An interview with Susie Wynne. Former US Ice Dance Champion, 1988 Olympian, member of the Torvill & Dean Face the Music tour, commentator for ESPN and ABC, coach, and choreographer. 55 minutes, 47 seconds.
Thanks to Fiona Mcquarrie for transcribing these interview highlights:
On her most embarrassing skating moment: It was during one of the Champions on Ice tours and I had just worn fishnet stockings for the first time, and I wasn’t used to things getting stuck in them, like, you know, the hook of your skate. I had my engagement ring on – it was a month before I was to be married – and Joe Druar and I were doing those goofy disco spins on our backs. And my engagement ring got stuck in my fishnet stocking. And it was at the beginning of the show, when all the skaters were coming out doing that skating montage thing, and there I am on my back with my engagement ring stuck on the other side of my body. And I think Joe had to carry me off in a fetal position before Brian Boitano came out and did his beautiful death drop [laughs].
On her early days in skating: I failed a lot in the beginning. I remember failing my first figure test – I was pulled. In those days it was – “excuse me, ma’am, you’ll have to leave the ice, because your figures are atrocious” [laughs]. I was pulled from the test, and I told my mom, I don’t want to fail like that again. I would go to the rink at five o’clock in the morning – I think my mom gave the Zamboni driver a bottle of Jack Daniels every week [laughs] – and I did patch from five to seven before anybody got there. And I did that for my first, second and third figure. I’m not like that now – I’m the laziest person you’ll ever meet now – but then there was just a force. “How will I do that? I’ve got to find out what this is about. “
On moving and changing coaches: We [she and Joe Druar] were in Philadelphia and had been stuck in sort of the fourth place, fifth place position in senior nationals. And Richard [Callaghan] said, you know, I think you guys have probably lived out your life here in ice dancing [laughs], I’ve talked to some Ice Capades people, do you want to turn professional? And it was 1986, and Joe and I, we just felt that we wanted to try to make the Olympic team, although chances didn’t look good.
Around that time, it was funny, I just kept running into people outside of skating who were helping change my thoughts about skating. I had a friend named Pam Lloyd who used to take my aerobics class, I used to teach aerobics, and she said, “Well, why aren’t you going to try to push for the Olympics? It’s just two years out.” And I said, “Aw, our coach kind of thinks it’s done, and I kind of agree with him.” And she said, “No! Look to the coaches that are developing the skaters with the style and the technique that you want to copy, and go to them. And go now! Don’t wait around! Try to make it. You’re young! “ And I thought, “Wow. I hadn’t even thought of that!” So it’s interesting how God put her in my life at that very tender time…so I took my friend’s advice, Joe and I felt that we weren’t finished, and two years later we made the Olympic team.
On quitting before the 1992 Olympics: We had done the Goodwill Games in 1991 in Tacoma, and we had skated the program of our lives there, and beat Evgeny Platov and Oksana Grishuk. But we skated so well and had a standing ovation, and we both thought, we won’t be able to keep this up. I just felt that there were too many people coming up, and I just didn’t have the heart to overcome our physical….let’s put it this way, I thought that Joe and I were very talented performers and very solid skaters, but we didn’t have the artistry or the flexibility or the line that the Russians behind us, Grishuk and Platov, had. And it’s just…I don’t know, I didn’t have the drive. I could feel it. I thought, I’m getting lazier, and I had met Tyler Barth, who’s now my husband, and life just seemed like it was going to be changing.
On touring with Torvill and Dean’s Face the Music tour: 260-something Boleros [laughs]. It was exciting. On my list of things that I wanted to accomplish in skating was to be an Olympian, to go to the world championships, to skate with the best competitively and in shows, and to do every show that there is to do, and to work with Chris and Jayne. So my list is checked off. But working with them, you realize that they’re not only talented, but they work so much harder than any skater I’ve ever met. And they’re smart and they’re funny and they’re humble. So that was quite an experience. For a year and a half, being away again from my husband, trying to get out of debt [laughs], and being able to skate with the best ice dancers of our time, it was a pretty amazing experience.
I’m not a touring-type person, I’m not a vagabond…but I saw the world. We lived in England for close to a year and then in Australia. I met about 80 relatives in Dublin – I had more cheers that night in Dublin than Torvill and Dean did, which was pretty cool [laughs]. And the people that I met, the experiences and laughter…but it’s a grind, touring is. It can beat you down. I remember coming home from that tour and going into the grocery store, and walking in with the cart, and Bolero was playing. Honest to goodness, it was two or three days out from coming home, I just put the cart back and walked out of the store [laughs]. I‘m like, “No more Bolero!!”
On developing as a TV commentator: I kept thinking [when she started] I’ll be good at this, I love to talk, I love people, this is a no-brainer. And then as soon as that little red light came on, I was so stiff. I was terrible. I can’t believe that I kept working, because I was really so nervous. Now, I have to watch my stuff a month after. I have to sit down and make myself watch it, like “Ooh, I gotta get better, oh, I could have said this, why did I say this.” I don’t usually look at the stand-ups because it’s like a minute, it’s fluffy, you’re usually just talking about the skaters in a fluid quick way. I look at that and I’m like “oh, my hair, that was crazy”, but it’s just a quick visual. I love to listen to the conversation between me and Terry Gannon or Paul Wylie or Peter Carruthers and it’s “Oh, why did I say that? Or why did I say that?”
On working with Dick Button: This is when I knew we were going to get along and I think he knew we would have a good time. We were somewhere…and he looked at me, and it was just the two of us, and he looked at me and said, “Susie. What do you know? Tell me about your education” [laughs]. And I’m thinking, you know, I cannot, you know, [he has a] Harvard law degree, and I’m going to go, “Well, I went to Drexel University for a semester” – it’s tough, I didn’t last long [laughs] – “and, uh, I took a couple of courses at UCCS”? I can’t measure up to this man’s expectations. So I go, “Dick, you know what? I’m pretty much dumb as a box of rocks, but the thing I’m good at, my husband told me that I’m very smart because I know what I’m good at. And that’s pretty much it. I like to have a good time, I like to eat and have fun, and that’s about all I know.” And he looked at me, and he just started laughing. And after that – you know, you’re just yourself and you don’t try to be bigger than you are, because he can see through that. He’s just funny.
On being a coach and choreographer: I love it. I love working with the young people because they’re just so smart and they work so hard…I see kids that are smart, that are passionate, that love what they do and can’t even get into any trouble because they’re working so hard at fulfilling their dream and their passion. And that’s exciting, to be a part of that and to help encourage them and to help guide them. I just sort of think of myself as…I want to encourage them and to give them hope to do whatever it is they need to do in their life, and to help guide them. It’s funny, I don’t know, I was in church about five years ago, and the pastor said, “We really are in this life to be in the people-building business, because that’s ultimately what we’re why here to do.” And I wept. Because I thought, that’s exactly why I love this sport and I love choreographing, because, if you think of it that way, it’s much more than skating. You can help somebody think big in terms of going to college, or becoming a teacher, or help them in their relationships, or get them ready for life.