Skating "practices" at the 1998 Amsterdam Gay Games

by Shanti Day
Originally posted to on August 5, 1998

An almost-complete list of participants has also been provided by Shanti Day.

Hi everybody,

I'm a Dutch lurker and I thought you might be interested in a short review of the figure skating event of the Gay Games in Amsterdam. I am not an expert, just a fan, so I won't go into technical details!

First of all, on rssif there has been a discussion about the problems with the ISU. In the arena many blamed the ISU for the whole thing ( the competition was not recognized by the ISU, and the skaters ran the risk of losing their eligibility (sp)) but the announcer tried to explain that there had been made mistakes "on both sides". The decision was made to call the competiton off, and instead there was a "public practice".

I was there for the short program (Monday) and the long program (tonight, Wednesday). What can I say? It was great! The level of the participants was not high, but their enthousiasm (sp) made up for it! The participants were categorised (sp) into four groups, starting with a recreational group D, and ending with a top group A. You can find more information about the tecnical levels on the gaygameswebsite. Because the competition oops practice was held over two days, I can't exactly remember the order of things, so I'll tell the story as I remember it...

Somehow the skaters in group D touched me the most. There was a black man from America (probably Wade Corbett) that was so lyrical and skated so beautiful on Monday, people in the audience screamed "We love you!" Other group D-highlights: a white guy that performed in some sort of dress with a pan (it looked even weirder than it sounds!) a white woman that did beautiful spins.

But the best thing in Group D was the men pair, they brought the house down! They skated a little story about two military types (I think sailors) who fall in love and get married, and they got a standing ovation.

How can I forget the woman pair? The announcer said this was the only female pair in the world, I hope that's not true! What I liked about them was that the smaller girl would do a tiny (and I mean tiny) throw jump and later she assisted (sp) the bigger girl with a nice spiral.

Highlights from group C: a skater from Israel who skated to music that was composed especially for the occasion by his boyfriend. BTW most competitors were from the U.S.A. a few Canadians, one or two Germans, French etc, and.... there were actually Dutch people figure skating!!! And... they were not bad!!! There is hope! There were more men competing than women, but I understand that it has been like that with other sports as well. Group C was cool, and at this time I really regretted the fact that there was no competiton. There were people who had jumps, but no spins, other people had audience connection, or fantastic spirals etc. Ofcourse I had a great time clapping for everyone, but I felt that some people were clearly better than others and should recieve recognition for that.

Absolutely cool were the men pair skaters in this group. The organization made a wise decision: they let all the same sex pairs (not that there were other pairs!) skate later in the evening when the arena was packed with people and not earlier in the day when the other levels competed. This way everybody could see what the Gay Games are actually about.

Anyway, the Group C men pair (the only pair in this level) were fabulous. They skated in silver outfits and their hair had been dyed silver.Actually one guy was bald and has a silver drawing on his head! He was the "smaller" guy. Their music was some modern thing and they skated like... equals. It was breathtaking. The big guy lifted up the small guy, in a way that his (the small guy's) head was down and his feet up, then he (the small guy) turned around and did the same thing to the big guy! Later the big guy would throw the small guy away (I'm not sure how to describe a throwjump in English) and a minute later the small guy threw the big guy around the ice! There was more of this kind of thing, and they executed it in a way, as if they were one! I'm not sure if there was a "story" they tried to tell us, but the audience understood anyway.

There was also a men dance couple... La contessa de la fromage (I know it is not good French, but this is what the announcer said, or what I think he said...) and her partner. Hmmm, they weren't Grishuk/Platov but they were very entertaining. Enough said.

Group C and D had the most competitors. At first I thought that it had to do with technical difficulty, but someone in the audience suggested that people in the higher levels (who have a more competitive nature) had withdrawn because of all the problems surrounding the competition. This is a very valid point and it is a pity because group A and B were great but could have been much more exciting with more participants (and of course a competition)! To give an example there were no women in group A!

I thought the roof was going to fly off (a Dutch expression literally translated into English) after the men pair from group A had skated. They were more traditional than the C-pair, but WOW they were good!!! Monday after their short program the crowd screamed: "we want more!" and they gave more! I actually think they would stand a good chance in "regular" competition! They did throw jumps that were HUGE, I was so impressed. They did a LIFT, that perhaps was simple if you're talking big guy little girl, but they were average built guys. The big guy lifted the small guy, how do I explain this, it's that simple lift where the girl is simply vertical above the guy's head (am I making sense?) and their unison was great (but not on the spins). They had great jumps that were also in unison! When the audience wanted more they did their death spiral again and it was better than during the program. Tonight at their free program they were fabulous again and they did that lift that is forbidden in competition (it was a practice anyway). I don't mean the headbanger but that thing Woetzel and Steuer do where he lifts her and she is horizontically above his head, her arms alongside her body, stiff like a plank and he makes turns. Of course this guy didn't do it with one hand...

The pairs were definitely the highlight of the evening and by this time the audience were so excited they gave every men skater in group A a standing ovation, which I think was a bit overdone, but I have to say it was a great crowd. Most of them were Americans I think, but there were quite a lot of Dutch people who really were enjoying themselves.

After the practice the mayor from Amsterdam held a speech and he praised the skaters for sticking through (is that good English) when there were so many problems. He said that the international organizations did not understand what the modern world was about (or something vague like that) now *he* got a standing ovation.

Tomorrow is the exhibition, but of course this will also be "practice," because the organizers cannot ask money, otherwise it would be a commercial event and that would cause problems with the ISU. To solve this problem, the events tonight and tomorrow are free, but the audience were asked to donate their tickets to the foundation of the Gay Games.

[Added later:] The exhibition was nice, but I liked the free program night better, most skaters did the same programs, so there is not much to tell. Besides the participants there were two practices by Show Team Den Bosch (a dutch precision team), team San Francisco skated a memorial for AIDS-victims, and Team Berlin presented itself.

Shanti Day, dichteres in spe

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