I wish it was
our triple Axel, or the fact that we both carry combs, but I'm thinking
more along the lines of we're both trying to come back to competition.
Evgeni Plushenko and I have something in common.
I wish it was our triple Axel, or the fact that we both carry combs, but I'm thinking more along the lines of we're both trying to come back to competition.
Recently, Plushenko and I both competed in different events in Japan as curious eyes followed our every move. What's at stake for both of us?
For me it was personal. It did not matter who I would be competing against because I knew the biggest competitor would be my own head. My worry was in getting nervous to the point where I would not let the moment play itself out in a natural way. To some extent, this did happen, and I tightened up.
Today I watched my Singing In The Rain program from the Medal Winners Open on the internet and, except for skating slower than I felt and that slippery Salchow, I was pleased.
The amazement at the second-place finish is easily seen on my face afterwards, and it was obvious to me that it was the program that put me on the podium.
Almost 20 years ago, John Brunton of INSIGHT productions, Sandra Bezic and the CBC teamed up with me to create an on-ice copy of Gene Kelly's masterpiece Singing In The Rain.
During my career as a professional I have never gone back to that program and performed it live. I promised myself I would do it someday and I must say that this program feels wonderful to skate. I was able to find the original outfit from the CBC special 19 years ago and I had the hat already. The umbrella makes jumping a challenge, but it's a wonderful skating partner.
After waiting so long, this felt like the right season to bring it back, and with the help of Doug Haw at the Granite Club I went for it.
There were so many emotions involved in preparing for a skating event that would include judges and direct comparison to the other skaters. On one level it has reminded me of what the young skaters are going through when they compete. If I thought I could remember that feeling, I was wrong! This event had no national, world or Olympic title on the line, but I still felt the pressure.
New respect for today's skaters
Yes, I now have a renewed respect for the power of the competitive moment. Also, I'm from the generation before the "new" scoring system was put into place. To say that I have had my heels pretty firmly in the dirt and was resisting the new system would be an accurate statement.
I love that the skaters now feel more control over their careers and that from fifth place they still can mount a charge to the top of the podium, but many aspects of the system left me cold.
The footwork seems predictable at times and the spins are not always nice to look at. Spirals held up by the blade for so long irritated me and I felt that the skaters had so much to do technically that they had little time to make the audience smile or show their personalities.
The memories of the 6.0 system and the magic that number brought to some events did not allow me to realize what the new judging system has achieved. Because I had not taken the time to really learn the system fully, I did not appreciate how great the rules have made this generation of skaters.
Let me tell you how hard it is to grab your foot while spinning super-fast. Well, actually, I can't tell you that because I could not even find my foot to grab it!
Spins were important in my generation but did not tire you out like these do. No rest for the wicked during the skating between elements either, because every second of my skate was being judged, not just the overall image, which made me super-aware and a bit paranoid of every single step.
How do the competitors do it? These kids are good! My hat, and I'm always wearing a hat, goes off to the skaters all around the world who will be marching towards the 2014 Olympics. I'm glad I tried to compete and for all the extra knowledge that has come my way because of it.
For those skaters who can do all of this and still find the time to entertain, you are skate gods for sure.
After that glowing love letter to the skaters, I'll follow it up with another one to the guys in the men's category who are trying to make a comeback of sorts.
Hats off to Plushenko
Mr. Plushenko... Wow! What does he have at stake? I had only a taste of the demands of competition and he is jumping into the deep end. To win medals in three Olympics and then take time off from competition only to make a charge at it again in your home country is remarkable.
After seeing him skate shows in China in June of 2012 and then watching him compete at the Japan Open this month, I believe he is the real deal and deserves respect.
I have no idea how his journey will end, but I will be following it with curiosity and amazement. Maybe Plushenko will have a strong world championships in 2013 without the Grand Prix events to prepare, but I'm certain he should attempt them in the season prior to Sochi.
Johnny Weir has also put everything he has out there, and good luck to him in the Grand Prix events. Johnny's cause would certainly be helped by a consistent quad.
Evan Lysacek needs to compete before U.S. Nationals, in my opinion. His plan to compete at Skate America has been run off the rails by injury. Certainly, injury is a bigger worry for the older skaters. Now Evan has no Grand Prix events and I believe it will make the climb back for him even steeper now that he is not competing this season.
Speaking of scary, as much fun and educational as competing was, I look forward to getting back into the booth with Tracy, Scott and Brenda and working the competitions from the CBC side of things.
Hang on to the remote controls, skating fans, especially during the men's event, as this is going to be a fun ride.
Kurt BrowningKurt Browning is one of Canada’s greatest figure skaters. During his stellar career, he won four men’s world titles (1989, ’90, ’91 and ’93) and competed in three Olympic Games. At the 1988 world championships, he became the first skater to land a verified quad jump in competition. Born and raised in Alberta, Kurt now lives in Toronto. He was co-host of the hit CBC show Battle of the Blades.