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Thread: Cohen's Swan Lake #2

  1. #16
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    Originally posted by DORISPULASKI
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    ITA. I do not like the Wagner changes to the program, and I didn't like the new costume either. I thought the old one was a lot more interesting.

    But...Wagner got Sasha a world medal. None of her other coaches could get her to stand up more than 1 out of 3 sections of the competitions. Wagner coached her to 1 in the q/r and the best SP I have seen Sasha give. I like Wagner as a coach, just not as a choreographer. Maybe TAT will do Sasha's choreography next year? Hope so.

    I agree that Robin was able to do what TT couldn't. She did skate 2 clean programs back to back and she stood on her feet in the LP. Got that world medal. I do think the breathing thing has helped as while the LP wasn't perfect it was better than at Nats. I think Robin will be a good coach for Sasha. Choreographically I don't know yet as this was a redo of a program not one from scratch. I don't think Sasha wanted to do Swan Lake in the first place but TT insisted. I heard she's got a new exhibition program that Robin did so we'll see how that is.

  2. #17
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    I wasn't wild about the 1st version of this to begin with, and I really think Robin Wagner or whoever all was involved in the re-choreographing ruined it!! It is ONE thing to change a few things here and there, but a complete overhaul at this point in the season? Please. Worst of it for me, was they took out the one cool thing that I liked about Version 1.0 -- the scratch spin with the angled arms which with the original dress looked really cool. Yeah, she did do the same spin at the end, but at that part of the program, and with the new dress (apparently courtesy of Nancy Kerrigan's yard sale) it didn't have nearly the same effect.

  3. #18
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    Wow, I haven't heard many people praising the new Swan Lake. I'm not going to praise it either. I just re-watched the old Swan Lake and cannot believe that it was changed.

    But Robin's her new coach and she'll change it to her style. At least Sasha still scored well with the new Swan Lake. I wonder if they'll use it next year since this was the first time she skated it.

  4. #19
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    As others have said, I thought the move was a good one strategically but not artistically. There was so little to that program it wasn't funny. Perhaps Team Cohen thought Sasha's perfect positions would be enough to carry the day even though the program was completely threadbare. However, people are absolutely correct in that it paid off -- Cohen had the best, most consistent worlds of her life and won her first Worlds medal -- a silver.

  5. #20
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    I just watched it and frankly I thought it was pretty dreadful. How could a program change so much in such a short space of time. I realy hope that Sasha does NOT have Robin choreograph her programs next year!!!

  6. #21
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    I knew there would be one of these threads, lol. I wasn't going to look at the board, especially after 6-1/2 hours of watching skating nonstop--didn't eat dinner till midnight, lol. But I'll throw in my opinions on Wagner's redo of "Swan Lake," or as I call it, "Swan Puddle," and the neverending discussion of the figure skating version of "Why Can't Johhny Read," which apparently is entitled, "Why Can't Sasha Skate a Clean LP?"

    Seriously, I think Sasha's new "Swan Lake" costume said a lot. Just not much there. I understand Robin Wagner's strategy of taking out a lot of the detail, with the idea being sacrifice choreographic complexity in the hopes that it would allow Sasha to make a break-through in both consistency and passion of performance of her LP in high-stake competitions, specifically Nats and Worlds. I also think it was an intelligent strategy. Had Sasha skated "Swan Puddle" with the kind of fire and accuracy she skated "Malaguena," hitting all her elements, even if she still hadn't won over Shizuka, I think the consensus would be, "Wagner's changes to 'Swan Lake' suck, but it did allow Sasha to skate an exciting, mistake-free LP at Worlds. So it was probably the right thing to do. Now Sasha knows what it feels like and they can work on making her programs more difficult and interesting." But that's not what happened.

    In the end, Sasha skated Tarasova's super-packed Trophee Lalique version of "Swan Lake" as well as she skated Wagner's totally gutted version. I think Wagner was right to try this approach, but I think Sasha's problems with laying down a great LP at Nats and Worlds is something other than a simple concentration problem, an attitude problem of thinking about winning, or any of the "if Sasha would just" problems people tend to throw out. I mean really, Sasha has worked with three top coaches on this consistency problem: John Nicks, Tarasova, and now Wagner. If it were a matter of "If Sasha would just..." ONE of them would have helped her make significant strides in overcoming it. Also, Sasha works too hard to sabotage herself by letting herself be overcome with thoughts of "Must win! Must win!" like a Night of the Living Dead zombie. When she was 17, yeah, I think that was part of the problem. But Plush also lost his first bid for Worlds because, as he said himself, he was thinking "too much about medal, not enough about skating" and that was the last time we saw him make that mistake. Sasha is too good a skater and too hard a worker for me to buy that she is that dumb.

    Piel said the way Dick and Peggy described Wagner's strategy made it sound like Sasha had ADD or something. Well, maybe Sasha does have ADD or something. ADD (attention deficit disorder) or some other neurocognitive problem is nothing to be ashamed of. [Edited to add: Piel, I know, of course, that you didn't mean that to be a criticism of Sasha.] I speculated on another thread that if Sasha did not skate well with a simplified version of "Swan Lake," that she might have something like (and I coined this term loosely) "kinesthetic dyslexia." What I meant is that just as dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence or effort, it seems to me that with all the work, focus, and different approaches Sasha has tried to overcome her consistency problems that whatever her problem is, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with concentration, intelligence, or having the right attitude. Just as dyslexia and ADD are beyond the individual's ability to overcome them just by trying harder or really, beyond the individual's control period, it's entirely possible that Sasha has just such a problem.

    Shepherd Clark has dyslexia and has been very open about having it and how it has affected his skating. I'm sure there are people who still believe Shepherd is just using dyslexia as an excuse for *just not being able to cut it.* But the guy has always been a gorgeous skater, worked hard, and had great coaches, but his dyslexia made it so he could never be consistent. He kept competing and going to Nationals long after he would have had any chance to go to Worlds even if he had medalled, so in the long run his behavior shows that he skates because he truly loves skating. To me, Clark's dyslexia is no different from a skater with a chronic injury who can never fulfill his potential because of a physical anomaly. But in general, we still tend to think of people with neurocognitive disorders as having some kind of character defect. It's also part of our culture, our *anybody can pull himself up by his own bootstraps if he really wants to* attitude.

    Another skater who got criticized for being a *choker* was Scott Davis, even though it turned out that he had an inner ear disorder that caused him to have vertigo. Just what a skater needs. Davis was an exceptionally fast spinner and whether his spinning abilities aggravated a pre-existing condition or caused the inner ear problem altogether is not known. But again the tendency was to blame the skater for having a poor character rather than try to understand the disorder. When Naomi Nari Nam's hip was damaged from so much jumping, I don't recall reading *If NNN would just...* kinds of posts. But somehow when it's a problem with consistency, which at the very least involves the most complex and least understood organ in the body--the brain--we seem to jump to simple conclusions when, IMO, the reasons for inconsistency in an otherwise extremely gifted skater seem far more complex than the mechanics of musculoskeltal overuse injuries. BTW, I don't at all mean to jump on anyone's case; I've been guilty of doing the same thing and will probably be guilty of it again.

    Wagner's undergrad degree is in psychology, which in terms of coaching Sasha could be a plus or a minus, or both. It could be a plus in that RW should be aware of various psychological factors affecting consistency. OTOH, RW may feel she can handle Sasha's consistency problems all by herself when, IMO, Sasha needs a sports psychologist with experience in treating elite athletes with problems like hers. On the third hand, it could just be a matter of Sasha needing to mature, but the problem with that is going through years of frustration and people thinking she's lazy, obsessed with winning, or a space cadet--and it may be too late by the time her cognitive and kinesthetic maturity catch up to her skating. Dick Button's comments that sometimes Sasha seems like she's on another planet are classic Dickisms and classic ways of thinking, ie, that consistency is just a matter of concentrating. But I don't think such comments help. It's like people who think ADD is just an indulgent term for daydreaming. Funny, unless your child has ADD.

    I liken the attitudes towards what I think should be called neurokinesthetic problems in elite athletes to those many people had toward the increase in number of jump rotations, skate boots, and injuries. At first, there wasn't a problem, just skaters who had poor jump technique. *If they would just fix their jump technique they wouldn't have these injuries.* Then it was skaters who were *too greedy* about winning, practicing difficult 3/3 combos too much just to be sure they would win. Eventually, the one or two top skaters who experienced career-ending hip injuries turned into a trend. ESPN did a segment on it, including information on the hinged figure skating boot. There's also an article about inadequate boot technology and skating injuries on the GS website. In other words, even hip injuries went through a period of *blame the skater*--at least those skaters who a lot of fans tended to dislike.

    But eventually, after enough skaters were hurt, people saw that the problem was complex and involved a number of factors. I'm hoping the same will happen with skaters whose only serious problem is consistency. In fact, Shizuka Arakawa was very inconsistent for years, so much so that she didn't even make the Japanese World team for several years. In Shizza's case, it took about six years of intense frustration, almost quitting the sport, being criticized, changing coaches several times, some influence from the COP (IMO) and, IMO, just getting older for her to realize her potential. (At least in dancers and other athletes I've worked with, including skaters, there's a big difference between the movement sophistication of an 18/19-year-old and a 22/23-year-old.) Maybe Sasha will have to go down that road too. But it is possible and at least to me it seems probable that Sasha has some kind of neurokinesthetic problem that needs to be addressed by a sports psychologist with experience treating elite athletes for this kind of thing.

    If Sasha didn't have all the other makings of a great skater or if she were an average person, such a neurokiesthetic problem would never manifest itself. It's only when someone is working the body at an extremely high level of skill under high pressure that these problems arise for some. Just as Jenny Kirk needed an off-ice training regimen specifically designed by a sports medicine physician who specializes in elite athletes to help keep her hip healthy, I think Sasha too needs the help of a sports psychologist who specializes in the neurokinesthetic problems of elite athletes to help overcome her problems with consistency. Nicks, Tarasova, and Wagner have all tried through coaching techniques and at least I have no doubt that Sasha has tried with everything she has to overcome this problem. To use a medical analogy, Sasha has worked with some great general practitioners, now I think it's time to try a specialist.

    As for "Swan Puddle," I agree it was sad to watch, but only because Wagner's strategy failed. IMO, there's no shame in that. The only shame would be if Sasha does not try at least one sports psychologist in her continuing efforts to overcome her problems with consistency (like coaches, you have to find one who is both an expert in the right field and with whom you click). The only shame besides that would be if people continue to stick with *If Sasha would just...* answers for her consistency problems. Anyone who has ever coached any kind of sport knows that people who just don't or won't concentrate or who are focused solely on winning rarely make it to the elite levels.

    Finally, like Shepherd Clark and Scott Davis, both enormously gifted, hard working skaters, Sasha may not ever be able to fully overcome her consistency problems. But I don't think it will be for lack of trying on her part. Of course it's easy and tempting to Monday-morning quarterback these kinds of things--in some ways that's what these forums are about, lol. But Sasha is the World silver medalist because of her overall performance through all three phases of the competition. By all accounts she had a great skate in the Q round, she had what Dick Button called the best short program performance he had ever seen, and though she faltered in the free skate, she still came in third. She also comes home from Worlds knowing that simplifying her long programs is not the answer to her consistency problems. I'm actually somewhat heartened by this because it means that whether Sasha does an LP as difficult as "Swan Lake"-Lalique or as simple as "Swan Puddle"-Worlds, her consistency in the finals of a major event is still a problem. Thus I hope RW will have Sasha doing LPs just as difficult as "SL"-Lalique and look for answers to her consistency problems elsewhere.

    BTW, somebody wondered if Tarasova might choreograph for Sasha. With TAT now the coach of one of Sasha's major rivals, I think that's a pretty firm "not bloody likely." Also, I really liked a lot of RW's choreography for Sarah. I didn't always like Sarah's performances, which was not because I didn't like Sarah's skating, but rather because I found Sarah to be somewhat uncoordinated in her dance abilities. I thought the choreography for Sarah's Olympic short and long programs as well as last year's short and long to be very interesting and effective. A lot of people hated and made much of last year's LP "breast self-exam pose" (actually pretty funny description), but it didn't bother me and I liked the choreography quite a lot. I especially liked Sarah's SP last year, which had an angular, modern approach. I may be in the minority, but people have been saying they'd like to see Sasha do something more modern or jazzy.

    On with the Worlds post mortem.
    Rgirl
    Last edited by Rgirl; 03-28-2004 at 10:36 AM.

  7. #22
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    Sasha's new version of the long program has been changed alot.
    The nice inbetweens were all gone. Just a few crossovers. The end of the program has two spins back to back, the combo she did too slow, the scratch spin does not fit there. I was disapoointed Robin Wagner did a program like this. If Sasha gets silver no matter what, I'd rather her get silver with her old version long.

    Her new white dress looks like a practice dress. The skirt is too long, and the sleeve are too short.

  8. #23
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    Originally posted by BravesSkateFan
    And I don't know why Robin opted to put a Falling leaf in instead of a Russian split. Sasha has the most awesome Russian Splits, much better than her falling leaf. They should have used one of those instead.
    I was wondering the same. Her right leg was bent. Why use that when she's got a beautiful Russian? Didn't she insert a split falling leaf into Sarah's program right before the Oly's? Not exactly sure of the timing, maybe it was there all along. Anyway, Sarah's hit a 180, but she wasn't parallel to the ice - one leg much higher than the other. What's Robin's thing with that leap?

  9. #24
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    Interesting post, as always, Rgirl. Do you think any of that applies to Ms. Kirk? I think it was Dick that said, she knows how to do the jumps, she just lacks the fight.

    It will be interesting now that Sasha and Robin can start from scratch. Because they started working together so late in the season, they only had time to try to band aid the problem. With time away from competition, it'll be interesting to see what they come up with. I'm not always sold on Robin's choreography, but I did like Sarah's short program last year even though it was a little busy. I don't see Sasha doing something in that style, but I'd like to see her try something new - something jazzy/firey - I think that would suit her. Although, I think she naturally tends towards a balletic style, so I'm not so sure how it'll work.

    Edited to add: I think I'm the only one that likes the new dress. I thought it was simple, elegant, and beautiful. I like simple, though.

  10. #25
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    That was the worst Long program from the top 5 skaters in the free program, I would of put Sasha 5th behind Julia, someone used the word "dreadful" it was. I love Sasha's skating but this did not show her strenths.

  11. #26
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    RGirl...

    I enjoy reading your thoughts on this subject as always. ITA that you are probably onto something here. The brain is certainly a little understood place.

    In terms of the stripped down choreo, I personally don't question the strategy, and it worked from the perspective of a solid, winning QR, a stunning SP and three "on your feet" programs in a row at one competition. All of this resulted in Sasha's first world medal which is an awesome accomplishment. Especially since Sasha's program was being tweaked quite a bit all season not allowing Sasha to really settle into it, I think their decision to tone it down and just try to get it clean was good. These mid season coaching changes have got to be tough for the coaches and the skaters.

    It will be interesting to see what next season brings once Sasha and Robin have a full off season to work together. Mean time RGirl, I hope Sasha also explores your advice!

    DG

  12. #27
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    Thanks for your comments, Doggygirl and Tharrtell--and for even reading that muthuh post, lol. Man, was I burned out from watching all that skating or what?

    Anyway, Doggygirl, you're absolutely right that TAT changed "Swan Lake" for virtually every GP event last fall, though nowhere near as drastically as the changes RW made. TAT just added or changed things to get maximum value out of the COP. RW was trying to reinvent the wheel. So actually, what Sasha skated at Worlds wasn't just "Swan Lake Version 2"; it was more like "Swan Lake Version 6 with 50% new music."

    The thing I question most about RW's changes is the music. Why mess with that? Sasha at least had a great sense of the music of TAT's version, which I thought was very well edited. Rather than change the very foundation of the program, why didn't RW just leave the music as it was and cut down some of the busyness in the choreography? It seems to me that either RW didn't want Sasha to confuse her new choreography with TAT's and so decided to change much of the music, or RW wanted to really put her stamp on the program, perhaps thinking that she could do a better job of editing the music. If the former is the case, then it was just a miscalculation. But if the latter is what happened, boo on RW if she let her ego get in the way. I'm not saying that's what happened; I don't know and I don't thaink anyone exceppt Robin knows.

    In any case, changing so much of the music was the beginning of the end for Sasha/TAT's "Swan Lake." After the first year, it seemed clear to me that TAT was not the right coach overall for Sasha. However, one of TAT's greatest strengths as a coach as been her choreography, whether TAT does it, puts together bits and pieces supplied by her assistant(s), or both. I think it was a bad call on RW's part to change the basic structure of TAT's "Swan Lake." TAT'S foundation was great and I think it could have withstood watering down without sacrificing too much of the impact. As it was, WAG's "Swan Lake" was neither fish nor foul--nor swan.

    After I watched SL-WAG on tape for a third time and compared it to both SL-WAG/Nats and SL-TAT/Lalique I thought, "Why didn't RW just use the Nats version with maybe a Russian split instead of the 3toe or whatever?" Sasha was on top of the Nats version and I think would have performed it well at Nats had she not had shingles--though of course we'll never know. Also, in the interview with Sasha and Robin (sorry, don't have the link), RW made it sound like she was just changing maybe 15 or 20 seconds of the music, not one or two minutes.

    Anzwaz (in honor of Joe's reports from Germany--great job Joe), the more I looked at the Lalique, Nats, and Worlds versions of "Swan Lake," the less sense RW's decisions about changing the music and gutting SO much of the choreography made. I can't argue with the result since I think Shizuka's 3/3/2 and everything that followed could not have been beaten by anything Cohen was prepared to do. But RW's "Swan Puddle" does make me concerned for Sasha's choreography next season.

    Of course it's one thing to try to edit and rechoreograph someone else's choreography, ie, concept, music, costuming, everthing and quite another to do your own choreography from scratch. I'll never forget wrecking one of my own pieces of choreography when I was young because I kept listening to everyone's well intentioned advice. Instead of helping the piece, the more I tried to *fix* it, the more it lost the essence of what made it good in the first place.

    But just so it's clear, as I said, I understand RW's strategy and can't argue the overall results, ie, Sasha's great Q round and SP, and suffienient LP to win the silver. However, "Swan Puddle" sucked.

    BTW, I didn't mind the split falling leaf. In the Q round, photos of Sasha show her with her back leg straight and her front leg above hip level--pretty spectacular, at least in the photos on Yahoo--so it seemed like it was better in the Q round. Also, the judges know Sasha has a jaw-drop Russian split, so I can understand if Robin was trying to show that Sasha can do other things as well. I sure wish I could see the Q round version of Sasha's LP, which reports say was performed very well, so I could compare it to the relatively crummy one she did in the finals. Also, whether you liked or hated the original black and white costume, at least it was more effective visually, especially in the scratch spin with the arms at opposing angles, than the new costume, which looked to me like a plain satin slip cut short with frou-frou and feathers over the hips. Personally, I liked the B/W costume. It had the pattern of feathers but know actually fowl on it.

    Oh, Tharrtell, you asked about Jenny Kirk, ie, "Do you think any of that applies to Ms. Kirk? I think it was Dick that said, she knows how to do the jumps, she just lacks the fight." I assume you mean do I think a sports psychologist could help Jenny and/or do I think Jenny's problem is more than just "she lacks the fight." For one thing, yes, I do think the right sports psychologist would be helpful for Jenny. With Jenny, I've seen her really fight through several performances, so I think she has it in her, it's just that she's inconsistent with her ability to fight through. I can't help but think that the death of Jenny's mother and Jenny watching her mother go through the whole cancer ordeal and lose the battle has some sort of residual effect on her psyche. It would seem perfectly normal to me. Everybody grieves differently; I know since my father died in '87, there were times during the first three or four years after his death where I'd be going along as usual and then--BAM!--it would hit me out of nowhere.

    In Jenny's case, she's also had the hip problem to deal with. Jenny looks much thinner this year, which MIGHT (emphasize might) be a result of stress and the way it affects the endocrine system (hormonal system). Balancing the grief over her mother, making sure she takes care of her hip, trying to break through in the senior ranks after being World junior champ, and, IMO, learning to get more flow and extension into her skating--all these could be areas a good sports psychologist could help Jenny with, teaching her ways to manage stress (and I don't mean that Jenny worries too much; she has streses affecting her that have nothing to do with cognitive thought processes). A sports psychologist could also help her with techniques to *push through* in tough competitions and, in conjunction with her coach, make the most out of her overall skating. Jenny' has a lot of great qualities and her personality really sparkles on the ice. But she tends to self-destruct sometimes. Callaghan isn't known for being a naturally warm coach, so perhaps a sports psychologists who knows and works with elite skaters. Perhaps Jenny sometimes doesn't fight through on the ice because she's fighting to keep all the balls in the air, so to speak, in her daily life--which I want to emphasize is just speculation on my part. Jenny didn't have a good Worlds, but she's a very genuine performer and I have great respect for her as a person and a skater. She's been through a lot at a young age.

    Back to Sasha, I guess we'll have one more chance to see "Swan Puddle" if Sasha does it in the spring cheesefest. After that, I say get out the crossbow and put that signet out of its misery. Poor Sasha, even when she wins the silver, she still leaves Worlds with the *Inconsistency Albatross* around her neck. Good luck over the summer and next season Sasha and Robin. It's frustrating to see someone so gifted work so hard, make good improvements, win a World silver medal, and still keep running into brick walls at crucial times. I hope this is something that changes for Sasha. Her SP was so stunning, which makes it even more frustrating because you can see the way she's capable of skating.
    Rgirl
    YEESH! Another muthuh post. *I* need a sports psychologist to handle watching Worlds, lol.
    Last edited by Rgirl; 03-28-2004 at 12:12 PM.

  13. #28
    Arm Chair Skate Fan show 42's Avatar
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    And I don't know why Robin opted to put a Falling leaf in instead of a Russian split. Sasha has the most awesome Russian Splits, much better than her falling leaf. They should have used one of those instead.
    ........Probably because Robin has a thing for this jump (She added one into Sarah's program before SLC, and apparantly she thinks it's a deal maker....)

    I guess I am the only one who didn't hate "Swan Puddle" (good one, RGirl )....As she began skating, I totally forgot that it was different before.......but something must have worked, because she medaled this time..........and I liked her costume.....less fuss is better, it doesn't distract from the program..........42

  14. #29
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    Interesting post, Rgirl. I think you're right that Sasha could use a sports psychologist to help overcome her consistency problems.

    I also think that Sasha is just too focused on winning. At the end of last night's LP, her face told the whole story. She looked devastated--which was actually odd. Other skaters would have been a little rueful about missing that final salchow, yet still pleased at the fact that they'd done a 6-triple program and probably won a medal. Not Sasha. She looked absolutely miserable, and I can only assume it was because she knew she'd lost the gold. It was the same at Nationals. There was no sense of satisfaction about skating a nearly clean, 5- or 6-triple program, just devastation that she had lost the title.

    Judging from her reactions at these events, I can only guess that Sasha is putting an *enormous* amount of pressure on herself to win these titles. It must be very difficult for her. I think if she could just try to enjoy the skating a little more and not worry so much about the outcome, she would do much better.

    Of course, this is not made any easier by Dick, Peggy, and the rest of the media, who hype Sasha to the skies before each performance and then rip her to shreds each time she doesn't achieve perfection. For whatever reason, I don't think any other skater is subjected to the same kind of relentless scrutiny that they give Sasha.

  15. #30
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    Great posts (as usual) Rgirl. I am usually a big fan of of Dick's Peggy's comments but in this case IMO they left the impression Sasha's program had to be "dumbed down" for her. I just think they could have worded it a little better. Sometimes I don't think that it's necessary for the commentators to tells us EVERYTHING. I hope no one was offended by my reference to ADD. As you know my niece has that and it is very difficult to deal with.

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