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The Off-Season Again...

  • The Off-Season Again...

    SPOKANE, WA - APRIL 23: Team North America displays the trophy and check after winning the 2016 KOSE Team Challenge Cup at Spokane Arena on April 23, 2016 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

And so here we are, again. The great stadiums are deserted, the skaters are dispersing to holidays and shows, and fans are left wondering what to do next.

Yes, the international skating season has finally come to a close. And what a season it was. World records crumbled and fell almost faster than they could be established. The men took the technical gambit and ran with it, pushing the sport further and further. The ladies were shaken up by the absence of the World Champion and the introduction of a new one. Dance was driven to new heights of exquisite beauty. Pairs reached for the technical sky. On and on went the season, and when it finally ended, the fans were left gasping for breath alongside their idols.

There were beginnings: the men's and ladies' Junior World Champions from the previous season both introduced themselves to the Senior scene in spectacular fashion. And there were endings - several skaters called time on their careers, some with much recognition and fanfare, and others with hardly a nod from the crowd.

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And then just when Boston had said its spectacular farewell to the season, we were left with one last obstacle standing in the way of the skaters' well-earned rest - a hastily-assembled, poorly-executed new event, labelled the Team Challenge Cup, whose mechanics and methods were so confusing that even the skaters themselves were not quite sure what they were doing.

But now the off-season is finally here. For some skaters, the show circuit has beckoned, and there are audiences to please before their vactions; for others, it is time to relax before attacking the new season full force. Soon enough, we will be finding out music - indeed, some skaters have already begun the revelations - Grand Prix assignments, coaching swaps, summer comps, and all the usual drama.

Some of it has already begun. The Chinese Skating Federation has shown that it is prepared to go to any lengths to give Hao Zhang a good partner. When his results with partner Cheng Peng - who is more than ten years his junior - were not up to the expected standard, the CSA brutally swept in and forcibly separated an already-established pair in Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin. Yu and Jin were twice Junior World Champions and only this season had scored strong Grand Prix results and qualified for the Grand Prix Final, before being dropped from the Worlds team due to the results of a mysterious "test skate" only two weeks beforehand. But the CSA have forced them to separate; Yu will be Zhang's new partner, and Peng will be Jin's.

For now, though, it's time to relax, to look back on the season that was, and cherish the great moments. For me personally, I had the very great privilege to attend the World Championships in person, and so the next few weeks will see a series of flashbacks as I recount some of my most memorable moments from that great competition.

The international season is over...

...let the domestic season begin!

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