Peggy Fleming’s legacy is already cemented. Now, the most popular figure skater in American history is hoping to leave an even greater mark in the sport that has been so good to her for more than 60 years.
Fleming, who resides in the Denver area with her husband of 49 years, Greg Jenkins, was in town last week during the 22nd annual Broadmoor Open at the Broadmoor World Arena. She helped preside over the heated competition for the 2nd Annual Peggy Fleming Trophy.
“With the point system they’re doing now skating is so mechanical,” Fleming said. “Everything counts. If you just move your arm you get some point. And the arm doesn’t mean anything. They are just trying to get points.
“I think the audience feels it as well that there’s a lot of mechanical things happening. Although the jumps are incredibly difficult, there’s a lot of falling. And there’s not very many performances where you can just relax and you see a confident skater really interpret the music and be artistic and be technical. That’s what we want. We want that balance back.
The event was limited to 18 Senior Men and Ladies entries. Both Men and Ladies competed together in the same event for the Trophy.
The focus of the event was on the skater’s ability to artistically express and present a complete composition while demonstrating technical skills. Performances were scored based on both a minimum technical framework and five specially defined components (Skating Skills and Technique, Composition, Interpretation, Performance and Overall Artistic/Creative Value) evaluating the artistry of each program and skater. The programs were about 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
“We want the audience to be entertained and enjoy the technical aspects, but also enjoy the artistry and music and interpretation of music and the creativity of putting their program together,” said Jenkins, who was an amateur figure skater when he first met Fleming as a teenager.
Technical advancement in figure skating has been profound in recent years, and Fleming has some strong feelings about artistry. Two years ago, she and longtime judge, friend and former skater Gale Tanger, along with Fabio Bianchetti, the chair of the International Skating Union Single and Pairs Skating Committee, began exploring the concept of putting more emphasis on artistry.
“We were losing that because of some of the restrictions and requirements skaters had in their programs,” Tanger said. “They were kind of copying each other to find a formula of success. With the formula for success, they kind of lost the personality.”
Tanger’s career as a judge includes five Olympics and 10 World Championships. By being part of the highest ranks of international figure skating judging, she has gone around the world to witness the best performances at the highest levels and helped the sport evolve and grow.
Fleming, Tanger and Bianchetti came up with a comprehensive set of rules. During their initial meeting, Bianchetti mentioned the ISU was considering changing the structure of competitions after the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. An artistic program and technical program would take the place of a short program or a short dance. The programs would be of equal length, with each about three and a half minutes.
Later this month, Fleming and her husband will be in Milwaukee — where Tanger lives — to meet with ISU officials to continue discussions on how to move forward.
“I love the sport,” Fleming said. “It changed my life for the better. I even learned things after the ’68 Olympics performing in shows and television specials and commentating for ABC for 28 years and I kept feeling like I was growing and becoming more knowledgeable about the sport from a different angle. And now I’m really on a different side being involved with the judges and officials to help advance our sport even more.”
Fleming plans to return to the Broadmoor Open in 2020.