Sunday, September 30, 2012
The Baby Ballerinas
The predecessor to Rachael Flatt
The baby ballerinas were the most exciting generation of skating to ever emerge on the scene. They were inspired to skate by Kristi, Nancy and Oksana and were driven by their crazy skating mothers to attain the status, fame and fortunes of Tara, Michelle and Nicole. These pre-pubescent ballerinas were utterly fabulous, each trying to stand out and emerging as being crazier than the next. Before Sasha and Naomi, none of us even knew what pilates was. After that fluff piece, every mother had their baby Asian on the reformer machines reaching John Nicks level of fabulousness.
Winning novice is always said to be a curse, as is winning junior. Winning novice is supposedly the kiss of death. Note how polished and accomplished Elizabeth Kwon is at age eleven. Not having the lanky body type, it is clear that maturity would not agree with her jumps. It is unreal how good she is as 11 years old. Christine Brennan (and surely Elizabeth's parents) ate up the Kwan-Kwon last name similarity. We can only imagine the amount of Asian pressure on this girl's shoulders that had her ready far the spotlight years before it was prudent.
Baby Sasha Cohen was exciting, unpolished and utterly amazing. Her ADD and lack of discipline (along with her amazing technique) was evident, as she overrotates triples and slips off the edge of well-executed combinations. Suzanne Bonaly once said, "It is fine to steal choreography from Sasha. Sasha stole entire sections of Michelle Kwan's programs." At this time, Sasha was a Michelle Kwan fanatic. Note that she steals a spin from Kwan's Taj Mahal program and puts it in her program the next season. Knowing Sasha, the program likely changed from week to week.
Baby Jenny Kirk was insanely driven. Note that she was in seventh after the short due to a fluke mistake and came back to nail the long as she always did. Jenny and Sasha both started skating later than their peers, which kept both from peaking too early. Allegedly, the mother of one of Jenny's competitors had once said that Jenny would never amount to anything when it took her forever to learn her double axel. Knowing how obsessive compulsive she is, we can see how those sort of comments drove her to run through her program an extra twelve times per practice session. Note that she isn't even excited by her clean performance, as she did it several times per day.
Frank Carroll's student, Jennifer Markham, had pristine skating skills that are characteristic of the wealthy starlets who can afford to skate with Frank from infancy, yet note the bizarre arm and head position on her jumps that ultimately stalled her progress. It will take years to ever fully comprehend what she was indeed doing. It is up there with Zhang's mule kick.
Other baby ballerinas not in attendance:
-Naomi Nari Nam was currently in the junior ranks and finished fourth behind Sarah Hughes and her underrotated triples. There were no standards for rotation in those days. After the elimination of figures, all of the skater mothers forced their daughters to rotate far before they were ready.
-AP McDonough did not make it to Nationals this year. She originally started out at the same level as Naomi Nari Nam, but struggled for a few years and met up with these girls at the 2001 Nationals.
1. Elizabeth Kwon (3, 1)
2. Jennifer Markham (2, 4)
3. Jenny Kirk (7, 2)
4. Sarah Wheat (5, 3)
6. Sasha Cohen (6, 5)