Day 13: Who are your five favourite pair teams?
1: Jamie Salé & David Pelletier
Easy first answer. I think I can still recite their entire competitive record from memory. Not that it's super long. It's staggering to think that they accomplished so much in four years...and really, it was that first year and a half when they made the biggest leap. After '99 Skate America, it was a matter of progressing from really good to fantastic. I still know most of those competitive programs by heart. And for the first couple of years after they turned professional, they were still the most magical team in the world to me. For a lot of reasons (and this happened long before they separated, it isn't because of that), they started to kind of fade from my fangirly heart, but I think I will always consider them the greatest pairs team ever. I don't think I'll ever adore anyone quite like I adored them in the height of my fandom. And to them, I owe countless wonderful memories and the start of some of the most important friendships in my life. Being there, with everyone, when they were inducted in the Skate Canada Hall of Fame is a memory I treasure. And like I said before, "Tristan und Isolde" always, always gets me.
2: Valérie Marcoux & Craig Buntin
In the fall of 2003, the whole idea of "live streaming" was so foreign to me. But at some event in Europe that fall, a link to a live video of the competition got circulated. And one Saturday morning, before I went to work at the video store, I was squinting at Windows Media Player, watching a fuzzy video of Val & Craig's free skate. And I realized that Val & Craig had made it past the awkward first year and were getting fairly good. And then they went and won nationals.
Two weeks after that victory, Four Continents were in Hamilton, and it was my first international competition. Christina had indoctrinated us upon arrival at her house; we showed up at the rink already planning to cheer heartily for Val & Craig. Once I saw their "Caravan" short, I was all in, inscribing with bingo dabbers on a hot pink posterboard our wishes: "Allez Val et Craig!" For the next few years, they were one of the dearest competitors to my heart. We saw them as often as we could, even at summer events, and we cheered until we were hoarse. I'm still heartbroken that things didn't work out for them together, still disappointed that, in my opinion, they never got the credit they deserved for the parts of their skating that were so solid. But I'll always have a place in my heart for them—for them and all of their sassy short programs, especially.
With Val & Craig, January 2006
3: Utako Wakamatsu & Jean-Sébastien Fecteau
Of all skaters, ever, that I have liked, I think I have carried the most outright bias for this one. I adored them—and told other people how good they were—before I had ever seen them. Before anyone had ever seen them, really, besides a few people at Québec Sectionals, I guess. I became friends with Jules during their first season together, when they had to sit out of Canadians because she was injured. When I met him in summer 2003, I was already in the fan club. I still hadn't ever seen them skate when I was frantically refreshing results from Nebelhorn and Finlandia, then calling Jules at work to relay them. When they got the Skate America assignment, I was so thrilled, not only for them, but also for me, because I was finally going to have a chance to see them skate! And then they went and made the Monday night ESPN broadcast of the short program, and I was at a college that didn't support the idea of cable in dorm rooms. So I staked out the basement lounge for a couple of hours before the broadcast, and got half the girls on my floor interested in it, too. I was so relieved when they were actually kind of awesome.
Even if they hadn't been, I still would have supported them, but it was easier that I ended up adoring them. Pairs kind of died for me in 2007, when they retired and Val & Craig split. My heart broke; maybe it still is. Although I can recognize when pairs teams are good and there are a few that I like, it's been almost 4 years since I've really had a favourite pair.
With Utako & Jean-Seb, August 2005
4: Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov
I feel like it's nearly impossible not to include this pair, at least for someone in my generation. I was a little girl who was swept up in the magic of what they put on the ice, who thought they were the closest thing to perfect. I cried my eyes out when it was on the news that he'd died. There's such a pure quality about their skating, something that keeps them on a pedestal, unmatched by others. They always made me feel like I could fly.
5: Jenni Meno & Todd Sand
My other nostalgic favourite. I was caught up in their story, too—how they fell in love in Albertville at the Olympics and decided to start skating together. I loved their pretty, pretty programs and their gooey romantics. A lot of people dismiss them for being boring and bland, but I was a kid without much of an attention span the first time that I saw them, and they always captivated me. Even going back as a better educated skating fan now, there's a lot of good in their skating—lines, presentation, choreography. So what if they weren't really fans of triples? It certainly didn't matter to me then; to me, they were the best in the world in '96 especially, and they'll always have a place in my heart.