Evan Lysacek, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Sasha Cohen, Peggy Fleming, Brian Boitano. Nancy Kerrigan, Sarah Hughes and other champions of figure skating arrive in town for Caesars Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating
It’s one thing to see so many former, recent and current ice skating champions listed in a press release for the Caesars Tribute to the Golden Age of American Skating. It is quite another to see all these champions sitting together in one room.
Caesars kicked off their big event this afternoon with a press conference with most of the champions who will take part in the tribute tomorrow night at Boardwalk Hall (Saturday, Dec. 11), a show that is being filmed by NBC for broadcast on Christmas Day, 4-6pm.
What was most obvious about seeing these great skaters together is the mutual admiration they have for each other and what an exclusive and tight knit community it is. They were delighted to be seeing each other, many for the first time in years. Some of the performers are still at the top of their game – reigning Olympic champion Evan Lysacek for example. Others still perform in ice shows, or direct and choreograph them (Randy Gardner). Others are ice skating commentators (Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton), or are teaching the next generation of champions (Rudy Galindo).
Nancy Kerrigan summed it up best for all of them when she was asked about why she wanted to participate in this skating exhibition. “My husband has been saying for the last five years, ‘When are you going to stop this?’ But I didn’t want to be home watching this on TV. I’m really honored to be part of this group. Instead of doing laundry and taking the kids here and there, I get to put on this other hat and be the Nancy Kerrigan people remember from 20 years ago.”
Nancy Kerrigan gets emotional.
(Photo by Donald Kravitz)
Tenley Albright, 75, the first American female Olympic champion in 1956, had polio as a child. After her Olympic victory she went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School and is an award-winning surgeon. Wearing a cast on her left arm, she was asked if she would be “on skates” for the show. “My legs are all right” she said, laughing. Dick Button chimed in, saying, “ Tenley Albright skates so magnificently all the time.” Asked again about his skating status, Albright hesitated and said, “Don’t tell my husband, but Richard Dwyer [who at age 77 is still skating regularly] asked me to be one of his ladies and what little girl who has seen Richard hasn’t dreamed of being one of his ladies?”
Debi Thomas explained that, “It has been 14 years since I last performed. Two minutes – no problem. I forgot how hard skating is. It is really, really hard. I decided I was going to do P90X [an extreme home fitness workout] to get in shape. P90X was not hard enough. It was a challenge to do this, but when I decided to do this I was going to go all out.” Thomas is also a physician and says she has the lidocaine ready.
Rudy Galindo, the 1996 US National champion is coaching skating fulltime has had trouble finding the time to practice. He has two hip replacements. “My hips a squeaking a lot more now.”
Lysacek recalled how he had the opportunity to be surrounded by American Olympic champions at the U.S. Championship right before the Olympics. “I didn’t have a great performance there, but I still kept the faith because I talked to Scott [Hamilton] and Dick [Button], Peggy [Fleming], Sarah [Hughes] and Tara [Lipinski]. They gave me incredible advice. I took some wisdom, spirit and no doubt some courage from all of them going to Vancouver.”
Go to this link for more information on the show and an interview with Peggy Fleming.
NOTE: This show has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.
There’s a certain hold that figure skaters have on the American conscious — especially female skaters. Come the Winter Olympics, the country seems to rally around the top female U.S. figure skater and accept them into their hearts. Even the most macho, truck-driving guys watch and feel the pain of every slip or a fall and the excitement of every successful triple salchow.
'The joy of where I am at now is that it’s not about the demands of competition that you have to do five triples in the program, or 20,000 spins. I skate now because I love to and for the audience. It’s a totally free, different kind of skating. I’m out there enjoying the music and feeling the crowd. I’ve never been more excited.'
The evening was packed with skating talent, some who were there to be interviewed by Mary Carillo for the NBC broadcast that will take place Christmas day, others to show that they still can skate with grace and power.
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