Interview With Stephanie Zhang


After only skating for three years and at the age of seven, Stephanie Zhang was named to China's national figure skating team. Only two years later, the precocious young skater would move with her family at Australia and by thirteen, Australia offered her citizenship based on her skating talent. Her career on the ice not only saw her win two Australian national titles and six Australian junior titles but another four national medals as well.  Stephanie represented Australia at the Four Continents and World Championships as well as the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and 2002 Goodwill Games, and did so with big, consistent triple jumps and confidence galore. Perhaps most remarkable about her story is her return to competitive skating (and the national medal podium in Australia) after a TEN YEAR ABSENCE during the 2012/2013 competitive season. Stephanie took the time to talk about her skating career, return to the ice and what she's doing now in this wonderful interview:

Q: Born in China, you're a former member of China's national team but moved to Australia at a young age and started skating for Australia. What memories do you have of your childhood in China and what was moving to a new country like?

A: Where I am from (Harbin) has bitter cold winters so I will never forget that. Being a little girl at the time moving to Australia, to me it was a whole lot of new things and experience to take in. It was quite exciting and at the same time very scary especially with not being able to speak English.

Q: You have twice won Australia's National Championships (1999 and 2000) and have won Australia's junior title six times. After a ten year absence from the sport, you returned to competition last season and won your sixth medal at the senior level in your country. What did you do when you weren't skating competitively, what prompted you to decide to return to the sport and how hard was training to get in competitive form?

A: I never really gave up skating in my head for all those years. I just thought it would be a great self challenge to see if I still had got what it takes. Although it is extremely hard to be working a full time job and training at an elite level, after ten years off and barely skating during that time it took me three months to get all my triples back and it was in time for Nationals. Lots of sweat and no tears!

Q: What was going from competing under the 6.0 system to the new judging system like for you?

A: Personally I feel it's taken a bit of the athleticism out of the sport. In saying that, I'm aware everything is being judged in a more intriguing light. It certainly forces the skaters to improve their skills as a whole.

Q: You have competed at the Junior World Championships, Four Continents Championships, Goodwill Games, World Championships and in 2002 represented Australia at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. What are your favourite memory from these competitions and what did you love most about the Olympic experience?

A: I enjoyed each competitions in its own way, but I have to say I liked Junior Worlds because the skaters were more likely to be around the same age as me. With Worlds and other senior championships and even the Olympics, at the time it was a bit overwhelming competing with all my skating idols. It was such an honor to be skating for Australia at the Olympics, a country I've lived in most my life now. You should come and visit!

Q: Will we see you competing next season?

A: I am not sure if I have enough time to be training and working full time this year.

Q: In what area has your skating most improved over the off season?

A: I am not sure about improving but I do feel that I enjoy the sport a lot more than while I was younger. It wasn't always about winning competitions this time around.


Q: When it comes to other skaters, who is your role model in the sport?

A: Michelle Kwan. No doubt!

Q: In 2007, the fatal crash of the Merinda near the Sydney Harbor Bridge claimed the lives of four members of Australia's figure skating community and injured two others. What kind of an impact did this accident leave on the skating community?

A: It was and is a very sad tragedy. I know all of the members involved on a personal level so it was hard for me.

Q: What is one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I'm constantly eating food!


Q: What are three things you most want to do in life that you haven't yet - three things on your "bucket list"?

A: To learn how to fly a plane, to own an ice rink in my back yard and to learn to surf.

Q: What do you enjoy most about skating?

A: Since I start skating at a very young age, it's now imprinted in my DNA! I feel lost if I don't do something skating related in my life. So now, I'm also a coach and hoping to pass on my knowledge to the younger generation of skaters. Skating gives you the arena to freely express yourself and that's what I love the most.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Interview With Elena Bechke


Elena Bechke's story is one of perseverance. Struggling through the early part of her career, she rose to the occasion so many times with partner Denis Petrov, winning the World bronze medal in 1989, two medals at the European Championships, the 1992 Soviet title and ultimately, the Olympic silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Turning professional following that year's World Championships, Bechke and Petrov went on to be one of the most successful professional pairs teams of all time, finishing second at the World Professional Championships five times and ultimately winning the World Professional Championships in 1996. They toured with Stars On Ice for seven years and won the U.S. Professional Championships, Canadian Professional Championships, U.S. Open Professional Championships, Challenge Of Champions and ESPN Pro Championships, a later incarnation of the Legends Of Figure Skating Competition. Their skating was everything pairs skating should be: daring, difficult, beautiful and artistic. Now remarried and a mother of two, Bechke lives and coaches and North Carolina... and her daughter Sophia is an up and coming skater in her own right. Elena took the time to talk about both her "amateur" and professional careers, relationship with Petrov, Stars On Ice, her children and much more in this must read interview:

Q: Your skating career was filled with so many amazing moments - medals at the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships and wins at the World Professional Championships, Challenge Of Champions, Canadian Professional Championships, U.S. Open and countless other professional competitions. What are your proudest moments and most special memories from both your "amateur" and professional careers? 

A: Probably the 1992 USSR Nationals. Denis and I won... finally, and it was last in history USSR Nationals because after that there was no more USSR. The Olympics... big time! I managed my nerves and did my best! Also, the 1996 World Professional Championships... we won and we did perfect!


Q: You toured with Stars On Ice for seven years. What did you enjoy most and learn most from your time on tour?

A: I loved every minute of my seven years with Stars On Ice. I learned how to be your best every show and how to share your talent with spectators. I learned and improved my English. I loved traveling on a private jets, going to beautiful American cities and traveling with the best skaters in the world.


Q: Before skating with Denis Petrov, you were won Skate Canada and a medal at the 1986 World Championships with your first partner Valery Kornienko, who was twenty years your senior. What were the high and low points of this partnership and what brought you to Denis Petrov? How did your coach Tamara Moskvina become involved in the process?

A: I always was with Tamara Moskvina. She coached me with Valery too. We were 1986 European Bronze Medalists and traveled a bit within the former USSR. When Valery decided to stop skating, Tamara advised me to try Denis as a skating partner. She knew what she was talking about!

Q: You competed at a time in Soviet pairs skating when you were up against SO many great teams at home, Gordeeva and Grinkov, Mishkutenok and Dmitriev, Shishkova and Naumov and Eltsova and Bushkov among them. How much pressure was there in competition at the Soviet Nationals and what did you learn from your competitors that improved your own skating?

A: There was SO much pressure that at times I did not want to compete. I always wanted to do my best but because of my nerves I had a few very rough events. I learned a lot from Gordeeva and Grinkov. They were my idols. I could watch them skate every day. I also learned how to be tough and positive when things are not that easy. Competing against great skaters helped me to become a stronger person.


Q: You and Denis married in 1990 and divorced in 1995. How challenging was balancing your personal relationship with Denis while still skating together every day on the ice?

A: It was not that hard. We were great friends but were just too young to take care of each other's emotional needs.  

Q: Do you and Denis still speak and would you ever consider skating together again?

A: We do not stay in touch and I'm not sure why. He is in China and I am in the U.S. I wish I could talk to him and just see how he is doing. There is no skating together in the near future.


Q: On your father's side of your family, you are of Hungarian heritage. Have you visited Hungary and what cultural traditions from Hungary and Russia do you celebrate in your life today?

A: I have never been there. The only Hungarian items I know these days are my last name and some great dishes my Mom cooks. My dad passed away in 1993.


Q: You have had so many fabulous programs over the years - "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "The Young Lady And The Hooligan", "Whole Lotta Love" and "Blue Danube" among them. What were your favourite programs to skate and what is one piece of music you would love to skate to even now?

A: "Flowers" for sure. One of the best ever. The "Hungarian Dance" of 1999/2000 was just perfect. "Creation of the World" was simply unbelievable. I can watch those programs every day and still feel proud of Denis and I and all our coaches and choreographers.



Q:  What is your favourite movie, song and book?

A: Sleepless in Seattle and Nicholas Sparks books. He is from North Carolina as well. I love Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. My favourite song is "Just The Way You Are" by Bruno Mars.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?

A: Kristi Yamaguchi. She was the most disciplined athlete in the world. Paul Wylie. The most passionate skater of all times. Scott Hamilton. The most creative and engaging skater and person I have ever met.

Q: You remarried in 2001 and now are a mother of two and a skating coach in North Carolina. How has life changed for you since your skating career ended and what do you consider most important in life now?

A: My kids Alex and Sophia are my world and my happiness. My family is the most important part of my life.  


Q: What is one thing most people don't know about you?

A: I am very insecure at times. I come across as I know it all but I really do not. I come across as a tough Russian woman but I really am not. I have my weak moments.

Q: If you could tell one person struggling with their confidence on the ice something, what would it be?

A: Let your skating come from your heart. Skate from your heart. Listen to your heart.

If you enjoyed the interview with Elena, like the blog on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard and read along at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca for more skater interviews as well as articles, skating history, commentary and special features! You can also follow me on the Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog for skating tweets and whatever else I've got on the go. It would be rude not to, now wouldn't it honey?

The Zamboni Zodiac: Astrology In Figure Skating


"We are born at a given moment, in a given place, and like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season in which we are born." - Carl Jung

No, it's not the dawning of the Age Of Aquarius, sunshine. It's time for The Zamboni Zodiac... a look at how astrology relates to figure skating and an in depth picture not only of how figure skaters relate to their astrological signs but what qualities that they possess as astrological signs that both help and hurt them in the figure skating world! When I sat down with a lap full of books (lucky seven to be precise) and decided that I'd write about this, I actually didn't even imagine how much certain skaters would really relate to their signs. I was just honestly so amazed that I'd found a way to combine my love of astrology and skating (next I've got to figure out a way to combine Hollandaise sauce and gravy)! I found it so interesting to research this (you wouldn't believe!) and I honestly think you will too. Astrology, the search for meaning in the sky, has been around for well over 25,000 years in some form or another - perhaps much, much longer. It existed in ancient Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Arabia, Europe, India, Asia and Mesoamerica in so many different forms and has survived war, feast, famine and religious persecution. It's so much more than some horoscope in a newspaper. If you really study and acquaint yourself with astrology, it is an art and science... much like skating. Is it a coincidence that much of skating's 'royalty' fall under the regal sign of Leo? That one of the most fun skaters ever to grace the sport is a Gemini? It's up to you to be the judge as The Zamboni Zodiac paints its picture:

ARIES (MARCH 21-APRIL 19)

Sonja Henie

Pioneering and courageous, it's no surprise that 3 time Olympic Gold Medallist Sonja Henie was an Aries. Arians are also known to be aggressive and selfish at times, which would certainly explain her determination at all costs to be the most successful skater of her time, male or female. The sign is also known for its sense of adventure and confidence. Debi Thomas and Elaine Zayak, World Champions both, are Aries and are fine examples of skaters that were fearless and full of energy on the ice. Janet Lynn and Stephane Lambiel, also Aries, were certainly courageous and pioneering in bringing to the ice intangible and ethereal artistic qualities that other skaters in their respective eras were not always sporting. Arians are also known to be very active people, avid learners that have the ability to laugh at themselves when things don't go the way the way they want to, certainly qualities any coach would love to have in a student.

Famous Arians: Maya Angelou, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charlie Chaplin, Elton John

TAURUS (APRIL 20-MAY 20)

Toller Cranston

Taureans are known to be very patient and reliable people. They'd have to be. Many famous skaters that are Taureans have had careers that have required more persistence, determination and patience than most. Look at skaters like Jamie Sale, who's a Taurus and had to fight her entire career to finally achieve the success that she was destined for. Another example of this persistence and determination in a skating Taurus is Lloyd Eisler, who made three trips to the Winter Olympic Games and fought through injury and judging controversy with his partner Isabelle Brasseur throughout their highly successful career. Taureans are always very well spoken as well. If you take that into account, it's no wonder both Toller Cranston and Rosalynn Sumners enjoyed great success as skating commentators after their "amateur" careers had ended. Taurus is "the sign of the bull" and therefore is well known as a sign that is very stubborn by nature at times... and a stubborn determination is certainly a quality that will help skaters "stick to it" and endure success as they take the long road to achieving their dreams. Let's hope Taureans Ashley Wagner and Tessa Virtue will be entertaining us for years to come!

Famous Taureans: Cher... bitch (hair flip), Eva Peron, William Shakespeare, Leonardo di Vinci 

GEMINI (MAY 21-JUNE 20)

Kurt Browning

Geminis always get along with other Geminis. I should know, I am a textbook one. We also don't shut up. So, if I was at a party with fellow Geminis Jeremy Abbott, Tara Lipinski, Evan Lysacek, Maya Usova and Katia Gordeeva, it would probably be hard to get a word in edgewise. We're a fun bunch but we also are very nervous and inconsistent by nature, a trait that can certainly be deadly in nature. Look at fantastic skaters like Tomas Verner and Steven Cousins who we always cross(ed) our fingers for and have issues with consistency when it comes down to competition at times. We're a very physically expressive sign. We talk with our hands as well as our mouths and are all about communication and having a sense of humor. You'll notice Gemini skaters as a rule will be very expressive with their arms. If you think about all of those qualities, Kurt Browning being a Gemini should be absolutely no surprise to you whatsoever. One downside of Geminis as a rule is that we tend to hear what we want to hear. We tend to absorb information on more of a subconscious level. One big upside however when it comes to skating is that once again, we love more than anything to have fun and make life fun even when it isn't.

Famous Geminis: Bob Dylan, Judy Garland, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe

CANCER (JUNE 21-JULY 22)

Michelle Kwan

If you tell a Cancer that they can't do something, they'll respond "why not?" and go out and do it. Dick Button certainly did when he was the first skater to land the double axel and triple loop, win 2 Olympic medals, become an iconic skating commentator and basically invent competitive professional skating. They're also very intuitive and imaginative people, ruled by emotion. They're traditionally negated as being a moody sign in astrology, but Cancers will actually try very hard to get OUT of their moods. If you look at their sense of intensity and imagination, could you even be the least bit surprised that Johnny Weir, Laetitia Hubert, Anita Hartshorn, Alexander Zhulin, Maria Butyrskaya, Angelika Krylova and Lucinda Ruh are all Cancers. They're not the only ones. Some of the biggest names in skating are also Cancers, like Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Victor Petrenko and Barbara Underhill. Cancers are sympathetic, kind and emotional people and these are also traits that really carry over onto the ice, of course, as well. I could certainly never imagine telling any of them they couldn't do anything. One thing's for absolute certain. I don't think I'd ever want to head to head in a skate-off with a Cancer. They'd win. 

Famous Cancers: Princess Diana, Franz Kafka, Helen Keller, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

LEO (JULY 23-AUGUST 22)

Dorothy Hamill

Leo is the purple sign: the color of royalty. How befitting that skating royalty Christopher Dean, Robin Cousins, Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming are all Leos. Although at times considered to be dogmatic and "pompous" by some, they are a sign that's full of wonderful qualities that would certainly help anyone in the skating world. They take constructive criticism well. They are broad-minded, creative and full of enthusiasm. They're honest and warmhearted. Just ask skaters like Liz Manley, Paul Duchesnay, Marie-France Dubreuil, Tanja Szewczenko, Povilas Vanagas, Midori Ito and Josee Chouinard. Are these not skaters that not only have all of these qualities but we can't help but just adore? In the world of competitive skating, however, Leos have one quality that needs to be "kept in check". Leos have a tendency to constantly compare themselves to others. They'll obsess as to why they aren't 'better'. When they are able to keep this in check, they can certainly use this sense of comparison to better themselves as athletes, but if they let themselves worry too much about the competition, their sights may settle right on the gold... the Gracie Gold. After all, that girl is on fire.

Famous Leos: Napoleon Bonaparte, Julia Child, Madonna, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

VIRGO (AUGUST 23-SEPTEMBER 22)

Scott Hamilton

Being analytical and meticulous are qualities that help any skater succeed in competitive figure skating. Being observant of one's competitors and reflective about the bigger picture of your performance are certainly things that help you win the mental game that IS competition. Virgos also finish what they start, which certainly boded well for 2010 Olympic Gold Medallist Yuna Kim, who again returned to the Olympic medal podium at the 2014 Games in Sochi in glorious fashion with a flawless performance. Another Virgo, 1996 U.S. National Champion Rudy Galindo certainly finished what HE started. Virgos are smart cookies who are very practical by nature, making them skaters who are not only aware of how to excel in competition but how to train as well. Think about John Curry, Todd Eldredge, Scott Moir, Jeffrey Buttle, Tim Goebel, Matt Savoie, Irina Rodnina, Petr Barna, Tai Babilonia... these are highly intelligent people who were/are very focused, well spoken and intelligent about the way they trained and competed. It's also no shocker that one of the skating world's most famous and successful members - 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist Scott Hamilton - is a Virgo!

Famous Virgos: Agatha Christie, Queen Elizabeth I, D.H. Lawrence, H.G. Wells

LIBRA (SEPTEMBER 23-OCTOBER 22)

Brian Boitano

The sign of the Libra is the Scales Of Justice. Libras are very "middle of the road" people who see both sides to any argument... they are mediators and very expressive people. They are also absolutely committed to achieving their goals. Mao Asada and Nancy Kerrigan are both Libras and skaters that in their own unique ways have shown their undying commitment to their skating goals throughout their careers. Libras are also great lovers of beauty and this would certainly translate to their commitment to artistic excellence on the ice. Jayne Torvill, Sergei Ponomarenko, Elena Berezhnaya, Brian Boitano... these are skaters who all have demonstrated time and time again their commitment to presenting programs that were truly works of art when completed. In winning Olympic gold in Sochi, Maxim Trankov is a Libra who showed his commitment to an idea and that idea was this past season's "Jesus Christ Superstar" free skate this season. The Scales Of Justice certainly slanted in his favor, now didn't they?

Famous Libras: Ray Charles, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Walters, Sigourney Weaver

SCORPIO (OCTOBER 23-NOVEMBER 21)

Evgeni Plushenko

A lot is said about Scorpios and a lot of it isn't good: that they are shrewd business people, that they are ruled by sex, that they have criminal minds. They're ruled by Pluto, the ancient god of the underworld and the dead. Their symbol is the sometimes fatal scorpion. Giiiirl! You'd swear they were all politicians and movie stars! Scorpios have very strong wills and are very self-willed. They are skaters that push themselves to the limit... more than any coach, choreographer or audience could. They are purposeful and fiercely determined to achieve their goals. Evgeni Plushenko... he's a Scorpio. I don't think there's a better poster boy. If you think in a million years that Evgeni wasn't gunning for Sochi to achieve a personal goal, I think you're kind of blinded. Like Plushenko, Emanuel Sandhu is a Scorpio. So is Paul Wylie. So is Adam Rippon. So is Ryan Bradley What all of these skaters actually have in absolute common is the fact that they stuck with their goals to succeed long after people had perhaps written them off, with great success actually. Charlie White, interestingly, is also a Scorpio, as is Sasha Cohen. If you draw the parallel between all of these skaters, there seems to be such a determination and focus on the end goal. That determination worked for Charlie White, Alexei Urmanov, Anton Sikharulidze, Ingo Steuer, Tatiana Totmianina, Xue Shen and Oksana Baiul... just ask them - they have the Olympic medals to prove it.

Famous Scorpios: Marie Antoinette, Ruth Gordon, Rock Hudson, Sylvia Plath

SAGITTARIUS (NOVEMBER 22-DECEMBER 21)

Katarina Witt

Sagittarians are very philosophical by nature. Like Virgos, they are also very analytical, which certainly is huge when it comes to having a bigger picture in skating than the outcome of one practice session or one competition. One of the main things they really have going for them is a positive outlook and a sense of optimism not shared with every other sign. David Pelletier, Lu Chen, Randy Gardner, Katarina Witt, Meagan Duhamel, Surya Bonaly, Miki Ando... are these not skaters you often see with a big old smile on their face? Sagittarians are NEVER boring, with great senses of humor like Geminis... they always have people migrating around them. They're also late bloomers by nature, which would certainly explain Oleg Protopopov, who's still wowing crowds in his 80's at the Evening With Champions shows at Harvard University long after his Olympic wins in 1964 and 1968 with his wife Ludmila. Their intellectual approach to any situation and friendly make them the kind of people who enjoy hear speaking in interviews - look at people like Caryn Kadavy, Jennifer Robinson and Brian Orser and think about them in interviews. Friendly, smiling and completely on the ball. Understanding and analytical, they are one of the most likable signs!

Famous Sagittarians: Ludwig von Beethoven, Winston Churchill, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra

CAPRICORN  (DECEMBER 22-JANUARY 19)

Patrick Chan

Capricorns persevere. They are very willful and are all about endurance. They are intellectualized people who also have an underlying emotional sign but they are really very gutsy, gritty fighters which make them some of the most exciting competitors to watch. Meryl Davis, Joannie Rochette, Aliona Savchenko, Shawn Sawyer and Shizuka Arakawa are all Capricorns and skaters who we've seen 'dig a little deeper' with our own two eyes more than once. They love obstacles and crave challenges. What's that? Patrick Chan's a Capricorn? You don't say! Capricorns not only seek out a good challenge but they plan meticulously for it. Like Sagittarians and Virgos, Capricorns have great memories and are detail oriented. If you're a competitive skater, they are the people you want to watch out for. They're prepared.

Famous Capricorns: Joan Of Arc, Marlene Dietrich, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley

AQUARIUS (JANUARY 20-FEBRUARY 18)

Yuka Sato

"When the moon is in the second house... THIS IS THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS... THE AGE OF AQUARIUS... AQUARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIUS!" Ignore the imaginary haze of smoke, Joni Mitchell and hookah pipes... it just got a little psychedelic for a moment apparently. Back to our regularly scheduled blogging... Aquarians are insightful and make excellent teachers. They sop up knowledge like a baguette to gravy, which really makes sense in a skating context... many of skating's Aquarians have gone from great students to careers as fabulous coaches and choreographers. Carol Heiss Jenkins, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Yuka Sato are prime examples of that. They command attention, which in the context of skating make them the true movie stars of the ice. Philippe Candeloro, Olga Markova, John Kerr, Eric Radford, Alexandr Fadeev... all skaters you really can't keep your eyes off of if you were to watch them perform. They come across as stern sometimes but it's really just that that they are really quite introspective sometimes. There is usually much more to Aquarians than meet the eye - they are complex people... people of substance that honestly often give people the wrong impression about them. The real truth of the matter is that they're really good people.

Famous Aquarians: Lewis Carroll, Carol Channing, Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf

PISCES (FEBRUARY 19-MARCH 20)

Daisuke Takahashi

Pisceans are probably the most fascinating and compelling sign in the Zamboni Zodiac, which seems appropriate they're often saved for last. They are very aware of their bodies and often have the deepest, most expressive eyes. When it comes to that awareness of their bodies, it's interesting to note how many dancers are Pisceans. They tend to be naturally quite streamlined and agile. What's also compelling about Pisceans is their imagination and depth. Gary Beacom, Petri Kokko, Stannick Jeanette, Daisuke Takahashi, Pasha Grishuk... artists all... are Pisceans. You also have skaters with very balletic lines on the ice like Radka Kovarikova, Charlene Wong and Denis Petrov. One thing I think you'll find very interesting is that Alexei Yagudin and Max Aaron are Pisceans, and it's interesting in that these are people who really excelled technically in the initial phase of their careers but became much more aware of their bodies and how to move them artistically as things processed. It's all about a bigger picture and Pisceans are almost as stubborn (but not quite) as Taureans, so they have that fire to stick with it until they achieve whatever it is they set out to.

Famous Pisceans: Edgar Cayce, Albert Einstein, Vaslaw Nijinsky, George Washington

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Interview With Ivan Righini


Competing for Russia for six years boded well for Ivan Righini, who wasn't Ivan Righini back then. Ivan Bariev won two Russian junior men's titles and placed as high as sixth on the senior level in Russia and seventh at the World Junior Championships in 2008 before deciding to represent Italy, the country of his mother's birth during the 2013/2014 season. Ivan adopted his mother's former surname Righini and found expeditious success representing his new home in winning the Italian Figure Skating Championships on his very first try. He also won the Bavarian Open international competition and incredibly placed thirteenth at his first senior World Figure Skating Championships this past season. A very strong technical skater, Righini's future in figure skating looks much brighter these days and I think he's certainly a skater whose name we'll be hearing a lot more from. He took the time to talk about his transition to competing for a new country, first World Championships, future in skating and much more in this interview I think you'll quite enjoy:

Q: You twice won the Russian junior title and won four medals on the Junior Grand Prix and competed internationally for Russia for some years before deciding to obtain a dual citizenship and represent Italy internationally (the country of your mother's birth). What brought on this decision and was it a difficult or an easy process?

A: It was pretty hard! For one moment, I wanted to stop skating but then I said to myself that it's kind of silly to stop after skating such a lot of years for nothing. The decision was made so unpredictably and now I'm happy to introduce Italy!



Q: You recently placed thirteenth at the 2014 World Championships in Saitama, Japan with some GREAT skating there. What are you most proud about your first trip to Worlds?

A: I'm so proud of myself that I could control my nerves in front of such a big crowd! For me, in the short program I was really shocked. I had never been to such a big competition so it was a big stress, but in the free I felt myself so comfortable. I did actually everything I could with one small mistake and skated easily. So I think debut was approved!



 Q: Looking forward to next season and beyond, what are your goals in skating and how will you work in training to achieve them?

A: My goals for next season are to put the quad in both programs, to compete on a hard level and to be for sure in the first ten on the Worlds and first five in Europeans. I am soon starting already to make new programs.

Q: What's your favourite Russian food and your favourite Italian food?

A: Russian food? I think it's pelmeni and borscht. For Italian food, I prefer pasta and pizza and I love seafood!

Q: What's the most difficult jump or jump combination you've ever landed?

A: The most difficult jump I tried was (a long time ago) the quad loop and hardest combination was triple axel/triple toe/double loop.

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I'm kind of a bad guy!


Q: If you could change anything about the way skating is judged, what would you change?

A: I actually like how everything is now. Maybe the points were so high in last time.

Q: If you could meet any figure skater in the world that you haven't, who would it be and why?

A: I already met my idols, Alexei Yagudin and Stephane Lambiel. I would like to meet Philippe Candeloro one time because I love the way he skated.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?

A: Alexei Yagudin has always been my idol. Stephane Lambiel's skating is just phenomenal and Patrick Chan has great skating.

Q: Describe your perfect day away from the rink - where would you go and what would you do?

A: My day would start by not waking up too early, having a great breakfast, then a walk in the center of Moscow to meet my friends and talk with them and then go back home, buy some food and watch movies.

Q: What do you love most about skating more than anything else?

A: I love figure skating! I love the crowd and feel how they cheer for me. I love to show myself!

Was this interview with Ivan your cup of tea? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on! Fabulous skating is too fabulous to keep secret. Am I right or am I right?

V Is For Vivacious: The Vera Hrubá Ralston Story


Every so often a skater's story comes along that is so compelling that it sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. In the case of Vera Hrubá Ralston, figure skater turned Hollywood actress, the Hollywood movie analogy doesn't fall far from the skate guard.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

Born in Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1919, Vera Hrubá was the daughter of wealthy jeweler Rudolf Hrubá. She grew up in a Catholic family on the Berounka River and like many young skaters, enrolled in ballet classes before translating her love of movement to the icy dance floor. Her story (even from childhood) was far from traditional though. Before even taking up skating at the age of thirteen, she had already took up the habit of smoking and much of her early instruction on the ice didn't come from a skating coach but from her own brother. In four short years, she improved by leaps and bounds so much that it was her who represented Czechoslovakia at the 1936 European Figure Skating Championships and Winter Olympic Games. While at those Winter Games in Germany, like winner Sonja Henie she had an encounter with Adolf Hitler. Unlike Henie (who enthusiastically gave the Nazi salute), Hitler asked her if she would like to "skate for the swastika."She responded: "I looked him right in the eye, and said that I'd rather skate on the swastika. The Führer was furious."

After finishing seventeenth at those Games, Vera's competitive career only continued for less than a year more and saw her finish seventh at the 1937 European Figure Skating Championships in her home city of Prague. Following that competition, Vera toured the U.S. in ice revues and was offered a screen test for RKO Pictures but turned it down as she was engaged at the time. Her engagement fell through when her fiancee's parents refused to let him marry her as he was half-Jewish and her family was Catholic. On the fifteenth of March in 1939, Vera and her mother narrowly escaped the Nazi takeover of Prague by getting on the last airplane out of the city and flying to Paris, France. From France, they traveled to New York by boat and Vera's story took more than a few more interesting double twists and three turns.


Upon arriving in New York, Vera took up in residence among ice comedians and skating champions in the Ice Vanities Of 1939 tour. In 1941, she received 2400 marriage proposals when a Chicago newspaper ran a story that she may have to return to Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia when her visitor's permit expired. Later that year, her transformation from professional figure skater to movie starlet would begin when Herbert J. Yates, the president of Republic Pictures would cast her in his film "Ice-Capades".


Her film career would be widely criticized by film critics and public alike, her thick accent and mechanical delivery the brunt of many a joke. By 1943 however, Yates was offering her a long-term movie contract and she chose to Americanize her last name by adding Ralston... after the breakfast cereal. It was Yates' determination to make Vera a star that made her a star. He pumped Republic Pictures money into her career and even threatened exhibitors by withholding popular Republic films unless they played her pictures. She started by taking roles that played on her aptitude for skating (much like the hugely popular Sonja Henie skating movies of the period) but 1944's "Lake Placid Serenade" was to prove one of the last roles centered around Vera's skating. In 1945, she starred alongside legendary actor John Wayne in the film "Dakota". Despite the fact her film career was founded on Yates' determination to make her a star, director Joseph Kane said that "Vera could have made it rough on everyone, but she never took advantage of that situation. Although she never became a good actress, she was cooperative, hardworking and eager to please." The following year, she reunited with her father, became an American citizen and took up residence in Sherman Oaks, California.

Vera Hrubá Ralston and Roy Rogers

Two years later, Yates left his wife and four children to be with Vera. Yates' interest in Rudolf Hrubá's daughter was met with disapproval. Yates was forty years Vera's senior and her father would not prove supportive of the unlikely couple's relationship, opting instead to return to his native Prague. On March 15, 1952, Vera walked down the aisle and married Yates at the Little Brown Church In The Valley in North Hollywood.


The following years would include annual European trips with Vera's mother, one of which would earn Vera a special audience with Pope Pius XII in Vatican City. The newlyweds took up residence in Santa Barbara and her movie career continued with moderate success until she was featured in her last film "The Man Who Died Twice" in 1958. It wouldn't all be roses over the coming decade though. Yates would be the target of a suit by two Republic stockholders who claimed he used company assets to promote his wife as a star and in the spring of 1962, the couple would briefly estrange only to reunite months later. The following year, Vera's father would pass away in Prague and three years later, her husband Yates would pass away in the couple's Sherman Oaks home after suffering nine heart attacks. He left his wife half of his $10 million dollar estate and she suffered a nervous breakdown, travelling to Hawaii to recuperate.


Vera returned to California with her mother but in January 1973, that relationship also ended when her mother passed away in Los Angeles. The same year, she remarried and left her Hollywood life of glitz and glamour behind, marrying a Santa Barbara businessman named Charles Alva. Unlike Yates, Alva would be more than ten years Vera's junior.


In February 2003, her memories of a life on the silver screen and an Olympic figure skater a thing of the distant past, Vera passed away in Santa Barbara after a long battle with cancer. Although posthumously ridiculed by being included as a candidate for "The Worst Actress Of All Time" by the authors of the book "The Golden Turkey Awards" (which was instead won by Raquel Welch), Ralston's compelling story is one of a rich and unconventional rise to the middle during a golden era when the lines between figure skating and Hollywood blended and blurred. Skaters became movie stars, movie stars became skaters and in turn, many people took to the ice to experience their own taste of the magic. An unlikely star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, Vera's impact on the silver screen is still one that's enduring and is proof and parcel that sometimes sheer will can be the deciding factor between success and obscurity.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.

Interview With Christopher Caluza


Born to Filipino parents, California's Christopher Caluza took up skating at age seven and after finding success as a national competitor within the U.S. made the difficult decision to represent the country of his parent's birth in international competition. It has paid off in dividends! Christopher has represented The Philippines at three World Championships and three Four Continents Championships and found success in international competition around the world. It was my pleasure to talk to him at length about his competitive career, plans going forward, his thoughts on the importance of the short program and much, much more in this must read interview:

Q: You have represented The Philippines at three World Championships as well as three Four Continents Championships and won medals internationally in events like the Bavarian Open and Lombardia Trophy in Italy. What are your proudest moments or most special memories from competition?

A: I believe my proudest moment was being in the process of competing for the Philippines. I always wanted to do it for a long time, even before I was a national competitor in the U.S.A. but I didn't want to unless I was a U.S. national competitor. After three years, it has definitely helped me grow as a skater and as a person. To me growing up as an athlete and a person at the international level in this sport is my proudest moment. My special memories competing were my first Philippine Nationals and my first three international competitions in the 2011-2012 season. It was my first year competing for the Philippines. Coming into the Philippines, I had to prove to the people and the federation that I'm here and ready. Before I competed, I knew about how some of the people felt about Filipino Americans "dropping into competition and leaving". My coach Natalia Bobrina talked about it and she told me that it shouldn't matter. So no matter what, I was there to set a good example and do my best. After winning the Nationals, I knew I had a commitment. I stopped going to school and focused on my training. My first international competition was in Oberstdorf, Germany. I didn't want to compete because I had school at the time. And not only that... I was kind of scared. My coach said that it shouldn't matter and every competition should be treated equally. I decided to go to Bavarian Open a week before 2012 ISU Four Continents. I was excited as well because I never skated internationally before. That week, I earned the first Senior B international medal for the Philippines and it was my first time. I never expected a medal, but mainly focused on my points. After that week, I qualified to 2012 ISU Four Continents the next week so it was a lot of traveling from the U.S. to Germany for three days, then back home in San Diego one day, then the next day, fly to Colorado. It was a crazy two weeks. I had competed in high altitude before so I was familiar on how to acclimate. Four Continents is where the federation determines who earned the right to go to the Worlds. I have friends who came to watch and it was an amazing feeling getting support from the U.S. crowd since I was from here. The long program was the hardest I've done. I had to focus on getting the energy back up and fight and especially showing fierceness and elegance. The crowd being behind me was an amazing feeling. When I finished my program, I saw some people standing and that was a good feeling. I over analyzed my program with my coach and I actually had mixed feelings towards how it went. When I saw my scores, I was like "not good" but when I saw myself on top of the board in my group, I was like "no way! what just happened?!" Everything was unexpected. Placing in the top twelve was one of the best things that has happened; not only for myself, but the Philippines. I earned my rights and spot for Worlds. I dropped out of school to focus on my training the next month. That week, I can remember how my practices went. When I came to Nice, France I was just in awe with the atmosphere. Practices for the Preliminary Round were amazing but I was lucky to have made it through because I was nervous for my first Worlds. Then in the next days, practices were crazy bad leading into the short program. The day of the short, I knew it wasn't going to go as I thought. I tried to stay focused on what I could do. Unexpectedly, I did well. When I competed my jump elements I knew it was time to sell it even more. I had fun because the tango was another way to show a side of me. I wanted to show that I can be sexy and intense. Afterwards, the feeling was amazing and intense. I didn't even hold my pose, I just fist pumped so aggressively with excitement. When my scores came in, I was very happy that not only I qualified but my components scores were high. Coming into the long. I knew it was my last skate. I had to get it together and do the best I could do. I told myself, "you qualified to the final round. You deserved to be here, and now show it".  I did everything I could and executed most of the elements leading into my last axel at the end. I touched down but I smiled and so did the audience. That was the skate of my life. My first Worlds and I was the unexpected person to make the finals. That was something I will never forget. Coming into the Olympic year, the previous season was a disaster in some parts but I came back a stronger competitor. I had to prove to my federation and the world I deserved to go to the Olympics. Even though I wasn't chosen to go, this past season was the strongest I've ever skated. I proved it five times fairly on how I deserved respect and I earned a lot of it during the season.


Q: You face a lot of competition right 'at home' from fellow Filipino men's skater Michael Christian Martinez. Comparing yourself with Martinez, what do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?

A. I wouldn't want to compare myself to Mr. Michael Martinez since he has his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as I myself have my own. Usually in my feelings, my own strength is mental usually. I try to stay positive and not think about winning but tell myself, "you are stronger than you think you are." In this sport my greatest competition is mainly myself. In this sport, the greatest competitor is in the athlete.

Q: Prior to deciding to represent The Philippines in 2011, you competed within the U.S. on the junior and senior level. Was this a decision an easy or a difficult one and what were the most challenging aspects of the whole process of representing a different country in competition?

A: The decision to switch countries was difficult and easy, in different ways, but it didn't mean I had to go compete for the Philippines right away. I had to earn my rights to compete for the Philippines. I didn't want to be one who just represents another country by just coming in. I knew that before I switched, I would have a huge responsibility and that responsibility is hard to come by. Therefore, it is very much a privilege to compete for another country... especially the Philippines. So I had to make a good impression my first Philippine Nationals. All three season I had to do my best. I also had to show my federation who is the strongest skater. No matter what competition, I always have a lot to prove. That was my greatest challenge. I also knew how some people from the Philippines would feel about an American coming in but I didn't let that affect what I do best because it just makes me feel even better about myself and motivated me.

Q: You mentioned that people from the Philippines may have taken issue to an 'outsider' coming in. How were/are you received within the Filipino skating community?

A: I have heard things from other people about what they think about Americans. Even before I was coming, I knew how some people from the Philippines would feel. When it comes to the Philippines. I am knowledgeable about the country's government and what the social statuses are like. I had to educate myself on what kind of country I'm representing so I know how to handle situations professionally. It is a normal feeling from what I can see. When I arrived, I was welcomed by coaches I've met on Facebook and YouTube. When I was there I didn't know anyone but a few of the coaches and they were happy to have me. From what I was told from parents and coaches from there, I have set a good example there from the beginning up to now. It was like a learning experience for the skaters and it was greatly for me as well. I never thought I was looked up to because it's just how I do my job everyday.


Q: What are your goals for the 2014/2015 season and going forward? Have you given thought to new programs and what have been your main focuses in training recently?

A: So far, I'm still in deciding whether or not to continue competing. Nevertheless, I'm still listening to different programs to which I can connect to and so will any audience. I am choreographing them as well because I love to express myself and I believe that when you skate, you are there to do your best but also have people talk about your performance more. It's like building a memory. My main focus is still practicing my triple axel. I am focusing on getting it clean and consistent because without this jump, I believe I'm not going to be taken seriously in this sport as it was shown in 2014 ISU Worlds in Saitama. I was very disappointed in my components scores especially. If I land my triple axel clean and consistent, that one jump can change everything I'm sure.

Q: What three songs could you listen to on a loop all day long?

A: "Freak Out" by Avril Lavigne, "Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2" by Chopin and "Waterfalls" by TLC.



Q: How important is having both a short program and free skate?

A: Very important. Both programs are a good way to show how a skater can be versatile or show how they can connect to the audience differently. Even though short is like a technical program it's still a program/performance. I treat every program the same no matter how much the rules change. I love expressing myself in both programs so I can separate myself from one genre to a different genre.

Q: Do you agree with bonuses being rewarded late in free skate programs for difficult jumps landed or do you feel backloading programs with difficult jumps when a skater is most tired is just asking for injuries?

A: For me, I believe it's very strategic and is very good. My programs from last season was a way of working strategy. There is a certain line to when the program doesn't look well balanced. I did notice how that it's backloaded with different skaters, and it's hard to find choreography. It always depends on the music and how the skaters find time to execute every element, which is why it is important to plan the program and train it properly. When it comes to injury, it also depends in how a skater trains their program. High level athletes can get hurt anywhere at any time, mainly off the ice. It would not matter. It always depends on how the second half is being trained. When I choreograph a program, I have to know my program well enough so I can execute more difficult elements at the right time. It's all about strategy and training.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time?

A:: There are too many to pick from but from the start it was Tara Lipinski, then Michelle Kwan, and Alexei Yagudin.

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A: I was born with one kidney. I have a learning disability so it was difficult for me in school but no athlete is perfect, you know. I have choreographed my own programs the past four years and during my time competing internationally. I usually provide movements then the coach looks and approves or not. I'm dating and I have another thing I want to say but shouldn't.

Q: What do you love the absolute most about figure skating?

A: I love figure skating because it taught me how anything is possible. I love how it taught me discipline and how loving what you are doing is very important. It has taught me professionalism, RESPECT mainly... self- respect, standing on my own feet, humility, and having good sportsmanship. I have met great people from around the world who know who I am which is one of the best things. It is a life learning tool that I want to use for my future endeavors.

Didn't you just love this interview with Christopher? Well, don't just stand there! In order for this blog to reach a wider audience, I could sure use a little help. All you have to do is "LIKE" the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard for instant access to all of the new blog articles, features and interviews as they are made available. I also share daily updates and headlines from the skating world, videos and much more that's not here on the blog, so if you love figure skating as much I do, it would really be rude not to get on that inside edge! You can also follow all of the fun along on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog. If you know someone who loves skating, tell them! It's all about getting a dialogue going on!

A Skating Safari: Bears On Ice, The Swan Lake, Flying Camels And More Than A Few Asses

Who doesn't love one of those face in the hole things? They are a time! Do you know what else is a time? Figure skating. It's kind of like an animal farm sometimes though. To make it to the top echelons of the sport you have to be both as strong as an ox and as graceful as a gazelle. In turn, you've got some skaters performing with the elegance of a black swan and others with the reckless abandon of a bull in a china shop. They perform flying camel spins, shoot-the-ducks, Arabians and butterfly jumps. They face judgment from a jury of aging owls (who aren't always as wise as the idiom would suggest) but also have to deal with getting raked over the coals by less than supportive skating 'fans' worldwide: an eclectic group that certainly includes a murder of crows and more than a few asses. Yet others accept the status quo of the IJS judging system blindly like sheep because it's too difficult for them to make heads nor tails of. I come back to this quote from George Orwell's masterful allegory Animal Farm: "Several of them would have protested if they could have found the right arguments. Even Boxer was vaguely troubled...but in the end could think of nothing to say". Sometimes it's easier to just go with the flow and not rock the water safari boat, isn't it? At any rate, it's a safari out there on the ice sometimes. In this blog, I'll be your guide! Grab yourselves some binoculars and get ready explore figure skating's connection to the animal kingdom:

BEARS ON ICE


When I first heard of a show called Bears On Ice, I figured it was a Gay Pride Week event involving quite a few margaritas, but I was certainly wrong. In 2009, a Russian state circus company put together a show called Bears On Ice and brought it to Kyrgyzstan's capital city Bishkek. I can't even tell you how ridiculous and inhumane I think the whole thing is, but here's the story. Apparently Russian circuses think it's just fine to teach bears to do everything from ride motorcycles to ice skate, and in this case, they had bears on the ice rehearsing in skates for a circus production and circus administrator Dmitry Potapov was killed when the bear was dragged across the ice by his neck. One of his legs was nearly severed. Animal trainer Yevgeny Popov suffered deep scalp lacerations, bruising of the brain and lacerations all over his body in an attempt to save his co-worker from the bear, who had clearly had enough. And no wonder! You just don't do that. Seven years previously, a small child was attacked and killed in the same city's zoo by a bear that she reached out to pet. That bear too was on loan from Russia. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to grasp that training animals to do outrageous things like this is not only dangerous and inhumane and tragically, those who chose to do it paid the ultimate price. 

THE SWAN LAKE


When legendary commentator and two time Olympic Gold Medallist Dick Button said of Fumie Suguri's free skate in 2003, "there needs to be a little more in that Swan Lake" he certainly wasn't referring to the bevy of swans in the lake on this skating safari. From black swans to dying swans, skaters have revisited and recycled Tchaikovsky's memorable score for decades. It's an old standard in terms of skating music and certainly one that has been met with varying degrees of success in the homages skaters have played to it. Personally, when I think of the score, the performances that stand out in my mind are certainly Rudy Galindo's 1996 winning free skate at that year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose, California, Oksana Baiul's short program at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway and Ashley Wagner's brilliantly choreographed "Black Swan" free skate choreographed by Phillip Mills that won her the first of her two U.S. titles to date at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, ironically also in San Jose, California, a city more known for its Sharks than birds. You also have, of course, the legendary two time Olympic Gold Medallists Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov whose exquiste classic interpretation of Tchaikovsky's music remains to this day one of the finest in my humble opinions. Though chronically overused as program music in my opinion, "Swan Lake" is big music and as these few examples prove, if it's used effectively, it can certainly create a stunning, stunning theme for a program.

FLYING CAMELS

Speaking of Dick Button, we have him to thank for one of the most uniquely named spins in figure skating.Although the idea of camels flying through the air seems more like something whimsical from a Dr. Seuss children's book than an ISU rulebook, the flying camel spin is based on one of skating's three basic spin positions and developed from the camel (or parallel spin) which was first performed in international skating competition by World Champion Cecilia Colledge in 1935. There has been debate as to who actually invented the camel spin. Many contend that it was Colledge; famed coach Gus Lussi (who coached Button) claimed rather that an Australian skater by the name of Campbell had invented the spin and the name had broken down from 'Campbell' to 'Camel'. Dick Button was the first person to take the spin and add the 'flying' feature and what was then known as the 'Button Camel' later became known as the flying camel spin. Prior to Button creating and popularizing the flying camel, the 'Campbell' or 'Camel' spin had been thought of primarily of a spin only traditionally to be performed by women, so when Dick created this piece of history he really turned the phrase 'when pigs fly' into 'when camels fly', proving that the impossible or unexpected could indeed be done.

MORE THAN A FEW ASSES


Sometimes more than a few asses can be just the straw that broke the flying camel's back. Not to put the cat among the pigeons, but the 1976 film "Network" has provided the world with more than a few iconic quotes. Peter Finch's character Howard Beale produced this gem: "I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!...You've got to say, I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE! Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!" You know, that's exactly how I feel when I listen to the murder of crows - and more than a few asses - degrade and belittle the accomplishments of skaters and just about anybody doing anything constructive for the sport on anonymous figure skating forums and social media. I wrote the article Getting Up And Saying No (Part 1 and Part 2) to talk about bullying and harsh criticism of skaters by media and so-called 'fans' of the sport, often either anonymously or passive aggressively. It's funny. I got wonderful, wonderful responses on these pieces from anti-bullying groups, skaters and countless fans but yet the only place where these blogs were (ironically) harshly criticized was on anonymous skating forums. Never 'one to disappoint', internet skating forums are just full of love sometimes, aren't they? The negativity and snark that some skating 'fans' seem to consistently bring to the table and the overwhelming desire to throw skaters who don't perform up to these 'fans' personal standards to the wolves is enough to put a damper on anyone's skating safari. I personally have decided to make it my objective to keep the issue of bullying in the forefront going forward. Figure skating doesn't need venom and vitriol and you think otherwise, maybe it's you with the problem, not the skaters you're dragging into the trough on a daily basis.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html