The greatest outcome of the TV hit Battle of the Blades is that we Canadians have fallen in love with figure skating again.
Sure, there was the original fascination with hockey gods in sparkling outfits, dancing daintily without pads. Maybe we shared a secret hope for an untimely pratfall. At the outset we were a bit like voyeurs waiting for the proverbial train wreck to happen.
It never did.
Instead we rediscovered a deep affection for something that was always there — and that something is the majestic athleticism of figure skating.
So while Claude Lemieux, Craig Simpson and the rest of our hockey heroes became the focus of national attention for a moment, they were in fact our guides back to a wondrous sport that is so intrinsically Canadian.
When, in the grand finale, four-time world champion Kurt Browning gyrated around Maple Leaf Gardens ice, the clock went back to the glory days when he was king. The same was true of the poignant reunion of Barb Underhill and Paul Martini, who once reigned over global pairs skating. Meanwhile, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon showed us the true magic of dancing on a frozen pond.
Let’s hope Canada embraces figure skating and expresses this renewed connection to the obvious thrill of the sport now that Battle of the Blades has gone into hiatus.
The current generation of stars is anxiously entering its most competitive stage on the way to the home Olympics in Vancouver. It’s a safe bet figure skating will claim much of the spotlight come February and almost certainly generate some of the signature moments of the Games.
Just as the “Battle of the Brians” (Orser and Boitano), and Elizabeth Manley and Katerina Witt gave the 1988 Calgary Olympics so much character, so too will the modern crop of Canadian skaters.
In Kitchener this weekend at Skate Canada, the final Grand Prix of the season, Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison in the pairs, and ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir take the stage to form the strongest Canadian team in recent memory. All have hopes to win a medal at the Olympics.
Their spirits should soar because of a simple truth a reality show revealed.
Canada has found its way back to loving figure skating.
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