Defector.com article on female skaters & Quads

overedge

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@tylersf The sport in every country has gone through high points and low points. And in the US it manages to persist even during the low sports. The strength of the sport is in sustaining participation, especially at the lower levels where the stars eventually come from.

And if keeping up with the athletic international norms means doping skaters or using abusive training methods, that's not sustainable either.
 

tylersf

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@tylersf The sport in every country has gone through high points and low points. And in the US it manages to persist even during the low sports. The strength of the sport is in sustaining participation, especially at the lower levels where the stars eventually come from.

And if keeping up with the athletic international norms means doping skaters or using abusive training methods, that's not sustainable either.
Who said anything about doping or abuse training methods? Keeping up with the rest of the world will require a different type of skater who is more athletic. This new type of skater may not fit the traditional small, slim, petite prototype that has worked in the past.

The USA is a big country and the natural athletic talent is there. US Figure Skating hasn't cast a line in that body of water in which contains this type of sthletic talent. Many people know where this talent resides, and they don't want to go there.

We haven't had a female World Champion since Kimmie Meissner in 2007. She was athletic.

Overall, we have steadily declined since that time because US Figure Skating rewards a particular look and style that is no longer competitive internationally.

We either change as an American skating federation or we fall behind.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
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33,774

Who said anything about doping or abuse training methods? Keeping up with the rest of the world will require a different type of skater who is more athletic. This new type of skater may not fit the traditional small, slim, petite prototype that has worked in the past.

The athletic skaters that have dominated the world standings for the last couple of years, from one country, apparently get that way through abusive training methods and doping. No other country should be following that model.
 

tylersf

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The athletic skaters that have dominated the world standings for the last couple of years, from one country, apparently get that way through abusive training methods and doping. No other country should be following that model.
You keep going back to doping and abusive training methods. Americans are not wired to take abuse. Americans like gold stars and participation medals. USA Figure Skating needs to reward actions and results that lead to success (proper training that leads to winning competitions without doping).

We have male skaters who can perform quads with normal training. If we develop the right female talent with proper training from the beginning, the USA can succeed. We just need to select talent from a different pool.

Please stop insisting doping and abuse are the only roads to success in skating. Since that was exposed, that federation and skaters will pay the price.
 

gkelly

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We have male skaters who can perform quads with normal training. If we develop the right female talent with proper training from the beginning, the USA can succeed. We just need to select talent from a different pool.

The way skating works in the US, we can only select talent from the pool of skaters who start training at young ages on their own initiative and stick with it at a serious level of commitment.

You can't get skaters into the sport if they don't live near ice rinks or if they can't afford to train almost every day for years.

(You can get recreational skaters from the latter group)

There is no mechanism to find youngsters who both have ideal body types as children and are likely to have ideal body types as young adults, convince them to start training, and make it financially feasible to continue at a level to reach elite levels.

They have to want it on their own, and they have to prove themselves at least partially at their own expense until they at least get close to the top.

Anything else would require huge influxes of financial support from sources that do not and never have existed in the US.

At best, there could be programs to make the training more affordable so that skaters who start on their own initiative and love it won't have to drop out just because of money reasons.

And marketing to make skating training seem cool to young girls and their parents.

What gets kids into the sport at young enough ages is usually the pretty dresses or the jumping, maybe the spinning or the music.

Or any combination of the above. Even little girls can have diverse interests.

And then they have to learn to love or at least tolerate the gliding and the speed and repetitious practice of basic skating skills as well as jumping and spinning skills and the falling and other sources of pain and frustration along the way.

Interests and focus may change as they get older. The ones who succeed will be able to develop all the skills necessary to excel at the sport.

Over the last several years the US has made several changes to the scoring at middle levels to emphasize skating skills and difficult jumps.

But first you need to get them into the rink and keep them training for several years even to get to those levels. Mostly at their parents' expense.
 

tylersf

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We have a Russian female skater from Sambo-70 who failed a drug test. Are we supposed to ignore that?
What does that have to do with how the USA can better train their future female skaters? By repeatedly referring the doping, it is as if the USA can develop competitive skaters only if we dope our future female skaters.
 

tylersf

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The way skating works in the US, we can only select talent from the pool of skaters who start training at young ages on their own initiative and stick with it at a serious level of commitment.

You can't get skaters into the sport if they don't live near ice rinks or if they can't afford to train almost every day for years.

(You can get recreational skaters from the latter group)

There is no mechanism to find youngsters who both have ideal body types as children and are likely to have ideal body types as young adults, convince them to start training, and make it financially feasible to continue at a level to reach elite levels.

They have to want it on their own, and they have to prove themselves at least partially at their own expense until they at least get close to the top.

Anything else would require huge influxes of financial support from sources that do not and never have existed in the US.

At best, there could be programs to make the training more affordable so that skaters who start on their own initiative and love it won't have to drop out just because of money reasons.

And marketing to make skating training seem cool to young girls and their parents.

What gets kids into the sport at young enough ages is usually the pretty dresses or the jumping, maybe the spinning or the music.

Or any combination of the above. Even little girls can have diverse interests.

And then they have to learn to love or at least tolerate the gliding and the speed and repetitious practice of basic skating skills as well as jumping and spinning skills and the falling and other sources of pain and frustration along the way.

Interests and focus may change as they get older. The ones who succeed will be able to develop all the skills necessary to excel at the sport.

Over the last several years the US has made several changes to the scoring at middle levels to emphasize skating skills and difficult jumps.

But first you need to get them into the rink and keep them training for several years even to get to those levels. Mostly at their parents' expense.
You're right elite skating is expensive. But if the grass roots program is strong, you would think that some higher level would make it through that bunch.

A number of years ago, I took inexpensive adult beginner classes in Oakland, CA which is not typically an affluent area (parts of the city are very nice though) and feared by many. The figure skating director at the time had coached an Olympic Gold Medalist a few years before, so the rink attracted elite talent. Having an Olympic-level coach for your adult beginner class was impressive.
The Saturday kiddie classes had 100-150 participants in the morning sessions. The talent pool in the area was/is huge, but may not have kids who move up in the skating world.
It won't happen overnight, and the pandemic doesn't help our cause to develop more competitive skaters in the USA.
I think the USFSA should be on the lookout for potential talent that can reach international standard, and not for an outdated prototype model that no longer wins medals.
Currently, the USA likes the ice princess prototype for our females, even if they don't win. Going forward, we need female ice warriors who want to win if we want to keep figure skating at a high level for the USA.
 
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tylersf

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Because people are trying to get the same results as the Russian skaters as if that is possible without doping.
The Silicon Valley was home to Peggy Fleming, Debi Thomas, Brian Boitano, Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou. These skaters achieved Olympic medals without doping.
 

MacMadame

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The Silicon Valley was home to Peggy Fleming, Debi Thomas, Brian Boitano, Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou. These skaters achieved Olympic medals without doping.
Are you deliberately being dense?

Did Karen Chen beat any of the Russian Women in the TE? Is there any hope she'll medal in the individual? The Russian skaters at Sambo-70 are doping. That's why they can do things that no other skaters can do. It's not their system or how they train.
 

Mayra

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Are you deliberately being dense?

Did Karen Chen beat any of the Russian Women in the TE? Is there any hope she'll medal in the individual? The Russian skaters at Sambo-70 are doping. That's why they can do things that no other skaters can do. It's not their system or how they train.
What's sad to me is that I think these skaters would have been at the top of the ladies field even without the alleged drug.

Now I look back at Zagitova rattling off all those triples at the back end of her Olympic program and the seed of doubt is there.
 

tylersf

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What's sad to me is that I think these skaters would have been at the top of the ladies field even without the alleged drug.

Now I look back at Zagitova rattling off all those triples at the back end of her Olympic program and the seed of doubt is there.
I still do believe that eventually, if we pick the correct female athletes with natural talent and proper training, we CAN have skaters who will be competitive and win. We need a NEW system and a NEW prototype for developing female skaters. Everyone is glossing over this point, and not reading between the lines. We need Tonya Harding (excluding her bad life decisions) and Midori Ito type athleticism to win going forward.

As of now, an Olympic medal won't happen for the American female skaters unless the Russians are disqualified, all the Japanese and Korean skaters make huge mistakes. They are the product of a training system and mindset that are no longer poised to win internationally.
 

gkelly

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It's not a matter of USFS picking specific skaters at young ages.

What can make a difference is in what they reward in competition at the ages when skaters who are already in the competitive pipeline are in the process of developing the skills they will need to succeed at elite levels.

What is already different at those levels now than was the case 10-15 years ago (i.e., when today's 20-something veterans were juveniles and intermediates) is that Skating Skills is worth a lot more in the scoring than other components, some of which are not used at all at those levels, and there are scoring bonuses for adding difficult jumps at each level from juvenile through junior. And most recently juveniles are now allowed to attempt one triple.

So there is more incentive now for skaters to focus on basic skating and on jump content, which they will need if they want to reach elite levels.
 

Trillian

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What's sad to me is that I think these skaters would have been at the top of the ladies field even without the alleged drug.

People keep saying that, but it may not be true. Obviously the top Russian women are still extremely talented, and probably capable of being Olympic medal contenders regardless. Maybe they’d be on a more level playing field with everyone else. Maybe they’d be just as dominant as they are now. But the problem with doping is that there’s really no way to know.

Either way, it doesn’t make sense to ask how the U.S. can catch Russia, if Russia is engaging in training methods and other “competitive strategies” that most people in the U.S. wouldn’t find acceptable. How we can keep up with Japan in women’s singles is a much more realistic and potentially productive conversation.
 

Frau Muller

From Puerto Rico…With Love!
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I enjoyed watching (Peacock) the various USFS qualifiers this past fall. However, it was obvious that the great majority was nowhere close to international standard…lots of pretty princesses in pretty dresses, doing 3-2 combos, if lucky. These Challenge events were the equivalent of Regionals & Sectionals, right? Sr Women field in Russian qualifiers were much deeper and advanced.
 

tylersf

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I enjoyed watching (Peacock) the various USFS qualifiers this past fall. However, it was obvious that the great majority was nowhere close to international standard…lots of pretty princesses in pretty dresses, doing 3-2 combos, if lucky. These Challenge events were the equivalent of Regionals & Sectionals, right? Sr Women field in Russian qualifiers were much deeper and advanced.
Likewise.
I watched every qualifier on Peacock leading up to the Olympics. The elite skaters who participated in these qualifiers seemed to play it safe at these competitions. They were rewarded for lowering their difficulty. When they got.to Nationals many were still throwing 3-2 combos anyway.
In the 1990s USA Gymnastics started giving bonuses for more difficulty. It helped because the USA females won the Team Gold at the 1996 Olympics. That year the women's field was very deep and we could have sent 2 strong teams to the Olympics or Worlds.
US Figure Skating for Women is no longer deep for international competition.
 

gkelly

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There are never dozens of US ladies who are competitive at the elite senior international level.

Even in years when the US might have had as many as 3 or 4 potential world medalists, and maybe a few more who were potential Grand Prix medalists, making the US the most dominant country in the international ladies' event, there have always been skaters who qualified for senior Nationals with less than top-level jump content or skating skill. Which means that the majority of skaters at the domestic qualifiers were not at that skill level. This is nothing new.

And there were always more promising juniors, with strong junior-level skills . . . but not all of those successfully advanced to a top senior skill level, for a variety of reasons.
 

MacMadame

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How we can keep up with Japan in women’s singles is a much more realistic and potentially productive conversation.
Agreed.

When you see skaters all over the world where a few at the top can maybe land a triple axel and/or a quad and then one skating school has many more skaters with triple axels and multiple quads, you know something is up and not something good that should be emulated.
I watched every qualifier on Peacock leading up to the Olympics. The elite skaters who participated in these qualifiers seemed to play it safe at these competitions. They were rewarded for lowering their difficulty. When they got.to Nationals many were still throwing 3-2 combos anyway.
The skaters at qualifying competitions are the skaters who didn't have a good enough season the year before to get in the top 6 at Nationals or get a JGP or GP assignment that would give them a bye to Nationals. These are the skaters who are just happy to make it to Nationals. Of course, most of them aren't throwing 3-3s. They aren't "playing it safe." They are performing to the maximum of their ability.
 

Willin

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And there were always more promising juniors, with strong junior-level skills . . . but not all of those successfully advanced to a top senior skill level, for a variety of reasons.
This is the dilemma that interests me the most with the US Ladies. There's a lot of very talented skaters at the Novice and Junior level that have great potential to become Senior international threats but just don't for whatever reason. I think if USFS needs to figure out a way to help these skaters transition successfully to the Senior level - and by help them I don't mean just pick their coaches out for them.
 

bytheriver

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We talk about skating skills being emphasized too much at the lower level, but if that’s the case why are our current young ladies struggling with speed and edges? The Japanese ladies, even at the lowest levels, have great skating skills. They also have far less ice time and often train in rinks full of other skaters on the ice. What are we missing there and how can we get to that point? Theoretically, better skating skills would help speed which would help our ladies keep their jumps after puberty, which is a major issue everywhere but especially in the U.S. For skaters that are able to find past puberty, they return with underrotations that follow them and create negative reputations internationally (Mirai, Karen, and Alysa all immediately come to mind).
 

Karen-W

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I have to ask, what can the USFS do, beyond adding extra bonus for the harder jumps and excellent skating skills, to really get this addressed at the developmental level. What is it in the testing structure that is passing these skaters with inferior skating skills through the system? Seems to me like having much stricter standards with the judges and perhaps greater emphasis on what truly is needed to pass these tests would help, but I'm not a skater so I don't know if I'm just really off-base in this line of thought.
 

MacMadame

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I have to ask, what can the USFS do, beyond adding extra bonus for the harder jumps and excellent skating skills, to really get this addressed at the developmental level. What is it in the testing structure that is passing these skaters with inferior skating skills through the system? Seems to me like having much stricter standards with the judges and perhaps greater emphasis on what truly is needed to pass these tests would help, but I'm not a skater so I don't know if I'm just really off-base in this line of thought.
I don't know 100% either but I know that when I was skating that skaters routinely tested up several levels in their Moves in the Fields tests above their Freestyle test level. So you could have a Novice or even an Intermediate skater passing Senior Moves. If this is still true, it's a problem.
 

Frau Muller

From Puerto Rico…With Love!
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I have to ask, what can the USFS do, beyond adding extra bonus for the harder jumps and excellent skating skills, to really get this addressed at the developmental level. What is it in the testing structure that is passing these skaters with inferior skating skills through the system? Seems to me like having much stricter standards with the judges and perhaps greater emphasis on what truly is needed to pass these tests would help, but I'm not a skater so I don't know if I'm just really off-base in this line of thought.

Take a page from the Russian playbook (for both skating and ballet):
Identify the talented child at around age 9, then (with parental consent) move her to a training center locale, where progress and potential is routinely assessed, including periodic pruning if the child’s potential diminishes. How that would work in a capitalist and democratic system I’m not sure. Examination of genetics, family’s bone structure, etc., comes into play at some point.
 

her grace

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Kalin can land a quad. She has a lot of work to do on her skating skills, though. Same with Liu when she first arrived on the scene. Figuring out how to achieve balance is something USFS can deliberate.
 

bytheriver

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I will say that recent events do have me wondering how feasible quads are for women, especially after puberty. Liza has a good 4T, although not consistent enough to compete it. The whole situation calls into question the only school with skaters over 15 who can land quads even somewhat consistently.

I never doubted that young kids who spin like tops could attain the rotation needed, but beyond the age of 15/16 seems exceptional and is only really being done by one school. Just thinking of how Mia Kalin or Isabeau Levito’s quads are - similar to Alysa’s in that they appear to be fleeting as is. Once you grow even a bit they fall apart.
 

jiejie

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I might be skewered for this, but I think the overall mediocre quality of coaching is one of the causes. By this, I mean coaching at the beginning through juvenile/intermediate levels. The well-known training centers of course have good to top-drawer coaches, but most young US skaters do not have access to these. Many ice rinks in the USA have an assortment of coaches, where often there are one or two who are really good (and usually oversubscribed with private lesson students) but the rest are maybe fair at best. Many coaches came up through 6.0 not IJS, and their teaching hasn't quite bridged the gap yet. Perhaps too many coaches are under pressure--even subsconscious pressure--to be nice, gentle, and to advance skaters even when the skills at one level aren't fully baked yet. I don't believe in harsh abuse or yelling at kids, but surely there is a happy medium between that mentality and the everyone-gets-a participation-trophy mentality.
 

MacMadame

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I don't believe in harsh abuse or yelling at kids, but surely there is a happy medium between that mentality and the everyone-gets-a participation-trophy mentality.
This is hard though because it's not one-size-fits-all. There are plenty of recreational skaters who spend a lot of time and $$ on skating with the goal of having fun learning things. They are not trying to get to Nationals, let alone the Olympics. They are pursuing a hobby until they go to college, or High School, or just get bored. If you hold them to the same standards as those elite skaters, they will get frustrated and drop out and find a new hobby pretty quickly.

I think team sports handle this better. You just have different levels of teams. In gymnastics, a club will have recreational classes and separate training for their team. The hobbyists take the recreational classes and the serious gymnasts try out for the team. In some sports, they have different leagues depending on how serious you are.

This is harder to do individual sports. There is ISI instead of USFS but USFS wants the $$ from the recreational skaters too. They need it to fund the programs for the elite skaters so they aren't going to just tell people to pursue the ISI track if they aren't serious and lose them. After all, those skaters are the bulk of the skaters!

It's not unsolvable IMO but it's not going to be easy either.
 

soogar

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Looking at these games and this scoring system, why would any parent want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for their kids to skate on for them to compete against competitors who come from a state sponsored system and take drugs? When I was a kid, people like Zayak paid $25 k to skate, and Kristi $50k. When my parents heard what Kristi's parents paid, they remarked that her father was pulling a lot of teeth (he's a dentist). A friend of mine heard what ice dancers in the 90's were doing to support their Russian partners (when it was trendy to buy a Russian at US Nationals) and he made a comment on how much money do they want to take from parents to do a sport.

You can take a fraction of that money and sign your kid up at the YMCA to participate in gymnastics or swimming, or even soccer or ballet, and there will be many more opportunities to compete for college or in professional dance. What is there for skaters? No college teams to earn a scholarship for, no real professional opportunities other than teaching or an ice show.

I also think it's kind of ridiculous to target poor POC into such an expensive sport. Poor kids do quite well in sports where they can get college scholarships with minimal investment in equipment and coaching. Why put them in a sport that is such a money suck that they have constantly find a benefactor?
 

gkelly

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Looking at these games and this scoring system, why would any parent want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for their kids to skate on for them to compete against competitors who come from a state sponsored system and take drugs? When I was a kid, people like Zayak paid $25 k to skate, and Kristi $50k. When my parents heard what Kristi's parents paid, they remarked that her father was pulling a lot of teeth (he's a dentist). A friend of mine heard what ice dancers in the 90's were doing to support their Russian partners (when it was trendy to buy a Russian at US Nationals) and he made a comment on how much money do they want to take from parents to do a sport.

You can take a fraction of that money and sign your kid up at the YMCA to participate in gymnastics or swimming, or even soccer or ballet, and there will be many more opportunities to compete for college or in professional dance. What is there for skaters? No college teams to earn a scholarship for, no real professional opportunities other than teaching or an ice show.

I also think it's kind of ridiculous to target poor POC into such an expensive sport. Poor kids do quite well in sports where they can get college scholarships with minimal investment in equipment and coaching. Why put them in a sport that is such a money suck that they have constantly find a benefactor?
Skating can be done at a recreational level for $5,000 to $10,000 per year -- still too much for poor families, but achievable for some middle class families that could never afford elite training.

If you're not aiming to reach an international level, it doesn't matter what skaters in other countries are doing. But it can be frustrating for skaters who want to compete at a modest level within the US and have to compete against skaters who do have the resources for elite training starting early on.

There are now other competition tracks available that don't require quite as much commitment -- and also don't lead to elite status.

The hard thing is for kids who get into the sport fairly young, fall in love with it completley, and also show talent and aptitude to have elite potential. At some point the parents may have to squash their big dreams because the resources just aren't there. Or it turns out they just don't have the right natural gifts.
 

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