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Feathers flying, gender bending ... only in figure skating

November 15, 2009 | 12:11 pm

Evan Lysacek

Ten things I have learned after three days at Skate America:

1. Vera Wang designed the costume that reigning world champion Evan Lysacek is wearing while performing his short program to Stravinsky's "Firebird.'' Lysacek was skeptical about the feathers Wang hung from the gloved wrists when he first saw them, but now thinks of them as a good fit with the Stravinsky piece. "Stravinsky is sort of a bizarre artist,'' Lysacek said. "The accent of the feathers adds to that.''

2. Bizarre hand coverings are hardly unusual in men's figure skating. Russia's Alexei Urmanov, the 1994 Olympic champion, was known for costumes that often included outlandish gloves. Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir, for whom outlandish is de rigueur, wore a glove he named Camille while skating his 2006 Olympic short program, in honor of composer Camille Saint-Saens, because Weir was performing to "The Swan'' from Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals."

3. Lysacek is going against type in his programs this year -- both his own and skating's. "Firebird'' is frequently used in the sport, but it has been the province of female skaters. The same is true of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade," which Lysacek is using in his long program.

4. And then there is South Korean Kim Yu-na, doing a short program to a James Bond medley. That music has traditionally been used by male skaters. Kim portrays a Bond girl. "Not a particular Bond girl, but all of what they are,'' said her coach, Brian Orser. "Mysterious, sexy, confident.''

5. Czech Tomas Verner is a stand-up guy. Verner, who came here ranked No. 1 in the world in the International Skating Union rankings, utterly bombed his short program Friday, falling on a quadruple jump and turning two triples into doubles. Then he walked into the mixed zone and told the truth, nothing but the truth, calling the program "a disaster,'' saying the double jumps were like "doing a program with no jumps at all'' and figuring sarcastically he would have been better off using the time wasted on the jumps to show off his edge work and basic skating skills.

Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto 6. Olympic silver medal ice dancer Tanith Belbin decided her compulsory dance dress was "Tiffany turquoise'' when she noticed it looked like the same color as the Tiffany bag she uses for the circular, diamond-looking earrings that go with the dress. The earnings are neither from Tiffany nor diamonds, but they are special to Belbin because a Korean fan gave them to her. "They are Swarovski, so I guess they're crystal,'' Belbin said. And the trademark Tiffany color is actually blue.

7. Lysacek's coach, Frank Carroll, is deep into "Wolf Hall,'' the novel about Henry VIII's fixer, Thomas Cromwell, that won the prestigious annual Man Booker Prize. "This is my last book about the Tudor era,'' Carroll said. "I've got to find another time period. I've been reading nothing but books about the Tudors.''

8. French skater Florent Amodio, 19, was born in Brazil and adopted as an infant by a family from the Paris suburbs. The first day his mother took the 4-year-old Florent to skate at a group session, he impressed the man leading the session so much that he went to find the mother. "He had fluidity and an ease on the ice that were remarkable,'' said Bernard Glesser, who has been Amodio's coach from that day.

9. Belbin's partner, Chicago native Ben Agosto, is an accomplished acoustic and electric guitarist. (This is fairly well-known already, but still interesting.) Agosto has skated while playing the music -- Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven'' -- to which he was performing.

10. Mike Burg, a cancer survivor who was Tara Lipinski's agent when she won the 1998 Olympic gold medal, was the catalyst for the deal that made Cancer.net the title sponsor of Skate America. Burg brought together the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, which manages the informational website, and U.S. Figure Skating for the one-year deal, which also will give the website and the society exposure at other USFS events. 

-- Philip Hersh in Lake Placid, N.Y

Photos: Top, Evan Lysacek as a fine-feathered "Firebird." Credit: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images. Bottom, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. Credit: Mike Groll / Associated Press.

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