Reviving Phantom of the Opera at Stony on Ice – It’s Competition Time

It’s the 2019 Stony on Ice Competition weekend!

This year, I’ll win two medals. When you’re an individual entry in one category, and one of three skaters in another category, you can say this without sounding overly confident.

My individual medals from the 2018 STARSkate Interlake Regionals. They’re quite hefty.

A member of the Stony on Ice committee emailed to let me know I was the lone competitor in Adult Bronze Interpretive. Did I still want to compete? For a snazzy individual medal and marks?

I said of course. My interpretive is “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen. Interpretive is changing next year, so this might be the last time I can skate to this type of piece. I’ve wanted to skate to “Who Wants to Live Forever” since 2005 when Jamie Sale and David Pelletier performed to the haunting song.

I joked with the Stony on Ice committee member though, asking if I could be awarded a bronze medal. Then I’d have the complete set. Stony on Ice medals are different from the medallions awarded in the 1990s.

Rather than red and white with the colour of your placing around the edge and in the centre, the entire medal is gold, silver, or bronze.

I’ve never left Stony on Ice without a medal – except once. Which calls for a 25-year throwback.

The retro Stony on Ice medals from the 1990s on my skating bear, Nicky,  who’s been with me to every competition since 1989.

It was April 2, 1994.

The Stony on Ice Competition. Five competitors – including me.

I was 15 weeks and four days post-op from brain surgery. Just 16 weeks earlier, I won a silver medal in the Interlake Interpretive and Artistic Competition. Wearing a borrowed blue spandex dress. When I wore the dress to Stony on Ice, it stretched to the max.

After my surgery, I’d gained 10 lbs. Sure, I was skating on my rink at home four weeks after surgery. And I returned part-time to the Arborg Skating Club in six weeks.

But have you ever had a seashell chocolate squished between Icy Squares?

My surgery landed around Christmastime. Nothing says “get well soon” like sugared jelly fruit and boxes of Pot of Gold, Black Magic, and Queen Anne Milk Chocolate Cherries. I’m sure I was pumped full of steroids at the hospital too because the weight was gone without trying by grad. But I also ran out of chocolate at the end of April, so you decide.

In February, I decided to compete at Stony on Ice. I had two months to prepare a program, and I chose the Phantom of the Opera. It’s overused for a reason. I planned an Axel, double toe, and double Salchow. Past tense.

During the warm up at Stony, I tried my double toe – catapulting myself forward. I fell into my old habit. It was exhausting too because it takes upper body strength and my muscles were Jello-O and Hersey’s Chocolate.

My coach Joanne said, “Pull back. Turn, reach, and pull back.” I tried the jump again, and I landed a perfect double toe. By this time, dad shut the camera off. So, the “Holy s**t” look on my face wasn’t captured. Then Joanne said, “Land it like that, and you’ll medal.” While Joanne and I waited for my name to be called, she asked what the plan was if I didn’t land the toe. I said take out the double Salcow. She agreed.

Don’t forget, this was before the time of “the more you turn, the more you earn.” At the time, it was “winners don’t fall.”

With my camera-flash family in the stands, I struck my opening pose: head down with one leg and both arms behind – fingers spread apart for extra drama.

In the first seven seconds, I landed my Axel then headed into a camel-sit with my arms artistically flailing. After a Lutz-flip sequence – unplanned flip – next on the checklist was the double toe.

YouTube screenshots of the rise and fall of the double toe. You can see how far I slid based on the background.

But old habits should die. Rather than reaching backward, I hacked beside my other skate and leaped off the ice. Airborne, I tried to crank out two revolutions – but I shorted the rotation, slipping off the blade and landing on my hip. Then came the sliding. When I came to a stop, I was slow getting up. With snow on my left thigh, I flung into a camel spin.

I tried to compute what happened. I fell. Gold is gone. Silver’s probably gone. If anything, I’m fighting for bronze. I did what any logical skater would do: I busted through the Zayak Rule like a Sunday shopper with one minute left until closing time.

The gist of the Zayak rule: A jump can be repeated twice only if it’s in combination or sequence with another jump. The rule is named for figure skater Elaine Zayak, who won the World Figure Skating Championships in 1982 with a triple packed program, including four triple toe loops.

In a two minute and 10-second program, I landed four single flips. One was salchow+flip+flip, which is neither a combination or sequence. Just a desperate attempt to gain judges approval.

Where the double Salchow should’ve been, I did an arm movement thingy. But on the bright side, I landed a loop after my camera crazy family flashed a photo. I left before the full results were up. I saw the medallists names without my name on the sheet, and my parents and I went home.

That night I went to a social, and skaters from the Arborg Skating Club came up to me. They stayed at the competition and saw the full results: “You placed fourth! Congratulations!”

Fourth is like that Rascal Flatts song, “What Hurts the Most is Being So Close.” I loathed fourth place. Post-op or not, that last competition as a teenager hurt for years.

Why skate to Phantom again? Don’t you think it’s bad luck? Bad memories? I didn’t fall because of the music. With Phantom, my elements don’t feel rushed and the music carries you through the program – if that makes sense.

Plus, it’s a tribute to my former coach, Joanne. However, I believe once a skater’s coach, always a skater’s coach.

While in Arborg, Joanne encouraged lifelong skating, which I appreciate in hindsight as an adult skater. She ran power skating and encouraged classes for adults. Joanne believed everyone should skate, no matter what age or level – and that was in a small town in the late-80s.

Years later, I still make jokes about that bronze medal slipping through my hands in 1994 when I fell on the double toe. Stopping the video to show exactly where I lost the medal. “Right … there.” This weekend, if I win the bronze in free skate – because third place is a win out of three skaters – I’m fine with that.

It just means the medal from 1994 was awarded 25 years later.
Humorous update:

I won the bronze with a personal best. I fell at the end of the program on my hip. Just for extra drama.