1980s: Michael Seibert and Judy Blumberg
Michael Seibert won five United States ice-dancing championships with partner Judy Blumberg before stepping away to become an Emmy-winning choreographer of “Stars on Ice.” He had kept his distance from the world of amateur skating in recent years, when a friend sent him a link to a Canadian TV series that followed ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they prepared for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
That’s when he saw it — a clip of the United States’ Meryl Davis and Charlie White performing to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”
“They were talking about the rivalry and I was watching this on my computer, and I thought, ‘Whaaat?!’ ” said Seibert, who grew up skating in Shaler and then Washington, Pa., and won one of his national titles in the 1983 competition at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena.
The Olympics were a different matter.
USA’s Davis and White will gamble that time equals progress and skate to “Scheherazade” — the same choice of music that proved costly to Seibert and Blumberg 30 years ago.
Seibert had suffered injuries and illness leading up to the 1984 Winter Games, but he and Blumberg were riding high in Sarajevo when an Italian judge who deemed their choice of music inappropriate for ice dancing. Her score of 5.5 dropped the team into fourth place and out of medal contention.
“Unfortunately, they chose music which didn’t conform to the rules of dance,” Italian judge Cia Bordogna told The New York Times back then. “The music must also be able to be danced to on earth. I approved of the couple technically. Technically, they were at a very high level. Their skating was really almost perfect.”
Seibert and Blumberg were voted to the U.S. National Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1996, and he has had little nostalgia when it comes to the Olympics. But after watching that clip, he tuned in to the most recent American championships.
“I was so excited and I was a little tentative —  was not a good experience,” said Mr. Seibert, 54. But I will always believe in it, and I’m still proud of the choice and what we did. I still feel a little proprietary toward ‘Scheherazade,’ and that’s why I was so happy and thrilled because I thought they were great. [David and White’s routine] is a real pleasure.”
The former skater spoke as February was coming in like a lion, when he was just moving back to New York in the midst of a snowstorm after several years on the West Coast.
After watching Davis and White, he is especially keen on their opening lift, that starts with White swinging Davis parallel to the ice and then in the same motion bringing her up over his back and then onto his knee. The team won their unprecedented sixth U.S. title with the routine and Davis and White dominated the team ice dancing event last weekend at Sochi, winning the free dance category by nearly 7 points while skating to “Scheherazade.”
“The world of ice dancing has changed so dramatically, I don’t even recognize it. That’s just been an evolutionary thing,” Mr. Seibert said. “To me, our music wasn’t illegal back then and certainly the rule changes have caught up with it. The bottom line is that Davis and White are uniquely entertaining, super physical and super technical. It seems from everything that I gather, they could be the first gold medalists in ice dancing from the U.S., and that’s really special.”
Seibert didn’t begin working with a professional coach until he was tween and considered too old for individual competition. Displaying talent and passion for the sport, he made the leap into ice dancing and moved around the country with his mother in search of top coaching and partners. When he met Californian Blumberg at the National Figure Skating Championships in Hartford in 1977, they both had other partners. They teamed a year and a half later and the Blumberg-Seibert juggernaut went on to win those five U.S. titles and took bronze three times at the World Figure Skating Championships.
In competition, their signature move that dazzled audiences had Blumberg parallel to the ice while holding Seibert’s leg as he lifted his other leg over her. They memorably ended the “Scheherazade” program with Blumberg forming a human ring, wrapped around Seibert, back to back, holding her skates and dropping to the ice.
Watching the favorites of the 2014 Olympics skate to the same music comes, Seibert can’t help but feel a twinge of what might have been.
“We all have our egos,” he said, “but I love it because it says we were just 30 years ahead of our time.”
Read more about Michael Seibert and his role in the CBC’s “Battle of the Blades” in Sunday’s Magazine section.
-- Sharon Eberson