Pj's Top 10 Performances: Men | Figure Skating | CBC Sports

Figure SkatingPj's Top 10 Performances: Men

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 | 11:16 AM

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Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko performed a mesmerizing free program at the 2006 Torino Olympics that finally earned him a gold medal. (Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images) Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko performed a mesmerizing free program at the 2006 Torino Olympics that finally earned him a gold medal. (Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

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How do you narrow down legendary figure skating performances to just 10? It isn't easy.  When posed with this challenge, I decided I would have to give myself some guidelines. I was going to use only performances that I have seen live.  There is something about a performance in the building where both the skater and the spectator are 'in the moment,' that can be magical.

Editor's Note: For Pj's latest series of top 10 lists, she's ranking her favourite performances of all time, which started with the best ladies' skates.

If you missed her last series on the top 10 skaters of all time, you can go back and read her ladies, men's, pairs and dance rankings.

How do you narrow down legendary figure skating performances to just 10? It isn't easy.  When posed with this challenge, I decided I would have to give myself some guidelines. I was going to use only performances that I have seen live.  There is something about a performance in the building where both the skater and the spectator are 'in the moment,' that can be magical.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to set me straight with your own top 10. I want to hear from you! Leave your comments at the bottom of this page or give me a shout on Twitter @skatingpj.

1. Evgeni Plushenko (Russia), 2006 Olympics, The Godfather  free program

In Turin, Italy the atmosphere inside the arena was charged with excitement when the men took the ice for their free programs.  Plushenko skated with such compelling intensity as to be mesmerizing. He was completely convincing as The Godfather in a program that I think was the strongest vehicle of his career.  As a side note, his friend and violin maestro Edvin Marton played the Godfather theme live for Plushenko's exhibition. We all held our breath as Marton slipped (and I mean slipped) into position on the ice in street shoes holding a priceless Stradivarius.

2. Alexei Yagudin (Russia), 2002 Olympics, The Man in The Iron Mask free program

The Man in the Iron Mask is one of those pieces of music that should be retired. I don't ever hear it without thinking of two skaters. The first is Yagudin, whose iconic performance led to Olympic gold in Salt Lake City. It still gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.  I remember the thrill of his opening quad toe/triple toe/double loop combination and the program building from there. The noise of the crowd was deafening.

3. Patrick Chan (Canada), 2009 Four Continents Championships, Tango de los Exilados short program

Vancouver hosted the 2009 Four Continents event as a test competition for the 2010 Olympics, which would be held a year later. I am the first to admit that I am a fan of Chan's skating. In this short program I could really see the change from boy to young man and from skater to artist.

4. Daisuke Takahashi (Japan), 2011 Grand Prix season, In  the Garden of Souls short program

Takahashi has a huge following not only in his native Japan but across the skating world. I have always appreciated his athleticism and his passion for the sport but he has never been one of the ones to spring to the top of my mind; until now. This season's short program is nothing short of brilliant. I love the fact that I am not only taken with Takahashi's skating but with his choreography and theme as well.

5. Kurt Browning (Canada), 1993 Canadian Championships, Casablanca free program

Copps Coliseum in Hamilton was the home of the 1993 national championships. It was also the first time I had been invited to that event as a PA announcer. The arena was packed to the rafters. I remember it like it was yesterday. When Browning started to skate, he transported me on to the set of the movie Casablanca where he was Humphrey Bogart.  Not only was he about to be crowned Canadian champion for the fourth time, he also jumped into our collective memory with one of the most memorable character portrayals ever by a skater.  That free program has not yet made it to YouTube but his gold-winning free from worlds the same year will give you an idea of that faithful night in Hamilton.

6. Elvis Stojko (Canada), 2002 Olympic, Lion short program

Skating to Lion by Kodo Drums, I remember feeling the anticipation when Stojko took the ice for his short program. Although he had skated this short program better at other times during the season, I appreciated his valiant comeback attempt for the Olympics. This program is impressive for a couple of reasons: the speed and power and Stojko's ability to keep perfect time to drum music. Kodo drums and Stojko's martial arts background seemed like the perfect union.

7. Nobunari  Oda (Japan), 2005 Junior Worlds, Super Mario Bros short program

Kitchener, Ont., played host to the Junior world championships in 2005. I remember seeing two Japanese skaters for the first time who each took their respective titles: Mao Asada and Oda. I was blown out of the water by both skaters. In Oda's case I was particularly taken with his short program to Super Mario Brothers music. It perfectly captured the youthful spirit and energy of a young person playing a video game.

8. Takeshi Honda (Japan), 1999 Four Continents Championships, The Man in The Iron Mask free program

This was the inaugural ISU Four Continents Championships in Halifax and the men's event was filled with surprises. Honda led after the short program and was amazing in the free. What makes this performance memorable was the emotion from Honda to the Man in The Iron Mask. After Yagudin, Honda is the second skater who springs to mind when I hear this music.

9. Chengijiang Li (China), 1999 Four Continents Championships, Riverdance free program

I am transported back to the men's event and announcing the final men's competitor:  China's Chengjiang Li. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see spectators starting to move around and head for the door thinking that having seen Elvis Stojko and Takeshi Honda, that they had seen the best of what they were going to see. I wanted to tell them "not so fast".  I had the heads up watching Li during practice. Sadly, Li never realized the potential that I saw in him that night. In Halifax though, his Riverdance is still one of my favourite competition surprises ever.

10. Laurent Tobel (France), 1999 Skate Canada, Austin Powers free program

What can I say? Tobel's programs were inventive and clever. He is worth mentioning on this list because:  a) he is 6'4" and anyone who can get that kind of height into the air and rotating triples is impressive; b) his sense of humour and perfect portrayal of Austin Powers; c) he continued to skate with the clanging of the fire alarm throughout his program.  (At the time, I was told that it would be his choice whether to stop or not. I will say I was a little nervous that the building was indeed on fire.)

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