Monday, February 12, 2018

Gay Men in US Figure Skating

I get that the US Media is trying to be "progressive" by being so positive and obsessed with Adam Rippon being the "first openly gay US athlete" at the Olympics, but they're acting like this also somehow makes what he's doing on the ice that much more impressive. However, there have been many incredible men in figure skating history who were gay who had AMAZING Olympic Moments. Adam is not doing anything *new* other than coming out BEFORE his career is over. He's doing what he feels he needs to do, and more power to him, but I feel it ignores some of the other fantastic athletes in this sport, and it's overshadowing other amazing athletes at these games (Mirai Nagasu, anyone?)

This is not a knock on Adam - he had an amazing skate last night (judging issues aside). I just can't help but go to youtube and watch some of the ones that came before Adam. They in many ways paved the way. Point being: without the ones that came before, Adam most likely could not have broken down that final barrier. I don't think we'd be seeing him stick his tongue out suggestively at the judges in an Olympic season without the likes of Boitano, Galindo (who did not make it to the Olympics, but certainly deserves credit), Goebel, Savoie, and of course Weir.

I'm not going to list all of them, and since the media is focused on him being the first US man, I'll just share a few of my favorite Olympic moments by known (out) gay men because I think they need a shout out.

Probably most notable is our 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano. If you grew up with skating in the 90's you know who Brian is. Brian only came out in 2014, but I'm fairly certain most fans "knew". It just wasn't something we cared about. As Brian said in a recent interview it is a part of who he is, but it's only a part. He's also a figure skater, chef, etc. The incredibly private Boitano just did not feel the need to share it with the world - until the Olympics were in Russia and President Obama asked him to be a part of the delegation from the US. Brian Boitano's 1988 Olympic Winning Long Program is one of the most iconic programs in modern figure skating. Everything from the music and choreography, to the costume and the permed mullet thing he had going on. It's one of the first images I have whenever Boitano is mentioned.

Boitano would also represent the USA in 1994 and was the only gay skater in US Men's skating on any Olympic team in the 90s.

Team USA's made up for it lately though. In 2002, Timothy Goebel (who would not come out until he announced his engagement just a few years ago), was our "quad king" going into the Salt Lake City games. Like Boitano, Timothy kept his life very private, but unlike Boitano was considered one of the heartthrobs of the Winter Olympics that year (I admit to crushing hard for Timmy!). Goebel would win a bronze medal in those games, and continued through 2006 before retiring and heading full time into university (he majored in mathmatics, what a nerd).

Oh the frosted tip look most guys my age had when we were high school age. What were they thinking. And those curls! Again - leading the way for Adam Rippon who when he was around the same age embraced his crazy curly mop hair (until coach Nikolai Morosov made him use a hair straightener, so much irony there... look at the puns!).

2006 saw Johnny Weir and Matt Savoie represent the rainbow at the Olympics (though "closeted"). The two could not have been more different in style and personality. Savoie was seemingly shy, quiet, and smooth... Johnny Weir was... well.. chances are you know who Johnny Weir has always been. Savoie was robbed by the judges thanks to skaters exploiting loopholes in the [at the time] new judging system. Add to the fact that he was the third ranked US skater and wasn't really known for his consistency and the judges just didn't hold him in the same caliber, but he was and is well loved by fans world-wide. I definitely miss his skating.

I was fortunate enough to see him skate his programs and make the team at the US Nationals in 2006. The night of the exhibition after it was all over we must have been getting ready to head for the airport at the same time because we found ourselves at the hotel baggage hold together. I congratulated him on making the team, he seemed surprised I recognized him, but thanked me. Such a great skater.

Johnny had a rough season going into the Olympics, and then had a rough Olympics. Even though his LP wasn't his best showing, I chose it over The Swan because I couldn't stand the Swan, but Otonal is really the only program of his that I like. So you get it instead of anything better because I can.

Johnny would make the team again in 2010, though he was pretty much on his way out in most fans' minds by then. His main rival for over 4 years had been Evan Lysacek and while Johnny was struggling, Evan was becoming a World Champion and eventual Olympic Champion. Johnny was on the verge of being eclipsed by skaters like teammate Jeremy Abbott (who recently came out as well). Still, he put up a good showing, but it was clear that International Judges were done with his perceived attitude. He went on to commentate the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games when NBC decided he was a better choice than Scott Hamilton.

Johnny got in trouble with animal rights groups leading up to the 2010 games because he dared to wear fur on his costumes. He gave in to pressure and removed the fur before the competition.

A little less controversial, his fellow teammate Jeremy Abbott also skated in Vancouver and did fairly well for himself, though it was the Evan and Plushenko show, Jeremy set himself up to be the leading man for the next Olympic Cycle with his showings in Canada.

Not many options for Olympic footage of Jeremy, probably due to how NBC plays ball, but his short was pretty decent, so we'll go with it.

2014 would see Jeremy lead the US Team, and he didn't have the BEST of times but they weren't really the worst either, and he did manage to help get the team the bronze medal in the first ever team event.

Jeremy was one of two skaters that made the US team that year. The other, Jason Brown, has not come out and confirmed his sexuality one way or the other. Many have speculated, but out of respect for his choice I won't count him among the number that I think he belongs to.

So that brings us to the present. Adam is the first one to actually come out (several years) before competing in the Olympics. Without the US Men that came before him (and this is only those who were in the Olympics in the last 30 years in Men's skating. There are men who skated Ice Dance and Pairs that were not listed...) Adam might not have been able to come out now and be his "true self". That's not to say that the other men were not true to themselves. None of them ever said that they weren't gay, they just never entertained the question. They all had their own styles, some more "flamboyant" than others. That's what's always been so great about this sport. Sure, the judges can favor one style over the other, but at the end of the day - the skater who does their job and pushes the sport wins.

And because I can and I feel that it would be wrong NOT to include him... Here's Rudy Galindo's magical Free Skate in 1996 when he won his US Title.

Monday, January 1, 2018

San Jose 2018 Travel Log: Happy New Year!

Mirai Nagasu skates her way to gold.
January 2008 (the last time I attended a
US National Championship)
Good first evening of 2018! I'm sitting here in my lovely hotel room in Anchorage trying to get ready to fall asleep so that I can be somewhat rested when I head to the airport at 4 am tomorrow. Yeah, this night owl isn't all that thrilled with when I'm heading out, but it is what it is. This way I get down to San Jose near check in time for the hotel. Depending on how I'm feeling I'll attend a few events at the arena, though I just found out about San Jose's "Christmas at the Park" which is going on through the 7th and I may skip some of the skating to check that out as it's free and it's CHRISTMAS!

I'm fighting off a cold, I'm not sure who is winning. I've been best friends with Cold-eeze since Sunday. Hopefully I can keep it at bay. It seems to be a new theme of mine: get sick to start my trips. Ugh! I absolutely hate feeling run down before the fun has even started.

I will try to check in as best I can while on my trip, but we all know I'm horrible at trip reports during as well as after anything. Trying to be better. Make sure to follow me on twitter and instagram as I have a feeling that may be where I do most of my "real time" posts.

Good night! I'll see you all in San Jose!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mushing News Weekly Round Up (Dec 29)

Happy last weekend of 2017! I don't know about you, but I'm thankful that this year is coming to a close and I just pray that 2018 doesn't try to out do 2017 in the "what on earth is going on?!" department. Some days felt like the world was burning. I'm sure each generation has had this sort of feeling, but I'm not a fan of having my turn. But, I digress, this is not a blog post to whine about the past year. We're here for mushing news and fun posts, and that's what I'm here to do.

I'm trying very hard to not just share stuff from the Seavey pages, but how can I pass up this story shared on Christmas Eve? Wishing the best for Magnus, and I know Patrick will give him a very happy life.

The Northern Lights 300 has been cancelled due to the short entry list. Thirteen names were on the roster when the decision was made. The cost could not be made with so few entry fees, so the decision was announced over the weekend. The 150 could still go on with a few more entries, and that decision will be made at a later date.

Newer race the White Mountains Dogsled Race is also cancelled due to poor trail conditions. Open water and lack of snow make the race a no go. Race administration took to facebook earlier this week to make the announcement.

On December 16th it was reported that the Knik 200 was looking at possibly cancelling the 2018 race due to lack of good gold weather. A recent cold snap that brought a bit of snow along with it has apparently saved the Iditarod qualifier for the 2018 season. They will have to move the race's start and finish, but they're a definite go.

Wade Marrs just updated with an end of year, end of phase 1 of seasonal training post. It will be interesting to see his race strategy come Iditarod - especially with Dallas Seavey out of the mix.

The Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association held their Solstice 50 race on Saturday. A lot of familiar names with race fans entered the event and it looks like it was a pretty solid race. Another good opening race for teams to get their legs underneath them.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Mushing News Weekly Round Up (Dec 22)

Merry Christmas weekend! Not sure if why one of the reasons there wasn't a whole lot of news the last couple of weeks is because it's the Holiday season, or because the weather's been less than ideal and so not a lot of excitement has surrounded mushing because of it. Either way, makes it hard to do one of these but I'll do my best. Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS! :)

The Nome Nugget is reporting that of several structures approved for demolish, on the chopping block is a house that has ties to famed musher Leonard Seppala. If you aren't familiar with that name, Seppala was the original Jeff King of mushing (aka the most winningest musher). Seppala's dog lines are still going strong in kennels, with many of Iditarod kennels sharing in at least partial bloodlines. If you're at all familiar with the Balto legend of the Nome Serum Run you know of the musher named Gunar - well, he was actually one of Seppala's "handlers" and it was only after Seppala and team (lead by Togo) drove over 100 miles that Balto and Gunnar were tagged to take the cargo into town (Balto was actually HIS dog). Seppala is synonymous with mushing in this state and world wide. Personally, I would hope that someone could buy the property and restore it and preserve history.

The Yukon Quest is revamping their education program adding features much like Iditarod's teacher on the trail. They will be on the trail answering questions of students all over the globe who are watching the race in their classrooms.

Lance Mackey took to facebook this week to update fans on his racing plans for the season. Mackey will no longer be traveling to the states, but noted that he's still planing to run races in Alaska.

I thought I'd mentioned that a photo of mind was published in a Wisconsin newspaper last week, but I can't seem to find that, so I apologize if this is a repeat. Ryan Redington is down in Wisconsin for the winter and last week hosted rides for the local kids free of charge. Like most of his family he's a dog man and a great ambassador for the sport.

Merry Christmas to all of my readers. I am not sure how much I will be on in the next week. I'll try to get another round up together for next Friday, but as I'll be getting ready for my trip outside I make no promises.

Have a safe weekend and a very happy time with friends and family!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Knik 200 & 100 looking at possible reschedule

This is not the first time weather has created problems for the race. 2013, 2015, and 2016 all saw the race cancellation due to warm weather and lack of snow. South Central Alaska has been hammered with unseasonably warm temperatures and rain. The Knik race is the first major race of the season, but other races - like the Tustumena 200 - are also in danger of having to cancel due to lack of snow and frozen lakes/rivers.

Without the mid-distance races, many Iditarod hopefuls cannot qualify for Alaska's most important race. Mushers must complete several mid-distance races to qualify for Iditarod or the Yukon Quest. The roster for the Knik 200 is full with several teams on the waiting list.

Time to up the intensity of the snow dance.

Friday, December 15, 2017

USFS "Preview" - Championship Ladies

Many thanks to Syliva at Unseen Skaters for the unofficial roster.

Starr Andrews  Short Program / Free Program

Mariah Bell   Short Program / Free Program

Emily Chan  Short Program / Free Program

Karen Chen  Short Program / Free Program

Franchesca Chiera  Short Program / Free Program

Polina Edmunds  Short Program / Free Program

Amber Glenn  Short Program / Free Program

Courtney Hicks  Short Program / Free Program

Tessa Hong  Short Program / Free Program

Vivian Le  Short Program / Free Program

Ashley Lin  Short Program / Free Program

Katie McBeath  Short Program / Free Program

Brynne McIsaac   Short Program / Free Program

Hannah Miller  Short Program / Free Program

Mirai Nagasu  Short Program / Free Program

Kaitlyn Nguyen  Short Program / Free Program

Bradie Tennell  Short Program / Free Program

Ashley Wagner  Short Program / Free Program

Angela Wang  Short Program / Free Program

Megan Wessenberg  Short Program / Free Program

Caroline Zhang  Short Program / Free Program

USFS "Preview" - Championship Men

Many thanks to Sylvia at Unseen Skaters for the unofficial roster.

Max Aaron Short Program / Free Program

Jason Brown Short Program / Free Program

Nathan Chen Short Program / Free Program

Timothy Dolensky Short Program / Free Program

Scott Dyer Short Program / Free Program

Tomoki Hiwatashi Short Program / Free Program

Grant Hochstein Short Program / Free Program

Benjamin Jalovick Short Program / Free Program

Alexander Johnson Short Program / Free Program

Alexei Krasnozhon Short Program / Free Program

Daniel Kulenkamp Short Program / Free Program

Jimmy Ma Short Program / Free Program

Ross Miner Short Program / Free Program

Jordan Moeller Short Program / Free Program

Sebastien Payannet Short Program / Free Program

Sean Rabbitt Short Program / Free Program

Adam Rippon Short Program / Free Program

Emmanuel Savary Short Program / Free Program

Kevin Shum Short Program / Free Program

Andrew Torgashev Short Program / Free Program

Vincent Zhou Short Program / Free Program

USFS "Preview" - Championship Pairs Teams

Thanks to Sylvia at Unseen Skaters for the unofficial roster.

Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc Short Program / Long Program

Jessica Calalang/Zack Sidhu Short Program / Long Program

Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran Short Program / Long Program

Winter Deardorff/Max Settlage Short Program / Long Program

Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier Short Program / Long Program

Nica Digerness/Danny Neudecker Short Program / Long Program

Jade Esposito/Rique Newby-Estrella Short Program / Long Program

Caitlin Fields/Ernie Utah Stevens Short Program / Long Program

Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea Short Program / Long Program

Chelsea Liu/Brian Johnson Short Program / Long Program

Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan Short Program / Long Program

Alexa Scimeca-Knierim/Chris Knierim Short Program / Long Program

Erika Smith/AJ Reiss Short Program / Long Program

Deanna Stellato-Dudek/Nathan Bartholomay Short Program / Long Program

Allison Timlen/Justin Highgate-Brutman Short Program / Long Program

Alexandria Yao/Jacob Simon Short Program / Long Program

Mushing News Weekly Round Up (Dec 15)

Another week has flown by, and there's been another week of reports and articles from the mushing community! Here are the highlights I felt needed documentation and comment.

Iditarod once again announced that it is looking at increasing security within checkpoints and the trail. This is in response to the outcry started by Dallas Seavey after it was found that Seavey's dogs tested for drugs banned by the race. Seavey maintains that he did not administer the drugs at any time to any of his team during the race, and the Iditarod Trail Committee says they have found no proof suggesting that the musher doped his dogs. Seavey and other Iditarod veterans campaigned for better security for the race as there's speculation now that a third party tampered with dogs' well-being. The Iditarod also let it be known that they are working on re-wording the "gag rule", which mushers have asked for since its inception three years ago.

The Alpine Creek Excursion Sled Dog Race took place over the weekend. While not an Iditarod or Yukon Quest qualifier, it's a fun start to the racing season and many familiar faces were on the trail. The race is unique in that it does not set starting positions, and is based on the honor system as far as recording in and out times. It's a short race, but it sounds like it was a blast. Jessie Holmes came away with first out of 22 teams racing. Full stats can be found on their facebook page.

If you don't follow Blair Braverman on her quest to qualify for the Iditarod, then you're missing out. Blair is a columnist and a book author. Her best-selling book Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North has been well received by mushers and fans alike. Blair shared a little insight into the qualification process over the week when she shared the "musher report card" used by the Iditarod to qualify a rookie.

Montana's Race to the Sky's schedule is set for early February. The mid-distance race's main sponsor this year is the Essential Oil company Young Living - that name may sound familiar, they're the main sponsor of Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey, too. There isn't too much updated info on their website or their social media for the 2018 race. Doesn't even look like they have a roster yet. But, hey, they have a schedule!

Iditarod Trail breakers are getting prepared to start putting in the trail. Looking out the window, at this point, I'd be very surprised if they don't head to Fairbanks again. Hoping for snow and colder temps so that they can once again run the traditional trail.

Iditarod Photographer Jeff Schultz has had a difficult year. This summer his son fell during a training exercise at his firehouse and has been in the hospital and recovery ever since dealing with a traumatic brain injury. All reports on his son Ben have been extremely positive, but it's still a long road to coming home. Jeff was in the middle of putting together his newest photo book: Icons of the Iditarod. He reported last night on facebook that the books are finally in his hands and are ready for shipping/order. I joined his kickstarter campaign because I wanted to see this project happen. His book Chasing Dogs is gorgeous! (I do not get a kickback for promoting his work.)

And now some of my favorites from social media: