Friday night, as America hunkers down for another quiet evening of staying at home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, you can fire up a livestream and be wowed by two-time Olympic figure skating medalist Michelle Kwan – on roller skates.
Yes, you read that right: roller skates.
Kwan, the five-time world champion and household name, is one of over a dozen Team USA athletes and Olympians who have come together within the figure skating community to bring to life a special streamed show called “Blades for the Brave” to benefit a good cause.
And did you know skaters are pretty great bladers, too?
“During a time like this, it’s important for everyone to know that they aren’t alone,” said Jason Brown, a bronze medalist in the team event at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014. “Just like the skating community, this pandemic is global and impacts us all. It’s been very special to see skaters from all over the world so eager and willing to join together to support our healthcare workers.”
Brown will be a cohost of the event alongside – well, virtually at least – fellow Olympic medalist and U.S. champion Gracie Gold. They will captain a virtual trip around the figure skating world in a show that features special off-ice roller skating routines, heartfelt messages, exercise advice, stay-at-home workouts and much more.
“I was honored to be part of a show that is making a difference during this difficult time we are all facing,” added Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic gold medalist. “All healthcare workers, doctors and nurses who are working on the front line during this pandemic are sacrificing so much to save lives and keep us all healthy. They are true heroes and I am grateful to every single one of them.”
The show is being put on in tandem with the nonprofit Americares, and proceeds are going directly to their COVID-19 response efforts, which have included the delivery of protective gear and supplies to health care workers, as well as training and support for those in the medical field.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have the support of the biggest names in figure skating as we fight to protect frontline health workers from COVID-19,” said Americares President and CEO Christine Squires in a press release.
The cast rivals that of any modern-day figure skating tour, with Kwan, Lipinski, Gold and Brown set to be featured, as well as 1984 Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton, 1988 gold medalist Brian Boitano, two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, Olympic silver medalists Nancy Kerrigan and Sasha Cohen, 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist Jeremy Abbott, 2018 Olympic team bronze medalist Bradie Tennell, 2019 U.S. pairs champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc as well as a host of other skaters, including international names Kurt Browning, Evgeni Plushenko, Matteo Rizzo, Ekaterina Gordeeva and Viktor Petrenko.
“As someone who has been blessed by the generosity of others, I feel the absolute need to respond to those gifts by giving back wherever, and however, I can,” said Hamilton in an email to TeamUSA.org. “Skaters have always been proactive and reactive members of many communities. (We) come from every imaginable condition, description, location and challenge. We understand that being active and involved members of our respective communities, no matter what they are, can make an instant and lasting impact of those that truly need us.”
The show will begin at 8 p.m. ET Friday, streamed live on bladesforthebrave.org, as well as the organization’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.
While Kwan is set to be roller skating, so too are Browning, the much-loved Canadian who won four world titles in the late 1980/early 1990s, and Amber Glenn, a Team USA skater and grand prix competitor.
“Gracie and I will be serving as hosts and introducing all of the videos that skaters have sent in,” said Brown, the 2015 U.S. champ. “We will be interacting with each other and sharing our own stories, as well. Also, we will be live, and we all know that anything can happen live... so tune in and enjoy the fun.”
Both Lipinski and Hamilton said they will give fans an exclusive look at their houses, while each of them stressed their biggest message to those watching along: Stay home.
“I feel being a part of the solution is way better than being a contributor to the problem,” said Hamilton. “Staying home and away from others is the only/best way to not spread the virus.”
While Lipinski won’t be roller skating, she was a child prodigy in competitive inline skating in the early 1990s – before making the switch to figure skating.
The event, which is set to last around one hour, isn’t the only show being put together by the figure skating community to raise funds and awareness around the COVID-19 pandemic. Kaitlyn Weaver, an Olympian from Canada who trains in the U.S., is producing a show called “Open Ice,” set to air April 25.
Figure skating has a long past of stepping up in a time of crisis, led by the philanthropic spirit of Hamilton, Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi and more. Brown, who is at home with his family, said it was the least that he could do.
“I was really touched when I was asked to be a part of this event,” he said. “The money raised from ‘Blades for the Brave’ will go to Americares, which supports the healthcare workers on the front line of this pandemic.”
Cohen, long a rival to Kwan, will give an inspirational message with a special guest, her new baby son, Dash. Weir, ever the headliner, will open the show with a message of his own, while Cain-Gribble and LeDuc, who were headed to the world championships in Montreal last month before the event was postponed, have planned an off-ice routine that rivals what the pair can do on it.
“I am proud to join my fellow competitors from around the world for the most important competition of our lives,” said Gold, who made a comeback to competitive skating this past season. “Let’s make sure we win against this heartbreaking disease.”
Nick McCarvel is a freelance sports reporter based in New York City who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for TeamUSA.org since 2014.