Sunday, 25 January 2015

Canadian & U.S. Nationals: The Good, The Bad And The #NoSheBetterDont


This autumn, I spent hours upon hours recapping all six ISU Grand Prix competitions and the Grand Prix Final in detail. Here's the thing. Agonizing over Suzie Salchow's take-off edge on her flip and the level of her spin combination really isn't my bag any more than jamming my hand in a car door is. I wanted to enjoy the competitions for the rest of the season rather than extrapolate the results to death but still wanted to represent all the major competitions with content on the blog as well. After all, whether I'm a big fan of the IJS system or not, there's some spectacular skating going on that I'd be absolutely negligent as a blogger by not talking about... so I decided to come up with a new format for covering events this season. It's The Good, The Bad And The #NoSheBetterDont. Get ready for a Skate Guard not so in depth look at the 2015 Prudential Figure Skating Championships and 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, held respectively in Greensboro, North Carolina and Kingston, Ontario:


DAILYMOTION COVERAGE: As Martha Stewart would say... "it's a GOOD thing". Skate Canada had the right idea by streaming the novice and junior events (and the early flights of seniors) in their entirety free of charge on DailyMotion. The level headed, intelligent commentary and generous coverage on CTV, TSN, RDS and RDS2 of the senior events was as always a treat. Offering freebies to fans is the way to grow skating's audience and I gotta say, Canada's on the right track in this respect.

A RUDY GALINDO MOMENT: Remember Rudy's once in a lifetime winning free skate at the 1996 U.S. Figure Skating Championships? Adam Rippon had that kind of a moment today, winning the free skate and the silver medal in Greensboro with the skate of HIS LIFE! This was the former U.S. Junior Champion's seventh appearance on the senior level at U.S. Nationals and with a clean free skate that not only showcased his elegant artistry but spectacular jumps including a quad lutz (underrotated slightly but landed), two triple axels and a triple/triple combination AND triple/triple sequence (triple flip/half loop/triple salchow) he was simply on fire. Jason Brown might have won the overall title in Greensboro with a spectacular and truly special performance of his own, but unlike Jason's win Adam's result this year wasn't something I would have ever predicted. This medal win was just so deserved for a skater who has struggled to have that breakout moment since winning the Four Continents title in 2010. A standing ovation all the way from Halifax!


YOU'VE BEEN SERVED, ASHLEY WAGNER STYLE: When the going got tough, Ashley got going... and she did it in the most brilliant way at the U.S. Championships. Winning her third national title with a score of 221.02 after finishing off the podium last season, she upped her technical ante by adding two triple lutzes (one in combination with a triple toe) to her free skate repertoire as well as a triple loop/half loop/triple salchow combination. She showed up in North Carolina with two highly stylized, packaged programs that set her well ahead of the pack in terms of artistry and maturity and delivered both with confidence and passion. The competition was fierce and many of her competitors laid down stellar free skates, but she persevered and succeeded in her goals and I couldn't be happier for her. 

 
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LUCKY NUMBER FOUR: In numerology, the number four often refers to strength, stability and discipline and those are certainly qualities that relate to perhaps the most dangerous discipline in skating: pairs. The number four consistently popped up throughout both of the pairs competitions this weekend. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their fourth Canadian title in epic fashion with a new Canadian record. In doing so, they performed the first four revolution throw EVER at the Canadian Championships: a gorgeous quad salchow. Earlier that day, Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim had won their first U.S. pairs title with - you guessed it - a throw quadruple twist making them the first American team to accomplish that feat! One thing both pairs events had in common were a really impressive, high level of performance among the top tier of teams. 


A VERY SPICY NAMNAMNOODLE: Okay, can I just say something? This guy is amazing! He goes through his free skate without breaking a sweat, not only landing a quad salchow and two triple axels with absolute ease but also giving a very commendable and clever interpretation of the music along the way. Although his Grand Prix season was very successful, I don't think the judges quite grasped the level this kid is skating on. With a pre-novice, novice, junior and now senior Canadian men's title to his credit (making him the second youngest Canadian men's champion in history), the world is Nam Nguyen's oyster and mark my words, this kid will be on the world podium sooner than you think. 


THE THREE J'S: It was wonderful to see Jason Brown, Josh Farris and Jeremy Abbott top the leaderboard in the men's short program at U.S. Nationals. I think it's fair to say that each of them has their own distinct styles but they have all contributed some great art to skating and their performances on Friday were all excellent in their own rights. In the press conference following the short program, Jeremy summed it up best in a wonderful statement about this when he said "I am so happy to be sitting here with these two men. I think we all made a nice, strong statement than skating can be an art as well as a sport... I think attention needs to be paid to detail and I think we are doing that and that's very important... Figure skating is a craft and the craft can sometimes be a little overlooked.... It's important to do the tricks but it's also important to not lose was figure skating was and is and what it could be. I think it's very important to study the history and the craft of figure skating and to not sacrifice yourself or your goals for one element." Jason echoed the importance "never losing the artistry in the sport and to always be musical and to be an overall performer and skater". The depth in U.S. men's skating is crazy but it was wonderful to see them all not only have a great night technically but really make a statement about packaging good choreography with the elements to create actual programs that didn't make you feel like you were checking off boxes.



THE GREAT NORTH AMERICAN PARTNER SWAP: In 1994, reigning U.S. Champions Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval returned to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the wake of TonyaGate with new partners. It didn't fare so well but it made for great TV, as did the whole Pasha/Sasha/Evgeny/Maya switcharoo at the 1998 World Professional Championships. In an age where skating is highly criticized for lacking in engaging personal stories, at BOTH the Canadian and U.S. Championships we saw former National Champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch arrive with new partners Mervin Tran, Dee Dee Leng, Michael Marinaro and Lubov Iliushechkina. I think it's fair to say that at least three of these teams had underwhelming fall seasons and the results expected from them probably weren't as impressive as the ones they achieved and good on them! Skating's no stranger to good old fashioned high drama and this was the best possible kind. Although both new Canadian teams fared better than their American counterpoints, this is the kind of story that we'll all remember whoever our favourites are.



EIGHTH TIME'S A CHARM: After much waiting and winning a silver or bronze medal in each of their seven previous attempts, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finally won Canada's national title in Kingston, and they did it with impeccable style. Although Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier certainly skated excellently in both the short and free dances, Weaver and Poje were the class of the field and won the event with a score of 187.88, over ten points ahead of the silver medallists. Their performance of their free dance to Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" by Shae-Lynn Bourne was arguably their best yet and seems a forerunner of great things to come at the 2015 World Championships in Shanghai. Yet another reminder that 'sticktoitiveness' pays off in the long run.


CANADIAN LADIES SKATING BOOM: Although none of these ladies were perfect in the sum of their performances in Kingston, the days of Canadian ladies skaters with their eyes down for the entire program, flutzing and popping jumps are long gone. They actually were a long time ago, but some people just can't to seem to get that through their noggins. The quality of the free skates of Gabby Daleman, Alaine Chartrand and Véronik Mallet was spectacular actually this year and all three of these skaters made some pretty telling statements about what we can come to expect from them at the Four Continents or World Championships. The times, they are a'changin'... 


ELLADJ BALDE UNRAVELS: This poor guy just can't catch a break can he? Injury, success, injury... Issues on both his quad attempt and jump combination in the short program left this gold medal contender all the way down in seventh place heading into the men's free skate at the Canadian Championships, but not so far out of it points wise (about fifteen points) he couldn't have rallied and perhaps medalled if he came out and skated to his potential with a killer free skate. Unfortunately, that didn't happen either and he ended up finishing out the competition in sixth place with a miss on his quad toe and a really hard fall on a triple axel in his free skate. Not the Nationals this talented skater wanted but I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of him.

U.S. ICE DANCE JUDGING: At this point, I'm pretty much convinced that Maia and Alex Shibutani could throw in twenty more sets of clean twizzles and they'd still be in second. I'm not dogging the talent and high performance level of Madison Chock and Evan Bates one bit, but as I've said before, it's contrived and it's not my cup of tea. I'm not all up in arms about the result or anything, but I just find with U.S. ice dance right now I feel like I didn't even need to watch the event whatsoever to tell you how it was going to go... down to the numbers pretty much. It's just getting really predictable and not in a good way.



MIRAI NAGASU AND THE BOARDS: Speaking of people who can't catch a break, the 2008 U.S. Champion who famously was left off the U.S. Olympic team last season after winning the bronze medal at Nationals, started off very strongly in her free skate at the U.S. Nationals with a triple/triple/double and double axel/double toe combination and then proceeded to have a fluke fall when she clipped the boards on a back crossover. Clearly in pain, she mustered the energy to get the job done but things unravelled a bit afterwards, dropping to tenth overall. She came off the ice in pain and got sent right back to center ice to do her bows, which to me was just no. The girl was clearly in pain. You don't do that. The doctor who examined her post skate said that "one month prior to the event, Mirai Nagasu had an MRI on her left knee, which showed a cartilage contusion. Tonight, when she fell, she hyperextended the same knee and bruised the cartilage again. The clinical impression ..., following a bedside examination and ultrasound, is that there was no ligament tear or more serious cartilage damage." I will say this though. A lot of people would have thrown in the towel after last season, but her determination to soldier on and actually really improve speaks volumes about her character. 


KEVIN REYNOLDS WITHDRAWS: With his signature wild and fabulous hair, Kevin Reynolds was on paper the skater to beat in the men's event in Kingston. With Patrick Chan not competing, he was the highest ranked returning men's skater but that said, he was also coming into the event as the hard luck kid who has had more boot problems than some of the drag queens I know who insist they're a size 9. Unfortunately, in his short program, he fell on all three of his jumping passes (two quads and a triple axel) and found himself in twelfth place and distraught by his placement, he withdrew. I'm not one to advocate quitting when the going gets tough, but not being him, we don't know his reasons. I think we're all entitled to walking away when we just can't or taking that mental health day once or twice in our lives and I wish him the best in the future!


NO KAETLYN OSMONDStill recovering from a fractured fibula in her right leg in September that caused her to miss plenty of precious practice time this fall, I think Kaetlyn made the right decision not to participate in Nationals if she wasn't rehabilitated to a level where she was ready to. Her absence was definitely felt though and with the strides that Canada's top ladies made this season I would have loved to have seen a showdown between Kaetlyn, Gabby and Alaine. That'll have to be next year!


ICE DANCE SNUB: In pulling off a surprise fourth place finish at Skate America in the fall, Élisabeth Paradis and François-Xavier Ouellette obviously made a strong impression on the international judges with their gorgeous free dance set to "Un peu plus haut" by Jean-Pierre Ferland. That's why when they performed the same free dance even better in Kingston Saturday night and dropped from fourth to fifth I was like SAY WHAT? Interestingly enough, the team that beat both them and Paul and Islam in the free dance was Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams. They're obviously a very talented team as well, but a noticeable bobble in their footwork and a rather meh interpretation of "Titanic" kind of left me wondering what all that was really about. I may not be an ice dance expert, but I know that if I'm sitting in a room watching skating with two people who NEVER watch the sport and also thought this team kind of got screwed, something doesn't sit right with me. As knowledgeable as Tracy Wilson is and as excited as I get when she's in the commentary booth, her vague explanation of "technical skill" didn't give me any more confidence or further understanding of why the free dance result was what it was. As always, it's buried in the numbers somewhere.


CHASE BELMONTES' PCS DRAMA: You all remember the hilarious interview I did with Chase, right? It was a time! Social media was abuzz when Chase skated his short program in the junior men's event on Wednesday in Greensboro, landed all three of his jumping passes (triple flip/triple toe, triple lutz and double axel) and ended up with a PCS score of 23.89 that coupled with his TES score saw him sitting in tenth place in that part of the competition. The very musical skater's second mark didn't add up with what went down on the ice (especially as compared to at least four of his competitors) and left many calling foul... justifiably so in my opinion. What gives, judges?

JOHNNY AND TARA'S COMMENTARY: I tried. I really did. I've bitten my lip on this topic so hard it's about turn black and blue but Johnny and Tara just don't do it for me whatsoever. Terry Gannon's longevity in the color commentary field and contribution to skating deserves a good old fashioned hats off but I'm more interested in insightful and intelligent commentary than fashion critiques. I get NBC's rationale from a marketing standpoint - I absolutely do - but they're no Peggy and Dick and I say ick. 

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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Saying Goodbye To Toller


"There was a very rich, creative cultural period in skating in the seventies, a very thoroughbred, Arabian stallion approach. John Curry would have aspired to the same level. It was all deliberate in retrospect, a facade that was affected and cultivated, but there was something rather imperious about us. 'Don't even look at us the wrong way, we're intelligent, we're untouchable, we're gods, we're artists.'  Janet Lynn, a great skater, the kind that comes along once in a century, but completely forgotten now, certainly in America, had exquisite programs. Her coach told me she wanted Janet's opening to reflect the attitudes she discovered on ancient Greek vases in the Metropolitan Museum. If you were going to tell a skater today, 'Now, for your opening, take this motif from a Greek vase...' they'd think you were out of your fucking mind. They're not into it. It doesn't exist. They don't want to be artistic, interesting, bizarre or be whoever the top ballet stars are." - Toller Cranston



I never met Toller Cranston yet the news of his death of an apparent heart attack today in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico hit me like a ton of bricks... so much so it took me reading a good twenty to thirty sources before I finally accepted that this wasn't some sort of sick social media death hoax. This just couldn't have happened.

Toller inspired me deeply, beyond words in fact, and I never got to tell him. I started skating when I was twelve or thirteen at the very bottom in a Canskate class with kids half my age. It was humiliating. I was a flamboyant and gay young teenager in a small village (not even a town!) who knew how to interpret music with my arms long before I learned the basics of good skating skills let alone footwork but I stuck with it and achieved my goals, winning the Nova Scotia provincial artistic title in 2000. What motivated me? I wanted to skate like the professional skaters in the nineties that were all over television. I wanted to skate like Toller and honestly, I didn't give two flying fucks about jumping. I still don't.

The first time I saw Toller skate I was stopped in my tracks. You couldn't define the way he moved with words; he was an enigma and a visionary and he understood music on such a deep level that comparing him with others was simply an impossible task. Like John Curry, he used his impressive amateur career that included six Canadian titles and World and Olympic medals as an intelligent means to an end. The work he did as a professional not only in touring with Stars On Ice but in professional competitions, shows and his incredible TV specials Strawberry Ice and The True Gift Of Christmas were light years ahead of their time. They still are TODAY! Joni Mitchell once said of Toller's special quality "like 'Both Sides Now' did to the man who was inspired to do the movie Love Actually, Toller Cranston did that to me in his Olympic skate. It's inexplicable how a gesture can do it or how a painting can do it. It's not a sad painting. There's nothing to make you cry. Why does it make you cry?"


He dared to be different and HIMSELF and influenced generations of skaters after him, including myself, to use the ice like a canvas to express your individuality and sense of self with such pride in your art. They way he skated, painted, wrote and spoke was the epitome of the old "dance like nobody's watching" and in that sense I think every one of us could learn a lot from his life. He was never afraid to speak his mind or be himself.


Toller gave Shawn Sawyer his television debut as a young skater from right here in the Maritimes in the nineties. When I interviewed him in 2013, I asked him about their special connection and he said "As Toller said, he discovered me but as a young skater I had no clue who he was so in a way we discovered each other! We did not spend much time together prior, during and after the show but we connected on such a level that whether we spend time together or not it would not change our strange relationship. I say strange because after the show everyone pointed out our resemblance and decided he was my real father. I was OK with that! I have learned a lot from the few words that he carefully mentioned to me... but those are secret!"


I spoke to several other wonderful skating people about Toller's impact to artistic skating in a piece I wrote called The Firebird: Deconstructing A Toller Cranston Magnum Opus and several others... and the impact he made just resonated. Choreographer Douglas Webster said "Toller's exhuberant personality and grandiose flair was (and is still) so full of life and joy for the moment....the ability to say in one fabulous position... here I am; my heart, my soul, my being is filled right now and I'm going to share it with you. That is always relevant to being who you are and saying it without abandon.  There is true joy in that." CBC Commentator and author P.J. Kwong told me "when I was a young skater, I remember watching Toller Cranston with a high degree of fascination. Like some kind of rare and colourful bird it was impossible to not watch and be completely enthralled. Toller’s Firebird was the perfect expression of this iconic music and beautifully costumed to boot. He definitely put the ‘Fire’ in Firebird." The Next Ice Age's Nathan Birch said "what makes Toller such an incredible improviser is that he knows his music intimately down to every note, beat, and intonation. This fact allows his freedom to reign unabashed and perfectly imperfect, in a way we all wish we could experience abandon. He remains a great inspiration to every artist of the ice or any medium."


From the appreciation of his art to the hilarious, Toller stories poured in in interview after interview. On working with Toller on Strawberry Ice, choreographer Sarah Kawahara told me "he created with brush strokes heavy with color and texture as are his paintings. He was very driven by music, although the story always came first. Toller has a wonderful sense of humor and loves the absurd. I'll never forget when he wanted to have synchronized swimmers as shrimp in the tomato soup at the Christmas banquet in "A True Gift Of Christmas". It was an out of body experience for Jojo Starbuck and I to be poinsettia flowers with our heads as portions of the stamen and our arms, the petals." Perhaps my favourite is Angelo D'Agostino's remembrance of Toller: "I saw him skate in Chicago when I was a young boy. He was so outrageous. I knew I was seeing something unique. No male skater had ever skated like that before. Completely theatrical and over the top. The crowd went wild. Years later, when I was actually performing in a show with him I knew I had finally made my way in skating. I'll never forget he said to me as we made our way down the dark corridor to back stage 'Is there anything blacker than black velvet?' So dark... just like Toller at times and I love it!" I could go on and on and maybe someday I will... but I think with his art, APPROACH to art and personality, this man was special - like visionary special - and I don't know if he ever knew just how fabulous he was.


I do know one thing. If I ever would have had the meet or chance to interview him - and that was one of my dreams - I would have asked him what he thought the meaning of life was... and I would have followed his advice to the letter. Goodbye Toller and thank you for bringing artistry, creativity and beauty to figure skating. In my eyes, frankincense, gold and myrrh pale in comparison to that true gift.

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

George Alfred Meagher: Champion Figure Skater And Hockey Pioneer


Fittingly born December 6, 1866 in Kingston, Ontario (the site of this week's 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships), George Alfred Meagher was the youngest of fifteen (yes, fifteen!) siblings. His father was a second generation Irish immigrant to Canada and worked as a wine merchant with two of his brothers. Growing up in a large family, it's no wonder that the Meagher siblings all spent a lot of time together... and it was on the ice that much of that time was spent. Several of the Meagher boys developed interests in both figure skating and hockey and took to Lake Ontario and other rinks in the Kingston area to practice their new hobbies. Although George's older brother Daniel played in the first hockey game ever held in Montreal on March 3, 1875, it would be George's contributions to both figure skating and hockey that would be more widely remembered by historians.

In 1891, Meagher won an international open competition held in Ottawa that was billed as a World Championship but not recognized officially as the ISU had of course not yet been formed. Several of these 'World Championship' type events were held sporadically in different parts of the world and would today probably be more akin to some of the 'senior B' type international events that pop up all over the world every autumn. Meagher's biggest rival was his fellow countryman Louis Rubenstein, who refused to compete against him at this event. In the preface to Meagher's 1900 book, Lord Minto recounted his acquaintance with Meagher: "He was... well known as a good and graceful skater, and held that rank at Montreal by those who were certainly qualified to be critics. He was, if I recollect rightly, at that time skating on the public rinks and afterwards at Governnment House, Ottawa, and was always most kind, not only in giving a display of his own powers, but also in instructing those who were novices in the art of which he is a master." It was Lord Minto himself who presented Meagher with his 1891 medal and who noted of "since the year 1891, Mr. Meagher has received many trophies from various skating clubs in America, and also, I believe, from similar clubs in Europe."

After his title win, Meagher decided (much like Jackson Haines) to make the trek to Europe to give exhibitions of his 'fancy figure skating'. When he arrived in Paris, France in 1894 to give figure skating exhibitions he learned that the people of France had no sweet clue what hockey was. Meagher joined Club de Cercle de Patineurs de Paris and stayed in Paris for seven months, during which time he taught the Frenchmen hockey and put together a hockey league that played four times a week. He did all of this with only a handful of hockey sticks he'd brought with him from Canada... which almost reminds me of that Canadian Heritage Moment commercial about basketball where Miss Thing's like "but we need these baskets back!" I digress.

From France, Meagher traveled to London. He skated for the Duke and Duchess of Teck, Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, The Princess Louise presented Meagher with a medal at this special party. Again pairing his love of skating with his pioneering efforts in bringing hockey to Europe, he made a hop, skip and a jump to Scotland where he taught the good folks of Glasgow how to play hockey as well. Like The Littlest Hobo, he didn't settle down in Great Britain either.


Having now seen London and France, one might suspect the next thing he'd see were someone's underpants. We don't if he did or didn't, but any rate the next place he went was Germany, and I'm sure they had plenty of beer there so you really can't complain, right? He made stops in Nuremburg and Bavaria then carried on to St. Petersburg, Russia. On each stop he continued to almost act like a missionary of hockey but also made quite an expression with his skating as well. His tour of Europe ended in 1896 and he returned to North America on the ship 'Aurenia' in the autumn of that year. The Aurenia landed in New York so... you guessed it, Meagher decided to get out on the ice there too! A December 13, 1896 article in the Brooklyn Eagle reports that "he learned to skate when a child.  As he became more expert he added more tricks and originated others until he gained the undisputed title of champion of the world in his profession. His repertoire of steps, tricks and figures is now a long one.  Among other things he can do twenty-three different grapevines, fourteen spins and seventy-four figure eights, and over one hundred anvils on foot without stopping. Stars, flowers, letters, birds, etc., without number and tricks at jumping, fill out his programme. He does all these things with a grace and suppleness which leave the novice little idea of the real intricacy and difficulty of the figures and the risks he takes in his jumps. The latter require great strength of the legs and ankles and if he did not land squarely on the edge of the runner and stay there after a jump, broken bones would probably follow. Meagher is proficient in the different styles which mark the nationalities of the 
European skaters. He is the author of 'Figure and Fancy Skating' which was published in London and for which the Earl of Derby, now the mayor of Liverpool, wrote the introduction. The book is illustrated with sketches by Lord Archibald Campbell, brother of the Marquis of Lorne, and has a chapter by Dr. Montague Williams, the author of the English book on skating. Algernon Grosvenor, president of the London Skating club, furnished 195 diagrams and the work is an authority of its kind. Meagher is also the inventor of a skating and athletic shoe." I'm sorry, I had to stop right there after reading that quote. Could there BE anymore parallel's to Jackson Haines' story? Seriously though!

In fact, Meagher didn't write just one book about ice skating but in fact penned three. In addition to his 1895 book "Fancy And Figure Skating", he also penned the earlier mentioned "Lessons In Skating With Suggestions Respecting Hockey, Its Laws, Etc." in 1900 and in 1919, "A Guide To Artistic Skating". He made frequent short trips overseas in the subsequent years, heading to Austria in 1898 and reportedly winning 'the World Professional Championship' in Vienna, in 1898. Sadly, much like the amateur 'World Championship' Meagher won, that title wouldn't be historically always recognized. In the article "Professional Figure Skating Competitions: What You Didn't Know", we learned that the first accepted date for a World Professional Competition was in 1931 in Great Britain. Meagher also co-founded the Minto Skating Club and skated with Lady Minto, was one of the earliest references to the crossfoot spin I could find (1900) and invented many of his own special figures, among them The Rattlesnake, The Combined Locomotive, The Demon Eight and The Sea-Gull. His figures often represented a less rigid approach to the English Style of figures skated by more than one person.

Having introduced hockey to much of Europe and having quite the successful figure skating career, Meagher got involved in the organization of hockey tournaments, even traveling to Belgium in 1906 to run a hockey tournament there. He also skated professionally in shows, learned barrel jumping and even performed before Queen Victoria. Remember HER royal skating mishap? Much like many artistic people, he didn't stop there and was ready to perfect yet another artistic outlet. He took up watercolor painting and became quite the successful art dealer, married Irene Erly and together they had six children, five of them girls. The family settled in Toronto and then Montreal. In 1930, Meagher suffered a fatal bout of pneumonia and passed away. He was posthumously inducted into Skate Canada's Hall Of Fame in 2010. Whether you're a hockey fan or a figure skating fan or both, one thing's for certain... both sports owe this man a great debt for the time and effort he took to get out there and share his passion.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Interview With Liam Firus


It's Nationals Week in both Canada and the U.S. so after Sunday's interview with Courtney Hicks who'll be vying for a medal this week in Greensboro, it would be only fair to share a brand new interview with one of the medal contenders at this year's Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Kingston, Ontario. The reigning senior men's bronze medallist in Canada, Liam Firus is also a former Canadian junior champion and represented our country in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics! An athletic skater with an understated elegance about his performances, Firus is B.C. born and raised but is currently training in Colorado Springs. He'll take to the ice to try to defend his national podium finish this Friday and Saturday at the Rogers K-Rock Centre, but before he does he wants you to know a bit more about him! In this interview we talked about how he started skating, what makes him homesick for the West Coast, his favourite songs and much more. You'll love it!:

Q: You have accomplished things in your career so far that most skaters only dream of - a trip to the Olympic Games last year, a bronze medal at last year's Canadian Championships, junior AND senior international competition assignments as well as of course the Canadian junior men's title you won in 2010. Looking back on your accomplishments so far, what moments or memories stand out as both the most special and the most challenging?

A: I've been so lucky to represent Canada at many international competitions. Last year's Canadian Championships will always be special for me. I skated great and I qualified for the Olympic team! Immediately after that was definitely my most challenging moment in skating was when I skated my short program in Sochi.


Q: Why did you start skating and was it something you knew you wanted to do right from the very beginning?

A: I started skating originally to play hockey. My Mom loved figure skating and thought it would help my speed and skating skills out so she signed me up. I wasn't a big fan of it at first but it slowly grew on me. I finished last at my first competition and I was back at my training rink the same day to make sure that never happened again.

Q: You're from B.C. but have been training in Colorado Springs with Christy Krall, Damon Allen and Erik Schulz. Was that a difficult transition to make? What makes you homesick for Vancouver?

A: I was born and raised in Vancouver. Moving to Colorado was very hard, but it has been worth every minute. My team of coaches here is amazing and I'm provided with everything I need to succeed as best I can. At first I really missed my family and friends but now I miss the ocean and all of the fresh seafood!


Q: What do you see as your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a skater and how are you working hard to improve any weaknesses?

A: I believe the strength in my skating is my power and skating skills within each program. My weakness is the consistency of my triple axel, It has been a struggle for me but I'm always working on it. I have made progress with making it more consistent.

Q: If you'd have never taken up skating, what other passion would you have pursued?

A: I played soccer at a high level until I was fifteen. If I was not a skater, I would have kept on with that hoping to eventually play as a pro.

Q: What are your main goals right now - both on and off the ice?

A: My main goals for skating this season are to be on the podium at Nationals and to compete at the Four Continents and World Championships. Off the ice, I want to keep working towards the completion of a finance degree and to travel more!

Q: Your younger brother Shane is a competitive ice dancer with his partner Lauren Collins and I understand he also used to skate singles. Were you or are you competitive with each other or has skating brought you closer together do you think?

A: Shane and I are very close. When he was competing in singles we never competed against each other, but during practice we always pushed for the better. Skating has kept us close because we can relate to each other when we're having our ups and downs. He has the opportunity to make it onto the podium this week and I am really hoping he does.


Q: What are the three most played songs on your playlist?

A: "Business" by Eminem, "Firestone" by Kygo and "The Dreamer" (Samuraii edit) by The Tallest Man On Earth.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?

A: I have two. Stephane Lambiel is my all time favourite skater. He has the whole package and is always exciting and fun to watch. Daisuke Takahashi because he is another skater that keeps you on the edge of your seat while he skates.

Q: What's the biggest lesson that figure skating has taught you?

A: Skating has taught me so much but it has really taught me to be patient. The best things in life don't come easy or fast.

Didn't you just LOVE this interview with Liam? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret.

Monday, 19 January 2015

That's All Yolks!: An Eggseptional Skating Story


Every so often in my "digging" (which I affectionately have come to call it) I come across an anecdote so short and sweet that it probably really doesn't warrant me shelling out a blog of it's very own, but this one was simply so eggs-cellent that I had to get cracking right away!

"Ballou's Monthly Magazine" (Volume 13) which covered international stories of interest between January and June of 1861 told a devvilishly good story that seems so far fetched it just might leave your head a little scrambled. The story goes that "a singular wager was won recently by a skater on the Lake of Geronsart, near Namur, Belgium. He betted that he would skate for an hour, wearing a basket of eggs on his head without breaking one of them. He accomplished it in first-rate style, having during the hour written his name in elaborate characters on the ice, besides tracing an immense variety of complicated figures, and at last set down the basket and received his wager, amid the cheers of all present." This story is retold in several newspapers of the era and although the name seems to be poached from every headline, "The Freeman's Journal From Dublin" states that the date of this feat's achievement was January 19, 1861.

All I know is this... anyone that can carve their name in the ice deserves a hats off as far as I'm concerned. If they do it with their breakfast on their head while eggstending their free leg - for an hour no less - I'm pretty sure they're incredible! Move over triple axel, the skaters of today can eggspect a new challenge from an unnamed Belgian skater from yesteryear... we'll call him Eggs Benny!

Enjoy a little yolking for a change? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Interview With Courtney Hicks


To me, there's something really special about Courtney Hicks' skating. She's a powerhouse of a jumper and if you look at her performances on the Grand Prix this season (fourth place finishes at both Skate Canada in Kelowna and Trophée Éric Bompard in Bordeaux) you definitely see a skater with a renewed fire to succeed this season and a lot of marked improvement going on in terms of the way she's presenting herself as a skater. It was an absolute pleasure to have chance to speak with her about the growth in her skating this year, her goals going into this week's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina and much more in this interview you're going to just love:

Q: The accomplishments you've had so far in your skating career have been fantastic - wins at international competitions like the U.S. International Classic and Ice Challenge, top five finishes at the Junior World Championships and Four Continents Championships, the U.S. Junior title in 2011 and most recently, two fourth place finishes at your first senior Grand Prix events. I'm sorry, but that's fantastic! Reflecting on what you've accomplished so far, what are your proudest moments and most special memories?

A: I'd have to say the most special memory for me was my pewter medal in Omaha at the U.S. Championships. I’d come back from an injury and that was my first time competing at Nationals since I’d won the junior title, and it was just so gratifying to see all of my hard work and struggle over the year finally pay off. Another moment that I'm extremely proud of is my short program in Salt Lake City earlier this year. I’d struggled with my attitude going into the short a lot in the previous season, and Salt Lake City was such a huge change in my mentality. I feel like that was really a pivot point in how I approach short programs now.

Q: How do you think you've changed and grown the most as a skater this season?

A: I have really decided exactly how I want to portray myself to the audience and judges. In the past I've always thought of it as ‘perform this character’, and I've realized that it's about much more than just the character that's being portrayed. Even though I'm still working on it, I'm figuring out how to inject my own emotions and performance into whatever I'm skating to and how to truly perform for an audience, and not just for myself.


Q: That said, looking towards the U.S. Championships in Greensboro and beyond, what are your main goals and focuses in training right now?

A: I am really focusing on consistency and staying healthy. I'm also really trying to push my performance in all of my run-throughs. I know that I can do the jumps, so it’s nice to be able to take time to focus on the performance and presentation aspects of my skating.

Q: If you were throwing a party, what would be on the menu, what kind of music would be playing and what would the dress code be?

A: I think I’d go with blintzi and cheeses. I love blintzi and I don’t get it very often so that’d be a must! There would definitely need to be a coffee machine, too. For the music I’d have a mix of a ton of different styles. I love K-pop, Country, some Russian pop and alternative... so really anything would be fine. The dress code would definitely be on the dressier side, too. Since I pretty much always wear workout clothes, its fun to dress up every once in a while.


Q: You've skated to a lot of music over the past few years with a Russian theme - Korobushka, the Russian Sailor' Dance, Dark Eyes and your free skate this year is set to Anna Karenina. Has your Russian heritage played a role in your music choices?

A: I don't know if my heritage has played a role so much as the fact that I just tend to enjoy that style of music. I have always loved Russian folk music; I think definitely fun to skate to and it sounds so happy most of the time. I also love the intensity that Russian music often portrays. I like that it can be soft and pretty but still have a certain strength behind it.

Q: Your current coaches are Jere Michael and Alex Chang but you've also worked with Ken Congemi and the legendary John Nicks in the past. What have your coaches taught you that has brought out something different and special in your skating?

A: I've been really fortunate to have coaches that have helped me do what I do to the best of my abilities. I'm a very powerful and strong skater, and they've recognized that and have helped me show my strengths in the best way. I feel like my coaches have all worked on bringing out my power and speed and helping me make it beautiful. They never tried to mold me into something I'm not. I'm one of the few skaters that have all the jumps without any edge calls or underrotations, and they've always focused on highlighting my elements. My coaches have always helped me fine tune my skating in a way that was uniquely me, without trying to copy or skate like anyone else.

Courtney's exhibition program from the 2013 Graz Ice Challenge with an introduction by 1972 Olympic Gold Medallist Trixi Schuba

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: Most people don't know that I absolutely love world history and geography. I've always enjoyed history and it's pretty much always been my best subject in school. I also think it’s really cool to be able to go back and see things that have happened in the past and see how the event has directly and indirectly influenced things that happened in the future.

Q: Who are your three favourite figure skaters of all time and why?

A: My favourite has always been Michelle Kwan. I love the way she connects to the audience and gives everything she’s got while she's on the ice. Another favourite of mine is Yuna Kim. I admire her speed and attack on the ice, and her jumps are breathtaking. My third would have to be Alexei Yagudin. I've always loved his footwork and speed and his programs are always so fun to watch!

Q: In your opinion, what are the most important things in life?

A: I definitely think having a really solid base of family and friends is extremely important. To have a network of support around while you’re growing up and when you’re trying to achieve things makes such a huge difference. Even if it's not family support, just having a group of people around you that support you is so needed. I think another important thing in life is to find something that you love doing. It's the best thing to be able to go to sleep every night totally exhausted from the day knowing that you spent it working at something that you truly love doing.

Didn't you just LOVE this interview with Courtney? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Burt Ward And Rhapsody On Ice


Many moons before achieving fame portraying wonder boy Robin, the trusty sidekick to Adam West in the 1960's Batman TV series and film, Burt Ward achieved another claim to fame. At age two, he was named 'the world's youngest professional ice skater' by As Strange As It Seems magazine.

Born Bert John Gervis Jr. in 1945 in Los Angeles, California, the man who would later be known as Burt Ward was the son of Bert Gervis Sr., who was not only in real estate sales but the owner of a travelling ice show called Rhapsody On Ice. Rhapsody On Ice was one of many skating tours operational during that golden era of figure skating in the forties that saw productions like Ice Capades, Ice Follies and Sonja Henie's productions take center stage. The tour featured such stars as Belita and according to an advertisement from the June 19 of the Eugene Register, was "a complete revue - with eleven champion skaters" including the legendary Mabel Fairbanks, who was at one point a coach to the fabulous, fabulous Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Tiffany Chin, Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton among countless others.

Now how did a two year old become 'the world's youngest professional ice skater'? Much as you might expect. Being the son of the tour's owner, he was offered the opportunity to perform in the tour after being featured in the Hollywood Citizen-News newspaper for his adeptness on the ice at such a startlingly young age. In a 2012 interview with Mark Wyckoff of the Ventura County Star, Ward mused of his stint as a skater: "I couldn't see the people in the audience but I could hear the cheering." Ward struck gold when cast as Robin in 1966. Although he ultimately found his success as an actor and not a skater, Ward did prove to take all things athletic. He wrestled, studied karate and excelled in golf and track and field as a teenager.

Where is the 'the world's youngest professional ice skater' and Batman star today? Ward and his wife Tracy Posner Ward founded a charitable organization called Gentle Giants Rescue And Adoption, Inc. that rescues and finds homes for larger breeds of dogs such as Great Danes, Mastiffs and Greyhounds. The Ward's have found homes for over 14,500 large breed dogs and are even in the dog food business. One has to wonder what Adam West, who has achieved fame with a whole new generation of television fans for his role as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy would have to say about his sidekick Robin's short lived skating career?


Well played, Mayor West, well played!

In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret. Am I right or am I right?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Regular Or Decaf?: Sonja Henie And The Airline Debacle


In this day and age, for many air travel is not only a convenience but a necessity. Facing hard facts, gone are the days where long cross Atlantic trips on luxury liners or leisurely train rides are practical or even possible with the busy schedule and fast paced lives that we live in this day and age. What's hard to fathom is that there was a time less than a century ago when air travel was still considered very much a luxury. Taking an international flight in the thirties was nothing for your pocketbook to sneeze at. If you adjust prices for inflation, ticket costs back in those days could run as high as twenty thousand dollars for a single flight in today's market. Flights weren't just more expensive back then, they took much longer. For instance, a trip from England to Australia in 1938 took eleven days and made over a dozen scheduled stops. Today, the same journey could be completed in twenty two hours with a single layover and cost as little as two thousand dollars. Flying was so different back then though. For starters, you got dressed up in your finest, you didn't eat vacuum packed "sandwiches" and you certainly weren't hit up for money to listen to an in flight film. The prohibitive cost of traveling by air meant that if you weren't well to do, you didn't get to fly. That said, few actresses in the world were as well known or wealthy as three time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie... and the reason you didn't see her flying all over the world was a completely different one.

But first... a little Come Fly With Me!

In the 1950's, Dee Merian was a TWA hostess. In her book "Southern California Stories", Merian offered a glimpse into the reason Henie didn't often fly: "Sonja Henie was on all the major airline's blacklist and not allowed to travel with any of them. It was a short list of individuals who for one reason or another always gave the airline a bad experience. Sonja Henie once had a tantrum, and threw hot coffee in the face of a hostess because she was denied another alcoholic beverage on a TWA flight. Howard Hughes, our CEO, agreed she should not be allowed any further TWA courtesies." That didn't stop the always determined Henie. She made her reservations on TWA under her married name and made it aboard a flight that Merian was working on. She wrote, "I decided to wipe my mind of Sonja's past deeds, and help the other hostess serve beverages. When I offered Sonja Henie, now Mrs. Onstad a beverage, I announced it was nice having her aboard. 'It has been a long time since I skated at your Westwood Ice Rink. I always enjoyed myself,' I told her smiling. She turned to her husband and said something in Norwegian. Her companions laughed. She refused to acknowledge that she understood any English. Maybe she knew she came aboard under false pretenses. If TWA had known her real identity, she would not have been allowed on the plane." It appears that the world's airlines softened their ban on Henie over time. After all, it was on October 12, 1969 that Henie sadly passed away on an ambulance plane that was returning from Paris to Oslo. The October 13, 1969 New York Times article "Sonja Henie, Skating Star, Dies" explains that "Miss Henie had been suffering from leukemia for the last nine months. In Paris yesterday her condition worsened, and it was decided to fly her home. Her husband, Neils Onstad, a Norwegian shipowner, said she 'just slept away' halfway through the two-hour flight." There's a very sad irony in that her death took place aboard an airplane, the very place that just ten years previous she most certainly wouldn't have even been allowed to book a ticket. Even more ironic is the song "Fly On Ice", as featured in her last film "Hello London" with the lyrics that speak of flying "happy and free". Triply ironic? The fact that Henie's picture has adorned the tails of a Boeing 737-300, Boeing 737-800 and Norwegian Air Shuttle's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.


The notoriously "difficult" Henie wouldn't be the only skater to get herself into trouble while flying. In 2008, Alexander Abt (the 2003 Russian Champion and two time European Medallist) caused quite a spectacle on a flight from New York to Moscow, where he was headed to perform in the Russian Ice Age event. After drinking a little too much, Abt reportedly jumped from his seat and was bothering and insulting other passengers. A Yoki.ru article states that Abt was subdued, albeit protesting and shouting. Although he was released, I don't imagine his antics went over any better with the airlines than Henie's scalding java in the face incident.

I guess the moral of the story in all of this isn't just to behave yourself when you are flying. It's also that, like all of us, skaters are humans and humans make mistakes. Sadly though, in Henie's case, the mistake may not have come back to haunt her as much as she came back to haunt us.

In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Interview With Sandra Garde


As I've mentioned many times on the blog before, it was actually the flood of professional competitions and WONDERFUL skating that came out of them in the mid-nineties that drew me to the ice. It's funny how particular performances stand out in my mind but I VIVIDLY remember watching TSN broadcast the men's and ladies free skates from the Miko Masters professional competition in France one night and just being in awe of Sandra Garde's program. I must have worn out the tape (yes, we had tapes back then). Dressed in this red catsuit with this very imperious collar skating to Alexander Moussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain" under theatrical lighting, Garde wove a complete spell. With only a peppering of double jumps, she imprinted this vision of GOOD artistic skating in my mind that made me understand that it wasn't about the jumps or the technical side; skating was about performance. That way of looking at the sport has stayed with me to this day and I guess I have Sandra Garde to thank for it. It was an unbelievable pleasure to speak with this very accomplished skater and choreographer! For those of you who aren't familiar with her skating, as an amateur she won the French junior title and three senior medals at French Nationals and represented France internationally at the World Junior Championships, Skate Canada, Trophee Lalique and many other international events. Professionally, she's won the Trophee Lalique PROFESSIONAL event in France twice, toured with Holiday On Ice, Willy Bietak Productions and Disney On Ice and choreographed for a who's who of skaters. You know all of those amazingly creative performances you see coming from French skaters? Chances are Sandra's had a hand in that! I'm excited to share this one so first things first, grab yourself something to drink and when you're back, get ready for an amazing interview!:

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Q: The first time I ever saw you skate was at the 1995 Miko Masters competition, when they televised your MAGICAL "Night On Bald Mountain" program. Between the costuming, lighting, music and choreography I was just so taken away by your skating! I later learned this program was adapted from a free skate you did during your "amateur" career. How did you come up with the concept and choreography for this program and what can you share about the story it told?

A: All of my numbers or programs were always a story or theme. It's more interesting and exciting to skate and express a character or a feeling. This program was about Adam and Eve and I was the devil. The first part was the snake with an apple trying to hypnotize Eve (the public was Eve) and then the devil showed its the real face in the second part.


Q: Your "amateur" career was filled with so much success - a 4th place finish at the Junior Worlds, the French junior title, 3 medals at the senior level at French Nationals and medals in international competitions. You turned professional in 1990 at the age of seventeen. What are your most special memories from your "amateur" career and what made you decide to turn professional?

A: My best memory was my last French Nationals in my home town, just because at that time it was difficult to get my jumps done. I worked so hard but would fall so many times. I had no hope anymore; even my coach didn't believe in me anymore. My gym coach Frederic Goyonech was still behind me staying very positive and pushed me a lot every day and in the end I skated this competition without making a mistake in the two programs. When it's very hard and then the performing is good, you are proud of yourself and extremely happy. Before I turned professional, I stopped skating for about a year. I had to recover... physically but more mentally. Now with the years past, I know high level competition is hard but it brings you a lot of strength and courage for life. I started as a professional with amazing luck. Patrick Hourcade, who was organize the Masters Miko (a professional competition), invited me to participate. At that time this competition was on television live and only champions were invited - Katarina Witt, Denise Biellmann, Petr Barna and many others. First I refused this invitation because in one month I had little time to get ready. My gym coach Frederic pushed me again and then I put my skates back on again and practiced a lot of course. This is how my professional career started and today I have to say those years were the best time in my life.


Q: Professional skating was where you achieved your most competitive success, twice winning the Trophee Lalique d'Or competition in France that was judged by the audience and also finishing third at the U.S. Open Challenge Cup in 1994. What are your thoughts on professional competition and do you think it is something that will and/or should return?

A: Professional competition brought a lot of audience and made the best publicity for the sport, amateur or professional. The audiences were packed for those competitions and it was a big mistake not to keep those competitions going.

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Q: You toured as a principal skater for twelve years with Holiday On Ice, Disney On Ice and Bietak Productions. What was the most interesting thing that happened during your touring career?

A: Everything was interesting, exciting and amazing. Each company taught me a lot of things. Holiday taught me how to be always sensual and pretty. Disney taught me acting and making dreams on the ice for kids and adults who want to dream again. Willy Bietak Productions were great shows and taught me you could put on a show and perform hard jumps at the same time. Touring with skaters from all over the world and working, living, discovering new countries for me as for them... We did everything together and opened our little minds about absolutely everything. As I said before, this was the best time in my life and I am rich for the chance that just a few people have had. I'm extremely lucky.

Q: You really have such a wonderful sense of music which comes across not only in your own skating but in your work with other great skaters such as Vanessa Gusmeroli, Marie-Pierre Leray, Maé Bérénice Meite, Candice Didier and Kim Lucine. I know that you have almost 20 years of classic, jazz and modern dance training (which is evident) but where do you get such innovative ideas for the programs you choreograph? They really are so brilliant and unique!

A: As I said, I've been travelling everywhere and meeting people and coming upon unique situations.
For sure, that inspires me a lot today. I try to respect the personality of each skater when I propose a program, a theme or a story. Most of the time, it takes a little time and it is important that the main coach and the skater trust my choice for them. In the end, most of the time they follow my ideas.


Q: As a technical specialist, you've certainly had to evolve with the sport. What are the best and worst parts of the "new" judging system?

A: The best is the perfectionism of this system. It pushes this sport and all the skating family to go further and further each year technically but also aesthetically. The bad part of this system is not the system in itself but certain humans who use it not for the sport, but just for themselves... but that is just for the same for everything and everywhere in life!

Q; Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?

A: Katarina Witt, for her charming. Toller Cranston, for his way of skating. He was in the forefront of skating progress and avant garde style. Scott Hamilton, for his courage... and many others!

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Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know? 

A: (laughing) I have no idea! Maybe the things they don't want to see.

Q: When you're not on the ice, how would you spend a perfect day?

A: Those days are rare but I when I do have one I enjoy spending time with my husband Bruno of course. My reassurance is my garden (an anti-depressant) and my little dog (he's also my traveler friend) and two weeks per year flying on the other side of the planet to discover a new country or a new part of a country.

Didn't you just LOVE this interview with Sandra? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ohh_N. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret. Am I right or am I right?