Sunday, August 13, 2006

Champions on Ice

Sunday afternoon, upon our return from the undisclosed location in the desert, we made our way to Champions on Ice at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, which was amazing! You may have read that we went to Stars on Ice in January, which is a fun event. But Champions on Ice is the crown jewel of skating exhibitions.

World famous silver medalist Sasha Cohen. (08/13/06)

The show started off as it usually does, with crowd pleaser Rudy Galindo doing a disco routine. The one-time Kristi Yamaguchi partner didn’t disappoint the crowd, wowing us with fun moves and on-the-fly costume changes.

France’s Surya Bonaly (now a U.S. citizen) came out next. I was so excited to see that she did her trademark backflip with the one-foot landing – a trick that always astounds the crowd. As she gets older, it makes me wonder how much longer she’s still going to do it.

1992 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist (and 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist) Viktor Petrenko came out next with a fun prop number.

Dan Hollander came out next with a parody of a competition routine, which was accompanied by fake commentary by the real Dick Button, the famous Gold Medalist from the 1940s and 50s Dick Button (who does most of the commentary you hear on televised skating competitions). Dan’s routine was really funny.

Ice Dance pair Ben Agosto & Tanith Belbin performed next. You may remember them winning the silver medal at the Olympics in Torino earlier this year — the first time a U.S. ice-dancing team has ever medaled in this category in 30 years (although technically Tanith Belbin was originally Canadian).

Torino's surprise gold medalist, Shuziko Arakawa. (08/13/06)

Next was the inimitable Johnny Weir, who is definitely competitive skating’s most flamboyant skaters. He was deemed one of the favorites to medal in Torino earlier this year, but ended up tanking in the long program. He skated, appropriately enough, to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Next up: Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, who skated on the U.S. pairs team at the Olympics this year. Although they didn’t win a medal, they have the distinction of being the first and only couple ever to land a throw triple axel in the history of the Olympic Games (they did it in their short program, but missed it in the long). They tried to do it again today — twice — but were unsuccessful.

1988 bronze medalists and 2002 gold medalists, Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat, the French-Russian ice dancing pair, came out next. They’re known for their unique lifts, including one in which she lifts him! And sure enough they performed that signature move.

Evan Lysacek, the U.S. Olympic team member who placed fourth in Torino, closed the first half, just before the intermission (which is when the Zamboni comes out to re-surface the ice).

The second half started with Irina Grigorian, who does circus art on ice. While not a competition skater, she dazzled us with a variety of props, including at least a dozen hula hoops simultaneously.

The incomparable Michelle Kwan. (08/13/06)

We were then treated to performances by the current men’s silver medalist, Stephane Lambiel, and the current women’s bronze medalist, Irina Slutskaya (who is also one of my favorites).

The next act was a comedic acrobat pair who were amazing … and very funny. I can’t exactly describe their act, but everyone in the pond was mesmerized!

Sasha Cohen, the current silver medalist came out next and the crowd went nuts. It didn’t hurt that Sasha lives in Orange County, either. Always the definition of elegance, Sasha did a flawless routine. She was spectacular.

The only thing that excited me more was when they announced the next skater: the surprise 2006 women’s gold medalist, Shizuka Arakawa of Japan. She is the first Japanese Olympian to have ever won an Olympic gold medal in the sport (and, as of this year, became Japan’s most famous athlete). She did her signature spiral where she bends completely back. Amazing.

Current pairs gold medalists Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin, of the Russian Republic, performed next. You might remember them winning the gold this year, but you probably remember them more for the terrible fall they had at Skate America in 2004. During a lasso lift, Maxim’s legs gave out from underneath, causing Tatiana to slam onto the ice head first, causing a severe concussion. She recuperated, and along with her partner, won the gold two years later. These guys, just like the Chinese pairs who continued skating despite that bad throw this year, is what being an Olympian is all about. I salute them for that.

The full cast comes out for final bows. (08/13/06)

Current men’s gold medalist, Evgeni Plushenko, performed next. Flawlessly, I might add. While he doesn’t have the outgoing personality of his arch rival, 2002 gold medalist Alexi Yagudin, the guy is just damn good.

The loudest applause came for the final solo skater: Michelle Kwan, who delighted the crowd with her elegant-as-always performance. Although not an Olympic gold medalist, she’s got more National and World’s gold medals than anyone else. Period. She is an inspiration.

The show closed with some fun group numbers, which had everyone in the audience clapping along. What a great show. Who wants to come with us next year? :-)

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