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  1. #1
    Recovering from the Olys
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    The discreet charm of figure skating

    November 28, 2013 James Ellingworth, special to RBTH
    A soccer-loving sportswriter comes to love the parade of costumes on ice – and recaps last week’s Cup of Russia Grand Prix.
    http://rbth.ru/sport/2013/11/28/the_...ing_32105.html
    Excerpt:
    I, a raging cynic, have fallen in love with figure skating and its relentless positivity.

    ...

    Part of it is the sheer athletic skill involved - it’s not always clear on TV, but in person you can’t help but note the level of skill, power and poise needed to not only jump and rotate four times in the air before landing, but to do it with grace. And all of that ON ICE, a surface many people can barely stand on.

    It’s not just that though. Psychologically, figure skating ranks among the world’s most compelling sports. Tennis is a one-on-one battle with the opponent, a sport whose history is littered with the broken careers of players who had the skill but were psyched out at the crucial moment. Figure skating is simpler and more brutal - it’s a battle against the self.

    A men’s singles free skate is four minutes, 30 seconds alone on the ice in front of a crowd of thousands expecting near-superhuman feats. Watching a competition is seeing psychology at its most basic as the skater’s ego tries to override the id’s urge to run and hide. The slightest moment of self-doubt and a medal contender goes sprawling across the ice, physical and mental health both suddenly at risk.

    Given the insane pressure involved, it stuns me how skaters stay so positive.
    "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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    Nice to see someone recognize how difficult FS is and how much athleticism is involved in it.

  3. #3

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    I love this! Any time someone (usually male) makes any kind of crack about figure skating, I tell them they need to put on a pair of skates and get out there and see what they could do. Or, select any athlete in any sport and let THEM put on a pair of skates and get out there and see what they can do. Not to denigrate any other sport, but as far as athleticism goes, I don't think skaters have an equal in any other sport. They need all the skills, not just specialize in a few. Plus, they have to skate to the music. Try that, Peyton!

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    Thanks! Nice read as I eat my thanksgiving-leftover breakfast.

    The writer didn't mention the fact that skaters do all this despite the extremely high costs and low return (money- and stardom-wise). It's not like tennis or soccer where top athletes can earn millions in endorsement deals and whatnot.
    It's something other than money or fame that keeps skaters in this sport and maybe that's what I find so charming about it.

  5. #5

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    Great article and so true!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holley Calmes View Post
    Not to denigrate any other sport, but as far as athleticism goes, I don't think skaters have an equal in any other sport. They need all the skills, not just specialize in a few. Plus, they have to skate to the music.
    I don't agree that skating requires more athleticism than other sports, though it does require more than some. But the blend of athleticism, specialized skills, and the performance aspects do make it an extremely difficult sport to succeed in, and I'm glad the author recognizes this (though he's obviously not all that knowledgeable at this point).

    Which RC press conference was he referring to?

  7. #7

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    Great article! I'm going with Lipnitskaya as the young russian with a ruthless, icy demeanour as that girl was not happy with herself last weekend, unless anyone has any other ideas?

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    I think it's a great article, but I still find it slightly annoying when the articles focus on putting on skates jumping in the air and rotating four times. Yes plenty of males skaters do that, but all of them rotate 3 times and that is still an insanely difficult thing to do....sorry it's my pet peeve, i'll get back in my box now.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Nice to see someone recognize how difficult FS is and how much athleticism is involved in it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Holley Calmes View Post
    I love this! Any time someone (usually male) makes any kind of crack about figure skating, I tell them they need to put on a pair of skates and get out there and see what they could do. Or, select any athlete in any sport and let THEM put on a pair of skates and get out there and see what they can do. Not to denigrate any other sport, but as far as athleticism goes, I don't think skaters have an equal in any other sport. They need all the skills, not just specialize in a few. Plus, they have to skate to the music. Try that, Peyton!
    I usually hate fluff, but I remember like a decade ago, there was a piece during a televised competition that I cannot recall where someone explained that skaters jump like a Basketball player and have to come down balancing on a narrow, steel blade ... and look happy doing it! I always thought that was a great, athletic message about my sport

  10. #10

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    That's an excellent article.

    What fascinates me about skating is that a competitor must make something that is so difficult look easy - and preferably "effortless" - to achieve the best score.
    Very few reach the "easy" level; much less "effortless".

  11. #11

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    Loved it - thanks Sylvia. As a very long-time skating fan I forget occasionally that we are watching people do the near impossible much of the time. It's one reason that at my advanced age I still take skating lessons (at a very basic level) - the exercise is great, I enjoy it and I also appreciate how difficult and exacting something as basic as a forward crossover can be.
    Last edited by Willowway; 11-29-2013 at 03:21 PM.

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    Wow--such a great article. Thanks for posting, Sylvia.

    It's so easy for non-fans to dismiss skating, just because of the sequins and music. But if you really look at the sport and see it for what it is--an almost unbelievable combination of sheer skill, athletic ability, and courage--like this writer did, how can you not appreciate it??

  13. #13

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    Everyone has an opinion, and I heartily agree that there's so much more to figure skating than the quad, but for what it's worth:

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sport...est-splash.htm

    Nice to even be included! But I do believe skaters must have such a variety of types of skills....I'd put them up there with the best in the world. JMO.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holley Calmes View Post
    Everyone has an opinion, and I heartily agree that there's so much more to figure skating than the quad, but for what it's worth:

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sport...est-splash.htm

    Nice to even be included! But I do believe skaters must have such a variety of types of skills....I'd put them up there with the best in the world. JMO.
    I followed the link to the related Q&A and found this gem:

    Parsippany, New Jersey: Regarding the ice skating. Don't you think that if more people skated the quad would not be such an impressive feet? The level of athleticism is not as high in figure skating as it is in running, basketball, football, baseball, etc. Put Allen Iverson on skates and I bet in a month or two he would be landing 5's and 6's -- mostly b/c he would be by far the best athlete on skates.

    Gary Mihoces: I think it would take A.I more than a month or two. Now if you put Barry Sanders on skates ....
    I'd like to test that theory. Wait, Ilhan Mansiz did try to test that theory. He's obviously not as athletic as a basketball player in his prime, but I think that demonstrated quite well how hard it is to pick up skating skills of any kind.

    But by all means, lets put someone like LeBron James on skates and see how well he does. Or those oh so athletic baseball players - I vote for Prince Fielder

    (yes, there are obviously some amazing athletes in baseball as well. But as a blanket statement that is just plain silly)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zemgirl View Post
    I followed the link to the related Q&A and found this gem:


    I'd like to test that theory. Wait, Ilhan Mansiz did try to test that theory. He's obviously not as athletic as a basketball player in his prime, but I think that demonstrated quite well how hard it is to pick up skating skills of any kind.

    But by all means, lets put someone like LeBron James on skates and see how well he does. Or those oh so athletic baseball players - I vote for Prince Fielder

    (yes, there are obviously some amazing athletes in baseball as well. But as a blanket statement that is just plain silly)
    It is silly. If a basketball player can do a 360 (degrees in mid-air) while taking it to the hoop, that player is going to be indulging in some seriously triumphant trash-talking, and it generally leaves me with my jaw hanging open...

    Until I remember that it's only the equivalent of a single toe loop.

    (Also, I would love to see Prince Fielder skate. At the very least, it would shift the inane "body type" discussions away from Tuk. )

  16. #16
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    Can't help but feel the 'greatness' of this article stems from the fact that it comes from someone with a fresh 'outsiders' perspective. A lot of the 'cancer' with the perception and characterization of the sport, IMO comes from 'within'

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robeye View Post
    (Also, I would love to see Prince Fielder skate. At the very least, it would shift the inane "body type" discussions away from Tuk. )
    Ack! I'm a Tigers fan and we just got rid of him. I don't want him to show up in another sport I watch!

  18. #18

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    Don't mean to pigeonhole or stereotype people, but I thought that gymnastics and sports requiring tumbling/gymnastic type skills were best suited for people who weren't as tall-though of course with a few exceptions. Seems like most Olympic gymnasts (again with a few exceptions) are shorter than your average football/basketball etc player. I have, however, always thought that a really great tight end or wide receiver would make a marvelous male ballet dancer.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holley Calmes View Post
    Don't mean to pigeonhole or stereotype people, but I thought that gymnastics and sports requiring tumbling/gymnastic type skills were best suited for people who weren't as tall-though of course with a few exceptions. Seems like most Olympic gymnasts (again with a few exceptions) are shorter than your average football/basketball etc player. I have, however, always thought that a really great tight end or wide receiver would make a marvelous male ballet dancer.
    My deux centimes are that you're probably right. My guess is that it's hard to get power to scale proportionately with size/weight. The same reason that the most nimble sports cars are small.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robeye View Post
    My deux centimes are that you're probably right. My guess is that it's hard to get power to scale proportionately with size/weight. The same reason that the most nimble sports cars are small.
    Jet fighter pilots are also on the smaller side, and I daresay they have a pretty unique skill set athletically, though of course not a sport, but they remind me of race car drivers. I had a dear godson who wanted to be a jet fighter pilot, but he grew to be over 6 feet and was told to forget it. One of my best friend's husband is an Air Force Colonel who flew fighter jets in Viet Nam and beyond. He's not much taller than me at 5'4". And very slim. Athletic ability is not judged by height or weight. I love football, but those behemoths aren't the only athletes.

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