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Chack keeps audiences entertained

The man behind the ubiquitous expression

Michael Chack was robbed of television airtime during his medal-winning free skate in 1993.
Michael Chack was robbed of television airtime during his medal-winning free skate in 1993. (Lois Elfman)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(08/07/2008) - In the skating lexicon, there are many moves named after skaters -- things like Lutz, Salchow, Axel and Ina Bauer. But few skaters can say their name transcends the sport. Former U.S. men's competitor Michael Chack doesn't just have a Wikipedia page; he is in the Wiktionary.

To chack means "to not broadcast a medal-winning or otherwise memorable or crucial figure skating performance."

"Somebody said they heard it on a football game. I want residuals, baby!" says Chack, whose bronze-medal free skate at 1993 Nationals didn't make air because he wasn't in the final warm-up group that was shown live.

Since ending his competitive days following the 1999 U.S. championships, Chack has performed virtually non-stop. This summer, he is skating at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. Earlier this year, he spent four months in Hong Kong doing a show for Rand Enterprises & Productions.

"We did five shows a day -- beat the hell out of my body -- but it was great. I'm 420 years old now, so I do everything while I can. Let's try different things," says Chack, who is actually turning 37 at the end of August.

He toured internationally with Holiday on Ice for several years, appearing in Colours of Dance, Hollywood, In Concert, Romanza and Fantasy. He also did a year with Disney on Ice in the U.S. and Canada. He even did Holland's version of Skating with Celebrities.

"My partner was a little large, so we didn't go very far, but it was a great experience," he says. "It's just like when you watch Dancing with the Stars on TV. You get so attached to the cast and your partner. It was awesome."

Part of sustaining a long-term touring life is taking good care of yourself. In addition to on-ice practice, Chack hits the gym four or five times a week in addition to doing yoga and Pilates. "I'm in the best shape now that I've ever been in my life," he says.

Despite nine years on the road, there are still places he hasn't performed. "I still have my goals. I need to get to Australia and New Zealand," he says. "I want to get down to South America --to Brazil and Argentina. That might just be a vacation some day."

He knows a life of touring isn't for everyone, but he loves it because it has reconnected him to what got him into skating as a kid. Toward the end of his competitive career, he battled injuries, and his memories of that final nationals aren't happy. "People ask, 'How does it feel to keep skating?' I say, 'The joy came back,'" Chack explains. "The experiences I've had as a professional -- I think, 'I love my life!'"

It's not all travel and performance. Chack did buy a home in New Jersey, and when he's not on the road, he coaches and choreographs, working often with the students of Isabelle Brasseur and Rocky Marval.

"I choreograph programs for their students. I'm working with their kids on jumps and spins," he says. "When they're gone, I take over their kids. I'm really grateful they've accepted me. I'm their right-hand man."

As of now, it looks like he'll be performing in Reno later this year, and then next May, he'll tour Europe with a new show.

"Either you're made for this kind of life or you're not," Chack says. "Doesn't matter how great a skater you are, if you're not made for the touring, it wears you down. You get homesick; you get depressed. For me, I'm like, 'Let's keep moving! Let's keep going to different cities every week.' I still love the travel."