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  1. #1
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    Tonya Harding's skating

    The chapter "Critiques of Skating's Feminine Ideal" in Culture On Ice, includes discussion of the top figure skaters of the 80s through mid 90s, but what really stood out to me, was this quote from dance critic Anita Finkel on Tonya Harding's skating:

    "exceptional connection with the ice, her drive, her speed, her deep edges, and the clarity and stretch of her positions gave her "the wherewithal to make her relatively short limbs and blocky torso irrelevant."

    and

    "Tonya Harding really is a brilliant artist; the tragedy is that no one realized it, let alone valued it."

    The quotes btw are from 1992.

    I never paid too much attention to Tonya Harding's skating before. I'm in no teknik, but watching her routines on youtube her strengths (besides the triple axel-when she landed it) seemed to be the excellent power & height on her jumps, particularly the triple lutz and great speed on the ice. The spiral sequence appears her biggest weakness.

    I also liked some of her rather unique music choices.

    http://youtu.be/WOP3Dj0DraQ (Skate America)

    http://youtu.be/MdC5G7CDvbI (U.S. Nationals-triple axel)

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    I wish the 92 Olympics had Ito doing her Trophee Lalique performance, Yamaguchi her U.S Nationals, and Harding her Skate America or 91 Nationals. What a battle that would have been! As it was, with how everyone there did skate, Tonya could have easily won those Olympics had she been in her 91 fitness and skated well. Shame on her for showing up out of shape and unprepared for the biggest event of her life.

    I love her skating. I like not only her jumps, but her spins, her great basic skating which contributes to the quality of her jumps (in contrast to Bonaly who has poor basics and no running edge in and out of her jumps), she had some wonderful moves in field, she often had a beautiful Ina Bauer in her programs especialy. Her spirals were ok for the time actually, I would say her footwork was the weakest part of her programs if anything, and sometimes her disjointed music selections, but she did feel the music and interpret it well I always felt.

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    Tonya's problem was her erratic training and fitness habits. She was always playing catch-up instead of moving ahead of her peers. I don't think it left her much time to work on her presentation skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aliceanne View Post
    Tonya's problem was her erratic training and fitness habits.
    Tonya's problem was being born into a family of abusiveness, poverty, alcholism and disability.
    It's official. I am madly in love with Meryl Davis.

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    Both true statements. She's a few years younger than I am, but we were skating at the same rinks at the same time in the late 70s and early 80s, and I was judging in the area starting a few years later. So I (and everyone else at the rinks) saw firsthand her crazy, abusive mother, as well as the way Diane, her first coach, basically took her in and provided everything she needed, especially after she was a little older. It was sickening watching her mother, stinking of urine and fright-wig askew, tear into her with whatever she could lay her hands on. If that went on now, authorities would be called.

    Her dad was a nice guy, and worked at at least one of the rinks for her ice time, but I don't remember what the family dynamic was in those years, if he was actually living with them. He didn't protect Tonya from her mom, but may have been instrumental in making sure she was allowed to live with Diane when she was older.

    Tonya was the most naturally talented female skater I've ever seen, from figures to her unbelievable power, speed, jumping and spinning ability of freestyle. But she was also incredibly stubborn, and often her own worst enemy, even as a girl. She had people around her who wanted to help her succeed, but she had to do everything her way. She really didn't even practice as hard as most of the lower-level skaters who never even achieved a double axel, or went past novice-level figures. It was so frustrating.

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    I really liked Tonya's skating, however on the ISU component DVDs they do use both Tonya and Surya Bonaly as examples of poor skating skills. And on reflection they are right. Bonaly was the worst. However Tonya was stiff in her technique and she used lots of crossovers and very short steps to generate speed. It was quite labourered and there was not a lot of efficiency in her technique to generate natural flow. On the clip they then compare her with Mao Asada which really does make the comparison very obvious and highlights the deficiencies in Tonya's skating skills.

    Having said that she was a really exciting skater to watch and she certainly deserves credit for her achievements.

    Jasmar - that really is awful how her mother treated her. Thanks for sharing.
    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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    ^^ Oh God, the ISU has the nerve to single out Tonya Harding and Surya Bonaly for their "poor skating skills." What about the ISU's own "poor judging skills," not to mention their astounding lack of vision and ubiquitous on-going lack of judgment across the board!?

    Ha ha, re Tonya did crossovers! So did Janet Lynn and Toller Cranston. I could watch and re-watch Janet Lynn and Toller Cranston tapes all day. For that matter, I could watch and re-watch Tonya Harding's winning 1991 U.S. National Championship performance all day too. As for Tonya's unfortunate upbringing and character faults, oh well, kudos to her for surviving it all. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Sure Tonya isn't close to being the best example of exemplary human being or figure skater, but ya know, there's no way they can rip, dis, or erase the fact she was indeed a powerful and exciting skater to watch. Too bad she didn't work harder to parlay her natural gifts and superb talent into a greater and longer-lasting career. Too bad she was unable to overcome the side-effects of emotional and physical abuse.

    Ultimately, Tonya's success in life will not be measured against her skating career. And still, Tonya Harding is the first American woman to land a 3-axel in competition, and she ALWAYS will be.

    And Surya Bonaly, love you lady backflip! You kicked a** at Worlds 1993.

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    I would love to interview her for the podcast. She was really such a natural talent.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by manleywoman View Post
    I would love to interview her for the podcast. She was really such a natural talent.
    That would be a fantastic interview.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aftershocks View Post
    ^^ Oh God, the ISU has the nerve to single out Tonya Harding and Surya Bonaly for their "poor skating skills."
    Oh please Bonaly is regarded as having some of the weakest skating skills ever of an international competitive skater. Of course she is held up as an example to demonstrate what you don't want to see, regardless of whether it is being judged or not.
    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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    Tonya in no way had poor skating skills. Even if some question her artistry her skating skills were without question. Bonaly is a whole other story, she did indeed have very poor basic skating skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Willy View Post
    Oh please Bonaly is regarded as having some of the weakest skating skills ever of an international competitive skater. Of course she is held up as an example to demonstrate what you don't want to see, regardless of whether it is being judged or not.
    I think people find it hypocritical that the ISU is trashing her skating after all the medals they gave her. They apparently didn't mind when she was bringing in money.

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    Yeah right, Aussie Willy, and so what? That def makes it cool for ISU to single out Bonaly. They obviously were batting 100% with that selection. Not so much re Tonya, huh? All those superlatives for Tonya in the Culture on Ice critique, but yet and still she is fodder for "poor skating skills" videos. Hah! Yeah sure, partly because of Bonaly's "tumbling champion" technique, she never learned how to properly use her edges and that's an understatement. Still she was an amazing jumper (again because of her tumbling experience) with the ability to launch into difficult jumps without great speed. The dissing of Bonaly recalls to my mind how Sandra Bezic (who is not really such a bad person herself, just sometimes clueless in her commentary) used to smack on the fact that Bonaly (horrors) skated with bare legs. Yeah sure, Bonaly is so what we "don't want to see" in figure skating. ISU -- so superior and elitist. So archaic and constricted in their thinking.

    And sure, forget about that complicit "knee-whack conspirator" Harding. Lets flush Harding and Bonaly both down the toilet. Both great examples of "poor skating skills." Would love to see who else they single out for stuff that's just so "poor" and not what the ISU wants to "see." Forget about the fact there's this clear lack of vision in any case among ISU officials and judges.

    BTW, was the Mao comparison clip they used before or after Mao re-worked her jump technique? Mao's style of skating is very unique and completely different from Harding's or anyone else's. These ISU component DVDs must be a laugh riot and so fun for them to put together. Hey judges, this is what we want to see ... AND THIS IS NOT! Do they show clips of Yu Na's poor positions on her layback spins? Do they show clips of Tara Lipinski's atrocious technique on her 2-axel? Do they show clips of Evan Lysacek's atrocious technique on his 3-axel? Hopefully, everyone they decide to single out is no longer competing eligibly.

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    I did think it was a bit strange that they used Tonya as an example of poor skating skills. This wasn't the clip they used but here she certainly looks to have quite good flow and excellent power here and doesn't seem stiff or labored to me at all.
    : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1WMW...ailpage#t=307s

    Any skater's skating is going to have some variability in it and Tonya perhaps moreso than some others, and the particular clip used did not show her best skills but it was hardly what I would use as an example of "bad" skating. As a judge I think it's important not to stereotype a particular skater and try to free my mind of former impressions and stick to discussing the given clip or performance at hand.

    While I have seen examples of Surya early in her career where her basic skating skills were nowhere near what I'd expect from a top level skater, I feel she generally improved a lot over the course of her career. The clip that was selected for the ISU video showed some of her worst skating skills and she had a fluke stumble just stroking. She certainly had some good qualities to her skating skills and there was a good example of some footwork of hers posted in another thread recently.

    IIRC, the names of the skaters were never given in any of the clips, though most of them were well-known skaters and some still are competing or were at the time (Abbott and Chan were featured quite a bit, and Jeff Buttle, Carolina Kostner, and Shen & Zhao were also featured for some of the components, all as "good" examples).

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    Thanks RFOS for your thoughtful and informative comments. I'm sure there are many good and well-intentioned judges. And I know judging ain't easy. Unfortunately, the task for judges is further complicated by the fact that fs is subjective and political. The ISU is short-sighted and antiquated in their thinking, not the least because of their entrenched leadership and archaic structure. Of course things are changing, but slowly and not always for the better.

    Maybe "strange" is not the word for the selection of Tonya Harding as an example of "poor skating skills." Perhaps "clueless" or "baseless" are more apt characterizations (or maybe intentionally "catty.") As far as Bonaly's selection, I'd say she's an easy mark. Likely, whoever picked Bonaly, patted themselves on the back for their perspicacity.

    I agree with you that every skater "is going to have some variability" in their performance quality, just as does every athlete and every dancer, mainly because they are not robots. I think its great that you are on the alert not to stereotype and that you "try to free your mind of former impressions." However, all judges may not be as cognizant and careful. That's too bad if currently eligible skaters are singled out for demonstration of "poor skating." Even if their names aren't cited, if their faces are shown, it's quite clear who they are.

    Might be a good idea if there are also coaching videos available that show how to help skaters unlearn bad habits and eradicate any existing "poor skating skills." Too bad Abbott's artistry, Chan's "skating skills," Kostner's speed and Shen/Zhao's magical connection can't be bottled and sold, or exactly emulated. Of course, watching these skaters can certainly be pleasurable and inspirational. Not sure tho' that watching them actually helps most judges recognize who has superb artistry, musicality, and presentation skills, much less that watching them provides judges with the ability to accurately reflect the level of artistic/ presentation skills and skating skills in their scoring of skaters during competitions. But then, of course, you and Aussie Willy have more knowledge and experience than I do in regard to ISU judging.

    To make up for their error in judgment, perhaps ISU should put together a video of Tonya Harding clips that demonstrate proper 3-axel technique for ladies. BTW, have they ever dissed on Midori Ito's or Yukari Nakano's leg wraps? What about Caroline Zhang's poor take-off technique on her 3-lutz?

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    The ISU is really using Harding as an example of poor skating skills? What in the world? Her crossovers were powerful, and she wasn't using more crossovers than her competitors, in fact probably even less. Yamaguchi for one had probably twice as many in her programs.

    Not getting this at all. I mean, her skating skills were insane, and that's how she managed to achieve what she did. Two Olympics, world medal. Tonya certainly didn't achieve what she did based on long accepted ideas of pretty princess programs, music selection or body. It was her undeniable skills on the ice. It's strange, maybe these people don't remember her or didn't see her skating live. I can vouch for the power, speed, edge run, spins, and of course jumps. Her footwork was not so great, but it wasn't due to poor skills. She focused on other things. But her skills were NEVER in question. Or at least I never thought so, who'da thunk?

    There are many clips on YT of Tonya just practicing. She was an amazing skater. I mean, you looked at Holly Cook or Tonia Kwiatkowski and you thought "NEXT". With Tonya you might have thought "next world champion". And that was despite her awful costumes, hair, music cuts, program wtf's.
    Last edited by Alex Forrest; 10-07-2012 at 07:05 AM.
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    The ISU is using Harding as an example of a skater with poor flow because she (1) had poor flow and (2) was a silver medalist at Worlds.

    I'm sure that the ISU could dig up an example of some recently retired low-ranked skater with poor flow, but that would only serve to humiliate someone who never accomplished as much as Harding did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vagabond View Post


    The ISU is using Harding as an example of a skater with poor flow because she (1) had poor flow and (2) was a silver medalist at Worlds.

    I'm sure that the ISU could dig up an example of some recently retired low-ranked skater with poor flow, but that would only serve to humiliate someone who never accomplished as much as Harding did.
    Thanks for letting us see Harding's 'weakness'. It was almost crazy when they are saying no transitions on her video when she's doing one and into a 3loop for fecks sake. In a world where black is white and up is down, I'm guessing I'm following the ISU's BS too.
    And run of the edge? Did Harding have a peer in 91/92?
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    I've never paid attention to those things, but I think I see why they used her as an example.
    She has deep edges, but doesn't hold her edge in her crossovers. So, she does many crossover (too much). And her knee action is sometimes out of sync. But well, in competition, sometimes, your knees are not doing exactly what you want, lol.
    In the step department, there is nothing else than 3 turn. And her 3 turns are almost always jumped...

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    ^^ Yikes, the nitpicky icky state of affairs in figure skating. Please bring figures back so these rampant and "poor" examples, and nitpicky exposes of "poor skating skills" can be eliminated for once and for all!!! Down with the exposes, the inexcusable clips, the "poor skating skills" and the lousy skaters too! D**n, why can't everyone be Patrick Chan?!

    If Tonya gets whiff of this, I can just hear her rebellious response to such relentless vituperation: "How much responsibility do you think I need to take? I paid my debt to society [i.e., to figure skating] ... How much punishment do you think I need to go through?" *

    Oh well, I guess Tonya never learned how to be polite and politically correct when talking to the media either. Her anger and seeming unrepentant stance is palpable, but this is from a 2009 video. Perhaps she's mellowed a bit since having a baby. I haven't been following her much post 1994, except for the odd headline or newsflash. And, I haven't walked in her shoes either. I did like her skating, and at first I didn't believe she had anything to do with the "whacking." But, I guess she will always be blamed much moreso than her ex-husband and the "whacker for hire." It would be good if she could learn how to rise above it all and forgive herself and her detractors. Still, I think using her as an example of "poor skating skills" is unnecessary.

    *Quoted from a 2009 Harding interview with Real Sports
    Last edited by aftershocks; 10-07-2012 at 09:50 AM.

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