Monday, February 14, 2011

Love, commitment nudges skaters on for 50 years

Love is a commitment — an enduring presence that can reach out from the past, or even from beyond the grave. Tuesday, the day after Valentines Day, marks the 50th anniversary of perhaps the worst tragedy in modern American sports history. But from that tragedy, the seeds of renewal were sown.
The entire U.S. Figure Skating team was killed in a plane crash in Brussels, Belgium on February 15, 1961.
The team was on their way to the world championships in Prague when 18 skaters, six coaches, and 10 judges, officials and family members died a few miles short of the Brussels airport, along with the other 27 passengers and crew of 11. At least eight passengers were Colorado Springs residents.
"Can you imagine what would happen to a sport when the entire team and coaches for that team and some of the officials all died at the same time?" Patricia St. Peter, current president of U.S. Figure Skating, was quoted in an Associated Press story Saturday. "Literally, this organization was starting over."
The story goes on to note that future American skaters owe that tragic team for almost everything.
“Whether it was a young Peggy Fleming getting money for a new pair of skates from the Memorial Fund, established in honor of those killed, or Evan Lysacek and Michelle Kwan absorbing the lessons Frank Carroll had been taught by his coach, Maribel Vinson Owen, every moment of glory U.S. figure skating has had in the past 50 years can be traced to that tragedy in Belgium.”
"They were the springboard for everyone that came after them," 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton says in Rise, a documentary honoring the crash victims that will be shown Thursday night at more than 500 theaters nationwide. "All of us who came after represent their promise, their dream."
The eight Colorado Springs skaters that perished on that flight were all members of the Broadmoor Skating Club.
“To honor and remember the 1961 World Team, we invite you to attend a special ceremony near the memorial bench at the Broadmoor Hotel on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2001 at 9:30 a.m,” says the Broodmoor Skating Club's official website.
According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, “an exhibit honoring the 1961 world team opened Thursday at the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame in the Springs. A one-night-only showing of “RISE,” a movie on the rebirth of American figure skating, is set for Feb. 17, with three Springs theaters carrying the film. And 1968 Olympic champion Peggy Fleming will speak at a fundraiser Feb. 19 at The Broadmoor, with proceeds to the U.S. Figure Skating Memorial Fund. Patty Bushman, the sister of two-time Olympic figure skater Ken Shelley, chronicled the stories of the 34-person U.S. delegation (in addition to the 18 skaters, six coaches and 10 judges, officials and family members were on board) in a new book, “Indelible Tracings.”
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