It was a memorable night Sunday at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena, as professional and Olympic figure skaters performed routines with their families to a musical performance by Grammy Award-winning Christian and pop singer-songwriter Amy Grant.
For the second year in a row, the Musselman’s Apple Sauce Family Skating Tribute was hosted by Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and three-time national champion and two-time world bronze medalist Michael Weiss.
Weiss was joined by his wife Lisa and their two children, Annie-Mae and Christopher. A crowd favorite in exhibitions but not allowed in competition, Weiss performed his famous “Tornado,” a backflip with a full twist, which he did flawlessly for an absolutely thrilled audience.
The 1980 Lake Placid winter games was represented, as Olympic silver medalist Linda Fratianne skated with her daughter, Ali.
Other countries were represented for this tribute, as four-time world champion and four-time Canadian national champion Kurt Browning made an appearance, along with his wife, Sonia, and sons Gabriel and Dillon. Browning and Dillon performed to recorded music, skating to the Commodores’ “Brick House” and the Sister Sledge hit “We Are Family.”
Also appearing on the ice were husband and wife skaters Russians Ilia Kulik, the 1998 Olympic champion, and wife Ekaterina Gordeeva, the 1988 and 1994 Olympic champion; and American pair skater John Zimmerman and Italian skater Sylvia Fontana. Zimmerman and Fontana performed their routine to Grant’s 1991 No. 1 pop hit “Baby, Baby.”
One of the highlights of the evening was seeing 1992 Olympic roommates and teammates Yamaguchi and Nancy Kerrigan reunited. Yamaguchi won the gold at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, while Kerrigan would take the silver two years later in Lillehammer, Norway, at the 1994 winter games. Kerrigan was joined on the ice by her sons, Matthew and Brian, and daughter, Nicole.
Other skaters featured were 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie, with his wife, Kate, and daughters Hannah and Emma and son Caleb; and Todd Eldredge, the 1996 World champion and six-time U.S. national champion. Eldredge was joined on the ice by his wife, Sabrina, a two-time U.S. novice pairs medalist in 1991 and 1992.
Also included in the show before an intermission was a special appearance by the Penn State Figure Skating Club, which performed a routine to a classic rock medley of Queen hits.
For the tribute, skaters were given a list of songs to choose from, for which they could choreograph their routines. Grant and her band performed a combination of many favorites from her catalog of songs from both the Christian and pop genres, including 1994’s “House of Love” and her cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” for which all of the skaters came out on the ice together for a skating finale.
Being my first time at Penn State’s new ice arena, which opened last year, I was immediately impressed with this amazing facility, home to Penn State’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, as well as numerous competitions and events. If you’ve never been to an ice skating show, it is something I recommend everyone should experience.
Watching numerous Winter Olympics on television through the years, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to experience it live. Last evening, I feel I was able to experience that, and at the same time enjoy a wonderful live musical performance. Seeing all of these fabulous skaters of professional and Olympic fame, as well as a world-renowned artist such as Amy Grant, was truly exciting. As it was clearly evident with a family-friendly event and an audience of people young and old, this show was an absolute joy to watch and a thrilling experience that will be remembered.