ice ice baby

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I am not the cutesy sort, but if there’s anything cuter than my almost-two-year-old fraternal twin sons in their white hooded terrycloth robes, I’ll be damned if I know what it is. Like little blue-eyed jawas. Fresh from a bath.

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I am not the girly sort, and yet I am obsessed with the ‘girliest’ sports imaginable: elite gymnastics and figure skating (my first-ever ‘life ambition’ was to be a gymnast and go to the Olympics, but, partly since my genetics decreed an adult height of 5’9”, such a thing was not to be). At some point I even want to write about either sport, although in what kind of context or story I can’t even begin to imagine.

As a tenderly budding adolescent, my major crushes — once I’d worked through the obligatory fascination with unicorns — were on Luke Skywalker (the character, not the actor — although I like him too and will defend him against charges of ‘bad acting’ while secretly admitting that I have no objectivity on this matter whatsoever), Michael Hutchence, and Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning (“But isn’t he gay?” my husband asked me once, when for some reason I told him about this part of my sordid past. “He is not gay,” I replied. “He married a ballet dancer. A female ballet dancer.” “But isn’t he short?” my husband said. This, I’ve noticed throughout the years, is my husband’s typical response regarding men I find attractive. E declares them either gay, or short, as if both things would make them equally unavailable to me. But I digress). I think those three crushes — Skywalker, Hutchence, and Browning — say a lot about me right there. Something vaguely disturbing, but whatever.

I’ve followed Michelle Kwan for years. I like the athletes who are not only great, but hold onto that greatness for a longer period than anyone expected or predicted, especially in a sport that rewards the youthful pixies over the seasoned veterans (gymnastics had the great Shannon Miller, who excelled in two Olympics, which for a gymnast is nearly unheard of, since it means she stayed at the top of her sport for four years instead of the usual one). I’m disappointed Kwan withdrew from the Olympics due to injury, not because I’m sad for her — there’s no point in feeling ‘sad’ for an athlete as accomplished (and wealthy) as Kwan — but because I was really looking forward to at least one more Michelle Kwan/Sasha Cohen match-up.

And it’s another brutal reminder about how life does not imitate sappy sports movies. What a story! – Kwan, who this time managed to be both the decorated champion and the underdog, fighting off age (she’s 25) and injuries to get one last crack at the Olympic gold that has eluded her (she has silver and bronze). It had everything: a compelling and likeable heroine, various obstacles, high stakes, a dramatic setting complete with perky competitors from different countries, even a bit of a ‘diva’ antagonist in fellow American Sasha Cohen (who actually seems like a sweet enough kid, but you know that a Ron Howard production would have turned her into Bitch of the World). The final showdown — Kwan! Cohen! And, just for the hell of it, Slutskaya (not that anybody really cares, because she’s not American)!

So to have Michelle win her way onto the Olympic team in what many considered a ‘controversial’ decision (she did not compete in the Nationals, the qualifier for the Olympics), to have her go all the way to Turin…and then, on her first day of practice, injure herself anew and withdraw from the Games? What? This is not how the narrative is supposed to play out.

People would be throwing popcorn at the screen.

(Kurt Browning, despite his record-breaking string of World Championships, never won the Olympics either. It’s like a curse. If you are an accomplished champ, you will lose out to some kid hardly anybody’s heard of who’s got nothing to lose and everything to prove…Ilia Kulik, Oksana Baiul, Tara Lipinksi, Sarah Hughes.)

So I suppose now the big skating rivalry that NBC will drum up for our dramatic pleasures will be Sasha Cohen vs Irina Slutskaya, but I could never get too excited about Slutskaya, who’s no artistic match for the exquisite Cohen. Sasha’s biggest threat is her own self (she has a reputation for nerves, for inconsistency). If she can skate clean, she wins.

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