Most years on December 31 I sit and wonder, “How is the year over already?!” This year, however, when I started to look back, I found myself thinking, “That was really all this year?”
Maybe I kept myself busy enough that the accomplishments seem too great for one year. Or, maybe, I just have a terrible memory and forgot half the things that really happened! (The latter is not entirely unlikely, I assure you…)
Regardless, I was looking back. And in looking back, I tried to come up with the top 10 skating stories or moments of the year. Again, there were a lot to choose from. Narrowing it down seemed daunting. But, I’ve come up with a lists that, to me, defines this year in skating.
From technical wonders to emotional triumphs and all the little moments in between, 2011 was quite the year for the world of figure skating.
Here’s my list.
10. Brandon Mroz and the first ever ratified quad lutz.
I know many US skating fans want to see guys focusing on consistency and artistry before adding new elements, but that move is impressive. I have to give the kid props for even trying the trick!
9. Meagan Duhamel’s “Is it enough?!” moment at TEB ’11 & Rudi Swiegers saves Mark Ladwig at 4CC.
Every season has its off-ice moments that melt your heart. These two stand out for me, although there are plenty of others I could pull up and recall. These are the moments you see the person, not just the competitor. I love those moments.
8. Exciting rivalries
This year has had its share of exciting rivalries, and that’s what makes competitions so much fun. This year featured three big ones, starting with the obvious: Meryl Davis and Charlie White vs. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Training mates make the fiercest competitors. Then there is the former champ chasing the current champ, Daisuke Takahashi vs. Patrick Chan. (I know, I know. Everyone thinks it won’t matter what Dai does because of Patrick’s “two-fall cushion.” I happen to think it’s made Takahashi better, and the rivalry fascinating to watch.) Last but not least, the dynamic pack of pairs who have battled through this year’s Grand Prix Series — Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy vs. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov vs. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov.
Can I just say, I can’t wait for Worlds?!
7. Partner hot potato
What do you get when half of a former national champion team retires, followed by the current national champions splitting up (with one looking strongly at retirement)? You get one new coach, a new super pair, and one national champion without a partner to defend her title with. Awkward, maybe. But potentially brilliant.
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin found something in each other that gave them a new spark and the determination to prove they have what it takes. They’ve had tremendous success for a first year partnership and stand a good chance at Nationals to make the World team. They may have been on to something with the Pairs Partner shuffle.
But the US dancers wanted in on the action, too. How ’bout a few more new couples? Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Emily Samuelson and Todd Gilles, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates jumped onto the scene hoping to continue their past success with new partners.
6. Sentimental Champions
Mostly I’m talking about US Nationals where Ryan Bradley, Alissa Czisny, and Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin defeated the demons that had haunted them (past failures, personal tragedies) to not only win titles, but make lasting memories and unforgettable moments. Bradley’s short program, Czisny’s long, and Yankowskas/Coughlin’s dedication skate to win the title … I still get chills. These moments are why I love this sport.
5. Pushenko Returns
Okay, chances are this will be a much bigger story in 2012. But, his reinstatement (and the controversy surrounding it) came this year, as did his return to competition at Russian Nationals. I’m not sure how many knee problems and surgeries the Olympic Champion can handle, but he thinks he’s good enough to be golden yet again in Sochi. Keep and eye on this one, kids. It could get interesting.
4. Impressive debuts (or, re-debuts!)
This year has seen its share of surprising performances. Some have come at the hands of newbies like Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, or Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Their newness is evident, but their talent is undeniable. They’ve added interest not only to this season, but for seasons to come. Add to their debuts the emergence of Javier Fernandez, the rebirth of Carolina Kostner, and Mao Asada, and you have a very fresh look to the year. (Plus, the smiles are so nice to see!)
3. Michelle Kwan earns Hall of Fame nod
I know this is pretty high on the list for someone who didn’t skate this year. But, her impact is felt every time ladies compete. She’s as deserving of this honor as anyone can be, and as a fan, I couldn’t be more proud. Congratulations, Michelle!
2. Japan’s Worlds
It’s never fun when a tragedy makes the top two figure skating stories of the year, but that’s exactly what happened when Japan was faced with the earthquake and tsunami that sent the world reeling … and Worlds into a holding pattern.
It was to be Japan’s shining moment, with potential world champions in both the men’s and ladies events. Instead, they simply prayed everyone was safe. Thanks to Moscow stepping up, Worlds went on, a month delayed.
And while Japan lost the event, it did get its champion when Miki Ando held off Yu-Na Kim‘s return to the ice and skated the two best (and most emotional) performances of her career. She was beautiful.
1. Davis and White bring home World Gold
Overall, this is the top story of the year. Not because it was unexpected, per se. Yes, they had to contend with Virtue and Moir, but there was still a strong feeling that the Americans had the edge, having competed all year. But the pressure they were skating under — whether they acknowledged it publicly or not! — was massive. They knew they could become the first ever American dance team to win World gold. And they wanted it. They skated the best tango free dance of the season on their way to making that mark in the record books. It was brilliant to watch, and even more brilliant when you think about all the amazing dancers who came before them who were unable to attain that title. Well done, Meryl and Charlie. Well done!
What a year, eh?!
Feel free to share your favorite moments from 2011 … and, what you’re most looking forward to in 2012!
Happy Skating New Year!