Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Melting Italian Ice

Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio are the Italian 2006 Olympic ice dancing team (the Italians fielded two teams). They held first place going into the original dance competition on Sunday. On that skate, however, Maurizio fell while holding Barbara during their last required lift. The fall effectively removed them from medal contention.

Ice skaters fall. That happens all the time. But the stare-down that Barbara gave to Maurizio after they finished is one that will long live in Olympic ice dancing lore.

She glared at him as they stood on center ice. If they were hockey players, they would have already thrown off their gloves and started circling one another, ready to throw blows.

Maurizio knew (had to know!) that Barbara's accusing look was justified. It was as if she was daring him to try to make a case for himself. The sadness and anger and frustration were thoroughly apparent on Barbara's face and body language.

The Olympic spectating world seemed to focus on them during last night's final ice dancing program, the free skate. Dozens of camera shots showed the pair at odds with one another. They clearly hadn't resolved anything. Their every movement conveyed that chilly atmosphere a home has when the parents are fighting. They had their backs to one another. They avoided any eye-contact. Their mouths were grimly shut. Any couple in any kind of long-term relationship can relate to this.

They skated a splendid free skate, much to my relief. They didn't medal, but during their program they became more assured, warmer, and more emotional. Smiles crept to their once-taut faces. They finished with a well-skated routine, and that routine brought a catharsis to their very public dispute. It brought relief and tears. And it brought hugs and kisses from Barbara and Maurizio to one another. "Passion lives here," declares the banners of these Olympics. Yes, it does.

They finished sixth in the ice dancing competition, but they will be be among the first things I will remember about the 2006 Torino Olympics.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Favorite Figure Skating Performances

With the Winter Olympic Games underway in Torino, Italy, I'm sure I'll be catching my share of figure skating. Over the past few days, I've tried to recollect my favorite performances from this sport, and there are only four that have lodged themselves into my memory. In order of brilliance:

4. Brian Boitano's exhibition performance to the song "Un Amor" (Gypsy Kings). After he won the Olympic gold medal in 1988, he seemed to be everywhere. And one afternoon, while watching some random ice skating exhibition, he performed his routine in an outdoor rink. This performance I remember more for the music, but Boitano's athelticism was in full display. One of the great figure skaters of our generation.

3. Torvill and Dean's Olympic gold medal dance to "Bolero" (1984). Is there anything that matches this? I saw a replay of this a few years ago, and it is still positively stunning. Perhaps because ice dancing is focused on dancing versus pairs which has its focus on jumps and other athletic elements, the timelessness of their performance has not waned.

2. Torvill and Dean dance to "Cecilia" (Simon and Garfunkel). I don't remember the year, but it was an exhibition performance. I believe they were professionals already. Their work that evening was sheer joy, and I can't listen to this great song without thinking about their ice dancing.

1. Philippe Candeloro's Olympic bronze medal performance to "D'Artagnan" (Three Muskateers) (1998). I probably will break down and buy a DVD featuring this performance. Yes, there are technical elements to this routine, but it is also a feat of showmanship that brought the house down. He stages a mock sword fight that features great foot work, and that runs the length the ice rink. I don't remember the silver and gold medal performances; I only remember how great Candeloro skated.

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Super Bowl Pick

The line on today's Super Bowl game is for Pittsburgh to win by 4 over Seattle. I read the New York Times piece titled "Dissecting the Line", by Levitt and Dubner over at Freakonomics. Their research suggests "betting the underdog today remains the single best bet of the year."

But Rick the Flip says you gotta go for Pittsburgh. Four points!? C'mon! I think it'll be close, but not that close.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

My Wife's Birthday

My wife's birthday is today. Hurray! Happy Birthday, Jenn.