SUCCESS IN HAMILTON
The Championship Series Final (February 28 and March 1) was a major victory for Oksana and Artur. They looked so strong and confident throughout and skated brilliantly. Their silver medal here allows them to compete at Worlds since they soundly defeated the reigning World Champions at this event (Eltsova and Bushkov).
Audiences at the CSF caught the first glimpse of Oksana and Artur's new short program, which is set to the music of "2001." It takes a strong person to admit to making a mistake, and the skaters and their coach had to agree to dump their previous short program "La Cucaracha." Tamara told me in an email that Oksana and Artur were not fully comfortable with the theme, it was too hectic, and the judges seemed to view it as "too cheap for such class." It was a genius idea to use the same powerful piece of music that they use for their exhibition piece.
At the competition, Oksana and Artur skated a clean short program, both solidly landing the triple toe loops to thunderous applause. The height on their split triple twist was extraordinary and their new lift was unique and exciting. The entire program was skated with confidence and both skaters looked thrilled when taking their bows to a partial standing ovation. Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that the program was skated a bit slowly (understandable as it's a new routine) and the spins were slightly out of unison.Two judges gave them first place ordinals, one had them third, and the rest second. The audience booed the presentation marks; they wanted them higher. Without a doubt this was one of the best performances of their young career.
The costumes they wore were new. Oksana, with a stylish new haircut that suits her well, was dressed in a long-sleeved red scooped neck shirt and a red skirt. Artur wore black pants, a black shirt with see-through sleeves and a red pattern that came to a "V" down the front. The print on his shirt was a bit more elaborate than Oksana's simple costume and some fans were concerned that it provided too much of a contrast.
Oksana and Artur's magnificent presence in Hamilton continued with the free skate. Although they had a few minor technical errors, it was overall a great performance to a stunning program. Adorned in new, beautiful costumes Oksana and Artur reminded us all what makes their skating so special. They glided from move to move gracefully and intensely.
The improvement they have made since the beginning of this season is remarkable. I had to remind myself that this pair who looked so incredibly polished has been together for only two years. Oksana has truly blossomed and we saw vintage Artur. Oksana has had all this pressure and attention placed on her and yet she is handling it so well. I think she has even improved her presence on the ice. Artur has undertaken such a risk by staying in the amateur ranks -- few Olympic champions would put their reputations on the line as he has done by staing amateur and striving to improve his skating. Both Oksana and Artur are handling their challenges extremely well and deserve our congratulations for it.
Again, the audience responded giving a partial standing ovation and several flower bouquets. Everyone I spoke with in Hamilton was very positive towards the duo. One spectator held a sign that read in Russian, "Oksana and Artur -- beautiful." That summed it up completely. I consider myself very fortunate to have been there in person and have seen all of their hard work rewarded.
What I Want for Oksana and Artur
by Patty Kelly
(Last issue we asked fans ro write in to offer their support for Oksana and Artur, after the disappointment of their finish at Russian Nationals. Patty Kelly captured the views of many fans with her piece, reprinted here.)
While on one level I would love to see Oksana and Artur at the top of their sport, I am quite happy just to see them skate. Period. I've been asking myself what is it that people want from them? Yes, I know Artur is an Olympic Champion, but honestly, I did not necessarily expect the new partnership to win any titles in their infancy. For some reason, in my opinion, fans are expecting far, far more from these two than we would any other pair who are in a similar stage of development. It's like demanding a one month old infant to hop, skip, and jump in their sixth month or something. We (not the fan club members necessarily) are not giving them the space they need to grow, to find their own rhythm, to simply find each other as partners. What they have accomplished in their short time together is simply amazing. What a testament to their talent! Not many skaters can boast of such a feat in their first year of competition.
I want the best for Oksana and Artur -- as people first and skaters second. My greatest wish for Oksana and Artur is not an Olympic gpld medal, but the inner knowledge that they have skated with their hearts and souls. If they earn titles along the way, wonderful. If not, still wonderful. My greatest wish is that they skate for themselves and remember why they are skating for themselves.
Yes, this is a difficult crossroad. And we'll never really know what they are experiencing. They have been on my mind and in my prayers, and whatever they decide to do, they will have my support.
K&D: A True Success
by Julie Loran
(Canadian member Julie Loran describes why and how she became a fan of Oksana and Artur.)
Back in 1990 I was a student in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With the Worlds in town, I of course spent most of my time watching practice and competition at the rink. This was the first competition I had been to and it was overwhelming. Klimova-Ponomarenko, the Duchesnays, and Usova-Zhulin. Browning vs. Petrenko, Ito vs. Trenary. And the pairs...
Gordeeva and Grinkov were fabulous. Their skate wasn't perfect, but it was breathtaking. Brasseur and Eisler were second with a strong performance. I, being Canadian, was totally thrilled. What many people don't remember is that Mishkutenok and Dmitiev were third that year.
In the years that followed, I can honestly say I was not an M&D fan. My energy was spent rooting for B&E. Mind you that M&D's 1992 Olympic performance blew you out of your seat whether you were a fan or not. As I look back on past performances, it is only now that I appreciate the team that they were.
The appreciation would never have come if I had not attended the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton.
I was watching the pairs practice when this couple came out and both warmed up for a few minutes on their own. Really, nothing spectacular; in fact, he was even a bit rugged and unpolished. As soon as they came together though, everything around them disappeared. As a spectator, you were drawn to them. They were smooth, refined -- the essence of skating. Of course it was K&D. At that moment I became a fan. Jumping back to the Power and Passion post-Worlds newsletter, I laughed as I read the article 'A Judge's Point of View'. She was at the practice I had attended and the judge said everything I had been thinking.
There is always a measure of success. It may be competition, judge's opinion, doing a new element. The true measure of success in skating is the ability to feel the music and to draw the crowd into the performance. This is K&D's biggest advantage. They are a true success.
A Man's Point of View
by Jim Hunt
(Jim Hunt returns with his populat column, which is becoming a semi-regular feature.)
If you are a new reader of Power and Passion and are looking for a technical analysis of the sport, stop reading! These are simple observations and ramblings of what i see in the topsy-turvy world of figure skating. The most recent issue of Power and Passion elicits these comments.
I really liked the cover; the photos were good and the color excellent. On the inside, Oksana indicated that last season she knew she could perform the elements, but this was the first season that she felt she could do them and that they are a team. That must be the most incredible leap that one can make. I know how I would feel having thousands of eyes on me, and being judged against my predecessor. Oksana is her own person. She must be allowed to express herself and her own nature. I cannot applaud her more for this strength and courage in taking on this challenge. I can remember watching M&D in the past. I often thought about Natalia -- this is a fragile, porcelain figurine being tossed about. Loving it! Oksana is also such a porcelain figuring, but she is equally capable of withstanding the pressure of the sport. She is strong, flexible, and a great partner for Artur. She is made of extremely strong clay.
Costuming has been interesting of late. I'm a simple costume person. Simple: either dark, or dark and white in contrast to the glare of the ice -- nothing better! The music must be simple also; it can only be effective if it does not distract. One has to look at the success of Denis and Elena to realize this. They are a wonder to watch. They skate with a love of the sport and a genuine fondness for each other.
I also liked the comments on "My Sergei." I could really "hear" Katya in this book. I'm sure that parts of this book were painful for her to write. It seemed to be a healing process for her as well.
The biography section on Tamara also caught my attention. The idea of being in the same realm with Moskvina, Mishin, Rodnina, Ulanov, and the Protopopovs! If one seeks only medals and titles, they should listen to Tamara who said , "One more medal won't give more satisfaction." She saw that her education and family life were equally important. I think that people in any walk of life who only seek the material "medals" only really live half a life.
In the other areas of the skating world, I'm dismayed by Oksana Baiul, but somehow not surprised. The same steel that made Oksana survive her childhood is presenting her some tremendous challenges as she matures into a young woman superstar. I only hope this "rebel" does have a cause. Her talent is unique. The only thing I can think of is the adage"too much, too soon."
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