World's Best Skaters Perform in the Marshalls Spotlightby Michelle Wojdyla, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
(4/12/06) - With a roster that boasted the best in the world, the 2005-06 Olympic season came to a close Tuesday night at the Marshalls U.S. Figure Skating International Showcase in Greenville, S.C. Sixteen skaters gave the crowd of nearly 6,000 at the BI-LO Center a night of exhibition skating they won't soon forget. Ten Olympic medals and 34 World Championship medals highlighted the accomplishments of the cast, who each skated two exhibitions in this non-judged celebration of excellence.
The music ranged from “Phantom of the Opera” to “Fosse” to Fantasia Barrino, “Tosca” to “Turandot” to Tina Turner. And when you can't decide, Evan Lysacek played “the last three songs on (his) iPod”—a mix of hip hop, country and Elvis Presley.
Emily Hughes opened the show with her very new program to “Proud Mary” and was followed by Lysacek's rendition of Andrea Bocelli's “Time to Say Goodbye.” The mood changed again with Rena Inoue & John Baldwin's “Do Wah Diddy” that gave way to Matt Savoie's unique rendition of “Summertime.”
The eclectic collection of programs continued throughout the night with some skaters using their competitive programs, like Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto's sexy original dance, Evgeny Plushenko's “Tosca,” and late addition Shizuka Arakawa reprising her Olympic winning Puccini free skate. Others showed off new numbers, like Sasha Cohen's moving performance to “God Bless America” that brought the crowd to its feet.
The show, which will be broadcast by ABC on April 15, had Peter Carruthers interview some of the skaters after they performed. New World champion Kimmie Meissner told the story of being asked for her autograph and then chatting with the young fan who told Meissner that she wanted to be just like …Michelle Kwan. Meissner laughed and confessed to the little girl that she, too, wanted to be like Kwan.
When Carruthers spoke with Belbin and Agosto, Belbin made it a point to thank the audience both in Greenville and across the country because the dancers could not have brought home an Olympic silver medal without the help of fans across the country.
The fans in Greenville showed enthusiasm throughout the night, cheering for all the skaters and showing knowledge in the difficulty the skaters displayed. When Hughes fought for a wonky triple in the second act, the crowd pushed with her, bursting into applause for the save like Hughes had landed a quad. When Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin set down a beautiful overhead lift, the audience rewarded them warmly. When Johnny Weir played up the lyrics to “My Way,” the crowd laughed along with him. And when Irina Slutskaya flirted with the front row in her “You Promise Me” performance, the whole section was in smiles.
After nearly three hours of diverse skating, the final program fell to Michelle Kwan. After a video narrated by Jim McKay highlighted some of her storied career, Kwan took to the ice with her new program to Natalie Cole's “A Song for You.” It was a love affair between the nine-time U.S. champion and the fans in Greenville. It was a sentimental ending to a night of top notch skating. These 16 athletes performed songs for all, mixing it up, fighting through, and reminding everyone why they are the best in the world in this beautiful, exciting sport.