It’ll be a little like old home week for many of the figure skaters taking the ice Friday at the Spokane Arena for “Stars on Ice.”
Just two years ago, former U.S. champions Adam Rippon, Jason Brown and Ashley Wagner were in town for the Kose Team Challenge Cup. By that point, both Rippon and Wagner were Spokane veterans, having competed in both U.S. Figure Skating Championships held here – as junior skaters in 2007 and in the seniors category in 2010.
Mirai Nagasu, who made history in South Korea this year by becoming the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics, has been here, too. She took the junior national title in 2007, a year before she claimed the senior crown.
And then there’s the quad king Nathan Chen, the reigning world champion, who as a 10-year-old won his first national championship, at the novice level, on Spokane ice in 2010.
Meanwhile, ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White won Olympic gold, silver and bronze, two world championships and a staggering six U.S. championships, the second of which was claimed in front of adoring fans at Spokane Arena in 2010. Ask these two members of figure skating royalty about Spokane, and they’ll admit it is a special place for American skaters.
“We’ve got a lot of great memories, both on the ice competitively and with shows,” White said in a phone interview last month from Pittsburgh. “And I think a big part of that is the audience. I don’t know what it is about your town, but they love figure skating, and we really notice and appreciate that. We appreciated it as competitors and we appreciate it now that we’re in shows.”
Davis agreed. “Spokane is kind of a famous place in the U.S. especially for seasoned skaters who had a chance to perform there before,” she said. “The audiences are so enthusiastic and into the skating, whether it be competitive or otherwise. I know a lot of American figure skaters really cherish getting to perform in Spokane.”
White added, “I don’t know what’s in the water over there, but it works for us skaters, and we always star it on the calendar and look forward to coming there.”
Davis and White retired from competitive skating at the end of the 2016-17 season, opting not to defend their Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang this year. It was a decision had been leaning toward since about a year after the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“We had a long time, almost three years since Sochi, to officially make that decision to step away from competitive skating,” Davis said. “It’s one we were really comfortable with.”
Now on their sixth “Stars on Ice” tour, they still enjoy being on the ice.
“It’s a lot of fun for us. We love being the veterans,” Davis said. “For us, one of the beautiful things about skating in shows like ‘Stars on Ice’ as opposed to competition is the camaraderie with our castmates.
“Touring together and skating in numbers together with all our friends and sharing our love for skating with audiences across the country, it’s such a fun and unique experience.”
White added that continuing to skate together on a professional level is really a great gig.
“It definitely was something we were really looking forward to,” he said. “Throughout quite a few of the competitive years, we had the opportunity to do shows like this. It’s just such a great outlet to continue doing something we’re so comfortable with. It’s a great job, and we feel so lucky to do it. We still really enjoy skating.”
In addition to Rippon, Chen and Nagasu, who were on the bronze-medal winning Team USA in Peyongchang, the Stars on Ice cast includes other fellow Olympians: reigning U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, two-time national champion ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani, former U.S. champion Karen Chen, reigning U.S. ice dance champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and Vincent Zhou, the first man to land a quad Lutz in Olympic competition. Brown, Wagner, White and Davis round out the cast.
Friday’s show will feature the skaters doing individual numbers and coming together in group routines. For Davis, White and the other skaters, the show offers a chance to celebrate skating.
“It’s probably the most upbeat and celebratory show, even post-Olympics, that’s we’ve ever been a part of,” White said, adding that he’s enjoying the the group numbers and applauds the music choices that keep things moving.
“Everything came together so well,” he said. “It’s been something that has suited everyone and everyone’s personality is able to shine in its own way, and in celebrating the effort of so much of the Olympic team that is on the tour with us.”
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