Go, Maria!

I have never really been a fan of Maria Butyrskaya's skating. She has taken the "Bolshoi theory" and pushed it just a tad too far. This is skating, honey, not ballet. But apparently judges are coming around. Maybe we all needed some re-education.

Edges really do count in this sport, and it seems that over the last year or two, Maria has been willing to compromise. She will work on her edges and the more technical side of her sport and in return there seems to be some subconscious, secret pact on the part of the skating-watching and skating-judging community to cut her a little slack and let her be herself.

Maria came up during a time when edgework was not emphasized quite as much in the Soviet Union (deal with it) as artistic work was, because artistic work was what was at that point catching the eyes of others. Now the sport has swung back around over the last five to six years to emphasize the more athletic aspects of the sport.

Maria? Change? Hah. She's quite happy with herself and wishes the numbers would catch up.

It's always been a delicate balance for Maria. It always has been.

Finally everybody else is recognizing that too. She's just different from the rest of us. She really is.

But even I am finally having to say that different is okay. Maybe there is room for a little more stretch on the ice, a little more glamour. Maybe it doesn't all have to be technically anchored every second of the day.

It annoys me, but I'm sure my technical heart annoys the living piss out of her too.

Oh well.

You're doing it.

You're still here.

That deserves some kind of recognition.

(Now will you please get those outer edges in shape? For once in your life? I know that's not how they taught you....)

Five Minutes To Ice Time

Okay, Maria, this is it. There are those who love you and those who hate you. None of them is going to be on the ice at this moment. Five minutes to go. Start counting. You have that clock in your head that is so infallible you've caught time troubles when the official clock didn't. You need no stopwatch; all you need to do is watch your coach. You'll be fine.

Love, hatred, or whatever. Means nothing at this point. You are Maria. They have to judge you according to your merits. You will be fine. That Soviet training shows through no matter what. You had good early coaching, and that is all that counts when it comes down to the crunch. Will the right and left edges be okay? Can you execute turns? You'll be fine.

Go for it. Start warming up. Those last few edges. Get your turns right. They are literally the basis of your skating. You can pop out footwork like no one else can. Do a few edge turns on the floor. You'll be fine. Bombs are prohibited in this arena. They've checked. You're okay.

Stretch your arms this way and that way. You are once again in dance class, looking into the mirror, checking your positioning, and the dance mistress is about to call your name. You can feel it. You know those things. You know when it's going to be a "center floor" performance.

Two minutes. You'll be all right. All they are allowed to throw are flowers. And some of them may be real compliments. Fans are learning. Slowly, but they are learning.

Does your costume fit? You still have time to make the changes you need -- you are a very adaptable skater and always have been. Final check -- you are a dancer and do not feel comfortable unless you check your shoes. Toepick clean for sudden stops in front of the camera? Edges okay? All the way to the back. Both edges. Both blades. Good girl.

They are only allowed to throw roses in this arena.

Go for it.