Stars on Ice Debut Brings Olympians to Germain Arena
Nathan Chen did not forget to pack his quadruple toe loop when he traveled to Estero, FL for the opening of the 2018 tour of Stars on Ice, and Mirai Nigasu showed (at least in practice) that she is the current Queen of the Triple Axel.
Adam Rippon brought his sparkling personality and unique ability to connect with the audience while Jason Brown showed them that breakdancing on ice looks very cool – literally and figuratively.
And Meryl Davis and Charlie White stunned the audience with the beauty of their ice dancing with a red scarf, while Maia and Alex Shibutani had fun with Frank Sinatra and Jay-Z.
The 2018 Stars on Ice tour that debuted in Germain Arena brought some serious Olympic medal power, and although skating exhibitions used to mainly consist of easier double and triple jumps, these skaters – many recently returning from the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang – skated for the audience with the same passion you would expect to see in competition.
And Chen – known as Mr. Quad – did indeed bring out the quad toe loop, which looks impressive enough on television, but seeing him perform it in person makes you wonder how anyone can jump so high and spin so fast in the air.
But Chen, 18, isn’t the current World champion for no reason – he performed a gravity-defying and dizzying six of them in his four-and-a-half minute-long free program at both the Olympics and the Worlds, the most any skater has ever done in competition.
Chen predicted in 2008 that he would go to the Olympics in 2018.
“That was in my head that was the first year I would be age eligible," he said. "But I thought, ‘I have a long way to go,’ but it’s crazy to think that 8 to 10 years later, here I am.”
Chen talked about his recent performances in Pyeongchang where in both the team event and then the men’s short program, the normally consistent skater missed several jumps, causing him to go into the free program in 11th place, a long way from where he or others expected him to be.
“The Olympics feels like no other competition," he said. "There’s a lot more pressure. There’s a lot more stigma around the competition itself, so I got a little wrapped up in that. However, after I made those mistakes, I just let all of that go away and just focused on what I know I’m good at and I was glad that it all came through in the long program.”
And came through it did: Chen landed six quads, more than any other man has done in competition, catapulting him from 11th to fifth.
He repeated those six quads a month later at the World Championships in Assago, Italy, and won the gold medal by a near-staggering 40 points, defeating the Olympic champion.
Chen said that while the 2022 Olympics in Beijing is “definitely in my sights,” now that the season is behind him, he is looking forward to the Stars on Ice tour, being able to relax and have fun with the cast, and then hopefully start Yale University in the fall where the phenom is considering double-majoring in economics and pre-med.
While Chen is looking ahead to college and the next Games, the time since the Olympics has felt a little like being in Adam’s World. Rippon has been making the late-night talk show rounds and even walked the Oscar’s red carpet in March, causing a stir and getting applause for his Moschino tux and harness look.
“I love doing all of this stuff within the entertainment world. It feels like that’s going to be my next step,” Rippon said. “I would love to do something where I can really show off my quick wit with people. I would love to share other people’s stories. I think the end goal for me is to have my own show.”
Rippon, 28, brought his fire to his Stars on Ice performances, telling his story and playing to the crowd, and the crowd gave him its support in return, with Rippon receiving some of the loudest applause of the show.
In addition to Chen and Rippon, this year’s tour also features a blinding number of Olympic medals: 2018 Olympic double Bronze medalists the Shibutanis, 2018 Olympic Team Bronze medalists Mirai Nigasu and Bradie Tennell, 2014 Olympic Gold and Bronze and 2010 Olympic Silver medalists Davis and White, 2014 Olympic Team Bronze medalists Ashley Wagner and Brown, and 2018 Olympians and U.S. champions Madison Hubble and Zachary Donahue and Karen Chen.
And while most of the show is fun and energetic, Davis and White’s performance to Sia’s “Elastic Heart” near the end of the show left the audience spellbound in its simplistic beauty as Davis and White worked a long billowing red scarf between them, demonstrating intricate footwork and deep edges.
Although Davis and White, who were part of the transition of ice dancing from mostly serious and stoic to embracing new ways to tell stories on the ice, left the audience breathless, the Shibutanis, known as the “Shib Sibs,” showed they are blazing the future of the discipline. The dynamic brother-and-sister duo have shattered many preconceptions in the sport, and found a way to forge their own path to success while inspiring others along the way, a role many of these figure skaters take seriously.
“It’s been a lot of persistence and belief in ourselves and belief in our process,” said Alex, 26, “No one in the figure skating world was telling us how to do it.”
Maia, 23, and Alex connect with their fans through social media and spent a lot of time before the show with a group of young local skaters talking to them and making videos.
“If we’re able to inspire other people, whether they’re ice dancers or figure skaters or anyone who perceives they have another hurdle they have to go over more so than other people,” Alex began.
“Or if they’re uncertain on their path forward, what we found is that we just believed in ourselves and that got it for us,” finished Maia.
Rippon also shared how he tries to inspire others.
“In a way, we can all be activists and we can all talk about things that are important to us,” Rippon said. “Stand up for people who we feel like need that help. Nobody likes to feel bullied or not taken seriously, and if you have the opportunity to help someone, I think you should take it.”