VERY INTERESTING WEEKEND
Politics just didn’t matter to me this weekend because there was figure skating to watch. And what a figure skating lineup it was!
In Pair Skating, a new force has arisen – the incredible, come-out-of-nowhere pair of Brooke Castile & Ben Okolski who defeated Rena Inoue & John Baldwin for the 2007 U.S. Pairs title. They didn’t just win the Pairs title, they won it convincingly. Yes, Inoue & Baldwin did not skate anywhere near their normal levels (no doubt in part due to the mugging of John Baldwin which is alleged to have happened in Russia before Christmas). The fact remains that Castile & Okolski’s performance stands on its own as a championship performance, pure and simple.
Saturday afternoon we were treated to the ladies’ competition. World Champion Kimmie Meissner was in first place going into the final, followed closely by Bebe Liang, and Emily Hughes. The final 6 began their performances and the first to skate was Alissa Czisny who proceeded to dazzle and enthrall both cranky old me AND the throngs of people in the arena in Spokane with an extraordinarily graceful and technically sound performance wherein she truly did channel the exquisite Audrey Helpburn. In point of fact, she won the free skate. Kimmie Meissner skated a good program, although not at the level of grace exhibited by Ms. Czisny. Emily Hughes, as is her wont, fell on her not inconsiderable fundament. Yes, I realize that was an unkind comment. I harbor mostly unkind thoughts about Ms. Hughes because I do not consider her to be anything other than an entitlement brat whose skating is informed by a lack of grace and charm. So sue me. The results were Kimmie Meissner (reigning World Champion) won the U.S. Championship (Ms. Czisny was way behind coming into the final skate), Emily Hughes placed 2nd and Alissa Czisny ended up 3rd. It bears noting that Ms. Czisny is from Bowling Green, Ohio, the home town of another fairly good skater – the legendary and beloved Scott Hamilton.
The men’s competition was as thrilling as anything I have seen in a very long time. Evan Lysacek skated so brilliantly with enormous technical skill and exceptional style and musicality. He signaled that he had come to Spokane to win from the moment he set foot on the ice, opening his program with a solid quad toe/triple toe combo. His spins were 1,000% better than in the short program. Ryan Bradley, who delighted in the short program, was about as exuberant and irresistible as any skater I have seen in many years. He flew around the ice as though his entire body was on fire, and while his jumps were somewhat terrifying to watch (loosey goosey is an understatement), he landed the things. And when his scores were posted, showing that he had placed 2nd, he was so excited he flew back out onto the ice and treated the audience to a back flip! This is the same young man who had a multicolored suit made for wearing in his short program, so the drummer he hears is one of a kind! Johnny Weir seemed ill trained, low in stamina and more than a little intimidated by the performance of Evan Lysacek which had immediately preceded Weir’s own skate. As I have said before, Johnny Weir needs to start concentrating on SKATING at a competitive level and less on whatever existential crap is floating around in his rather ill groomed head. Winning third place was better than his skate on Saturday night really deserved.
All in all, this was a more satisfying U.S. Championship than I’ve enjoyed in a very long time. My congratulations to the competitors, all of them. And my gratitude to those whose performances and brilliance made my heart ache with joy. If nothing else, I continued to ponder (lots of commercials gave me the time and impetus to do so) how different these young people truly are from so many that we see on a daily basis. These skaters have self-discipline, focus and character in abundance. We need many more like them.