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  1. #1

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    Why Is U.S. Skating No Longer Dominant?

    I emailed a friend of mine to tell her I'd be devoting much of the week to watching Worlds online, and this was her response:

    Why do you think US skaters are headed down the slope instead of up? Too few skating rinks turning out too few skaters, or is it just not the thing to do anymore?

    I don't know the answer, and I don't particularly trust my theories, so I figured I'd ask here. And then I'll know what to tell my friend!

  2. #2
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    Clearly Michelle Kwan skated too long and didn't let others have a chance.

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    My simplistic answer is that there are more skaters turning out more skaters all over the world, more countries in the mix, so just being one of the best from one of the countries in contention is less likely to mean being one of the best in the world when there are more countries out there that have skaters good enough to contend.

    Within the US, I'd say that the "problem" is also with larger rather than smaller numbers of skaters. The peak participation in the US may have been about 10 years ago, but it's still higher now than it was 20+ years ago (figures era). However, because there are so many good skaters, it's hard for any single good skater to dominate and build the confidence and reputation that a skater with the same talent level could do in a smaller field.

    E.g., if any two or three of Czisny, Flatt, Nagasu, Wagner, Zawadzki, and Zhang could have gone to Worlds 5 times in the past 5 years, as might be the case if only two or three of the above existed (and there weren't firm age limits), they would probably be perceived as more dominant than that group as a whole.

    Too many good skaters makes it harder for any one of them to rise to the level of greatness.

    Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

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    Japan. And Purple.

    But whilst singles is probably not the absolute top, the US have never been stronger in dance at this point in time.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarrett View Post
    Clearly Michelle Kwan skated too long and didn't let others have a chance.
    The funny thing is that's one of my theories I don't quite trust. The theory goes if there's a single dominant skater (Kwan in the U.S., Plushenko in Russia), there's a bottleneck effect, which discourages younger skaters.

    But I'd need a lot more instances to see if there's any merit to my theory.

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    When you say US skating is no longer dominant, you mean mainly ladies and perhaps the men? For ice dance is stronger than ever and pairs is...as always.

    Ladies: In the past you had girls who are tough with good basics and reliable jumps. The program is built so that every O cycle you have girls grooming to be the next big thing while skating under the shadow of an elite competitor. In 2008, that system was totally disrupted when Meissner suffered from a premature downturn in her skating career, and promising girls were prematurely put under the spotlight before they were really ready. Those girls ended up being rather inconsistent, and since then US has been in an neverending loop of digging itself out of that situation and (eta) getting back to the usual O cycle.

    Add to that two problems: US had relied somewhat on pre-puberty girls who could do senior events and who mastered triples somewhat incorrectly (flutz/ur) before they hit puberty (Lipinski, Hughes). After the age loop closed and ISU started going after UR jumps, it is taking time for US to train girls to peak later, learn good jump techniques and not follow the Hughes/Lipinski model.

    The current American system works well when the usual O cycle is happening (a strong reliable top girl with a couple of upcomers in the shadows), but with a current crop of inconsistent girls, you have no assurance that their skating well today means skating well two three months from now. I believe until the normal O cycle returns, you should send girls who are skating well now to competitions, not girls who skated well months ago at US nationals or some other event. (That on top of US nationals not always being judged the way an ISU one would...but that for another time)

    To send girls skating well at the time to internationals, means: having a JGP monitoring event in the summer, and stronger pre-world monitoring (e.g. the Flatt situation last world).

    Right now, most things are decided based on US nationals results -- a once a year event. So there's only one window per year to get good assignments. There're girls who have to wait a long queue to get to a JGP event. With GPs harder to get, more girls will also get stuck at JGP. there should be spots set aside for JGP or even senior events (like the Skate America host spot) so skaters skating great can cut through the long line and not wait for US nationals to turn their luck around. And by the time they get their turn, surprise, their peak may have passed.

    I also think teaching girls stronger basics also helps, for world champs like Mao and Miki also have very good skating techniques.
    Last edited by jlai; 03-25-2012 at 05:06 AM.

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    One of the reasons is because the entertainment dollar in the United States and Canada can only be divided so many ways. In United States, you have many available spectator dollars and available leisure time being split between many available entertainments options. Leisure recreation, camping and hunting, travel, ocean cruises, sports like professional, college, high school, and little league women's and men's football, arena ball, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, softball, tennis, swimming, track & field and etc, plus Broadway, Hollywood, Local Theatre, Movies, HBO, Comcast, and so on. Figure Skating appeals to a select audience. Appreciative of Athleticism, culturally literate, and educated. In US it follows advertising dollars pretty closely.
    Just my thoughts
    I love watching so I'm prejudice

  8. #8

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    The popularity of skating in the US is down. But not its prominence as a skating country. The question is relevant only if one considers Ladies only. US has a current OGM in Men, current Gold and Bronze in Dance, and a very recent GPF Gold medalist in Ladies. As for next generation- all disciplines look VERY promising. I don't know if US was much more dominant before, unless you only consider great Ladies champions.
    improving my ballad- like lines

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    Obviously because Sasha Cohen did not wack Sarah Hughes

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    Obviously because Sasha Cohen did not wack Sarah Hughes
    Never mess with a geocacher. We know the best places to hide a body....

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    US ladies and men (singles) used to be dominant, and pairs & ice dance did not. Now we have ice dance as dominant, and the ladies & men are not. Pairs are low as before, in terms of success. Japan has enjoyed dominance in ladies and to some extent men (if you take out the Chan factor). Russia is showing signs of dominating in the ladies field over the next cycle.

    By the same token, Russia is no longer dominant in pairs and ice dance, the way it once was. It is doing poorly in mens, after about 12 years of dominance (relatively short period). Now pairs dominance is in China; ice dance in USA & Canada.

    The point I am trying to make is - these things go in cycles. The USA enjoyed a very long period of dominance in two disciplines. Next it was Japan's turn, and now it seems like Russia may be taking over.

    I think USA is still doing well in men and ladies but no longer dominating because other countries have made improvements in that regard. By the same token, USA has made strides in ice dance, and is now dominating the past powers. I just see this as a natural development, and not necessarily a huge regress.

  12. #12
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    There is too much pressure to find the next Kwan.

  13. #13
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    I feel that skating in the US has become less dominate due to the societal changes and structural changes in the US.
    Since figures has left our training and MOVES IN THE FIELD has been adopted, parents pressure teachers to pass these test because they don't matter or a waste of money and time. Learn them, pass them and forget perfect them!!This attitude bleeds over to all training. The judges pass them with NO consistantcy and at standards that would have our past great coaches and judges rolling over in their graves!!!
    In most levels coaches are not organizing the skaters carreer but there unknowledgeable parents who read statements by other unknowledgeable people try to decide carreer choices.
    Students don't accept the process of development and want quick fixes...ie Caroline Zhang's jumps. Rather than take an extra year to fix her misaligned basics the pressure to get her to the top to young most likely will keep her from being a champion, which she could have been!
    In general the respect for the process has changed, along with the changing idea that " if my child is not a champion by 12 we should stop the dream of greatness(Olympic dream)".
    I believe people don't understand the commitment that High Performance takes and screw themselves and our whole skating system.

  14. #14
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    I agree that this is just about the ladies, as usual, but in reality, it's the pairs that have drastically plummeted. It was only 10 years ago that they were still regularly winning world medals. Now theyre so inferior, it's a nail bitter to see if we can even get two pairs in the top 10, with the end result usually disappointment. Plus they swap partners quicker than a 70s key party, so it's hard to build a fan base when every year is a complete new set of different couples.

    With the men and ladies, I think this is a combination of panic, Internet angst, and forgetfulness. Some of the sports icons were in fact huge head cases back in their day. People forget just how frustrating it was to follow hamil and Lynn back in the 70s. So. It may seem terrible to follow Abbott and ripping and czisny hoping they will come thru, as all have world podium potential, but the pre Kwan days were also nail biters. Had fsu existed back during 73 worlds, Lynn would have been regularly trashed. But now she's such an icon, it's almost become sacrilege to suggest she wasn't gods gift to usfs.

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    It requires more work to reach your full potential in figure skating than in any other sport. Other countries have better work ethics than the US.

  16. #16

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    It is about the money and personal commitment which does not gel well in a capitalist driven society like the USA. Fast easy money, little work effort.

    There's only so much you can do for the 'love of the sport' and the 'joy of competing' when it is my observation US fans does't seem to seem treat its own champions or team members with respect and support that they deserve when they failed to bring home the gold.

    Britain has always love and support its own athletes regardless of gold medals (although certainly we'd love them more if they manage to medal), and that bring a great deal of good will and encouragement to the skaters and team mentality.

    Japan, China seems to have this, Europe seems to have this. US according to reading these boards seems to like to blast its own when they fail to deliver a medal, particularly the ladies. Given these are young athletes who has endured and sacrificed a great deal to compete in this highly volatile and unpredictable sport, maybe a change of attitude is in order to incubate and nourish its own talents rather than demand so much of them ready made to take the metal from the reigning champs. Okay this might have been an exaggeration, but it is certainly a trend on these boards, which often are a polorised extreme view of real life opinions.

    No one is born a champion in this sport, it requires a great deal of work and dedication, and certainly encouragement and understanding not to always have to live up to be the best. Whatever that means... it is a sport where the best may not always win, and being lucky, having the right momentum and having the political pull may just be as important as your artistry/sporting credentials.

    (Oh yeah and they have been spoilt for too long by purple)
    Last edited by os168; 03-25-2012 at 03:44 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by os168 View Post
    There's only so much you can do for the 'love of the sport' and the 'joy of competing' when it is my observation US fans does't seem to seem treat its own champions or team members with respect and support that they deserve when they failed to bring home the gold.

    Britain has always love and support its own athletes regardless of gold medals (although certainly we'd love them more if they manage to medal), and that bring a great deal of good will and encouragement to the skaters and team mentality.

    Japan, China seems to have this, Europe seems to have this. US and Canada, according to reading these boards seems to like to blast its own when they fail to deliver a medal.
    Unlike US, Canada seems to be doing very well in two disciplines now. And Britain hasn't done well in some time. China so far has done well in one discipline. I don't see how fan board support correlates with success of a skating program

    Anyway, I seem to recall British fans get really mad at their soccer stars when they don't deliver.

    Quote Originally Posted by berthesghost View Post
    With the men and ladies, I think this is a combination of panic, Internet angst, and forgetfulness. Some of the sports icons were in fact huge head cases back in their day. People forget just how frustrating it was to follow hamil and Lynn back in the 70s. So. It may seem terrible to follow Abbott and ripping and czisny hoping they will come thru, as all have world podium potential, but the pre Kwan days were also nail biters. Had fsu existed back during 73 worlds, Lynn would have been regularly trashed.
    But Hamil and Lynn brought home medals, while the ladies field haven't brought home any world medals in 5 years which is an anomaly for the US. The ladies field is really a drought. That said, yes, the pairs haven't done better

    Anyway, I think US female skaters need to improve their basics through moves of the field or figures or something. Even our top jumpers don't have edges like top girls from Japan.
    Last edited by jlai; 03-25-2012 at 03:55 PM.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by jlai View Post
    Unlike US, Canada seems to be doing very well in two disciplines now. And Britain hasn't done well in some time. China so far has done well in one discipline. I don't see how fan board support correlates with success of a skating program

    Anyway, I seem to recall British fans get really mad at their soccer stars when they don't deliver.
    Sorry i edited my post... I mean US only, and more specifically the ladies. Respect, good support and realistic expectations imo adds alot to how athletes can perform and develop. And instead of going for the big jumps/instant glory at young age, they can learn to focus on the basics which is something apparently Russian, Chinese, Japanese skaters are focusing more on according to the interviews I have read.

    These soccer/football players are over paid cry babies, so are the fans!

    So yeah of course people are mad when they turns out over pampered useless gits fans paid a great deal to support! Skaters on the other hand are the extreme opposite end of the spectrum. It is a sport with literally no money and a great deal of dedication, risks and commitment, so they are quite different and the audience would respect that, like how they respect Marathon racers, Rowers, Rock climbers, or any endurance sport that requires the stiff upper lip.

    Yeah I don't watch football, but I love tennis, track and field, and we have excellent young athletes leading to the Summer Olympics, just wait!!!
    Last edited by os168; 03-25-2012 at 04:00 PM.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by os168 View Post
    Sorry i edited my post... I mean US only, and more specifically the ladies. Respect, good support and realistic expectations imo adds alot to how athletes can perform and develop.
    Call me a skeptic, but I highly doubt fan criticisms drive or doom the success of the ladies program in the US. Back in the Kwan/Lipinski days, fans bickered like they do today. That has been a constant regardless of # of world medals, perhaps you just see more complaints now that internet exists.

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    I suppose the idea that everything in the world is cyclical is irrelevant...
    I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.~W. C. Fields

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