Goodbye Mysterious Voice – Attention Skating Spectators, Please Keep Your Comments to Yourself

It was 20 years later and two women’s comments still hurt.

Until this morning.

I love watching the old ice shows from my time at the Arborg Skating Club. However, my least favourite was the 1990 Arborg Ice Show: Movie Mania.

Despite my coach’s efforts, I was far from a naturally graceful skater. My spins were fast, but they travelled. I lacked connecting steps. Smiling? Rarely during a lesson, competition, or ice show. Skating was my life.

For our 1990 ice show, I retired my competitive program of Europe’s Final Countdown and The Love Theme from Flashdance. Our theme was “Movie Mania.” Wouldn’t it be cool to use the Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire?

All 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

I choreographed the program – in my mind – with one rehearsal. With doubles, clean Axels, and fast tight spins. It was one of those: Axel on the crescendo, spin during the middle piano section, end with a corkscrew, and done.

Wearing a hot pink dress with a white lace underskirt, my name was called and I struck my opening pose:

I wanted to create magic on the ice. Instead, I think I sent half of the crowd to the concession stand.

I skated from end to end with my arms flaying into the wind. While I lacked control of my limbs, I landed two flips, a Lutz, and I attempted an Axel and double Salchow. At the end of the program, I thought – I did it! I landed everything – I attempted everything. I succeeded!

My sister and I used to watch the ice shows ASAP since my dad would shoot them – watching through a black and white viewfinder. But he was sick that year, and we had to wait for a copy from someone else. I remember running downstairs and my sister cramming the VHS tape into the VCR.

Solo … solo … group number … my solo!    I didn’t think it was bad. Sure, my arms were erratic. And I lacked speed heading into my Axel. Same with the double Salchow, but I didn’t back out and do a single. Just a weird whip of the leg, finishing the rotation on the ice. Obviously, it was far from clean.

While we watched my solo, around the three minute mark, my heart crawled into my throat:

This is the worst program yet,” a woman said, and the woman beside her replied, “I know, it’s so long. It’s terrible.”

My sister looked at me. She heard the voices too. “What did they say?” and she rewound the tape. And their words hadn’t changed.

Even though the next season, I was landing clean Axels and double Salchows, those words hurt for years.

But this morning, I watched that ice show from 1990 ice show, and I was about to zip passed my program. At the last second, I thought, “It’s been 20 years.”

That how I know I landed two flips, a lutz and attempted an Axel and double Salchow. And I ended the performance with a corkscrew spin.

It’s simple to make critical comments when you’re a spectator. But what’s no acceptable is making those comments in the first place. Skating isn’t for faint at heart. Tossing yourself into the air, whether it’s a single flip or double flip, can be scary.

Ice shows – whether at their own club or guests – skaters shouldn’t be able to perform without judgment. No comments, booing (ah, there’s a story) and so forth. They’ve been judged and assessed all year. You’re not on the judging panel.

And  back in 1990, it was that girl in a hot pink dress with a white lace underskirt who received the applause.

Not the women’s comments.

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