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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Laying the foundations: My 1st Olympic experience

On a February weekend in 1998, skating history was made. Not only at the White Ring, Nagano, in distant Japan, but also on my couch in front of the telly.

In those days, I did not care very much for the Winter Olmypics. If anything, my family was more into the Summer Olympics. It is for that unfortunate reason that one of my most vivid Olympic memories from 1988 is not one of the epic battles of the Carmens or Brians. No, it is rather the memory of Jürgen Hingsen's three consecutive false starts in the 100 metre segment of the decathlon event and his subsequent disqualification. (Yes, believe it or not, you could get away with 2 false starts back then) Sports memories to cherish, I know.

Fast forward ten years, I'm aimlessly zapping around and, for want of better alternatives, stay with whatever sports are on. While I slowly accomodate into the day (I slept in that Saturday), figure skating is on and a slightly disappointed guy, Todd Eldredge, is sitting there and awaiting his marks. Afficionados of the sport probably know who took the ice next and made me watch the Men's free programme until the very end.

My 1st skating hero: Philippe Candeloro. I was in awe. So many nice details, flourishes, well matched music, dynamic and exiting and building choreography with a Cloak and Dagger theme to boot. And that skater was a performer who enjoyed what he did. It was done so well and it resonated with me. To put it shortly, I was enthralled by that performance. I loved that guy, and I thought him to be a man of great sophistication and taste. Honestly, I did.

Next up was Elvis Stojko. I remember our commentator being a little biased and calling him a "jumping machine" only. As we all know, he was injured at the time, so it was a somewhat restrained performance, in addition to the famous Stojko intensity Elvis projected. The Medal ceremony was exceptional as well, with Elvis limping onto the ice in his sports shoes.

These two skaters alone had made a great impression upon me. One a man of great sophistication and artistic taste, the other an athletic miracle who skates through the pain without any mistake. A sport with such characters and where you can find all that in only two performances just had to be great. What did I do the following day? Needless to say, I watched the exhibition. And the free skate re-run, of course.

That was the defining event in my genesis as a skating fan. Those two days were enough to lay the foundation of enthusiasm that has kept me interested in the sport ever since. It was purely a matter of chance and I lucked out.

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