Michael Chack: Background Information

Who is Michael Chack, and why do people keep talking about him?

Michael Chack is the bronze medalist from 1993 US Figure Skating Championships. But his performance at that event was never shown on TV, an incident has become so notorious among skating fans on the Internet that it has added a new word to our jargon, the verb "to chack".

Trudi Marrapodi was the originator of this term. She says:

"To chack"--to leave a perfectly good, or very crucial, skating performance out of an edited TV broadcast for no apparent reason. Verb can be transitive ("They're going to chack him again, I just know it") or intransitive ("I waited all through the show for Brian Orser's performance on 'Canvas of Ice,' but it got chacked"). At times I have said that a skater whose performance was unusually poor has succeeded in chacking himself off a broadcast or out of a competition.

I can document my first printed usage of the term, in my Orser newsletter in December 1993. I just sort of ran it up the flagpole to see who would salute. Once I started using it on the 'net, that turned out to be a lot of people.

The term was created in honor of Michael Chack, after ABC failed to show his bronze-medal-winning freeskate at '93 U.S. nationals simply because he didn't skate live in the final group. They could have shown it later (as NBC later showed Mark Mitchell's fourth-place freeskate from '92 worlds even though he did not skate live on air in the final group)--but they never did. That same year, PBS ran the Evening of Championship Skating and showed performances from every skater there who was of note--except Chack. He was only briefly visible in the closing number. Thus the term "chack" was born. It has a nice, hard, violent sound that suggests something nasty was done to someone for no good reason, and expresses that sense of frustration skating fans feel at TV broadcasts that show only part of the story--and I think that's why it has been such a popular term amongst fans here.

(You can read more about the origin of "to chack" here.)

Now, the usage "to chack" has even made it off the net and into print skating publications. It was used in an article in the May 1996 issue of American Skating World, as well as in the profile of Michael in the January 1997 issue of Blades on Ice. It's also been listed in Jerry Dunn's reference book on slang, Idiom Savant. How much longer will it be before it starts being used in non-skating contexts?

Mini-biography and skating history

Michael started skating at the age of 5. When he was 11, he moved away from home to begin training with Peter Burrows at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, NY. His first qualifying competition was as an intermediate at the 1986 North Atlantic championships (which he won), and his first trip to US Nationals was as a novice in 1987, at the age of 15.

In 1991, his first season at the senior level, Michael earned a 5th-place finish at US Nationals with a performance that included an (unsuccessful) attempt at a one-foot axel/quadruple salchow combination. At Skate America later that year, he landed his first triple axel in competition. He had a bad attack of nerves at 1992 US Nationals, but came back with strong performances to win the bronze at 1993 Nationals and the gold at the 1993 Olympic Festival.

Unfortunately, Michael has had problems with injuries and illnesses that have interfered with his competitive career since 1993. He missed the 1994 season because of a groin injury, was sick with the flu at 1995 US Nationals, and missed the 1996 season because of being injured again. His best showing during this period was a third-place finish at Trophee de France in late 1994.

After this, Michael made a coaching change, moving to the Los Angeles area in the spring of 1996 to work with Frank Carroll. He competed at the national level in 1997, 1998, and 1999. He has announced that the 1998-99 season will be his last as an eligible competitor; although he was once again injured at Nationals (this time with tendonitis in his jumping knee), he skated very well and still managed to end his eligible career on a positive note.

Why do I like Michael's skating so much? Since his early days when he was known primarily as a jumper, he's turned himself into a skater of considerable style and artistic talent. He moves across the ice with the deliberate poise of a dancer, and has gorgeous extension and body line. Even the jumps are landed with beautiful flow and erect carriage and turnout and stretch of the free leg. And Michael also has a nice sense of choreography and musical interpretation so that his programs have theme and structure and interesting connecting elements, and are not just "jump jump jump".

You can read an article I wrote with more details about Michael's situation as of March, 1996, and an update on Michael from July, 1996.

Competitive career highlights


Michael's birthday is August 25, 1971.

Michael is "rotationally challenged" -- he jumps and spins clockwise, unlike most skaters who rotate counterclockwise. (Some other well-known clockwise jumpers are Toller Cranston, Rudy Galindo, Todd Eldredge, and Rosalyn Sumners.)

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