David Liu, the last man to skate a compulsory figure in competition (Halifax World Championship; 1990) reports that he is currently “happily based in NYC - working and creating.”
David retired from eligible skating following the 1998 World Championship “and an Asian Skating Union international Championships in my native country, Taiwan. I realized I wasn't enjoying competition anymore - having to throw myself into triple axels and quads was no longer my definition of fun. It was time to move on and I should really have done it even sooner.”
Since then, he reports, “I've done some unusual projects that do not really fall into the realm of "professional skater" per se. They also have been my favorite projects - one in particular was my collaboration with a modern dance company from Hong Kong called City Contemporary Dance Company. I skated while they danced on and off the ice on a spectacular stage theatre in Hong Kong.”
“I have been performing with and choreographing for ITNY for many years now. One of the highlights was when we performed in the theatre at Westpoint and Carlos Orta, who is the artistic director of a modern dance company I was performing with called CoreoArte, came to watch. I was performing a piece that we had collaborated on called "El Duende" - Carlos was a mentor and passed away shortly after that time. I was thrilled that he really liked my performance.
“(Off-ice), I have been dancing and choreographing for dance - also doing some acting. I've choreographed for various dance companies such as City Contemporary Dance Company, Hong Kong Ballet, and Singapore Dance Theatre. This past year I have also co-created and co-produced a show in China called "Spherical" - we plan to do more in the near future!”
So much ink has been spilled on this woman that I honestly don't have much to add. Like Christopher Bowman and Nicole Bobek, she had a ton of talent that she chose to squander in a combination of not training, bad health habits and a persecution complex.
Having worked in skating from the pre-preliminary to the elite level, one thing seems clear to me:
At the earliest levels (say Preliminary through Intermediate), gold medals go to the kids with the most raw talent.
At the middle level (Novice & Junior) it's to the kids with the best work habits.
But at the top, you absolutely, positively, no two ways about it, must have both to succeed.
In 1976, Carlo coached both the men's Olympic Gold medalist, John Curry, and the women's, Dorothy Hamill. Neither win was the shoo-in Peggy had been eight years earlier. John had only been 3rd at the World Championship the year before and Dorothy 2nd. Neither came in as the favorite, and both were well-known for their nerve-induced inconsistency.
About Dorothy, Carlo said, "She was always 2nd or 3rd at Worlds, but it was a good thing. She didn't have the pressure of trying to hold the title."
Many of the skaters who turned to Carlo went looking for help with their compulsory figures. So it was enormously appropriate that his final world champion, the U.S.A.'s Jill Trenary, would also be the final ladies' champion crowned thanks to a combined score of figures and free-skating. (In fact, Trenary, who finished 5th in the Short Program and 2nd in the Long Program only beat out Japan's Midori Ito, who won both the Short and the Long, because Jill won the Figures).
With the television-prompted demise of the figures, Carlo's conveyer-belt of champions ground to a trickle. He moved back to his native Italy for several years, then returned to the States in 1994, to coach at the Ice Castle International Training Center. There, Carlo was reunited with a pupil he first spotted in 1983, when the mischievous six-year-old, despite seeing that the great Carlo Fassi was in the middle of giving a lesson, brazenly hit the ice and proceeded to skate circles around him, showing off Axel after Axel until he had to pay attention to her. At the end of the session, Carlo asked the tiny whirlwind her name.
By age ten, Nicole was training with Carlo full-time. She even followed him to Italy for a few months, but the circumstances of living in Europe didn't work out.
When they reunited in 1996, Nicole was at the lowest point ever in her skating career. She'd gone through a succession of coaches, lost her national title, and failed to qualify for the 1996 World Team. It was Carlo who, with a combination of pedagogical firmness and paternal concern, whipped her back into shape, coaching Nicole to a Bronze medal at the 1997 U.S. Championships. When he died at the World Championships, a big part of Nicole's confidence died with him, as, after a night of no sleep, Nicole stumbled to an error-filled 13th place finish.
Yet, as another former Fassi pupil, Robin Cousins, observed at the Tribute show staged in Carlo's honor at the California Training Center where he'd spent his last years, by August, everyone who'd loved the man was finished grieving, and was ready to celebrate his life with a smile....
His first notable student was Peggy Fleming, a girl whom Carlo once described as his most talented pupil, and his laziest.
According to Carlo, by the time Peggy finished fixing her hair and stretching her leg and skating a few warm-up laps, the 45-minute practice session would be almost over. But, when competition time came and she knew she had to deliver, she did.
Peggy Fleming, however, came with another component: her mother, who some likened to Mama Rose from Gypsy, while others saw as her daughter's greatest advocate.
Every night during the years Peggy trained with Carlo, Mrs. Fleming would call the Fassi home, often during dinner-time, and engage Carlo in an hour -- sometimes longer -- discussion of her girl's progress that day, and of his plans for their session tomorrow. Realizing this could take a while, Christa would prop a pillow underneath Carlo's head, and give him a blanket so that he could stretch out along their kitchen counter and rest, while Mrs. Fleming spoke. At his memorial service in Switzerland, a tearful Peggy predicted that the moment Carlo got to heaven, there would be a ring of the phone, and her mother would be on the other end.
It was while instructing Peggy that Carlo pioneered the team teaching technique used at many training sites today. Besides his wife, without whom Carlo swears he never could have achieved equal results, he invited various choreographers to contribute to Peggy's programs. Said Carlo, "You must have a team, because not everyone can be good at everything. One coach may be technically good and not have the personality to bring out a champion."
But, if there was one thing Carlo Fassi had in spades, it was personality. At any competition, he was the best show in town. A gregarious man who knew everyone from every association, he could most often be found in the hotel lobby, smoking and holding court. He sat back, and he let the acolytes come to him. Skaters, judges, federation heads, television staffers, they all wanted to hear what Carlo thought of the upcoming competition, who Carlo thought would win, who Carlo thought they should keep an eye on. Carlo answered every question graciously, offering a joke here, an anecdote there, and then, he was off to the rink to oversee his students' practice, to help them in any way he could -- be it through body-language or shouted instructions in broken English or pounding the barrier with skate-guards to boost their energy -- to squeeze out one more jump, one more spin, than their exhausted bodies' ever dreamed possible.
Coming Up Next: Carlo strikes Gold -- twice -- in 1976.
I read a most interesting observation about the Winter Olympics the other day:
“It is not about winning” he said and I smugly awaited the old canard about taking part.
“It’s about losing.”
He had everyone’s attention.
“Think about it. Let’s say each sport has a hundred competitors and you have fifty sports, that means by the end of the games you have fifty winners and four-thousand-nine-hundred-and-fifty losers. And look how well behaved and civilized that whole thing is.”