With this post, I introduce a new feature on the blog, in yet another attempt to get myself to post more. We will call this, “Revisiting My Teenage Geeky Figure Skating Lovin’ Self.”
From the ages of 10-19, I was slightly (and if by slightly you mean extremely) obsessed with figure skating. The evidence of this exist in the three Rubbermaid boxes of figure skating VHS tapes, books and magazines that are currently hanging out in the attic of my parents’ house. (They keep begging me to take it off their hands, but I live in a studio apartment and have nowhere to put them.) I loved figure skating as much as I did football, with hockey and gymnastics close third and fourths. I am no longer obsessed, but still keep tabs on some skating blogs just to see what is up with the sport.
One of my favorite figure skaters during my skating obsession was 1999 US Women’s Silver Medalist Naomi Nari Nam. I remember calling her victory two weeks before the US Championships to my mom – she was asking me who I thought would take the reigns now that Tara Lipinski was gone, and we were unsure if Michelle Kwan would continue. I had been following reports of regional competitions on the little internet access I got at the local library, and was impressed with what I was reading on Nam, then a 13 year old out of California. I told my mom that she would be a surprise spoiler in the competition, and bam – I was right.
Sadly, Nam – like Lipinski, another one of my favorites, before her – was befallen by a nasty hip injury and never got the chance to compete in a senior international. She did try to reinvent herself over the past few years as a pairs skater, but aggravated her hip injury, had additional surgery, and ended up retiring from skating for good last week at the age of 23.
Nam had one of the best pure performance qualities you ever will see in a figure skater or gymnast – every move was complete and she always made eye contact. Despite her lack of technical difficulty, her spins were of a high quality. A training mate of Sasha Cohen, Nam’s silver medal in 1999 cleared the way for Cohen’s balletic flexibility the year following. Their styles were similar, but Cohen had the jumps that Nam was never able to develop.
Here is Nam’s silver medal winning long program from the 1999 US Championships, easily one of my favorite programs to watch during my Teenage Geeky Figure Skating Lovin’ days. One thing to keep in mind while watching this is that during her short program two days before, Nam had fallen on a jump and smacked her head hard on the ice on her combination jump, jumped up after a second and continued the program, finishing fourth in that portion of the competition. And they say figure skaters aren’t athletes.
Happy Retirement, Naomi Nari Nam. May you have a fufilling life outside of your competitive career.