Q&A with Peggy Fleming
ABC Sports Online
ABC Sports sat down with ABC figure skating analyst Peggy Fleming earlier this spring to talk about some of the highlights of her broadcasting career.
ABC Sports: Let's start off with Rudy Galindo in 1996. In San Jose, your hometown. Obviously, you weren't commentating for the event but just tell me a little bit about what you remember about that historic moment for him.
Fleming: Well, it was wonderful for me because it was my hometown, and I was so proud that ABC and that US Nationals were going to be in my back yard. And I wanted everything to be just perfect. We had a brand-new sports arena, which I was involved with the community to help build this building because I knew it would bring wonderful events. And I wanted everything to go well, and it did. Unfortunately, I missed the most exciting event that took place in that building because I wasn't covering the men's event. I had been there all day at the building covering pairs or something, and I had a window of two hours to go back to the hotel and freshen up, and get ready for the ladies' event.
So, I come back to the building after washing my hair and I see Curt Gowdy and he tells me, Oh my gosh, you missed the most exciting event that ABC Sports has ever covered. And I go, What? What happened? He said Rudy Galindo just brought the house down. And I just went, Oh, that is just my luck. So I missed the most exciting event.
ABC Sports: Let's talk about the one event we all remember so well. Tara Lipinsky becoming the youngest female World Champion in 1997 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Did she seem very young to you and do you remember how small she looked on the ice?
Fleming: I remember watching the first practice that I had ever seen of her, and she was just so tiny. Her head practically didn't even come over the boards to even see her. I watched her skate and she didn't look intimidated at all being out there in the practice session with Michelle Kwan and all these other skaters that were just much more established as competitors. She just went out there and rattled off her triple jumps and went through her program and, and just kept her focus. And I remember meeting her afterwards and putting my arm around her and giving her a hug and wishing her good luck and it felt like I was hugging my twelve-year-old son with that small little body. She was so tiny, but so ambitious and so grown-up for being so young.
ABC Sports: Did you ever think in your mind that she might have the possibility of winning that year?
Fleming: No, not really. She was so young and so tiny, I just thought well, you know, she's gonna have to wait her turn, and that's the tradition in skating. So I just couldn't believe she could handle the pressure and go out there and skate like she could skate. She was just phenomenal.
ABC Sports: Can you talk about Michelle at last year's Worlds?
Fleming: It was really tough at the 2000 World Championships in Nice for Michelle. She was in third place after the short program, and she really had to prove herself. But I remember going to one of the practices there at the championship, and I saw something in her eyes. I saw a determination that I thought, there is no way she is gonna lose this title. She is going after it. And I felt a new aggressiveness to her skating. I could just see it in every practice that I saw her do. And she went out there and just skated a beautiful performance with lots of feeling and lots of fight and drive. She deserved to win.
ABC Sports: Why do you think every year we constantly doubt her. She proves us time and time again wrong. Why do you think there's usually a doubt?
Fleming: I don't know why the critics keep doubting her every year. I mean, now she's four-time world champion, and going into the Olympics. I don't know if they're gonna continue to keep doubting her. We cannot put anything past Michelle Kwan. She's judged by a different standard than any other skater. But she set that standard herself. And she knows that, and she's at peace with that, and she really does try to reinvent herself every year because she has to. I'm sure that next year she's gonna put a lot of thought into her programs that she will be doing at the Olympic Games.
ABC Sports: Where were you and what were you doing when you heard that Nancy Kerrigan had been attacked?
Fleming: We had just finished a production meeting and somebody had run in and told us that Nancy Kerrigan had been attacked. And we thought it was a joke. We thought, Is that really for real and they said, Oh yes, and we really didn't know to what extent it was. It wasn't until I was on the bus going back to the hotel that the talk really started to buzz around the bus saying that it really did happen and she was really hurt. That was just a shock and I thought, It's probably because we're in Detroit because it's a rough city. But it turned out that it wasn't. It was just such a circus. Instead of our show being a sports show it turned out to be a news show more than anything. It was an incredible experience to be in the middle of.
ABC Sports: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams anything like this could ever happen, and have a skater, a competitor, be accused of it?
Fleming: I could never, ever imagine another skater trying to injure a competitor to try to get ahead. That never crossed my mind. I've never even seen an inkling of threat in my career. And so the thought never had crossed my mind that it could be Tanya Harding, doing something like this, or that she had anything to do with it. It was just a real unusual circumstance, and an unusual thing for our sport. But it sure got a lot of attention.
ABC Sports: What was the atmosphere like in the building when the free skate went on, when Tanya went out and skated?
Fleming: Nancy Kerrigan watched from the sky box. It was so odd, the feeling in the building was so confusing. You really weren't focused totally on the skating that year. It was really, Will Nancy skate in the Olympics or not? It was all so up in the air. We didn't know what to think.
ABC Sports: How do you feel this incident changed skating?
Fleming: I think the whole incident with Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding changed our sport and brought a whole new audience to our sport. That it just takes all kinds of people that do this sport. We're not cookie-cutter forms of the type of person that you are and the type of skating you do. We all have something to contribute to the sport. It was an unusual circumstance and it probably will never happen again. But it certainly put figure skating in the forefront.
|Peggy Flemming won a gold medal at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France.||