Anchorage figure skater Keegan Messing will skate one more time in the Beijing Olympics

For those Alaskans who haven’t fallen under Keegan Messing’s spell during the course of his 19-year figure skating career, they get another chance Saturday evening.

Messing, the 30-year-old from Anchorage who competes for Canada, is among the elite skaters invited to participate in the Olympic figure skating gala, an exhibition that traditionally marks the end of the Winter Games.

The show — and it is a show, not a competition — begins at 7 p.m. Saturday Alaska time and will be aired on the Peacock streaming service.

Messing placed 11th in the men’s singles competition in Beijing but is one of eight men invited to the gala — a reward for his reputation as a showman who particularly shines in exhibitions.

The galas, which follow most major competitions, are held in a fun atmosphere where the rules are relaxed and the goal is to please the audience, not the judges.

That’s why Messing has spent part of the last week practicing backflips on Olympic ice. The move is illegal in competition but it’s part of Messing’s arsenal for exhibitions.

He has also spent time being an Olympic fan, going from event to event carrying a Canadian flag so big even the CBC took note. “This might be the largest Canadian flag we’ve seen so far,” the television network posted on social media along with a photo of Messing and his flag at a hockey game.


In an interview with the CBC, Messing explained his exuberance. “It’s Canada — you gotta support our guys.”

The flag is so heavy, he said, that waving it should count as training.

“I’m trying to convince my strength trainer it’s my workout for the day but she’s not buying it, sadly,” Messing said.

The invitation to skate at the Saturday gala extended Messing’s time in Beijing, where the men’s singles competition happened nearly two weeks ago. It means Messing will get to go to the closing ceremony — something he said he’s looking forward to after missing the opening ceremony.

Messing’s arrival in China was delayed by several days after he tested positive for COVID-19, and for a while it was anyone’s guess if he’d make it to Beijing in time to compete. He was stuck in Vancouver for several days waiting for the required negative test results and then faced a round-the-world journey to get to the Olympics in the nick of time for the short program.

Adrenaline allowed him to survive the jet lag, he said in another interview with the CBC.

He shared his idea for the ultimate Olympic competition: Figure skaters, hockey players and speedskaters going head-to-head to see who’s fastest on a skating oval, who’s best at blue-line drills, who’s best at agility challenges.

“And then at the end of it, you can have everyone swap gear and then see how the other athletes deal with the different gear,” he said. “I think it would be a lot of fun to have, like, an open house here at the Olympics and have other athletes try other sports just to show how difficult some of this stuff is.”

Messing came into Beijing as the Canadian national champion, a title he won in his 19th season of competitive figure skating. He spent part of his career skating for the United States but several years ago he took advantage of his dual citizenship — his mom was born in Edmonton — to join the Canadian team.

Even before he began to compete at national and international competitions, Messing was a presence in Anchorage figure skating. As a youngster he was a crowd-pleaser at the Fur Rendezvous figure skating show, where he first started gaining fans as a little boy dressed in a mini-tuxedo.

His act continues this weekend in Beijing, and after that comes next month’s world championships in France. Messing placed sixth at last year’s world championships.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.