Interview With Barbara Berezowski

After winning 3 silver medals in ice dancing at the Canadian National Figure Skating Championships, Barbara Berezowski and David Porter win on to win to Canadian ice dance titles in 1975 and 1976 and represented Canada at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria - the first Winter Olympics where ice dancing was included as an Olympic Sport. After making history and finishing in the top 10 in these Olympic Games, Berezowski and Porter turned professional, touring with Toller Cranston and later with Ice Follies. In addition, Barbara was crowned Miss Toronto in 1976, was a finalist for Miss Canada and Barbara and David went on to win the 1977 World Professional Figure Skating Championships. Now an esteemed author and motivational speaker, I had a chance to ask Barbara about her competitive and professional careers and the state of figure skating today.

Q: As a Canadian figure skating champion, you had the experience of representing Canada at the 1976 Winter Olympics. What was this entire experience like for you and how did it change you?

A: My goal was always to become Champion of Canada and then to one day skate in Ice Follies as a professional. The Olympics was never within our sights because Ice Dancing was not an event in the Olympic Games. In fact, one of the most difficult moments for me was back in 1972 when we won the Silver Medal in Canada. It was at the Canadian championships in London, Ontario. We had just finished the event. The Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA, now known as Skate Canada) had all the medallists gathered on the ice for the official 1972 Team pictures. First, the World Team Members were named. This Team would represent Canada at the upcoming World Championships. It consisted of the medal winners in the various events: Ladies, Men’s, Pairs and Ice Dance. Then came the official Team Photos for the skaters named to the Olympic Team...but only those competing in Ladies' Singles, Men's Singles and Pairs were called out. I could never understand why ice dancing was not a part of it but it was not something we had control over and so it was what it was. Very disappointing and unfair, I thought. Having said that, we were very proud to represent our country at the World level, it was a thrill and I took on the responsibility with great pride. Little did we know that we would be Champions of Canada in the right place and in the right time. I couldn't believe the announcement that Ice Dancing was to be an official event at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria! Wow! That was a game changer (sorry for the pun) and our sights were now set on those 5 wonderful rings! Being named to your country's Olympic Team is an experience of a lifetime. It is so overwhelming. When you arrive at Olympic Village and register as a participant, you realize the enormity of the event. It's just not a "skating" competition. You are surrounded by the world class athletes of every winter sport! Everything is suddenly more immense... your excitement level, your responsibility, the size of the world stage you are about to step out onto, etc. It was wonderfully amazing, an experience I will never forget. One note for the record books: David (my skating partner) and I drew the dreaded number one in skating order at the Innsbruck Olympics. Dreaded because you never want to be the first competitor: it almost guarantees low marks, no matter what you do because the judges have to leave room for the other 25 skating teams to come. Looking back on that now though, there was a silver lining to that: that action made David and I the first Ice Dancers in the World to ever compete in the Olympics! The entire experience of being at the Olympics changed my outlook on how important achievement is and how it can inspire others. It made me realize that I was more than just a skater... I was an Olympian and because of that I have a duty to share what I've learned and experienced and to inspire others.

Q: You won the World Professional Figure Skating Championships in Jaca, Spain. What was this experience like and what are your memories of this competition?

A: Firstly, the people in Jaca, Spain were wonderful. They welcomed us with open arms and shared their excitement and pride by hosting a fabulous event. It was a little strange to go back into a competitive mode after skating professionally for a year, at that point. We were now used to skating in spotlights and show makeup and sequins, backed with a cast of skaters. To go back into a competition was a little bit of a strange feeling but once we got there, we knew it was meant to be. It was a bit of a "going home feeling" because the other competitors there were the same skaters we competed against for years in the amateur world. It is no secret that there were many deals made between skating federations, back in the day, and the final placements and medals awarded at the world championships, were not always on the merits of the skaters out in the middle of the ice, alone. Now, at the World Professional Championships, we were all looking forward to a more level playing field. No political agendas, no behind-the-scene deals to be made... just a chance to put your stuff out there and be appreciated for what you do...honestly. Winning that World Professional Ice Dance Title was huge and meant so much to us because we had now proven that what we believed about the results in the amateur world events (we deserved to be placed much higher than 7th in the world) was true. The skaters that we out-skated at this event, were the very same competitors that we out-skated in the amateur world yet they were always placed higher. Now, the tables were turned and winning was sweet. It gave us peace of mind to finally be recognized for our ability and talent.

Photo courtesy Sandra Bezic

Q: How has ice dance changed in your opinion and do you agree with the way it is scored as opposed to under the 6.0 system?

A: There have been many changes in Ice Dance and I like some of the artistic freedom the skaters are allowed (i.e.: the music) but I do not like that the rules seem to be a demand to up the pair-skating elements within ice dancing. There are times though that I feel the new judging system has pros and cons. Obviously on the pro side, the deals cannot be made and judges can no longer "fix" the scores... on the con side, I feel that there is just too much put on "a point for this and a deduction for that"... the big picture is sometimes lost. Just let them dance, I don't like pair spins in a dance program.

Q: You're an accomplished writer and public speaker. What are your goals and what is the most important part of your work you do today?

A: Thank you for that. As I said earlier, as an Olympian, I feel it is my Duty to share what I've learned and to inspire others. This is my mission and it is passion. In my book: "Win At Life and Positively Sparkle! An Olympian's Advice For Success", I write about how important it is to me to share my outlook. I want to teach others; I want to help others succeed. Having performed on the world stage, the experiences have taught me many lessons that I can now apply towards what I do as a Speaker on the motivational stage. I allow my passionate feelings for my message to guide me towards this new adventure.

Q: Who are your favourite Canadian ice dancers? 

A: Without question, I have to say Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir! They are our Canadian sweethearts and are so talented and wonderful Ambassadors for our sport. You can see that their feelings are true; they are just being themselves out there on the ice, which is perfect. That is all they need to be. I do also have to mention that I enjoy watching our other very talented ice dancers: Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. There is alot of talent in Canadian ice dancing – Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams and so many more. We have so many young couples that are ready and waiting in the wings for their turn to shine and they will! What I like most is that there is a good, healthy and exciting competition between Virtue&Moir vs. Davis&White for world ice dance dominance at the present moment. Makes for entertaining viewing.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of figure skating? What kinds of changes and innovations do you think you'll see in our lifetimes? 

A: That's a difficult question to answer... In today's world of big money, sponsorships, marketing and the fact that athletes can have lucrative financial careers while still "amateurs", you will see more 4 time, 5 time, 6 time, etc. champions. They can now afford to stay in the game longer, as opposed to the 2 time, 3 time champions of the past who were just as good and equally as talented (for their time) but they couldn't afford to go the distance because they had to support themselves. It would be nice to raise people's awareness of the importance of looking at the big picture and to understand why we are now seeing multi-year champions. Progress doesn't just happen out on the ice, it's also in the system and the life factors of the time. I would like to see figures come back in the instructional/developmental side of skating; there are many out there that can fling themselves into quad after quad but they lack the fundamentals. I just hope that there will be a limit, at some point, to the technical side of skating and allow the blade to just glide.

Q: If you could give the world one piece of advice that would improve their day to day lives, what would it be? 

A: That's easy.... B Positive and Sparkle! I say it everyday. For anything you do in life, you must remain true to yourself. Always look at the big picture. Love life, be grateful for all the little things, believe in yourself, be passionate about your purpose and have a positive attitude.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Jennifer Kirk

In 2000, Jennifer Kirk was the World Junior Champion. Two years later, she was the Four Continents Champion. She competed in three World Championships and was also a U.S. and Skate Canada medallist. After losing her mother and fighting a difficult battle with eating disorders, Jennifer returned to the sport, showing her true passion for it through The Skating Lesson, a new YouTube site that showcases the sport's very best and shares their real stories. A fabulous skater and a fascinating person - here is my interview with Jennifer:

Q: I'd like to start by saying I'm a huge fan! You're hilarious and I always just loved your skating. Why do you think having a sense of humour about yourself and the sport is so important?

A: Thank you, Ryan! I didn't know I was hilarious! Haha! I think it's important to have a sense of humour about yourself because life is hard yet can also be very, very funny. We've all had experiences where we've looked back on a situation that at the time was miserable but one we can now laugh at. I think it's always important to find the humour in everything because it makes life so much more enjoyable. It's also important to find the humour in yourself; we should never take ourselves too seriously.

Q: What is your favourite memory of competitive skating and what was your favourite program that you skated?

A: My favourite memory of competitive skating is my Junior Worlds long program in 2000. There was a moment in the program, right after I landed my triple flip and the music changed to the slow section, where I just knew I was going to skate a clean program. It was as if my body totally relaxed, and I felt so in control and present for the rest of the program. It didn't matter what place I ended up at that moment; all I could think about was how much I loved skating and performing and how lucky I felt to be doing what I loved.

Q: What's the most rewarding part of your involvement in the sport today?

A: I am really enjoying the podcast/interview series that I recently started with Dave Lease called The Skating Lesson. I love talking to influential figures from the sport and learning about the lessons they learned during their time in skating. I've developed such respect for our interviewees and the challenges each of them have overcome. I've also been amazed at their willingness to speak so honestly in the effort to help others. It's been a blast.

Q: Who, of the current top skaters in the world, do you really think people need to watch out for? Who's the underdog that has the potential to make it big?

A: I would watch out for Alex Johnson. He recently won the Challenge Cup and had a fantastic skate in his long program at U.S. Nationals. I'm a huge fan of his skating and see him as the underdog next season.

Q: As a skater, you got to work with some of the world's best coaches and choreographers. How important is good coaching and choreography to a skaters ultimate success?

A: Good coaching and choreography is paramount to a skater's success. Probably the most important element to it is finding a coach and a choreographer who really understands you as an athlete and a person. Just like any good relationship, you need to have that connection. It's also really important I've learned to have good communication and the ability to speak up about how you feel and what you like and dislike as an athlete. Skaters need to feel that they can go to their coaches and voice their opinions. Likewise, a good choreographer who is willing to take input from the skater is vital. It needs to be a collaborative effort.

Q: What is the most overused piece of music in figure skating?

A: Ha! It's a tie: "Carmen" and "Swan Lake."

Q: What do you think could be improved with the new judging system? Do you miss the 6.0 system?

A: I do miss the 6.0 system, but I also think aspects of the new system are really beneficial to the sport. That said, I worry that the new system doesn't allow enough of a skater's personality to be revealed during a performance. Skating has become somewhat generic. Skaters are all trying to do the same moves in order to maximize points. I miss seeing a skater hold a spiral for a good 20 seconds at the end of their program like Nancy Kerrigan or a spread eagle the length of the ice like Paul Wylie. Today, skaters' programs have to be jam-packed with tricks, and the personality of the skater really suffers because of it.

Q: Who's your skating idol? Who's one skater you love that not many people may know about?

A: Growing up, I loved Kristi Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan. I still watch YouTube videos of them whenever I'm missing skating! I also really loved Nathalie Krieg. She was a Swiss skater with fantastic spins.

Q: Who's the nicest skater out there?

A: It's funny, the majority of skaters are incredibly nice. I've rarely, if ever, met a skater with whom I didn't connect or find pleasing on some level. I was always touched during my last year touring with Champions On Ice that Rudy Galindo would come out and stand by the curtain every night to watch me perform. I admired him so much growing up, so to see him take the time to watch me perform always stuck with me. I also found Nicole Bobek to be someone who is very kind.

Q: What are your goals these days and where do you see yourself in five years?

A: Dave and I are having so much fun with The Skating Lesson. We have plans to turn it into a website where we'll cover as many skating events as possible--at the local level to international events--and provide a place where skaters and fans can discuss and exchange information about the sport. We also want to continue with our interviews and develop a section on the site where skaters can learn from experts and former champions through interviews and information gained from these influential figures. The sport has lost some of its television coverage and mass appeal, and Dave and I want to help bring that back.

Q: What are your thoughts on professional figure skating? It was MASSIVE in the 1990's and professional figure skating competitions are few and far between these days. Would you compete if they made a resurgance?

A: I was just talking to a friend about this today! I would love to come back to do shows at some point. Unfortunately, because skating is not on television as much these days, the interest in the sport has dwindled. I don't think the new judging system has helped the sport's popularity as well. It's sad, because the talent and the personalities are still there; they just need to be seen and embraced. That is a goal Dave and I have with The Skating Lesson: To showcase the great personalities of the sport.

Q: What's your favourite movie and why?

A: I have so many favourites, but if I had to pick just one, I'd probably say "Almost Famous." I love Kate Hudson, and it's a movie to which I really connect.

Q: When all is said and done, when you look back on your experience as a competitive skater, how you do you think it has shaped the person you are today?

A: Skating taught me so much about myself. In a way, the sport has shown me what I'm made of. As an athlete, you have to constantly push yourself beyond your limits and overcome physical and mental pain. Skating taught me to overcome adversity and to never take a victory or a defeat too seriously. I am constantly finding ways to use the lessons I learned during my skating career to help with my life off the ice and to help others. When I look back at my time as a skater, I see it as such a gift and will forever be grateful to the sport that has given me so much.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Parker Pennington

With an immense love for the sport, Parker Pennington competed in over 10 U.S. National Championships, winning the U.S. juvenile, intermediate, novice and junior titles. After years of competing, Parker created a very unique project called Skate Dance Dream, which pairs young skaters with talented and experienced figure skaters and dancers and gives them the opportunity to perform along side them. I had chance to catch up with Parker and ask him a few questions:

Q: You were a juvenile, intermediate, novice and junior U.S. men's champion? That's insane! Which of those victories was the sweetest?

A: Wow, that is a good question. I would have to say the junior title. It was one that I felt like was my hardest victory. I was in third after the short and came back to win, delivering a strong free skate. It was my grittiest win of the four and the one I appreciate the most therefore.

Q: In total, you competed in over TEN U.S. National Championships. What gave you the drive to keep going and what is one of your favourite memories from your competitive skating days?

A: I was driven for sure-it was my dream to be on the World & Olympic Team at the time, but when I didn't quite my achieve those particular goals, it was my passion and love for skating that kept me going strong. I always and have continued to just love the glide of the ice, as it takes me to my 'happy place'. I love that feeling of being completely engrossed in what I am doing. As for my favorite memory, that most definitely was my short program at the 2009 U.S. Nationals in Cleveland. I think it was my all-around best skate and it was just in the right place, being literally "my backyard" (trained in Lakewood, just 10 miles outside of Cleveland). I had a standing ovation and let out some fist pumps and even shouted a yes during my program (after the death drop). It was a moment I will never forget, although looking back I wish I had jumped into the crowd, Cleveland Dog Pound style! Every time I watch that performance, I get all teary eyed. Yes, I cry for figure skating. Insert joke here.

Q: What's one song you'd love to perform to and never have?

A: There's so many songs I love and feel like I could skate to....and they are currently all on the tip of my tongue haha. My only wish in looking back, is that I would have tapped into my true creativity as a skater and artist. I believe I could skate to just about anything now. I feel like I was geared a certain way coming up towards technique (which helped with the W's!), but I never really thought outside of that capacity. Once I stopped competing, all of a sudden it hit me. Now, I take all of that creativity I have had stored up for all of the years and pass it on to others (choreography and our Skate Dance Dream show productions).

Q: Tell us about Skate Dance Dream. What is it and what are its greatest successes to date?

A: Skate Dance Dream is a full show production experience that fuses figure skating and dance. That's right, there's a dance stage on the ice! But more importantly, we give youth figure skaters and dancers the opportunity to perform with and learn from the Stars, through show rehearsals, meet & greets, group numbers, seminars and more. The Stars being World Team members and U.S. National Medallists, along with Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance?" finalists. With Skate Dance Dream, we have one main goal: to inspire skaters and dancers alike. We believe every child deserves the chance to be on the same platform next to the Stars. There is a big difference between seeing the Stars on television and getting to see them (let alone perform with and learn from them!) in real life. I don't know if it is just me being a dreamer but I think, what skater or dancer wouldn't want to do this? The greatest successes of the show has been seeing that all the children have a smile on their face and they look like they are having the time of their life.

Q: Who's your skating idol? Who's one skater you love that not many people may know about?

A: Okay, skating idols: Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning are the guys I looked up to growing up. I will give you several skaters that not a lot of people may know as well... Ryan Jahnke and Matt Savoie. Loved their creativity---they were clearly ahead of the times, which most true artists are. And, just to throw out some other names, although they are notable I just love to watch them: Alissa Czisny, Michelle Kwan, Ryan Bradley, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre. I also love watching all the up-and-comers! They are the future of our sport and I think their is a lot of budding potential!

Q: What are your goals these days and where do you see yourself in five years?

A: My goals purely revolve around Skate Dance Dream. You know how some people live, eat, breathe what they do. Yeah, that's me with Skate Dance Dream. Of course I love production and all the creativity, but that's not what drives me every day. Skate Dance Dream is the chance for us to inspire many people from different walks of life. At our core, we want to inspire skaters and dancers and teach them to love what they do, be themselves and dream big. As for where I see myself in five years, I want us to have a touring show across the nation..but for right now, it is just taking one glide at a time.

Q: If a tree fell in the forest, which judge would you like it to fall on?

A: Oh my goodness, you are hilarious Ryan! Where do you come up with these questions hahaha! In all honesty, I will say no one - just because I realize every person has their voice and opinion, and as always, I take what those that were hard on me had to say and I worked on what I needed to do in order to be become a better skater. In the end, that's what it is all about anyways: being the absolute best you can be. Placement was always the icing on the cake.

Q: What are your thoughts on professional figure skating? It was MASSIVE in the 1990's and professional figure skating competitions are few and far between these days. Would you compete if they made a resurgance?

A: I would love to watch it, that's for sure! We have so many personalities in skating (both new and old) and I feel like the world is missing out on them! As for me, would I want to get out there and compete again? No. I don't miss those days! While some have that 'itch" and may love to compete, I feel that way about helping and inspire others. I want to share my passion of figure skating and dance!

Q: What's your favourite book and why?

A: I like how you spell favorite, 'favourite', so French of you, Love it haha!!! I really like James Patterson and Dan Brown books. Although I am about to start into some autobiographies. Am hoping they have ones for Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey. Would also love to meet them one day.

Q: Is there one thing about you a lot of people may not know or your skating you'd love to share with them?

A: I have a great sense of humor, I can always pull the good out of any situation or experience and I just love to learn! Okay, so I guess that actually counts as 3 things! :)

Learn more about Parker and Skate Dance Dream at Skate Dance Dream have a show coming up May 19, 2013 in Lakewood, Ohio. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Spotlight On Laetitia Hubert

Ask your run of the mill skating fan who Laetitia Hubert is and the run of the mill story you'll hear goes something like this: "OH YEAH! In 1992 in Albertville she skated a wonderful short program and fell seventeen times or something like that in the free skate and they called her The Human Zamboni. Get it? Human Zamboni?" Yikes.

That vignette has been passed down as through skating history but the fact of the matter is that there is so much more to this French star's story than one memorable implosion. Laetitia Hubert joined an elite club of skaters when she competed at four consecutive Winter Olympic Games in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002. In a career spanning two decades, the French firecracker competed at nine World Championships, seven European Championships, won two French national titles and entering countless international competitions, showcasing her incredible power, avant garde style and competitive spirit in every one of her outings.

They say the skaters we remember are not always the ones to win the gold medals, and Laetitia certainly exemplified this statement. As touched on earlier, with a flawless original program at the 1992 Olympics in her home country, her skating certainly caught the media and skating community's eyes and came into the international consciousness. Although she faltered with a disastrous free skate effort at those Games, she rebounded to finish fourth at the following World Championships. She went on to finish in the top ten at the World Championships four more times including another fourth place finish in 1998 - right after another disastrous Olympic setback. Detect a theme here?

Although at times inconsistent, Laetitia's trademark speed and very original and edgy programs spanned everything from the music of Dead Can Dance to "The Last Emperor" soundtrack, classical and tango music, jazz, movie soundtracks and even her iconic 1998/1999 free skate where she portrayed a prostitute on drugs. She was never afraid of trying new things or taking risks, attacking triple/triple combinations at a time many competitors were labouring with triple/doubles. 

One of Laetitia's greatest challenges was at home. Although she won her pair of French national titles in 1998 and 1999, 
she was competing in an era where there was an incredible amount of depth in French ladies skating. Surya Bonaly and Vanessa Gusmeroli - world medallists both - and other talented skaters such as Marie-Pierre Leray gave her a run for money at every turn. She was phased less than she was painted as being phased though. A win at the 1997 Trophee Lalique Grand Prix event in her home country over Tara Lipinski just months before Tara won her Olympic title, certainly showcased her potential and if you sit down and watch most of her performances during her final season as an "amateur" skater in 2002, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how she didn't quit when the going got tough as she did at the 1998 Nagano Games.

One of my greatest joys - as a huge fan of this skater AND Liz Manley - was seeing BOTH of them perform for the first time in years at the 2011 Caesar's Tribute show. Joining them were such skating stars as Nicole Bobek and Yuka Sato. It was certainly a great throwback to a different era.

What made Laetitia Hubert the kind of skater I still remember and absolutely still adore watching was the fire in her, even after so many rough skates. She had something special in her, she knew it, and she never gave up. Laetitia is now married, coaches in Albertville, France, is a technical specialist and still performs occasionally. Not nearly enough as far as I'm concerned!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Ben Ferreira

I come from Canada, where we give our figure skaters some love! I am honoured to have had a chance to interview Ben Ferreira, 3 time Canadian National Medallist and former World and international competitor, who now devotes his time to coaching other skaters and helping them achieve the highest level of success they can. His dedication to the sport, both as an athlete and a coach, is amazing. Let's take a read at what Ben has to say about Canadian figure skating, coaching, competing and more, shall we?

Q: You were a contender in Canadian men's figure skating for years, winning 3 medals and being on Canada's national team for years. What was your favourite performance or most special memory from your competitive days?

A: My favourite performance and special memory was in 2004 at the Canadian Championships in my hometown of Edmonton, Canada where I won the silver medal and made the world team for the third time. After years of trial and error and making many mistakes along the way, winning the short program at Canadians, twice in 2001 and 2003, then not skating as well in the long programs, this 2004 skate, I would have to say was the skate of my life- my time had come. I was on a high from landing my first Quad-Triple Combination in the Short Program where I placed third, then going out and skating like I did in the long program was surreal. I executed 7 clean Triples and a Quad- it was crazy. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced. As someone who was considered an underdog in the field to me it felt really good inside to deliver my very best efforts and to be rewarded for it on the day. This lesson has stayed with me until this day.

Q: Tell us what you've been doing since you retired from competition in 2006.

A: Since retiring from competitive skating in 2006, I have a ride of ups and downs. At first, it felt like falling down the rabbit hole. People talk about going through athlete transition from performer and competitor to regular guy on the street- but until it actually happens we have no idea. Well, that is what I thought anyway. Fortunately, I had a mentor who insisted I begin to PLAN this transition BEFORE I retired so the change was much less drastic and severe for me that I expected. I was so fortunate to have this guidance. I took the next STEP, stumbled a bit but really did land on my feet. In 2005 I got married to my soulmate Jadene Fullen...then my new wife and I moved back to my hometown of Edmonton Alberta. Almost immediately, I was approached, hired and stepped into the position of Head Skating Professional at my home club the Royal Glenora from 2006-2010. I was able to bring my knowledge and training into an environment I was familiar with and I new I could make a difference as I went through the stages of letting go. In 2010 after obtaining my NCCP Level 3 status in 2008 I transitioned to a Skating Professional at the Royal Glenora and a Dartfish™ Software sales representative and consultant. I became a becoming a Dartfish™ Certified Technologist in 2012 and I currently consult with coaches and their skaters using Dartfish™ and Pro-Motion Pole Harness at the both the Royal Glenora and Ice Palace F.S.C. In 2012 I also began building SkatingSuccess™ with my wife Jadene and my coach and mentor Steffany Hanlen Francey. The vision that we hold for this company is to be the ‘pre-eminent resource for coach and skater development through progressive Master Class seminars, on- line learning, NCCP coach mentorship and continuous world class coach education and support’. Since 2002 I began investing in Real Estate and in 2008 I became a proud member of REIN™ the Real Estate Investment Network™. This support network of investors offers a fantastic mentorship and educational program for anyone who chooses Real Estate as their investment vehicle to support their business and life vision. This is the foundation of my long term financial goals and allows me to coach skating because I LOVE it and not just to earn a living.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of coaching other skaters? The most challenging?

A: The most rewarding part of coaching other skaters is quite simply assisting them on their journey to get better and improve their skills and performance, and even more importantly giving them the opportunity to love this sport. I get so much satisfaction and enjoy the day to day experience and purpose that have with the skaters that I consult with. Each lesson always brings something new to the table and it is the interaction with each skater I am privileged to work with that I so enjoy very much. My technical coach Doug Leigh once said to me that it is a gift to be able to teach. I highly agree with him regarding that statement. I think that the most challenging aspect for me with regards to coaching is ‘shutting the door’ when my skaters go out to compete. At that point I now have no control of the outcomes and must let them go on their journey regardless of what happens out there. I also then have to believe that I have done the best job preparing them for their task at hand. This is very different from being an athlete when I had total control and is a very different nervous energy.

Q: You were coached by Doug and Michelle Leigh, who have also worked with great skaters like Elvis Stojko and Jennifer Robinson. What was it like training with skaters like Elvis and Jennifer?

A: I moved to Barrie, Ontario in 2002 to begin my final stage as a competitive athlete and pursue my 4 year plan to the Olympics in Torino. For me my 4 years spent at the Mariposa School of Skating was a fantastic experience. At that time Takeshi Honda, Jeffrey Buttle, Jennifer Robinson, Christopher Mabee, and Lesley Hawker were just a few of the skaters that I had the opportunity to step on the ice with every day to train. It was like stepping onto an international practice every single day. It was more than just motivating, it was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

Q: Do you still skate or perform yourself anymore and if there were professional figure skating competitions around like there used to be, could you see yourself being involved?

A: That is a very interesting question and one that I frequently get asked. Today I don't skate anymore, I'm complete. I think that for me, I enjoyed the training, competing, and travelling as an athlete in my late teens and into my twenties, but today I don't have the desire to skate, perform or compete again. I am now fully committed to the business world and taking everything from what I learned in skating and now applying it to my Coaching, our seminar and education company SkatingSuccess™, and also my Real Estate investing. I don't see myself being involved in any professional competitions or events except, of course coaching a skater at their highest levels.

Q: What do you agree most with about the new judging system?

A: I was one of the lucky skaters that actually competed in the new system as we transitioned from 6.0 to CPC. What I do agree with regarding the new system is from the technical standpoint skaters are rewarded on not only what they do, but also how well they do what they do. The GOE makes complete sense in a sport where we are constantly looking for the quality of skills executed. I basically see the score sheet as a financial statement, where there is profit and loss, asset and liability, and learning to capitalise on your strengths as well as work on your weaknesses to ensure a profitable venture. At the end of the day I do believe that this system does bring out the best rounded skater to the table better than the previous 6.0 system did.

Q: How do you feel it could be improved?

A: This system has evolved very fast in the time that it has been accepted and I think that every passing year it is getting better and better. In the beginning I personally felt that there was not enough emphasis put on the difficulty of triple Axels and quadruple Jumps. For a few years, technically, in terms of jumping the sport took a step backward because the risk vs reward ratio for attempting the more demanding elements was not there when it came to the scale of values. In terms of spins, the system really helped developed much better quality, however footwork and step sequences are in my opinion still to subjective and I think need to be called as a choreographed sequence with a grade for GOE only. This happened with the spiral sequences a few years ago, now all spirals are called a choreographic spiral sequence with a GOE value. I still think that there is still way to much emphasis put on the component side of the sport so much so that officials can completely overthrow a technical mark just because they liked the way a skater "looked" or "made them feel" to me doesn't equate with being an accountable sport. Now that being said I am not attempting to downplay the importance of strong skating skills, choreography, transitions, etc. I just feel that when it comes down to being a sport, the component mark should not be worth 50% of the total mark but more like ..say 25%. I well know that I hold the minority opinion when it comes to this topic and I am well aware of the argument against my case. To me it is the classic objective .vs. subjective argument that skating will have to live with forever. The argument will continue to go on as the sport evolves and keeps it exciting. I’m that guy that gives our sport some balance by questioning the status quo.

Q: Who are your favourite Canadian skaters today?

A: For me there is only one real favourite Canadian skater that I have today and her name is Kaetlyn Osmond. Kaetlyn is a fantastic young woman that I have had the opportunity to work with the past 3 seasons at the Ice Palace F.S.C here in Edmonton doing the Dartfish consulting. Kaetlyn has, what my mentor calls ‘champion energy’ in spades. She is one of my favourite lessons of the week because she is always smiling, always cheerful, always giving it her best. When I am teaching her it takes me back to when I was training at her level and the language and communication we use while we go through the Video analysis of Datfish's in the action module during training involves her leading it. She can view a skill that she just executed and then say "OK, saw that", and put in an instant correction so fast by just looking at the video replay. It amazes me how in control she is of her mind and body. She is a wonderful example of loving the sport and being a tenacious competitor. She also is a great ambassador as she is extremely well mannered and down to earth. For her, when the going gets tough, she gets tougher She is a new fresh inspiration for Canadian Ladies skating and I am very proud of her. Above all that she listens to the same Country Music radio station as I do, she's just awesome!

Q: What about of all time?

A: My favourite Canadian skaters of all time... that's a really hard one to nail down for me. I think that from the beginning Kurt Browning was my favourite as I started skating at the same club the Royal Glenora in 1991 where he trained and he was my inspiration for getting into the sport in the first place. However my favourite skate of all time was Brian Orser in Cincinnati in 1987. Also I admired Elvis Stojko for his consistency and raising the bar technically with the first quad combo in 1991 and for the quad/triple  in 1997. He also is a great friend true ambassador for the sport.

Q: What's one thing you'd like to say to skating fans everywhere?

A: What I would like to say to skating fans everywhere is one thing "Thank you". I appreciate all of the support over the years. The standing ovation I received when I skated the performance of my life in 2004 to win my silver medal in Edmonton showed me how much the fans appreciate what we do. I appreciate all of your support with the standing ovation I received after one of the most difficult, heartbreaking skates of my life in 2006 in Ottawa when taking my final bow when we all realized at the same time that I would not be representing Canada in Torino at the Winter Games and that it was the beginning of the end of my career as a competitor. In hindsight, I think a many skating fans really liked me, they liked my story, they liked my character, and they liked what I represented. Now in 2013 after going to the Canadian Championships for the 18th time -now as a coach, fans still come up to me and say "We miss you out there". I know that I won't go down in history as a multi or even one time national champion/world medallist or someone who changed the sport in some way, however the fact that so many fans still remember me and ask me for an autograph even today really does amaze me. So, I thank all of the skating fans in Canada and around the world for all of your support. Skating is in my blood and I plan to be around it for a long time in one way or another. I hope to see you all rink side.

Visit Ben's SKATING SUCCESS™ YouTube channel at

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Garrett Kling


One of the most interesting and exciting young choreographers in the sport today, Garrett Kling is a former competitive figure skater who, as a competitor in YAS (Young Artists Showcase), proved he was not only a total star but a gifted choreographer as well. In this interview, I had to chance to not only learn more about his choreography and his inspirations, but also about Garrett himself:

Q: Tell me about your background in skating, what first drew you to the sport and what drew you to choreographing for other skaters.

A: I was a very active kid - always performing, putting on a show (to the point of being truly obnoxious, just ask my parents!) The first exposure to skating that I remember was at the age of 7 watching a Scott Hamilton television special. I actually tried to teach myself to jump in my kitchen. A few broken pans later I finally started skating seriously by the time I was nine and took off ever since. I loved performing, but competing made me sick - literally. I had terrible nerves all the time and wildly inconsistent jumps. Year after year I was an alternate to nationals. I finished competing in 2011 and kickstarted a career in choreography and doing shows. I am incredibly grateful for the rink I grew up in at Chaska because I would usually train and have lessons in the morning from 7-9 a.m. and then I wouldn't have to go to school until 11 a.m. so for an hour-and-a-half I would have "play time" on the ice where it would be entirely empty and I would put music on and just lose myself in creating and improving to music. Those moments are truly my favourite memories on the ice and where I began to gather all my ideas and creativity for choreography.

Garrett performing as part of YAS2
Q: I had chance to see a lot of the work you did with YAS (Young Artists Showcase) - which I adored! What do you like most about this project and why should more people get involved?

A: Thank you so much! YAS came at the perfect point in my career as I was making the transition from competing into choreography. YAS is revolutionary for skating artistically and technologically. Audrey Weisiger created it as a way to give artistry its voice back to the sport. I believe there has been a lull in artistic skating for some time now due to many factors, but now there is a whole new community hungry for its resurgence. YAS is a global community and I am so grateful to be part of it. I cannot encourage enough people to take part in YAS. If you have any interest in choreography, creating and artistry, take the plunge and do it! It is a platform to make your voice heard and to start the creative process. I found it to be a safe place to start finding who I was as a choreographer and artist. The new season is going to kick off soon, so go to for more info!

Garrett Kling's choreography for Jason Brown

Q: What skater would you most like to meet that you haven't yet? Choreograph a program for?

A: I could make this answer a novel since I am a geek and literally have music picked out for so many skaters that I want to choreograph for. If I had to pick ONE I would say Stephane Lambiel. He is just an incredible athlete and artist and I just feel like we could make the sickest program ever with his ability to move. If there was a skater that I would want to meet it would be Toller Cranston. A perfect day would include going to his lavish house, seeing all his art and telling me story after story. We know his books only contained half of all his stories.

Q: Who is your favourite figure skating Olympic gold medallist of all time?

A: The most influential in my life have been John Curry and Torvill/Dean. What draws me to them so much is how revolutionary they were. John Curry was such a pioneer infusing dance with skating and creating a touring ice theatre that performed in the same manner as a dance company. That would be an ultimate dream for a touring ice theatre to one day happen again! Torvill/Dean created such genius work throughout their illustrious career and I have studied so many of their programs again and again.

Q: What is the most challenging part of taking a program idea and making it come to life?

A: This is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately because I have so many ideas, but the hardest thing for any artist is to make those ideas reality. Art has a conspicuous way of taking its own path once you begin the process and sometimes it travels an entirely different direction than originally planned. Fear is my worst enemy, but I'm starting to learn not to be afraid of the process. I'm currently reading a book about the creative process and it says that because all creative ideas go against the grain to some degree, it is going to appear eccentric and out of order at the beginning. In order for figure skating to progress and change, there must be those who take those risks to be different and let their desire to create outweigh the fear of their ideas becoming a flop! And that takes a lot of courage and confidence in your craft. At 22 years old I know I still have so much to learn, but I am a sponge right now just craving more and more knowledge and inspiration. I am blessed to have so many great mentors such as Jodi Porter and Audrey Weisiger who are encouraging me to do just that.

Q: Will you be involved with YAS again this season? I'm hoping the answer is yes.

A: I will certainly always be involved with YAS, but not anymore as a contestant. After two seasons of competing I feel like I have experienced and learned exactly what I needed to in order to take the next step in my career as a choreographer. Once a YASer always a YASer, so I will continue to promote and market the event and would love to still be involved in the Master's category they started this past year where past contestants create pieces to showcase. So I will still peak my head in there!

Q: What are your thoughts on professional figure skating? It was so popular in the 1990's and professional figure skating competitions are few and far between these days.

A: The popularity of professional skating in the 90s is what brought me into the sport. Seeing the icons of Browning, Hamilton, Yamaguchi and Boitano week after week on television allowed people to relate to these skaters. So it's sad nowadays that the world of pro skating is now so small, but our world is so different now in terms of social media and the changing ways that people indulge in media and entertainment. Skating needs to adjust and that is why I believe YAS is the platform for this new order. We would love for YAS to grow into something like a television series where choreographers create pieces for world-class skaters and then they are judged by a panel in the same style of Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance. Skating has the ability to be just as marketable as these other shows, but it just needs the right combination of creative ideas, skating stars and of course -- enough money! Hopefully some day soon!

Q: Who is your favourite singer or band?
A: This answer certainly changes weekly, if not sometimes daily! Music is a constant in my world. If I had to pick just a few that have impacted me most in my life I would have to narrow it down to Jeff Buckley, Queen, Olafur Arnalds, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Laura Marling and Damien Rice. Currently I'm really digging Cloud Cults newest album 'Love' and the electronica-tango group Bajofondo.

Q: Who is your favourite choreographer, skating or otherwise?

A: I again have to say Chris Dean. The work he does with skaters and for Stars on Ice is a constant source of inspiration and amazement for me. In the dance world I am a big fan of modern choreographers Jiri Kylian who is with the Nederlands Dance Theatre and Twyla Tharp who has also created works for figure skating. My new obsession is hip hop dancing and this summer I promised myself I'd start taking class. Mariel Martin from the group "Choreo Cookies" is a choreographer that I am so in love with -- her work is so passionate and she is a master story teller.

Q: What projects are you working on and where can we see your work next?

A: There are a lot of upcoming projects I am involved in and would love to spread the word about! The most immediate one is that Ice Theatre of New York is presenting the Young Artists Showcase finalists at the Rockefeller Center on March 27. There is a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the event here at will be performing there and am excited to present new pieces of my choreography! I am also choreographing and performing May 2nd with Chicago's Ice Theatre 'Ice-Semble' in collaboration with the American Ice Theatre. The official info isn't quite out yet, but here is the website where it will be soon: May, I am also dabbling in off-ice choreography. I will be creating a dance piece on a rooftop in Chicago for an exciting project called the "Wake Up! Waltz" For more information you can visit http://wakeupwaltz.comVisit Garrett's YouTube channel for lots of samplings of his choreography at

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Once, Twice, Three Times A Carmen

I'm going to be fair. There are many overused pieces of music in figure skating. From "Malaguena" to just about anything Sergei Rachmaninoff ever came up with, Georges Bizet's score "Carmen" certainly keeps varied company. There's an old drag queen saying that goes "it doesn't matter who did it first, it matters who did it best". It's usually said by the person who did it second or third, not necessarily the person who used the music best, but that's neither hurr nor there. I'm just full of the puns today. I digress.

SO the music is iconic and there's no denying that. It's been interpreted by such skating stars as Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas (who battled it out at the 1988 Olympics in "The Battle Of The Carmens" when both Olympic gold medal contenders selected the same music for their free skates), Angelika Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikovv, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, Michelle Kwan, Irina Slutskaya, Evan Lysacek and too many others to even count. The Bizet score was even inspiration for an acclaimed TV production "Carmen On Ice" which starred Brian Boitano, Brian Orser and Katarina Witt and even earned an Emmy award.

But who did it best? Let's take a look at 6.0 of the best interpretations of "Carmen" on ice going:


In winning the 1988 Olympic Winter Games despite losing to Canada's Elizabeth Manley in both the short and long programs, Katarina certainly served up the theatre with this iconic free skate set to Bizet's score.


In the tradition of great Russian ice dancers, Krylova and Ovsiannikovv gave us drama and intensity in their 1997/1998 season free dance to "Carmen", which won them the silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games behind teammates Grishuk and Platov.


Reigning Olympic Medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir debuted their free dance this season at Skate Canada to contrasting reviews. Though lacking the intensity of Witt and Krylova, Virtue and Moir show precision and passion galore in this free dance, which will be put head to head with Meryl Davis and Charlie White's "The Hunchback Of Notre Dame" free dance at the upcoming World Championships.


Another unforgettable and stirring rendition of "Carmen" was the winning free dance by Navka and Kostomarov at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Full of difficulty, attack and personality, this free dance was considered a true "Carmen" by many.


A beautifully crafted program, Silvia Fontana's 2002 Olympic free skate to "Carmen" was a lesson in musical interpretation and spirit. Definitely one of her best competitive programs as it really suited her style, I found.


Eight perfect 6.0's can't be wrong, right? If any team was known for serving high drama on the ice, it was these two. The 1988 Olympic Gold Medallists were criticized by many as over the top, but really came into their own as professionals and created some of the most original and creative ice dance programs out there. This free dance to "Carmen" is typical 80's Bestemianova and Bukin, and won them the 1985 European and World titles.

Definitely deserving of honorable mention is Susanna Rahkamo and Petri Kokko's interpretation of Carmen at the 1997 Challenge Of Champions professional competition. I've yet to find a YouTube link to this performance, but I can assure you it's worth dusting your skating tape collection off and looking for. Susanna's Carmen dies at the end at the hand of a red tube of lipstick. In typical Susanna and Petri fashion, it's pure theatre and avant garde realness.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Tony Wheeler

One of the most interesting and knowledgeable skating fexperts (that's a new word I just made up to combine fan and experts, cause I'm fancy like that) you could possibly have a chance to talk skating with is the fabulous Tony Wheeler. He knows his shit, and has been dedicated to keeping figure skating fans engaged in the sport and its greatest skaters for years now. I was fortunate enough to get to ask Tony some questions, and I hope you'll be as intrigued and entertained by his answers as I was!

Q: What is your involvement in figure skating and when did it begin?

A: I became a fan of the sport during the 1993 World Championships. I remember watching the ladies long program vividly: the story of Oksana Baiul and her quick rise to the top, and of course the meltdown of Nancy Kerrigan. I was six at the time! I started getting involved on figure skating message boards at an early age, and from that I have had several great opportunities. I was part of a team that maintained the official websites of Maria Butyrskaya and Annie Bellemare and I've helped select and edit music for skaters, including Joannie Rochette and Amelie Lacoste. Following the 2010 Olympic Games, I created the blog Flutzing Around as a place to share my thoughts about the sport. One of my first entries was an interview with one of the judges on the mens short program panel in Vancouver just a month prior. The interview created quite a buzz. As for my own skating, I started taking lessons in 2006 through my university, which actually offered it as a class for credit at the time! All I wanted to do was jump, and learned a few doubles. I don't have as much time anymore, but I still skate every once in a while.

Q: If you could be stranded on a desert island with three skaters, who would be they be and why?

A: Meagan Duhamel would have to be there. Based on the kiss and cry at every competition, I think it's a safe bet that she would have plenty to talk about, and I like her personality. I would also want Dick Button on the island. He has to be the most knowledgeable person when it comes to figure skating, and I'd love to spend days (or weeks or months) talking to him about skating history. Finally, she isn't a skater but she's been a long-time judge and is now part of technical panels-- Vanessa Reilly. She gave some of the most out-of-line marks in the 6.0 system ever, but I found myself agreeing with her more often than not. Like Button, I think talking figure skating with her would be truly fascinating.

Q: Who are your favourite skaters competing today? From the past?

A: My favorite skater competing today is Akiko Suzuki. I love her perseverance and I think she has a great set of programs this season. I also really enjoy the entire Japanese team, Carolina Kostner, and Savchenko/Szolkowy. From the past, my absolute favorite skater is Maria Butyrskaya. I think she had an amazing, special presence that hasn't quite been matched. I also loved Alexander Fadeev, Petr Barna, Andrejs Vlascenko, Matt Savoie, Michelle Kwan, Joannie Rochette, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, and Delobel and Schoenfelder to name a few.

Side note: We have VERY similar taste! It must be good. I'm going with that.

Q: Who is the most interesting skater you've ever had a chance to interact with? The nicest?

A: The most interesting skaters are always the ones that come from federations that don't have a strong skating program, and they may be one of the only figure skaters the country has ever had. I love learning how they got involved and how they worked their way up to competing on the international level with limited resources. As far as the nicest (and not to give you another vague answer), I don't think any skaters haven't been nice. Maybe they think I will write a mean blog post about them or something.

Q: What skaters do you honestly think will be standing on the podium in Sochi?

A: For the men, I think it will be a battle between Chan, Fernandez, Takahashi, and Hanyu. I'd honestly love to see Plushenko do well, but I think many men have surpassed him technically. Ladies are shaping up to be so exciting. Gone are the days of four or five ladies fighting for the podium. There will probably be at least ten contenders by the time Sochi comes around. In the end, I think it'll be Kim, Kostner, and one of the Russian girls in some order. For the pairs, I'll go with Savchenko and Szolkowy, Volosozhar and Trankov, and then ask me about third place after Worlds this year - the battle should be a good one! In ice dance, Davis and White, Virtue and Moir and Pechalat and Bourzat.

Q: Who is the most underrated figure skater of all time?

A: Hmm. I'm going to have to say David Liu. He didn't have the difficult jumps, but his presentation was light years ahead of most of the men he competed with. More recently, I don't think Matt Savoie was ever respected as much as he should have been.

Q: Do you think that professional skating competitions are a thing of the past? Should they be?

A: When I was growing up, there wasn't a weekend during the fall and winter months without some kind of professional competition on television. All of the skaters were such household names: Boitano, Browning, Witt, Yamaguchi, and so on. I think the problem with professional competitions today would be that interest in the sport, at least in North America, is so low that it would be hard to really get a set of competitions going and actually profit from them when the names aren't as familiar anymore. The professional competition (Medal Winners Open) that was included with the Japan Open earlier this year included some names that we haven't seen compete in years, but I don't like that they made it an IJS-scoring competition. I think one major pro competition a year (a return of the World Professional Championship) would be great. Keep the 10.0 scoring system. It's more fun for casual fans.

Q: What is one thing you'd change about the current judging system?

A: One thing? Just one?! In all honesty, I think there are many benefits to the IJS. I like that skaters don't 'need help' from other skaters in order to attain a certain placement, as we saw in 6.0. It's just the skater versus the point system. What I don't like is protocol or corridor judging still being so prevalent. The start order seems to have a tremendous correlation with the program components scores, and I also feel that the judges are prone to give better grades of execution (or less severe penalties) to the top skaters. That's not a problem with the system, but with the judges. So, back to the original question. I think that a fall on a jump should receive only a certain percentage of the base value, compared to just losing three points, for example, on a quadruple attempt. I know that they changed this rule so that we would see more difficult jumps being attempted, but I think it's too generous now, and would probably go with the skater(s) earning 25% of the base value.

Q: What's one thing a lot of people don't know about you?

A: I had a crazy obsession with all things Carmen Sandiego when I was a child.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Figuring Figures Into Figure Skating

Do you ever wonder what would have happened to figure skating if they never discontinued the compulsory figures? The current generation of skaters - or many of them - may not even know what compulsory or "school" figures even are, but they would certainly have an impact on competition today.

Compulsory figures were a discipline and proponent of figure skating competition that required skaters to carve patterns or 'figures' onto the ice. They were the bane of some skaters existence, keeping them or prolonging them from topping the podiums at elite competition. In the 1980's for example, skating stars like Brian Orser and Midori Ito were really hurt by the inclusion of compulsory figures in competition. For others, like figures specialists Beatrix Schuba of Austria, who won the 1972 Olympics with a dismal showing in free skating, the high percentage of weight this portion of competitions played ultimately owed to their success. And we can't really fairly criticize skaters like Schuba for winning the Olympics, even if their free skating was sub par, because that's how it was back then.

If you want to really get all historical up in here, the very first time that figure skating was introduced as an Olympic sport, at the 1908 SUMMER Olympics, there was an entire discipline called 'Special Figures' outside of regular 'figure skating', devoted entirely to skaters creating their own complex patterns on the ice.

When I started skating, they were phasing out 'patch time', where skaters silently concentrated on small patches of ice, tracing and retracing loops, brackets and rockers with the aid of a scribe. It was the part of training many skaters either rolled their eyes at or dreaded. It's hard to imagine that at one time this part of figure skating competition counted for 60% of the skaters scores. In the following years, due to lack of interest, and the rise of popularity of figure skating as a televised sport, figures became tired and unmarketable, and finally were skated for the last time at the 1990 World Figure Skating Championships here in my home city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Yugoslavia's Zeljka Cizmesija skated the final figure in world championship competition.

While somewhat unappealing to the masses and definitely not most exciting, figures did teach skaters valuable lessons that the sometimes awkward and frantic footwork sequences and "transitions" of today do not seem to - things like holding edges, posture, concentration and improved general technique. While I personally agree with the decision to exclude compulsory figures from elite competition, one has to sometimes wonder what impact they would have made on today's world of figure skating?

The discouraging reality is this - today's skaters don't have time or "room" in their performances to hold edges, perform simplistic and beautiful footwork sequences, perform a nice delayed axel jump into a gorgeous layback spin or end their programs with stars into an Arabian, Russian split jumps and scratch spins. These elements, however beautiful or classic, do not earn the big points. I do think something is to be said for simplicity sometimes.

While I think today's crop of skaters could greatly benefit from exposure to figures and more traditional (and choreographically appropriate) figure skating elements in their programs, until the new system rewards quality over quantity, the days of watching skaters force their way through twizzles and three turns are far from over.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Interview With Allison Manley

Allison Manley's Manleywoman Skatecast is one of the most popular skating podcasts going. If there's a skating star out there, she has interviewed them. I had the chance to turn the tables and interview the interviewer and find out what Allison had to say about her involvement in the sport, her favorite interviews and more!

Q: What would you change about the way skating is judged to improve it?

A: A few things, but one would be to allow for at least one spin that is just a beautiful spin, without having to hit a million positions to get points. I miss a good classic position.

Q: What skater or skaters have inspired you the most?

A: So many I can't list. But one who sticks out in my mind would surprise most people: Stephanie Rosenthal. I just LOVED that she could take her fairly-limited jumping ability and still wow the crowds at US Nationals in 2006 for both her short and long program with well-constructed programs using unusual music choices, and projecting sheer joy. It really showed me the power of making the most with what you have. So few skaters could have pulled off what she did. I watch her short program often.

Q: What is your personal background in the sport and what do you feel was your greatest moment or accomplishment in skating?

A: I started skating because I was born with a hip disorder, and the doctors told my parents to sign me up to some sport that would keep me active as I grew. They tried ballet, and I was a nightmare to the teachers apparently. So then someone said to my parents, "don't you know there's a world-class skating center just down the road from you? Some young hotshot named Scott Hamilton trains there." They signed me up for lessons soon after. I took a few years off in my twenties, but have been skating and competing as an adult for quite a while now. Greatest accomplishment? I'd have to say it's The Manleywoman Skatecast. I never imagined something I started as a hobby six years ago would have evolved as it has and allowed me to meet the people I've met. I got invited to Dick Button's house last year! What normal fan gets to do that unless they have won an Olympic medal or bought dinner with Dick at an auction? That certainly was one hell of a moment for me.

Q: Who has been the favorite skater you interviewed so far? The most difficult to interview?

A: I can't pick a favourite. There have been so many. Honestly, I'd say that I've loved pretty much every interview I've done for different reasons. There is one that I really didn't like, but I'll keep that one to myself.

Q: What would be your first order of business if you were in charge of the International Skating Union?

A: To put David Kirby in charge to replace me. I think the man is a genius. He knows skating inside and out at a cellular level: as a coach, as owner/manager of a rink, as a technical specialist, as an administrator, and as an implementer of new ideas (i.e.: SkateRadio). Plus he's charming and funny, good qualities to have as a leader. I think if Kirby had the reins, he'd know exactly what to do.

Q: What's one thing you love the most about being on the ice?

A: The freedom... freedom to work on myself, freedom of movement, and at times, freedom from reality!

Q: Who's the one skater you'd love to meet/interview but haven't yet?

A: Anyone who listens to my podcast knows I'm a huge Dick Button fan. He's the interview I most wish to have, since he IS skating history. He invented so many of the moves, was the first skating commentator... What a pioneer! As for one that I would have loved to have interviewed as well and will never be able to: Christopher Bowman. What an interview that would have been, to get an hour of him describing he perspective on the sport.

Visit Manleywoman SkateCast at or follow along on Facebook and the Twitter at and

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

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