Thursday, August 23, 2012

My First Figure Skating Blog Post

It's the middle of August with the Pittsburgh Pirates in playoff contention and the NFL regular season only a few weeks away. So this is a perfect opportunity to write about, um, figure skating. The London Olympics concluding recently, and the biggest "stars" to emerge from the Olympics were Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Gabby Douglas. What do these Olympians have in common? They all won multiple gold medals. This got me thinking about figure skating. While this sport is always one of the most watched during the Winter Olympics, I wondered if the figure skaters ever got upset at not having the opportunity to win multiple medals like their gymnastics, swimming and track counterparts. I proposed this idea to two friends who are HUGE figure skating fans. We'll call them Kelly and Marino since they are also Bills and Dolphins fans respectively.

Sean: I assume that you're following the Olympics and the gymnastics competition. I'm sure that you saw Gabby Douglas win two gold medals, one for the individual all-around and the other for the team competition. In addition, Aly Raisman won three medals, gold in the team competition and floor exercise and bronze on the beam. These two gymnasts now have as many or more Olympic medals than arguably the greatest American figure skater, Michelle Kwan (silver in 1998 & bronze in 2002). While Kwan has done quite well for herself off the ice including some type of Royal Caribbean competition with Greg Louganis, do you think she should have more medals? Let me put this another way, should she have had the opportunity to win more medals?

In gymnastics, you can win a team medal and several different individual ones. Should figure skating have this? Why not a team figure skating competition? Why not separate events for the short program, long program, that silly figure 8 thing they used to have, lutz and Salchow. (I had to look up the spelling of Salchow. Who knew that the H is silent?) Feel free to call me an idiot for these suggestions if warranted.

Kelly: I do think it would be cool to have a team event for figure skating, nation against nation. But since the skaters are doing the very same routines over and over again, I don't see the need to have separate events like you do in gymnastics, where there are individual apparatus events, in addition to the all-around, and team competition. Since FS did away with compulsories (those silly Figure 8's, as you call them), I don't see them bringing them back. The only growth I could see in terms of adding another event would be Team Synchronized Skating (which they do have) as there is precedent for this with synchronized swimming.

I know it's been done, but it really doesn't seem right that events like synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline (!) are in while baseball, softball and golf are out (although coming eventually, right?).

I think a better analogy for Michelle Kwan's Olympic results is Roger Federer. You can argue that both are the GOATs of their sport, and neither have gold (unless you want to count Fed's doubles gold with Stan Warwrinka in 98). For GOATs, nothing but gold is acceptable. You can't blame Roger for this time around, he went 19-17 in the third against Del Potro. In Beijing, he lost early to Berdych. Kwan played it conservatively and got surpassed by jumping beans/tiny mites in the long program.

Kelly (again before I was able to reply): Got the skinny from someone in the know:

There is now a team skating competition (men (2), ladies (2), pairs (1) and dance (1) all represented), not a group of ladies and men like in gymnastics though. It’s held after worlds now and it will be included in the Olympics in two years! It should be interesting to see how this added event changes the dynamic of the individual events. The format is still being decided (if the team event will occur before the individual events, etc). Clearly the main focus is still the individual events so I wonder if some of the big named players will back out of the team event based on results from the individual events. Hey – its another chance to watch skating and for the skaters to win a medal. Pretty neat.

Also, after watching some of the rhythmic gymnastics yesterday (which is easy to make fun of, until you watch those girls perform!) I do believe there could be a category for cheerleading at the Olympics. If there international participation level were there. Think about it. Those girls are athletes just like synchronized swimmers or rhythmic gymnasts (aka Cirque du Soleil training grounds). Then, we could pave the way for drum corps to be part of the Olympics, too. Anyone who has been in marching band would agree that there is equal amounts of athleticism and artistry in drum corps. OK, I realize this'll never happen.

Sean: Interesting that figure skating is considering a team event. I think the top skaters would enter for a chance to win more medals. Someone the caliber of Kwan probably wouldn't participate in the pairs or dance event, but I think they would also compete in the individual portion of the team competition.

Before you sent me the e-mail, though, I wanted to reply to your comment about skaters doing the same routines over and over rather than the separate events gymnasts compete in using different apparatuses. I have suggestions! 1. Spinning competition. Specifically, who can do the most spins in 20 seconds? They go so fast, so you might as well see who does the most in a specific period of time. 2. Obstacle course. I don't know the format since it's not speed skating, but maybe the skaters have to skate a routine with various obstacles on the ice. 3. Hardest slap shot. This is fun in the NHL skills competition, so why not see how fast 90-pound figure skaters can shoot a puck.

Between the current individual competition, possible team competition, compulsories (figure 8s) and my other three ideas, figure skaters could earn up to 6 medals! Please propose this idea to the person you know that is in the know!

Besides using cheerleaders at some events in London (ex. beach volleyball), is cheerleading really big around the world? Since baseball and softball are no longer in the Olympics, is cheerleading more popular that these sports globally?

Marino: I am just catching up on personal e-mail and this whole conversation had me giggling my head off.

You have to think about Michelle Kwan in terms of winning 9 national titles. There will NEVER be a gymnast that has the endurance to come to 9 separate national championships and win medals at each one at the elite level.

I don't think there should be separate things like a spinning comp. And I agree with Kelly about cheerleading being a sport, and should be at the Olympics, the same way I would encourage dance to be there too. Dance would be like gymnastics with ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, etc.

Kelly: to Marino's point, Nastia Lukin, the defending All-Around champ, didn't even MAKE this year's US squad.

I would support Marino's motion to add dance to the Olympics. Competitive ballet? Bring it on!!!

Sean: With the introduction of dance, I think we've ended this conversation. The Olympics would be just like one of those Step Up movies! Why not go with chess, Scrabble and Connect 4 as Olympic sports too?

Marino: oooh yeah they could dance battle like the Step Up movies. I love those movies, [my husband] hates them. He categorized all dance movies this weekend as: 'someone is poor, needs a lot of money, discovers they can dance, finds other people who can dance with them that are also poor, magically there is a dance contest where they can win a lot of money, they enter the contest and win.' :)

The conversation dissolved even further from there. Anyway, the morale of the story: It looks like the Figure Skating Organization listened to me, although it would be nice if they added a hardest slap shot competition among the figure skaters!

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