Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Iconic American Skating Moves

A co-worker of mine was watching a skating performance over my shoulder on YouTube on this slow Wednesday afternoon and she commented on how awesome a particular element was and I exclaimed, "Oh that's an iconic American skating move." I then began to prattle on about other iconic which point I'm sure I lost her as she started talking about work again but I figured I'd share my thoughts with all of you!

Jenni Meno and Todd Sand always put an amazing lift near the end of their programs that was always mesmerizing. It was a gorgeous stag lift that had this impressive drop-out at the end. The crowd always gasped a little when they did it but Todd never ever dropped her (whew!). Lots of teams after them have performed the element but it never seems to look as great as when Jenni and Todd did it. At one point the ISU considered making the move illegal...but thankfully that never happened.

Dick Button is an icon in the sport of figure skating, American or otherwise, but his invention of the flying camel spin or "Button Camel" is certainly one of the American iconic figure skating moves. Dick Button was quite the skating pioneer, being the first to land a a double axel and a triple jump (a loop) in competition. Quite the over-achiever!

Brian Boitano's "Tano" lutz is a classic. The lutz is already super-hard because it takes off and outside edge but Brian Boitano upped the ante when he decided to throw one arm above his head as he performed the jump. I think what made this move so impressive was the crispness and the tightness of his arm during the jump. Like any iconic move, lots of skaters have copied it, but often their arm looks floppy above their head. Brian's arm was always very strong above his head making it look so much cleaner. One of the more interesting reinventions of the iconic move comes from Adam Rippon who performs a lutz with both hands over his head. We'll see if his jump becomes as famous. Brian is also made the death drop iconic by making it bigger than anyone had ever before.

A spread eagle is such a basic move but no other American skater gave it such effect as Paul Wylie. While many skaters perform a spread eagle, Paul makes the move iconic. Paul has always been known as an artistic skater but he takes it to a whole different level when he enters into a spread eagle. It isn't even about how long or short the spiral it is, it's simply the power he performs the move with. He just explodes into it and hits this amazing position. Speed I think is the factor that makes the move work. Paul Wylie was always a skater with tremendous speed. At the 1992 Olympics during the free skate he hit his spread eagle with such amazing power it was a joy to watch. Brian Boitano also had an iconic spread eagle but he can't have all the credit. ;-)

Not really a move but an iconic part of her performance any is of course the Dorothy Hamill "Wedge" haircut. That hair is an icon all by itself. Every little girl wanted to have the wedge just like Dorothy. She became a fashion icon with that hair and a media hit following the 1976 Olympics. To her credit she does have an actual iconic move, the "Hamill Camel" where she moved immediately from a camel spin into a sit spin. Dorothy has managed to keep her hair current over the years but it always seems to somehow maintain some of that "wedginess" that was so popular.

My favorite iconic move of them all is the Michelle Kwan forward spiral. It isn't that Michelle had the best stretch of any skater in her spiral...she didn't. It was more just how it moved across the ice, had the great change of edge, and simply embraced you with it's openness and honesty (yes...a skating move can be 'honest'). I think the first time she did it with impact was her 1998 Olympic Season short program to Rachmaninoff (which I believe remains one of the greatest choreographed short programs...ever!). At the 1998 U.S. Nationals, she was at the end of a ridiculously amazing performance and she flew into that spiral and the crowd went nuts. That's the moment it became iconic. It made several more appearances in subsequent programs of hers and was a crowd hit every time.

Have I missed any?


Queen of the Road said...

Another spiral, but that of Janet Lynn.

Ice Charades said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ice Charades said...

You can't leave out the Biellmann.

Tara said...

Great post! Michelle's spiral is, perhaps, the most widely recognized move in skating, even by people who don't know the sport!

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