Rio on their mind: Skaters fond of Summer GamesAthletes inspired by Phelps' '08 achievements, Strug's gutsy performance
When the opening ceremony at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games gets underway Friday, plenty of figure skaters will be watching. It's not their half of the quadrennium, but winter athletes are still enthralled by the spectacle. Many skaters take particular interest in watching gymnastics, given the similarities between the sport and figure skating. Other skaters are fascinated by sports quite different from skating, like pole vaulting and table tennis.
Icenetwork asked several skaters to share their favorite Summer Games memories, including which sports they enjoy watching most.
Meagan Duhamel: "My favorite memory of the Summer Olympics was watching Atlanta 1996. I always remember the amazing USA ladies gymnastics team. And Kerri Strug landed her vault on one foot and they got the gold medal. This always stands out to me, because it proved that athletes really will do whatever it takes to achieve their dreams.
"I love to watch all the sports during the Olympics, and I love to learn about each one. Last summer I watched a documentary on USA's ping pong players, and I was so intrigued to learn about their sport. I was also playing ping pong at a very young age! I loved it so much, I remember folding the table against the wall so I could play against myself once everyone else got tired.
"I dreamed about going to the Olympics for all sports. I'd play basketball in my driveway and pretend I was an Olympic basketball player. Then I did gymnastics class and pretended I was on the gymnastics Olympic team. Olympics, Olympics, Olympics!"
Gabriella Papadakis: "I was watching the Olympics as a child with my parents. I'd say that, for me, it has always been a familial moment -- an occasion to reunite in front of the TV, talk about who you're rooting for, what you think about the performances -- sometimes arguing, but always being together.
"I like a lot of sports like pole vault, gymnastics and diving, especially. I also particularly love to watch people running. It's simple to watch and such a metaphor for life: Keep going forward, no matter the pain and difficulties.
"But there's something that I could watch for hours without getting bored: the medal ceremony, with all its emotions and historical symbols and emblems."
Guillaume Cizeron: "I remember the pole vault event when Renaud Lavillenie won his gold medal in 2012 in London. I was really proud and inspired that a guy from my hometown could go to the Olympics and win!
"My favorite summer Olympics sport is gymnastics. I find it so amazing and unreal that athletes can go this far in pushing the limits of the human body. Gravity doesn't seem to be an issue for gymnasts; I've always been jealous of how strong and flexible their bodies are."
Max Aaron: "My favorite summer Olympics memory has to be watching Michael Phelps tear up the pool in 2008, and Nastia [Liukin] and Shawn [Johnson] in gymnastics in '08 as well.
"My favorite summer sport is track and field, because it really is just you against the clock. I have always wanted to be named the fastest person in the world! I also love swimming since I have been able to meet so many of the Olympic swimmers at this year's Games. I do love the men's and women's gymnastics as well."
Polina Edmunds: "My greatest memory of the summer Olympics is watching the 'Fierce Five' ladies gymnastics team win gold in the London 2012 Games. Their strength, physically and mentally, to be at their best at that important moment, was so inspiring.
"My favorite summer Olympic sport is gymnastics because I used to do gymnastics when I was younger. I also love watching gymnastics because it's such a tough sport, but the girls combine that toughness with beauty and grace -- super similar to figure skating!"
Tai Babilonia: "The memory that was the most emotional and had the biggest impact on me was when my friend and mentor, 1960 Olympic (decathlon) champion and co-founder of the Special Olympics, Rafer Johnson, lit the Olympic torch at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. I was overjoyed with pride, as was the whole world."
Babilonia's favorite summer Olympic sports are diving, gymnastics and decathlon.
"Being an Olympian myself, only we can understand the hard work, dedication and sacrifice that goes into making the Olympic team, let alone winning a medal. We really are a unique family, and it's a special bond that I hold close to my heart. I have so much respect for my winter and summer Olympic family."
Ross Miner: "I love gymnastics, tennis and track. But, actually, my favorites are all the ones your never get to watch, or that aren't that popular here. So I love watching team handball, volleyball, ping pong and all the weird ones."
Miner says his favorite summer Olympic memory comes from the 1992 Games in Barcelona, when a British sprinter tore his hamstring in the 400-meter semifinals and limped his way around the track trying to finish.
"Derek Redmond's dad helping him cross the finish line is probably my favorite sports moment."
Kaetlyn Osmond: "My favorite memory of watching the summer Olympics is being at the rink doing my own training and being able to see the TV on the wall that had continuous coverage of the Olympic Games. It never mattered what the sport, but all of us on the ice would skate past looking at the screen trying to see results, and on our breaks we would all sit on the floor and cheer on the athletes. It always brought so much hype and excitement that the rink would be buzzing with energy and everyone's motivation exploded.
"My favorite summer Olympics sport would be a tossup between gymnastics and diving. I wish I could say that I've done either sport, but I am not really coordinated without skates on my feet."
Jeremy Abbott: "My favorite summer Olympic memory has to be Kerri Strug landing her final vault on one foot. The commentators were saying she looked like she was injured, but no one really knew what was going on. It seemed like an absolute eternity before she took off down the runway toward the vault. She landed on one foot, but as she fell to her knees, the entire world stood on their feet. That moment was what the Olympics are about.
"I have such a respect and love for all sports, but I love watching the acrobatic sports like diving and gymnastics. The fireworks and acrobatics of those sports entertain me so much. What those men and women can get their bodies to do blows my mind! I did both when I was younger, but I was meant to rotate standing upright, not so much with my feet over my head."
Courtney Hicks: "My favorite summer Olympic memory is watching Michael Phelps win his record-setting eighth gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games. I just thought it was so cool. However, my favorite summer Olympic sport is gymnastics, and if I hadn't gotten into skating, I probably would have been a gymnast."
Quinn Carpenter: "I know this is an odd one, but I think my favorite summer Olympic sport is pole vaulting. I've always been amazed by the literal heights that athletes reach in pole vaulting, all with just their own strength and a pole. It also looks like it would be tons of fun, if I knew how to do it. I don't remember the specifics, but one time in a previous summer Olympics, I think in 2008, the last woman competitor won on her final vault, and I believe set a world record in doing so. That moment was really inspiring for me, and it felt great to see her so excited. She even did a flip on the landing mat in celebration after her jump! For whatever reason, I just remember her happiness and look of triumph when she finished, and that has really stuck with me. Also, it is worth mentioning that badminton is definitely a close second as favorite summer Olympic sport."
Badminton gets another vote from fiancés Grant Hochstein and Caroline Zhang: "One of our favorite summer Olympic sports is badminton! We always play outside the rink in the parking lot on our freestyle breaks. I don't think we really know the rules too well, and we have no net to play with, but it's fun to let off a little steam in between sessions. We also like watching swimming, diving and gymnastics."
Alex Johnson likes gymnastics best: "I like the floor routines, the vault and high bar. My sister and I would always come home from summer skating and watch the gymnasts perform all these crazy flips, and we would go and try to replicate them on our trampoline. However, we would put a sprinkler under our trampoline and do it in our swimsuits, so maybe diving had a slight impact. I think we invented a new hybrid sport. And after all the young Russian skaters have wowed us with their flexibility, I wish I had done rhythmic gymnastics, too."
Lucinda Ruh: "Every time Michael Phelps won, he made my all-time favorite summer Olympics list! Swimming is my favorite Olympic sport because it's fast, beautiful and gracious, and who wins doesn't depend on subjectivity. It's pure power and being one with earth's water element."