Figure Skating: From the Boards

Summer Spotlight: Christina Gao June 11, 2011

It’s always fun to play a game of “Spot the Future Champion” as the Junior Grand Prix season goes along. Many people remember the early days of Michelle Kwan. More recently, there were the junior battles between Mao Asada and Caroline Zhang. This past Nationals, we got an even younger look at the future in Utah’s Nathan Chen.

But it was another skater traveling through the junior ranks that caught the attention of US Ladies skating’s most dedicated fans — Christina Gao.

Now, Gao isn’t exactly new on the international scene. She had a strong run on the Junior Grand Prix Circuit last year, finishing third in both events (Turkey and Poland) as well as the Final.

A fifth-place finish in her Senior debut at Nationals didn’t go unnoticed, either.

By the time her first Junior Grand Prix event in Austria came around this season, the Twitterverse was buzzing with interest in Brian Orser’s protégé. And with two strong programs, she once again found herself on the podium — this time, with the silver.

“I’m really happy with both my programs that I did in Austria,” Gao said as she thought back about the event. “I put a pretty high score up there — 167 — so I’m really proud of how I did at Austria.”

She then jetted off to Germany for her second event, hoping for one more move up the medal stand.

Christina with coach, Brian Orser at the JGP Final in China (Photo courtesy of David W. Carmichael)

But, as goes this unpredictable sport, Gao hit a few speed bumps on her way to another 2nd place finish qualifying for the Final. (more…)

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Ladies Short Program Recap April 29, 2011

We’ve arrived at the ever-prestigious Ladies event (appropriately on the same morning as the also prestigious Royal Wedding!) and the ladies took to the ice with much to prove.

Canadian Amelie Lacoste skated early, but had a nice Worlds debut that kept her in first place until Mae Berenice Miete had her turn. She included a triple-triple combination, followed by lovely a triple loop and double axel. She has a beautiful quality to her skating, and a great combination of power and presence. I was quite impressed!

Kanako Murakami is the young fireball from Japan, and she came out with the usual energy and vivaciousness! She hit a big triple toe-triple toe combination, a solid triple flip, then had an unfortunate step put on the double axel, but her interpretation of this music is impeccable. She has oodles of energy and this program is great for her. I do miss her polka dot dress, though!

The first of the Russian hopefuls took the ice in an unfortunate, clown-like dress. However, as Irina Slutskya sat nervously with clenched fists on the sidelines, Elena Leonova skated a wonderful short program. She, too, hit a triple toe-triple toe, a triple flip, and a double axel. Everything was on cue and strong. The reaction from the crowd didn’t hurt, and she easily took the lead.

Carolina Kostner has the unfortunate reputation of skating poorly and being overly rewarded in the scores. She started out strong with a triple toe-triple toe combo, hit the double axel, then fell on the triple flip. She skates with great speed, but her transitions are average as are some of the other elements. Still, she ended up tied with Leonova after the short. And still, I don’t understand 8s for her components. (more…)

 

Taking on the World: Ladies Preview April 16, 2011

Ah, the ladies event. The ever lovely, every turbulent staple to the figure skating world. What would we do without it? (I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’d spend a lot less time scratching my head, that’s for sure!)

Heading into Worlds, yet again, the strength lies in the Japanese team, as they boast the top two international scores this season.

Four Continents Champ Miki Ando holds the top spot, and also the honor of being the only woman to break 200 this season. Her 201.34 from 4CC, as well as her strong Grand Prix gold medals in both Russia and China set her up as potentially the favorite here. She had a mini-collapse at the Final, but she was battling back troubles that have haunted here here and there. If a healthy Ando shows up to Worlds, she has all the momentum in her favor.

Nipping at her heals, though, and on a comeback trail of her own, is her countrywoman and the reigning World Champ, Mao Asada. I won’t lie — when I saw Mao at the beginning of the season, I feared for the worst. Certainly, this season was done for. And by the look on her face when she skated off the ice, I wondered if it would be even worse. To her credit, though, and that of her coaches, she managed to continue reworking nearly every aspect of her skating, while gaining momentum, ending up making the World team, and 2nd place behind Ando at 4cc. She’s put herself back in the hunt. Now she just has to keep moving forward.

As with the men, the circumstances surrounding the Japanese skaters is anything but ideal. While the skating world debated what to do about the World Championships, these Japanese skaters mourned the enormous loss of so much in their country. They will be the story of the event, and how they handle the situation will be very based on the emotions they’re battling. The question becomes, will they rise to the occasion and bring home a World title? Or will the intensity be too much to let them really shine? Either one would be totally understandable…

Interestingly, the 3rd highest score this season belongs to a skater who won’t have the chance to take on the world’s best: American Mirai Nagasu. Her 189.46 puts her in the hunt for a World medal, but her lack of confidence and

Czisny's newfound confidence lead her straight to her second US title.

execution at Nationals means she won’t have that chance. Not this year, anyway.

That does, however, put Alissa Czisny‘s 180.75 from the Grand Prix Final win into serious contention. I love this girl, and want more than anything to see her succeed. It’s not too often that I find myself pulling for someone without any reservation, willing them to succeed. But she brings that out of me. And now more than ever, I believe in her, and I think she does, too. The girl’s got the goods. Her components are to die for, her spins the best in the business. Her long program is probably in my top two overall this season. It’s one of those feel-good, makes you sigh in contentment, can’t wait to see it again kind of programs. If she skates it like she’s capable of, she’s got a real shot here.

Rachael Flatt doesn’t want to be left out of the party. She comes in right behind Czisny in the score department with a 180.31. She’s had her ups and downs this year, trying to figure out what the international judges are looking for. I think she’s found it in her new “East of Eden” short program. Now, if only her injuries will allow her to put the triple-triple back into her long, she has a chance to really contend.

As much as it baffles me, we can’t have a conversation about medal contenders without bringing up Carolina Kostner. There’s something about her that judges can’t deny, and despite her seriously watered-down technical elements, she manages to score well on a fairly regular basis. She’s battled her share of injuries this year as well, but managed to come in 2nd to Czisny at the Final, and 2nd at Europeans. She’ll need to have a pretty spectacular event to take down the top two, but a medal’s never out of reach.

Six through nine on my top 10 contenders list are Kanako Murakami, Kiira Korpi, Ksenia Makarova, and Cynthia Phaneuf. All have had moments of brilliance this season, but never managed to put it all together at once. As with the men, these aren’t necessarily skaters with a chance at the podium, but they do have the opportunity to make a splash, and to end their season knowing they put it all out there among the best in the world.

So what about #10? Well, if you’re observant at all, you’ll notice that Olympic Champ Yu-Na Kim has eluded my list thus far. Reason being, she doesn’t have any kind of score to compare to the others this year. That in no way, however, eliminates her from contention for the title. It’s hard to say what kind of shape she’ll be in, or how well polished her programs will be. But I feel quite confident saying that she will be ready. She will be fierce. And she will fight for the right to once again stand atop the medal stand. She’s the best in the world when she’s on. It’s all a matter of how she will handle the unfamiliarity of competing two brand new programs for the very first time at the World Championships.

As for the medalists, I fully expect it to be something unexpected. But that may, in fact, be what is most logically predictable. You just never know, especially with this field. No matter what, though, it will be fun to watch.

 

Moments that take your breath away December 31, 2010

Being just hours away from 2011 here in the American midwest, my mind is automatically drawn to what this last year will be remembered for. Of course, here at FromTheBoards, it’s all about the skating world. And while there have been dozens of memorable moments, there are bound to be some that stand out more than others. As I looked back on what’s happened in the skating world in 2010, I compiled a list of the moments that stand out most to me. This is certainly not a comprehensive list of the great moments of 2010, but it’s a list of the moments that made me remember why I love this wonderful sport and the glorious memories it can create.

So, without further ado, my “Top 10 Skating Moments of 2010”

10. Salt Lake City’s Nathan Chen wins the Novice National Title
Having shared the ice with Nathan when he was only 4, watching him find such success was a thrill. He’s got a bright future.

9. The Shibutani’s 2010-2011 Free Dance.
These two light up the arena as it is, but the pure joy in this season’s FD, combined with their elegance and polish, makes this one of my favorite programs of the year.

8. Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s “Bollywood” Original Dance.
The widespread YouTube fame of this program speaks for itself, but this is one of the most brilliantly crafted programs I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the best of the year. Their Olympic performance was equally brilliant.

7. Adam Rippon’s “Romeo and Juliet” Short Program
First of all, it’s hard not to love Adam Rippon. But this program takes him to a whole new level – one I’m a big fan of!

6. Mirai Nagasu’s Olympic FS/World SP
I know these are really two separate moments, but they were the culmination of a roller coaster season, in which she found herself. In these programs, Mirai proved to herself what we already knew – she could skate with the best in the world!

5. Yu-Na Kim’s Olympic Tears
Yes, her victory was sweet. Truly, it was one for the record books. But what touched me more than her flawless performance, was the emotion she shared with the world. After all the pressure she was under, she did it. And we were all so proud!

4. Alissa Cizny’s Grand Prix Final Victory
Really, I could just say Alissa’s entire season thus far. However, the GP win was also a culmination of a lifetime of dreams, and an off-season of hard work and focus. Few people expected her to come back after missing the Olympic team with this kind of passion, but she’s done it. And her excitement and joy is contagious.

3. Joannie Rochette’s Olympic Short Program
I still can’t watch this performance without tears running down my face. The emotion with which she skated, and the courage she showed, endeared her to the entire world – skating fans or not. That moment will forever be remembered as a great moment in sports, and in the power of the human spirit.

2. Evan Lysacek/Frank Carroll’s Olympic Victories
I combined these two because as thrilled as I was for Evan (and as significant as his win was to American skating), I was just as thrilled for his coach, Frank Carroll. For the lifetime he’s spent and the world-class champions he has coached,  he deserved his Olympic moment, too.

1. Michelle Kwan’s Return to American Ice, thanks to Kim’s “All That Skate LA”
It’s no secret that I’m a Kwan fan. And while some may say this choice is biased, well, it is my list! I love skating for many reasons, but one reason is the emotion it elicits from those who share in its moments. The moment Michelle stepped on to the ice at the Staples Center, I felt more emotion than I could have ever imagined. It wasn’t about the competition. It wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about the magic of pouring your heart out on the ice. And it was beautiful. Thank you, Yu-Na, for bringing Michelle home.

And there you have it!

What are your favorite moments from the past year?

Be on the look out for a new blog about the state of Figure Skating heading into 2011…what’s changed, what should change again, and what can’t be changed.

Happy New Year, and thanks for your support!

Until then…

 

News, news and more news! October 16, 2010

Oh boy, so much news to discuss, people to thank, and interesting issues to chatter about! Where do I begin? We’ve got Junior Grand Prix standings set for the final, NHK Trophy less than a week away, a new Dancing with the Stars spin off show, loads of new season programs to discuss, and one interesting bit of news that’s less about skating and more about something I tend to give “soapbox” speeches about – women and sports. I can’t possibly get it all in one post. *sigh*

I suppose, to get it off my chest, I’ll start by stepping up on my soapbox and sharing, so bear with me. Growing up with a sports fanatic father and a basketball-star mother, it would have been nearly impossible to somehow end up NOT being a sports fan. Some of my earliest baby pictures show me in a far-too-large baseball cap bearing the logo of the best team in baseball – the St. Louis Cardinals! (Okay, okay, I may be a little biased. But every good sports fan is!) Thanksgiving has always been more of an excuse to watch loads of football than even to eat tons of food, and “playoffs” have always meant non-stop ESPN, along with the endless conversations about who would step up, or who I liked even if my team didn’t make it.

I say all of that to say, I’m as much of a sports fan as the next guy. Yes, the next guy. Why am I jumping on this age-old battle again? And why here? Well, here because I can. Here, I can say what I mean and be taken at face value for what I say. The anonymity of the internet gives me the opportunity to be taken for my knowledge, my intelligence, my capabilities, rather than my appearance, my interests, or the simple fact that, yes, I am a female, and yes, I am a crazed sports fan. And why now? Because the “world-wide leader in sports” decided that they had a brilliant idea for all of us female sports nuts – an ESPN “sub-station” that’s just for women! Sounds great, right? Like ESPN is finally recognizing that there are multitudes of woman’s sports that aren’t being covered (or at least that’s their claim) and that woman watch sports differently enough that they need their own version – both online and potentially on air.

There’s the back story. Now for the soapbox. …ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! How is this not supposed to feel like a slap in the face to those of us who have worked our entire lives to “keep up” with the boys in the business? How are we supposed to feel when ESPN – the “it” network in sports media – decides that, instead of working to achieve more equality at the parent network, let’s make it easier on ourselves by separating women all together? And if that’s not enough, let’s make it REALLY obvious (not to mention lame) and call it “espnW,” because that’s original, and certainly not limiting. Nothing like slapping a bandaid on the problem instead of actually fixing it, eh?

Well, ESPN, here’s a newsflash for you – not all of us girls want our sports to be girlie-fied. We kind of like them rough and tough, or fast and sharp, or competitive and edgy, just the way they are.

In a recent post by a fellow female sports blogger (@ALeagueofHerOwn on twitter), Julie DiCaro explains perfectly why I think this is a terrible idea:

“The idea that sports need to somehow be feminized to attract women is completely off-base. Like the Jennie Finches, Julie Foudys, and Lindsay Vonns of the world, women today are the daughters of Title IX. We grew up playing sports, just like the guys, and we still love sports, just like the guys. We don’t need pink jerseys to buy sports merchandise and we don’t need espnW to cajole us into watching sports programming.”

I  may write a blog about figure skating which tends to fall in line with the “women-sanctioned sports” idea, but don’t let the music and the sparkles fool you – I can spend a Saturday watching college football with the best of ’em. I love skating for the competitiveness and the athleticism as much as the artistry and performance. I have sports apps on my phone. I talk football with the guys more easily than I talk fashion with the girls. I would choose a basketball game over a day at the spa.  And I most certainly don’t need a special network to “girl down” my October baseball. I like it just the way it is, thank you very much. It’s about time the “powers that be” recognized it.

*Deep breath*

Okay. Moving on. Let’s get back to skating, shall we?

Let’s begin with the recent announcement of a new skating show, produced by the same crew that’s made Dancing with the Stars the #1 show in America. “Skating with the Stars” will follow the course of the popular ballroom dancing show, only with, well, skaters. Skating professionals will be paired with a celebrity and the team will compete live in front of judges and the television viewer. Judging will work the same way as well – the judges give a score, and the viewers cast their own vote. Each week, a couple will be voted off, until ultimately, we have a winner!

If you’re thinking this sounds frighteningly familiar, you’re not losing your mind. FOX tried to do something similar a while back and…well, yeah. “Tried” is probably the best thing that can be said about that show. However, this kind of thing is becoming extremely popular in other countries, so it can be done.

At first, I reacted like many did – Oh boy. Here comes another reason for people to see skating as less than it really is. However, I remembered something I said in a blog a few weeks ago about US skating becoming popular prior to the Civil War dance craze, thanks to Jackson Haines (Father of Modern Figure Skating, anyone? Check the quiz from a few posts back for more!). Haines was inspired by the dance trend and incorporated what he saw into skating. At the same time, skating grew in popularity along with dance. I noted that perhaps the current dance craze would lead to another increase in skating popularity in American, and the next thing I know, SWTS is announced! Not only that, but it’s being produced by ABC and some of the executive producers and directors from DWTS, which, to me, is the best thing about this announcement. This team took ballroom dancing – something NOT popular in the US – and turned it into the biggest show on television. They know how to make it work. While I think it’s harder to get celebrities to look good on ice, I think the production value will at least be something to look forward to.

The line ups will be announced during the November 2 DWTS results show. Needless to say, I’ll be checking in on that for sure!

Since this post is getting long, I’ll keep my JGP comments brief for now. But never fear, I’ll be back soon with the extended version!

In short, congratulations to the 10 US competitors who will compete at the Final in Bejing!

The four men who made the top eight are Joshua Farris, Keegan Messing, Richard Dornbush, and Max Aaron. Four ladies will be joining them: Christina Gao, Yasmin Siraj, Kristiene Gong, and Kiri Baga. One pairs team – Ashley Cain and Josh Reagan – and one dance team – Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely – will make the trip as well.

Great work by the US juniors this season. I would, however, like to say one thing about pairs and dance: one team?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Cain/Reagan and Lichtman/Copely will be representing the US in China, but only one other dance team in the top 8 is NOT Russian. North American ice dance has been on the rise in recent years, but from the looks of this, that dominance is about to end. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, about European dancers and Japanese and Chinese pairs (well, maybe I do know what it is about Chinese pairs, but that’s a post in and of itself!), but the American teams better watch their backs or we’ll really be in trouble in those disciplines. Maybe it’s time for the USFS to invest a little bit into their athletes and their futures.

Lastly, I want to say a huge THANK YOU to the Korean skating fans who made my blog a popular visit in the past week or so. They love their skating, and they love their girl, Yu-Na Kim! You all are fabulous, and thank you for including me in your many posts and reposts of reports from All That Skate LA. You’re the best!

Next time, I’ll take a look at some of the skaters who are heading to Japan for the NHK Trophy, and break down some of the early season program debuts that have made their way to YouTube.

Skating season is upon us, friends!

P.S. – heard this week that the wonderful Terry Gannon will be joining the NBC team for TV coverage of the Grand Prix series! I always loved his insight into the sport, not to mention his quality and class as a sports broadcaster. He never intended to be a figure skating announcer, but once he was there, he took full advantage of it, and made the viewers at home – as well as the skaters themselves – know that he was the real deal. He’s actually one of my own sportscasting inspirations, so I am thrilled to welcome him back to the skating world! Welcome back, Terry – we’ve missed you!

Until then…

 

Dear NBC… October 11, 2010

Filed under: Pre-Season Chatter — Tara Wellman @ 11:25 am
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday, October 10, 2010, NBC sports aired “All that Skate LA” – a figure skating show from the Staples Center that featured three current Olympic Champions, and the return of the most decorated skater in US history – Michelle Kwan – to American ice. This show, according to all who saw it live, set new standards for how a skating show can (and should) be done. Thankfully, they aren’t the only people who had the chance to see that for themselves.

First of all, thank you, NBC, for recognizing the significance of this show and choosing to make it enough of a priority that you had a crew there in the first place. Skating on television is almost an anomaly for US skating fans these days, and I can’t tell you how important this show was to us, and, therefore, how important your broadcast of the show was as well.

Secondly, thank you for not only having a crew there, but one that was knowledgeable enough to direct the broadcast based on what viewers would want to see. All too often, skating is broadcast by people who obviously don’t know the sport, and we get an array of wide angle, “establishing”-type shots that don’t show the skater at all. Or, we’ll get close ups of faces during a footwork sequence, or close ups of feet during  a spin or a spiral sequence – none of which make viewers happy! This show, however, captured perfectly everything that I wanted to see, in great quality, and with great care and understanding. I was impressed.

Also, thank you for doing something that may seem strange to the casual viewer/listener – not having commentators to take away from the show itself! Now, coming from a broadcast background, I fully understand and appreciate the announcers for most events. Especially for a sport like figure skating, the competitive aspects may need to be explained to the viewer who isn’t a fanatic. But something like this speaks for itself, and the lack of chatter made it feel like the TV audience was a part of the live audience, as much as is possible, at least. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, a good portion of the actual event was cut out due to time constraints. Perhaps next time (after sponsors have seen how successful this show was) they will “splurge” for the extra time to show the rest of the skaters.

Also unfortunate is the fact that this show – yes, the very one that I’ve raved about thus far – wasn’t even aired in my area. What I’ve seen has been thanks to other sources and friends. What I’ve heard, however, is that this broadcast was all I’ve expressed and more. So, NBC, as wonderful a job as you did with this show, it would have been even more wonderful if many die-hard fans, as well as some casual fans who would have tuned in for this particular event, had actually been able to catch your broadcast. That, in turn, would have led to a larger audience that could help the ratings for skating in the long run. It’s tough, you know, when the complaint against airing skating is that it isn’t popular enough, yet the little bit that does make the cut isn’t even shown everywhere or in its entirety. What’s not available to be seen isn’t likely to gain popularity. Just food for thought…

Ultimately, this was a stellar show that was handled with great care. Those who saw it as it was aired were impressed, and even those who had to find other ways to see the NBC broadcast, such as myself, were still impressed! So, thank you, NBC, for recognizing the value of Yu-Na Kim, Michelle Kwan and company, and for displaying it in a way that matched the magnificence of the show itself.

I hope to see more NBC skating broadcasts handled the same way.

Sincerely,

Tara Wellman

 

Sensations of Skating – Top 5 Choreographers September 22, 2010

Two quick things: I miss Evan and Anna, and I’m tired of being sick!

Once again, I apologize for the delayed post. Seriously, this head cold has me up and down and up and down…every time I felt like writing something, just that fast I felt terrible again. I’ve got some medication now, though, so hopefully I’m on the mend. (But I didn’t say that out loud!)

As for Evan and Anna, of course I’m talking Dancing with the Stars. I’ll admit it…I’m one of THOSE people. I Love that show. I think it’s a breath of fresh air, generally speaking. Most of the time, people come on the show and it’s not overly dramatic, it’s not entirely scripted, and it’s not cut-throat and nasty. Besides, it’s ballroom. That adds a touch of class to just about anything, especially reality TV. But this season, I’m just not sure these stars are going to cut it. They certainly won’t live up to previous seasons, and there’s certainly no Evan Lysacek. Or Kristi Yamaguchi.

That said, I’m still somehow interested to see who will pull this off, although the favorites seem to be clearly set already.

What do you think? Are you watching the show? I’ve got to say, watching this show gave me a whole new appreciation and understanding of ice dance, which I’ve come to love over the last several years.

(You like that seamless transition to skating? Anyway…)

So, the Hidden Heroes post won the award for most popular blog post ever! I want to thank everyone for reading it and passing it around – that day was my biggest day at From The Boards thus far! You guys are awesome. 🙂

It’s always hard to follow something that’s so great, but here’s my attempt. We talked coaches, now let’s talk choreographers. This one was a little harder for me in some ways, but easier in other ways – namely, the fact that there are really two choreographers right now who are dominating the world of skating: David Wilson and Lori Nichol.

Time out here, just to say that the new judging system (how long do you think it will be the “new” system?) really put more pressure on coaches and choreographers, because with a more defined points system (a defined at all system!), things had to be more particular within the choreography. Initially, this seemed like a difficult transition, and in my opinion, choreography suffered. However, now that the system has been worked over and skaters, coaches and choreographers are all accustomed to the new demands, artistry is working its way back into elite competition, thanks in part to choreographers like Nichol and Wilson who seem to have it down to a science.

However, they’re not the only magicians on the scene. And this season, we’re seeing some new faces who have made the jump from competitor to choreographer and I’m thrilled to see what they bring to the ice.

So, without further ado, my top 5 choreographers in skating today.

5. Jeff Buttle and Stephane Lambiel

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that #5 is actually two people. But here’s the deal – these two have just recently begun to choreograph for some top tier skaters, and I’m beyond excited about it. Buttle has worked with Yu-Na Kim and Jeremy Ten, among others, and Stephane has choreographed Diasuke Takahashi’s new short program for this season. What’s so exciting to me about these two is that they both understand what makes up a great program – highs and lows, transitions that actually make sense with the music and the story you’re telling. They are truly “Skaters’ skaters” and I think they will translate that into their choreography very well.

4. Nikolai Morosov

I have a feeling this might be a controversial choice because most of what Morosov is known for is simply footwork sequences. And that is true. But, post 2002 he was all the rage. It was like if you weren’t getting choreography from Nikolai, you were simply at a lesser level. Morosov works as a coach as well, but his step sequences put him on the map – as well as putting a few other skaters there as well. He worked with U.S. stars such as Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan, the Chinese pairs team of Pang and Tong, and of course his world champion in Miki Ando. I feel like his effectiveness in the system has worn off in recent years, but his impact is still felt by the structure and complexity of step sequences these days.

3. Tom Dickson

Clearly, this man’s choreography skills are worthy of mentioning. He’s been the USFSA’s choreographer of the year four times, most recently in 2006. He’s worked with Jeremy Abbott, Rachael Flatt, Yu-Na Kim, Brandon Mroz, and Caroline Zhang. He’s one who can work the system, but also work with the skater to get the best out of them. And as great as he is, in the last four years, he’s been a tad over shadowed by the top two.

2. David Wilson

This was tough. Splitting these top two is like splitting hairs. In fact, I had it the other way around, but then decided to change it. I’ll do my best to explain why. David Wilson is magic on ice. The way he translates and idea to reality is mind boggling. He gets skaters to take hold of an idea and make it their own. He transforms them every time he gets to work on something new, and he never seems to run out of ideas. The list of athletes he’s worked with is remarkable: Jeremy Abbott, Miki Ando, Jeff Buttle, Sasha Cohen, Alissa Czisny, Denney and Barrett, Dube and Davison, Dubreuil and Lauzon, Christina Gao, Emily Hughes, Midori Ito, Brian Joubert, Yu-Na Kim, Adam Rippon, Joannie Rochette, Johnny Weir…to name a few. He just gets it. How to move, how to perform, how to incorporate technique…he gets it. And the best part is, he makes sure his skaters get it, too.

1. Lori Nichol

Ultimately, my number one spot had to go to Lori Nichol. David Wilson may get there in my book, but for now, so many iconic programs belong to Lori. Think Michelle Kwan (most of her career!) and “Lyra Angelica” or the Rachmaninoff short program from the Olympics (1998 and 2002). Think Shen and Zhao’s “Meditation” from the 2006-2007 season, or their Olympic short to “Who Wants to Live Forever.” Think Patrick Chan’s “Phantom” or Evan Lysacek’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” There are so many moments in skating that have made lasting memories that all start with the imagination of Lori Nichol. She’s now creating similar moments for Yu-Na Kim and Mirai Nagasu, as well as Chan and Abbott, among others. Because she’s had the same longevity as some of the skaters she’s worked with, and she’s still at the top of her game…still at the top of her sport. And I’m not the only one to notice. There was a fabulous article a while back about how she works and how she creates programs for each skater…you should probably check it out.

Now, I know there are so many others – Lea Ann Miller, Sandra Bezic, Kurt Browning, and on and on and on. But as with the coaches, I tried to key in on those who are making the biggest mark right now in skating. That said, feel free to disagree! I’d love to know what you think about the who’s who in choreography today as well.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter for all kinds of tid bits there: twitter.com/fromtheboards