Saturday, April 10

Oh, Maria..

If you didn't know, Maria Butyrskaya is my favorite skater of all-time. I don't think anyone else will be able to pass her for that great "achievement". But I do remember being a 10-year old and having a WTF? slash terrified moment when I was watching the 1997 World Championships and she came out for her short program with this.. lovely.. costume:

Eh.. it wasn't until the next season and I saw her Otonal free skate at an early Grand Prix that I really started to follow Maria closely.


jumping clapping man said...

i am fascinated by this. i appreciate that have chosen a less likely skater as your favorite. but, i can't fathom it for myself.

perhaps you've already waxed poetic about her and i missed it...but could you reiterate a top 3-5 list to help me understand why.

all i can remember about her is that she seemed anxious most of the time, her jump landings were tight and her legs seemed like toothpicks when she landed, and she seemed to rush her choreography.

YES, i admire her chuztpah for pushing through the crap she had to deal with in Mother Russia (ala Weir in the US?)...but that doesn't overcome her weaknesses in my mind.

Tony said...

When she was on, Maria was truly something special. Aside from shaky jump landings from nerves, she had some of the deepest edges and best basic skating in the world, even vs. Kwan and especially Slutskaya- her main competitors. She also had a true Lutz and flip both on deep correct edges, something that wasn't a huge issue back then but she was one of the few to do them both correctly. And she had one of the nicest camel spins I've ever seen!

Every year she got older, she managed to increase the difficulty in her programs. She went from winning Worlds with two triple toes and two triple loops, and nothing more difficult than a triple Lutz (not even in combo) in her free skate, by following it up the next year with a triple toe/half loop/triple Salchow. The year after she started adding a second triple Lutz to her free skate and switched her short program individual jump to a triple flip from her favorite (and easy) triple loop-- and she was 28 at that time! She really pushed herself and I really liked that.

She skated clean short programs at every single World Championships except for 1998, and skated two clean shorts at the Olympics. Sure, she was skating a ton in the earlier Grand Prix and pro-ams that were so popular in her generation so Americans saw her have quite a few disaster skates, but she managed to usually pull it together or stay really competitive when it mattered most.

On top of the technical improvements, she also had a sense of style all to her own, and I think that is really lacking from todays generation. Of course, I think the IJS has a lot to do with many programs all looking the same because all the skaters are doing packed footwork that seems to never end and the exact same spirals and similar spins, but back then she really just stood out for the beauty of her programs, well at least in my opinion. Scene d'Amour, Otonal, Seventeen Moments in Spring, Fever, and St. James Infirmary were all among the best, and unfortunately I think she showcased her two weakest programs in her final (2002) season.

I think the tension of whether she was going to skate brilliant or horrible definitely added to the intrigue. There are some skaters you can watch and be completely comfortable with; she obviously wasn't one of them, but that made it exciting! I remember being SO nervous for her at the 2001 World Championships free skate, as she was the final skater. Sure, one of her jumps was shaky, but she landed 6 triples in all and stole some 2nd place ordinals that night.

I don't know, I really miss her and I don't think there will be another skater like her, especially with the way the judging system has changed and made everyone look relatively similar.

jumping clapping man said...

interesting. good points. thanks for sharing. i love hearing a fan stand up for "their" skater, possibly opening up my eyes to another point of view.

TJ said...

LOL!! I remember the exact same thing back in 97. That was Maria's worst ever costume. What was she thinking?!?

But I do agree with every word you say about Maria. She was my all-time favourite too and I miss her so much. Yes, it was always nail-biting to see her skate, but as you said, that was part of the excitement:) I don't think I have ever been so nervous for her like I was in Worlds 99 before the long program... this was her chance and she finally got the gold!:)

Maria is the reason why I began follow figure skating. I remember clearly the first time I saw her back at Europeans 94. I was at home sick and I followed the whole event completely. The British commentators at Eurosport were fantastic and I found myself learning about every jump and required elements etc. When I saw Maria in the short, she had that nervous look before she went out on the ice. But she stood out for me, the entry into the Axel, the quality of the Loop, the choice of music... She was different. She followed it up with an even better long program.

I still go back and watch Europeans 94 occasionally, and I'm still loving it:)