As I've mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of figure skating, and have been for 17 years, since the 1992 Olympics. In high school, I would scour TV Guide and videotape and watch every single skating event and avidly followed the skating world. Once I began college (and didn't have a TV and also had loads of work) that obsession faded somewhat. I still kept up with it when I could (and the increased presence of the Internet helped), but it wasn't MY LIFE. Over the past eight years, I've been able to be more involved (as a spectator) with the skating world than in college, but less than I was in high school. Thanks to the advent of DVR, I can now record competitions and watch them when I have time. And thanks to the Internet and modern technology, I can follow competition results in real time.
Today, I'm watching Skate America, specifically the ladies' free skate. In case you've been under a rock the past few months, the Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver in February. The United States typically does fairly well in figure skating; almost always winning at least two medals. Our stellar event is the Ladies' figure skating competition, in which we have medalled EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. since 1948, with the one exception being 1964, three years after the US lost its entire elite figure skating team in a horrific plane crash. Most of the medals we've won in Ladies Figure Skating have been gold: 1956, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1992, 1998, 2002. And we have (as long as I can remember) had at least one woman who had a Very Good Chance of being the gold medalist, even if she wound up with silver or bronze instead (Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Debi Thomas, etc).
This Olympic year is different, in that most of the US figure skating community is wondering exactly who to pin our hopes on in the ladies' competition...or if there's anyone who fits that role. Yes, it's technically anyone's gold medal to win or lose once the Games begin, and a dark horse candidate could come out of nowhere and win...just like Sarah Hughes did in 2002, when all the focus was on Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya. But looking at the US field right now, it's hard to get very excited. We haven't won a World Championship since 2006, when Kimmie Meissner won, but she's been plagued by inconsistency and injuries since then. Ditto for Emily Hughes (two-time US medalist and 2006 Olympian). Sasha Cohen (2006 Olympic silver medalist), who has announced that she's going to attempt a comeback, had to back out of both her Grand Prix events because of injury, and she hasn't even competed in four years. Alissa Czsiny (2009 US champion) is a lovely skater with tons of potential. If she skated her best, she'd be a very strong candidate for a medal, even a gold. But her record is very inconsistent in terms of putting two strong programs together. Then there's Rachel Flatt, who is really showing promise, consistency, and growth. But she's still pretty new on the international scene; last year was her first World Championships. It will be interesting to see what happens at Nationals this year, and which two ladies wind up going to the Olympics. I'm just not very optimistic about our chances of coming home with a ladies medal.
But you know what discipline has me on the edge of my seat and excited about the Olympics? Ice Dancing! Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto have really put us on the map in terms of ice dancing. In 2006, they won the Olympic silver medal; the highest ever placement for a US ice dancing team. They are very strong candidates for the gold medal in Vancouver. And right behind them are Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won both of their Grand Prix events by wide margins and are also good candidates for a medal in Vancouver.
The pairs competition will be fairly ho-hum for the US; I can't imagine any of our pairs getting into the top five, unless a miracle happens. The men's competition looks promising (again, from a US perspective) because Evan Lysacek (2009 World Champion) is looking very good so far this season. I could see him winning the gold if he skates his best. He's also pretty cute, even if he is about nine years younger than me (I'm 33 and I think he's 24).
I'm looking forward to Vancouver, and since I don't know the exact dates off the top of my head, I'm selfishly hoping that Junior (did I mention it's a boy! We have a name for him, but I'll call him Junior on the blog) doesn't decide to make an early entrance. My due date is March 3, and Nora was three days early, so it's possible Junior could arrive earlier. Or he could be like his father and arrive late.