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.