'Blades' gives Evora chance to love skating againFormer U.S. pairs skater preps for Olympic week with partner Thornton
It seems fitting that the team that pulled off a double twist, called "national-level caliber" by judge Jamie Salé, be tasked with interpreting one of the best known routines in Olympic skating history. This coming Sunday, Battle of the Blades will have an Olympic theme, with the five remaining teams each performing a program inspired by greats of the past.
"The piece that Scott and I are doing is 'Bolero,'" Amanda Evora said of the program she and Scott Thornton will perform. British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated to "Bolero" for their free dance at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo and received all 6.0s for artistry.
Battle of the Blades marks Evora's first significant professional gig. After ending her long partnership with Mark Ladwig following the 2011-12 season, she segued into part-time coaching and also an office administrator job.
"It definitely has been an overwhelming but great experience that's gotten me to love skating again and performing," said Evora, who was a U.S. pairs medalist and a world and Olympic competitor with Ladwig.
Given the duo's powerful performances -- including last week's playful interpretation of Bonnie & Clyde -- it's hard to believe Thornton was skating in pain, having tweaked his back shortly before showtime.
"I have a lot of injuries from my long playing career (18 seasons in the NHL), but we have some good therapists here to keep all us guys patched up," Thornton said. "We're used to playing hurt. It forces me to really pay attention to my posture and the way we move."
Week after week, Evora, 28, and Thornton, 42, have been praised for their high technical level.
"The partnership works because we're technically in tune," Thornton said. "I own and operate a gym (CrossFit in Collingwood, Ontario) and I coach people in the gym, so I'm really into sport movement. I understand where I'm supposed to go. Doesn't mean I can necessarily do it, but when the coaches tell me what to do, I sort of get that.
"Then communicating back and forth," he added. "Amanda gives me great feedback and coaching cues to tell me how she's feeling and what she wants to feel when we do something. Then I try to do my best to get there."
Thornton said some of the power moves actually feel easier than nuanced things like back crossovers. Portraying a role on the ice takes some effort, but he's becoming more and more comfortable with the performance aspect.
"The greatest thing for me is being coached again," Thornton said. "Obviously, I miss playing, but I really enjoyed practice throughout my career. It's probably why I lasted so long. I love the details in practice."
Both of them have cheering sections each Sunday. Thornton's family makes the drive to Toronto, and Evora has relatives who live in Canada who have come to the shows. Thornton's 14-year-old daughter is a competitive dancer who has given him some tips on how to calm down before a performance and embrace the opportunity to be in the spotlight.
Evora and Thornton both mentioned the Kodo drums routine on international beats week as a favorite program.
"Kodo drums was a lot of fun to skate," Evora said. "It wouldn't be a piece I would have skated competitively, so to have that opportunity was great. It was inspired by Elvis Stojko's 1998 Olympic short. It was fun to play that character, but [considering the] type of team we are and how dynamic our moves were, it was really cool to do it to that music."
The duo's choreographer, Michael Seibert, was a contemporary of Torvill and Dean's. Another 1984 Olympian, Paul Martini, also works with Evora and Thornton on their technical skills. Season two Battle of the Blades champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katia Gordeeva is working with all the couples this week.
Battle of the Blades has a charity component, with each skater receiving money to donate to the charity of his or her choice. Evora and Thornton have both selected the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.