What an incredible week it has been. I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to be in Omaha with the Icenetwork team, but I was even more thrilled to have the chance to witness the magic that is the U.S. Championships.
There’s something so very special about Nationals; something that can’t be replicated. The week provides moments that you can’t find anywhere else. There is magic in the air from the very first day, and it continues on through the moments the skaters create — both for themselves, and for those of us fortunate enough to witness them.
As I think back on this week, there are several such memories that I will treasure, and I will, no doubt, recount many of them here. But the moment that stands out most — more than the Gracie Gold comeback, or the Max Aaron shocker, more than the unpredictable or the dramatic — is, perhaps, the most predictable moment of all.
No doubt. Not even a glimmer. The rest of the final group, though exceptional in their own right, didn’t stand a chance. Not for gold, anyway.
Meryl and Charlie could have bought into that; they could have gone through the motions, saving their energy and effort for their World Championship skate. They still would have been great. They still would have won. But that afternoon, we witnessed what makes great skaters great champions.
This Notre Dame de Paris program was a bit of a risk, taking the teammates — talented as anyone in the world — across uncharted waters emotionally. “They don’t evoke any romance,” the doubters said. “There’s no connection between the two of them, no chemistry.”
I beg to differ.
Meryl and Charlie did this week what skaters like Michelle Kwan did year after year. They set the tone from the first move, and held the audience in the palm of their hand for the next four minutes, bringing tears to each eye and bodies out of every seat.
Each look, each touch was relevant. Each move was a physical expression of the love story they were portraying. The difficulty in what they were doing physically is astounding. Their feet never stop, their holds constantly evolve from one difficult connection to the next. Their lifts acted as the perfect highlights to connect the moments of sweet romance to the fiery passion.
Then, they got to the middle section that was reworked after the Grand Prix final. They slowed down the frenzy, took time to really gaze at one another, shared the moment, and almost eliminated the audience for a brief second. They took a moment to face one another in an arabesque, lock eyes, gently brush their fingers across one another’s faces … that moment, for me, pushed this entire program from “brilliant” to “masterpiece.” That was the missing element that may have given the detractors cause for doubting their on-ice chemistry.
It sounds silly, I know, that the most simplistic move in the program pushed it over the top. But, it was in that moment that the chill bumps formed on my arms, and the tears began to well. You could feel the energy in the arena build, and I just kept thinking, “This is the kind of moment skaters live for, and the kind of moment fans hope for at the U.S. Nationals.”
As Meryl and Charlie exploded to the end of their gold-medal skate, they audience rose to meet them at the finish. At the end of the night, just thinking about their skate made my eyes well up. Watching it back again today, I was holding back tears yet again.
I don’t know what it was, other than the fact that, despite knowing the competition was in the bag, they rose up to meet the moment, pushing themselves to give just that much more, and in doing so, gave everyone in that building a moment they’ll be hard pressed to forget.
Meryl and Charlie, you are a National Treasure.