Saturday, February 11, 2006


2006 Olympics: First Great Skate

Totmianina & Marinin in Torino
I was sleeping off a Mexican food hangover all afternoon, and barely woke up in time to see the pairs short program on the Olympics. I'm going to have to start recording since I teach until 9:30 four nights a week, which means I'll be able to fast forward through all the other stuff straight to the figure skating, but I'm glad to say that the programming this year is excellent, with big-enough chunks of everything to really get acquainted with it, not too much editorial schmalz, and mercifully short commercial breaks.

The skating was lackluster, I thought, for the most part, except for Inoue and Baldwin's amazing throw triple axel, which made history and got them far fewer points than it should have. By the time the last two pairs glided around, I thought the team holding first (Zhang and Zhang, one of three top Chinese teams) had been rather sloppy, and that the judging was a little off. As this skating blogger points out, pairs judging is often a matter of who made the least mistakes rather than who had the most perfect and moving program.

And then there are the top Russians, Totmianina and Marinin, who, as Sandra Bezic made unequivocal by stating the obvious, are "in a class by themselves," and who are now leading the pairs competition by a huge 3.92 points. And they deserved it. In fact, I think they should be even further ahead, pointwise. Their performance was one of those rare uninterruptedly seamless ones that very simply moved me to tears through its power, grace and pure exquisiteness. That's a clumsy word and I never, ever call anything exquisite when I really mean fabulous, delightful or merely great. But exquisite is exactly what I mean here. There was a fineness in their skating that spoke to the sport's quintessence, and touched something very deep inside of me.

The Russians are set to make a figure skating sweep this year, with Slutskaya in the women's competition, Plushenko in the men's, and Navka & Kostamarov in dance. God, how I wish I had TIVO!

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