? I have no idea how to express this... But some days there is a definite surreal feeling to my life. And I just couldn't be happier about the changes I have made. My coaches (yes - I have 2 now - go ahead - get the nets) are both just doing an amazing job of giving me enough nerve to get my butt out there and giving me a great technical understanding of what it is I should be doing. And they are both great people to spend time with as well. So... That's it - that's all I had to say. I just couldn't be happier.
03/25/02 - Ok. as a quick update - I quit work at the end of January and I have been skating about 3 hours a day. I am in physical therapy for a few hours a week to treat some side effects a bunch of small adaptations I have been doing with my knees and hips to compensate for some pronation I have. Also I have some arthritus in my knee and hip they are trying to help with. I am getting orthotics for my shoes and boots. But - all that aside, I am doing great. I feel like I am making some progress, but more importantly I am having the time of my life.
01/14/02 - Well, today I was one of the lucky participants in the Chevy/Todd Eldredge clinic. I am exhausted, but I had a great time. Scott Williams seemed to be in charge of organizing the event, and he had some other pros on hand to help: Robert Taylor, Carole Fortini & Susan Austin to name a few.
The clinic was very cool. They broke us into three main groups (High, Medium and Low levels). I was in the medium group, as were all the other adult skaters at the clinic (yes, there were actually quite a few). We started by working off-ice with Susan Austin. She streched us this way and that way and the other way; and she worked on spiral positions as well. She talked to us about how the arabesque position is used all over the place in skating - landings, spirals, camels, etc.
Then we got our skates on and hit the ice. Our group got subdivided and half went with Todd and half stayed with Richard. I was in the half that stayed with Richard. He worked on the waltz jump, toe loop and Loop with us. He emphasized lifting the whole body in one movement - not "leaving part of it behind". He also talked about how, when you pull in your arms, you should not think of it as bending the elbow. You should really be pulling with the chest muscles and upper arms. He had Todd demonstrate all the jumps (as singles). He also warned of the evils of toe axels, and asked Tod to demonstate one. He attempted to, but he doesn't really have the hang of this flaw. Richard talked about how the toe is really an assist to get the other leg jumping - he cautioned us to not slam the toe into the ice to "step" on it. We all warmed up our jump(s), then he watched and critiqued us one at a time (yes, that is scary). He was very nice about any corrections that needed to be made. I was surprised at how much he spoke actually. He was very talkative and funny. And laughed a lot too. I just had not imagined him as "jolly", but that is definitely how he came off.
Then Todd came and asked us what we wanted to work on. Someone spoke up with : "Scratch spin" and he said "ok". He showed the entrance and the initial centering of the spin and then had us go try it. The main points he empasized were: stepping into the center of the circle you make with your back edge, keeping the knee soft until you are pulling in, and not pulling in "stiffly" or too hard. He said that a looser "hug" made the spin go faster than pulling too tight. I did pretty good, but he wanted a bend in my knee to keep farther back on the blade (that, as it turned out, was to be a common error with most people's spins). We did that a few more times, then moved on to the sit spin. Now, having never tried one of these in my life, I didn't get terribly far here, but the principle was really the same as all other spins, I just kept my knee bent more :)). Then Scott Williams came and took Todd off to his next assignment and Susan Austin came and had us do spirals.
Now it was time for our lunch break and we headed off to eat. The lunch was fine and the water was very welcome (pant, pant, pant). We got to take our photos with Todd. I also took a photo with Richard. And later one with Scott Williams. See the end of this article to see me, again grinning like a maniac.
Then we went back on the ice (all 3 groups together) for more spinning lessons. Richard would make Todd do a spin and as soon as he got to speed would say "that's enough". Any of you who have ever spun will know that really fast spins don't just end that easily... so this was an amusing little bit of business. Then we would all scatter and try what they were showing. Then we all huddled center ice for the group photo and they handed out the certificates of participation to each of us.
It was a great day. Now I am BEAT. But very happy.
09/29/01 - Last night I was lucky enough to take part in an amazing evening at the Pickwick Ice Center in Burbank, Ca. Danelle Cole, the Director of the Los Angeles Ice Theatre, asked me to come photograph her troop's weekly class. Each week they get 45 minutes of off ice instruction followed by 1/2 hour of ice time/instruction. There are different teachers each week. Last night Paul Wylie had agreed to come and speak to the group.
The members range from ages 5 - 17 and each were given the opportunity to write a question. The questions were sorted through (to eliminate redundancy) and one member of the group read them out to Paul. The question and answer session was preceded by the video of Paul's 92 Olympic Free Skate.
Paul spoke at length about the importance of edging and basic stroking. He credited one two hour stroking lesson with John Curry for his artistry. He explained that he had been a rather ordinary skater until that stroking lesson. From that point on people always remarked about his artistry and form. He recommended that they should all take an opportunity to go find video of John Curry and watch it.
Other answers of particular interest to me were: Favorite Jump: Lutz - he said he liked it because it looked and felt different than all the other jumps - the long deep edge, combined with the toe pick. Favorite spin: camel - because it is the prettiest. He started skating at age 3, but didn't compete until age 9 at Southwest Regionals. There were no other boys to compete against until then. He said he always struggled with jumps - they never came naturally to him. He feels he was a very late bloomer (jump wise) and did not get all his triples until age 16. He said that he kept reading about this Brian kid in California who had all his triples at some really young age - "I don't like him" :)) His favorite skating moment other than the silver at Albertville: "Beating Brian Boitano". He lost his triple axel from age 18 - 20. Only got it back when Evy & Mary "deconstructed" all his jumps - made him go back to waltzes and singles. Compared skating to golf several times - the mental process, the emphasis on form and basic moves. He mentioned that he felt the people who achieved the most at an amateur level treated their skating the way he learned to as a pro - that when you are on the ice you have a job to do and it doesn't matter if you are having an "off day", or have problems in other parts of your life. You still need to shut all that out & deliver while you are on the ice. Then take care of the rest of your life. He also gave a short speech on the importance of school. He started to go into how important it was that they go to a "regular" school (not home school), but he realized from a show of hands that many of them were NOT in school. So he said he'd "leave that alone" and he focused on the importance of college.
Throughout the session he was very candid & engaging. He kept trying to make sure he was saying things at a level that the 5 year olds could understand, but that was still pertinent to the older kids. He did a very good job with a VERY diverse group. And more than 2/3 of them were not born when he got the silver.
Then the whole herd took to the ice. Paul worked forward and back crossovers. He emphasized reach and stretch, both in the legs and the torso & arms. He also did some...back glides with an extended free leg - like the ones many kids do going back towards a lutz entrance. He forced them to alternate between scrapey, scratchy back crossovers and nice quiet ones. He tried to get a lot of speed out of them while keeping the position and control.
When it was all over he was trapped signing autographs and taking photos for quite a while. He was amzingly good natured and attentive to everyone throughout. This would be the professional photographer grinning like a lunatic:
09/15/01 - Ok - So I don't update this page very often. As a way to try to avoid being glued to the television, I thought I'd spruce up the web site a little this evening. I can't come up with anything to say about this nightmare that hasn't already been said - so I will just stick to skating: I have through a sal now. I can do a one foot spin and some days I get almost three revolutions out of a camel spin. I am skating at HealthSouth in El Segundo 5 days a week & taking my lesson on Saturday in the Valley. This next week I am going to be adding a second lesson with a coach at HealthSouth as well. I still have no plans to compete or even test. I just love skating and learning how to do all the things I have been watching for so many years.
My Skating Progress: 6-15-99
Back crossovers in both directions have been achieved. I have an o.k. inside spiral now too. And an Ina Bauer. And, as of Tuesday, I have a little teeny, slow, hesitant waltz jump. And I can do the jump in either direction. Go figure. Another skater taught it to me (Thanks Carol!!). We'll see what my coach thinks when he sees it!
Champions On Ice - 6-5-99 - Los Angeles
Well, reviews have been posted all over the net & 1/2 of the skaters have quit the tour by the time it gets to me. So, I will talk very little about this tour.
Seeing Trifun & Angela were two real highlights of the evening for me. They both did good skating technically and Trifun showed great flair. Angela was more reserved, but the quality of her skating is so lovely to watch.
It was nice to see Todd skate this number live. While the lyrics and singing are over the top for some people I think it is a fine ballad from the Mandy Patinkin school of overemoting. I enjoyed the number very much.
The Russian pairs were another HUGE highlight. Just amazing. Beautiful and fast and stylisticly amazing.
The dance teams were all a great treat to watch. Even with the gimmick of the Sonny and Cher get-ups, Punsalan & Swallow threw a ton of content into the program.
Disco died for a reason. Many of us are old enough to remember that reason. In case you may have forgotten why it died, it is because it is AWFUL. I hated every number done to disco. Without exception. I thank everyone who didn't fall into this horrible trap this year.
I want Victor punished for his Michael Jackson number. Ugh. What on earth is everyone thinking????
Laurent Tobel was very amusing and sweet at the party after the show. I did not want him to be, because I wish to continue to loathe him. I will have to content myself with loathing the skating. The baby number is even more hideous than last year's atrocity. I have seen this man stand up straight. He is capable of it. And I thought when I looked up at the baby number I saw a nice big tuck axel. I want to see this guy skate for real. With extension and posture and all that. All this self mockery is fine if it is within real skating.
The Steiglers' number was weird. Kind of hip-hop country with a lot of "dramatic repetition" of footwork. I do not know what to make of it. I will need to see it a few more times. Looks like they are skating it a little hesitantly, so I assume it is brand new.
Naomi Nari Nam was pleasant to watch, but "Getting to Know You" is just not a song I enjoy. And it was a little cutesy for someone who has already skated Sr. level programs.
I love Michelle's spiral filled number, but the ballad was dull and I do not care for the costume.
My Skating Saga - March 10, 1999
I skate myself. I took it up about 3 years
ago. I took almost all of that time to learn forward crossovers! I lost 105
lbs and suddenly skating became much easier. Currently I can do inside 3 turns,
mohawks, outside 3 turns (sometimes) and forward cross overs. I can do all of
these in either direction. I can do several back crossovers in a row on my left
foot and one at a time on my right foot (the problem is my free hip).
After Nationals I was inspired to try to work on my posture (so I wouldn't be in "somewhat almost atrocious" positions). I had read a post on the skating mailing group about trying to open up both your chest and back. So I tried it. Three coaches (including my own) noticed immediately & were very pleased by the change. Note: standing up straight for any length of time will come as quite a shock to the muscles in your back. I recommend a chiropractor. So, I do know and understand how difficult it is to work on line and posture and your hips and your edges and all that other stuff as well. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for ANY skater who makes it to the national championship level. That said, I have noticed a few things over the last few nationals that I would like to comment on. P.S. - I also noticed again during the Michelle Kwan special that Ilia Kulik is picking up (or not overcoming) quite a few bad habits (looking down at the ice while skating being the most egregious). He needs a coach.
What I noticed at this year's Nationals - March 10, 1999
Salt Lake - An analysis after the fact. March 9, 1999
So, row 9 turned out to be the second row of the arena. But the first row of the arena was 15-20 feet above the ice. The view was awful. This arena (the Delta Center) should NEVER be considered for Olympic sized ice. The E arena was much nicer. I wish the Senior events had been held there. Even from 3 or 4 rows back the view was better than row two of the evil Delta Center.
Now for the official hotel: The Hilton was fine as a hotel, but the food situation was awful. The restaurant had recently been bought by the Daily Grill. They had relocated the kitchen and weren't really open yet. The first meal we tried to eat there took 45 minutes to get to our table & my food was cold. We wound up getting that meal free. I tried room service. It took an hour to get to me and was cold and not what I had ordered. Another free meal. I complained to the manager who expressed surprise at the weird schedule everyone was keeping. I asked if he had a schedule of the competitions. No; he didn't know there was one. This was, mind you, on WEDNESDAY. I showed him the schedule and he was thrilled to be able to judge when people would be wanting food and coming back to the bar. He allowed as to how he should have talked to me earlier and it would have helped him with staffing. He also admitted he was not surprised that the food was cold as that was an ongoing problem. ARGH. If you were the manager of a restaraunt at a Hotel that had an event booked YEARS in advance, wouldn't you have researched the event to see what the effect of the schedule would be??? What incompetence. All in all a very unhappy experience.
The transportation was almost OK. The main problem was that the Acord center and the E center were about 10 minutes away from each other. but they were both about 1/2 hour from the Delta Center. To get from the Acord to the E you had to take the bus BACK to the Delta Center. This turned a 10 minute trip into an hour trip. I was told it was because the LOC didn't want to spend the money on the extra buses. I guess they shot their budget on hookers and scholarships. Yes, I am bitter. Through no fault of the jillions of volunteers who were very nice and very dedicated and gave their all for this event, this was the worst organized Nationals I have seen in a long time.
The gifts to the skaters were shabby. The last figures champions we'll ever have weren't allowed on the ice in the exhibition to save a few bucks. The draw party featured the most annoying "comics" I have seen in ages. Although I must say ,the competitors party was very fun & very well done! The seats were awful. The official Hotel was awful. The main arena still had the "no camera" fiasco early in the event (anyone who's been to Skate America in Detriot knows this one - the arena staff thinks there is a no camera policy, but the USFSA overrides that policy. So the arena staff tries to confiscate all the camera and you have to miss a bunch of skating to complain to higher and higher levels of staff til they get it straightened out). Doesn't one LOC learn from the last one??? How many time must skaters, coaches, parents and fans suffer throught the same idiocy before they get this stuff straightened out?
The Salt Lake fiasco - 1/25/99
I bet you thought I was talking about the Olympic bribery. Nope. I am referring to the nightmare that has been foisted upon us in the organizing of this year's Nationals. We paid our deposits in October of 1996. We gave them the full price of the tickets in December of 1997. We got a letter around the holidays last year telling us that our view (and everyone else's) would be obstructed. We received our tickets on 1/22/99. They have had thousands of dollars of my money for over a year. I ordered by fax the day the tickets went on sale. I am in the 9th row, a section off center ice.
I want to understand what exactly I would have to have done to get in the first 5 rows of the arena (where I have been the last two Nationals). I also am very curious to see what will happen in Los Angeles in 2001. I sent them my credit card number for the entire ticket price a few weeks ago. They have not even established a banking relationship that allows them to charge my card yet. Boston and Cleveland have had my money for ages. Will any of this ensure that I have good seats? That my view will be unobstructed? Why are these events handled in this manner? Would any other group of sports fans tolerate it?
Stars on Ice thoughts - 1/21/99:
I thought this show was very disappointing this year.
The clown number is a waste of talented skaters.
Ilia needs to get back to a coach. Not only did he fail to land his triple axel, he is getting even more sloppy. He has such potential to be so exciting. He has passion for the music and a flair for choreography. But he is just so coltish on ice. It is very frustrating to watch. I want him to stand up straight and extend. He needs to commit to the positions rather than flailing through them.
Bechke and Petrov were my favorite of the rest of the show.
Tara looked like a real champion by comparison to the other skaters in the show. She also looks like she is working harder than the rest of them put together.
I want all Santana music banned forever - that whole section of the show is annoying. I love Chen Lu and Meno & Sand & I usually enjoy Roca & Sur, but this whole segment is slow as molasses. It didn't seem like the audience was that thrilled either.
All in all this show needs some serious re-working.
More thinking - 10/27/98:
My thoughts on the latest turn of events (today's re-removal of sanctioning for the pro series) are that the inevitable effect of this sport's growth in popularity has once and for all come home to roost. We have been seeing signs of the troubles for a few years now (increased ticket prices & competition for good seats were the first portents). Some of the results were nice; skaters who wouldn't have had a job a few years back are having relatively decent careers. Some of the results are not so nice. The ISU bowing to pressure from all and sundry to bestow or decline sanctioning is an unsettling vignette for fans, what it must be like to be a skater being tossed around like this is really unimaginable. It seems an ungracious way to treat your resources to me, but I suppose they feel there are dozens of skaters & only a few major networks or countries to please. I feel very bad for any skater trying to navigate this season.
Thoughts as of 9/20/98:
The season is not really begun, so all we have had to discuss are the various machinations of the training season. Who's moved where. Who's broken up with who. Who's reforming as a new pair/team. To me (someone who hates change) the post Olympic season is always rough. Even the "non-eligible" shows get all shaken up about now. So, in spite of some unflattering commentary on the newsgroups about the "old-timers" like Shepherd Clark and Michael Chack, I would personally like to thank anyone who is going to stick around one more season. It just wouldn't be Nationals for me without some of the folks I have watched work for so many years. I need more time to warm up to the "up and comers" (especially in the men's division, where things tend to move a little glacially). And I definitely need more time to get used to people retaining eligibility but skipping Nationals. I understand the logic. I really do. But it seems odd for me, for whom the high point of the year is Nationals, to know so many who could come have chosen to save their strength for other competitions.
Stephanie Stiegler & John Zimmerman 1997 Nationals
Sorceror's Apprentice Program Opening Pose
One of my favorite programs, photos and pairs of all time.
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Last updated: August 25, 2002 5:40 PM