People in this country only pay attention to skating once every 4 years. As soon as the Olympics are over it will fade back into obscurity for the next 4 years. Let's say Gracie miraculously wins in Sochi. She'll be the talk of the town for a month or two...then eventually people will lose interest and she'll fade back into obscurity for 4 years, occasionally making a headline/appearance if she wins something else. Why? She's not particularly interesting by sports figure standards. She's pretty and well-spoken...but she's not someone who the average American viewer will want to see past the pre- and post-Olympic media rush. Figure skating needs a Jennifer Lawrence type skater: talented, pretty, well-spoken but also candid, charming and accidentally entertaining. The stuff Lawrence says probably gives her publicist brain aneurysms but it's funny and entertaining. Even if you don't like her particular brand of goofy adorableness, one thing you can't call her is a boring, plain or cookie cutter Hollywood actress.
US skaters are very, very dull and boring personality wise, especially the ladies. Everything is pageant queen-like: smile, look pretty, give cookie cutter answers to questions, blah blah blah...boring. It seems like they are discouraged from having an actual opinion. Whenever a skater expresses an original thought that goes against the status quo there's usually some kind of backlash over it which is why it's very rare for it to happen. The sport is so controlled by federations that people have to step lightly. You speak out of turn, criticize something you don't like, piss someone off or something like that, and you may find yourself blacklisted. In this sport it's taboo for one of the women to "talk up" their skill or display anything other than implied confidence meaning you won't see someone come right out and say "I'm going to win/I'm the best skater here," even if it is true. They always go with the "I just want to skate my best/I just want to do it like I do in practice" standard answer. An overt show of confidence is seen as arrogance for the women in this sport.
I always appreciated Mirai's candor back in 2010. She was the Jennifer Lawrence of figure skating that year; no filter...whatever popped into her head came out of her mouth. I'm sure it lead to some cringing from her agent/PR person but it was so refreshing to see someone step outside of that box. Ashley is another skater who gets my respect for speaking her mind. The sport needs more personalities like that...
As for controversy, the reason it is seen as "good" for this sport is b/c it shakes up the pristine image US figure skating has cultivated for itself. People like drama...drama makes things interesting. No one wants to see a bunch of perfect ice queens anymore (boring). Figure skating needs more than the standard "drama of competition" to make it interesting enough for people who don't normally watch it to pay attention.
All of this makes me appreciate the personalities of Ashley Wagner and Mirai Nagasu. If you took Yuna Kim's track record and skating, made her American, and added in the aforementioned personalities then it would be huge for skating!
Not in any way criticizing Yuna btw, it's just terribly obvious that the US needs a mega star, and Yuna Kim is an example of that star.
I should also say that the US is well on their way, with great skaters at the top (something that was hard to say for the past little while since Torino). Not to mention, this Sochi team controversy is creating a lot of buzz around the sport. They always say that no publicity is bad publicity, and that's mostly true.
Dick Button Historical Quote of the Month: "With them it's all about the most movement per measure." (commenting on Bestemianova/Bukin, during the 1988 Olympics, Calgary)
I do believe, however, that if Michelle Kwan had won the OGM in 1998 or 2002, it would have been a big help to the popularity of the sport here. Tara was like a falling star that appeared and disappeared quickly. The USA needs sustained celebrity figure to popularize the sport again. So if Gracie wins the OGM, she will need to stick around till 2018, otherwise it will be like another Tara (not healthwise, just the impact on the general population).
What I think might potentially help the popularity of FS in America is a great rivalry. I don't mean to insinuate anything negative about Gracie's current rivals but imagine if we had another skater with similar beauty and technical abilities as Gracie. Similar to how Mao and Yuna pushed each other to do better amidst their almost decade-long (not sure exactly how long) rivalry, pitting Gracie against an opponent could benefit all skaters to do better. every sport has it's famous rivalry pairing. Tennis's Nadal and Federer or Nadal and Djokovic, Football's cowboys vs eagles (I'm from philly originally)...
People LOVE drama. Rivalries make Drama. people love rivalries.
But in general, aside from any media training to avoid controversial statements, I think that the sport tends to self-select for people with color-within-the-lines personalities. That may have been even more true in the figures era. But in the triple jump era, the majority of girls who don't have the right kind of physical talent to rotate three times in the air get weeded out well before elite level, and those who do have the ability also need to be really focused on technique and training to master those jumps and maintain them consistently.
So even with age limits the top ladies are still often teenagers, and the free spirits rarely place well enough to make themselves known to the media and general public.
And the artistic choices as teens often seem to be giving the judges what they think the judges want to see. Even later bloomers like Rochette, Kostner, Suzuki, Wagner don't tend to take as many risks as the male skaters their age or a little older.
Much of the general public may enjoy conservative program choices as well. But if we could get a skater who is both charismatic and willing to take risks on the ice, and who can also land the jumps and win medals, that will get attention. If she gives good interviews as well, even better.
If the skater is winning stuff and also sexy as well as pretty, that would probably catch more public attention. Which would not be a feminist way to go. And G. Gold is barely old enough to go that route even if it did come naturally, which so far has not seemed to be the case.
I agree that the U.S. needs someone with Kwan levels of competitive consistency in order for the sport of skating to become popular again. Someone who's always in the running for gold and whose worst days may get her a bronze or silver.
With regards to looks and marketability, I think Gracie checks those boxes the best. She's absolutely gorgeous. If she does well in Sochi, she's going to be popular. And if she continues to do well after that, she'll be a huge star.
Last edited by fenway2; 01-24-2014 at 07:12 PM.
I know this might be slightly arrogant, but if Teen Mom 2 gets more viewers than skating, I'd worry a lot more about about the taste of the viewers than about skating itself. A sport does not need to become tasteless, cheap and overly dramatic and the skaters don't need to become outrageous personalities. I can hardly think of a group seeming more humble or wholesome than the Japanese ladies and skating is doing just fine over there. Would I prefer more diverse choreography and music choices, sure! But I am just not sure that would attract more fans. I am also not sure that a sexy, gorgeous winner would be the cure. Popularity comes and goes, it's not only skating - once upon a time certain ballet dancers were household names, nowadays most people don't even know one active ballet dancer.
Perhaps Katherina Witt had all those things some are talking about: good looks, sex appeal, great in interviews, charismatic, Hollyood appeal, dramatic, confident, and of course 2 OGMs. Although she wasn't an American, she did quite well especially at the height of the Pro-Am era, scored a huge endorsement with Coke, interestingly during the '94 Olympics. She would have been up there with Dorothy if she was an American, imo.
Last edited by fenway2; 01-24-2014 at 07:32 PM.
It would be interesting to see how many non-skating fans who saw it could name the guy "from the Riverdance skating video".
Jason Brown didn't utter a single word during that youtube video of his LP and I would saying going into Sochi, the 18-49 crowd know more about him than any of the American ladies. It's not just about the sound bite and whacking someone's knee. It's about personality and charisma ON the ice. It's about performance. Are these skaters drawing in the audience like a Candelero, Bonaly, Browning, Witt or a Kwan did? Is there anything to catch the attention of the average person who doesn't watch skating or even the ones that do?
Sorry but I don't care how cute or spunky Mirai is off the ice, her skating was completely expressionless at Nationals and has been for years. Then you have Ashley falling on her butt twice (two years running), Gracie's pageant smile() and sound bites from 1950 and forgive me but even I can't even remember what Polina did at this point. I love the US ladies, but sound bites are the least of their worries, they need to skate bigger and perform.
If we're comparing the state of present day U.S. ladies' figure skating to 1996, well, it's not going to be a flattering comparison for more than a few reasons.
I'm sick of all the about how dooooomed the U.S. ladies are. The media has been spoiled for so long. We had our day in the sun. It's OK if we don't have a Dorothy, Peggy, Michelle or Kristi for another 10 or 15 years.
If I have to go to small competitions in rinks with a few benches to see it (I do this regularly for sectionals and regionals already), so be it. I want it to be figure skating (and ice dancing) not something else!
“I am happy that it’s over. Happy that I did well.” Yu Na Kim