I just returned from Vail, Colorado, the site of the 2017 World Figure & Fancy Skating Championships and Festival. I expected to have a great time, but to sum things up, being at this particular event was truly an amazing experience!
There is something magical that happens when people who love figure skating are together, but something extra special happens when the people that love figure skating, but also the people who appreciate figures and beautiful ice skating, are together.
Being at the the 2017 World Figure & Fancy Skating Championships and Festival was like being at a party-like celebration! What made the whole thing extra fun was that those who came to watch could skate too and everyone who participated seemed to instantly become friends. How cool is that?!?!
Here’s a summary of what my long weekend in Vail was like:
Wednesday, September 27, 2017:
I arrived in Vail in the late afternoon. The first person I saw at the hotel was Diane Agle who is somewhat of an ice skating legend. Diane has coached so many figure skating Olympians and world and international competitors and she herself qualified for the 1960 Olympics! Diane and I met at the 2015 World Figure Championship and have been friends ever since.
After getting settled at the Evergreen Lodge which was right next to the ice rink, I checked out the rink. There was a crew there getting the “Black Ice” ready for the competition. The ice looked absolutely amazing and like a piece of black glass. I was able to meet some of the officials and competitors that evening and picked up schedules and credentials. I knew the excitement was about to begin, so after dinner, I went to bed early so I could be ready to skate early in the morning.
Thursday, September 28, 2017:
I arrived at the rink at around 6:40 am and was greeted by Karen Courtland Kelly, who calls herself the administrator or secretary for the World Figure Society. Karen was about to work so hard for the next four days, but made me feel so welcome and excited.
Nancy Blackwell-Grieder arrived at about the same time as I did. The two of us wanted to be one of the first skaters to step onto the clean black ice. Barbara Clare Schulz arrived a few minutes after Nancy and me.
I took a photo of Nancy with her scribe since she was the first to step on the ice when the first patch practice session began at 7:00 am. I stepped on right after Nancy and Barbara followed. The three of us had the quiet and magical rink to ourselves!
Wow! All I can say is that the amazing black ice was wonderful! I laid out a forward outside eight and couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked on my patch! Next, I laid out a forward inside eight. Then came my forward serpentines.
I have a “do figures for exercise plan,” so next came forward paragraph eights, back outside and back inside eights and back serpentines. I then did some change double threes and brackets.
At 8:00 am, Karen Courtland Kelly gave a short workshop on Special Figures. I think she taught us the “Swiss S” which I found very challenging to do. Then, I ended up taking the Forward Outside Eight and Forward Inside Eight Exams! I posted my Forward Inside Eight on Facebook and it has been viewed almost 15,000 times! I had no idea my simple figure would be so popular!
Later in the day, I returned to the rink to watch some of the World Figure Championship competitors practice. I could tell there was much excitement at the rink, but the real excitement occured after dinner when Olympic Champion Dorothy Hamill arrived at the arena! Dorothy was so, so very friendly and spent quality time with everyone who approached her. I was also delighted to reunite with one of my coaches, 1960 Olympic Pair Skating Champion Barbara Wagner, who was one of the judges at the competition.
Friday, September 29, 2017:
I arrived at the rink when it opened, a little before 7:00 am, and skated another hour long patch practice session. This time, I didn’t do much socializing; instead, I just went through my entire “JO ANN’s Ice Skate and Practice Compulsory Figures Just for Exercise Plan” which was so much fun. I did forward and backward eights, forward and backward serpentines, forward paragraph eights, three turns, brackets, counters, rockers, and loops!
I finished that wonderful hour of skating with a feeling of so much happiness, but then I hurried out of the rink so I could head up to the top of Vail Mountain on the gondola so I could ride a mountain scooter down. Yes…a mountain scooter! I find riding a scooter feels a bit like skating or skiing, so I HAD to ride one down the mountain while I was in Vail.
After my wonderful day on the mountain, I hurried back to the rink and watched some of the evening competition. The figures I saw placed on the beautiful black ice were really, really good!
I headed off to bed early since I was exhausted after skating an early morning patch session and mountain scootering down Vail Mountain twice!
Saturday, September 30, 2017:
I slept in a bit and began my day at the 8:15 am practice patch session. After an hour of practice, I then took both the Right and Left Forward Serpentine exams.
After skating, I spent some time watching the competition. It was really interesting seeing the judges walk around the ice looking at what was on the ice after the competitors laid out their figures on the black ice. I was especially impressed with Shepherd Clark’s and Nancy Blackwell-Grieder’s figures. They both looked so calm, but I know they were concentrating hard to put perfection on the ice.
It was fun to see Olympic Champion Dorothy Hamill pushing judge Slavka Kohout around the ice in a wheelchair as Slavka judged the competitors’ figures. Slavka was the coach of the US figure skating legend Janet Lynn.
Late at night, around 9:30 pm, it was time for awards! There was much anticipation in the arena as the red carpet was pulled out and the podium was set up on the ice. When Shepherd Clark and Nancy Blackwell-Grieder were announced as the figure champions of the world, I cried tears of joy for both of them. Also, when Dorothy Hamill, Richard Dwyer, and John Curry were inducted into the World Figure Hall of Fame, there was more excitement!
I headed back to the hotel as soon as the awards were over with no idea that on Sunday a very exciting part of the competition would take place.
Sunday, October 1, 2017:
I began Sunday morning skating “Dance Figures” with my friend Paul Steiner. Paul and I both trained at the old Broadmoor World Arena under World Ice Dancing Champion Doreen Denny. I decided that the two of us would have great fun combining figures with ice dance. We did forward outside and inside eights and forward Serpentines in Kilian position and then went on to do sections of the European, American, and Three-Lobe Waltzes in Waltz position all on one single patch! It was so much fun that we didn’t want to stop skating when the hour long patch practice session ended.
- JO ANN and Paul – Left Forward Serpentine Dance Figure: World Figure Festival 2017
- JO ANN and Paul – European Waltz Ice Dance Figure: World Figure Festival 2017
Later in the afternoon we returned to the rink to watch the Fancy Skating practice. We were delighted to see ice skating show star legend Richard Dwyer practicing and we were even more delighted to see him land an Axel!
The Fancy Skating competition was incredible! It seemed to be a combination of solo free dance and freestyle and the programs were so, so creative. I loved every performance. It seemed to me that the days of old where figure skaters performed for the pure joy and beauty of skating were restored!
After awards, it was time to celebrate and party! I said good-bye to many of the friends I made at this event and was delighted to get a photo of my book and me with figure skating legends Slavka Kohout, Barbara Wagner, and Diane Agle.
Almost everyone returned to the hotel to continue to celebrate. I really enjoyed playing ping pong with some college students who came to the event from the University of Colorado in Boulder and visiting with all the competitors, judges, spectators, and officials. It was apparent that everyone’s love of skating had brought us together for a historical experience!
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