The Judges Got it Right--
For Sarah It's the Time of Her Life--
Tonight, I skated past the Olympic Security with barely a frown with my Visor and cellular modem connected to my phone in hopes of blogging in from the Olympic Ice Arena. Not a chance. The cells were so loaded in the arena you'd have thought you were at Comdex. So I settled back with "The Posse" made up of former world class Olympic levels skaters for what we fondly referred to as "The Evening."
We had been smart enough to skip the earlier skaters, preferring to eat a decent meal and share our collective nerves before being taken over to the Arena. If the tension at dinner was any clue, you'd have thought about 75% of us were actually skating the event. We barely ate, instead there was a lot of chatter and a considerable amount of wine being drank, until an un-named former Olympic Gold Medallist, looked around and said--- "Hey! Eat! We ain't skating this Olympics! They won't let us!" Everyone roared and admitted we were thanking God it wasn't us out there this time.
About 15 mins later, our driver came to get us and usher us to the cars.. er Luxury SUV's taking us around to the VIP entrance, security and finally our seats. Being a former VIP in the skating world has its perks, however not as many benefits as given us in previous Olympics, thanks to the tight-fisted SLC Management who still made us pay over $400 a seat for this prime real-estate in the near nosebleed seats over 20 feet off the ice. But at this point a seat is a seat... if you want to be at the Ladies Long Program Final for "The Evening."
Everyone settled in as the second group of skaters had started their practice. And I popped out my Visor hoping to log into the livetime results and do a short bit of blogging. Then I learned something: the livetime results were constantly being updated every 30-45 sec by the official Olympic Computers-- and when you had RADIO open trying to write it kicked me out of Radio every time and auto updated my Blog. Not good. So I had to make a choice between Blogging or watching IceCalc log the scores. Then as the better skaters came out to practice in the second group, all the cells in the arena started locking up. I opted at the urging of the posse to watch the live time results. Oh well so much for a good thing.
Here's the evening notes--
Julia Sebestyen of Hungry skated well for her tonight. She has considerable talent, jumps like a top-- but lacked the speed. You could see the pressure of being there was getting to her.
Jennifer Robinson from Canada is a beautiful skater, did well in the short program to a really cute number. But the long program was completely pedestrian. It did not showcase her for the precision and power she is capable of performing. While her presentation was very nice, the program never gelled. She seemed happy with herself, but many of us in the posse knew she could do better-- and wished she had.
Fumie Suguri from Japan was an excellent skater, and a considerable amount of her early American training showed at times. She's very powerful, and her attempt at the triple axle would have worked if she'd been skating faster like she normally does. Her artistic side got muttled tonight because she was not as consistent as she has been previously. I'd love to see someone break her fundamentals down again, and give her a good program that fits her ability to skate.
Silvia Fontana from Italy is a skater where height is not a hindrance to jumping. The timing on the revolutions of her jumps is exceptionally quick. If this lady ever gets the ability to enter her jumps with speed and hold an edge-- whoa! Watch out! Silvia has overcome a considerable amount of personal problems and is going for her Ph.D. in Sociology. Her costume looked great. Justing skating in SLC was a personal victory for this lady.
One comment from the posse: Someone outlaw using music from Carmen. We've been Carmen'ed to death.
Maria Butyrskaya-- God love her. At 29 yrs. she proved that you can still skate past the age of 25. However-- there is something about her skating I've never been able to get excited about: those stiff knees. Maria is one of the most powerful skaters (in her prime) I've ever seen-- she is also one of the most artistic floating across the ice like a fairy-- but watching her landings is a jaw-jolting experience. She never bends her knees to absorb the shock-- and thus never is able to maintain any speed between content items and her spins run out of gas way too soon. I'd love to see someone teach her how to use her knees-- but at this point I highly doubt it's ever going to happen.
Sasha Cohen came out with all the brashness of a teenager-- but different from practice today while she was having some problems with her combination. It appears somewhere between practice and performance, the weight of what she was about to do hit home. During the warm up she actually started listening to John Nix, and corrected the triple Lutz she'd been having problems with during practice that afternoon. The kid finally got focused or John got her focused. (It appears she listens to John when she's stressed. It started to pay off-- although a little late. For her first international performance before a world wide television audience, her coming out party was at the Olympics (no less) went off fairly well. Sasha has a keen sense of interpretion, despite we were listening to Carmen again. If she had hit the triple combination and not hit the ice she would be standing on the medal stand.
Michelle Kwan: We had all came out to see Michelle skate, but like playing craps at Vegas nothing in the Ladies Event is ever "given" to a skater, except for a tiny gold medal a former skating queen had given her earlier in the day. Everyone sitting in the Posse knew she had to earn it, and if collective will could have given her the edge over the top-- the posse would have willed her to skate like the Queen we knew she could skate. But from the look on the Michelle as she took the ice-- she knew it too. May be a little too well. Sarah had skated well all ready and so, unless you were deaf, you'd have heard it in the dressing room. But anyway-- I was thrilled that Michelle was skating to Sheherazade, because the program was the best piece choreography she had in her book. But it was apparent from the look in her eyes when she took the ice-- she was internalizing. One of the un-named Olympic Gold Medallists sitting next to me, eyes met mine and we did one of those... ut ohs. It took a long time for the ice to clear because of all of the flower pedals, so we hoped (and prayed) she was using the time to get focused and be ready to explode. The ice was hers for the taking-- she just had to take it. The program was all about Michelle and she did the music justice-- fighting all the way through the program, never quitting from beginning to end. However her downfall was the dreaded triple flip that she had problems on in the short program. Right off the toe and wham right into the ice. Not good. On the positive side of things, Michelle never ever quit. She fought like champ for each and every item from then on. In that she could be proud of-- and most of the posse said we'd never seen her skate with such determination. However we knew the Gold wasn't hers again-- and it would be either Sarah or Irina. Michelle had just opened the door for Irina if she could go out and get it herself.
Irina Slutskaya took the ice last, and the entire posse sitting together knew if Irina could get keep her nerves in check, and put it on the floor, she could win with the 2 triple-triple combinations. But skating last-- and being able to pop off several triples after a long rest with pressure wasn't Irina's strong suits. We watched the scores for Michelle, and the kids clean up the flowers and toys, which seemed to take forever. The longer it lasted-- the more Irina seemed to get worked up-- actually mad. From our viewpoint, it looked like she was actually ready to hit something or someone if she didn't get to skate soon. Ah yes, her nerves were showing. Irina came out of the blocks like she had been shot out of a cannon, and nearly forgetting her choreography over her content. The old Irina started to show. All that work on artistic skating had gone out the window and she started to try to brute strength her content when it caught up with her on the second combination. When she finally hit her final spin, you could see Irina was coming apart. She threw a fit off camera once the final placement and scores were put up.
Sarah Hughes: Tonight Sarah went out with nothing to lose. Several of us had seen her skate before, and knew never to count the kid from NY out. She skated 2nd or 3rd in the last group-- the perfect place to go out, put it down, go back to the dressing room and let the judges sort it out. And that's exactly what she did. Sarah, had rightly never thought she had a real chance for a Gold Medal. So in her mind, she wanted to go out have a good time, skate a great program and make a good impression for the future. However she never thought that the future would only be 60 minutes away. Honestly, the posse sat in our crows nest, watching in total awe of Sarah and how she laid one item after another out on the ice with more maturity, style and grace than most professional skaters ever muster in a lifetime. We all kept looking at one another saying in whispers-- oh my God! Go get em kid! And applauding wildly at just how well she was performing. It was hitting us Sarah had the *it*. All the work paid off-- all the fine-tuning showed and it gelled like jello in the SLC Ice Arena tonight. When she finished-- well the house came apart with a standing ovation, including the posse who rarely stands. Sarah however, like the typical 16 yr. old hadn't realized she had really brought the house down. It wasn't until her coach turned her around, saw The Posse standing, Sarah thought it was just a good program-- she'd tuned 98% of us off.
From where I sat tonight, and the consensus of the Posse, the judges got it right tonight. If Michelle or Irina hadn't missed they would have taken home the Gold. But tonight-- the judges judged on what was performed tonight and it goes without saying that Sarah skated the program of her life, and joins the ranks of the elite group of Women's Figure Skating Champions as the newest Olympic Gold Medallists.
The Hughes' are in for the ride of their lives. I highly doubt her family's ready for this, but they're off and running. And the skater the posse calls "The kid" is in for the ride of her life.
I'm heading home in the morning--