Skating Lesson Podcast: Debi Thomas

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Fabrichnova, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Fabrichnova

    Fabrichnova New Member

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    Jenny and Dave interview Debi Thomas. She sounds a bit disillusioned about joining the medical field, although it's still quite fascinating to hear her talk about her post-skating life. There's an almost lamenting quality to some of her responses, she talks about making more money in three minutes as a skater than she does as a doctor, but then she even remarks that maybe she should be on a reality show, and I'm not entirely sure she's joking. Either way, still an interesting interview.

    Her boyfriend(?) makes a quick appearance, and at one point a creditor calls during the interview. Odd but fascinating.

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA9GOAs5v33Lb3NUAubJdyny4UHdNLkA5
  2. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I didn't get the impression that she was disillusioned so much as it is always a surprise to her that other people aren't as driven to achieve their ideals as she is. (I just finished Robin Cousins bio and the same theme kept cropping up). She seemed amused at herself that after all these years it still frustrates her.

    I was surprised at what a strong believer she is in sports psychology.
  3. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

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    I like Debi, just too honest. I love her to death. You will never get a bad quote from Debi. Hugs

    I asked Dave to ask her one question which did not make it: "Who is a better mother? Janice Thomas or Debi Thomas?" I would have loved to hear her response. I like how she was so very gracious to both Jill and Caryn. She really is a class act.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
  4. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    I thought this was another interesting and well done interview! Once again, Dave and Jenny did an excellent job of asking provocative and well thought out questions. Perhaps around this time, many fans are kind of "on overload" when it comes to watching figure skating-related broadcasts and podcasts, but this interview with Debi is worth checking out.

    I echo the feeling that Debi is not necessarily disillusioned with the actual hands-on practice of being a doctor, but she seems heavily disillusioned with the healthcare industry as a whole and with all the bureaucratic and administrative details involved that take away from actually serving the needs of patients. Debi seems to have a type A personality, and she admits to being a perfectionist which can make it very difficult to thrive within a corporate structure, and it can even add to the roadblocks that crop up in trying to accomplish personal goals. With that said, I'm amazed and impressed with all that Debi has accomplished in her life. I'm particularly impressed with her desire to make an important and beneficial difference for her patients. I sympathize with the struggles she has been facing in that regard and I wish her well. It will be great if she gets the opportunity to write two books, one on her career in skating, and another on her career in medicine. :) A former skater-themed reality show is also a great idea.

    In regard to the skating-related parts of the interview, wow, Debi's mother was such a staunch supporter, as well as being very professionally accomplished herself. In addition to the financial sacrifices, its seems that her mother made the decision to put her own career on hold in order to focus on making Debi's path in skating less of an obstacle. Her mother was not the typical skating Mom, in that she seemed to be supportive in a way that actually helped rather than hurt Debi's progress.

    It was also interesting to learn exactly how friendly and supportive Debi and her U.S. skating rivals were with each other, including Tiffany Chin, and especially Caryn Kadavy and Jill Trenary. The media coverage at the time seemed to suggest otherwise. But that's the way of the media. And there weren't any other readily accessible ways back then to talk directly with the skaters and to know a lot about what was going on behind-the-scenes as there are today.

    Debi's take on what she was really thinking during the 1988 Olympics run-up to her fs and during her fs performance is quite fascinating. It’s also quite interesting how her views differ from comments that others have made. The podcast interview touches on and confirms how much respect both Debi and Katarina had for each other. Once again it appears to have been the media along with cultural and figure skating stereotypes that provided the framework for how the entire Debi vs Katarina 1988 Olympic story is viewed to this day. Same goes for the Battle of the Brians iconic storyline as well.

    The fact that Debi was always known for "pulling out great performances," even when her practices weren't going well is intriguing. Debi seems to feel that although there was intense pressure leading up to the Olympics, the reason for her less than perfect fs had more to do with her and her coach not having enough knowledge in how to manage the Olympic experience. For some reason, Debi (maybe to calm her nerves?) said she didn't do the things she normally did, such as "visualizing" her performance and the desired outcome beforehand. During the Olympics, Debi’s thought processes and mental preparation seemed to suffer. She says that she unfortunately gave in to the notion that her body's muscle memory would just get her through it. Plus she also erroneously felt that if she didn't land the opening 3toe/ 3toe in her fs, that nothing else mattered because in her mind, she wanted to skate the perfect performance.

    I believe the increased media attention and Debi’s high profile as the first black Winter Olympic athlete to have a chance at winning gold, did have an affect on Debi, but she doesn’t seem to view it that way and so she probably didn't internalize it in that light at the time. She seemed to have tried to treat the Olympics as any other competition, but obviously different strategies were probably needed.

    In any case, I think today's skaters can definitely benefit from listening to this podcast interview with Debi Thomas, and incorporating the "visualization" technique into their mental practices. Probably many skaters already do use that technique. Brian Boitano has always spoken of how he visualized his winning free skate at '88 Olympics. I also think most skaters today realize the importance of not giving up on a program, although it definitely isn't always easy for athletes to maintain energy and enthusiasm or come back strongly when they make mistakes early in their programs.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  5. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I got the impression from comments on Aunt Joyce's site that Debi is going through another divorce, which could account for her state of mind when she did this interview. It is disturbing.
  6. Loves_Shizuka

    Loves_Shizuka Well-Known Member

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    I really enjoyed this, thank you.
  7. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^^ Yes, I was surprised re the reference to Debi's "boyfriend" before I viewed the podcast. Then, I realized she is apparently in a new relationship. Nothing was mentioned though in the podcast about her second husband who is the father of her teen-aged son.

    If Dave mentioned something on his website about Debi currently going through a divorce, then perhaps that was contributing to her agitation. I got the impression during the podcast that she was more wound up about her efforts to make her small practice financially viable. I wish Debi well, and I hope she gets some small business advice, and that she can eventually succeed in balancing things and being able to help patients on her own terms.
  8. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    What was disturbing? I think she has been working on this divorce a long time. I'm sure it is tough for her. Her first marriage, though, was with her college sweetheart-- and neither may have been ready or known what they were getting into yet (just a guess). It was relatively brief and there were no children. I'm sure this divorce, because of her son and also having become established in her career during this marriage, is hard emotionally and practically. I really hope that it works out fine, both for her lovely son's sake and hers.

    Other of our favorite skaters and skating experts have endured separations/divorces and become divorced parents, such as Dick Button and Jamie Sale for example. So it's something we should not worry too much about for her.

    Can I just say that Dave and Jenny did a great interview. I don't think they know how good they are at putting these together. I enjoyed it.
  9. falling_dance

    falling_dance The Scarlet Unlettered

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    I found this podcast very interesting and think that it's the best one so far.
  10. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ITA, IronLady. I didn't find anything necessarily "disturbing," although I was surprised about Debi having left the big-time hospital environment, and that she is currently in a new relationship because I thought she was happily married. In any case, Debi is so down to earth and she lets it all hang out with straightforward honesty and good humor. The very brief mention of the call from a creditor instead of being awkward was just funny because that's how Debi treated it. The interview provides us with a slice of real life, and Debi is someone who seems able to manage real life pressures while at the same time accomplishing amazing things. She's a fighter and an exemplary role model.

    ITA that Dave and Jenny are crazy good at what they are doing. They are making it look easy, but they must be spending a lot of time in preparation for these interviews. They especially work well together in view of the fact that they are asking these questions in tandem but from different locations.

    I like the way this podcast builds upon the others in showing how skaters manage to segue into productive lives after the hot spotlight of figure skating. Some are still very involved in the sport like Rudy and Dan, while Tai, Tim, and Debi have transitioned to other successful careers, but not without experiencing ups and downs that resonate in many ways with their experiences in skating. In other words, as Ryan Jahnke has said, "Skating is a crucible for life."
  11. Spun Silver

    Spun Silver Well-Known Member

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    I too was impressed with her conviction that belief in yourself/visualizing that belief is the key to success. I wish she would mentor some of our current US skaters. Great summary, Aftershocks. I would just add that she pointed out that she was extremely ready at the Olympics, as contrasted with her usual comps where she never had enough time to prepare and would have to pull a win out of her.... She stressed that this very preparedness at the Olympics threw her off her game - it made her too relaxed, she lost the edginess or nerves that she usually took into competition. It is so ironic! I guess the lesson is, do what you always do, treat it like just another competition... advice that few have the fortitude to follow, I imagine. Also, w. regard to missing the 3-3, I believe her point was that she knew she couldn't win without it and that's why she deflated. I don't believe it was so much about perfection as winning.

    Anyway I thought it was a great interview. Her drive and honesty are larger than life.
  12. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^^ Interesting perspective Spun Silver! Thanks for sharing. You seem to have gotten a slightly different understanding from what Debi said than I did: i.e., that her being well prepared threw her off her game. I didn't get the sense that she was overly prepared (but you're probably right -- I'd have to re-listen to that part). I thought she meant that she was over-thinking the event because her and her coach did not actually have a knowledgeable strategy about how to navigate the waters of Olympic competition.

    In the end, I thought she was saying that even though she tried to think of it as any other competition in order to downplay the pressure, she wasn't actually doing the things she normally would do for mental preparation. Her coach's final words before her skate were also extremely off-putting. Maybe if he'd just said, "Relax and have fun for yourself," instead of "Do it for America," she might have been able to better steady her nerves, at least a little.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  13. magicpixie

    magicpixie New Member

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    thanks so much for posting. Great interview. It's interesting hearing her talk about the businness aspect of the medical field. I work at a doctor's office and the points she expresses are the same that the doctors at our office have been stressing about. The reimbursement rate is insane.

    I've gotta say I'm so impressed with Debi Thomas, Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, these great figure skating women who have moved on to the "real" world and are strong, smart women. What great role models they are.
  14. FSfan107

    FSfan107 Well-Known Member

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    I agree that this podcast was such an interesting listen. I tend to love listening to really bright people talk and Debi is obviously a bright person . Hearing about her whole life, from how her mother brought her up to her going to school while still skating, was fascinating to me. It helps that Jenny and Dave asked such good questions. I also like how long the podcasts are, as I enjoy a good long interview.

    Aftershocks mentioned that maybe fans are tiring of all of these figure skating podcasts but I'm not! I love listening to interviews with current/past skaters and others involved in sport, whether it is with Jenny and Dave or Manleywoman (I'm not trying to start up that comparison discussion again, just saying I love the interviews in general).
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  15. AndyWarhol

    AndyWarhol Well-Known Member

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    I loved this interview. Was Debi high?
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  16. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps Debi was high on the emotional vagaries and ups and downs of real life. But she seems to be taking care of business nonetheless. ;)

    Debi sure knew how to skate, how to win, and how to make us laugh:

    (She also had gorgeous layback positions and did her own choreography)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=xB18hTAAGIU '86 Nationals fp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9dgvXZkup4 '86 Worlds fp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=3Mm3Fud7Jmo&NR=1 '86 Worlds Exhibition

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxaBuhtxha8 1987 Tour of Champions Exhibition

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bgiMdbiPHk 1988 Nationals fp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AX_cSCm115U 1988 Olympic sp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrOREXYjUW4 1988 Stars on Ice

    And this from the 2010 Olympics, I hadn't seen before :lol:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtwVPgenweM



    No, I didn't mean "tired of the podcasts," I simply meant that those fans who have been watching all the various Nationals coverage and Europeans coverage, etc., might be on viewing overload right now. IOW, there are only so many hours in the day ... not that it stops diehard fans from watching. :) It's just sometimes that a breather might be necessary. ;) I looked for and bumped up this thread because it might have been missed by some fans since it was initially posted about a week after U.S. Nationals competition.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  17. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    I've always loved Debi's bluntness. I remember seeing her interviewed on some talk show (Oprah?) and was asked about her training. Her response was "I never really liked the training part of it." :lol:

    Watched the whole interview here. At first I thought it was going to be a big bore, as Debi was kind of rambling and going off on her own tangents at first, but then it turned into a great interview. I really liked hearing her expertise about hip injuries/surgeries, as well as her advice about a healthy amount of training and using visualization as a tool.

    Also nice to know that she is such good friends with Jill Trenary and Caryn Kadavy.
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  18. iarispiralllyof

    iarispiralllyof Active Member

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    She is a queen. Olympic medalist, Stanford AND medical school?! :'( Your faves could never
  19. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    ^^ Yes, Debi Thomas is an Ice Queen, an over-achiever, a perfectionist with high standards, and a down-to-earth lady with a great sense of humor! :)
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  20. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    Yeah I think people have been wanting this kind of thing actually. I am a very auditory person, and it is great to listen to Dave and Jenny when I'm at the gym or in the car. Some of the interviews on Dave's blog, Aunt Joyce's Ice Cream Stand, over the years have been of amazing quality, and I didn't always fully appreciate the careful questioning and handling involved to get in depth and compelling responses from these personalities. Having audio and visuals I really like. It is very immediate and memorable.
  21. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    Just curious: does anyone know if Alex McGowan coached any other famous skaters besides Debi? Is he still coaching?
  22. iarispiralllyof

    iarispiralllyof Active Member

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    The negative reaction to this on Dave's blog is kind of overwhelming. Jesus people are melodramatic

    Yeah she rambled..so what. People are questioning her capability to operate even wtf
  23. shan

    shan Well-Known Member

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    I admit that I ff'd through some of the medical stuff, but I enjoyed her basic discussion of being a doctor. And I'm sad that her experience is that being a good doctor is not encouraged. I loved her personality and descriptions of training/comps/shows. I especially enjoyed hearing about SOI. Overall a great interview with a great subject!
  24. aftershocks

    aftershocks Well-Known Member

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    Not sure re Alex McGowan ... I don't think he coached any other top level or famous skaters. I don't know if he's still coaching either. Unfortunately, he and Debi parted not on the best of terms. The Olympic experience was so intense and emotional, but they seemed to have worked well together otherwise.

    As far as Debi rambling, she acknowledged as much herself. I also thought Dave and Jenny were very good at allowing her to talk and then very respectfully and skillfully leading her back to discussing more about skating which ultimately uncovered connecting threads between her skating and her life off the ice. Debi, having such high standards, is probably a wonderful doctor, and she seems to be fully engaged with caring for and caring about her patients.

    Oho, btw, next Skating Lesson Podcast interview is with none other than Caitlin Yankowskas!! :watch:

    A sneak peek: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK_AMV61lSI (as posted already by shan, in the U.S. pairs thread) Wonder if we'll find out if her and Josh are staying together and if so, what their plans are for next season...
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  25. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    At US Nationals in 1994, McGowan coached senior lady, Lisa Talbot. For a little while I believe he also coached the British men's champion, Stephen Cousins.
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  26. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    :)
  27. TheIronLady

    TheIronLady New Member

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    This is very exciting!
  28. CassAgain

    CassAgain Active Member

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    Can't wait to hear Caitlin's interview. I hope they book Emily Samuelson in the near future. :watch:
  29. waddlercu

    waddlercu Member

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    Agreed! I really enjoyed the interview. She seems very direct, practical and down-to-earth. I'm surprised that so many people are quick to judge her. Few of us could dream of owning our own medical practice. Are business troubles somehow less noble than an eating disorder or alcoholism?

    Her thoughts on the medical field echo what my doctor is always telling me. Small family practices face a lot of challenges. Obviously, this is a hot-button political issue, and she used this interview as a platform to voice her opinion. Why not? None of us are paying Dave and Jenny to listen.

    I suppose a lot of the criticism could be due to the culture clash. The "figure skating fan" and "Appalachian doctor/engineer" demographics don't overlap very often.
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  30. AndyWarhol

    AndyWarhol Well-Known Member

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    haha, i wouldn't call any of her answers direct.. long winding and not on point more like! ;)
  31. DBZ

    DBZ Well-Known Member

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    I really love hearing Debi's insights (both skating and medical) but I do agree she rambles pretty badly and, left to her own devices, can run away with an interview quickly. I think she treats interviews like a big open conversation and basically makes her own sequiturs and connections. The interviewer is merely someone to "talk to," as it were. I don't think she does this out of insane egoism or some power-trip like others are suggesting, but I imagine she's just someone who feels naturally compelled to "take the lead" in almost every given situation in her life. Extreme perfectionists are nothing if not control freaks, as evidenced by her comments on her Calgary experiences.

    Unfortunately, that can make for an extremely unfocused interview if not checked. I remember listening to Manleywoman's podcast with her, and there I also felt Debi constantly veered into unrelated tangents and tried to set the pace of the interview, no doubt unconsciously. I thought Manleywoman did a good job bringing her back to topic, backing up or slowing Debi down if she got too far ahead of herself, or make whatever she was saying relatable to skating in general.

    Ultimately, it's the interviewer's responsibility to assume control as much as possible, and I have to admit, I think Jenny and Dave kinda got run over and didn't know how to re-adjust as quickly when Debi would go off topic. They didn't seem to have a Plan B, and it showed.

    But, having said that, obviously Debi is not the easiest person to interview. I think we can all see that, and I don't envy the person given the task to conduct and construct a linear, cohesive interview with her that is evenly well-rounded and relevant all in one.

    However, in spite of all that, I still find Debi fascinating to listen to. She seems to have so many great stories to share, and above all, her candor and self-awareness when it comes to her strengths, but also her flaws and shortcomings as a skater and person, are very refreshing.
  32. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

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    I enjoyed the interview, and I'll disagree, I don't think Jennifer or Dave let the interview get away from them. I'd imagine they would be interested to hear what was inside her head, and just went with it. It might seem unfocused, but that showed a side of Debi that her fans probably never saw. I had friends who knew her at Northwestern and god did they have things to say about her. She can come across as very abrasive, but she's really just on her own schedule and she seems nice enough, it's just that not many people stick around to hear what else she has to say. They would have been surprised if they allowed themselves to get into her personality. Everytime I met with her and sat by her during a practice or competition she was either bored and wanted to leave, or VERY complimentary about the other skaters. Which I thought was funny because of that old saying "If you can't say something nice, come sit by me.." So when I'd see Debi in the stands then VROOOM I'm right next to her or in front or behind offering my two cents, but she was so respectful to other skaters. If anything I was glad to hear how positive she was about Tiffany, Caryn, and Jill. I figured she'd connect with Jill, but thought she'd have a stroke thinking about Tiffany and Caryn, the pretty princesses. Glad to see how respectful and complimentary she is to this day. You have to also admit, Kadavy's loop just was insane.

    And that's one thing I liked about this interview. It showed Debi Thomas as a world class athlete with world class sportsmanship. Good job Jennifer and Dave.
  33. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    So far Jenni and Dave have made a podcast a week, which is an mammoth process in itself. On top of the technical challenges they have had to face, Kirk and Lease must be thanked for their important contribution to the sport.

    However, the difference between their show and manleywoman's for example, is that I believe Allison edits her programs more thoroughly so that the interview maintains interest and stays focussed and on track.

    A live program runs the risk of the interviewee running off at a tangent, as Debi did from time to time. So, though she is a fascinating subject and personality, I found it a bit exhausting after 90 minutes, and would probably have wanted to keep it to skating. I did like her theories on the power of positive thinking, though. There is the basis for a terrific book for athletes and anyone where daily focus is key.

    It was good to hear more about her win at US Nationals in 1986 and her loss to Trenary in 1987, rather than rehashing her failure at the 1988 Olympic Games (which I am sure she is tired of talking about).
  34. Alex Forrest

    Alex Forrest Banned Member

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    I had talked to Dave before the interview, and that's kind of what I said. Forget Calgary. Enough has been said about it, and I'm sure that would just shut the interview down. Focus on before then, did she think she could have been world champ in 86 or was that just a fluke? Did she believe in herself enough or did she 'fall into' national and world champ? At times I wondered. As a former perfectionist, I related to Debi, and her experience at Calgary. And in a really weird comparison like Monica Seles in her only Wimbledon final. It just didn't feel right. You don't play up to your level, you're off, and you don't care. After all the years of dreaming, you get there and it doesn't feel right, and you're off. I got alot out of this interview, and I really think Dr. Debi should be praised for doing it quite honestly. She certainly didn't give a Michelle Kwan interview, let's get that straight.
  35. waddlercu

    waddlercu Member

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    To clarify, I mean "direct" as in candid, outspoken, informal and honest... NOT "straight to the point". :lol:

    I'm in the minority here, but I enjoyed her tangents. She talked about what interests her. I'm glad Dave and Jenny let her go with it.
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  36. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

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    I happened to be reading Robin Cousins biography when this podcast came out and Robin mentioned Alex McGowan. Apparently when Robin was 8 and went to the local rink to take group lessons McGowan was his first instructor and wrote a negative comment on his test report. Something to the effect that Robin would never make it in skating because he didn't know how to stop. (I assume Robin was too rambunctious). Robin next wanted to sign up for an advanced class that McGowan taught and McGowan refused to let him participate because Robin was wearing rental skates (Robin said his family couldn't afford skates and he was humiliated). Apparently Robin's mother got McGowan sorted out with management but the point is those negative experiences stuck with Robin his whole career. I think in his entire book he had nothing negative to say about anyone (and he had some old school coaches) but he made it a point to mention McGowan. McGowan probably didn't even know he had ever taught Robin until that book came out. I'm also surprised that McGowan didn't recognize Cousins as a prodigy back then as he had tested and passed Robin for 3 levels in one lesson series. Apparently his next instructor did.
  37. Loves_Shizuka

    Loves_Shizuka Well-Known Member

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    My mother used to be a radio DJ for a talk show way back in the day, and she told me that, though constrained by time, she often appreciated when her interviewees went off on a tangent because it "gave her more to work with" and an opportunity to see what really made the subject tick, as opposed to coming across as a one-dimensional robot, stuck in the world the interview might be about. I really enjoyed Debi's "ramblings". :lol:

    Oh, and Jennifer Kirk seems like a really likeable person; she and Dave are doing a great job at this; it's a really great way to open up the sport a little bit more.
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  38. Fudove

    Fudove New Member

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    I agree that the interviews are interesting. I began watching them today. Debbie seems very folksy and seems to have a super bed-side manner.