Sports are always more fun to watch when you're good and smart about em. And I'm pretty much 100 percent, without a doubt, totally certain that EVERYone who's ANYone will be glued to their tv's come February, positively captivated by a phenomenal, glittery, chiffony (slightly gay) spectacle. So I have decided to edu-mah-cate my friends and family on the oh-so-fabulous sport that is figure skating. That way ya'll be real good n smart n stuff when you're watching the BEST SPORT EVER come February.
First up in the lesson plan - Carolina Kostner, Italy
I saw Carolina for the first time at the 2003 World Championships in Washington D.C. It was my first worlds and I was a runner for ABC Sports. (it was an incredible experience) I was watching one of the early practices and there was this skinny little gazelle just flying up and down the ice. Her speed was incredible and her jumps (when she landed them) were HUGE. I remember thinking 'who in the world IS this girl?' At that time, I was pretty tapped into the world of figure skating and thought I knew all the top contenders.
In ladies figure skating (and men's and pairs) you do two programs, a short and a long. Where you place in the short determines when you skate in the long with the bottom ranked skaters going first and the top six going last. That way it's easier for the judges to rank you accordingly - saving their big scores for what should be the best skaters at the end of the competition. (In the short program, it's just a random draw for skate order.) Carolina did great in the short program, finishing in the top 6 - which meant that she would skate in the final flight of ladies.
Carolina's Short Program
Worlds was live that year and ABC was only planning on showing the top six ladies. Well, Sarah Hughes was also competing but had completely bombed her short program and ended up skating earlier in the night. This was the year following her surprising win in Salt Lake and she was sort of uncomfortably playing the role of 'media darling'. ABC was stuck with a tough choice - show this unknown Carolina (who was first up) OR go back and show Sarah Hughes program (who had rallied and put together an excellent showing in her long)
The choice was made to show Hughes during the warm-up and then still show Carolina's program so that the final six ladies were all seen. Because as Curt Gowdy Jr, the executive producer of the event, put in during the production meeting that day "what if this is the grand coming out party for this unknown skater from Italy and we miss it?" After watching her in practice all week, I was quietly nodding my head along in agreement - I really thought this was going to be a HUGE preview of great things for this girl.
Well - unfortunately, her long WAS exact preview of what we could expect from Carolina. Some beautiful moments, filled with a bunch of missed jumps. And cracking under pressure. And missed opportunity.
But Carolina will always be a sentimental favorite of mine because I will always feel like I "found" her. That's totally not anywhere near the truth, but in my fancy little imagination, I will always remember that I was impressed with her before anyone started chattering about her incredible potential at worlds in '03. She'll always be like that cool band you find at a dive bar in college and they go on to be Dave Matthews or something. (except Dave Matthews manages to make hits whereas Carolina.... well, she manages to hit the ice often enough I guess)
So the best part about being a fan of Carolina Kostner and why it'll always be exciting to watch her compete ..... Carolina is one fierce mess.
Her costumes are designed by Robert Cavalli and I'm sure a designer gown has never seen this much tragic action.
She also skates with perma-wedgie. Not sure why they've never addressed that little, err, issue ... you'd think it would be uncomfortable!
Carolina's skating is so incredible that people had a tendency to forget that she was a terrible competitor during most of her career (people have finally figured it out now) She managed to pull off an impressive third place at the 2005 World Championships.
So going into the 2006 Torino Olympics, she had a world of pressure on her shoulders to do well and repeat that effort. She was skating in her home country; she was even chosen as the flag bearer in the opening ceremony. The head of skating is Ottavio Cinquatto and it was generally believed that if she just stayed on her feet, she would for sure medal - that's how powerful his influence is on judging. (what, politics and scheming in figure skating?!?!? Never...... except for days that end in Y)
Her short program wasn't stellar, but also not terrible, but her long.... well, it had it's moments!!
Carolina's Olympic long program
You can just SEE the pressure on her face. You couldn't help but really feel for the girl (and you can hear the audience trying to carry her through this program.) I just adore this program though - I lovelovelove that open section where she hops on one foot across the ice. She's such a unique skater - if she could just harness her power... and nerves.... man, she'd be unstoppable.
Last year at Worlds, she had a so-so short program (again, love this program!) but just a disastrous long program. Possibly her worst ever. It'll be interesting to see how this performance and outcome effect her Olympic season. In 2006, she had all sorts of pressure on her because of her amazing world championships performance the year before.... in 2010, she'll have probably NO pressure because of her crappy worlds performance.
Maybe this will be a better situation for her mentally - going in with no expectations....
But whatever happens with Kostner, know that it'll be a wacky, crazy ride!