View Full Version : The Matt Savoie Appreciation Thread

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04-27-2012, 09:23 PM
Matt was so underrated by judges. My :sekret: tell me (though again, don't know how accurate this is) that he was told many times to move to a place where he could have a more politically-astute coaching situation, but he refused. Good on him for staying loyal and making the Oly team anyway...

ITA! I was thinking in looking back at some of Matt's performances, how remarkable it was that he grew up and trained in his hometown, and that he managed to continue doing so when he became an elite skater, not to mention attending school at the same time and receiving excellent grades! Few skaters seem able to stay with the same coach throughout their careers (I think Derrick Delmore stayed loyal to Shirley Hughes; Brian B to Linda Leaver; and I hope this will happen for Jason Brown and Kori Ade too :) )

...He should have National champ at least once. [B]I remember Johnny Weir during a press conference after an SP [said] that he didn't deserve to be in first after the SP and that "some other skaters" performed better.

I remember Johnny saying that too -- (I believe it was at 2005 U.S. Nats) and I recall immediately feeling that Johnny was referring to Matt's exquisite and unforgettable Adagio for Strings sp at 2005 Nats.

...Would love to interview him for the podcast.

I was hoping this would happen too. Glad you are hoping to do so. Good luck, and thanks!

... I think Matt's career would have been vastly different if it had been moved ahead five or six years. Yes, he competed under CoP, but he was just slightly past his prime (in terms of jump consistency) and had already been labeled an "almost boy" by the judges. His intricate choreography, inventive jump entrances, and flowing steps no doubt influenced many skaters that came after him. He was a skater totally built for CoP before CoP existed. I certainly think every single aspect of his skating is far superior to the current Olympic champ's, and in his prime he was consistently delivering 8 triple programs. So, it's not a stretch to think that under different circumstances he could be a World or Olympic Champ. Regardless of his gold medal-less resume, Matt was a wonderful skater who represented the US well time and time again, and I will always remember him.

ITA! :cheer:

Matt was my special favorite when he was competing. I think he was a forerunner to Jeremy Abbott (my current special favorite) in his body movement, interpretation, intricate choreo, etc.

My favorite Matt moment was his 2006 Nationals freeskate. Beautiful performance, and what a privilege to see it live and to feel the crowd fully behind him. :wuzrobbed:

Now he's a corporate raiding attorney in Boston (http://www.choate.com/people/matthew-savoie). Doesn't he look handsome in his suit and glasses? :)

Yes, thanks for posting. :)

Matt seems so levelheaded and sane, but his skating also seemed to express such depth and complexity of emotions. Matt apparently had a wonderful relationship with his choreographer, Tom Dickson. I recall Matt discussing something once about the process of being courageous in revealing a different aspect of his personality and learning how to be a stronger competitor. Can anyone else recall or find the exact quote?

04-27-2012, 10:02 PM
Kirk Wessler, of the pjstar, (Peoria, Illinois) Matt's hometown paper; has written some wonderful feature articles about him.
I had the links, and lost them when my computer "crashed".
If someone could help me locate them, I would be very grateful.

They are well worth reading,

04-27-2012, 10:24 PM
^^ It may be that some of Wessler's articles on Matt are no longer available online. I found this link:

And this: scroll down for Matt reference


And in the below link, Wessler recalls how he first attended U.S. Nationals in 1998 to cover Matt's first appearance in seniors. Wessler said he became "hooked" on figure skating that year when "I saw Michelle Kwan paint a record 15 perfect 6.0s." :)

http://www.lincolncourier.com/sports/x920797549/Wessler-Soccer-isnt-No-1-but-still-fun Scroll down

Here's a nice feature on Matt and his Mom:

04-27-2012, 10:57 PM
^^ It may be that some of Wessler's articles on Matt are no longer available online. I found this link:

I believe you are referring to the article written by Kirk Wessler. Excellent article. I can't find a existing link to it but luckily I have it saved:

Deconstructing Savoie
Coach's tough love helps Peorian reach Olympics



Sometimes, you've gotta break the rules.
Kathy Johnson understands that, as surely as she cut to the core of Matt Savoie's being almost the instant she met the Peoria figure skater.
Johnson saw talent that was only self-limiting. She recognized willpower turned oddly inward. She demanded Savoie explain himself, listened to his existential philosophy, determined he was hiding behind his intelligence and told him he was full of baloney. Only she wasn't that polite.
The people around Savoie pulled Johnson aside and warned her to be careful: You don't know the rules of dealing with Matt.
"There are no rules," Johnson replied. "I'll tell him exactly what I think."
And this is what Johnson told Savoie:
"I will, if I have to, drag you kicking and screaming to the next level, because you are that talented. I don't care what you say. What matters is what's inside of you, and it is fully within your artistic grasp to get it out of yourself. You can disagree with me all you want, but on the ice, you will create something magnificent out there."
As it is kicked in the butt, so let it be done.
Savoie will compete Tuesday and Thursday at the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, because what he created last month at the U.S. championships was, indeed, magnificent.

Improving the artistry

The last piece to the Matt Savoie puzzle was Johnson.
Savoie's first coach was Linda Branan, with whom he linked up at Owens Center at age 9. Sixteen years they've been together; an eternity beyond comprehension in the musical-coaches land of elite skating.
But Branan is not Savoie's only coach. She put aside whatever jealousies or insecurities that might have tempted her and resolved to get help whenever it was needed. Over the years, Gene Hefron of Rockford joined Team Savoie to help perfect the skater's jumps, and Tom Dickson of Colorado Springs came aboard to direct choreography.
Savoie's athletic ability was never in doubt. From the beginning, he exploded into jumps. The most difficult ones, the Axel and the Lutz, he executes with the greatest ease. Skating fans rave on his classic line. If Savoie wanted to turn his spins into a virtual trademark, as retired seven-time national champion Todd Eldredge did, he could.
Gordie McKellen, a former three-time national champion, saw Savoie at age 13 and predicted greatness. Dick Button, who parlayed five world championships and Olympic gold medals in 1948 and '52 into a career as the sport's king of television commentary, has been unabashed in his respect for the Peorian. Savoie's fans waited for him to break through. And waited. And waited.
But he forever seemed to hold something back.
So much of figure skating's appeal is the way a skater's artistry makes seem effortless the raw strength and coordination required to jump and rotate and land on a skate blade one-eighth of an inch wide. The ability to sell that illusion to the audience and ultimately to the judges is where the real lines of separation between the competitors are drawn.
But Savoie is not into illusions.
Though his artistic marks in the old 6.0 scoring system improved steadily, they did not reach the consistent 5.8s and 5.9s of his chief rivals. In the new Code of Points, there is more emphasis on the difficulty of the technical elements, plus bonuses for such nuances as entries into jumps, long a Savoie strength. But the artistic component, how the skater interprets the music and ties all the elements together, is where he continued to come up short.
Until Dickson introduced Savoie to Johnson, a graduate of Julliard School of Dance and resident modern dance teacher at the World Arena in Colorado Springs.

Head games

"She's a smart cookie," Branan says of Johnson. "She can read people very, very easily."
Johnson read Savoie so well, sometimes the skater would wonder whether she resided in his brain.
An honors student who will enroll at Cornell University's law school this fall, Savoie can be a masterful debater. Appeal to his intellect with a rational argument, and you can convince him to go along. Flub your point, and he'll go his own way.
But there was more.
Though Savoie is flattered by the appreciation fans shower on him, he disdains the spotlight. He is one of the most self-critical people you could ever meet, and his knowledge of his own shortcomings fuels his fear that he might not deserve his accomplishments, let alone the accolades that accompany them. Then there's the guilt he feels for even having a desire to, say, defeat an opponent and win a championship. Or, heaven forbid, be an Olympian.
Johnson spotted all of that and set about deconstructing every layer of Savoie's psychological defenses.
"Everything people achieve in life, from the mundane to the loftiest things, starts with a deep desire for something," she says.
"I told him, 'If you didn't desire this, you would've quit. You had better desire to be on that podium. I hope you desire an Olympic medal. Why would you not?'
"He said, 'That would be self-indulgent.' "
Savoie's comment set off Johnson, who challenged why he would take a position so counter to his natural humility. She turned the skater's contention back on him and called him a hypocrite; implied he was an elitist who looked down on anyone who desired such things.
"I'd better feel desire coming out of every inch of your body," Johnson told Savoie before nationals. "I want you to skate with the desire to do the best skate of your life."

Ready for the largest stage

Moments before Savoie took the ice for his free skate at nationals, Dickson got in his face and asked, "What are you going to do out there?"
"I'm going to be a different person," Savoie replied.
Dickson calls that moment the turning point in Savoie's career.
"The way he looked at me was different than ever before. It was almost shocking." Dickson says.
What Savoie did that afternoon in St. Louis transcended any program he had performed.
Dickson choreographed the 4-minute, 40-second performance with music from "The Mission," a story of Portuguese missionaries in the jungles of Brazil. The character Savoie plays begins with uncertainty, wrestles with self-discovery, squares off with the devil and emerges reborn, triumphant and whole. It requires little stretch of the imagination to see the parallels to Savoie's own skating life.
True to form, Savoie brushes off suggestions that the storyline could be his autobiography.
"If I tried to self-identify with the part, I would be a lot more subdued than would be effective," he says.
Dickson and Johnson chuckle: That's Matt.
Dickson credits Savoie for finally coming to the realization there "could possibly be two different Matts, and he uses the program to transform himself."
Johnson agrees, but emphasizes the two Matts are still one in the same being; one drawing on the other for its inspiration and giving both life.
"Tom is a choreographic genius," Johnson says. "It's a great piece for Matt. It's totally part of him. Matt would fight it. He would ask how I wanted him to do something with the character, and I would say, 'It's not my story, Matt. It's your story. Bring what you feel. That's what imbues a character with its life.' "
Savoie is this part. He feels it, breathes it, works through the pain and fear of it, embraces it, celebrates it. At nationals, he grabbed the fans and carried them through his journey until they no longer could contain themselves and sprung to their feet to celebrate with him.
"Matt doesn't look at himself as an artist," Johnson says. "But I believe skating is an art form, or (the skater) would have turned to skiing or something that was just athletic. Artists are rarely able to transport themselves to that other side of life. That's why they turn to art.
"The audience desires to see the art. The audience wants to be transformed. They want to be taken to and shown another place."
The place in which Savoie now finds himself is unlike any other. The Olympics are the sports world's largest stage. Fairly or not, they are viewed by the masses as the pinnacle of achievement in the sports that comprise the Games.
Savoie arrives there a long shot, as usual. But he comes armed as never before, with the perfect program at the perfect time. All he has to do is live it. And skate it.

04-27-2012, 11:16 PM
Thank you!
This was one of several excellent articles Mr. Wessler wrote about Matt.
I believe that Mr. Wessler's son was a friend of Matt's; so, he had a interest in him beyond the average "news story".

Matt is a "local boy", who has excelled in every area; and continues to do so.

04-28-2012, 01:18 AM
Great, thanks for posting that article, shine! It is probably not available online anymore. I'd never read it before. And thanks, skatesindreams for pointing out that Wessler's son was a friend of Matt's. That is fortunate for skating fans who have enjoyed Wessler's articles about our favorite skaters. :)

Wow, re this excellent posted article by Mr. Wessler. I'd heard that Kathy Johnson has worked with Jeremy Abbott, but I didn't realize she'd also worked with Matt Savoie. I suppose then (after reading this article) that Kathy Johnson should be able to bring out whatever Patrick Chan might have inside himself artistically. If indeed Patrick is holding something back too, or if he has significant untapped artistic abilities. It does seem that Kathy Johnson is a great and passionate motivator at the very least. One obvious difference is that Chan is already a highly admired World champion, loved by the judges for his SS. It will be interesting to see how much Johnson will be able to help Chan in other areas of his skating.

One minor detail in the article that I disagree with: "What Savoie did that afternoon in St. Louis transcended any program he had performed." IMO, what Matt did the previous year (2005) at Nats in his sp, was equally transcendent. Matt's program to [I]The Mission at 2006 Nats was certainly spine-tingling and transcendent too, despite his fall on a 3-lutz. He recovered immediately to perform another planned 3-lutz flawlessly.

ETA: In looking back again at Matt's 2006 Nats fp, I do get why Wessler believes it was Matt's "most transcendent" performance to that point. Matt came out of himself more perhaps. Truly, the music and the movement was as one -- so very uplifting.

Fozzie Bear
04-28-2012, 01:44 AM
Even as far back as 2005, the judges had an inexplicable love fest with Evan Lysacek, who actually was gifted a 6.0 for artistic impression in the SP of the same competition as this beautiful performance from Savoie. In what bizarre alternate universe should this performance by Lysacek ever be worthy of a 6.0? Everything about his performance qualities here are of a juniorish and immature quality, IMO. :confused::blah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAWdSzNdiZE and http://www.usfsa.org/event_related_details.asp?ri=content/events/200405/uschamps/seniormen-short.htm The fix was in very early in the career of Evan Lysacek. No wonder a skater has so many opportunities for success when he has such blatant favoritism from his federation. :rolleyes:

Matt's marks, on the other hand, are criminally low here; deplorable judging that in my mind should result in a ban from every judge on the panel of this event.
That scoring was such rubbish! And it ticked me off that at that point Lysacek had already skated that same SP for three straight seasons. (And he skated it a freakin' fourth time the 2005-2006 season!) Just criminal.

04-28-2012, 02:57 AM
There are few skaters who have truly managed to move me, but Matt Savoie is one of them. His Mission program is my favorite men's LP of all time. If I ever met him in person, I'd tell him how horribly wrong the judges were not to award him first place marks in every competition he entered. He was sublime. I hope he knows how highly he is regarded among skating fans (and probably skaters too - Dick Button always loved him!).

04-28-2012, 03:07 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9alzPB6Vms&feature=fvsr Matt Savoie montage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr39_MaZ6v4&feature=related 2002 Nats sp (Beautiful, clean performance! How could Matt’s presentation marks have been lower than his tech scores??? Obviously the fix was in, which surely must have affected Matt after delivering such a wonderful short program)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBitkND3VlE&feature=related 2002 Nats fp
Matt made a mistake on his first 3-axel in the fp at 2002 Nats, after that great sp. But then he recovered so well to skate such an intricate and beautiful performance, executing a clean 3-axel with even more difficult transition steps into it, later in the fp. 5.4 on presentation for this performance is ridiculous (consistent low-balling by the judges). Matt should not have been behind Michael Weiss. Looking at Matt’s facial expressions when he sees some of these ridiculous marks… :wuzrobbed But, ah well, Matt is the gold medal winner of our hearts – for all of us who love and will always remember his skating. Dick Button was obviously a great fan of Matt’s skating too. :saint:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqY2Q2WUl8&feature=related 2006 Nats fp
(somewhat annoying commentary, but very complimentary too; however, tsk tsk Kurt, for the jinx ;))

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=7-zsYqfw-pg 2006 Olympics fp
(even more annoying commentary – I wish I could find a clip of this 2006 performance by Matt at the Olympics w/o commentary)

Once again, I never get tired of watching this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFAsNpBJbk0 2005 sp

Early Matt 1999 Nats sp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDqTJe8HW6s&feature=related :)

Not a good quality clip, but 1999 Nats fp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ktD7SbxmLE&feature=related (too bad for the tv capture poor quality; love the music)

2006 Nats Exhibition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EUWTTWsCHw&feature=related

04-28-2012, 04:00 AM
There are few skating performances that I can truly watch over and over, again and again, and be moved to tears every time. Matt's 2006 Free Skate in St Louis is one of them.

And yes, I've contacted him just once, but never followed up. I need to try again.

04-28-2012, 04:41 AM
Matt skating at Cornell University:


If anyone has links to other Matt videos, please post. Thanks. :)

04-28-2012, 04:52 AM
Here's his 2005 FS from US Nationals. One of his lesser known programs that I really loved:
His triple axel entries were just insane. And he didn't just have one but several different ones. And his axel was high and airy - true technical mastery.

And also two exhibitions of his:
Solo Amore from 2005:

Summertime from 2006:

He was one of the most musically sensitive skaters and he was so versatile. I only wish he had more opportunites to compete on the international stage (amongst other things...).

04-28-2012, 05:06 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqY2Q2WUl8&feature=related 2006 Nats fp
(somewhat annoying commentary, but very complimentary too; however, tsk tsk Kurt, for the jinx ;))

There are few skating performances that I can truly watch over and over, again and again, and be moved to tears every time. Matt's 2006 Free Skate in St Louis is one of them.

:swoon: :swoon: :swoon:

I agree about the tears manleywoman. Without a doubt, that is one of my two or three favorite men's performances EVER at U.S. Nationals. Too bad about the first Lutz, but to come back on the second one immediately following was great!

Matt was my special favorite when he was competing. I think he was a forerunner to Jeremy Abbott (my current special favorite) in his body movement, interpretation, intricate choreo, etc.

Actually, I like Savoie even better than Abbott. :shuffle: But Savoie certainly paved the way for Abbott's style of skating.

Honestly, during Savoie's career, I would get frustrated at every. single. Nationals when we had to watch Weiss, Weir, and Goebel get held up over the superior skater. In fact, I'm getting frustrated thinking about it now! :mad:

04-28-2012, 05:42 AM
Thanks for those links, shine. Looking again at Matt's 2005 fp brought back memories. I haven't seen that program in awhile, and it is not easily found on youtube, so thanks again. Watching it reminds me of how upset I was when Matt did not at least make the 2005 World team. Incomprehensibly, he was placed in 4th behind Evan Lysacek (ironically, or not so ironically -- perhaps more via political backing bolstering Evan's talent, he came in 3rd at Worlds that year).

Looking back, how clearer can it be that Matt deserved 1st in the sp at 2005 Nats, and at the least 2nd or 3rd overall after the fp (where he doubled a couple of jumps, but still skated so stylistically better than everyone except Johnny in the fp, and better than everyone in the sp)! I did not feel that Evan should have made the World team that year. Evan had a good but still "juniorish-looking" skate with a well-used program in the short, and he had a fair, flawed performance in his Singin' in the Rain fp. Oh well, I suppose Matt was not the U.S. Federation's "cup of tea" by that point (Matt always seemed to be the odd man out). While OTOH Evan was the favored new kid on the block, and as it turned out, Evan became the "antidote" to Weir's rebellious "flamboyance."

It was great to see Matt make the 2006 Olympic team. He pushed himself to go even further with his skating (with the help of his coaching/ choreography team).

ETA: More videos ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=0rzfra_ghjE 2001 Skate America

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=IEWjEhxwW_4 2005 SC

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=skdVOCa2_6Y 2000 Keri Lotion

04-28-2012, 03:59 PM
Here's his 2005 FS from US Nationals. One of his lesser known programs that I really loved:
His triple axel entries were just insane. And he didn't just have one but several different ones. And his axel was high and airy - true technical mastery.

A 5.1/5.1 from judge #2 and being ranked as low as 4th from another judge is just beyond absurd. I know he doubled two jumps that were intended to be triples, but the construction of his programs were so much more technically complex and stylistically more sophisticated than any other US men's competitor during the time he was competing. The elements he did complete were of superior quality and World Champion caliber. Reputation and resume ruled the land in 6.0, just as it does in COP. It's sickening to think how this brilliant skater's talent and abilities were not showcased to their full extent to the world of international figure skating championships for so many years simply because he didn't have some of the GP medals, World medals, or Olympic medals that his other National competitors had. :mad: