World Figure Skating Championships
Vancouver 2001

  My first exposure to ice skating was seeing the Ice Capades as a small child with my grandmother.  But like many, I became a true figure-skating fan during the first televised winter Olympics, when Peggy Fleming glided onto Grenoble ice in 1968 and mesmerized the world with her grace, beauty, and chartreuse costume.  As years went by, I watched all the televised skating competitions and shows.  I watched the Tonya-Nancy debacle in horror, but reveled in the explosion of TV skating events spawned by the publicity.  I enjoyed live performances of Scott Hamilton's Stars on Ice and the awe-inspiring Brian Boitano in Champions on Ice.  But I had never even THOUGHT of attending a figure-skating competition; that was for DIE-HARDS.

Then last September I ran across a website advertising tours to the 2001 World Championships in Vancouver, only a hop and a skip away from my home in San Jose, Ca.  I had recently retired and was looking for interesting travel opportunities: why not? I thought.  This Worlds immediately precedes an Olympic year and the competition should be pretty hot! 

I could never have imagined the sheer thrill of watching IN PERSON all those beautiful, skilled, and dedicated athletes pouring their hearts onto the ice, and the camaraderie of joining 17,000 other admirers in the experience: the collective breath-holding each time a skater launched a jump, the "Ohhhh" and applause when it was landed successfully (or the gasp when it was not); the cheers for the skaters, the boos for the judges; and the enthusiastic if sometimes combative armchair-quarterback discussions among surrounding fans.  Even my husband Mike enjoyed himself somewhat (although he has already said, "Next time you go alone.").

Here, then, is my pictorial valentine to the awesome athletes who thrilled and entertained us, to my fellow Spec-Skaters who became my instant friends, and to the city of Vancouver -- a fabulous host.