I have guilty secret from my past that I’d really love to reinstate in all its splendor.
My love of ice skaters and ice shows was probably formulated while watching the 1960 Olympics. Broadcast from Squaw Valley, California, I got to see Carol Heiss win the gold medal for the United States. Although the 1956 Olympics were also broadcast on television, I was too young to remember it, but watching the beauty of Heiss’s freestyle on youtube brings back those warm fuzzy memories.
Growing up, we had two local ice arenas where we could see touring ice show companies. Since we were not rollin’ in the dough, it must have been hard for my parents to come up with five admissions to the ice shows. I know my mother was as enamored of the flashy costumes and choreography as I was; I’m not so sure about the men in our family. Every winter we would create a frozen spot in our backyard and create a skating rink, and when I was a teenager, my girlfriends and I would go skating at the arena in big bad Dayton. Trust me when I say that skating was combined with a lot of boy watching and flirting.
By that time, I was worshipping Peggy Fleming, who won the 1968 Olympic gold in women’s ice skating. Her win was poignant, as she had lost her coach, along with the rest of the American figure skating team, in a plane crash in 1961. After strong American showings in 1952, 1956, and 1960, the devastating loss to the American figure skating program was reflected on the medal platform at the 1964 Olympics. There were no American women in the top three, and David Allen came in third among the men.
The ethereal Peggy Fleming was impossibly beautiful on the ice. I know this video still looks weird, but it’s an old film that has been digitalized — it’s worth watching to see Fleming’s medal-winning performance.
Between 1960 and 1976, only Fleming won ice skating gold for the United States until Dorothy Hamill charmed both the judges and the audience in Innsbruck, Austria.
Needless to say, I had my hair cut in the Hamill wedge.
For those of you who grew up in the age of the Nancy Kerrigan versus Tonya Harding debacle or the flinty perfection of Michelle Kwan, it’s probably hard to imagine the innocence of these early ice skating queens. They were charming, polite, ladylike, and for a little girl from a small town, it almost seemed attainable to become a figure skating star if I practiced my jumps in the back yard enough times. I knew nothing, of course, of the pressures of the elite-class skating world.
Somehow, as an adult, I stopped going to ice shows. They were expensive and my kids weren’t really into either the skating or the pageantry. Unlike me and my mom, they weren’t transfixed by the television presentations of the Olympic ice skating events every four years, and they didn’t care who was going to emerge as the reining champions. I will have to admit that now both my daughter and I love Johnny Weir, but that’s because he’s so talented while also being so fabulously out there. He’s coming out of “retirement” to compete again in the 2014 Olympics!
Right now, Disney on Ice is in town and I want to go. I need a beard — a little girl who I can pretend to be taking to see the skating Disney princesses. Miss H___, are you available?
For my grownup friends, I wouldn’t mind going to Peggy Fleming’s winery some time (just in case she was available for an autograph for a fan.)
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