World Ice Challenge


             Photos by Debi Oreste

The First Union Arena in Wilkes-Barre, PA, hosted the newly and somewhat hastily renamed World Ice Challenge (formerly Ice Wars) professional skating competition for the second time in a row on November 8, 2001. The approximately 10,000 capacity venue was again nearly full with a very supportive crowd, and this year the ice was far superior to last year when even such consistent skaters as Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano had falls. This year's sponsor, Olay, gave the women in the audience a small make-up bag with samples of a few of their products, a nice extra. The entire competition was very efficiently run, and it was evident that having such an event in the same place in successive years can be a big advantage in terms of familiarity with how to do it right. Most of all, the opportunity to see good professional skating in a lean year for pro events was very welcome.

There were two teams of four skaters each. Team USA consisted of Brian Boitano, Rudy, Tara Lipinski, and Kristi Yamaguchi: Team World was made up of Kurt Browning, Surya Bonaly, Philippe Candeloro, and Yuka Sato.There were seven judges: Ron Ludington, Christie Hough Sweeney, Bernard Ford, Oleg Vasiliev, Karen Torbelson(?), Charlie Tickner, and Mary Lynn Gelfman (?), with referee Kerry Leitch. The skaters started off with Technical Programs, ladies first, then men. The following is a summary of programs and scores--insofar as I was able to record information or have since found out. I didn't do jumps as I was sitting on the end under the CBS boom camera and it rose and lowered obscuring the view of them and am not very good at it anyhow! High and low score were removed and the rest totaled.

The following review combines the live performances from November 8 with the televised ones or November 30. Many impressions were different!

Tecnical programs

CBS didn't show all of Surya Bonaly's program to "Mask" by Vangelis. It was fairly typical of many of her programs with maybe a little more footwork. She did have her hair loose!
9.7  9.6  9.7  9.6  9.6  Total 48.2

One thing I did not notice in the live performance that I could see in the televised one was some of the awkward take offs and in air positions Tara Lipinski had in a couple of her jumps. Nothing major, but noticeable. The footwork (Kurt Browning devised and coached) was indeed impressive. She did triple sals and triple toes in both of her programs. Sometimes Roz' going on about SOI camaraderie becomes a little tiresome, although her commentary didn't seem as grating as usual. Vern Lundquist has a quieting effect. The American Medley consisting of Shenandoah, Dixie, and Battle Hymn of the Republic would be difficult NOT to stir the audience, but she did it very effectively.
9.8  9.7  9.8  9.7  9.7  Total 48.7

Yuka Sato's lovely program to "Stranger in Paradise" was also abbreviated, a real loss, although her programs were so similar in sound and nature that I can understand why CBS elected to do this. I believe she completed four triples, but it could have been three. The inveterate hockey fans who brought their wives/significant others to the ice competition had many choice comments throughout the event.  Conversation after Tara's program, "This isn't a hockey game!" His buddy responded, "Didn't the short skirts show you that?" Response: "I thought it was the Penguins!" After Yuka's skate, one said, "Yeah, this definitely isn't a hockey game!"
9.9  9.8  9.8  9.9  9.9  Total 49.3

Kristi's program was to "Dance With Me Slow," and I liked it much better on TV. She was really skating well--triple lutz, wonky triple loop, triple toe/double toe combination, hydroblading, and some neat steps going into moves that caught me by surprise. She seems so much happier and more personable than in the past. One hockey guy asked where her flowers were and the other suggested maybe a six pack would do. Something that didn't come across on TV is that Kristi and Rudy sat beside each other almost all through the event laughing and talking.
9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  10  Total 49.6

Philippe Candeloro certainly had his jumps together at this event completing triple lutz, and triple toe, in both programs as well as a triple flip somewhere, and the obligatory back flip. However, there wasn't much attention to any other choreography, and his costumes appeared to be someone's rejects! I believe Roz or Vern referred to his work as improvisation. His technical program was to "Love is all" and was mainly a nerd act with Philippe in trousers pulled WAY up with suspenders, glasses, etc. He had one prolonged audience attack that was much more visible on TV. The jumps alone didn't seem to impress the judges--and, as Roz suggested, he didn't complete the spin requirement.
9.7  9.6  9.6  9.7  9.7  Total  48.3

Brian Boitano's program to "You're still you" was just wonderful Brian. I just love to watch him--his maturity, strength, and a bit of tenderness he seems to have acquired in recent years completely wins me over every time. His 'Tano lutzes in both programs were perfect, and he completed a slightly shakily landed 3Loop in the technical, as well as triple toe/double toe. The hockey guys got it in a nutshell, "That was like a fine Irish whisky."
9.8  9.8  9.8  9.8  9.9  Total 49.1

Kurt Browning had the bad luck in his technical program to "Am I the only one" to go wholeheartedly, but unsuccessfully for a triple axel. The hard fall had to have thrown him off for the rest of the number. It was much harder than it looked on TV. As usual, his footwork and nice turns soon made the audience forget the fall.
9.8  9.7  9.7  9.7  9.6  Total 48.5

We were pretty nervous about Rudy because he was skating brand new programs, the "Elephant Love Medley" costume was extremely heavy, and his blades, suffering from a bad sharpening, had caused several uncharacteristic falls in practices. However, he fought his way through the 4 minute+ program, without major errors, although he did abandon his triple axel for a double axel/double toe. The costume is elegant. He looks quite handsome in it and like he's skating in formal dress--and he appears to be SOOOO tall.You could see the woman embroidered on the back much better on TV. Rudy did some very nice spirals, a Charlotte, and the usual wonderful spins. His performance was excellent considering the handicaps he had. The commentators emphasized that he was perhaps compromised physically enough that he couldn't train as he would like...but he did the two longest and most ambitious programs in the event with relative ease. Comment from the hockey guys, "This guy's never gonna make a hockey player. He's got all his teeth!"
9.9  9.8  9.7  9.8  9.8  Total 49.0

Artistic programs  (All of the skaters were shown doing their complete Artistic programs.) These counted double.

Yuka Sato did yet another lyrical program to "The Color of Roses." Her jumps have such amplitude and seem to cover so much distance. She is simply exquisite. One thing I did notice--she didn't do any combinations. I'm not sure I've ever seen her do one, and can see where it might break her beautiful flow. It would be nice to see her do a slightly different program, such as Kristi did in this competition.

I didn't love the music for Kristi's Janet Jackson program (did love the costume). However, she handled it exceptionally well again doing some original footwork and proving she still has all the triples she had when she won the Olympics. Although Yuka and Kristi were very close technically, I thought that Kristi's brave foray into something new and different deserved a slight edge.

K  9.8  9.8  9.9  9.8  9.9  Total  98.4
Y  9.9  9.8  9.8  9.9  9.8  Total  98.4

Ok, I liked Surya's "Madame Butterfly" program. She had more flow than usual and just seemed, well, prettier.

Thank heaven they cut Tara's Mother Theresa narrative prior to her program to..."The Color of Roses." No wonder Scott Hamilton had to leave "Stars on Ice!" He told two lady skaters they should use the same music??!! That seems a little odd. Anyhow, it was much better with just the skating. She was indeed mature and attractive with nice spins and a decent spiral. Again, she did the jumps, but there was an awkwardness (or discomfort?) evidenced at times. The orange in the costume looked better live.
T  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  Total  99.0
S  9.8  9.8  9.7  9.8  9.8  Total  97.8

Rudy and Philippe were the usual study in contrasts. Rudy's "Gaite Parisien" was 5 minutes long, so he got lots of TV time on the ice!! He again had a clever, eye-catching costume, pink and black striped shirt and black pants, beret, neck scarf--which he changed a couple of times, donning a can can skirt at one point and removing his long pants to finish the program in a shorts jumpsuit (the matching bottoms to the pink and black shirt had scalloped edges!). He did a little bit of everything in this program, fabulous traveling turns, can can moves, cartwheel and split, etc. He had a bad blades induced fall on the triple flip, but completed triple loop, triple salchow, and triple toe. It was fun, flamboyant, had some terrific skating in it, and took the judges a bit aback! It's reassuring to know that Rudy is still Rudy.

Philippe did the story to movie, Castaway. I didn't get it at all--partly because he used opera music to do it. His jumps were again on--another lutz, etc. The costume was rags, literally. Philippe can tell a story and jump. However, by this time, Team USA was so far ahead that some evening up was necessary. So, for the second time in a year, Rudy saw himself outscored (by far too much, if anything would have been appropriate), by a thrown together Philippe routine.
P  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  Total  99.0
R  9.7  9.7  9.7  9.8  9.7  Total  97.2

What better way to end the competition than Kurt doing "Nyah" and Brian Boitano doing something slightly different for him--skating around a pretty woman dancing on a "portable" floor at one end of the ice surface to "Girl from Ipanema." My problem with the latter in the live version was that I was at the other end of the arena and felt abandoned by Brian!
K  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  9.9  Total  99.0
B  9.8  9.8  9.8  9.8  9.8  Total  98.0

Team USA total:    599.0
Team World total:   589.5

After the competition Brian Boitano, Linda Leaver, Rudy and Laura, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Yuka Sato (probably with Jason Dungeon as I think he was there) that I saw were having supper in the hotel dining room. They all seemed to relaxed and happy with each other throughout the competition. Seems like a nice reward after all of the years of intense eligible competition to be able to enjoy skating and relationships with those with whom one has so much in common.

Lorrie Kim's comments about Rudy on the televised World Ice Challenge (from "rssif"...)

"Galindo's "Elephant Love Medley" didn't live up to what I wanted. My guess is that, like me, he was genuinely moved by how this song captured the love story in "Moulin Rouge," and played the program straight, so to speak.  The skating forward/skating backward concept was too literal to work well throughout an entire program.  I kept thinking that this would be one time when going back to pair skating would work better for him.  The energy of this music is too dual for a solo skater, and I had never realized before that its tempo is slowish -- the dynamic between the two performers is so charged, I hadn't noticed until it was
performed by only one.  Of course, it's all worth it just to see that jacket -- I want one!

His can-can program made it up to me, a zillion times over.  Oh Rudy Rudy Rudy, you are too much and too good for this world sometimes. Thank you sweet hero for being the most intense undiluted real thing there is in skating.  That final circular step sequence with the exquisitely timed and centered one-foot turn series that never ended, each of them perfect in balance and expression, so many one after another so we could understand over and over what it means to control one's momentum.  And then the same thing with two feet so we could see edges first, then toepicks, perfection every time.  The spins with such steady rotational speed that the shapes grow smooth like clay on a potter's wheel.  To see this is happiness.

"As usual, Rudy didn't get the good marks he deserves.... I loved his "artistic" program.... he is incredible!  And even if he was slow,  I think we all know why.  It's amazing that he is still able to skate and I give him full marks for throwing himself into it, body and soul.  We are fortunate that he was able to go as far as he did in eligible skating to enable him to open himself up completely to the pro world and give us the wonderful programs he has.  His joy is contagious."


From a review of World Ice Challenge by Nicole M. To see the entire review, which is as thorough, detailed, and perceptive, go to:

Rudy Galindo: As he took the ice, a man in the audience yelled "RUDY!" and the crowd cheered. Rudy was wearing black pants, a white tuxedo shirt, and a black jacket that had a woman strongly resembling Nicole Kidman on the back of it. It was apparent that Rudy would be skating to music from the soundtrack of “Moulin Rouge”. The music he used was from the rooftop scene medley, sung by Kidman and Ewan McGregor, which includes snippets of the songs “All You Need is Love”, “In the Name of Love” “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, “I Love You”, “Love Lift Us Up”, “Heroes”, “I Will Always Love You” and “Your Song”.

Rudy’s moves include a double axel/double toe, a triple loop, a triple (I think) toe, an outside spiral, a Charlotte, a triple salchow/double toe, a spread eagle, a triple toe loop, a back spiral, a double axel, and a combination spin. He performed the program with his usual flair and skated with security and emotion. He received a good crowd reaction
for the performance.

Scores: 9.7 9.9 9.8 9.7 9.8 9.8 9.9 = 49.0

Rudy Galindo: He skated a program to music that was inspired by traditional French music (I think… there was a can-can in there somewhere). Rudy was wearing a beret, black pants, and a black and hot pink striped shirt. He began the program with a double axel/double toe, picked up a fan off the ice (an actual fan used to cool oneself, as opposed to an adoring spectator, lol), and with the fan did a double toe loop, then a triple toe loop. He fanned himself, then threw the fan down on the ice.

Rudy continued with a variation on a martini-glass spin, and fell out of a triple (flip or toe). He then pretended to be an artist, “drawing” a  woman in the audience. It became apparent that he was portraying different characters as the program progressed.

Rudy then completed a triple toe loop, and a double axel. He skated over to the K & C, where his sister Laura handed him a can-can skirt. I think he did some can-can kicks, then somehow lost the skirt (planned), and didn’t have the pants anymore (the striped shirt turned out to be a bodysuit, which left only his legs uncovered). Rudy feigned
embarrassment, then, portraying the can-can girl who decides the show must go on, proceeded to do some can-can moves without it.

This was an ambitiously imaginative program. I wasn’t sure how it was going over with the audience about halfway through, but by the end he had the audience well-in-hand with this intentionally flamboyant and exhuberant performance. I look forward to seeing it again, to see if I can pick out the other characters he was playing, that I wasn’t quite
able to identify while trying to take notes at the same time.

Scores: 9.7 9.7 9.7 9.8 9.7 9.7 9.8 = 97.2

In response to a fan who didn't like the program...

Rudy tends to be a skater you either love or don't. I happen to love how he pushes the envelope, but I know not everyone does. I agree the program was "over the top"; I suspect that's exactly what he was going for! Oh well, if you tape events, you can always fast forward the skaters you don't want to watch!

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Last updated January 30, 2002