World Figure Skating Championships 2013
Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov
London (Canada) was founded in the early 1800s by the British military as a garrison town to prevent the land-hungry Americans pushing their boundaries northwards. The British soldiers were obviously homesick, they named the river running through the town "The Thames" and the streets and districts of the town after London districts; there are many familiar names like Piccadilly, Oxford street and St Paul's Cathedral. But the similarities stop there, the weather is more severe, the temperatures in mid March are colder than London UK in mid winter, and because the town is located on land between the Great Lakes the area has more thunder storms (including "ice storms") than anywhere else in North America. The day we arrived it was windy and snowing and the temperature was minus six. There was no hint that winter would ever end, and the leafless trees sticking out of the snow covered ground gave no hint of the approaching Spring, to walk just a few yards outside was an Arctic adventure
I am not a big skating fan, but Mami is. Last year I had accompanied her to the championship in Nice on the French Riviera. The arrangement worked well because the warm March sunshine had brought bathers out on to beaches and filled the cafe bars with elegant French society which gave me a lot to do and draw whilst Mami enjoyed watching the skating. Last year I hardly drew any skaters, and when I tried the results were not encouraging, so I was apprehensive about going to Canada.
I need not have worried, on the first day we went to watch rehearsals at the practice rink which is some miles from the main arena. Not many people go, so the atmosphere is informal and relaxed, and I settled myself in an inconspicuous place behind the main seating and started to draw. There was an attractive pair of skaters from Italy practicing their lifts, they seemed to be in good spirits and enjoying their preparation work.
An Italian Pair were practicing their Lifts
Whilst making my first tentative drawings of the week I was disturbed by a voice over my shoulder, "that's nice" she said, and then she was gone in bobbing and bouncing movements back and fore along the aisle behind me. I later discovered the voice belonged to Alyona Savchenko, who with her partner Robin Szolkowy, were the reigning world ice pairs champions in 2012-13. Over the last seven years Alyona and Robin has never been outside the the top three in the World, at this championship they deservedly won the silver medal.
Sadly I did not catch her lovely movements in my drawings, but over the week I made a number of drawings of pairs. This sport is very artistic, and I was struck at how closely the couples work together. We know that empathy develops much more strongly when people imitate, mirror and work in synchrony with each other and this was very evident in the relationships between the couples.
Yuko Kavaguti being swung with her head just inches above the ice
And there is also the matter of trust; the men will throw the spinning bodies of the girls very high in the air and then catch them before they hit the concrete hard ice. It looked to me as if the girls were putting their lives at risk, but I never saw any fear in their faces, just serenity. Sadly I never managed to sketch the throws, but I did manage this image of Yuko Kawaguti being swung with her head just inches above the ice. A drawing like this contains a lot of license, I cannot remember the position of the man, instead I choose a position that most emphasised the flow of the line created by Yuko's taught body. Drawings like this are far removed from photographs, they are as much about spirit as they are about sight.
And of course there were many soloist, like this male skater.
A Male Soloist
I do many drawings of classical ballet, perhaps I take this experience too far in my pictures of skaters. I think this image may be Kavaguti again, who of all the girls has the most balletic movements (see opening picture above)
Yuko Kavaguti landing from a throw
Mami is a big fan of an ice skater called Daisuke Takhashi. Daisuke's dramatic and masterful movements and musicality has taken men's skating into new territory. This is the only drawing I made of his movements, perhaps I will look at some videos to make some more drawings.
The dramatic masterful movements and musicality of Daisuke Takahashi
We booked our tickets very late, and for some events the tickets were sold out. Next to the main arena was a new market building with seats and chairs and a television relaying what was happening in the main hall. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to make sketches of the spectators.
Two Japanese Spectators
Most of the spectators are women, this man looked slightly out of place, but he was obviously enraptured by the goings on.
This unlikely fan looked enraptured
This is Mami watching the television. Her elegant clothes stood out against the unfussy fashion of Canadians who never try to look chic, but they make up for it by being about the friendliest and most open people I have ever come across.
Mami stood out for her chic elegance
There were of course many lovely girls
Just a Beautiful Girl
And the young mothers whose children are still too young to appreciate the spectacle
or simply did not have tickets to take their daughters to see the shows live
Mother and Daughter
After the competition is over there is a Gala where the winners show off their skills and have fun. I went to watch the rehearsals before the event, an instructor arrived with a piece of paper and within two hours she had taught the medal winners a group routine for the closing ceremony.
The stars all have their own quirky pieces. Mao Asada did a sequence to the music from Mary Poppins
Mao Asada as Mary Poppins
This is a drawing of Carolina Kostner from Italy who has a very serene style of her own
Carolina Kostner from Italy
And Yuna Kim, the golden girl of the championships, came in wearing a bowler hat
Yuna Kim in a Bowler Hat
The next day we had to return to the Britain, there had been heavy snow in Toronto which meant our flight was delayed for fourteen hours, but I did not mind because I love drawing people in airports.
Like this bored businessman
Waiting in the Airport
and this girl opening a bottle.
Girl in an Airport Canteen
and besides we were all still on a high