Friday, July 3, 2015

Hello Again...(as the skating world says) Goodbye, Again

(NOTE: Hi! Yes, I'm still here. Hope all my readers can find their way back! 
I actually started writing this post back in May...)

It’s been that farewell time of year. Graduations, weddings, season finales... those are the good kinds of goodbyes. We like those. They are equal parts goodbye/hello. They are easier to take.

But I’ve been overrun with the REAL farewells of late...
(Not that that’s any reasonable excuse for not posting since BEFORE FRICKING WORLDS, but I’ve got to jump in somewhere. So bear with me.)

1) Mad Men is over. I was late getting to this show for reasons I cannot fathom, but managed to catch up with the DVDs over the course of one year (I’ve no time for binge-watching), and joined my husband for real time Season 7, parts 1 and 2, over the past two years. By the time AMC rolled the entire series marathon-style a few weeks ago, I was as anxious as any other fan as to whether Don would actually jump out of a building somewhere (um... NO), whether Peggy and Joan would go into business together (almost!), and whether Pete was really reuniting with Trudy as he relocated to Kansas (ugh, yes). I loved this show. I will miss this show. But not as much as I’ll miss (and am already missing)...

2) DAVID LETTERMAN. Do you know what CBS has been running in The Late Show’s time slot until Stephen Colbert takes over in September? CSI and The Mentalist reruns. It’s like the network is as distraught as I am without Letterman in the lineup. Don’t get me wrong... Fallon is fantastic, and Kimmel and Conan are cucumber-cool—but all of them owned up to their Dave Debt in marvelous ways recently.

My Dave Debt isn’t like theirs—go friend me on FB and you can see my own little tribute I posted back on 5/20—but in short, I’ve watched him for almost his entire late-night tenure (I was only 13 when he started; late-night wasn’t as easy to do back then) and my admiration of him, warts and all, has only intensified since I’ve lived in his hometown for the past 21 years. He’s barely been gone a month and I miss him SO. MUCH. ALREADY.

***ATTENTION! This is when I finally get back to talking about skating***

So... have I forgotten we also said farewell to the 2014-15 skate season over two months ago? Nope. And I plan to look back at that whole crazy head-banging season SOON.

But in this season of farewells, I’m thinking of Doug, Sammi, and Stephen... and Jeremy too...and now Christina!.. the most recent departees of the U.S. and Canadian elite skating scene.

Sammi (Cesario) announced her retirement first so I’ll start with her. Is 21 too young for a top female athlete in this sport to call it a day? Way back when, she’d be the senior-est of the seniors by now. Not so much in 2015. But this is a young woman who seems painfully aware of both her physical limitations, and those which are currently imposed on all skaters courtesy of the ISU. For selfish reasons, I wanted to see Cesario’s post-Carmen skating life in the worst way. (It was not for nothing that I asked on Twitter, pre-retirement announcement, what fans hoped she’d take on next.) But apparently it is not to be.

CESARIO career highlights: 4 U.S. Senior National appearances and two 5th place finishes. Although she never medaled at a GP event, she made four appearances over the last two years. You can see one of her best Grand Prix FS performances here:

Also not-to-be is Stephen Carriere’s chance to come back from last season, which started with his best GP finish in eons (4th at Skate Canada) but ended, sadly, with another injury forcing him to miss Nationals (his third time missing it in the past six years). The sharp-styled, 26 year-old Carriere may have peaked competitively seven or eight years ago, but he never lost the will to fight. Good for him.

CARRIERE career highlights: 2 Grand Prix medals, 6 U.S. Senior National appearances, Bronze at Nats in ’08; 10th at Worlds that year. For a look at podium-worth FS from 2008, look here

And for a look at his work at last year’s Skate Canada—where he lost bronze to Max Aaron by a mere tenth of one point!!—look here:

Douglas Razzano, also 26, wrote the skate world a marvelous fare-thee-well back in May   as he explores “other avenues”. Razzano has a gift for nuanced grace with all his skating elements, and even when he isn’t skating clean he’s a joy to watch.

RAZZANO career highlights: Four GP appreances and eight U.S. Senior National appearances; highest finish was 5th in 2012.

But his “fondest skating memory” (as told in the article) was his 2014 Nats FS, which you can see here

I often put Razzano on a similar skating plane with Canada’s Jeremy Ten, yet another 26 year-old who recently hung up his competitive skates. Both (arguably) had more podium success as juniors than seniors; both were on the cusp of success with their quad toe loops (Razzano a little more so than Ten, as I recall), both visibly ached for the missed jumps that kept them from the highest pinnacles of the sport. But Ten, in particular, has a musicality about his skating that always left me rooting for him. It sounded (via his Twitter account) like he gave serious thought to hanging up those skates last year—I’m glad he didn’t. Not only because he earned his best Nationals finish (Silver) and a second trip to Worlds, but because it allowed him to do his FS to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah”, which turned out to be one of my favorites of the skating-with-vocals brought on by new rules this past year. (More on all that in another post!)

TEN career highlights: Seven Canadian Senior Nationals appearances (winning 2 Bronze and 1 Silver, two Worlds appearances in ’09 and ’15, and eight GP appearances. I think I remember him being happy about this year’s NHK appearance because he stayed upright on his quad, so I’ll give you that one to look at here.

Finally, Christina Gao. Nope, we won’t see her competing anymore either, and her story might tug at me the hardest. Four years of fifth-place finishes at U.S. Nationals. Four seasons of steadily increasing international recognition. Three years of wondering if this would be the year of Gao’s podium breakthrough... particularly in 2014, when Sochi was on the line... and that’s when, sadly, her Olympic dreams were crushed with an 8th place finish. She didn’t retire at that point, but a lackluster past season (coupled by her continued full load of studies at Harvard) seemed to lay the groundwork for Gao to turn her complete attention to school as of now.  I miss her quiet grace already... and, thanks to a brief Twitter exchange I had with her a couple years ago, I will always think of her when I see carrot cake-flavored LUNA bars.

GAO career highlights: six consecutive U.S. Senior Nationals appearances (four times 5th place), eight GP appearances, one medal, one GP Final appearance. But rather than do a video link to any of those performances, I think I’d prefer to treat you to one of her best-known exhibition performances... 

Yes, I know there is now one more retirement from the U.S. team to talk about as I go to post this... thank you, Simon Shnapir... but I’m aching to get this post up (finally!) so perhaps I’ll address that in a pairs-related post later in the summer.

As for what’s next... maybe it’s time to talk about the other side of this retirement coin—that is, who’s coming back, and (maybe) who’s sticking around beyond expectations too?

My only goal is to get up at least one more NEW post this month! Right?? Hey, don’t laugh, it’s still early... in July, at least.

Thanks for coming back to read! (And please share the post wherever you can!)