Hidden in plain sight, some of the most remarkable and phenomenal skaters are not the ones who have won medals on the world's biggest stages. They may not have handled the pressure of competition, excelled at the most difficult triple jumps, had styles that conformed with the mainstream or even gone down that path. On the blog, I've already looked at the Toller Cranstons and Duchesnays of the sport - and even interviewed groundbreaking professional skaters like Gary Beacom, Natalia Bestemianova, Doug Mattis, Rory Flack Burghart and countless others. The first piece I ever wrote when I started this blog was about 6.0 Fabulous Skaters That You May Not Know But Should and looking back at those performances got me thinking of so many other fantastic skaters that the casual or recent fan of skating may not have any idea about. Let's celebrate 6.0 more skaters who have absolutely made an impression on me and I promise will do the same for you!
A protege of 1976 Olympic Gold Medallist John Curry, Katherine Healy was one of the best skaters out there who never pursued an "amateur" career. Turning professional at the unheard of age of 11, she skated with John Curry's Company and acted alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Dudley Moore in the film "Six Weeks" before hanging up her skates to focus on her career as a ballerina in the early 80's. After becoming the youngest ever lady to win the USA International Ballet Competition in 1984, she became a prima ballerina with the London Festival Ballet (English National Ballet)! After taking a break from dancing to graduate Magnum cum Laude from Princeton University, Katherine returned to dancing, again assuming prima ballerina roles with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo and the Vienna State Opera Ballet. Returning to the U.S. in 1997, Katherine resumed the professional skating career she long had put on the back burner. Just watching one of her performances shows that attention to body line and classical dance training that few skaters are able to translate to the ice and its simply just beautiful to watch.
MICHELLE MCDONALD WHEELER AND MARTIN SMITH
A wonderful example of an ice dance team that really blossomed as professionals, Michelle McDonald Wheeler and Martin Smith won the 1991 Canadian Figure Skating Championships after successful careers with Mark Mitchell and Jo-Anne Borlase respectively, and turned professional in 1992, touring the world with Torvill and Dean, skating in Kurt Browning's TV specials and enjoying a following with their unique and edgy programs in professional competition. Their programs to "#1 Crush" by Garbage, "Give Me One Reason" by Tracy Chapman and "Glorybox" by Portishead are performances I just loved for their passion, creativity and sense of fun. Really enjoyed watching these two skate!
A member of the U.S. international team for 5 years, Allen turned professional and coached internationally, spending some time as the national coach of the French skating team, who certainly benefited from his work in dividends judging by their always innovative styles and program ideas. Now coaching alongside his wife World Professional Champion Angela Schramm (Greenhow), Allen continues to pass on his inventive, languid and one-of-a-kind style to a new generation. All it takes is watching one performance - even a grainy one like this - to see that his style of body movement on ice really isn't like any skater you've ever seen and it really makes him one of the most interesting skaters you could ever watch.
JANE MORRIS COLLINS AND ALFREDO MENDOZA
I first discovered this wonderful adagio pair through the videos of Carl Moseley. I don't know if you're all familiar with Carl but he's a wonderful archivist of vintage professional skating materials and video from the early days of skating. I was mesmerized by this video of this early adagio pair performing as stars with Holiday On Ice and was determined to find out a little more about them! I sadly found out that Jane passed away in 2007, but from her obituary learned that not only was she a really sweet person but a compelling person as well. After becoming Miss Georgia, Jane went on to represent her state in the 1956 Miss America Pageant before focusing her attentions on professional skating. Jane and her partner Alfredo Mendoza (who was a former World Water Skiing Champion) toured the U.S., Mexico and Cuba with Holiday On Ice and even spent time at Cypress Gardens in Florida, helping the artistic staff create balletic routines to be made possible on water skis. Watching this performance shows that their adagio and pairs skills were truly, truly ahead of their time - a performance like this would thrill an audience just as much today as it did then.
CHARLENE VON SAHER
An exquisite skater with beautiful body line, great technique and wonderful attention to choreography, Charlene von Saher took a very interesting path during her skating career. Born in Wimbledon, England, her mother Marei was a former West German skater in her own time - a silver medallist at the World Professional Championships. Charlene skated under Mary and Evy Scotvold in Connecticut alongside Nancy Kerrigan and first attempted a career in the U.S., finishing as high as 4th on the junior level nationally before opting to represent Great Britain in time for the 1991/1992 season. Despite being forced to withdraw from the 1994 British Nationals halfway through the competition due to a severe flu, Charlene was selected to represent Britain at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, where she dazzled with this memorable and stunning short program that was in my opinion grossly undermarked. Turning professional following that season, Charlene went on to skate professionally in Europe and the U.S. and even compete at the World Professional Championships (Jaca), the same event where her mother had competed decades before. Now a licensed realtor in Connecticut and New York, Charlene remains busy in her community, working with animals and several philantropic and artistic causes.
Known simply to many as "Mr. Debonair", Richard Dwyer holds the Guinness World Record For The Longest Skating Career. After winning the 1948 U.S. Novice title and 1949 U.S. Junior title, Dwyer competed against Dick Button at the 1950 U.S. Nationals and then went on to start a professional career at the age of 14 in 1950 and continues to lace up to this day! That's simply unbelievable... but it's true! Dwyer has performed with both the Ice Follies and Ice Capades, is a member of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame and continues to make guest appearances at special events and the one thing that stands out about his skating is his absolute love of the ice and comfort with it. This performance from 2011, where Dwyer skates with Linda Fratianne, Tai Babilonia, Jojo Starbuck, Tenley Albright and Brian Boitano, makes me smile from ear to ear and I guarantee it will do the same for you. Richard Dwyer is simply the real deal.
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