In Full Swing

The story of the Wildcats is most appropriately the story of Jonathan and Cecile. With a few other people thrown in to make it look good. And a whole bunch of M&Ms.

Let me tell you about M&Ms. You never threw peanut ones unless you were really mad. Plain would do just fine. When I associate skaters with colors, I don't mean they're bad at that. I mean looking at them can help.

(Blue, I suppose, would be for the sparkle that sells a show routine. That seems to be important nowadays. The first blue-M&M skater would have been Tiffany Chin. She really had it.)

And skaters to look at for other colors of problems are Peggy Fleming for all colors of M&Ms except orange. That's Scott Hamilton's baby. That's where that incredible footwork comes from. The shoulders start it. The legs finish it. It just looks like it's the blades.

Popcorn -- your edges were just completely, totally off. It was more than a two or three-M&M problem. Time for a rehab. Look at Peggy. Or Robin Cousins. They both restrain their edges from multiple angles.

Coke can/bottle -- you weren't thinking. You needed to be jolted back into shape. "Really, Irina!"

I will throw in others as they seem important. Oh. Cecile pitched Tootsie Rolls -- the big ones -- when someone's body position bottom to top wasn't right. Huge, huge insult. Poor Dorothy.....

Now. The drama between Jonathan and Cecile shaped a good bit of the Wildcat ethos during those days. They could both see coming that they were fated to skate together. Perfect for each other. Great. Neither of them wanted it. So neither one of them really confronted each other until ninth grade (Jonathan's ninth-grade year), despite all protestations. Jonathan could've dragged her to the rink anytime. He just "didn't want to push the subject." And Cecile kept ignoring him. "because (she) could." They knew their lives would be publicity hell. They'd be discovered. They'd be "great skaters." And everyone would try to make of them what they weren't. The American image machine has a way of doing that. Even when it doesn't want to. It doesn't know how to do anything else. "Forget that," she said. "Enough," he said. They'd just skate alone.

So the rest of the 'Cats took the cue and shied away from the public eye. Said it'd ruin their skating. It probably would have. Americans tend to turn achievers into Barbie dolls. Now we have you, you will do what we want you to. You saw a massive rebellion against the media in those years. Kids wouldn't watch TV except for useful skating things. They recognized that at least part of Dorothy Hamill's problem was that the public wanted her to do things that good skating technique would not allow. Being a pin-up girl of sorts. So she settled for bad technique and lots of money. And most of us are so used to thinking that's good that we don't know anything else. We told ourselves that that was good technique because we wanted to believe. She'd won, hadn't she? She was American, wasn't she? Therefore, that was the right way to do it, wasn't it? Nope. Not quite. Not exactly.

So you saw a huge rebellion against "artistic" skating among the 'Cats. Don't do it the way the Americans want it. Do what's right. So these kids didn't win a whole hell of a lot of competitions. Because they didn't do that Dorothy Hamill thing.

We lose more skaters every year because of Dorothy Hamill....I don't think she means it personally. It's what the culture wants. And what the culture pays for. I'm not sure she could even have controllled it.

But a lot of kids saw the turn signal and went the other way. Including the Wildcats. Kids got disqualified from 'Cat status for "skating Dorothy." "Skating Toller." Nope. Out.

About that time, other skating federations began to come to the 'Cats for consultations. Sent some of their best skaters over for coaching. 'Cats were recruited. For skating and for coaching. "Come with us." Nope. They wanted to stay American. Kept skating. Kept adding kids. And kept doing their homework. And then Jonathan and Cecile decided they might as well skate. One shy look across a room, one glance back that didn't exactly scald its recipient, and they were off.

Coaches were startled for 300 miles around. A gold medal pairs couple? Could it be? There was such brilliance and such excitement in their skating that they almost overturned the "Dorothy tradition."

But two judges at a qualifying competition stopped that. They weren't having it. They consistently marked these kids low at competitions. The countertrend spread. And by 1981 there was a wall up not even the Kittycats could get through.

The Wildcats held a three-day mourning party. And threw M&Ms at everyone in sight.

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