Just two weeks before making his senior debut at Skate America, Adam Rippon had the chance to skate in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Cambridge, Mass. The 2008 World junior champion was part of the 39th annual edition of “An Evening with Champions,” which thrilled audiences with a terrific mix of up-and-coming stars and some world-class veterans.
Hosted by 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie at Harvard University on Oct. 10 and 11, this year’s shows were exciting yet intimate. The event benefits the Jimmy Fund and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In all, “Evening With Champions” has helped raise more than $2.4 million to help child cancer patients.
Rippon skated a beautiful routine to the music “Send in the Clowns.” The program, which is his free skate for this season, was impressive and filled with difficult moves, including two triple Axels performed very close together. It also was highlighted by two perfect triple Lutzes, the first done at one end of the rink as part of a three-jump combination, followed almost immediately by the next one at the other end of the rink.
Rippon’s beautiful arm positions and long lines are quite reminiscent of the classical style of Johnny Weir. “It’s really flattering to be compared to Johnny Weir,” Rippon said. “Skaters usually tend to be either more like Johnny’s style or more like Evan Lysaceck. I’m definitely more like Johnny.”
Rippon gave a lot of credit to choreographer Nikolai Morozov (whose 7-year-old daughter Annabelle made an appearance during the show) for helping him to develop his artistry. “When I skate, it means a lot to me to really feel the music and show my artistic side to the audience,” Rippon said. “Nickolai concentrates so much on artistry, and he has really made me understand the importance of it. I always try to relate to the music and relate to the audience. If I have done that during my programs, then I’m happy.”
Rippon said that he has been working on a quadruple jump in practice but is not yet consistent with it. “Sometimes I can land it a few times in a row, and then I won’t be able to land it for awhile. Eventually, the consistency with all my jumps will happen, but until then, I know that I can perform the artistic side of my programs the way I want to,” he said.
"An Evening With Champions" also featured Ludmilla and Oleg Protopopov, 1964 and 1968 Olympic gold medalists; Matt Savoie, 2006 Olympian; Dan Hollander, a two-time U.S. bronze medalist; Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, 2008 U.S. pewter medalists; and the Haydenettes, 17-time U.S. synchronized champions.
The Protopopovs, skated in “An Evening with Champions” for the 20th consecutive year and again amazed the crowds with their age-defying ability to perform incredible pairs spirals, gorgeous lifts and of course, the death spiral (Oleg prefers to call it the “love” spiral), the move that they invented 40 years ago.
Oleg, age 76, joked to the audience during an on-ice interview with Wylie, “I think we’re just happy that we’re able to still move!”
When the pair was asked by Wylie how long they plan to keep skating for “An Evening with Champions,” Ludmilla replied, “We will keep skating until the time when cancer will be gone forever.”
Hollander, who wooed the crowd with his famous back-flip, skated a comic routine in which he pursued a female-skater around the ice, but could never quite win her affections.
After the show Hollander said skating at this event helps to keep him humble. “When I skated with this show for the first time in 1996, I remember flying into Boston too many days before the show took place and having to lose training time,” he said. “Then after I went to visit some of the kids at the Dana Farber clinic, my whole attitude changed. One girl had lost her arm to cancer. Another girl had brain cancer. After meeting them, I began to realize that losing some training time wasn’t very important.”
Savoie, a third-year Cornell law student, performed a beautiful routine that included a perfectly-executed triple Lutz. He said that he currently is skating only four hours per week but likes to stay in shape for fundraising events like “An Evening with Champions.”
Savoie recently accepted a job with a firm in Boston. “I’m excited to live in Boston, but I’m also a little nervous about it,” Savoie said. “The city has so many great neighborhoods, and I’m going to have to spend some time choosing where I’m going to live.”
This was Savoie’s fourth year participating in the Harvard shows. “It is a great event to skate in,” the three-time U.S. bronze medalist said. “The organizers (all Harvard students) make this such a supportive environment for both the kids (being treated for cancer) and the skaters in the show. It feels good to be able to help such an important cause through my skating.”
To read our past articles on Rippon and other stars, go to our NEWS FORUM and scroll down.