Wednesday, December 05, 2012


In Korea to promote the upcoming feature film release of Les Miserables, actor Hugh Jackman was asked his thoughts about figure skater Yu-Na Kim choosing to skate to a medley of Les Miz songs this season.

His answer can only be described as... adorable.

See if you agree:

When I worked as a figure skating researcher for ABC, NBC, TNT and ESPN, those of us on the production staff would start off each season by taking bets on which piece of music we'd be hearing the most at competitions that year.  While the score of Les Miz never quite came out on top, Sing, Sing, Sing, Malaguena, Carmen, Swan Lake, Two Guitars and West Side Story were perennial favorites.

In Book #3 of my Figure Skating Mystery series, Axel of Evil, my heroine Bex Levy, in Moscow for a US vs. Russia Made-for-TV special, calls the music choices as she sees them....

The pride of Ohio bravely skated out to the center of the ice, raising her arms in what might have been surrender, crossing them at the wrists in what might have been martyrdom, then splaying her fingers and pressing her palms forward which, in conjunction with her gleaming white dress and matching ballerina-bun scrunchie, meant only one thing to Bex. Swan Lake. Let the downy death throes begin.

And, as soon as they did, Francis and Diana whipped through Brittany's bio: Born in Cleveland, blah, blah... Russian grandfather, blah, blah, blah ... first American ever to represent Russia... great presentation... weak jumps... oops, here she goes popping her combination now—so that they could get to the good stuff.

Francis intoned, "The Lian Reilly and Jordan Ares rivalry is every bit as exciting as the one between their respective coaches, Gary Gold and Igor Marchenko, who tragically died earlier this week inside this very arena."

"Nonsense. Gary Gold was the defending United States senior men's champion in 1978, and Igor Marchenko was the World Bronze Medallist when they went head-to-head for the first time as Americans. That was a much greater clash of the Titans than Jordan and Lian. Why, neither girl has yet to win a National, much less an international tide!"

"Exactly," Francis agreed. Then promptly disagreed. "Igor was quite clearly the superior skater of the two. Gary never succeeded in beating him on the international stage. In 1977, when Igor won his World Bronze Medal, Gary only finished in eleventh place. There was no reason to think he could beat Igor domestically, and he never did, not once when they were competing against each other."

Since this was a fact Bex had actually written down for him—in three different places, to make sure he saw it eventually—Francis turned to her as he said it, winking at Bex as if he'd done her a favor by indulging her little hobby and actually including some of her research in the broadcast. She smiled back and nodded encouragingly, hoping the positive feedback might prompt him to do it more often.

"Exactly," Diana agreed to disagree. "Jordan and Lian are much more evenly matched than Igor and Gary. Whenever Igor and Gary went head-to-head, we always knew who would win in advance. Jordan and Lian are two undefeated gladiators entering the great coliseum. We can only guess which one will step out alive!"

All they knew for sure was that it wouldn't be Brittany Monroe. Her program, due to the popped combination, ended up scoring lower than Lian's. She slunk off the ice, looking like she was going to cry. Bex felt duly bad about her downy death crack earlier, no matter how prophetic it turned out to be.

Galina Semenova took to the ice several minutes later, wearing a flowing white peasant blouse and a red skirt, both embroidered with matching flower patterns to suggest a traditional Russian folk costume. Even before Galina's music commenced playing, Bex began to quietly—and sarcastically—hum "Kalinka," a traditional Russian folk melody. She had barely gotten through the first verse when the sound system at the arena joined her. Bex didn't think she was being obnoxious, just experienced. When ice-dancers wore Russian peasant costumes it was because they were skating to the (actually Gypsy) "Two Guitars." When Pairs did it, it was because they'd chosen the (actually Jewish-American) Fiddler on the Roof. For men, the costume meant "Volga Boatmen" and for women, it was inevitably, "Kalinka."

Galina's short program also started with some rhythmic ice-tapping, only in this case, unlike Lian who'd smacked it with the flat of her blade to indicate her tempestuous character, Galina dug in with the back of her blade, knee straight, arms pointing proudly towards her upturned toe, to indicate her wholesome folksiness.

Francis and Diana watched the cultural display without uttering a word beyond her name. Then, Galina got down to what she did best: a triple Lutz/triple Loop combination that barely left the ground but whipped around with such speed that it seemed like her carroty curls were twirling a beat behind each revolution and actually landed after she did.

Francis said, "A gladiator, Diana, is an athlete at the ultimate peak of his condition. It is something that Igor and Gary already were in 1978 and for the four years they were competing against each other. Lian and Jordan are most certainly not, at this point, at their peak. These two young women are still developing their styles. They are not gladiators. They are not soup. These are, at best, sous-chefs."

Galina's scores came up on the electric board over their heads, indicating that she was ahead of Lian and Brittany for this phase of the competition. When such a travesty happened, a foreigner ahead of an American, the protocol was to promptly ignore Lian—now that she wasn't going to win, at least tonight; she was, in Gil's words, "dead." Instead, the focus would be on which American still could best Galina, which, in this case, was Jordan, who hadn't even skated yet.

Read more at:

No comments: