30 Days of Skating
Day 4: What is your favourite men’s program?
Okay, I admit that I switched the questions around. Today was supposed to be my favourite dance program, but I don’t have that kind of time tonight, so I’m putting it off for a few days. Men’s is a bit easier, though I’m still going to pick two programs—one short and one free. We’ll go in chronological order.
For as long as I've watched figure skating, there's not a single men's free skate that I love more than Paul Wylie's "Henry V," specifically, the performance from the 1992 Olympics. Honestly, the opening commentary always gets me. Good ol' Verne Lundquist lays it down: "Paul Wylie has competed in 11 U.S. National Championships and never won. He's been to 4 Worlds with 9th his best finish. He made this year's Olympic team by one tenth of one point. And tonight, he can take home an Olympic medal." Talk about foreshadowing from the tape delay, Verne. But it still gets me, even almost 19 years later. And if I'm not teary-eyed by the time the music starts, I definitely am when he hits his triple Axel, the second jump in.
I love how he just stands there at the beginning, waits for the right moment in the music to begin. He looks so peaceful, like he's not about to start the skate that's going to change his life. And then he skates his pants off. I think that most swordfighting-on-ice sequences after this have been pretty lame, because nothing is going to top that leap he does. The spins are incredible, the Russian splits at the end, and oh my stars, what a spread eagle. Seriously, his lines and his passion and his controlled energy...it wasn't a perfect skate, but it was a perfect Olympic moment. I knew that, even when I was 7.
Sidebar, but I finally saw Paul Wylie skate in 2004, when he guest-starred on Stars on Ice. He's one of the few skaters that I've never met that I would really, really like to meet sometime. I'm not sure what I would even say, but I'd like to shake his hand and tell him that he's always inspired me.
My favourite men's short program is a recent one, and since I'm a huge list-making nerd, I really took some time two seasons ago to think about whether or not I really wanted to bump Patrick Chan's "Tango de los Exilados" short program into my #1 spot. So I'm pretty sure that I've never seen a men's short program that I love more than this one.
Every moment of it is beautifully constructed, and I love the lyrical tango look on him. It allows him to be sharp and to attack the program, but it also shows off his amazing skating skills. I'm partial to the 2009 Four Continents performance, which is what I posted above, because I was in the building for that one. In the pre-Olympic test event, the energy in the arena was insane, and PChiddy handled the pressure beautifully. OK, maybe all the hitch kicks are just a bit much, but aside from that, the footwork is fantastic—difficult, but so musical, and when he hits it, he brings the audience out of their seats.
Time for some honourable mentions!
Kurt Browning's 1992-94 LP to Casablanca - a classic
Just about everything Stéphane Lambiel has ever done, but especially his Chocolat program from 2003
Jeremy Abbott's 2009-2010 SP to "A Day in the Life" - another recent program, and an incredible one...that last spin wowed me every time
Emanuel Sandhu's 2003-2004 Tango SP - one of those programs that was totally front-loaded, but by the time he was 2 minutes in, I'd already forgiven him for it
Chris Mabee's 2005-2006 LP to Pearl Harbor - I didn't mention this specifically in my last post, but watching this live is another one of my favourite memories from Canadians in Ottawa
Dylan Moscovitch's 2007-2008 LP to Robin Hood - one of the best humourous competitive programs ever! I saw it live at Challenge and so wished he'd qualified for Canadians with it...that would have been incredible.
And if you haven't seen Dylan's program, here's a treat: