A month after the Vancouver Olympics and just a few days before the World Championships, ABC took a chance with professional figure skating competition with the first Thin Ice, which took place at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. The event was won by World dance silver medalist Marie-France Dubreuil and World bronze medalist Michael Weiss.
Part reality competition, part figure skating experiment, Thin Ice was a great new take on professional skating competition. After years of professional skating competitions just being watered-down versions of Olympic-eligible events with skaters who don’t actually train all that much, this competition broke all the rules and created something fun and novel.
Thin Ice was all entertainment and skating technique, focusing on current pop music that would appeal to a younger audience. The competition pairs up skaters who never skated together in competition, pulling from singles skating, pair skating, and ice dancing. It was like a cross between Stars on Ice and Dancing with the Stars, and not only because Kristi Yamaguchi was on the judging panel. The skaters had to quickly learn to skate with a new partner in a pairs/dance format that some of them are not used to.
In additional to the winners, the competition featured eight other skaters who have had their share of national, world, and Olympic medals. With such a great new format of competition, the judging was a bit contrived. The three main judges, Yamaguchi (Carrie Ann?), Dick Button (Len?), and Katarina Witt (Bruno?), took a page out of Dancing with the Stars, giving comments that were kind of constructive but mostly fluff (did Witt really have to congratulate Shae-Lynn Bourne and John Zimmerman for doing side-by-side single axels?) and using panels numbered 1 through 10 to score the skaters. But you might as well just give them panels with 8 through 10, because nothing given was any lower. Those scores were added up with scores from the live audience and scores from television viewers.
What was great about the competition was the fact that it took professional skating for what it was – entertainment, flash, and big names – and did not pretend that it was some way for figure skaters to try to do things that, for the most part, they haven’t seriously trained in ages. This kind of innovation in pro skating competition hasn’t been seen since Ice Wars back in the mid-90s.
But really, can they stop playing Evacuate the Dancefloor already?
1. Marie-France Dubreuil and Michael Weiss
2. Shae-Lynn Bourne and John Zimmerman
3. Shizuka Arakawa and Stephane Lambiel
4. Jamie Sale and Patrice Lauzon
5. Elena Berezhnaia and David Pelletier
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