Weiss, Stars celebrate free skating in New York
Stars on Ice help open third season of The Pond at Bryant Park
|Three-time U.S. champion Michael Weiss enjoyed skating amidst the skyscrapers at the Pond at Bryant Park in the middle of midtown Manhattan. (James Edstrom)|
After balmy weather delayed the event the week before, organizers were able christen the third season of their winter wonderland under clear blue skies. In order to help celebrate the event, stars of stage and ice came out to perform in front of hundreds of fans in the famed Bryant Park.
Joining Weiss from the Stars were three-time U.S. pairs champions Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, three-time Italian ladies champion Silvia Fontana, four-time British ice dance champions Sinead and John Kerr and the Georgian ice dance team, Isabella Tobias and Otar Japaridze. The award-winning synchronized skating team, The Haydenettes, also performed, as did several stars from the Broadway show, Altar Boyz.
The grand opening program was kicked off by The Haydenettes, who were followed by several speeches. Following Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, the other speakers included representatives from Citibank, the title sponsor; the Manhattan Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York Rangers. All the speakers and the groups in partnership with the Pond focused on one thing -- the importance of providing Manhattan's only free admission ice skating rink. The 17,000-foot skating surface and surrounding winter park provides exercise, a lunch break, and simply a nice place to relax on a cool afternoon. Even Weiss agreed that skating here is an experience unlike any other: "It's a great environment, a great setting. You're out there and you look up and there are skyscrapers all around you, and it's a really cool feeling."
The Pond is just a part of the holiday celebration that goes on at Bryant Park. The Holiday Shops will open for their sixth season in November, around the same time as the lighting of the 50-foot Holiday Tree, which will again be donated by the Canadian Tourism Commission.
The weather in New York City has not cooperated with skating rinks so far this year, but with temperatures finally dropping, Monday's grand opening was a success, though it did not go off without a hitch.
The ice surface softened up under the beating sun, and some technical difficulties stranded The Haydenettes on the ice before their second performance. But no one, neither the performers nor the fans, seemed to mind. Skaters have to deal with poor surfaces wherever they go, and outside rinks add the variable of weather, so none of this was unexpected. Undeterred, the Stars had fun and dazzled the audience with an array of jumps, flips and spins.
All in all, Weiss said it was a great way to get ready for the upcoming season. He is very excited about the new tour, which will include several new additions like Olympic silver medalist and 2006 U.S. ladies champion Sasha Cohen and Olympic pairs gold medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada.
The show itself will now include more interaction between the performers and the audience, and it will give the skaters more freedom on the ice and the ability to show more of their personality.
Weiss recalls fondly his competitive skating career, just a year and a half removed from his most recent U.S. championship, but he says he's happy about the new stage in his life, where he gets to go out and enjoy the sport he fell in love with. "It's performing now, and enjoying the audience and enjoying the performances more."
He does not stay far away from the competition though after competing against many of the United States' biggest stars, like Johnny Weir. And he believes there are a lot of talented young American ladies out there too, so fans of Team USA should have plenty to cheer about this year. Weiss is even looking forward to catching up on the 2007-08 season online with icenetwork.com's video coverage, which will allow him and the rest of the Stars to follow the action while on tour, an option skaters didn't have while he himself was still competing.