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  1. #1
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    Jennifer Kirk's blog: "... skating taught me far more than winning and losing"

    http://www.jenniferkirk.com/about/
    ...
    Today, I am finishing up my bachelor’s degree in communications and am getting ready to embark on a career in broadcast journalism. This blog is my opportunity to share with you what skating has taught me and hopefully inspire readers to live life with a focus on the lesson to be learned from every experience. As you will read, skating taught me far more than winning and losing.
    I'm glad to see her blogging again! Prison of Perfection (April 25, 2012)
    "Randy [Starkman (1960-April 16, 2012)] lived by the same motto as the rest of us. The Olympics isn’t every four years, it’s every single day. He just got it." --Canadian Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden

  2. #2

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    That was really interesting; thanks for posting it.

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    Wow, I wonder if every successful skater has to be as much of a neurotic perfectionist as what Jennifer Kirk is describing. A bout of self-abuse triggered by an A- seems over-blown... but then I was a perfectionist when I was younger too. I was lucky that my college recorded only A, B, C, ... with no +/- modifiers, so I didn't have to worry about the details most of the time. But these days I seem to have really mellowed up, just don't have the energy to be a perfectionist anymore.

  4. #4
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    It's so candid and brave. Good for Jenny. I hope she finds fulfillment in journalism.
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

    from Speedy Death

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    Her section on Michelle Kwan may tick off some of Kwan's most ardent fans, but it was a great example, and she hit the nail on the head. Michelle allowed herself to be taken over by "Perfection" and as a result, she couldn't let go and just skate with her heart.

    That article on "Perfection" really hit me, because I've done that to myself many times, with my skating, my work and other things. That was very insightful and well-written, and a good reminder not to fall into that trap. I look forward to future installments from Jennifer.
    "Once you've skated together long enough, and you're really good friends, you can close your eyes, put your hand out and she's right there." Joe Dolkiewicz, 2011 US Novice Pairs Bronze Medalist

  6. #6

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    Most skaters are not at the level where they could even aspire for "perfection".
    Michelle was.

    To her eternal credit. she coped beautifully when she didn't reach the goal.
    Most do not.

  7. #7

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    I'm so happy for Jenny. She comes by her writing skills honestly.
    As an ardent Kwan fan, I'm not ticked off.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yazmeen View Post
    Her section on Michelle Kwan may tick off some of Kwan's most ardent fans, but it was a great example, and she hit the nail on the head. Michelle allowed herself to be taken over by "Perfection" and as a result, she couldn't let go and just skate with her heart.

    That article on "Perfection" really hit me, because I've done that to myself many times, with my skating, my work and other things. That was very insightful and well-written, and a good reminder not to fall into that trap. I look forward to future installments from Jennifer.
    I always find it fascinating to hear about the internal struggles athletes and people in high pressure situations have to cope with. Jenny is very brave to share this information with us. I think her example of Michelle is a good one, and Michelle has admitted to being so afraid of mistakes that she was "eaten by the monster" in 1997.

    Perfectionism can be both a hindrance and a blessing. Think of how many achievements would have been missed if there weren't perfectionists out there determined to get it right. Maybe they never achieved perfection, but they certainly moved things forward by trying.

    When I had just started taking music auditions, I remember one of my professors telling me that to win an audition, you have to "want it more than anything in the world, but at the same time not really give a damn."

    In that respect, I think it's all about balance. Have the highest goals in mind, but don't forget about your personal goals and small victories along the way.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by skatesindreams View Post
    Most skaters are not at the level where they could even aspire for "perfection". Michelle was. To her eternal credit. she coped beautifully when she didn't reach the goal. Most do not.

    Word!


    Well, Jenny came back swinging.

    I wish her much success! 21st-century journalism is going to be a toughie. Hope she can get more out of it.
    Last edited by JILEN; 04-27-2012 at 06:57 PM.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparks View Post
    I'm so happy for Jenny. She comes by her writing skills honestly.
    As an ardent Kwan fan, I'm not ticked off.
    Me neither. I think Jenny will do well in her new career. I really liked her online blog & I think she's an excellent writer.

  11. #11
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    When I read this blog, the first thing that sprung to mind was the nasty comments that Phil Hersh made in 2009 about Kirk's skating and her journalism:

    (from http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/...en-announ.html)

    Former U.S. world team member Jennifer Kirk joined that chorus, writing in her Blog, ``Something about her statement doesn't add up.'' Although Kirk stopped short of doubting that Cohen is injured, she insisted it would be no surprise if Cohen did not compete at all this season: ``However, it seems to me that maybe Cohen didn't realize in May just how tough this comeback was going to seem in October,'' Kirk wrote. ``My guess? Sometimes the fear of failure can be more painful than any injury.''

    (Failure is something Kirk is familiar with, having slopped to 17th and 18th-place finishes in her two world meet appearances and quitting a year before the 2006 Olympics; Cohen, by comparison, has an Olympic silver, two world silvers, a world bronze and no finish worse than fourth in five world and two Olympic appearances.)

    But the question about the show and the timing of the withdrawal is legitimate. Unlike Kirk and those who sent comments, I had the advantage (and responsibility) of raising it the way a real journalist does -- by letting Cohen give her side of the story before commenting on it.
    Imagine the extra amount of pressure that she must have felt when she was competing, knowing that there were attitudes like this out there ready to jump on her. Even if she was too hard on herself, there were lots of other people willing to be hard on her too at the slightest opportunity.

    I know her blog post wasn't written for this reason, but to me it shows Hersh how oh so very wrong he was about her not being a "real journalist".
    Who wants to watch rich people eat pizza? They must have loved that in Bangladesh. - Randy Newman on the 2014 Oscars broadcast

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    Now that she's finished her degree, he may take her more seriously!

  13. #13
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    ^ What Hersh fails to acknowledge there IMHO is that at the time Cohen achieved those world silvers and Olympic silver, they were considered failures by some journalists since she was in position to take gold and slipped. She was totally in Kwan's shadow. And she was asked tough questions, too, one I believe asking point blank if she saw her career as a failure. It's all relative.

    Honestly, I think what Kirk said about chasing perfection might apply more to Cohen than to Kwan- I'm surprised Cohen wasn't mentioned (although I agree re. Kwan at SLC), because it seemed as if she was just waiting/hoping for that perfect LP to happen, and kept sabotaging herself in the process. This was most evident at 2006 Worlds, IMHO.

    Actually, I think there is one notable difference between a blogger and a journalist. The former writes about his/her experience(s), or reports on current issues, usually from a personal standpoint; the latter tends to seek answers to pressing issues by asking tough questions. Maybe Jenny will get there, but as of now, based on her writing style, etc. I don't consider her a true journalist. She's a great writer though- has a good way of putting things, taking care to make sure it's readable by a general audience and not just skaters.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RD View Post
    Honestly, I think what Kirk said about chasing perfection might apply more to Cohen than to Kwan- I'm surprised Cohen wasn't mentioned (although I agree re. Kwan at SLC), because it seemed as if she was just waiting/hoping for that perfect LP to happen, and kept sabotaging herself in the process. This was most evident at 2006 Worlds, IMHO.
    I think if Kirk had wanted to talk about Cohen, or say that Cohen had the issues she was talking about, she would have done exactly that.

    Actually, I think there is one notable difference between a blogger and a journalist. The former writes about his/her experience(s), or reports on current issues, usually from a personal standpoint; the latter tends to seek answers to pressing issues by asking tough questions. Maybe Jenny will get there, but as of now, based on her writing style, etc. I don't consider her a true journalist. She's a great writer though- has a good way of putting things, taking care to make sure it's readable by a general audience and not just skaters.
    People who write opinion columns and personal pieces are journalists too. Not investigative journalists or beat reporters, but they are still journalists. And Jennifer has written for newspapers, not just in her blog.
    Who wants to watch rich people eat pizza? They must have loved that in Bangladesh. - Randy Newman on the 2014 Oscars broadcast

  15. #15

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    Good essay by Kirk.
    I had enjoyed her blogging from a couple of years back, and was disappointed when she took a break to focus on her college studies. I think she'll do well at sports commentary. And I hope she puts together her autobiographical essays into a book.

    She'd do well, I think, to interview other athletes on the subject of perfectionism and other issues she touches on here - there is a really fine line between the intense focus it takes to train and win and the negative stuff that can come with over-focusing.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by RD View Post
    Honestly, I think what Kirk said about chasing perfection might apply more to Cohen than to Kwan- I'm surprised Cohen wasn't mentioned (although I agree re. Kwan at SLC), because it seemed as if she was just waiting/hoping for that perfect LP to happen, and kept sabotaging herself in the process. This was most evident at 2006 Worlds, IMHO.
    Kirk wasn't intending to write a definitive analysis of all the perfectionists in skating - that would be quite the task - and she chose Kwan as an example. FWIW, I think Kwan and Cohen's perfectionism were expressed differently. Cohen often couldn't settle into a program until she'd made a mistake: once she'd fallen, the pressure to be "perfect" was gone. Kwan rarely struck me as a perfectionist, honestly, except for the two Olympic performances. As Debi Thomas has referenced, there's pressure on athletes not only to win, but to win by skating the perfect program at the perfect moment. To add some nuance to what you said, RD, I don't think Kwan was "waiting/hoping" for the perfect FS - although I've seen athletes do just that. I think Kwan was trying to create the perfect FS. Unfortunately, when athletes try too hard, they tend to tighten up, which is a serious impediment to technique.

  17. #17
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    [QUOTE=overedge;3557671]When I read this blog, the first thing that sprung to mind was the nasty comments that Phil Hersh made in 2009 about Kirk's skating and her journalism:

    QUOTE]

    Phil Hersh is a creepy, fair-weather fan. He'll build a skater up, only to knock them down. God forbid you sustain an injury, he's movin on...

    but I guess the same can be said for USFS.

  18. #18
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    I’m so glad Jennifer Kirk is back with her skating blog! I’ve missed reading her insights and points of view on the skating world.

    Jennifer’s comments on her “About” page remind me of Ryan Jahnke’s youtube video, What’s So Great About Figure Skating. Said Ryan: “After competing for a long time, I feel like nothing I will ever do is as hard as figure skating, so I feel very equipped to handle anything that comes my way. Skating is a crucible for life.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTcUqWbtDiI

    As an “ardent” MK fan, I’m not “ticked off” by Jennifer's references to MK's 2002 Olympics. OTC, I feel that Jennifer’s “Prison of Perfection” blog offers lots of food for thought. Her comments are so heartfelt and it’s courageous of her to share her personal experiences. I think many people have experienced the traps/ limitations of trying to be perfect. I know I have often felt the compulsion of perfectionism, and I have come to realize that being a perfectionist often makes me end up not accomplishing what I could by relaxing and simply “making the effort,” without waiting for or expecting things to be perfect. Like the disease of “bulimia,” perfectionism is an issue I believe of unrealistically trying to exert “control” or gain “control” over some aspect of one's life.

    Michelle’s experience at the Olympics in 2002 was indeed so “heartbreaking” for her fans. In a slight contrast to Jennifer’s interpretation, it seems to me that Michelle, and indeed perhaps Kurt B (during his Olympics experiences) as well as Todd E (who probably had landing the quad on his mind) were caught up in the emotions of the moment and went out on the ice “paralyzed” from thinking too much or just being in a daze generally and maybe not thinking at all.

    My interpretation: I had the sense that Michelle was thinking too much about the enormity of the moment, and she was skating directly after Sarah Hughes’ fp performance, which obviously didn’t help matters. I’m not sure that Michelle was specifically thinking “I have to be perfect,” as much as she might have been thinking, “This is my Olympic moment, again. I must do it now.” She was certainly tight and visibly nervous – and due to her own choice, she did not have her former coach with her at the boards to steady her before she went out on the ice. A question from a commentator re “shakiness of 3-flip landing” in the sp may have stuck in MK’s head as she was going into that jump in the fp. Winning the Olympic gold medal was Michelle’s unreachable dream, but I’m not sure her nemesis in that 2002 moment was “perfection.” Although, “need for perfection” could possibly be an abbreviated way of describing what might have been happening inside Michelle’s mind.

    In any case, whether nerves, pressure, over-focus on the results, trying to be perfect, thinking too much, or trying too hard to live up to others’ and her own expectations, Michelle’s Olympic experiences have ultimately proven to be a lesson, not in heartbreak, but in overcoming the”failure” to win, in learning how to survive not living up to your highest expectations, in realizing what truly matters. As Jennifer points out, it’s “the effort” that matters, and Michelle’s amazing efforts are legendary. In the end, what I remember most from 2002 Olympics, is Michelle’s exhibition, Fields of Gold… the irony of it, the eloquent beauty of it, her tears in the penultimate moment, and her abundant courage.

    Kurt B, once responded to me with his usual humorous self-deprecation when I brought up how wonderful his Olympic Casablanca program was: “Nah, I didn’t win because I didn’t skate well.” He too seemed in that long ago moment when I met him to have moved on with whatever lessons he’d learned from his Olympic experiences.

    In regard to Todd Eldredge, he definitely redeemed his 1998 season with his Worlds fp performance:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GfAB3Y0Diw

    I believe Christopher Bowman is one of the commentators in this clip. It’s so nice to hear (as I didn’t recall hearing before) that Barb Underhill had written a supportive and inspirational letter to Todd after the 1998 Olympics.

    At that stage of his career, Todd’s unfortunate nemesis was the quad and the judges’ tendency to not give him as much credit as they previously had for all the things he did so well. I think Todd moved on from eligible skating with no regrets. He indeed gave great “effort” throughout his career.

  19. #19
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    What an intelligent thoughtful young woman! Her insights are fascinating and truly seem to reflect some things I have heard said by elite skaters. I wonder if she has ever done any commentary on TV. I bet she would have some very interesting takes.

  20. #20

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    I sent Jenny an email after reading that blog & I got a lovely reply today. We had an encounter at the 2004 Nationals & she was kind enough to say she remembered it. Maybe she did.

    BTW, I do consider her a real journalist as well as a sincere & thoughtful young lady.

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