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)


  1. oh sasha those mistakes. only sasha hahaha. thanks for posting!

  2. It's so crazy how they wanted these girls to take over but it never happened. Always said they shouldn't be so quick to push anyone out because they will really need them one day. I just wanted to enjoy these skaters for whatever they expectations from me.

    Sasha was so little and cute. She was a MK fan until she felt Michelle held back and didn't win the Olympics but look what happened to her.

  3. Whatever happened to Wheat, Markham and Kwon? Did they burn out?

  4. Wheat didn't skate after the 2001-2002 season and Kwon was done after 2000. She withdrew from the 2001 season with an injury I think. I think Kwon skates with her college or something now. Don't know why Wheat just stop. Can't find anything on wikipedia or anything. I'm sure someone else can find something on her.

  5. Jenny should have won the long no question. Wheat went to Carol Heiss and made a fool of herself in a qualifying competition in Jamestown. I think she fell at least five times, maybe six or seven. She came in dead last and was actually beat by a girl that had only been back on the ice for two weeks!

    Markham went to Harvard and there is a lot about her being with some dance team or something.

  6. Thanks Anon 6:20 for the rest of the information that I couldn't find.

  7. Why did you call Sarah Wheat the "predecessor to Rachael Flatt?" She's not overweight and she isn't reliable at all. She doesn't land any of her jumps

  8. Elizabeth Kwon sure does look "lanky" enough there to me - at least as lanky as Michelle Kwan ever looked.

    And I think Dominique Dawes was the one who introduced me to pilates - a year or two earlier than the Cohen/Nari Nam fluff. I remember how one of those glorious Mag 7 specials showed Dominique taking a class and name-dropping Jasmine Guy. It was aired by ESPN2 - which is astonishing considering the Skip-Bayless-crapfest that channel has become in more recent years. ESPN2 would show 2 straight primetime hours of Bayless getting his hair done before it ever produced a gymnastics special like this today - or show a figure skating Grand Prix event for that matter.

    But I digress slightly. I seem to remember there being some publicity about how almost an entire generation of promising U.S. skaters were wiped out by devastating injuries - I think at least some of these skaters were felled by that massacre.

  9. Yes, too many girls pushed to over practice way too young! They get injuries and and the folks get a depleted retirement account. I know the kids get great experiences, but I'd love to hear interviews with those parents now facing a bleak financial future. Maybe Johnny starting late and being a male will work in his favor.

  10. Pretty sure Sarah Wheat is married and a school teacher. Nam just had a baby a while back. I would rather watch Novice Cohen, Kwon and Kirk's programs over any senior lady program of today. I'm a sucker for nice positions and extension.

    I think the Wheat/Flatt comparison is related to the dull, uninteresting cliche-ridden choreography. Funny how Wheat was probably credited for most of those under-rotated triples.

  11. Please come back, Aunt Joyce! I'm anxious for your comments on Skate America, particularly concerning Gao, Flatt, and Wagner! I know you're very busy, but I miss you.

  12. wtf aunt joyce? come back please!

  13. October was lonely without your snarky commentary. Please come back for November. Please!