Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ten of My Favorite...Okay Seven of My Favorite...Olympic Figure Skating Performances

A few days ago I started to have some random thoughts about the best figure skating performances from the Olympics.  'Best' is often a matter of opinion, though some performances seem to transcend mere 'opinion'.  Then I started to think about 'favorite' as opposed to 'best', as in what I like personally.  I decided I would come up with ten, and I quickly started a list.  I easily came up with seven and then slowed down a little at that point; therefore I decided to post seven of my 'favorites' and then give out a few honorable mentions.

I love figure skating, and I have been a fan of the sport for a number of years.  There are a number of skaters I like, some I love, and there have been a number of wonderful performances over the years, some of them quite unexpected.  Some skaters may have given an overall good performance but not had that one great performance that sticks in the fan's mind even a number of years later.  Some skaters may have won a medal, even a gold, but not given anything even close to their best performance while doing it.  For example, Scott Hamilton has been more than candid over the years since his 1984 Olympic Gold Medal in Sarajevo about the fact he had not given his best performance in the long program (video). 

Other skaters, such as Canadian pair Christine Hough and Doug Ladret, though they finished only ninth overall, gave a performance in the short program (video) at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France that caught the imagination of the audience and helped to earn the pair a contract with 'Stars On Ice'. 

Though there are more performances I could name, honorable mentions also go to:

1) 1988 Calgary Olympic pairs bronze medalists Americans Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard (Oppegard was Brian Boitano's roommate in Calgary, is married to Michelle Kwan's older sister Karen, and recently signed on to coach 2010 Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Yu Na Kim) for their long program (video)

2) 1988 pairs gold medalists Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov for their long program (video)

3) Finland's Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko with their free dance (video) from the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics (Susanna and Petri were such true originals every program they skated was memorable)

4) Philippe Candeloro for his 'D'Artagnan' long program (video) from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan (Candeloro won his second consecutive bronze medal in Nagano; witness the wonderful footwork/fencing sequence)

Here are seven of my favorites in no particular order (a link attached to the name of the program is a second source for the video):

Brian Boitano 1988 Calgary Olympic Long Program to 'Napoleon and Josephine' posted by 3Axel1996

Even though over twenty three years have passed since this performance it is STILL my all time favorite, hands down!  Even Johnny Weir's stunningly beautiful performance in Vancouver could not eclipse Brian Boitano's gold medal winning free skate for me.  Boitano did what so few skaters have been able to do; he gave the performance of a lifetime on the night he needed it the most and won the gold medal in the best way possible.  There have been some who have claimed over the years he only won due to Sandra Bezic's choreography; however that simply is not true.  It does not matter who your coach or choreographer is, if you do not have it in you to give the performance you are truly capable of giving then you never will give it no matter who is helping you prepare.

Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko 1992 Olympic Free Dance 'A Man and A Woman' posted by tomolszt

Klimova and Ponomarenko are the only skaters with a full set of medals at the Olympics. The pair won a bronze in 1984, a silver in 1988 and became Olympic champions in 1992 At Albertville, France.  Due to the politics of how ice dancing used to be judged they knew going in they would almost certainly win the gold medal.  However they did not rest on their laurels and performed a beautiful and breathtaking free dance that left little doubt they deserved the gold medal.

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean 1984 Olympic Free Dance 'Bolero' posted by tigrelis

To many fans it almost seems like Torvill and Dean practically invented ice dancing. Of course that is not the case, however when you watch this gold medal winning piece of perfection you understand why and how they were able to help popularize dance so much with so many people.

Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Olympic long program posted by TripleAxel1991

I know some people don't care for Nancy and don't think she deserved the gold in Lillehammer. I, however, disagree.  Nancy won the silver but I believe she deserved the gold. She skated beautifully in Norway and no one can ever take that away from her.

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto 2006 Olympic Free Dance from Torino, Italy posted by SergR75

When Tanith and Ben skated out on to the ice in Torino the arena was basically dead with the audience lacking energy.  There had been an accident with one dance pair and the eventual gold medalists had skated a lackluster free dance that included mistakes.  Tanith and Ben skated a clean, energetic and beautifully choreographed program that won them a silver medal, though I believe they should have won the gold.  As a commentator later said regarding Tanith and Ben's performance, "They brought the energy back into the building."

Johnny Weir 2010 Olympic Free Skate from Vancouver, British Columbia
'Fallen Angel' video link Source One posted by jejel

'Fallen Angel' video link Source Two posted by tarrelond

I don't think I even have to comment on why this program is included amongst my favorites other than it is here.  Enough said. The fact Weir did not win a medal is, well, it is just plain WRONG!

Philippe Candeloro 1994 Long Program 'The Godfather' from Lillehammer, Norway posted by sk8rtr

Few skaters ever had more fun out on the ice than Candeloro did.  This program was not flawless, but it was clever and well choreographed and it earned Candeloro his first of two consecutive Olympic bronze medals. 

So what do you all think of my choices?  Please feel free to comment below!


Keithv1973 said...

I totally agree with you 100%. I do think one moment is missing and I'm not sure if you liked them or not but the routine Mishkutenok & Dmitriev skated at the 1994 Olympics is spectacular. Such a shame they skated a perfect and passionate performance only to lose the gold to a very flawed performance by Gordeeva & Grinkov.

WheresMyKoppy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WheresMyKoppy said...

Thank you for your comment! It is much appreciated!

I liked Artur well enough, but I was not much of a fan of Natalya. She was too much of a diva IMO, and the truth is she wanted Artur's life to revolve around her, and when it didn't and he found himself a girlfriend he later married, she couldn't handle that.

As far as 1994, I did not think that Gordeeva and Grinkov's performance was 'very flawed', and even were they not there, with the politics of skating at the time we can't assme M&D would have won. Nor can we assume as Lloyd Eisler, who should have known better did, that everyone who finished beneath them would have automatically move up one place in the standings.

I know you didn't mention all that, but it was going on at the time. Anyway, I don't remember the pairs from Lillehammer as much as the ladies or the dance or the men's. I felt about as bad as I could possibly feel after Boitano fell in his short program.