I Choo-Choo-Choose You!: 6.0 Romantic Moments On Ice

I can't think of Valentine's Day without picturing Ralph Wiggum on The Simpsons giving Lisa a Valentine's Day card that said "I Choo-Choo-Choose You!"... "and there's a picture of a train on it!". After she "looked in the tunk" and found tickets to go see Krusty The Clown's show with Ralph, she erupted into the most epic display of disgust ever, which wasn't really far off how I reacted watching the judging of the Ladies Short Program portion of the Team Event in Sochi if you want to get technical. I won't lie. I get right bitter over Valentine's Day but that doesn't mean everyone has to right? I "choo-choo-chose" six fabulously romantic moments on the ice to make you smile a bit and give you all a lift. If this doesn't work, might I recommend the Orange Creams in the Quality Street tin. Go ahead, I won't tell! Without further ado, 6.0 wonderfully romantic moments and programs on ice:


Celine Dion's "The Power Of Love" is a classic and if anyone did it justice, it was Kristi Yamaguchi, although Rosalynn Sumners delivered an outstanding program to Jennifer Rush's version as well. Kristi had the jumps, the sensitivity to the music and choreography going on in every program she performed during her professional career, but I think "The Power Of Love" was such a wonderful reflection of her skating's wonderfully romantic side.


The relationship between Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov's own love for each other and skating and the classic George Gershwin tune "The Man I Love" was truly a marriage in itself. Their love for each other always shone in Gordeeva and Grinkov's skating and this program really exemplifies them at their best... and most romantic.


I'm a big Rosalynn Sumners fan. A true professional, every time she took to the ice, she had the right programs, the right choreography and the right look - the whole package. This program, set to Martina McBride's beautiful ballad "Valentine" (sang live by Martina in this performance) was an underappreciated gem for its beautifully romantic quality and the heart shaped figure at the end was a lovely detail.


Dedicated to his then fiance Sonia Rodriguez, this program led Kurt Browning to a win at the 1996 Canadian Professional Championships and 1996 World Professional Championships. Set to a medley of music of Nat King Cole - Introduction, Are You Disenchanted?, Wouldn't You Know, Madrid and L-O-V-E, this program was not only rich in fabulous Sandra Bezic choreography but charm and genuine emotion. A classic and certainly romantic.


Michelle Kwan was really a lesson in the whole package throughout her career. She had it all, showing off her incredible consistency technically while evolving at such at a young age from this talented little jumping bean to one of the most exquisite skaters the world has seen practically overnight. It was a magical metamorphosis and many of exhibition programs (also used in pro-am competitions as interpretive free skates) during her competitive career were gems of their own. No collection of beautifully romantic programs would be complete without her program to Laura Pausini's "One More Time". Beautiful song, beautiful program.


Feel like having a messy cry? Watch this flash mob wedding proposal on ice. But for God sakes, wipe off your mascara and eyeliner first. We don't need that mess girl.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Interview With Caryn Kadavy

After winning the bronze medal at the 1987 World Championships, Caryn Kadavy was clearly destined for amazing things. After contracting the same 'Olympic flu' that nearly put Liz Manley out of commission at the 1988 Winter Olympics, Kadavy was forced to withdraw after skating her short program but the great things she was destined for were really more than most skaters could ever dream of. She went on to have one of the most successful careers in professional figure skating history, touring with the World Cup Professional Champions and Elvis Tour Of Champions tours, winning just about every professional competition known to man and starring in shows around North America and the world for almost two decades. Now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a successful coach and choreographer who just completed her certification with the American Ice Theatre, Caryn (who was just too much fun!) took the time to speak with me about her careers in both the eligible and professional worlds, IJS judging, the Sochi Olympics, working with Toller Cranston and much more in this fabulous interview:

Q: Looking back at your "amateur" competitive career, including your bronze medal at the 1987 Worlds, trip to the Olympics, four medals at the U.S. Nationals and win at Skate Canada in 1985, what are your favourite and least favourite memories?

A: My favourite experience? Oh my goodness, there are really several. I would have to say winning the bronze medal at Worlds in 1987 in Cincinnati would be my favourite. I think the hardest was getting sick and not being able to compete my long program at the Olympics. That was probably the hardest one. It's amazing how you can experience such an incredible high and wake up the morning of short program with that 100 temperature and know that it's going to be 103 after you finish that short program. In a way, that was hard but in a way every little experience opens your eyes to make you realize what you're grateful for and what you're able to do. Not that I didn't do that to some extent, but I think I appreciated it more after I got better from being sick. Sometimes you need a fall to create that high again. It taught me it a lot.

Q: What was working with Toller Cranston like and how do you think it bettered your skating?

A: He is incredibly passionate about what he does. He's an artist. He really expressed to me the passion of skating. There was a story behind every move and piece of choreography. He was like a little kid inside and made me feel like skating was about the joy and what it brings to you personally. He really expressed to me his life and his experiences. They came out when he was teaching me a move and the choreography at hand. Toller really cared about the choreography and the skating but he also cared about you as a person. I think that whole experience was really well rounded. He wanted to help you but he also wanted to get to know you. He did so much for me - personally, on the ice and through his art. I wanted to skate well for him.

Q: Being completely frank, you are probably one of the most successful competitive professional skaters out there. In the 1990's, you won the U.S. Pro-Am Championships, U.S. Open, Ladies Professional Championships, Canadian Professional Championships, Ice Wars, Miko Masters and other events with ease. Firstly, what do you think was the biggest key to your longevity and consistent success in professional competition?

A: I think it's amazing when you get on that consistent flow of having a high standard of wanting to do well and working hard to be able to do that. It was really a vicious cycle! I think it was very exciting to be able to compete professionally and I don't think I really reached my peak as an amateur. There was a lot more in me and a lot of that came from wanting to express and create at a higher level. I think with professional skating that combination of having to be able to show your skills and artistry were a great match for someone wanting to continue with their career and still be competitive. There were so many great events that came out of that whole Tonya/Nancy thing in 1994 and I was at the right place at the right time. What really prepared me for all of those events was the World Cup tour. I did over one hundred shows in that tour. I had so much training and experience performing that I found that when I just wanted to compete, I was so well trained I was able to do well and take advantage of all opportunities that were presented to me. That's how it worked. You skated well, you got asked back. So it was really a cycle of being able to prepare and feeling really excited about 'what am I going to be able to do next?'. After, you know, just doing one program as an amateur, it became really exciting to be doing three, four or five - sometimes all in the same event. I was able to keep up all of my jumps and display what I could do and it was wonderful to be able to continue my career in that way. I was very lucky that way.

Q: I've seen so many of your programs and one of my favourites would definitely have to be your program to Céline Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now". Where did you come up with the idea of skating to this song and who choreographed this beautiful program?

A: Brian Boitano invited me to do his Skating Romance show and I think it was Brian who picked out that song for me do at his event. I went to Connecticut to work with Lea Ann Miller and it all came together so fast with both of us working together on it. I loved Céline Dion, the program and the feel of the music. It was just a good combination of passion and was just skateable - it told a story. I think I do well if I feel the music and then it becomes more of a passion and a moment for me.

Q: Working as a coach and choreographer within the current IJS system, how do you think it has both bettered and hurt the sport? What would you change and keep the same if it were solely up to you?

A: You know, at first I didn't really like it as much because at the time I was working with a student that was very numbers oriented. He only knew the IJS system but he was very focused on the numbers side of it. I wanted him to not focus so much and worry about what numbers he was getting and to just feel that the whole performance was what he was focused on - how he did overall and not being so devastated over a GOE or plus or minus. It gets very critical and micromanaged sometimes with every single item and level. I feel sad about that in some ways but I think knowing that the skating level is there is what's important. I was at the top of the game when I was gearing up for Olympics too and all those skaters who are now are just wonderful skaters too. The only problem is, not every skater can do eight revolutions in that spin. Not every skater can do a Biellmann spin or get that feature. There are a lot of things that are required that are hard for the average skater to be able to do so that they can be competitive on a higher level. It becomes such a high level that they're striving for but the system is trying to create less subjectivity for the sport sport which makes things more understandable for coaches, choreographers and skaters. There are now ways of trying to understand the way that you're judged other than 'WHY DON'T THEY LIKE ME?'. Now we can say 'hey, that was a little more fair than in the 6.0 system'. I actually feel like I've grown to like and get used to this system. As for today's skaters, that's all they know so they have to like it.

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

A: Definitely Janet Lynn and Robin Cousins. I would have to say that I have three more skaters I also really admired through my career. They were Charlie Tickner, Robert Wagenhoffer and Lisa-Marie Allen. Make that four. And Peggy Fleming! Those are 'my group'. I was really taken by the people that could just stand there and command the audience's attention with just one push... or just by standing there. Robin and Lisa-Marie both did that: 'Here I am and look at me'. The length, the body and the power within that exuded in their performances and skating quality was just great. Those are my idols.

Q: With the Sochi Olympics already underway, the U.S. looks really ready to contend with one of its strongest teams yet. Of the current crop of U.S. skaters, who do you think are America's best medal contenders?

A: I would have to say Meryl and Charlie for sure. I feel that Gracie Gold could do well as well. I know Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds are very strong but we also have the Russian girls, Yuna Kim, Mao Asada, Carolina Kostner. It's anyone's night. The ladies field in Boston was so strong and the ladies field at the Olympics is so strong too. It's so hard to say. With the men, Jeremy Abbott is just beautiful. I love his skating. It's going to be so tough though. Look at Patrick Chan - he's amazing. I honestly don't know who's going to be on the medal stand. I haven't really been up on the pairs so I can't speak on that level. Of course you want the U.S. skaters to do well though. You want those U.S. skaters on that podium! I haven't been watching everything that's going on. I haven't seen Europeans yet and there are so many strong skaters coming out of Europe too. It's going to be a very exciting year.

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

A: At the Battle Of The Sexes competition, the prize was a motorcycle and when the women won, nobody else wanted the motorcycle. I was like 'Are you guys crazy? I'm taking it!'. And I did. I won it for a year then I decided to buy it after that year. It's a 1997 Heritage Springer Softail Harley Davidson and I love to ride. I also play tennis all year round and have been playing golf for twenty five years.

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to every skater in the world, what would it be?

A: Well, I think for me honestly... you have to just keep working hard. Passion and love for the sport definitely pulls you through but the fact that when you get through not only the best but the hard times, when you continue to try to strive through that it really pays off. It's going to be hard and tough at times. You think you can't do it anymore then you push through it. Those are the times to keep continually keep believing in yourself. Hard work will pay off in the end. Never give up and remember the reasons why you started to skate. In the end it will pay off.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Interview With Megan Wing And Aaron Lowe

If you were as blown away by Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's flawless short program in the Sochi team event as I was, chances are you're in the mood to cheer on Team Canada. Speaking of cheering, if you're Canadian and didn't spend years cheering on Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe, you're losing your skating fan privileges and being sent somewhere cold and unforgiving, like Whitehorse, Yellowknife or Sarah Palin's house (you know... the one she can see Sochi, Russia from!) For two decades, Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe's competitive skating career was the talk of ice dancing in Canada and their dedication and infectious love of the sport was contagious. They won an INSANE 10 consecutive medals in Senior Ice Dance at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships from 1997-2006 and represented Canada proudly at 5 World Championships, the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy and countless international competitions. Their programs were a privilege to watch, their energy and personality just shining through in every lift, twizzle, counter and rocker they carved out on the frozen stage. Today, they remain together on and off the ice as parents and two of Canada's busiest and most sought after ice dance coaches based out of British Columbia. In this interview, Megan and Aaron took the time to reflect on their amazing career, their loves and passion for the sport. You're going to love it!:

Q: You teamed up in 1986 and had one of the longest ice dancing careers probably in Canadian history, skating as a team for 20 years in the "amateur" ranks. What was the secret to it - the motivation to keep pushing forward?

A from Aaron: When I was 12, my Mom was exasperated with me quitting activities and she said "you're a quitter, you always quit everything".  That really got under my skin and ever since, I don't like giving up.

A from Megan: There were so many perks along the way… travelling, making new friends, meeting my idols and of course performing.  That made pushing through the hard times easier.

Q: You won ten consecutive Senior Ice Dance medals at the Canadian Championships from 1996 to 2006, won 2 medals at the Four Continents Championships, represented Canada at countless international competitions, 5 World Championships and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Looking back, what were your proudest moments or most special memories and what were the biggest challenges?

A: Our proudest moment was making the Olympic team after being alternates twice. Walking in the Opening Ceremonies at the Games was so inspiring and justifying. The hardest moments were dealing with injuries and being alternates for 2 Olympics and 6 World Championships.

Q: As a skater and a fan, I grew up cheering you on and my two favourite programs of yours were your "Ameno" and "Underground" programs. Where did you come with the concepts and choreography for these two particular free dances?

A: For "Underground", we had that music for a few years and were waiting for the right time to use it.  We moved to train with Igor Shpilband in Detroit and he loved the music when we showed it to him.  For "Ameno", we wanted to try something different for us, something darker.  We always wanted to avoid becoming stagnant.  We looked for ways to expand our repertoire of styles.

Q: What was the transition of going from the competitive to coaching ranks like and did you ever you think you would be as successful as coaches as you were as students?

A: The transition from competing to coaching was quite a smooth one. Through most of our competitive years we also coached part time and conducted seminars. So when we retired from competition, we coached part time, performed in shows and did choreography while we finished our Masters degrees. In the spring of 2007, we moved back to our home town, Vancouver, and started coaching full time assisting Joanne McLeod and trying to build up a dance school. It's taken a whole lot of work but we were able to develop our dance school and produce many national and international ice dance medallists. Our goal is to make the Vancouver Ice Dance Academy (VIDA) one of the top places to train in the world and for our dancers to become the best they can be.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters (or teams) and why?

A: Grishuk and Platov for their speed and attack, Maya Usova and Alexander Zhulin for their technical ability and lines and Tessa and Scott for their connection on the ice and smoothness.

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

A: People don't know that we almost stopped skating together at thirteen and fourteen yers of age when Aaron had to decide between tennis and figure skating.

Q: Do you ever miss the performance aspect of skating or are you happy on the other side of the boards?

A: Neither of us miss performing because we get that outlet by choreographing.  With multiple teams, we get to 'perform' so many programs each year.

Q: What do you love more than anything about ice dancing?

A: The best thing about ice dancing is the ability to tell a story and when the magic is there you can get lost in the story and bring the audience right along with you.  It's a great feeling.

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 figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Olympic Glory: 6.0 Shining Olympic Skating Moments

When you just let your mind come to a stop and reflect on some of the most magical moments at the Winter Olympics, almost all of the most iconic ones are from the figure skating competitions. I have nothing but the utmost of respect for the hard work, dedication, skill and passion of any athlete competing at ANY level but those athletes that compete on the Olympic stage in any sport just blow my mind. I find myself (and I think we all do) watching sports I never normally would and cheering on personal and national victories and just reveling in the achievements of these amazing athletes and people. The grit and the courage they show in their chosen sports is really nothing less than mind blowing.

Before we all get lost in a sea of amazing moments at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi when the competition kicks off with the team event tomorrow, I want to take a few minutes and talk about some of the most inspiring Olympic figure skating moments we've ever seen. As an aside, I also want to give you an idea about what to expect from this blog during the Games. It's going to be pretty quiet when it comes to actual event coverage, as I'll be sharing one big review/commentary once the figure skating competitions in Sochi come to an end. I'm still busier than ever writing and working on amazing interviews and writing other pieces... but I also want to take the time to WATCH and ENJOY as much skating as I can. My 'day job' doesn't allow for me to watch most things live so I'll likely be playing A LOT of catch up. As I've stated before, my focus is moreso on artistic and professional skating, history and interviews and I won't be getting into the play-by-play or recap game. There are already SO many great skating sites and blogs out there that give exceptional event coverage and I couldn't dream of "competing". Not my thing. I WILL be watching closely though, and watching many events live (as much as I can with my work schedule). If you're not already following along on Facebook, be sure to "like" the blog for daily news updates, results and videos at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard and follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SkateGuardBlog. I'll tweet up a storm when I'm able - don't you worry, my darling! Now on to some required skating watching... a look at 6.0 of my all time favourite Olympic skating moments (and believe me, these are just a FEW):


When you think of magical Olympic moments in skating, arguably the defining one of all time is Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's majestic and masterful "Bolero" free dance at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Considered by many as the best free dance of all time, "Bolero" earned Torvill and Dean twelve perfect 6.0s and six 5.9's which included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge at those Games and the program remains historically a benchmark for perfection in Ice Dance. They reprised the program as an exhibition program at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer to a standing ovation and will return to Sarajevo on February 13, 2014 to recreate Bolero for it's 30th anniversary, which just blows my mind. A BBC documentary about Bolero's 30th Anniversary called "The Perfect Day" will be broadcast on BBC2 at 9 PM on Tuesday, February 7 and you will NOT want to miss it.


People were shocked when 2 time Olympic Gold Medallist and 4 time World Champion Katarina Witt decided to join fellow Olympic Gold Medallists such as Viktor Petrenko, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov and Brian Boitano when the International Skating Union allowed reinstatement of professionals in time for the 1993/1994 season and Lillehammer Olympics. After all, the diva and darling of ladies figure skating had not only won once but twice. Although she didn't have the technical difficulty to compete with the ladies field six years after retiring from eligible competition, she proved she had heart, delivering a flawless and dramatic short program to "Robin Hood" and an emotionally charged free skate to "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" dedicated the people of the war torn city of Sarajevo, where she won her first Olympic gold medal in 1984. The way people related to and cheered on Katarina and her easier jumps in Lillehammer is proof and parcel that the skaters who move us and who we FEEL something for are the skaters we cheer on.


I don't know what it is about this free dance, but it always moved me in such a profound way. Between the costumes, music and choreography, this bronze medal winning performance from the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano was really a tour de force by France's Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat and the kind of program that stands the test of time as a moving, complete piece. A wonderful tribute to this stunning program can be found on Susan's Fields Of Gold blog at http://susanfieldofgold.blogspot.ca/2011/04/marina-anissina-and-gwendal-peizerats.html.


A quad/triple, triple axel and triple lutz highlight the technical perfection of this program but its Tatiana Tarasova choreography, music and even the picking up and throwing of the snow created such a rich layer of drama and Olympic spirit to this winning short program at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City by Russia's Alexei Yagudin that you couldn't help but watch and be mesmerized.


The program that changed it all. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier's free skate at the Salt Lake City Olympics may have earned them a 2nd place finish as the scores were posted but it quickly earned them gold after the scandal involving ISU judges made front page news and the ISU was forced to really examine and address long known issues of corruption in the judging of eligible figure skating competition. The program itself was a magical moment - the kind of program that's really "once in a lifetime" and it will go down in history as one of the most defining moments in Olympic figure skating history.


One of the reasons I fell in love with skating was Liz Manley. A living legend, it was this program at this time at the Calgary Olympics that won the free skate for Liz and earned her the silver medal. She spoiled "The Battle Of The Carmens" between Katarina Witt and Debi Thomas and had the skate of her LIFE when it counted most... and she was sick as a dog at the time, having contracted the same 'Olympic flu' that forced Caryn Kadavy to withdraw from those Games after skating her short program. I find myself going back to this program on YouTube often when I'm in need of a smile and every time, without fail, I end up with a huge one on my face. This program and this moment are what the Olympics are about. I can't wait to see who creates another moment like this in Sochi.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Interview With David Santee

First capturing the attention of the skating world by winning the 1971 U.S. Junior title, David Santee went on to a hugely popular skating career than scanned over a decade and saw him on the podium at the U.S. Championships 8 times, in medal contention at both the Innsbruck and Lake Placid Olympics (he finished one shy spot of the podium in 1980) and on the podium at the 1981 World Championships, where he placed 2nd just behind 1984 Olympic Gold Medallist Scott Hamilton. A skater with not only athleticism but a charisma on the ice you couldn't just help but love, Santee developed a huge fan following throughout his career that extended into his professional career where he toured with John Curry's Company, competed professionally and commentated skating on television. Now a coach and highly respected ISU Technical Specialist (who will be officiating at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia), David took the time to reflect on his own skating career, the lessons he's learned in life, the current IJS system and much more in this fantastic interview!

Q: Your skating career spanned three decades and saw you win a total of ten medals on the novice, junior and senior level at the U.S. Championships and the world silver medal at the 1981 World Championships. You also represented the U.S. at both the Innsbruck and Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Reflecting, what are your absolute favourite memories from your "amateur" career? 

A: My favourite moments in my career were the short program from the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and "The Star Spangled Banner" in Hartford at the 1981 World Championships. Both Scott Hamilton and I were on the podium having finished first and second, so that was a great moment. Lake Placid was great not just because I skated well, but in that I overcame a few bad years of short programs to perform in a high pressure situation.

Q: In contrast, what were the most difficult moments?

A: Probably the two most difficult moments in my career were 1977 Nationals where I was favored to win and came in third, and Worlds in 1979 where I came in 13th in the short program after finishing 3rd in the compulsory figures. I skated last and had a long wait. I couldn't stay loose and ended up missing the combination. I ended up eighth overall. I learned a lot from it so ultimately it turned out to be a positive experience.

Q: You competed against many of the world's best - John Curry, Robin Cousins, Toller Cranston and Scott Hamilton among them. What do you think other skaters can really learn by studying and appreciating their competition?

A: I never spent that much time focusing on other skaters because being an individual sport, if you don't take care of yourself, it doesn't matter what the others do. Having said that, I always appreciated Scotty's toughness and the grace of John Curry. I was in The John Curry Company as a pro and saw close up his genius.

Q: After the 1982 World Championships in Copenhagen, you turned professional and skated with The John Curry Skating Company and competed professionally. What was the biggest adjustment going from amateur to professional skating?

A: The biggest lesson I learned (and learned it early on a tour through Canada with The Curry Company) is you bring it every night no matter if there are 5 people in the stands. There were a few nights in Western Canada where we hardly had any audience and it became a personal challenge to have my best nights for those people who did come.

Q: You're a big hockey fan and a father of a hockey player. What aspects do you love of both hockey and skating the most?

A: I love both hockey and figure skating and both sports are tough in their own way. I love the traditions in hockey, such as the handshake line, the aura of the Stanley Cup, and playoff beards, and I love the speed of the game. Figure skating has always appealed to me because of the blend of athleticism and artistry.

Q: You are an ISU Technical Specialist and also a coach. In your opinion, what are the best points of the new judging system?

A: The best part of the IJS is the accountability that it brings now. You can get instant information by looking at the protocol after the competition. There will always be a degree of subjectivity with any sport where there is judging.

Q: Looking forward to the Sochi Winter Olympics, how do you feel that the U.S. stands to fare in both the team and individual events?

A: I can't comment on who will do well in Sochi since I will be on the technical panel there.

Q: What is your absolute favourite band, favourite movie and favourite book?

A: My favourite band is Fleetwood Mac. Of course, Rocky is my favourite movie. My favourite book is probably "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.

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

A: The one thing about me that people don't know is that I am a collector. My major collections are movies, Civil War memorabilia, sports jerseys and caps.

Q: What's the most important lesson you've learned in life?

A: There are three rules that I follow in and out of the rink. Be on time, respect the sport and others, and be honest.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Patinage Poetry: The Language Of The Ice

When I told my friend Lee I was writing a piece about poetry and figure skating... he suggested a good old fashioned limerick: "There once was a skater named Decker, who skated and fell on his..." Yeah, no. He's not going to get up real quick and brush off anything. We're not going there. Take two.

The beauty of movement and language are such parallels. Figure skating is all about the interpretation of music and of lyrics and has inspired so many great skaters to put pen to paper and write books or poems that it's really quite unreal. Laurence Owen, who was among the group of 18 young members of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating team that tragically perished on Sabena Airlines 707 Jet Flight 548 was herself a beautiful and prodigal writer and poet. Her sister Maribel, who also perished in the Sabena crash said of Laurence in a 1960 Sports Illustrated article: "You can be talking to Laurence and see she isn't listening—she may just go off and look for some paper and write a poem." Following her death in that horrific tragedy that changed the course of U.S. skating history, Laurence's English teacher Ruth White read one of Laurence's poems aloud to her classmates: "Softly, Softly the spring comes creeping o'er the tired land // All men awake refreshed; They rise to greet the world with joy //And birds sing and all becomes newborn. Gloom is but a shadow of the night, long past; Hope is the light, The radiance." The beautiful poem was featured in the RISE documentary about the 1961 plane crash and you can read the entire story in Patricia Shelley Bushman's beautiful book "Indelible Tracings" and its companion volume "Indelible Images".

Owen was not the only skater to have touched the skating world with poetry. Olympic Medallist Edgar Syers, who competed with his wife Madge Syers at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, England authored 'The Poetry Of Skating' in 1905 and compiled a wonderful collection of skating poetry in his book:

From "La Gerusalemme Liberata"  by Torquato Tasso in 1581:

"Si come soglion la vicino al Polo,
S’avvien che’l verno i fiumi agghiacci, e indure,
Correr su’l Ren le villanelle a stuolo,
Con lunghi strisci, e sdrucciolar secure."

Translation of the above:

"As o’er the Rhine, when winter its broad tide
Has in smooth chains of solid silver bound,
The village girls in crowds securely glide,
With long swift strokes, in many a playful round."


The Rotterdam Dutchman, with fleet-cutting scates,
To pleasure the crowd shows his tricks and his feats;
Who, like a rope dancer (for his sharp steels),
His brains and activity lies in his heels.

The Dutchmen here, in nimble-cutting scates,
To please the crowd do show their tricks and feats,

The Dutch that in great
Large shoals used to meet,
And clapt their crook’d scates on their foot,
Now no more dare appear
To make folken stare
While on the smooth surface they float."

"Skating" by William Wordsworth (1850)

"And in the frosty season, when the sun
Was set, and visible for many a mile
The cottage windows blazed through twilight gloom,
I heeded not their summons; happy time
It was indeed for all of us- for me
It was a time of rapture! Clear and loud
The village clock tolled six- I wheeled about,
Proud and exulting like an untried horse
That cares not for his home. All shod with steel,
We hissed along the polished ice in games
Confederate, imitative of the chase
And woodland pleasures- the resounding horn,
The pack loud chiming, and the hunted hare.
So through the darkness and the cold we flew,
And not a voice was idle; with the din
Smitten, the precipices rang aloud.
The leafless trees and every icy crag
Tinkled like iron; while far distant hills
Into the tumult sent an alien sound
Of melancholy not unnoticed, while the stars
Eastward were sparkling clear, and in the west
The orange sky of evening died away.
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay, or sportively
Glanced sideways, leaving the tumultuous throng,
To cut across the reflex of a star
That fled, and, flying still before me, gleamed
Upon the glassy plain; and oftentimes,
When we had given our bodies to the wind,
And all the shadowy banks on either side
Came sweeping through the darkness, spinning still
The rapid line of motion, then at once
Have I, reclining upon my heels,
Stopped short; yet still the solitary cliffs
Wheeled by me- even as if the earth had rolled
With visible motion her diurnal round!"

"Skating" by Robert Snow (1845)

"When to his feet the skater binds his wings,
As of Jove’s messenger the poet sings,
He, like the hare, outstrips the Northern wind,
And casts, in doubling, a keen glance behind.
By art that to the frozen lake conveys
A glowing interest in winter days,
Before the gazer now he seems to fly,
Now with a backward stroke deludes the eye;
Precipitating curves on curves anew,
Retuning ever, to his centre true.
With air of noble ease, and swan-like grace,
He balances awhile in narrow space;
Then sweeps far round with power not shown before,
And on his crystal plain does all but soar.
Yet is his pastime brief; the solar heat
Grows strong; again the lapsing waters meet,
And to dull, plodding earth confine his daring feet."

"Rincomania"  by G. Du Maurier (1875)

"Friends of the fleeting skate, behold in this
A Rincomaniac’s dream of earthly bliss,
Sketched by the frantic pen of one who thinks
That Heaven is paved with everlasting rinks
Where Cherubs sweep forever and a day,
Smooth tepid ice that never melts away,
While graceful, gay, good-natured Lovers blend,
To Endless tune, in circles without End"

"An Elfin Skate" by Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1892)

"They wheeled me up the snow-cleared garden way,
And left me where the dazzling heaps were thrown;
And, as I mused on winter sports once known,
Up came a tiny man to where I lay.
He was six inches high; his beard was grey
As silver frost; his coat and cap were brown,
Of mouse’s fur; while two wee skates hung down
From his wee belt, and gleamed in winter’s ray.
He clambered up my couch, and eyed me long.
“Show me thy skates,” said I; “ for once, alas,
I too could skate. What pixie mayst thou be?”
“I am the king, “ he answered, “of the throng
Called Winter Elves. We dwell ‘neath roots, and pass
The summer months in sleep. Frost sets us free.

“We find by moonlight little pools of ice,
Just one yard wide,” the imp of winter said;
“And skate all night, while mortals are in bed,
In tiny circles of our Elf device;
And when it snows we harness forest mice
To wee bark sleighs with lightest fibrous thread,
And scour the woods; or play all night instead

With snow balls large as peas, well patted thrice.
But is it true, as I have heard them say,
That thou can’st share in winter games no more,
But liest motionless year in, year out?
That must be hard. To-day I cannot stay,
But I’ll return each year, when all is hoar,
And tell thee when the skaters are about.”

On my wheeled bed I let my fingers play
With a wee silver skate, scarce one inch long,
Which might have fitted one of Frost’s Elf throng,
Or been his gift to one whose limbs are clay.
But Elfdom’s dead; and what in my hand lay
Was out of an old desk; from years when, strong
And full of health, life sang me still its song;
A skating club’s small badge, long stowed away.
Oh, there is nothing like the skater’s art-
The poetry of circles; nothing like
The fleeting beauty of his crystal floor.
Above his head, the winter sunbeams dart;
Beneath his feet, flits fast the frightened pike.
Skate while you may; the morrow skates no more."

The beautiful collection of poetry that spanned centuries collected by Syers wasn't the only example of great writing inspired by the ice. In 2012, Jackie Keily and Hazel Forsyth authored "Skate: The Wonderful World Of Ice Skating In Poetry, Prose And Pictures", which includes poems by John McCollough, Brendan Cleary and 1908 Olympic Gold Medallist Edgar Syers himself. McCollough's poem "The Other Side Of Winter" reimagines a different time and world on the river Thames:

"Overnight the Thames begins to move again.
The ice beneath the frost fair cracks. Tents,
merry-go-rounds and bookstalls glide about

on islands given up for lost. They race,
switch places, touch – the printing press nuzzling
the swings – then part, slip quietly under.

Still, there is no end of crystal weather.
I hoard coal, stare mostly at the chimney’s back,
fingering the pipe he gave me on the quay.

Even now it carries his greatcoat’s whiff:
ale, oranges, resolve. I remember his prison-ship
lurking out from shore, huge as Australia.

I’ll write, my dear sweet man, he said
then squeezed my thigh and turned, a sergeant
again, bellowing at a flock of convicts.

I do not have the nerve to light it.
The mouthpiece is covered with teeth marks, sweat.
I look out at my museum-garden,

the shrubs locked in glass cases,
the latticework a galaxy of frozen dew.
There is no snow in New South Wales.

I cannot put the pipe down. It makes things happen.
Last week I heard a crash and ran outside to find
a jackdaw flat on the lawn. It must have fallen

from the sky, its wings fused together
by hardened sleet, its neck twisted as though broken
from straining to see the incredible."

The commonality of these wonderful poems is their connection to the ice, that frozen stage where the skaters we love write their own stories in edges, ebbs and flows. Whether by quill and pen or by rocker and counter, the language of the ice is one that inspires us all deeply.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Interview With Jeri Campbell

Jeri Campbell's story isn't your cookie cutter one. First appearing on the scene at the U.S. Championships and winning the Novice silver medal in 1984, Jeri quickly climbed through the ranks, winning the 1987 U.S. Junior title and finishing just behind Debi Thomas, Jill Trenary and Caryn Kadavy on the Senior level at the 1988 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Denver, Colorado, becoming the Olympic alternate that year. Jeri pressed on and competed at three more U.S. Championships, turning professional at an unheard of young age and touring the world with Torvill and Dean, Dorothy Hamill and in countless other productions. She won the 1994 U.S. Open Challenge Cup and even toured in the role of Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz On Ice. Now a successful coach and choreographer, life has changed so much since her days of competing but Jeri was SO kind to share her story, talking in-depth about both her "amateur" and professional careers, coaching and choreography and even offering some words to Mirai Nagasu, the skater who like Jeri, just narrowly missed her Olympic dream. You're going to love this one: 

Q: You competed at U.S. Nationals 8 years in a row, won international events like the Skate Electric competition in Zagreb and the Golden Spin Of Zagreb in addition to winning the 1987 U.S. Junior title and turned professional at the very young age of 20 in 1991, touring the world for 9 years with Dorothy Hamill's Cinderella: Frozen In Time tour, Willy Bietak, Torvill and Dean's tour and so many other events. What moments stand out for you as the most special times in your "amateur" and professional career?  

A: I remember being a young kid around 7 or 8 years old going to see Dorothy Hamill skate in a professional show. At the end of the show, she shook my hand as she skated by and I told my parents I was never going to wash my hand again because she touched it. Ironically my very first professional tour was with Dorothy Hamill. The show was called Cinderella: Frozen In Time. Dorothy was Cinderella and she also produced the show. Working with her was an amazing experience. She was a true pro: friendly, hard working, and pretty fearless when it came to skating. She was doing pairs in the show, learning lifts for the first time, and I just soaked it all in and appreciated the opportunity to work along side of her. Some of my favorite professional skating memories come from skating after the shows were over. We would skate from 9:30 PM to midnight sometimes just for fun. There was a camaraderie amongst the pros. We helped each other on jumps, spins, edge work, and movement simply because we all shared a love for it. We’d laugh out load, be crazy on the ice, and just hang out together. These are up there with my favorite skating memories. As for amateur skating, that for me was so long ago, but I remember the sense of accomplishment I would feel when I would have a good day at competition.  It didn’t matter how big or small the competition was, a good skate felt wonderful. When I do look back at my amateur skating, faces come to mind... Midori Ito, Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, Tonia Kwiatkowski, Holly Cook and so many other great skaters. It was an honor sharing the ice with them. I had a ton of respect for those girls then, and still do.

Q: Focusing on your "amateur" career for a minute, you sadly missed the 1988 Calgary Olympic team by one placement. How hard was that for you to deal with and what advice would you give to Mirai Nagasu, who this year had a similar experience after U.S. Figure Skating opted to send former National Champion Ashley Wagner instead? 

A: In 1988 we still had figures along with the short program and the free skate event. Being that it was an Olympic year and our event was televised live, they had an enormous amount of TV commercials in between each skater. Back then we didn’t have the IJS judging system, so there was no 5 minute re-warm up before you skated. You had to get out there after waiting around for an hour and try to lay down 4-6 triples in your program. Needless to say, I had never been through that before, and I was not mentally prepared for it. Sometimes you have to live through something to really know how crazy the pressure is, and I think I can safely say I experienced it once in my life. After all was said and done, I was 4th after figures, 4th after the short, and 5th after the free skate. My combined points put me in to 4th place overall. The top 3 finishers went on the Olympics, and I was the alternate. For me it was fair and square. I never expected any different outcome for the Olympic team. I look back and think it was an incredible life experience. As for Mirai Nagasu, I wish nothing but the best for her. She has done a lot in the last 4 years since she finished 4th place in the 2010 Olympic Games. She competed in 12 international competitions. She won ten top 4 finishes at those competitions. She has also competed in 4 U.S. National Championships, winning 2 bronze medals. She produced 2 strong programs at Nationals this year. She understood very well the pressure cooker that she was under, and she dealt with that pressure like a seasoned competitor. I think she should be very proud of her body of work. She has shown us that little girls who win medals early in life can grow up, change, go through struggles, evolve and come back fighting harder than ever. She has shown us what being an athlete looks like.  

Q: Being both a huge skating fan and a HUGE Annie Lennox fan, I absolutely loved your "Primitive" program that won you the U.S. Open Challenge Cup in 1994. What was the process of creating this program with Brian Wright like and what was the story behind it? 

A: Thank you for your nice words regarding this program. It was all Brian Wright, and I was lucky to work with him. I decided to do the US Open after a tour I was supposed to do that year fell apart. Meaning the tour funding fell through, so it never happened. Once I made the decision to compete, I had to decide on programs. I had been watching Brian Wright do work with a bunch of talented skaters, Scott Davis, Scott Williams, Michael Weiss, Rory Flack, Matt Kessinger, Jere Micheal to name a few, and I was always in awe of how different each program was, and how amazingly interesting each skater was that worked with him. He had a magic touch that used the body in ways that I had never seen in ice skating before. I called Brian one day and simply asked him if he would work with me for the U.S. Open and set a program. He was very receptive to my call and we made plans for me to go to Indianapolis to work together. The process of putting the program together was just that, a process. It was a life changing process for me. I walked in the doors to the Indiana World Skating Academy where I observed Brian going through the choreography to the song "Primitive". I watched him from behind the entrance door to the ice, and I started to get really excited about what he was doing. I put my skates on, met Brian officially for the first time, then we got started.  Brian would share little storylines with me as he put parts of the program together. He would say things like "this is the part where you are in bed rolling over to the other pillow" and then I would watch his choreography and see him pull his hands near his face and roll his body in a way that made sense to his story. At first I wasn’t sure if he was saying things for shock value, or if he was serious, but I later learned it was usually was both. The story of "Primitive" was in Brian’s head. I think it was personal for him. It dealt with relationships and the process of unwinding in bed and relaxing to the point of falling asleep. While working with Brian we had a few setbacks due to his health. He had HIV and was dealing with complications. He was sick one week and he needed to go to the hospital. This was really the first time that I learned about what he was coping with, and I was really concerned for him. The amazing thing about Brian was even though he was in the hospital for something really serious, he always had a crazy sense of humor that would make you laugh out loud in the scariest of times. He had multiple hospital visits during our time together working on "Primitive". We grew close as friends, and he really became a creative mentor to me whether he knew it or not throughout this process. This wasn't just a skating experience, this was much much more. I went on to compete at the U.S. Open and Brian met me there. He was there for all the practices as well as the competition. He sat in the kiss and cry area after the events. He told me funny stories to keep things light before and after I skated. It was a professional highlight for me. I look back and think what a ride it was from walking in to the Indiana World Skating Academy, to meeting Brian, learning the choreography, seeing him go through his health scares, becoming friends, laughing a lot, training the program and finally competing. It was a real journey that I treasure.

Q: Also in 1994, you won the Dorothy Hamill Crown Pro Competition. What can you share about this competition and experience?  

A: The Dorothy Hamill Crown Pro Competition was an in house competition, meaning it was all the performers in her 2 touring companies with Cinderella: Frozen in Time that participated in the competition.  
We only had a short time to prepare for the competition since we were in the middle of a tour doing shows all the time so it was a challenge to get ready for it. We all set our own programs, then the 2 touring companies met in one city for the competition. It was the first competition I did as a pro skater, so I was feeling a little nervous. I had a pretty good skate and was happy with the overall performance. The other skaters were fun to watch, and really the best part of the whole experience was the 2 touring companies came together for a night, and after the competition was over, we all got to hang out and let our hair down for a few hours and have a little fun.  

Q: You toured for 2 years playing Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz On Ice tour. How you would describe the experience of taking on an iconic role and skating to "Over The Rainbow"?  

A: I loved touring with the Wizard of Oz On Ice show. It was the hardest job I ever had as a show skater, but I look back and think what an opportunity I was given. I had to interview with Kenneth Feld personally before getting the role. Kenneth Feld owns Disney on Ice, so this was a big moment for me. Luckily it all worked out and I got the job. Playing Dorothy was a real challenge. I had to learn how to act on the ice, memorize 2 hours of dialogue, and carry Toto while doing so. Oh, and we had a dog trainer to work with as well. During rehearsals I really had no idea what I was in for, but I learned quickly. I would say it took me 4 months to really settle in to the role of Dorothy. After that, I felt much more comfortable trying to act and do dialogue while skating. I learned what it meant to react by watching other skaters in the show who were great at doing character work. Robin Cousins and Cindy Stuart choreographed the show. They did incredible things like set a number with skaters doing everything going backwards, including their outfits. It was very creative and original. Robin had done choreography for me before as an amateur skater in Lake Arrowhead, and it was great to work with him again as a professional skater on this show. One of my favourite memories of skating in The Wizard Of Oz On Ice show is the sound effects guys doing special sounds when Toto would do funny things. He would race across the ice and then slide in to the header boards. There would be this sound of a skidding car and then a loud crash effect... it was so funny. The audience would laugh every time. There were lots of moments like that that made the tour special. The little details. The moments with the other cast  and crew members on ice and back stage, the funny cat fights between me and the Witch (played by Nancy Barber)... those are the memories I have, and they are all good.

Q: You've coached and done choreography for over 15 years, working with grassroots level skaters to national champions like Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn. What makes a great coach or choreographer in your opinion? 

A: Karl Kurtz was Phil and Tiffany’s head coach when they won Nationals and went to the Olympic Games.  He did an amazing job with them. He asked me to do a show program for them, and I was honored to do it.  Phil and Tiffany used the program when they did the World tour and it was a really fun process to work with them on it. They were really hard workers, and it was great to see them rise to the top of their field. What makes a great choreographer? To me, the best choreographers can seam a program together from beginning to end that never loses your attention. They take you on a ride, tell you a story, and leave you wanting more. They can hide someone’s weaknesses and highlight their strengths without you noticing anything has been hidden. What makes a great coach? For me, I think a great coach is someone who is not intimidated by a student's talent. They are motivated to take it to the highest level. They are willing to sacrifice their own personal life, because that’s what it takes to manage an elite skater. It not only takes a lot of work for the skater to get to the highest level, but a great coach, I think, works just a hard, if not harder, to get them to the top. A great coach understands the process of high intensity training and down time. When to have down time, when to come back up, how long to stay up, when to peak, what to do if you are peaking early, what to do if you aren’t peaking at all...They also understand how to manage a skaters weaknesses. Hire specific choreographers, trainers, etc. A great coach can work through all of that with patience because they understand the process. I also think a coach on this high level understands there will be failures, sometimes many failures before a skater can find their rhythm. I have a ton of respect for coaches who teach elite skaters. It's hard work all around. 

Q: If someone was coming to your home for dinner and you were making them your absolute favourite meal, what would they be having? 

A: Mexican, Thai or Italian!

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

A: I would have to say Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan and Dorothy Hamill. Brian because he was a rock star under pressure, Michelle for her passion, and Dorothy because she was and still is an incredible champion for the sport.

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

A: I went to school with a concentration in graphic design. I'm an art lover at heart and I like the challenge of acrylic paints. I enjoy getting lost in a painting and obsessing over colors. My Mom was a sketch artist in her spare time when I was growing up and I think I was inspired by her talents. That's where my love of art started, and it grew from there.

Q: Looking back on your life, would you change anything?   

A: Yes, I wish I had more time with my mother. She left us way too soon. I was gone a lot growing up due to skating. That is the one thing I wish I could do is rewind time and pause it so we could laugh together one more time. She had a great laugh and it made me happy to see her happy. My family and I miss her dearly.

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 figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.

Interview With Dick Button

When I started writing this blog, I had one Holy Grail. It was to someday, maybe have the chance to interview two time Olympic Gold Medallist, five time World Champion, Emmy Award winning skating commentator, skating pioneer (first triple jump in competition!) and living legend Dick Button. On January 16, in one of the most hilarious and fabulous phone calls of life, I did. It was a joy.

What hasn't Dick done for figure skating? He didn't 'just' win two Olympic gold medals and five World titles, he won seven U.S. Senior titles (and the U.S. Junior and Novice titles to boot),three3 North American Championships, was the only American to win the European title, the first skater to land a double axel, the first skater to land a triple jump (the triple loop), the first male skater to perform the camel spin and the inventor of the flying camel spin, the first American World Champion, the first and only American back-to-back Olympic Gold Medallist in figure skating, the first and only male skater to hold a National, North American, European, Olympic and World title at the same time, the youngest man to win an Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating.

Take a breath and grab a cocktail or cup of coffee, I'm just getting started. He attended Yale University and graduated from Harvard University. He went to Harvard Law School and was admitted to the bar following the completion of his Bachelor Of Law. He toured with Holiday On Ice and Ice Capades, commentated and hosted skating events on television for decades and decades, largely developed professional figure skating competitions (allowing hundreds of skaters to make a living), won an Emmy Award, judged Skating With The Stars and Battle Of The Blades, acted in movies and TV programs with Mickey Rooney, Tony Curtis, Gene Kelly and Robert Goulet, starred in touring stage productions, survived a serious head injury and a brain injury and he is a member of both the U.S. and World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame. Now eighty four years young, Dick is busier than ever. He attended and spoke at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston and promoted his brand new book Push Dick's Button. In this interview, Dick talked about everything from both the "amateur" and professional skating worlds to meeting Ulrich Salchow, his book Push Dick's Button, gardening, having a sense of humor, his legacy and so much more.

Q: A lot of what I write about focuses not on "amateur" competition but professional and artistic skating. I believe as I KNOW you do that artistry is SO important and SO underappreciated. Having pretty much single handedly through your company Candid Productions developed professional competition, what was your main motivation for creating events like the World Professional Championships, Challenge Of Champions and the dozens of other events you put together over the years? Will we ever see professional competition again like that? Should we?

A: There were too many skaters who, after their amateur careers ended, had other goals such as going to college or university, working for a living or raising a family. They didn't want to sign a contract with Ice Capades or Ice Follies because it was a year long commitment yet still wanted to skate. There was a great gap in those skaters lives. I had spoken to the ISU - Beat Hasler's father George - and asked him if he wanted to join forces but it didn't happen. They didn't understand the needs and requirements nor wish to take advantage of professional skaters. The World Professional Championships were first held in 1973 then languished and came back in 1980. Ratings are so low and there's also no need for it now because the ISU finally got smart and started paying skaters. Nobody was paid anything in amateur championships when I skated. As an amateur you were given a present that was not worth more than $25. When people quit skating, they had to make a living.

Q: I fell in love with skating largely due to the way that you and Peggy Fleming presented it, as I think a whole generation of skaters and skating fans have. What I always loved is your wonderful sense of humor. I think my three favourite Dick Button quotes are "good for you, Lucinda Ruh!", "whatever that was supposed to be, it wasn't" and "there needs to be a little more swan in that Swan Lake."... and of course the one with the "Rusty Hoot". In your opinion, why is it so FIRST RATE to have a sense of humor about skating and what's the funniest thing you've ever seen in all of your years in the sport?

A: Retaining a sense of humor isn't easy. It's gotten so serious. There are so many rules. In my book "Push Dick's Button" I quoted the fact that "rule makers are not rule makers if they're not making rules". I poke fun at myself in the book because I know if I don't criticize myself, I can't criticize anyone else. One of the funniest things I've seen was Suna Murray tripping on a curtain and sliding endlessly across the ice. There was also a funny moment when a Russian pair skater got the sleeve of his shirt caught in the boot hook of his partner and it just kept stretching and stretching, almost like an elephant's trunk. I embarrassed myself by being unable to stop laughing.

Q: "Push Dick's Button" couldn't have come at a better time. Skating is really starting to regain the public's attention and interest and this book will only help that by leaps and bounds. How difficult was trying to sum up so many stories into just one book?

A: I didn't say everything I wanted to say. There will always be three skating programs, three paintings and three books that you write. The first one is the one you plan, the second is the one you do and the third is the one you wish you'd have done. All of these things are true. Writing isn't easy. Just because you might know how to speak, it doesn't mean it's easy to sit down write a book. It's a very difficult process that you have to learn. Writing is a different science. Just because you think blue and pink don't go together doesn't mean you can decorate somebody's place. Just because you think you think you can design a house doesn't mean you're an architect. If I ever do a volume 2, it would be much longer and include many esoteric things. One of the reasons I got started was when a friend of mine said, "I'd love to have you come sit on the couch with me and tell me what the heck we are watching and what's going on". Just because I commentated for years doesn't mean that I could just go from commentating to writing. I have hundreds of ideas to include in a volume two but I'm still reeling from volume one!

Q: You've been asked a million times about your Olympic gold medals, experiences and how you revolutionized skating by landing the first double axel and triple jump in competition, so I'm not going to ask you that all over again as amazing as those milestones are and as much as I respect and think the world of what you've done in the sport. What makes you smile today when you watch skating?

A: Not too much right now. I'm not a happy camper. The new system of judging is there for the extraneous reason of making everything secretive. If Ottavio Cinquanta (the President of the International Skating Union) had his druthers, he would get rid of all the judges and totally eliminate subjective judging.

Q: What direction and action does the ISU need to take to really bring the fandom and fun back to skating?

A: The first thing is to split up the ISU. Both speed skating and figure skating should be in separate federations and not connected to each other. The next thing to do is to get back to common sense and not reward a fall with more points. It's called NOT REWARDING FAILURE! It's a challenge but they should not give any points if you miss it or fall down on it. This is now a point system based on numbers.

Q: I know you love a great layback spin. What makes a layback spin GREAT in your opinion?

A: A great layback spin is in what they call the "attitude" position in dance with the free leg behind, quite high but flat with the knee not lower than the foot of the free leg. That's the problem. Many skaters don't know what a classical position is. With spinning, when Jason Brown did a catch foot donut spin he pulled it up into a beautiful position. He didn't delay. He had an extraodinary extension which he used to enter into jumps. That was magnificent.

Q: What do you remember about meeting Ulrich Salchow?

A: I went to his house in Stockholm in 1947. He invited a whole group of skaters and all of his trophies were in a good sized room. He said, "I don't want you to leave this competition without having a trophy. I want you to pick any one you want out of this room." They ranged in size from 1-2 inches high to a big silver statue of Peter The Great on a rock. Of course, that's what I really wanted but I thought no and I didn't want to pick one of the smaller ones and insult him either. I picked the trophy you see in "Push Dick's Button". He won in that in London in 1901. Since it was given to me, I gave it to Misha Petkevich on the condition he give it someday to someone else when he felt that there was someone he admired. I admired Petkevich's skating very much so I gave it to him but I also had a copy made for myself. He gave to Paul Wylie and he did the same thing.  When Paul gives it to someone else, each person will still keep their own copy.

Q: What did you think of Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown at U.S. Nationals?

A: I thought they were both good! Jeremy Abbott had a wonderful short program and was very good. He's an elegant skater with great line and great softness of edges. Jason Brown was superb. His choreography was done by Rohene Ward and that program really had a beginning, middle and an end. You didn't know what to expect. His extension was extraordinary. The music and program was very difficult to skate to because Irish music is up and down, meaning it's vertical stepping. It's tapping and there's little upper body movement but his program was beautifully done.

Q: I know my mother will love this question because no one loves gardening more than her. Ken Shelley told me you're a wonderful gardener so I had to do a little research and saw some wonderful pictures of your farm and garden. What draws you to gardening and what is your favourite flower?

A: I don't have a favourite flower any more than I have a favourite skater. There is not a skater around who doesn't have something of great interest. In addition to skating, I have always been intrigued by landscape and architecture.

Q: At the end of the day, what do you want your legacy in life to be?

A: Thank you for thinking of it. I would like to see proper development of a museum of skating media so that people will know and understand the history and be able to see films of those outstanding performances... of people like Belita, Charlotte, Barbara Ann Scott, The Protopopov's, John Curry, Kurt Browning and so many others.

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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.