1995 Skate America Free Skate - "Salome" - Yes, Michelle won her first World Championship later in the season with this very free skate, and while it was performed extremely well there, I can still remember watching this particular event like it was yesterday (some 15 years ago)! I still distinctly remember Terry Gannon in the opening segment saying something to the nature of, "I had to ask who that skater was," when referring to Michelle-- she had undergone a huge transformation over the summer of 1995. The internet was obviously not nearly as big as it is now, and I had no idea that she had completely changed her packaging and appearance. What a great first outing of Salome, including a triple toe/triple toe.
1996 World Championship Short Program - "Romanza"/"Fiesta Flamenca" - I've always really loved the choreography of this program. So much to enjoy-- the opening steps she does right to the music, starting the program with the spiral sequence, the double Axel and how she held the landing in a spiral-esque position (something we'd see often from other skaters in the future), the dynamic and crisp choreography she does at 2:15 with such an intense look on her face, the way the program builds throughout and how all of the required elements just seemed like they absolutely belonged where they were choreographed.. should I keep going? To top all of that off, the look she gives at 3:11 is just priceless. It's a look that clearly stated that she knew she had reached the top, and it would be a long while before she'd step down.
1998 National Championship Free Skate - "Lyra Angelica" - What else can you say besides: duh?! Interestingly enough, I never really enjoyed the masterpiece that this program is until I started really learning the basics behind figure skating and attempted skating myself. I always thought it was an okay program, but my 11-year-old self was all wrapped up in the spark and energy that Tara Lipinski had during the time, overshadowing my ability to really love it. That didn't remain the case for long. There's not much else to say besides the skating tells the story here. The middle section to Erik Satie's Gymnopedie piece is some of my favorite choreography ever.
2002 Olympic Games Exhibition - "Fields of Gold" - Yeah, some people can go on and on about how it might have been a poor choice for Michelle to pick a song such as Fields of Gold in an Olympic year where the gold medal turned out to be anything but predictable, but there was still a genuine sadness in this performance that could be felt by everyone-- fan or not. There is some great choreography throughout the program, but my favorite part is definitely the back spiral she does at the end, at 4:08 in this video.
And now for my two favorites..
2003 World Championship Free Skate - "Aranjuez" - 2002 was the season when many people feel Michelle's choreography started to dwindle, and I'm definitely not arguing too hard otherwise. However, there is something about her free skate from the the 2003 Worlds that gives me chills EVERY single time I watch it. I remember that my mom actually sat and watched this competition with me as it aired, and I was explaining to her that the second triple Lutz was her last jump element. The way the American crowd explodes in excitement and Dick Button loses his mind after she lands the jump adds to the magic of the moment. You can hardly hear the music throughout the footwork sequence that follows right after the jump, and the crowd is on their feet before the program is even finished. Intricate choreography or not, this program was really something special. It is definitely one of those times where I wish I wouldn't nit-pick all the little parts of the sport, and rather just sit back and enjoy the skating!
1998 World Pro Championship Interpretive Program - "East of Eden" - There is really nothing to say about this aside from BRILLIANT. "East of Eden" is one of my favorite pieces of music ever used in figure skating, and I was so glad she brought back the program for the interpretive pro-am competitions that took over the fall of 1998. Just watch it.. there is no wrong step in this program!
And there you have it. Honorable mention to some of her other performances, including exhibition skates of "Winter", "Dante's Prayer", and the recent "Winter Song" that she skated in her return last year, as well as some competitive programs such as her gold medal-winning free skate from the 2001 World Championship to "Song of the Black Swan".