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Review: Ice Champions Live!

By Amber Lewis
Special to Figure Skaters Online


On Oct. 1, Michael Weiss’ seventh Ice Champions Live! was held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., raising over $80,000 for the Michael Weiss Foundation, which has given out over $455,000 in scholarships to help pay training expenses for rising skaters.

Christine Brennan of USA Today emceed the event and she recalled how she once participated in a benefit to raise money for Weiss’ training. Before starting the foundation in his name, Weiss, who headlined Champions on Ice, Stars on Ice and several Disson Skating shows, won three U.S. Championships. He is a two-time World Championship Bronze Medalist and a two-time Olympian, placing seventh in 1998 and 2002.

The show opened with local star Brianna Laxson, the reigning intermediate ladies pewter medalist and she showcased great extension and beautiful lay backs.  Emmanuel Savary, a Michael Weiss Foundation recipient and the 2010 U.S. Championship Novice Men’s Silver Medalist, skated to the Glee version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”  His skating is very fluid, with great use of his arms and an infectious smile.

One of the biggest hits of the night was 2010 and 2011 Novice Champion Nathan Chen, performing to “Stereo Hearts.”  He showcased some hip hop moves, a great feel for the music and had several huge triples including a triple-triple combination.  He has been a scholarship winner since the program’s inception and received the first standing ovation of the night. “The scholarship has helped me a ton,” Chen said. “I get a lot more training with higher level coaches.”

Richard Dornbush, another scholarship recipient and the reigning national silver medalist, skated to a bluesy number.  He landed a triple jump and included several inventive moves including a sit spin with his free leg held up near his head.  He had some troubles with his triple Axel, missing it in the program and the finale, but went back out after the show ended and landed it.

Courtney Hicks, the reigning U.S. Junior Ladies Champion who won Junior Grand Prix (JGP) Australia to start her season, landed two triples and a double Axel before showing off her signature spin, the Tw-Hicks. A Michael Weiss Foundation scholarship recipient, Hicks said “The scholarship helped a lot. I get more lessons and can work on performance skills and jumps. It’s so great to give back.”

Agnes Zawadzki, the 2010 Junior Ladies Champion and 2011 Senior Ladies Pewter Medalist, skated to the Beyonce version of “At Last.”  She had a beautiful Ina Bauer and showcased improved speed in her Biellman spin.

“My family doesn’t have that much money, so the scholarship helps a lot,” she said. I’m very thankful. You always have to give back and this show is so much fun.”

Sinead and John Kerr were a real treat, performing to “Rolling in the Deep.”  Their routine was solid and entertaining and featured their signature reverse lift and a nice duo hydroblade.

Ashley Wagner really played to the crowd in her performance of “On the Floor.”  She landed a triple jump and a double axel before showcasing a gorgeous spiral and good speed through her Bielmann.

Two Olympic Champions also performed.  Ilia Kulik hit huge triples, an aerial and a cool split to stand move to earn the second standing ovation of the evening.  Brian Boitano landed a triple-double combination and really played to the crowd to earn another standing ovation.  In the finale both skaters landed 3 double axels in a circular pattern.

Weiss closed out the show with a performance that looked like it belonged on a gymnastics mat, including a headstand, headspring, kickup and an x out back flip.  During his “Shook Me All Night Long” performance he engaged the audience by throwing ice at the front row and showing off his spread eagle on his heels.

After the show, skaters expressed their thankfulness for the Michael Weiss Foundation, which has also helped many skaters who were unable to attend the show, including 2008 U.S. Champion and 2010 U.S. Olympian Mirai Nagasu.

“It’s meant so much to my family. We were struggling financially before he helped,” said Savary, who finished 14th in his JGP debut earlier this season in Latvia. “I’m really excited to be here. I love to skate and make people smile.”

Dornbush, who was the highest finishing man at the 2011 World Championships, where he placed ninth in his debut, also expressed his excitement. “It’s more than just financial support,” Dornbush said. “Having him behind you is the greatest thing. I’ve always wanted to do the show and I can now that my season is starting later this year since I’m on the senior Grand Prix.”

Wagner has never won a Michael Weiss Foundation Scholarship, but still felt it important to come out and support the show.  “It’s a great cause,” she said. “He’s always supported younger skaters.  It used to be that you had to do your time [to receive financial support] and this gives them opportunities.  You need a new generation to keep skating going.”

It was a great evening for a great cause.  The performances were entertaining and engaging from beginning to end, and every single skater was extremely gracious to the fans attending the event.


Photo courtesy of Leah Adams

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