Finster/Nagy: Young Team on the Rise

When Kate Finster and Balazs Nagy began their pairs partnership in late fall of 2017, they were a bit of an unlikely duo. The new partners had a five-year age gap–and also came from different disciplines. 

Nagy, 20, had been a singles skater for the majority of his career, with only one brief season of pairs skating at the Juvenile level in 2011. Finster, although five years younger than Nagy at 15, had significantly more pairs experience. She started competing in pairs at age 10, and won the 2015 Novice National title in pairs at age 11 (with former partner Eric Hartley). In the course of her pairs career, Finster has worked with noted U.S. pairs coach Dalilah Sappenfield, as well as Jessica Miller, former competitive pairs skater from Canada. Finster hails from the area of Louisville, KY, while Nagy was born in Budapest, Hungary, and later moved to the United States.

Finster-Nagy-spiral

 

But despite the disparity in their ages and backgrounds, Finster/Nagy immediately sensed potential when they tried out together in fall 2017. They decided to become partners, and relocated to Colorado Springs to work with Sappenfield. Success followed quickly. The team earned a Junior Grand Prix [JGP] berth in fall 2018, took silver in Junior Pairs at 2019 U.S. Nationals, and were named to the U.S. team for the 2019 Junior World Championships, where they placed 11th.  Continue reading “Finster/Nagy: Young Team on the Rise”

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In Honor of Tenley Albright’s Birthday

Today, July 18, marks the 84th birthday of Tenley Albright. Born in 1935, Tenley Albright was a trailblazer in U.S. figure skating, becoming the first American lady to win an Olympic title (1956), as well as the first to win a World championship (1953, 1955). Albright captured a total of six World and Olympic medals in her career, as well as five National titles. Albright’s success–together with that of her contemporary, Dick Button–signaled the United States’ coming of age as a competitive force in the figure skating world.

Albright-in-competition
Tenley Albright in her competitive days

After her Olympic victory, Albright left competitive figure skating to focus on her education. Here again she was a trailblazer, graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1961 and becoming a surgeon during an era when women represented only 6% or less of the average medical school class. She practiced surgery for 23 years, raising three daughters along the way. Continue reading “In Honor of Tenley Albright’s Birthday”

Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson: Finding Success on Their Terms

Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson are the definition of skating veterans. Both have been involved with figure skating at the elite level for over 30 years, first as competitors and more recently as coaches.

Mitchell competed internationally for the United States in the early 1990s, attaining two top 5 finishes at the World Championships, as well as three medals at U.S. Nationals. Johansson, who hails from Sweden, competed in the 1988 Olympics, as well as at four World Championships. After retiring from competition, Mitchell and Johansson started coaching together at the Skating Club of Boston. There, the duo built a strong group of talented students, including Ross Miner, Emily Hughes, Christina Gao, and, more recently, Megan Wessenberg and Emmy Ma.

Continue reading “Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson: Finding Success on Their Terms”

The Skating Club of Boston Breaks New Ground

Despite cold and windy weather, the mood was festive Monday at the Skating Club of Boston’s groundbreaking ceremony for their new three-rink facility in Norwood, MA. It was a long-anticipated day, as planning for the new rink complex first started some 20 years ago. Now, construction will commence on what is intended to be a state-of-the-art facility, to open in summer 2020. Continue reading “The Skating Club of Boston Breaks New Ground”

Interview with Alexander Johnson (2019)

Alexander Johnson is starting a new chapter in his life this spring. After a 9-year career at the senior international level, which featured two top 6 finishes at U.S. Nationals and a Challenger Series medal, Johnson is shifting focus from competitive skating to his first full-time professional job in finance and a budding side career in figure skating choreography and coaching. Johnson hasn’t closed the door on a possible return to competitive skating; but for now, his priority is exploring these new opportunities.

I recently had a chance to chat with Johnson before his appearance in Ice Crystals, the annual club show for the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, MA. Johnson spent several weeks at Colonial this spring, teaching and choreographing for Colonial skaters and working with different coaches, including 1980 Olympian Sheryl Franks and 1992 Olympian Konstantin Kostin. During our chat, Johnson shared some thoughts on his work at Colonial, his approach to choreography, and his programs for Ice Crystals.

Continue reading “Interview with Alexander Johnson (2019)”

Ice Crystals 2019

Skating shows in the Boston area come like a cascade every spring. Sometimes, I miss out on the earlier shows because it all starts happening so quickly. But I usually try to make it to Ice Crystals, the annual show of the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Acton/Boxborough, because it’s a nice way to end the local show season. This year was no exception, as Colonial put on a fun spring show titled “Destination Colonial.”   Continue reading “Ice Crystals 2019”

Stars on Ice 2019: Notes & Impressions

Yesterday I went to the Worcester, MA show of Stars on Ice & really enjoyed it a lot!! Here are some notes & impressions from this year’s show.

Last year’s post-Olympics Stars on Ice tour was so good that I didn’t expect this year’s show to equal it. But, I actually enjoyed this year’s show every bit as much. I felt like the show had a really relaxed, mellow feel to it. All the skaters seemed to be having fun, and the group numbers from Jeff Buttle were brilliant–just great to watch.

I’ll sound like a cheerleader, I guess, but I really enjoyed pretty much every number in this show!

Nathan Chen of course was a highlight.  It was my first time seeing his “Caravan” short program live, and he performed it with lots of energy and a sense of joyfulness. I’m pretty sure he landed some quads in his first number. One thing I noticed this time, seeing Nathan live, is that he has quite his own style of skating. Rather than depending on the long, deep flowing edges of traditional skating, everything he does is fast, short, sharp bursts of movement. He has great speed and edge skills, although not necessarily the power of some of the other skaters, perhaps because of that distinctive style of movement. I love that he brings something different, something inventive.

Bradie Tennell was quite impressive live. Her speed is much more apparent and her skating skills seemed improved. Her Romeo & Juliet was quite nice to watch–a good piece in this setting, despite some criticisms of the program this year during the competitive season.

Both Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu looked great; better than I expected after almost a year and a half away from competition. Mirai landed several triple toe loops and double Axels, and Ashley did at least one triple flip, some double Axels, and more. Ashley is just such a natural at shows like this–she gives every move an extra little wiggle or head shake or flourish or something to make it more interesting. She’s just a natural entertainer. Her “Dog Days Are Over” number was terrific (and I don’t even like that song!).

 

Mirai Nagasu almost brought a few tears to my eyes because she was just so beautiful and strong out there. The basic quality of her skating, I feel, has never really been appreciated enough–just her edges and line–something ineffable that she brings to the ice, it’s hard to describe. I really adored her “Halo” program in the second half. It’s just a beautiful, lyrical program made special by her skating, and it ended too soon. Her program in the first half made me smile a little because it’s by the same choreographer (Adam Blake) who did Emmy Ma’s “Love on the Brain” exhibition program, and those who have seen that program would recognize some similarities in costume and theme. It was a very good program, though–something different and interesting for Mirai.

It was great to see Jeremy Abbott again–both his programs were very much in his wheelhouse, and quite gorgeous to watch. I overheard the pre-show talk that he did with Bradie Tennell for a visiting nearby skating club, and I almost laughed when he said that he was never the most talented skater growing up. Really?? Maybe not the most talented in terms of jumps. Otherwise, I can think of few skaters more gifted than Jeremy ….

Davis/White‘s Queen medley was really good and brought out a fun, slightly flirtatious side to the Olympic champions. Their “Lilac Wine” was the best program of the show for me, with great emotional quality and really interesting choreography. One of their best professional programs, in my opinion.

Hubbell/Donohue‘s Queen medley was also great–and totally different than Meryl/Charlie’s. While Davis/White chose some more playful songs from the Queen backlog, Madi/Zach characteristically went with some of the most powerful songs–very suitable to them. Loved their number, also loved their softer but intense “Oats in the Water” piece in the first half. I have to say that Madi Hubbell comes across as one of the most natural dancers I’ve ever seen on the ice. When she’s apart from Zach in their programs or in group numbers, you see the music and rhythm just kind of oozing out of her, with every spontaneous movement. And when she and Zach come together, it’s like two powers joining forces. Luurrve them. 🙂

Seeing the Shibutanis again was so great; I enjoyed every second of it. Their Coldplay number was terrific and moving–I actually didn’t recognize any of the songs in it, so it felt quite fresh. And their Daft Punk number was intriguing. There’s not many highlight moves in this program–the focus is all on the rhythm and footwork–and I quite enjoyed it. As with Mirai, it’s hard to articulate what makes the Shibs so special to me–just an energy, a connection, a truth to their skating, that I find exciting. Alex had so much energy in the group numbers, he seemed to be loving it. And Maia was a queen as usual.

Anyhow, that’s my take on this year’s Stars on Ice show. I enjoyed it very much, and definitely recommend it if the tour comes near you. I felt really uplifted by the show–and I think I wasn’t the only one. I noticed quite a few people with happy faces on my way out!

Continue reading “Stars on Ice 2019: Notes & Impressions”