Ladies' night

Despite a few tacky costumes, the ladies’ short program was a vision of elegance, avoiding the sideshow spectacle of this year’s other skating events

BY Jon Jackson

February 22 2006 1:00 AM ET

After a week and
a half of disappointing results, spills, upsets, and low
network ratings for the Winter Olympics, figure
skating’s “ladies” took to the
ice Tuesday night at the Palavela Arena in Torino, Italy.
Billed as the winter games’ premier event, the
ladies’ short program lived up to the hype.

Initially, I
thought the men’s event, with its depth and talent,
would outshine the other figure skating disciplines.
Last Thursday’s evening of skating proved my
theory wrong when the men skated like lifeless rag
dolls, two-footing landings and falling to the ice. Although
it was rare to hear any criticism out of the NBC
announcing team, particularly from International
Skating Union cheerleader Tracy Wilson, many blame the
ISU’s new judging system for draining the programs of
any originality and style; even gold medalist Yevgeny
Plushenko was monotonous and lackluster.

On the contrary,
the ice dance, sandwiched between the men’s and
ladies’ programs, proved to be the most
dramatic event in ages. Ice dance is usually known for
its plunging necklines (on both the women and the men).
On Sunday night it was known for its plunging couplets, as
team after team flopped and mopped up the ice. The
original dance event provided one of the most
memorable Olympic moments in years, along with reels and
reels of highlight videos for the postgame shows,
particularly Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien.

The Italian team
of Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio
miraculously found themselves in first place after the
compulsory dance. Not that they skated badly, but one
would not be surprised to find a few excessively
generous judges with perhaps a large rucksack of laundered
euros hiding on the judges’ stand. The leaders took
the ice on Sunday to a huge hometown welcome. Near the
end of their program, the team suddenly stumbled,
tumbling to the ice and ending all hope for an Italian
medal. After finishing quickly, Barbara collected
herself and then, in true diva-like fashion, stood in
the middle of the arena with piercing eyes that shot
icicles toward Maurizio, letting him know exactly just whose
fault this entire mess was. She dressed Maurizio down in no
uncertain terms, providing a needed villainess to this
otherwise lofty and pretentious event. Figure skating
and soap opera fans alike were stunned to see the
glare in Barbara’s eyes. At that moment we all knew
exactly why Maurizio had dropped her in the first
place!

But back to
ladies’ night. Thanks to Team USA’s vibrant
and talented Sasha, Kimmie, and Emily as well as
numerous other graceful and athletic competitors
giving chase, Tuesday night provided even more fantastic
entertainment and drama without the sideshow of falls,
bumbles, and glares.

That athletic
American youngster, 16-year-old Kimmie Meissner, skated a
clean technical program, landing the most difficult
combination jump of the evening, a triple
lutz–triple toe loop. The judges awarded Kimmie
great technical scores but dinged her for her presentation.
Kimmie has already made a name for herself as a
jumper. At last year’s National Championships
in Portland, Ore., Kimmie landed the difficult triple axel
jump, a feat not completed by an American woman since Tonya
Harding. She is planning to include that jump in
Thursday night’s freeskating program, and if
she lands it, she could land herself on the podium.

Canada’s
Joannie Rochette put one over on the typically uptight and
aged blue-haired judging panel, skating to a classical
remix of Madonna’s early-’90s hit
“Like a Prayer.” The judges, having no clue
about the song’s origins, simply appreciated a
new tune that they otherwise would have found
distasteful. Joannie’s elegant white costume was
consistent with the classic program. However, an
unfortunate touchdown on her triple flip jump put her
into ninth place and likely out of medal contention.

Tags: Sports

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