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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Tommy Martin Fund, Michael Buckley and a Korean preview

The Martin family: (clockwise, from top left) Barbie; Bobby; daughter Bella, 8; niece Erica, 9; niece Emily, 6; and daughter Bridgette, 4.
The Martin family: (clockwise, from top left) Barbie; Bobby; daughter Bella, 8; niece Erica, 9; niece Emily, 6; and daughter Bridgette, 4. (courtesy of Bobby Martin)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(04/23/2009) - icenetwork.com's intrepid reporters Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins spend some time talking about one of their favorite fundraisers, the Tommy Martin Fund annual golf tournament. Michael Buckley also checks in with his dish on the world of skating.

Fundraiser

We begin on a more serious note than usual this time with news of the sixth annual Tommy Martin Fund tournament fundraiser, scheduled for June 10 in Stow, Mass. The fund was started in 1999 in memory of the son of coach Bobby Martin and his wife Barbie. They award an annual scholarship to help a skater pay for college.

We spoke to Bobby recently at the Colonial Figure Skating Club.

"This is a hard time of year for me," he said. "Tommy would have been 10 on Saturday [April 4]. He's buried near here, and we go to the cemetery every year with our girls on his birthday and send balloons up for him."

Bobby first competed in singles skating, going to the U.S. Championships in 1980 as a novice man. After his career was derailed by an accident, he took up pairs with Nancy Kerrigan. They went as far as the national championships as juniors, although Bobby can't remember where they placed -- "Eighth, maybe," he said.

In 1988, Bobby and Nancy filmed a Coca-Cola commercial in which she played a Russian figure skater and he was an American hockey player. Getting paid for it put an end to Bobby's eligibility as a skater, although by that point he was in college and playing baseball anyway. Nancy put her fee into an approved fund, thus staying eligible for the rest of her illustrious career.

Bobby got a degree in education at Boston College, which he puts to use every day as a skating coach. He is passionately committed to teaching and doesn't ever want his students to compromise their education for the sake of their skating. After college, Bobby toured with Holiday on Ice for a while. By then, he had met his future wife Barbie, a Wellesley graduate who skated with Disney on Ice for several years.

Their first child, Thomas Stuart, called Tommy, was born on April 4, 1999. There were multiple complications at the birth, and he only lived for three days. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Bobby and Barbie spent a lot of time together at the skating rink.

"It was our comfort zone, something we knew," said Bobby. "Our friends were there to give us the support that we definitely needed."

Bobby started coaching full-time at about that point, with Barbie focusing on choreography. She has since become a mental health counselor, working with performers, including musicians and skaters, and she will receive her license at the end of May.

A few weeks after Tommy's death, Susan Entz, Barbie's sister, suggested setting up a fund in his honor.

"We decided that an educational scholarship was what we wanted," Bobby said, "because education sometimes takes a back seat in this sport."

The scholarship goes to one skater each year. They have to be enrolled in college with at least one semester complete to be eligible, and so far the scholarship has been limited to skaters from the New England area. Louann Donovan was awarded the 2009 scholarship, and Kelvin Vu, currently a Yale student, was the 2008 recipient.

The annual golf tournament raises funds for the scholarship. Bobby loves to play golf, a passion he shares with many famous skaters, like Scott Hamilton, Kurt Browning, Todd Sand, Todd Eldredge, Steven Cousins, Doug Ladret and Paul Wylie.

"A golf tournament is an easy form of fundraising," Bobby explained. "It's the sole fundraising event for the foundation."

This year's event will take place June 10 at the Wedgewood Pines Country Club.

"It's grown a lot -- last year was our biggest to date," said Bobby. "I've yet to fill the golf course, which is my goal."

Another goal is for the fund to grow to the point that it can benefit skaters from across the country.

"We get more applications every year," Bobby said.

Bobby was nominated for Developmental Coach of the Year Award last year. Along with Carrie Wall, he currently coaches world junior pair bronze medalists Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, U.S. novice pair bronze medalists Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris, 2008 intermediate pair champions Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton, and novice competitor John McKenna.

Bobby and Barbie have two daughters -- Bella, 8, and Bridgett, 4.

For more information about the fund and the tournament, visit tommymartinfund.org.

Buck on Ice

We made a new friend during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships: Michael Buckley, creator of the popular "What the Buck" videos. He was on vacation at Disney World but pining for blow-by-blow news from the competition. We sent him live results as he was standing in line for rides. We also sent him a link to a video of the amazing Denis Ten, whom he had never seen skate. Michael got home in time to watch some of the drama from L.A., and produced a video about it, which is archived at buckhollywood.com. We called him up the other day to dish about skating. Lots of skaters we know watch his videos, despite his snarky comments.

"If I talk about them it's because I like them," Michael told us. "I love skating and have heaps of respect for the people who do it! I hope those who I make fun of know it is all in good fun. It's what I do, and they shouldn't take it seriously. Poor skaters, I shouldn't make fun of them like I do the celebs."

What did he think of worlds?

"I was happy Evan Lysacek won, because it's always nice for an American to do well," he said. "And I admire people who can keep it all together under pressure, (un)like Sasha Cohen -- much though I loved her spins and spirals, she made me uncomfortable."

Michael is a pretty talented adult skater himself, so he understands the sport better than many. You can see him doing a double Salchow if you search around his site a little. He told us that a few years ago he got very motivated and skated every morning.

"I started out doing jumps on a pond," he said. "I can do double Sal and toe -- flip and lutz on good days! I wanted to compete, but I was too bored with moves in the field. I just wanted to jump."

As evidenced by the popularity of his videos -- he says his show is the most popular entertainment program on YouTube, with over 400,000 subscribers -- Michael is a genius at self-promotion. So we wondered if he had any ideas to bring skating out of the current "slump" and make it more popular with the masses.

"It would be nice if a major network did some sort of reality show. I know that sounds bad, but the top shows are reality shows and skating should be desperate to attract an audience. For years, it seemed that the behind-the-scenes stuff was so sketchy, but we all know it now, so let's get the public in on it."

Michael didn't mince words about the recent drop in popularity.

"We are very fickle, and people don't show up at events rooting for someone right now because there isn't really anyone to root for. There seem to be some American skaters who can land their jumps but have no personality, and some with tons of personality who can't stay on their feet. We need a pretty girl to capture our attention and win the Olympics. Johnny [Weir] and Evan just aren't the same; it's a female-driven sport."

However, Michael did acknowledge that other disciplines are on the rise.

"I'm way more interested in ice dance next year, knowing we have medal chances, and we're competing at the top level after the U.S. teams finished second and fourth at worlds. And they can use music with words!"

He enjoyed watching the NBC coverage from L.A.

"Dick [Button] and Peggy [Fleming] had become almost like Simon and Paula on American Idol -- so predictable. You always knew they were going to say something like, 'Her layback needs work.' I enjoyed seeing Scott and Sandra [Bezic] and hearing something new."

We can't wait to hear what Michael thinks of the next Olympics!

Korean kimchi

We're getting some little bits of news from the skaters in Korea for the "Festa on Ice" tour this weekend. Adam Rippon told us he was recognized and asked for his autograph in a restaurant and that a fan gave him a fuzzy pillow because it reminded her of his hair. He also said the rink was very cool with a huge stage. Johnny Weir had a personal appearance in front of hundreds of fans last Sunday, in which he sang "Ain't No Sunshine." Jeremy Abbott's mom flew into Korea to join him on Wednesday, very excited to connect with some of Jeremy's many devoted Korean fans. Jeremy reported that show rehearsals have been long and exhausting, but he did get a chance for some shopping on Tuesday.

We'll be back in May with more dish from Korea, we are sure.

Sarah and Drew
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