Lutzing Into Eternity
Our candidate for Slovenia's next national hero.
by Becky Schwartz
Michelle Kwan started skating at age five after watching her brother practice hockey. When Tara Lipinski was three, her mom took her to a roller rink for a free Care Bears giveaway and thus was born a gold-medal career. Nicole Bobek turned to skating at age three after first pursuing professional gymnastics, ballet and modern dance. These lovely ladies of figure skating made it to the Olympics. I'm nineteen. My brother doesn't play hockey. My mom hates the Care Bears. And I can't even do a cartwheel. To hell with the odds! I'm going to be an Olympic figure skater. I've sent letters to eight governments of foreign countries. Next stop: Nagano, Japan. (See below.)
Monday, December 22: Today I start training. I've heard that professional skaters get up before dawn to get valuable hours of rink time. No problem. It's 11:30 and I'm off to a vigorous workout. Downstairs. With Jake, as in "Body By." We work the abs and pecs. Michelle skates for six hours a day, but since I've just started, I think I'll take a nap instead. Because there is no ice rink nearby, and I don't know how to skate anyway, I've decided that my kitchen makes an acceptable substitute.
Saturday, December 27: Watched eight hours of figure skating on TV. Bushed.
Sunday, December 28: Completed a rigorous eighteen-hour marathon of figure skating. Dilemma: Discover Stars on Ice and Battle of the Sexes are on at the same time. Solution: Flip between the two, don't watch the instant replays and change channels whenever Verne Lundquist analyzes style.
Tuesday, December 30: Time to kick it into high gear. Can finally distinguish the jumps -- you have to face forward for a lutz and backward for an axel. Not sure about the toe loops. The Salchow is, I think, a toe loop with an extra elbow wobble. Might need to research that. From the Recreational Figure Skating FAQ archive: "The Salchow starts from an 'open' LFO 3-turn followed by a strong check on the LBI edge. Leaving your hip open will extend your free leg behind you in the direction of travel. As the skating leg rises after the check, the free leg and shoulders are released (swung around) and the skater jumps, landing on a RBO edge after one rotation." No problem.
Monday, January 5: Salchowed my hips into an acute attack of bursitis. Out of commission for a few days.
Thursday, January 8: Nailed the camel spin for the first time. What a way to start '98. Looks like this just might be the year of the Schwartz. According to the Skating Archive, when executing the camel spin, "The upper body should be pushed, forced counterclockwise, as you are moving your arm. You can get a fast spin without a lot of speed on entry if you coordinate the body well, but speed on entry doesn't hurt either." If I push off from the refrigerator and avoid careening into the stove, I can complete a full rotation. The speed-on-entry phenomenon is a little difficult to master, but I know that with practice I'll get it. The Hamill Camel, pioneered by hairstyle goddess Dorothy Hamill, involves rotating your torso to achieve different angles. Dorothy didn't have any breasts. Damn.
Saturday, January 10: Fourteen more hours of skating-viewing under the belt. Still haven't hit the ice. Keeping in shape, though. According to the Skater's Fitness Guide, my objectives are: to improve strength, endurance and flexibility; to improve difficulty of jumps performed towards the end of the free program; to lose fat; and to avoid injury.
Sunday, January 11: Avoiding injury, I narrowly escaped a collision with the back door after the cat's waterbowl interfered with my death spiral. Note to self: very difficult to complete a death spiral without a partner, but if you hold onto a towel rack it gets easier. I'm practicing on the kitchen floor. If you rub your feet with butter, you get the same effect. Fun fact: Midori Ito, gold medalist, once jumped over the guardrail and into the camera pit. She still took fourth. Still haven't heard back as to whether I've made the team.
Wednesday, January 14: The lutz is when you stick your foot out and the axel is when you pull it in. Or vice versa. Not sure. Lutzed down the driveway and into a snowdrift. Axeled through the 7-11. Not allowed back. No problem. Good skaters don't eat Slurpees at 3 am, so I won't either. Good skaters also have coaches and a pair of ice skates, but these are only minor setbacks.
Saturday, January 17: More skating on TV. Michelle Kwan steals the gold at the Worlds! Tara was crushed. I think she's better athletically, but Michelle's got the grace and elegance. I think the problem is that Tara looks like an elf and the judges really went for Michelle's sexy Pocahontas number. I've seen each of their routines nineteen times now. My directing teacher says that the best way to learn how to direct is to steal from other people, so I'm following that advice and incorporating aspects of their performances into my own choreography. That triple axel/triple toe loop combo is a bitch. Time to jack up those leg lifts.
Wednesday January 21: Still haven't heard from any countries and Nagano is getting closer and closer. Finished choreographing today. I'm the first American woman to land a quadruple! A quadruple is when you spin four times in the air and then land. I can spin four times in the air; I just have to jump between each spin. On the way to the gold. Practicing victory speeches: "This is going out to all the oppressed people of my country who sacrificed so much to get me here." "This is so corny."
Friday, January 23: I asked Eric [Ducker, co-editor of GRAIL] to take out the competition and bitch slap Chen Lu. He said no. Damn. Triple lutzed into the power table at the café. The leotard should cover the bruise.
Sunday, January 25: Not sure if this Olympic dream is happening. No problem. Couldn't take the Intro to Skating course because it overlaps with my religion class. The end of the world vs. sequins and tights. Maybe I can wear the outfit to class? Haven't gotten on the ice yet, but I wiped out in the backyard.
Wednesday, January 28: Andrus Field is frozen over, so I taped rulers to the bottom of my shoes and hit the rink. The rulers broke, and I think I may have bruised a rib. Tried calling Slovenia but couldn't get connected. I'm thinking that my original routine might be a little lacking in the presentation departmentthinking of choreographing to some new, avant-garde composition by someone in the Newsonic Concert Series. Maybe I could commission something along the lines of, "Experimental Music by Which to Win the Gold and Capture America's Collective Heart and Get Your Face on a Wheaties Box."
Sunday, February 1: Don't think I'm going to Nagano after all. No one's come through and I'm pretty swamped. I'll give them two more days, and if I don't get any offers, I'll give up. Still haven't mastered the one foot figure eight. For that matter, still haven't mastered skating. Which reminds me -- still haven't gotten on the ice.