Stars on Ice back after pandemic with Olympic and world champions

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When Stars on Ice, uh, hits the ice Friday night in Estero, Florida, it will be for the first time in two years. Spicing up the tour: an Olympic gold medalist and two world champions.

The 24-city tour has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returns with Beijing winner Nathan Chen and world champion pairs Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in the cast. Skaters are as eager to entertain as figure skating fans are eager to watch.

“The whole cast is thrilled to be here,” said Chen, whose dominating Olympic performance culminated a career that included six US titles and three world championships. “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to put on a show, and to be together after two years apart – and celebrate the work we all put in before and after the Olympics – it’s very exciting.”

An American audience has yet to hear Chen billed as an Olympic champion, and the same goes for Knierim and Frazier. Sure, they’ve won somewhat watered-down world championships with the Russians banned and the Chinese absent, but the skaters still have to give their best, whatever the terrain. Knierim and Frazier, who teamed up in 2021 after Alexa’s husband Chris retired after the 2020 season, were superb in Montpellier, France.

“I think for both of us there is a feeling of vertigo,” Knierim says. “It’s phenomenal and remarkable to have this label. Although after a few weeks it still doesn’t feel real yet, mostly because we haven’t had a chance to let it sink in. This moment when we are (introduced) is going to be very exciting for both of us.

Frazier adds, “I don’t think it’s going to be something I’ll be used to, even on the last show we do in the States. I am very honored to receive this kind of introduction.

Also in the cast are Beijing bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who are retiring from competition; their longtime ice dance teammates and rivals, current world bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates; US champions Mariah Bell, Karen Chen, Alysa Liu (now retired) and Mirai Nagasu; and men’s world bronze medalist Vincent Zhou.

With no pressure to earn points, the skaters went wild. So when Chen performs a reimagined version of his “Rocketman” short program, there’s an extra dose of fun added to the athleticism and artistry.

Chen, who will also skate to Beach House’s “Space Song” in another solo routine, laughs when asked if Elton John has reached out after the Olympic triumph.

“He tweeted after the competition, which was really nice,” Chen said. “Personally, I didn’t even imagine that he knew who I was.

“It’s definitely one of the most meaningful programs I’ve skated. Earlier this season, I had no intention of skating on it. After picking it up, it definitely felt like the right fit. I’m glad I had the opportunity to bring it back and it’s the vehicle that helped me.

Perhaps the most entertaining and memorable show programs are the group acts. Chen, for example, will skate in all four, to music by AC/DC, The Weeknd, Jon Batiste and, of course, Elton John.

Knierim and Frazier, who will perform on Coldplay’s “Fix You,” which they used at the Olympics and World Games, and then OONA’s “Tore My Heart.” They’re especially keen on doing group routines, too.

“The band numbers, we were constantly working on them with the cast, and they’re full of energy and have great song choices, and the costumes are phenomenal,” Knierim says, without giving away what those outfits might be. “We have quite a wide range of costumes for the final – all the skaters are wearing something very unique and tailor-made for themselves. It really is a costume, like a work of art.

For Frazier, just being part of a touring ice show with fans in the stands after two years of inactivity is very special.

“Even without the pandemic, it’s just an honor to be a guest on these shows,” he says. “To be able to shoot in shows and skate in front of live audiences, and with COVID seemingly improving, it’s an amazing experience. It’s been very humbling. We’re having the time of our lives.

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