not quite what i expected

the last time i went to a figure skating competition was the 2010 nationals at the john labatt centre. the crowd was electric in the last pre-olympic competition for their hometown heroes. it was so powerful that as i sat in the highest row, a last minute seat, i felt like i was watching a movie. but then the last skater finished and the ice cleared. i wrapped my thick scarf around my neck, slipped on my winter jacket and left the arena, walking into the night in downtown london. the energy was gone. as each fan slipped out the doors, they went back to being another stranger in the unknown city. what we'd shared dissapated. it was just another chilly night. i slipped my hands into my pockets and walked away to hail a cab.

tonight, i'm having the same feeling with london worlds as i had back then, and it's actually weird because on paper, there should be an incredible amount of passion still here a week later. it's hometown worlds for tessa and scott. her house is five minutes down the street from the arena. his family lives 20 minutes down the road in that tiny, tiny town called ilderton. and this time, at their last worlds, the world came to battle them on their ice. shouldn't it be personal? deeply felt? a matter of pride? a loss should have been unthinkable, devastating.

well, i'm sitting here thinking that the passion really isn't there. i've finished my posts on worlds so i've read the articles, watched the interviews and studied the photos. the official story is written and this loss hasn't taken on any particular resonance. in fact, they took their defeat at the grand prix final in quebec city more personally and were more upset over that. scott's anger, bitterness and humiliation at losing in canada were palatable back then and virtually uncontrollable during the interviews. but this hometown worlds was positioned as the most important competition for tessa and scott, second only to the home olympics. the afterglow of vancouver last for months, but the afterburn of london was non-existent except for a few unguarded moments in the kiss and cry post short dance. what gives?

now, not only have they (and skate canada and the canadian media) moved on and there's no drama to be found here (with no one challenging the fact that meryl and charlie, a team that is quite frankly known and loved for their uncontrolled, fast and athletic style of ice dance, won the free dance only on pcs and goe's, marks for quality, detail and artistry) . . . but within minutes, they could say with the most genuine of smiles that they're "proud" of london, had a "great" week and will use this experience in sochi. the hometown angle is reduced to simply mean that they were "lucky" to have had the opportunity to skate worlds minutes from where they were raised. it was "nice" to skate in front of the people who've supported them from day one (because it's apparently rare or something). out of all their losses, they've certainly had worse. and in the end, what happened went beyond the marks, medals and anthems. if one moment can capture it, it was when they stood by the boards before they went out to skate the program that would inevitably earn the perennial champions silver. scott's face was bright, his eyes softly focused on tessa, while the crowd cheered them on in anticipation. "let's do it for us. it's you and me out there". to the world, they seem to be in the perfect frame of mind to begin their last competitive year, the olympic year.

i think losing so badly on thursday actually helped. immediately, tessa and scott knew that they had lost not only the short dance, but the competition, and that they didn't deserve this at all. without a doubt, they, their families and their team were devastated (except maybe marina . . . who was also celebrating with meryl and charlie), but they had two days to get over it in private (and they pretty much said as much in the interview with scott russell). those smiles post free dance and in the gala were real because they had already moved on, redefining the significance of a hometown worlds and how they would salvage it. if they were basically tied with meryl and charlie post short dance and lost dramatically in the free, they would have had to deal with the pain right then and there. from experience, that would never go down well. and if tessa had that look on her face to close the competition as she had post short dance, you would have bet that journalists couldn't have avoided focusing on it. that photo, those tearful eyes, would have been everywhere. the massive and unreasonable short dance loss may have been more strategic than we realized that night.


i don't like commenting on ice dance nor do i like bringing the drama. in fact, i maintained this blog for two seasons without giving my opinion on the competitions. i always let the official story control the narrative. but if the blog's worlds section will be comprised of tessa and scott beaming in gifs and nonchalant in interviews, then i've to write something to keep it real. i don't know the olympic endgame that's behind all of this so i won't speculate, but i'll make sure to note the games being played that week.


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's lack of passion, as you say, but rather a self-defense, self-protection mechanism. I'm glad they reacted that way and took the positive side of things, appreciating the crowd support and the opportunity to make Londoners proud. Anger, resentment and disappointment (which I'm absolutely sure they feel deep down) expressed freely after the event wouldn't have helped at all. I was there at the press conference after the SD and they were both stunned. The blow had been terrible. I'm very happy they managed to regroup and skate so well in the FD. It will forever remain a bitter-sweet memory for them, instead of maybe the happiest moment of their career, but, as you say, they are beginning the season in a positive frame of mind.

iggie said...

i think that if they had been scored closer in the short dance and realized that they'd lost in the free dance, then their reaction would have been less stoic and less peaceful . . . more along the lines of the gpf. when results take them by surprize, they show it. they would have had to have gone through the grieving and the shock right there. imagine if tessa had given that crestfallen look after the free dance?

but i think that because they knew, and everyone knew, that the short dance scores were so ridiculously low that there was NO chance of winning, that they went through the whole grieving, shock, humiliation process after the short dance. they had two days to come to terms with it, get their hugs, explode with anger and feel supported. and they pretty much said as much in interviews. by the time the free dance started, they had processed their feelings, got over it and redefined what the worlds would mean to them.

i think that that's why, 30 minutes after they lost the biggest competition of their lives, second only to vancouver, that they were able to go on the cbc, so chill, happy and peaceful.

my original essay wondered why we don't feel any residual pain, shock or outrage from t/s, skate canada, canadian media. on paper, the loss was huge, but it's like they all literally moved on a second later. but you know those feelings are there. but then i started to edit my piece because i started to answer my question. the question seemed dumb when there were so many obvious answers. no, no one was going to "lynch" t/s for losing in their hometown (it mattered but not that much) and the hometown worlds actually made the loss easier to bear because they were able to take significance out of it anyway. now, i realize that the way they were dumped made it even easier.

Anonymous said...

I wish there would be outrage not from Tessa and Scott, but Skate Canada (WTH is going on there?), Canadian media, and their coach (who I know doesn't give a shit, that's why I wish they could get a new coach). It's makes me so sad because it's as if nobody cares about them. Freaking SC is only worried about Chan and the dance team that came in 18th. I hope Tessa and Scott never doubt the talent that they have because they are truly incredible, once in a lifetime team. If the judges don't or can't see that, it's their loss.

Anonymous said...

I think, perhaps, if they weren't going to win, the screwing over in the SD was a little bit of a blessing in disguise. Like you guys have pointed out, it gave them some time to process and grieve and to try to salvage what could be of what was supposed to be one of the greatest moments of their careers.

In time, I think people are going to look back at this worlds and go wth happened with the judging. No one is going to remember ND--it's basically the 5th season out for that program, same elements, just different music and costumes. Everyone is going to remember Carmen.

That said, I hate all that was stolen from V/M this season and at this worlds. The GPF title. The world title. The winning moment at home in their last worlds (unless next season somehow goes dramatically better and they decide to give it a shot at worlds in Japan). All season, I'd waited and wanted for them to have the big moment with the Carmen FD. And as fantastic of a performance as it was, it was still bittersweet. The excitement tempered by the fact that they knew going into it that they couldn't win, the fact that the program wasn't given the scores and win it deserved in the FD.

The titles and the moments that they'll never get back, stolen and bullied away by a far inferior team.

I did this once before with B/A--a team I think was still far superior to D/W in the 09-10 season. I never thought I'd be back here in this spot with V/M. B/A were not perfect and there were holes in their skating that I understand made them vulnrenable. But V/M? V/M are one of the all-time great ice dance teams. They're in that same league with the likes of T/D, K/P, U/Z, A/P, and the original G/P. There are no weaknesses in their skating. Exceptional difficulty, exceptional execution, exceptional dancers, and exceptional skaters. I never thought in a million years something like this would happen to them. I thought they were too good.

As a fan of V/M I'm sad. As a fan of ice dancing, I'm something far beyond merely furious.