Author: Saoirse the Irish Colleen PM
A Minnesotan figure skater and a Bostonian goalie spend a long season discovering that getting the gold isn't everything. Jimmy Craig/OCRated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,297 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 03-01-10 - Published: 11-02-09 - id: 5483669
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I'd like to note that the Super Eight is a Massachusetts interscholastic high school hockey tourney that began in 1991. Also Junior Worlds didn't begin until 1978 and the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating didn't combine until 1995 and were held as separate amateur competitions: Skate America (1979); Skate Canada International (1973); Trophée Lalique (France 1987); NHK Trophy (Japan 1979); Nations Cup (Germany 1990, but discontinued in ′04) and the list excludes Cup of Russia and Cup of China as they began in ′96 and ′03 (respectively) because this story is set during the height of the Cold War. These chapters also take from My Sergei: A Love Story by 1988 and ′94 Olympic pairs champion Yekaterina Gordeyeva.
"We may be young but we're immature." - (the real) Mike Eruzione, Sports Illustrated March 3, 1980.
Chapter III: Little Girl Lies, Part One
Callie was sitting in an uncomfortable chair with pancake makeup melting under the hot stage lights interviewed by Gloria Plastic Face. Bob had her up at 4 a.m. for a Good Day! interview. It was remarkable at how Plastic Face seemed to be doing most of the talking. Her capped teeth reflected so much light it was blinding. Callie didn't even know why she was angsting so much; she got to skip school because she was scheduled to tape a satellite interview for Minneapolis' KTSP's Sports Wrap after this. Hopefully Deidre would be merciful and let her catch a nap in the car before dance class. This was all part of Bob's grand PR scheme for a world championship build-up. Before this he was an athlete's workaday legal shithead, but now he was a certified fascistic shithead. Callie was getting nauseated from lack of proper sleep and watching Plastic Face's Farah Fawcett flip bounce around.
I hate my life.
In his dorm Jimmy watched Callie on Billy's black-and-white portable struggling to stay awake.
Can't you ever say no?
An inset photo appeared on the screen of a 12-year-old Callie dressed in an exact replica of Peggy Fleming's Olympic long program costume…
Callie Janaszak and East Germany's Ava Liebert had been rivals since their junior days. They both made their respective Olympic teams in 1976 at 15. Ava finished just off the podium in fourth, while Callie delivered a flawless performance finishing eighth with all three American ladies single skaters in the top eight; Dorothy Hamill was crowned Olympic champion and Wendy Burge was in sixth place.
At the start of the 1977 season everyone fixed Ava Liebert for the new world champion. She was coached by the legendary Frau Jutta Müller, so that gave the prediction some credence. Her technique was tight, she performed the triple toe loop and Salchow with ease, and she was a phenom in the compulsory figures. A darling of the East German Skating Federation she lived a life of luxury in her Berlin sports school few of the small Communist nation's citizens knew.
But the tempestuous blonde was always looking over her shoulder for the redheaded Callie Janaszak.
Callie was born in White Bear Lake, Minnesota to Betty and Larry Janaszak when their son Steve was three. Their neighborhood was a fairly typical Ramsey County middle-class suburb ten miles outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul. There was swimming and fishing in the summer, and skating and hockey on those same lakes during the frigid winter. Steve began his hockey career at five playing shinny hockey with his friends on the block.
One of Callie's earliest memories was watching her brother sitting in the snow, stick across his lap getting a numb ass looking at the game. He was a fifth line center on a three line team. The nets were thick chunks of frozen snow set up at either end of the street, and the goalie gear was pretty shitty. More than likely they were donations from older brothers who outgrew them, or weren't viable anymore. One of the goalies was Pee Wee Peliquin, he wasn't particularly talented, but you would never think his biggest weakness would be bubble gum. He loved to blow bubbles with his mask down, unfortunately it would end up sticking to his face and freezing there.
"Fuck this!" Eight-year-old Pee Wee threw down his mask. He stomped off never to return. In a bind the coach looked for any boy who wasn't busy.
"Hey Janny! Get over here!"
"Hell yeah coach!"
The coach shoved the mask in Steve's little chest. "Get in there!" And the rest was history.
Meanwhile at the Ramsey Ice Arena, five-year-old Callie was having her first formal skating lesson. Her only problem was that her boots were too big. She was the smallest girl in the club, and Betty couldn't let her daughter make her debut in Stevie's raggedy baby skates. They didn't even have regulation figure skate blades! Unfortunately the smallest beautiful white skates the pro shop had were one size too big. But the late Pawlina Janaszak had an ingenious solution. Her paternal grandmother was a bridal shop seamstress, so she took several pairs of Callie's thickest socks, layered them within each other, and sewed them to the inside of the boots. It saved the family money in the long run and didn't affect Callie in the least.
Figure skating coaches can scout prospects from the schools. They know who's got the talent and drive to make it to the top of the podium, and who will fall through the cracks. Mitch Franck, a former national champion and Minnesota native, recognized Callie's natural jumping ability. She had impressive speed and good edging. But her Achilles heel was her impatience with compulsory figures. He knew that wouldn't change with time or maturity. In fact, he secretly encouraged that. Franck was an iconoclast, triple jumps were now mandatory in the men's competition (and throw jumps in pairs thanks to Irina Rodnina), why wasn't it enforced in ladies? Little girls on the ice today didn't want to be Sonja Henie (not that the Norwegian three-time Olympic champion didn't get respect), but looked up to the dynamism of Peggy Fleming and Canada's Petra Burka.
He didn't make many friends, and knew that his stance wouldn't make him head coach, so he exclusively coached boys and pairs. Until Betty Janaszak with her pissy-looking daughter showed up one day in his office unannounced. Franck squat down making himself eye level with Callie.
"So what can I do you for, kiddo?" Her little mouth was tight and she looked ready to swing her fists.
"I wanna do triples. They won't teach me." Betty was nervous; she really didn't want Callie to quit over something so trivial.
"I'm sorry," Betty apologized. "It's just… she idolizes her big brother who plays hockey. I think this might be her little way of showing him up." Backward was a harsh term, and Franck thought Betty was a lot like his own mother. To them, the earth was flat outside of Minnesota.
"Mrs. Janaszak, I'd like to show you something." His wife Debbie argued why he wanted to keep it in his office, but she wasn't an athlete, she was a cruise director.
Franck opened a blue velvet box and laid it in Betty's hands. Callie's jaw dropped, it was his gold medal. There was a magic and mystique that made a gold-colored piece of tin with a ribbon seem like the lost treasure of Atlantis.
"I think in a few years Callie will have one of those." He placed the medal on his desk for Callie to see. "All you need to do, is let her show off who she is." He squeezed her shoulders reassuringly. "And I'll take care of the rest."
At the 1972 Junior Worlds Callie was the youngest competitor on the American squad. She was eleven. Junior Worlds made its debut the year previously and wasn't mentioned in any of the American newspapers or broadcasted, especially in places like White Bear Lake. Callie placed sixth and nobody knew anything until Franck called her family and then things started to build by word of mouth. Franck managed to get films of the competition and a local tavern held a screening to a full house. The next day Callie was in the local paper. It wasn't until her last season as a junior did Junior Worlds get real publicity. But she could care less. Sure she liked reading the gossip about Ava (the good stuff was in the dressing rooms, of course) but the real problem was that no matter how much she was touted as Ava's rival, she couldn't beat her. She had the triples, her programs were fun, and the audience was in her corner. So what was the problem?
"You can't skate for shit." Said Deidre Kessler.
Mitch took Callie up to Canada for some training at the Royal Glenora Club. Edmonton wasn't Toronto or Minneapolis; there was a lot more isolation in western Canada. Sort of like the Iron Range. He told Callie it would be best if she holed up for a bit and got away from the distractions of home. Steve would be graduating from Hill-Murray School, a private high school he got into on a hockey scholarship, and now the biggest deal was whether or not he was going to get that tryout for the University of Minnesota.
What Callie didn't know was this was actually an audition for who Mitch hoped to be Callie's new coach.
Back in the day Mitch trained with a feisty skater from Watertown, Massachusetts named Deidre Hagopian in Colorado Springs, the US Olympic Committee HQ. She had the bedside manner of a dentist who liked to do root canals without the laughing gas, just for variety. He might've crushed on her, but he was a small-town guy and wouldn't know what to do with her. Besides she had this big boyfriend who played hockey that had more than a few dings in his head. She was good, but never placed higher than second in major competitions. Mitch noticed Deidre had the uncanny ability to dissect a program a million times every which way, reassemble it, and the outcome would be the same: perfect. So she went home and retired at the grand old age of 20 to coach.
Over the years their paths crossed at competitions, training centers, and coaching clinics. Like all Massachusettans Deidre was an extremist, but she had a penchant for consorting with the enemy. At the 1964 Olympics the world saw the birth of a mighty Soviet dynasty in couples skating. The husband and wife team from Leningrad's VSS Lokomotiv sports club, Ludmilla and Oleg Protopopov took the gold medal in pairs. Their teammates, Svetlana Belayeva and Yevgeny Beroyev won the silver medal. Sports are a dirty little secret of the pissing game that is world politics- especially if the biggest competitors happen to be world superpowers. An American athlete's life is financed entirely by corporate sponsorship: GM, IBM, Coca Cola, textiles, credit card companies, and banks to give a few examples. The revenue they generate comes from advertising dollars and product sales. And when an athlete's notoriety becomes a cash cow, they become spokespersons. Why wouldn't Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson peddle insurance and shaving cream?
In Russia the government paid the athlete's way. After religion was abolished the new regime propped up its athletes as the new icons of the worker party's age. And regardless of the state's condition, the success of their athletes kept the people's morale up. It also paid to be a champion; athletes and their families got higher salaries, better cars, and bigger apartments. But to get to the top you had to give your life to the state as early as age three. Russian sports schools rigorously tested young children to see if they're worthy of the state's time and money. In figure skating gifted children were moved from their homes at age ten to live full-time in dorms with their teammates and spent more time with their coaches and trainers than they did with their parents. And it wasn't unusual if skating partners married.
Sveta and Zhenya became a successful pair under the tutelage of Igor Moskvin, who also coached the Protopopovs. But they didn't have Ludmilla and Oleg's eloquence that set them apart from every pair in the world. It was evident that Moskvin set them up to be the weaker pair. You can kill all the Tsarists, but nepotism will never die. The big red sports machine also had an early retirement plan for the over thirty athlete. In order to keep the gears in motion, their finest athletes were indebted to the state and forced into coaching to cultivate the new generation of champions. Lokomotiv pushed Sveta and Zhenya into retirement after returning from Innsbruck. Moskvin was behind it in order for the Protopopovs to take center stage as Lokomotiv's premier pair, keeping Leningrad's schools in competition with Moscow's, particularly CSKA- the Central Red Army Sports Club.
Sveta and Zhenya married before paying their country back by defecting. Once forbidden, skating tours and ice theatres were lucrative and allowed them to retire handsomely and open a skating school in one of their favorite cities, Boston.
Deidre Kessler knew that American skaters- especially in pairs and dance- were on the fast track to nowhere. Judges were dismissing skaters simply because of the flag they skated under, and the rank and scores were being decided long before the competition. On the other hand, the Russians were unique using immersive ballet conditioning, and she knew it could benefit American skaters of all disciplines. But few skaters willingly spent entire training sessions inside a dance studio. So instead of losing all of her students she decided to experiment with one. Sad to say she no volunteers.
Then out of the blue Deidre's old training buddy from Colorado Springs gave her a call…
"Hey Dee it's me Mitch. Listen, I've got this kid you've really got to check out…"
Callie Janaszak was on a hamster wheel that was spinning out of control. She couldn't best Liebert with big smiles and triples anymore- that was so 1973. And her Midwestern kid sister look didn't help either. Ava was flaxen-haired, pouty lipped, and long-legged. But if the German girl was Glinda, then Callie was Elphaba: her skin was dull and unevenly toned from one too many sunburns, her hair was flat, and she was all knees and elbows.
"What d'ya think?" Mitch asked.
"I think," Deidre sighed, "if you asked her to jump off a building she'd say, 'The tall one?' I think she's perfect." She turned to look at him for the first time all day. "Now all I have to do is teach her how to skate- and that's just the tip of the iceberg."
"Callie c'mere!" Mitch called her over. She came to a slow stop at the boards. It was evident that this was no training camp. Mitch put on his best smile and leaned forward on his elbows as though he was going to tell Callie she just lost her family in house fire.
"What if I said you had a chance to make the Olympic team?"
Was that what he had to drag her all the way up to this Canadian hitching post for? She bit her lip. Innsbruck? At 15? "What would I have to do?"
"Come to Boston." Deidre said.
"This is Deidre Kessler. She's an old friend." He squeezed Callie's arms in a fatherly gesture. "I want you to listen to what she has to say." He stepped back letting Deidre take up as much space as Massholes demanded.
"You can't skate for shit." Wince. "But that's a good thing; at least I know what I'm up against." Deidre took a good, hard look at the girl who chafed her arms feeling like a fly pinned under a microscope. "You a freshman?"
"I- in high school?"
"Well I wasn't talkin' about Boston University." Callie made a face and nodded.
"Play for the teams?"
"Girls' basketball team."
Callie took a deep breath feeling a bit relaxed chatting about her other athletic passion. "I'm fast so I usually play small forward."
"They play you a lot?"
"Whenever I'm there." Callie shrugged.
Deidre chortled at the irony and slapped the boards.
"Looks like I have to invest in Celtics season tickets." Callie was bewildered. "Because you've been benched."
"What?" Callie pushed away from the boards violently.
"Princess darling, I don't know what this idiot's been telling you," Deidre jerked her thumb at Mitch, "but muscle tone is a major no-no in this sport!"
"I was the first girl single skater Mitch trained!" Callie exclaimed. "The only way to teach me triples was to train me like a guy!"
"I can see that. And for the last seven years you've milked that philosophy until you ended up runnin' on fumes." Deidre stormed out onto the ice in her sneakers. "Lesson number one in senior-level competition: if girls do not look like Suzanne Farrell in skates, they do not win." Callie went from pissed to confused in a nanosecond. And who the fuck was Suzanne Farrell anyway?
"When was the last time you had your picture taken?"
Picture? What? Who was this crazy bitch? A coach or Sybil reincarnated?
"School pictures aren't taken until before Thanksgiving…" The words dribbled out of Callie since her brain wasn't able to work in time with her mouth.
"That's funny, 'cause I read in Patinage how they were calling you 'America's Little Wet Rat'." Deidre dropped a magazine onto the ice. Picking it up Callie saw a very unflattering photo of herself entering a hotel lobby bedraggled from the rain. The caption was in French, but she was sure it said worse than 'wet rat'.
"I can't read this." She croaked.
"Then it's a good thing that St. Cathy's got an exemplary foreign language course. By the time you graduate you'll be fluent in French and Russian!" Deidre announced.
"Excuse me?" Callie spluttered.
"I didn't tell you?" Deidre pressed a hand to her chest like a B movie actress. "Your new choreographers Svetlana and Yevgeny believe that Russian ballet techniques can only be taught in Russian." Deidre put her hands on her hips and pressed her nose into Callie's face. "I'm giving you a golden ticket, kiddo. Now I wouldn't be scaring the shit outta you if I didn't think you were worth it. But I've got a good feeling, and I trust my instincts."
"My parents will never let me go to Boston by myself."
"You think!" Deidre backed up and stomped her foot. "In the end your backwoods, hick people are like everybody else. They understand if you make the Olympic team next year, your marketability goes up a thousand percent."
So 14-year-old Callie took up stakes and ditched Minnesota. And true to Deidre's word she made the Olympic squad. She hated her school, but made sure her best subject was French. She liked to disturb Bostonian gawkers (particularly Terriers fans) with her fluency in Russian. Her new manager Bob Murray hired an image consultant, teaching Callie how to dress, and do her make up and hair to blend in with the New England urbanites.
While in Innsbruck Steve made Buzzy look after her, but Callie was too busy obsessing over her programs' replays, amazed at how good her landing position looked, leg extension and point. Her limbs were still scrawny though, but despite being in heavy skating boots she pointed her toes perfectly. That horse's ass Dick Button couldn't stop gushing about it.
But the ′77 skating season was shaping up to be interesting. Ava had the same competitive short program music as Callie, Swan Lake's Black Swan suite. And when she was done with her panic attack in her hotel room she went to her first practice for Trophée Lalique. Every competitor's short program music was on rotation; Callie worked on her jump combinations inwardly dreading her music. Ava skimmed through the other girls with her spirals. The judges were in the stands; Callie wondered what the final call would be.
Never a compulsory skater, it was her free skating that had had to do the talking. It was a piece of luck that Callie drew for the final group performing long after Ava. Liebert portrayed Odile true to form in a textbook perfect performance. Callie counted her blessings, and one of them was having an image consultant constantly drilling into her, 'You are a burgeoning trendsetter.' Silk, chiffon, sequins, crystals and beads turned Callie on. Sometimes the costume can make the skater. Ava looked every inch the prima ballerina in her feathered headpiece and black tutu, but Callie challenged her in black spandex and a wraparound chiffon skirt. Her plunging v-neckline was thinly obscured by dramatic silver sequin wing patterns with black crystals and white pearls dangling from her waist and wrists. Callie's ponytail was pulled way upon her head like a genie, her lips were frosted with mauve, and her eye shadow were shimmering white wingtips over peacock blue. Her interpretation of Odile was frankly scandalous, instead of Odile tricking the hapless Prince Siegfried into believing she was Odette, he went along with her seduction. What made things worse for the East German was that Callie nailed element after element, including her second triple- the Salchow- which replaced the required double Axel.
She returned to Boston with the championship, and five months later in Tokyo she took the world title right from under Ava's nose. A 16-year-old from Buttfuck, Minnesota won a gold medal that was clearly meant for someone else. The screams of exultation on the U of M campus should have brought the riot police, but everybody was too busy celebrating American figure skating's new darling. Callie was an instant celebrity. Boston Terriers fans vaguely knew her as Janaszak's little sister, now she was a household name. Before she went on the Tom Collins tour Callie performed after a North Stars exhibition game at their home rink in Bloomington, the Met Center. In a white wraparound dress trimmed in silver she skated to Debussy's Claire de Lune.
Taking her bows to a thunderous standing O the North Stars' GM Lou Nanne walked onto the ice with photographers in tow. He made a short speech telling Callie she was Minnesota's pride, thanking her for her hard work, and presented her with a gift: a gold and diamond North Stars logo pendant. Her mom was queen for a day at the reception that followed, and her father and Steve loved their North Stars season tickets, not to mention the million and one things the team autographed. But the only real pleasure Callie got out of any of it were the men. Gone was the seven minutes of heaven in some moth ball reeking closet with a chump from her class. The real men looked her way now; college athletes, pros, the younger coaches. She sent Joey Mullen Polaroids of her masturbating with a fat peppermint stick in her red velvet and white fur trimmed sexy Mrs. Claus skating costume. She even had a threesome with a pair of BC Eagles.
And now she wanted Jimmy Craig. Why? Because he was a bigger bitch than she was.