When I watch the young phenoms, like 14-year-olds Mirai Nagasu or Rachael Flatt, I often am curious about their coaches as well. Sometimes I'm even more interested in the coaches because nowadays, a coach has to balance the demands of an elite skater, which includes agents (a whole marketing team actually), sports psychologists, trainers, choreographers, etc. while keeping in mind that the skater is still a teenager who's achieved this enormous success. I previously profiled Charlene Wong, the primary coach for Mirai, who's done such a terrific job of helping Mirai's skating as well as keeping Mirai a typical, "normal" 14-year-old! This week's Clip of the week takes us down a trip to memory lane to recap the accomplishments of Canadian great Brian Orser (coach of South Korean superstar 17-year-old Yu-Na Kim), and to showcase one of my favorite program of his.
Brian is one of my favorite skaters because of his choreography. I tend to remember his programs because of how he skated to a particular song and how it made me feel, not necessarily that in this program, he completed eight triple jumps (even though his nickname was Mr. Triple Axel). Brian is a two-time Olympic silver medalist (1984 & 1988), eight-time Canadian champion (1981-1988), and six-time World medalist (won Worlds in 1987). At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the men's competition became known as The Battle of the Brians because the U.S.'s Brian Boitano was also one of the favorites to win the gold medal. Long story short, Boitano won the gold in what was an extremely tight match (kind of like what happened at the recent U.S. Nationals with Evan Lysacek and Johnny Weir tied in their scores overall, and Evan came out on top). Orser won the silver, and an incredibly busy professional career followed.
In addition to many television specials and professional competitions, Brian also toured with Stars on Ice (U.S. and Canada) for several years. In April 2007, after 19 years of touring and delighting audiences everywhere, Brian retired from touring in order to focus on primarily teaching the next generation of skaters. In 2005, he was named skating director of the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club. In 2006, he became Yu-Na Kim's primary coach as she embarked on her senior ladies career (see right). Yu-Na's not doing so bad under his tutelage, wouldn't you say? She won bronze at the 2007 and 2008 Worlds and is a force to be reckoned with in every competition. By the way, in an interview conducted prior to the 2007 Worlds, Brian was asked what three people he would invite over for dinner. His answer?
Oprah, Oprah and Oprah. I love Oprah. I think it would be fascinating to talk, listen. Rosie O'Donnell. Barbara Walters. Can I pick four? Christiane Amanpour (CNN correspondent). And Madeleine Albright (former U.S. secretary of state), that's five. All women, isn't that funny?
Below is Brian skating his exhibition piece to Neil Diamond's Story of My Life after winning the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics. I remember this program because I was rooting for both Brians to win the gold and it was sad to see that one of them did not get the gold (although I was thrilled that Boitano did get the gold). It was one of those situations where you knew someone was not going to get the gold and you just didn't want that situation to happen. This song seemed really appropriate and poignant. I read that on Brian's last Canadian Stars on Ice tour, they showed this program on a JumboTron screen and he came out to skate the last two minutes of the piece. Wish I could have been there to experience that moment...