March 12, 2011, Chicago (Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL)
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It is a fact: Scott Hamilton is the ultimate commentator. If you are not a fan, there is something wrong with you, you might even be dead inside. According to an extremely scientific Access Hollywood viewers poll, 66% of the nation think that Hamilton is the greatest male figure skater ever, the runner-up being Brian Boitano with 22%. Ponder that.
And just why do we love Scott Hamilton? Well he’s an amazing figure skater of the ages, his commentary is the stuff of legends and he is always willing to have fun with it. When Stephen Colbert had him on the show via-fireplace and asked whether there was a new Cold War in the making vis-à-vis men’s figure skating, Scott laughed, “Why not?” And regarding that trademark backflip? Colbert pointed out that none of the competitors had bothered with that feat and wondered, “Shouldn’t you get the gold medal?” I know I wish backflipping was still involved. Scott settled with a snarky, “Well– I did.” Which circles back to why we love the man.
I’ve been planning this post since the first night of figure skating. Last night we got our last taste of Olympian comments from Scott during the gala skate exhibition, one of the happiest events of the winter games. The first Olympics of which I have memory were the 1992 Albertville games and I still clearly remember Kristi Yamaguchi’s gala skate, which only made my child-self love her more.
So Scott came back to us for a few magical moments of the 2010 gala skate which featured Joannie Rochette in a great little purple velvet sequined number skating to the French version of Celine Dion’s “Fly,” which incidentally also reminded me of my child-self, albeit sometime post-Kristi. Rochette chose the piece because it was one of her mother’s favorites. She received the Terry Fox Award (along with Petra Madjic, the fierce cross-country skier who took home a bronze despite multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung) as an Olympian who best embodied the best of the human spirit, who brought the Olympics beyond sport. Raise your hand if you cried? Chris Collinsworth judges you if you didn’t: “I know men don’t like to cry, but if you didn’t cry watching this young lady then what kind of man are you?” He named it is his number one moment of the 2010 games.
Back to Scott. Evgeny Plushenko came out on the ice being his usual fabulous/awful self, skating to “Je Suis Malade.” What are you trying to say Evgeny? Scott announced the song and provided the translation, “I Am Sick,” and proceeded with, “He’s sick? He’s sick with talent. He’s sick with ability.”
Plushenko, “the one and only” goes on to toss out handfuls of triple axels like Halloween candy, which Scott simply cannot get over, “Oh why not just keep throwing triple axels, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhaahaha, oh man– this guy is great!” Wait, does Scott voice Tony the Tiger?!?!
The wonderful thing about Scott Hamilton is his never-ending positivity, he loves to watch great athletes skate and he’s not afraid to let us know his feelings. Davis & White came out to a slow swooning cover of “Billie Jean,” and all Scott had to say was, “I love everything they do!.. GAH! I love them.”
Kim Yu-Na came on and there was more love fest in the air. According to Sandra, Kim has said that “the purpose of this program is to say thank you to everyone who has been supportive so far in my career.” Scott remained enamored throughout the program as Kim glided over the ice in a surprising long-sleeved and fairly long-skirted princess waist costume. It was different. I liked it. Scott summed up her skating with the succinct statement that “it’s truly a gift.”
Another favorite pair of Scott’s, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir came out with a hugely entertaining performance. They started out to music from The Nutcracker Suite, Virtue wearing a full-on crinoline tutu; however, as the music suddenly transitioned into, yes, a jock jam situation Moir’s chosen Canadian hockey jersey-wth-jeans look began to make sense. It was just fun, total fun and the crowd loved it. Somehow, Scott still managed to wax poetic about how graceful they are: “Hard to believe they’re so good so young!” Sandra called theirs “a fairy tale story.” I just giggled.
For the crescendo of Scott’s praise, tuxedoed Evan Lysacek performed a competitive program choreographed to “Rhapsody in Blue.” According to Scott, they had run into each other a few days earlier– what I wouldn’t give to just run into my friend Scott Hamilton at the breakfast bar– and that Lysacek had been unable to pick his gala program. Scott said, “well, what do you want to say?” and Lysacek came up with “I want to do ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ because I feel like it’s the date that brought me to the dance.'” Someday, Mr. Lysacek is going to make a great commentator.
At any rate, Scott could not effuse enough praise, gushing “Every time he had a setback, he worked through it and he earned it! He earned it the best way possible. He worked harder than anybody else”… Evgeny Plushenko. Yeah.
In a previous interview with Bob Costas, Scott has made it clear that although Plushenko is a great, Lysacek was without a doubt better and more deserving and that the Russian skater needs to get over himself and deal with his silver medal, quad or no quad: “It’s figure skating. It’s about the whole performance,” not just whether or not an athlete can successfully throw a quad on the ice.
Scott Hamilton blends the emotional, the entertaining and the technical seamlessly into his figure skating commentary– and that is why we love him.
A few favorite bites from these games, linked to the original posts:
“[Rachael Flatt] didn’t get any slack from the collar tonight!“
“My heard just started beating a little faster.” As Kim Yu-Na comes onto the ice.
“[Kim Yu-Na’s] nemesis, the triple flip!”
“You’re never a former gold medalist… You’re always an Olympic medalist!” Regarding his own esteemed status.
“When you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk ,and he just skated that skate!” Regarding Johnny Weir’s free skate.
“A little scary! This guy’s a cat, I don’t know how he landed that!” Regarding Plushenki’s free skate.
“I’m here to selllll myself!” Regarding Weir’s short program.
“A nightmare covered in molasses.” Regarding the year that Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy have had.
So what are you favorite Scott Hamilton moments?
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What a night.
We start out with Sandra pointing out the obvious with near-show-tune of the night: “It’s figure skating so of course we’re going to hear some Carmen tonight.”
Rachael Flatt laid out a strong performance to Scott Hamilton’s delight: “She’s a rock, she’s so consistent… skates her best performance of the year!” Sandra went with declaring that “She’s really doing it… she has saved her best one for the Olympics games!” Unfortunately our eyes are once again scarred by her insistence of wearing dark taupey tights despite a pretty jazzy red costume. Even more unfortunately, our friendly commentators believe that Flatt may have been underscored; Scott again falls into great turns of phrase saying, “she didn’t get any slack from the collar tonight.” Flatt ended up in seventh position.
Mirai Nagasu on the other hand made it within sight of the podium with her interpretation of Carmen, landing herself in fourth place with another personal best. Before heading out onto the ice Nagasu was looking pretty grim before her coach told her, “Smile!” Scott was obviously super excited about all of her jumps shouting out the combinations: “double lutz, double lutz, double TOE!” He also noted that as compared to her performance at Nationals “every jump looked a little higher and a little bit tighter here… Everything about her is just quality.”
As for Sandra? ” Everything about her is just beautiful, pristine… She went out tonight and just nailed it, she did sparkle!”
The best thing about Mirai is how stoked she was at the end with a big open grin, how thrilled she was with her final score and how excited she was later on to take a picture with Joannie Rochette. She’s just spunky; she says, “I don’t care about results, I just want people to know that I’m the future!” Spunktastic. Even Dick Button thinks that she is “a really spiffy young lady,” who deserves a medal. Plus her red and black sequined costume was the perfect accompaniment to Carmen, I mean, if you want to get sartorial about things.
Sartorially speaking about the inspirational Joannie Rochette, her costume features that awkward faux bare midriff situation with which I take issue. Miki Ando of Japan also had that going on with her Cleopatra program. Sigh.
But back to business: Rochette managed the skate of her life just days after her mother unexpectedly passed away, “a kiss for her father, a performance for her mom.” Her story definitely became the emotional center of the women’s figure skating competition/ the whole Olympic games. Scott was especially emotional, choking up as he wondered how she could have persevered: “I’ve never seen such a super human determination… She went after everything, she was athletic, she was determined… it was just a wonderful thing to see… I’m so inspired by her performance.” I personally teared up a few times and when her program was over I actually almost clapped in my living room. My hands actually twitched to life, something unique to her performance.
So how did she do it? Rochette spoke to Andrea Joyce afterwards and explained, “Ever since I’m young, my mom she was really a tough woman and she taught me that… it was really important to be… so she is happy where she is.”
Take a break, grab a tissue.
Next up Mao Asada who created history by landing not one but two triple axels in her free skate, in addition to one landed in her short program. Epic. Scott… back to you–
“What courage to come out after that [Kim Yu-Na] and to throw those jumps that she did!”
“I was so proud of the effort, of the courage.”
It was very impressive. Mao is Kim’s closest rival and she totally threw down last night. And to top it off, she had a delightful costume that Molly described as “burlesque” in a way. Very old broadway or vaudeville or something, black and red, sequins, gloves, a choker– the works.
And finally… Kim Yu-Na, who “owns and operates the rule book.” Scott was so f’ing excited about this lady, saying “My heart just started beating a little faster,” as she came onto the ice. Really. She is amazing, fluid gliding and spinning over the ice which she covers so completely and with such graceful speed that Scott compared her to Apolo Ohno, oddly. From here on out, I just need to list some of the things that the commentators said, because it’s all just too much.
“Oh my goodness this is glorious! It’s one of the greatest Olympics performances I have ever seen!” ~Sandra
“Jumping to their feet, the coronation is complete, long live the queen!” ~Tom
“No one can walk a mile in those shoes!” ~Scott
“What was magical about the performance were the moments she took to focus into the audience and play with choreography and to feel relaxed.” ~Sandra
“To me, the crowd was just spellbound.” ~Tom
The quotation paradise of figure skating never ends. Never.
Kim lost some of her legendary composure at the end of her skate, obviously well aware that she just broke the world record through the roof taking a 159.06 for the free skate and a composite of 228.56. The tears she spilled at the medal ceremony were apparently a complete surprise to her, being the first she has ever shed after a performance: “I was really happy that I did what I wanted to do.” “I think it was both [relief & joy].” This was the first figure skating medal for South Korea… lots of pressure.
And that’s the end of Olympian figure skating until Sochi 2014. I leave you with this tweet by short tracker J.R. Celski:
@celskeet i wonder if it would be harder to transition from speed skating to figure skating, or the other way around? i know for sure i can’t spin…
Things to ponder.
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Before we get down to the women’s figure skating short program, let’s just have a moment to love Scott Hamilton and his commentary and how happy we all were to hear his voice last night.
@KathElizW Glad Scott Hamilton has come back to me. #Olympics
@JohannaAP25 @KathElizW I missed Scott a lot. A lot. Ice dance was like a drought. #olympics
@Kmwrather Scott Hamilton was getting choked up over that
@KathElizW@kmwrather He gets so engrossed. I love it. The man has many emotions. (that being said, it was very moving).
This last tweet of course referring to the most emotional performance of the night, Joannie Rochette skating a personal best to rank third despite her mother’s recent sudden death. As Rochette came onto the ice to thunderous applause, commentator Sandra said, “It’s like she’s found solace on the ice.” Scott only tried to comment once during the performance and as noted above it sounded like he was trying to hold back serious tears, and who wasn’t? Later in the evening a slightly more composed Scott declared, “The importance of this performance wasn’t the Olympics, it was life… [and] it means so much.”
After noting the triumphant significance of Rochette’s Olympic experience it will be difficult to regain the tone with which I prefer to imbue these posts, however with no disrespect–here we go:
Overall the most striking element of the evening? How difficult is it to pick a “nude” fabric that matches your own shade of nude? It was a sartorial massacre, despite otherwise passable-to-enjoyable costuming. And the nudes were off across the field of competition, hence “massacre.” One example?
Rachael Flatt… why were your legs taupe when clearly your actually body is not? Distracting. The photos don’t even to justice to the skin tone discrepancies that flashed across the screen last night. Meanwhile, Dick Button says that her performance was like “sunshine coming down,” placing her into fourth place; good thing you don’t get judged on your tights.
Mirai Nagasu, the other American contender placed sixth for the night with a seasonal best, showing “lots of moxie and lots of potential.” Oh Sandra, way to step up your vocabulary due to the fierce competition brought by Scott! She’s right– girl’s got spunk, plus her spins are so beautiful and so fast that she ended the program with a slight bloody nose! Scott says her spins are among the best out there. So there.
The headliner of course was Kim Yu-Na of South Korea who is basically “the biggest superstar South Korea has ever seen.” She gave a world-record-breaking skate to the musical stylings of James Bond– a delight. She faced and conquered “her nemesis the triple flip” (thanks Scott) and delivered a program full of “strength and sensuality, with a little flirt thrown in there too” (Oh Sandra, you really are stepping it up)!
But seriously, the American ladies represented well last night, both placing into the top six, in prime position for the upcoming free skate. And aside from the non-nude nude issues and the propensity of the ladies to insist on wearing tights stretched over their boots… my eyes were not terribly scarred. Have I simply become immune to figure skating fashion faux pas as a result of overexposure during the past two weeks?! Something to ponder.
One last gem from each commentator? You’re welcome:
“She’s someone who can be spectacular, or who can implode.” ~Sandra on Miki Ando of Japan
“Let’s rock the house!” ~Scott regarding Rachael Flatt’s attitude