Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic Gold

I remember, vividly, watching the 2002 Olympic games and CRYING through just about every figure skating event I watched. Opening ceremonies? Waterworks. Men's short program? Lump in my throat. Men's free skate? Watery eyes. Women's short? Tears of frustration. Women's long? Open crying.

And then the exhibition. To this day, I think Michelle Kwan's "Fields of Gold" exhibition program is one of the most amazing pieces of performing artistry I've ever seen, and I've seen some pretty fucking mind-blowingly incredible theatre since that time. I remember sitting on my living room couch, not breathing through the program, and watching her cry for frustration and for joy after the program, celebrating her love of this sport but the incredible loss at not winning. Not really achieving that Olympic dream, and beginning to wonder if she ever would.

And I BAWLED. I bawled, because I thought the program was breathtaking, but more because I understood that feeling in the close-up at the end. In '02, I was still only 12; I hadn't yet QUIT skating but I think I knew for all intents and purposes my competitive days were over, no matter how many pipe dreams about re-doubling my efforts and re-dedicating myself to the sport I had. I loved - still love - figure skating with all my heart, but somehow, those '02 games reinforced for me that my biggest dream of my life, at that time, would never come true.

Debbie downer, huh? But I dedicatedly watched the '06 games in Torino, in the interim seasons having watched much less figure skating and only recognizing a handful of skaters instead of the entire roster. I had no favorites this year, but I was still bummed to see team USA lose the top spot. It stung this year, but what I noticed more was my relative apathy. But I remembered that Olympic dream, and I had trouble thinking about it even tempered.

Fast forward to this year - I watched men's short program live, but didn't see all of it; I followed the results of the men's free skate via live blog and the input of friends, and am just now watching the programs on the internet. Somewhere, half of 12-year-old Siobhan is saying I told you so, and the other half is saying WHO ARE YOU?

It's no longer painful for me to watch figure skating the way it was for a long time. At the risk of sounding totally corny, I found the one thing in the world I care about more than I cared about figure skating, the one thing I want MORE badly than I did to hear "representing the United States [tellingly and realistically, I knew even as a child I'd never skate for Team Canada, being, of course, not technically Canadian], Siobhan Stevenson" before a program or a medal ceremony. It's fun now to watch a sport I can critique openly and KNOW what I'm talking about, despite never having been Olympic-calibre good. It's weird now to watch and know that I might've been, could've been, but it doesn't hurt anymore. It's strange to watch now and think that though I could've known people in this year's games (and maybe even '06), most of the skaters I was close with in that time have also quit for other things. It's bizarre not to know the skaters in the games AT all (to defacto root for Yevgeny Plushenko because he's the only one I DO know, despite not really liking him as a skater), to not understand this new scoring.

It's all very strange. To remember how tiring 4 minutes can REALLY feel when you watch a long program. To viscerally smell the ice. To hear that blade sound and to watch with baited breath as skaters rotate through the air. And to know that this was my life, and couldn't be more different now.

I will, I think, always love this sport more than the average figure skating afficionado. First love and all that. And every time I watch it, a teeny, tiny, part of me wants to get back out there and compete. At least to take lessons. Maybe I can do that, now, as an adult, but as sure as I'm living I know that in the world of women's competitive figure skating I'm frankly too old for it. Unless I were to drop everything, in which case I'm too POOR for it, haha. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't just look up where I can take lessons, or at least where there's public ice in NYC. I do still miss it, but I've long since squared with the loss.

Maybe this week I'll hit some public ice time in Central Park. Hey, at least I don't have to rent skates.

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