Figure Skating: From the Boards

Oh, the drama! August 26, 2010

So, I’m sitting here, sipping my morning cup of joe, flipping back and forth between the Today Show and “My Fair Wedding with David Tutera” (Don’t judge…) and checking up on the latest stats from this week in skating, and I’m realizing I may need more time.

What a week, eh?

If you haven’t heard all the news, no worries – I’m here to save the day! And if you have heard, well, get ready to “hear” again, and then chime in with your own thoughts. Sound good? Okay. Here we go.

Pre-season drama part 1:

*National Champs and Olympic team members Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett jump ship from the coaching staff of Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnston and Alison Smith to train in Coral Springs, Fla. with U.S. Pairs champion John Zimmerman and his wife, Italian star Silvia Fontana.

This is very interesting to me, for a couple of reasons.

First, this could be a GREAT move for Caydee and Jeremy. I love John Zimmerman and have a feeling his creativity could be fantastic for the young national champs. He certainly knows how to train, and he knows what it’s like to be among the best in the world. Caydee and Jeremy need to step it up if they want to be the American team who breaks into the top tier of the international elite. This might just be their staircase.

Second, I’m curious about the reasons for changing. Back at Nationals and at the Olympics in Vancouver, this team seemed beyond happy with their situation, overly complimentary of their coaches, and so proud of their up-and-coming status that led them to the Games. Yet, they weren’t about to be content with the status quo…they want to be the best, and I think this move shows that. It’s still curious to me as I wonder what that final straw was that led to the change.

Third, there was always an interesting dynamic with the pairs teams under the tutelage of Peterson and crew: their other pairs team who skated to a spot on the Olympic team, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, has a unique connection to John Zimmerman’s new team. Amanda and Jeremy have been a couple for some time, even living together and, of course, training and competing together. Does this move say something about that relationship? If not, does it put strain on the two of them and, therefore, their competitive careers? (Okay, okay, maybe I’m meddling. But hey, a girl can’t help but wonder…)

Coaching changes are always intriguing to me as they seem to say a lot about the needs of the athlete and the underlying goals that lead to the switch. I hope this one for Caydee and Jeremy works out because they certainly have the momentum and the potential to be a longtime standard in U.S. pairs skating.

Pre-season drama part 2:

*2006 Olympic champ and reigning Olympic silver medalist Evgeyni Plushenko IS, in fact, stripped of ISU eligibility due to participation in unapproved exhibition shows after pulling out of the post-Olympics World Championships. This means, he is no longer free to continue competing, therefore eliminating his proposed run at the 2014 games in Sochi.

Something about this seems pretty fishy.

First, these elite level skaters are aware of the rules – perhaps they don’t always think, “Hmm, if I do this, that could happen because the rule says such-and-such.” However, it’s not a secret that certain shows are off limits, especially after withdrawing from a sanctioned competitive event. Plushy should have known that, and if not, his “people” should have warned him. For that reason, I wonder how unaware he really was. Now, I don’t know the guy, but this seems weird. He has struggled with knee injuries since 2006, and the likelihood of his body actually holding up through 2014 is slim to none, in my opinion. And they way the pieces all fell apart here leads me to wonder if he realized he was talking too big for reality.

Second, he had a chance to appeal and he didn’t. Why? If he really wanted to compete, he had the means to make his argument and keep the Sochi dream alive. He didn’t. So, game over. He doesn’t have to make a big announcement of his retirement due to injury, nor does he have to deal with the fact that he left Vancouver talking smack and now doesn’t have the ability to back it up. Like I said, I don’t know Plushy personally, so all of this is purely speculation.

Regardless of his reasoning, it makes the next few seasons either a bit more interesting, or I suppose, a bit less interesting. But it certainly gives some other guys the chance to jump (or spin, glid, and step-sequence) their way into the spotlight!

Pre-Season drama part 3:

*Olympic Champ Yu-Na Kim and miracle-working coach Brian Orser split in soap-opera fashion, leaving Orser without the world’s #1, and Kim fighting for not only the motivation to continue competing, but also for the character of her own mother.

To me, this is just totally unfortunate.

First, Brian and Yu-Na made magic. Simple as that. What he was able to do with, perhaps, the most raw talent in the entire world was remarkable. Yu-Na soaked it all in and blossomed under Brian’s instruction, and maintained a sense of normalcy thanks to his protection. We will likely never know what the reason was for the Kims’ decision to leave Orser, but no matter the reason, I’m still sad to see them split. As Melissa Bulanhagui “tweeted” the other day, it’s like Brad Pitt and Jen Aniston all over again!

Second, the mudslinging has gotten out of hand. I don’t care who knew what, or if mama Kim overstepped her bounds, or if Brian stuck his story out there to save face…the media circus makes the sad feeling of seeing the news of the split about a  million times worse. I feel badly for both “sides” of the story. Yu-Na wrote a letter to her fans, expressing her pain because of Brian’s comments, and because of her frustration in needing to defend her decision and her mother’s character. That’s not something she should have had to do, yet she did. And unfortunately, it’s not helping. The media are running with all of it, no matter how small, and turning it into a zoo.

Again, coaching changes/splits are always interesting to me, but it’s sad when such a magical combination of skills is destroyed by one thing, then exaggerated by harsh comments and disappointed slams.

I wish the best for both parties, and hope to see Yu-Na skate again at Worlds.

Speaking of seeing Yu-Na skate…

She will be skating in LA a few months from now, and the legend, Michelle Kwan, will be co-staring in the show – her first on-ice appearance in the U.S. since the end of the Champions on Ice tour after her devastating injury in 2006. Now, Michelle Kwan is my hero. I’d give, well, a lot to be there in LA for this performance, but I’m not sure the likelihood of that happening is in my favor right now. So, if any of you are planning to be there, let me know! I’d love to post your review of the event, or possibly get some photos from you to share here as well…so if anyone wants to be a part of From the Boards for a day, get in touch.

In other news, the Junior Grand Prix season began today. The ladies have skated the short program, and Yretha Silete of France is in 1st, followed by Polina Shelepen from Russia and Nina Jiang from the USA.

It’s underway, folks!

Let the drama continue.

Until then…

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