Indy on Ince



One night with champions.

Harvard Independent Logo

The 44th annual An Evening with Champions ice skating show was held this past weekend, on Friday September 19th and Saturday September 20th, at the Bright Hockey Arena in Allston, Massachusetts. The money raised from this annual event goes to the Jimmy Fund, which is the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to help support the development of new ways of diagnosing, treating, preventing cancer. The very first An Evening with the Champions show took place in 1970, and started with an idea conceived by John Petkevich, a junior who lived in Eliot House. He was a two-time Olympic figure skating competitor. And 44 years later, this event has raised a total of roughly 2.8 million dollars for the Jimmy Fund.

Paul Wylie, a 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist, has hosted this show for the past 15 years. This year, Emily Hughes, a 2007 US National Silver Medalist and Harvard graduate of the class of 2011 joined him as co-host.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with this lineup that we have,” said Wylie, as he and his co-host, Hughes, opened the show.
“Over the years, what started from a small idea has eventually become this performance that we can give you this year,” Hughes said. “At that time [when this event first started], there was only a 50% chance that children with cancer could survive.”
This year’s show featured an impressive list of skaters. Men’s singles featured Shotaro Omori, 2013 Junior World Bronze Medalist, Nathan Chen, 2014 Junior World Bronze Medalist, Douglas Razzano, 2013 US Challenge Cup Silver Medalist, Shawn Sawyer, 2011 Canadian Silver Medalist, Ross Miner, 2013 US National Silver Medalist, Joshua Farris, 2013 Junior World Champion, Johnny Weir, 2008 World Bronze Medalist, and Jeremy Abbott, 2014 Olympic Team Bronze Medalist.

Women’s singles featured Alissa Czisny, 2011 Grand Prix Final Champion, Yasmin Siraj, 2010 US Junior National Silver Medalist, Ashley Cain, 2012 US Junior National Silver Medalist, Agnes Zawadzki, Two-time US National Bronze Medalist, Courtney Hicks, 2013 US National Pewter Medalist, Christina Gao, 2012 Skate America Silver Medalist, Kimmie Meissner, 2006 World Champion, and Maria Kalina, 2009 U.S. Junior National Championships Intermediate Pewter Medalist.

Pairs skate featured Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, 2014 Olympic Team Silver Medalists, and Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran, 2014 Olympic Team Bronze Medalists.

Ice Dancing featured Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton, 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalists and Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus, 2013 Ice Challenge Champions.

Behind the Scenes
It isn’t easy to put together a show that brings together so much talent and attracts so many attendees from all over Boston. One family even mentioned that they came all the way from New York. And so, it is really thanks to all the committee members who worked hard to pull this off. This writer had the opportunity to speak with two of the people who helped to run this show.
“I think that we sold close to 1500 tickets this year,” said Jeffery Edwards, the Sales Chair. This is his second year on board, and when asked about what it is that drew him back for another year, he said, “Seeing the show really brings it all together. Just seeing how well it is done is just really encouraging! And the money goes towards cancer research, which is a great cause.” He revealed that in addition to putting on this show, they also invite kids with cancer to come skate with the skaters, a separate event that happened on earlier that Saturday afternoon.

Patrick Liu, one of the co-chairs, started out as a volunteer freshman year and was a Skater Liaison last year. He became interested in An Evening with Champions in part due to his history of competitive figure skating. It was this background and interest in figure skating that really influenced his decision to become involved.

“It is a lot of work putting on this show, and we have a lot of incredible individuals on board,” he said. “Everything seems a bit fragmented going into the event, but it all really comes together, and this event is something great that I would really like to share with my friends.”

“Being active on social media, finding a great cast, and pushing for a greater Harvard presence are the key things,” he remarked when asked about advice for the future board.

“Learning to be a professional while being a Harvard student is hard,” he admitted. “But I hope that the co-chairs next year will also come to realize that you can definitely do a lot and have a lot of sway even as a student.”

Interview with Shawn Sawyer
At the storyboard meeting before the show, the writer brainstormed a list of potential questions to ask the skaters. One in particular was: if you had to dress up as an animal on ice, what animal would you be?

Of course, we didn’t really expect anyone to actually dress up as an animal during the performance. We expected sparkly dresses, black pants, dress shirts, and all of the usual flair. So, imagine this writer’s surprise when a little more than halfway through the performance, Shawn Sawyer, dressed as a leopard, sprinted onto the ice and proceeded to wow and impress the crowd with his back flips (on ice!), twists, turns, glides, and leopard-like movements.

How creative can you really get on ice? Very, apparently.

This performance, ladies and gentleman, definitely made the greatest impression on this writer that evening.

Milly Wang: Why did you choose the leopard as your theme today?
Shawn Sawyer: I chose the leopard because when it has something in mind, it doesn’t walk towards it, it runs. And that’s how I am.

MW: What were your favorite moves out of today’s performance?
SS: The backflip and the cantilever. I really like the cantilever because I think that it shows different levels, which adds to the program.

MW: That backflip was really impressive! How long did it take you to learn it?
SS: Not long at all, actually! It took about 30 seconds.

MW: When you plan your performances, how do you strike the balance between athleticism and artistry?
SS: I come up with twenty new programs a year. Some fall out, but others just keep growing, and these are the ones that I keep. Usually, I end up with four programs a year.

MW: What genres of music do you prefer to skate to?
SS: I prefer music that doesn’t scream figure skating. I like to take these and try to make something from them.

MW: And finally, what advice do you have for budding figure skaters?
SS: Figure skating is an ongoing challenge, and if you like challenges, then this is something that you should do.

This writer’s favorite part of the performance (apart from that backflip of course) was the part where Shawn Sawyer mimicked a leopard and raced across the ice. And in response to this, Sawyer said, “Sometimes it is the most simple things that end up being the most effective.”

Author’s Note
I just love figure skating. It’s so beautiful and elegant — a little like gymnastics on ice. It’s exciting — the twists, and turns, and graceful glides. It’s exhilarating — holding your breath when someone is in midair and waiting in anticipation for the landing. It’s fast-paced — sometimes a triple-axel is over if you just blink at an inopportune moment. And fashion critics could have field day with all of the vibrant outfits and styles.

I watch figure skating on TV during every Winter Olympics, but watching it in person just made the whole experience all that more wonderful. Hearing the sound of metal on ice, watching the shavings fly, following the movements of the skaters as weave and dance across the ice — it was beautiful!

But the one difficulty I had? Differentiating triple-axels from double-axels. Unlike watching the Olympics, there were no commentators to help me follow along, and I found myself wondering numerous times whether what I saw was a triple-axel or a double axel. How many turns was that? How long were they in the air for?
Does it even matter?

Moral of the story, I have a long way to go before I can become a commentator for figure skating (oh, but what a wonderful job that would be!).

Milly Wang ’16 (keqimillywang@college) still isn’t clear if this is an arts, news, or sports article.