What The World Needs Now Is a Good Peggy Fleming Website

Can you believe there is not another Peggy Fleming site on the Net? Not that I could find. Not on Skateweb. Not on Metacrawler. And Metacrawler's generally pretty thorough.

(That figureskating.com thing is hardly what I would call a fan page.)


The grande dame of American skating.

Shows how grateful we are. It's Michelle this, Tara that, maybe a Katia site or two (or three or four). But Peggy? No.

We're fixing that right now. Now, I said. Now.

It could be real easy to dis Peggy as an "artistic" skater. But she came from a time when there was really no such thing as artistic or technical in the community-splitting sense that we have today. It was understood that if you didn't have your edges together, you didn't have anything.

In the wild and woolly realm of the Wildcats, who would argue over anything, I don't believe Peggy ever had more than a small handful of popcorn and a little Coke thrown at her. Not because she didn't deserve mention. But by the time the 'Cats decided it was even worth looking at Western skaters, her lines and technique had recovered from the famous mid-seventies US slump and were sparkling. I think maybe one M&M got popped at her after "the Wall" came down in 1978. (Slightly different terminology for a Wildcat: Could you skate or couldn't you? What did your passport say? What tradition had you trained under?) A light brown M&M. For line problems. She literally cleaned it up on tape five seconds later. She'd just forgotten. Five seconds? Can any US or even Western skater match that now? That automatic awareness of line and technique? Five seconds? One M&M? It's an all-time record.

I'm going to blow a few secrets about Peggy. She's one of the greatest technical coaches alive. Just go up and ask: "Peggy, how do you do this? Peggy, how do you do that?" Her advice is always worth listening to. Even on high triple jumps, which she supposedly can't do. When I say high, I mean the more difficult ones. She is one of the few pure skaters from that era who really can coach them. I saw her coach a scared 12-year-old out of a bad triple lutz one time without betraying the least hint of how bad the lutz had been when she first saw it, or how good it was when they were done. Just that it was "done properly." And that kid still had command of that lutz three competitions later. Bad coaching technique starts to fade after two. Oh, that Peggy.....

And Peg tries to be nice in front of the camera, but a skater listening closely can still hear the real commentary. Peggy won't throw it in fans' faces if they don't want to hear it. But the best skaters -- and coaches -- know to run her commentary back and play it three or four times while watching tape. I have seen more than one coach walk away red-faced after listening to a Peggy commentary that a fan would have applauded. They know. And be prepared for the truth if you ask her in private. Honey, had you better! (Talk about golden VCR moments....)

Figure skating has a conscience. Its name is Peggy Fleming.

She just doesn't believe in embarrassing anybody.

(This essay was put up completely without the Fleming family's knowledge. Upon receipt of verifiable communication with them, it will be removed the second I can get to my web editor. Everybody else can just sulk. Take your choice.)

The Peggy Fleming Layback

Let's talk about gonzo.

What sequins? What silk? This woman has attitude.

Attitude, I said. Attitude.

Every time one of these young'uns puts another rotation in the air or even threatens to, Peggy hitches herself to the ice and gets to work. Tighten up that bad baby a notch. Maintain her standing. Make those little chickadees hurt.

She'll show 'em.

Momma Layback.

She has done it like clockwork since '72. And the current Peggy Fleming Layback still stands as The Most Difficult Move in Figure Skating.

I kid you not. I gave a good freestyle skier (you know, those kids who go sailing up in the air and do those little stunts and come down?) a technical description of a Fleming layback.

Quote unquote. "I always thought she was crazy."

To sum up: Lean too far back to maintain balance, give yourself far too little spinning room on your blade front, and maintain a thoroughly unnatural position for far too many rotations.

As the freestylers jam their skis into the snow, pitch their poles, and walk off in disgust.

Any snowboarders care to try it? Warning: We don't like those weird-looking hats and stuff on the ice. It's gonna have to be the sequins. House rules. Madhouse rules, yeah, but house rules. Got to do it.


Anyhow....best blades and boots. Break the bank. Won't work otherwise....

Have a costume that absolutely does not get in your way in back.....

And park your sanity with your skate guards. We are about to examine the Peggy Fleming Layback. If we live.....

Girls: Pretend you're doing a Biellmann. That'll help.

Best way to learn it: start in a scratch spin. Start to ease that body back until it feels like you're going for a Biellmann. And pull your leg up. Don't grab it. Let it hang there for two or three rotations. That way your body will straighten out any positioning problems. It does that all by itself.

Okay. Now that your leg is feeling pretty good and your shoulders are relaxing somewhat into this, time to play the Biellmann game sideways. Make sure you have a coach watching every move. Harness if you need to. But stay afloat. Please.

Reach back. Keep that back straight. (Coach, watch to the millimeter.) Pretend you're reaching for that leg. Don't do it. It'll ruin your position. Biellmanns and laybacks have been arguing with each other for years.

Just let it hang there. Look back with your head until you can see your momma at rinkside. Wave to her. That's good arm positioning. Then kick her for making you do this. That's good leg positioning.

You are now doing a good Peggy Fleming layback. Until you collapse. Coach, you see why you need the harness? Please have one installed. It'll help 'em all.

Believe it or not, that "momma" bit works wonders for the skaters in other ways. Gets them to release their tension. And that "wave and kick" thing is the only way I have ever seen that coaches a proper Peggy Fleming layback.

Must be something to do with the subconscious. They're more ladylike off the ice and more aggressive on it. Because they finally got to kick Momma the rink mother from hell without embarrassing themselves. It works on judges too. Some of them actually think they mean that wave.

Doesn't seem to work as well with coaches. But cameramen and obnoxious fans do great. Especially the ones with flash cameras that they use at the wrong moments.

And sometimes double over afterwards....

Such is the power of a Peggy Fleming layback.

Commentators, be warned. Those blades are nasty.

(And no, that wasn't Peggy who "kicked" the photographer that time. Peggy's far too ladylike. Far.)

Sometimes revenge is exacted in the sweetest ways....And makes you look good too.

Isn't it nice?

So pretty....

And hey, if it helps your skating.....

Who cares?

Links from Hell

The Philosophical Implications of the Peggy Fleming Layback

Graphics, of course, by . Who else would I let touch a Peggy page?