Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

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I went to see the movie/live event RISE on Thursday, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that killed the 1961 US Figure Skating World Team on their way to the World Championships (along with everyone else on board). I was aware of the crash before, but I didn't really know much about it. Having heard the story, the best word that I can think of to describe it is "devastating." Devastating because of the loss of life, particularly because most of the skaters were in their teens and twenties, but also devastating to the sport because the athletes and the coaches who died were the best in the country and among the best in the world. In fact, it was so devastating to the sport that the 1961 World Championships were cancelled; the only other times that the World Championships (an annual event dating from 1896) were not held was during World War I and World War II.

It might have taken many, many years to rebuild from such a tragedy, and indeed it was seven years and two Olympics before we won another Olympic gold medal, but overall the US has won 46 Olympic figure skating medals, which is more than any other country, and 21 of those were after the plane crash (we also have the most world medals overall at 182). The main thing that I took away from the film is that all of the considerable success that the US figure skating program has accomplished in the past 50 years is rooted in that tragedy, connected to it in some way. 1968 Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming lost a coach in the crash. Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek have both been coached by Frank Carroll (though not at the same time) who was coached by Maribel Vinson-Owen, a nine-time National Champion who died in the crash (Michelle Kwan is also a nine-time National Champion). And many of our top skaters, including all of those just mentioned, have benefited from the Memorial Fund that was established to honor the memory of the plane crash victims.

It was a very touching film and I wish that everybody interested/involved in figure skating would watch it because sometimes (as is probably the case in most sports) people involved put too much emphasis on winning and beating everybody else, and this story could help put things back into perspective. I also wish that everybody in America would watch it because it's not a very well-known story, but the resiliency of our figure skating program is something that we can and should take pride in.
Tags: figure skating, films
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