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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Skating and me: the ending of a beautiful friendship?

I had followed skating on and off since the early 1990s, but didn't really get into it until the midst of the SLC Olympic cycle. Back then, all I could really watch was Euros and Worlds, sometimes not even that (the 2000-1 season… only to be seen years later, on Youtube), and forum participation was still years away for me. If there were skating blogs, I was unaware of their existence, and Youtube was not yet around to catch up on what I’d missed. So when the usual round of post-Olympic retirements occurred, I had not yet become particularly attached to any specific skaters, and it was fine. There were new skaters to follow, and some of my then-favorites were still around.

But it’s a decade and more later. Only a handful of 6.0 era skaters remain (to the best of my knowledge, Brian Joubert, Evgeni Plushenko, Pang/Tong and Aliona Savchenko are the only active skaters who competed at SLC). Most of my favorites are either retired or cannot compete at the level where I'd like to see them, and after Sochi, none will remain. Unfortunately, I find that I just don't seem to care as much about the next generation of skaters, talented as some of them may be. I barely watched the European Championships, and much as I would like to blame Eurosport for its inexplicable fondness for the African Nations Cup, I did have other viewing options. The only program from Canadian Nationals I watched was Sandhu’s SP, and I doubt I’ll even try looking for anything from US Nationals. The way I’d been drifting away from skating really hit me when I first saw the starting orders/results page for Euros last week. Like many skating fans, seeing this page come up had always made me happy, as it meant an exciting new event was beginning. But this time, I felt nothing. What went wrong? Can I still find enough to care about to watch, let alone blog?

I guess the current version of the IJS is not helping matters. The skaters and their coaches and choreographers have worked out how to get the points, and the programs, while often difficult and well-constructed, are becoming more and more similar. Yuzuru Hanyu is wonderfully talented, but his programs don’t do anything for me. I miss the rough around the edges Javier Fernandez; he’s much better now, but the programs, despite the difficult technical content, are uninspiring (I went through a similar experience with Shen and Zhao years ago). These two share a coach, and I cannot help but feel that they, and men’s skating in general, is becoming - for the lack of a better term - Canadianized. There have been and are some wonderful Canadian skaters, but this does not mean I would like everyone to skate like said Canadian skaters. Is this the Canadian influence in developing the IJS and later, in developing the concept of the ideal IJS skater? I really can’t say.

Meanwhile in pairs, watching Volosozhar and Trankov win with their crappy programs is no fun at all. Here we see another unfortunate influence on skating: Nikolai Morozov. Why should talented skaters like V/T, Florent Amodio and Ilinykh/Katsalapov bother with good material when they can get 9s for skating to mediocre (at best) or even offensive stuff that they do? Watching Savchenko and Szolkowy going through the motions is possibly worse; I can only hope that Ingo is saving his best for their final season. There are no Chinese pairs that can replace the top ones of the past, and the North American pairs put me to sleep. At least seeing Berton/Hotarek and James/Cipres move up the standings this season has been good. If Volosozhar/Trankov move on post-Sochi, which I assume they will, there may be hope yet. On the other hand, pairs skating without Aliona and Robin... it just won't be the same.

Crazy music cuts & good looking skaters for the win. Or at least for 4th place.

With ice dance, I have always had my ups and downs. I liked Anissina and Peizerat back in the day, checked out when Navka and Kostomarov were dominant, and returned after really enjoying the dance event at 2008 Worlds. I am now ready to check out again. Almost all the teams I liked are gone, and the one that remains, Pechalat/Bourzat, will never be allowed to challenge the Canton teams, both of which bore me (at least Virtue/Moir generally do so in an aesthetically pleasing way). The teams of the future are even less interesting, and the one lower-ranked team I’d had hopes for, Hurtado/Diaz, seems to have stalled.

The ladies are the one pleasant exception for me at the moment. Ladiezzzz were never my biggest interest, but I find this to be the one discipline in which there is a nice variety of programs and personal styles, and the occasional unexpected result. I can’t get behind Carolina Kostner’s programs this season, or that bizarre LP of Sotnikova's, but the ladies have been fairly enjoyable for the most part - or at least, unobjectionable. Maybe they can keep me watching?


  1. You express my feelings pretty well - I expect that I will be not following skating much, if at all, after next season & in fact I watch very little even now.

    Mostly I find it all very boring....& lacking the variety it once enjoyed - especially in the mens event.

    Transistions are all very well (I acknowledge the required skill) but athleticism is much more exciting - I find it rather cringeworthy to watch the world's elite male athletes attempting triple-double or double-double-double combinations, the sort of stuff that junior girls used to do in their sleep!

    Certainly when Fabian & Nathalie, Aliona & Robin retire the pairs & dance events will be much poorer. Sadly, it also seems unlikely that the pairs Olympic gold will go to the most original couple since Artur Dimetriev was competing - Russia has to win one home gold & the others seem out of their reach.- Sheena

  2. I get the sense that this is something a lot of fans are experiencing, and has been getting steadily more frustrating in the seasons since Vancouver. My co-bloggers may chime in later, but it's certainly a source of disappointment to us, as we love skating but don't love the direction it seems to be going in.

    At this point, I consider 2008 Worlds to be both a high point - yes, there were some messy performances by various medalists, but there was so much promise - but also the point at which a lot of people in skating really realized that you have to maximize points to win. While I support the idea in principle, I wish there were more or better ways to go about it.

    Perhaps I should cheer myself up with a post on great competitions of the past?