I was recently informed that there will be a simple memorial for the late Sandra Stevenson at the 2019 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Lake Placid on August 31, 2019. Those who can’t attend have been invited to write out their memories of her to be shared. Here’s my submission:
I became acquainted with Sandra Stevenson sometime in 2007 or 2008 when I was what one might call a “newbie figure skating writer.”
In 2006, I landed a job as the Figure Skating Guide-Expert for About.com (then owned by the New York Times). Shortly after that, when icenetwork.com came into being, after the new icenetwork director saw my About.com Figure Skating articles, I was also hired to write icenetwork’s Figure Skating 101 column .
Anyway…the way I met Sandra was because I sent out a rather innocent email blast to all the figure skating writers who wrote for icenetwork suggesting we all be “friends and support one another and help one another.”
Sandra (or Alexandra, a pen name she gave herself) wrote me privately and told me that my idea would not quite “go over” among those who wrote professionally about figure skating. She told me that figure skating writers, just like figure skaters, were competitive among one another, but told me that she was different. She told me she thought the two of us could be friends and help one another.
As time passed, we’d talk on the phone or email one another often. Sandra told me that she covered every Worlds and Olympics since the 1960s and even skated at a rink I’d skated at as a child. She told me stories of her interactions with Olympic and World figure skaters and their coaches.
Below is a snippet from one of her emails to me that she wrote in June of 2008 about 1976 US Champion Terry Kubicka’s back flip at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games:
‘Dear JO ANN: …..Before writing my piece for Blades, I goggled and saw your piece on Terry Kubicka which was excellent. That was cross-referenced with the 1975 worlds. It was fascinating because that was my eighth (of 41) worlds which I’ve covered and a lot of your information brought back such wonderful memories.
Terry and I talked about his back flip. I noticed in your piece you didn’t mention the great fuss about the flip at the 1976 Olympics. (This is NOT meant as a criticism. I just thought you might not have remembered the incident.) While practising his back flip at one of the practice rinks (there were two – one enclosed by the speed oval and one in a bubble), on landing a flip, his blade went through to a plastic pipe (in the bubble rink) and caused a leak. The rink was closed down for 24 hours.
Evy Scotvold told me (after I successfully ran after him and blocked his exit – obviously I was much younger then) – that this was something that happens and they would have been able to fix it in the US in 15 minutes. However, because of lack of knowledge of the locals, the leak continued and became a much bigger problem. That was part of the reason it was banned.
Eventually the ISU gave their reason for doing so because the landing was made on two feet instead of one and therefore it could not be classed as a “real” jump. Of course, Surya Bonaly got around that by landing hers on one foot.
All the best,
Sandra (Alexandra Stevenson)’
Sandra and I met face to face at the 2007 or 2008 Lake Placid Dance Championships when my own children were young competitive ice dancers. We’d connect every year too at The Broadmoor Open. In 2010, we connected when About.com sent me to the Vancouver Olympics. We also spent time together at other international figure skating events such as the Four Continents Championships, the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, the Junior Grand Prix, and the U.S. Skate Challenge. We saw one another at the US National Championships. She was always gracious and told me about who she was writing about and about the articles she was working on.
She told me when we were together in Lake Placid that writing about figure skating had become much harder for her after the ISU Figure Skating Judging System was implemented after the 2002 Olympic Figure Skating Scandal. She said she used to write her articles in advance and have two “ready to go” since figure skating really was “fixed” in the old days! After the judging system changed, she explained, she had to write almost all her articles immediately after an event and could no longer use her pre-written articles!
I even wrote an article about Sandra for About.com Figure Skating. About.com laid-off all their writers beginning in 2016 when they changed their focus, so that article is now buried somewhere in the About.com Wayback Machine Archives, but if I do find it, I will share the link.
As the 2014 Winter Olympics approached, Sandra and I planned to room together in the press accomodations in Sochi, but in 2013, she wrote me and told me she decided not to attend. Her decision prompted me to decide to not physically go to that Olympics, but to still cover that Games from the comfort of my laptop and my home in the good old USA!
I was saddened to hear in December 2016 when Lynn Rutherford announced on Facebook that Sandra had become ill and had moved into an assisted living facility. I wanted her to have a copy of my book MY SKATING LIFE: 50 Plus Years of Skating, so I mailed her a copy. I remember Lynn writing me that receiving the book put a smile on Sandra’s face. I was so, so very sad to hear of her passing in 2018.
Sandra (or Alexandra) Stevenson, thank you for coming into my skating life. Thank you for your encouragement and friendship. And…thank you for giving so much to figure skating!
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