Defector.com article on female skaters & Quads

concorde

Well-Known Member
Messages
633
USFS likes their model to be streamlined - same number of males as females and essentially the same number of juv as senior qualifiers. This makes no sense when you consider that the number of females is about 10x greater than males at the lower levels. Also for the females, I have noticed a high attrition rate between juv and novice. They need to start identifying a larger % of 'talented' young female skaters at the lower levels.

Their model for men is working but it is broken for females. They needs to do a root cause analysis and then modify accordingly.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
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?
Before saying that Figure Skating is not appropriate for or too expensive for POC, you should read Mabel Fairbanks story.

She started out (as a teenager) homeless and sleeping on a park bench in Central Park. She overcame that. She was denied entry to ice rinks and skating clubs because of her race but as each obstacle was raised, she found a way to overcome (and go around the obstacle) and all along the way, there were people who helped her (to realize her potential in Figure Skating)...people like Maribel Vinson Owen, who coached Mabel Fairbanks for free (and in secret).

Mabel Fairbanks in turn went on to foster, mentor and nurture a generation of Skaters of Color including Atoy Wilson, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, Debi Thomas, Kristi Yamaguchi and Rudi Galindo (and many, many others). Few of these skating prodigies were rich. Mabel Fairbanks did not allow that to stop them.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
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).
I like to focus on what our skaters are doing right and what they can improve on.

Karen and Mirai were taught a jump technique in which they jump up first before they rotate. Neither pre-rotates her jumps. Both of them were taught jump technique during an era in which Ultra-C elements were not thought of as feasible for (US) women. Mirai though, was able (using this same technique) to get a clean 3-axel under her belt. I think Karen could too. She could also get a clean quad. She get's tremendous height and hang time in her jumps already. She will need to pull in tighter though and snap into the rotation quicker (to complete the extra rotations in the ultra-C elements). Right now she has a delayed rotation that makes it very difficult for her (to complete those rotations cleanly) but it's something that I think she can work on (just like Mirai did).

Alysa was taught (early in her career) to spin off the ice without really using her legs to gain lift. Now that she is taller and heavier, that technique no longer works for her. Yet, I saw tremendous improvements (in a short amount of time) when she was working with Jeremy Abbott. He was teaching her to use her legs and her toe pick to gain height into the jumps. He was teaching her to go into her jumps with speed and momentum (rather than crawl into them). These changes are helping Alysa adjust to her growth. If she keeps using her legs more, I think she can get her ultra-C elements clean again.
 
Last edited:

Trillian

Well-Known Member
Messages
508
Before saying that Figure Skating is not appropriate for or too expensive for POC, you should read Mabel Fairbanks story.

While I have nothing but admiration for what Mabel Fairbanks accomplished, skating has only gotten more expensive and the socioeconomic context changed in ways that make a story like hers increasingly less possible. Competitive figure skating is completely inaccessible for many people in this country, and groups that are most impacted by income inequality will be least likely to be able to pay for skating. A determination to overcome any obstacle is not enough. If it was, the Mabel Fairbanks story wouldn’t be so remarkable because there would be many more of her.

If we really want to make skating more accessible to less wealthy people, or increase participation for POC, it shouldn’t fall on marginalized groups to do all the work. These things don’t change in a meaningful way unless people who are already on the inside, in positions of power, make structural changes to address the problems. I don’t happen to be very optimistic about that happening in skating because the sport isn’t going to get any less expensive and there’s only so much that can happen in the existing social context of this country. But theoretically, if skating is ever going to become available to more kids on a larger scale, it would need to involve the people who already have the money and the power being committed to meaningful change.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
While I have nothing but admiration for what Mabel Fairbanks accomplished, skating has only gotten more expensive and the socioeconomic context changed in ways that make a story like hers increasingly less possible. Competitive figure skating is completely inaccessible for many people in this country, and groups that are most impacted by income inequality will be least likely to be able to pay for skating. A determination to overcome any obstacle is not enough. If it was, the Mabel Fairbanks story wouldn’t be so remarkable because there would be many more of her.

If we really want to make skating more accessible to less wealthy people, or increase participation for POC, it shouldn’t fall on marginalized groups to do all the work. These things don’t change in a meaningful way unless people who are already on the inside, in positions of power, make structural changes to address the problems. I don’t happen to be very optimistic about that happening in skating because the sport isn’t going to get any less expensive and there’s only so much that can happen in the existing social context of this country. But theoretically, if skating is ever going to become available to more kids on a larger scale, it would need to involve the people who already have the money and the power being committed to meaningful change.
I am just saying that where there is a will, there is a way.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
Alysa Liu's family and coaches funded her skating through bake sales and fundraisers. Rohene Ward's coaches practically adopted him. Starr Andrews, Lindsey Thorngren, Isabeau Levito and Jacob Sanchez are not from wealthy backgrounds...but that has not stopped them.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
Let's face it, we are never going to have a state funded system in the US, but we don't have to let that hinder our athletes. There are alternatives to state funding. Maybe the USFSA can start a Skating Lottery or Raffle to help developmental skaters or partner with companies, foundations and individuals to sponsor developmental skaters. Jeff Bezos could put his money where his mouth is.
 

Trillian

Well-Known Member
Messages
508
Let's face it, we are never going to have a state funded system in the US, but we don't have to let that hinder our athletes. There are alternatives to state funding. Maybe the USFSA can start a Skating Lottery or Raffle to help developmental skaters or partner with companies to sponsor developmental skaters. Jeff Bezos could put his money where his mouth is.

The challenge with any temporary source of funding is the fact that it’s temporary. Having the bills paid for one year doesn’t help a kid whose family can’t afford to pay the bills the following year. I agree that we’ll never have a state-funded system, but private funding also has limitations.

As for the example of the kids you cited who are “not wealthy,” that’s kind of the point. I’m not familiar with all of them, but I know several of those kids come from families with perfectly comfortable financial backgrounds and still struggle to pay for skating. Wealthy parents can start their kids out with skating lessons and ballet and horseback riding and whatever to see what sticks. Middle class parents need to be more selective when enrolling their kids in activities in the first place. Many will not choose skating at all because it’s relatively expensive compared to other options, which inherently limits participation from that income bracket, and other expenses might come up to force difficult choices later. Kids from lower middle class or poor backgrounds probably never get skating lessons at all, but if they do, they require an element of luck (like a wealthy sponsor - those don’t exactly grow on trees) to keep going with it. Parents in higher income brackets are also more likely to have more flexible schedules to support their kids’ extracurricular activities, which is a crucial component in a sport like skating. Even for the “not wealthy” kids who manage to find a way to start skating and keep skating, they’re very much not on equal footing.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
Messages
49,233
Before saying that Figure Skating is not appropriate for or too expensive for POC, you should read Mabel Fairbanks story.
Whenever people bring up inequality issues, there is always someone who rings up the rare exception as if that disproves that there are inequality issues.

What makes this example particularly egregious is that Mabel Fairbanks may have been able to learn to skate to a high level but she was never able to compete as an elite athlete. She couldn't qualify for Nationals or go to the Olympics.

So what exactly is it about her case that makes it proof that skating doesn't have an equality problem?
 

Japanfan

Well-Known Member
Messages
25,182
Alysa Liu's family and coaches funded her skating through bake sales and fundraisers. Rohene Ward's coaches practically adopted him. Starr Andrews, Lindsey Thorngren, Isabeau Levito and Jacob Sanchez are not from wealthy backgrounds...but that has not stopped them.
Isn't Alysa's father a lawyer? And IIRC, he payed a surrogate to have all his children - don't remember exactly how many. He's not a person of average income.

I seem to remember hearing that Todd's Elderidge's community helped to pay for his skating.

However, it clearly seems to me that most skaters come from families that are wealthy - maybe not ultra wealthy, but wealthy enough.

The costs of skating often include one parent having to travel with a younger skater to competitions or be at the rink with them, in which case that parent may not be able to work and earn income. There may be additional costs related to the care and welfare of other children in the family. And the lost income means less savings, which could impact the parent/s and family in future.

Skating isn't the most expensive sport, for sure - boating (the cost of boats can be formidable) and equestrian (cost of horses, even leasing). But FS at the elite level is not cheap.

I remember reading that Patrick Chan spent $200,000 a year for his elite skating in the later years. Of course that's probably more than other skaters spend, but even so. . .
 
Last edited:

Lanie

Well-Known Member
Messages
6,405
I was lucky to be in a middle class to upper middle class background. My dad was the one who loved skating and got me into it. He could not afford it when I started wanting to skate more and God knows he was a parent who'd have paid whatever to let me do what I wanted (I was spoiled in a sense!). In high school and college I worked to pay for it and I only got up to doing some doubles. It's crazy expensive. Many are not as lucky as I was to have that parental support.

Skating is obscenely expensive making it such a high barrier to entry. We miss out on so much talent and just miss out on kids who'd enjoy the sport because it's fun and great exercise.
 

concorde

Well-Known Member
Messages
633
Very few people can afford skating. Not only is it financially expensive but a skater also needs an incredible support structure to get them to all the add ons involved to be a good skater. In a certain sense, the $$ is the easy part, the second part is the killer especially when the skater is not an only child and the other sibling is not interested in skating. Two working parents with fixed schedules - you can pretty much forget it.
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
Whenever people bring up inequality issues, there is always someone who rings up the rare exception as if that disproves that there are inequality issues.

What makes this example particularly egregious is that Mabel Fairbanks may have been able to learn to skate to a high level but she was never able to compete as an elite athlete. She couldn't qualify for Nationals or go to the Olympics.

So what exactly is it about her case that makes it proof that skating doesn't have an equality problem?
I never said that skating does not have an equality problem. It does.

I just don't understand the (non) logic of the naysayers who say that athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot succeed in Figure Skating when there are so many examples of athletes from these backgrounds who have succeeded (despite the challenges; Mabel Fairbanks was only one of many).
 

Trillian

Well-Known Member
Messages
508
I never said that skating does not have an equality problem. It does.

I just don't understand the (non) logic of the naysayers who say that athletes from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot succeed in Figure Skating when there are so many examples of athletes from these backgrounds who have succeeded (despite the challenges; Mabel Fairbanks was only one of many).

Aside from Mabel Fairbanks, you’re citing examples of skaters from middle class families as proof that skaters from “disadvantaged” backgrounds can succeed. That’s not the same thing at all. Skaters from middle class backgrounds can succeed, sometimes, if things go just right for them. Kids from “disadvantaged” backgrounds don’t even get skating lessons most of the time.

The only example I can think of offhand in recent years of an elite skater who came from an economic background way outside the norm is Rohene Ward. And he’s one who was very, very lucky to have the kind of financial help throughout his career that’s not available to most skaters. If that funding had disappeared when he was 12 instead of 20-something, what a loss that would have been for the skating world. But most kids from a background like his don’t have a real path forward in the sport that’s not based on pure luck, and how many other talents have we lost because of that?
 

layman

Well-Known Member
Messages
435
Aside from Mabel Fairbanks, you’re citing examples of skaters from middle class families as proof that skaters from “disadvantaged” backgrounds can succeed. That’s not the same thing at all. Skaters from middle class backgrounds can succeed, sometimes, if things go just right for them. Kids from “disadvantaged” backgrounds don’t even get skating lessons most of the time.
You need more examples?

How about these:

1. Mabel Fairbanks (started out as a homeless teenager)

2. Rudy Galindo (from a disadvantaged background)

3. Debi Thomas (from a single parent household)

4. Tonya Harding (from a disadvantaged background)

5. Rohene Ward (from a disadvantaged background)

7. Agnes Zawadski (from a disadvantaged background)

6. Alysa Liu (from a single parent household; one of five childeren; for those of you who are new to this board, there were fundraisers here for her as recently as her last junior year)

7. Starr Andrews (from a disadvantaged background)

8. Lindsay Thorngren (from a disadvantaged background)

9. Isabeau Levito (from a disadvantaged background)


...is that enough?
 

Trillian

Well-Known Member
Messages
508
You need more examples?
<snip>
...is that enough?

It’s enough to understand your definition of “disadvantaged” is pretty broad. This reminds me of one of those conversations where people try to claim they grew up “poor” because they didn’t have designer jeans. If you don’t think socioeconomic status is a significant factor in who gets the opportunity to compete in figure skating in the United States, I really don’t know what to tell you. This is exactly why skating has a reputation as an elitist sport.
 

concorde

Well-Known Member
Messages
633
<snip>


It’s enough to understand your definition of “disadvantaged” is pretty broad. This reminds me of one of those conversations where people try to claim they grew up “poor” because they didn’t have designer jeans. If you don’t think socioeconomic status is a significant factor in who gets the opportunity to compete in figure skating in the United States, I really don’t know what to tell you. This is exactly why skating has a reputation as an elitist sport.
Agreed.

One of my work colleagues wants to have a child through a surrogate and we were discussing costs associated with that. Anyone who can pay for that multiple times does not sound like they are financially disadvantaged to me.

Most skating patents will say they were well off before their child started skating. Very few skating parents that I have met can really afford skating but they somehow make it work. The only ones I know that can truly afford the sport are CEOs, MDs, and senior partners at law firms,
 

Japanfan

Well-Known Member
Messages
25,182
Liu is not from a disadvantaged background. As I noted above, her dad is a lawyer and paid for surrogates (well, just women I guess, not sure if he had a partner) to have his kids.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
Messages
49,233
You need more examples?

How about these:

1. Mabel Fairbanks (started out as a homeless teenager)

2. Rudy Galindo (from a disadvantaged background)

3. Debi Thomas (from a single parent household)

4. Tonya Harding (from a disadvantaged background)

5. Rohene Ward (from a disadvantaged background)

7. Agnes Zawadski (from a disadvantaged background)

6. Alysa Liu (from a single parent household; one of five childeren; for those of you who are new to this board, there were fundraisers here for her as recently as her last junior year)

7. Starr Andrews (from a disadvantaged background)

8. Lindsay Thorngren (from a disadvantaged background)

9. Isabeau Levito (from a disadvantaged background)


...is that enough?
So I assume you think Star comes from a disadvantaged background because she's Black? Because not only is she a figure skater but one of her siblings is a gymnast and I have seen no mention of her family being poor.

In fact, most of those people aren't from disadvantaged backgrounds. Alysa Liu's father is a lawyer, ffs! Lots of elite skaters have fundraisers, btw. It doesn't mean they come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It means this sport is extremely expensive and people don't want their parents to have to pay for it all.

So over from 1925 to now, we have three people, Rudy, Tonya, and Rohene. Remember, Mabel didn't get to be an elite figure skater so she's not an example either. Btw, even if all 9 of those were good examples, that still 9 people over an almost 100 year period. 🤷‍♀️
 

Willin

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,375
Liu is not from a disadvantaged background. As I noted above, her dad is a lawyer and paid for surrogates (well, just women I guess, not sure if he had a partner) to have his kids.
Being a lawyer doesn't mean you're wealthy by any means. Yes, there are lawyers who make millions, but those are lawyers in certain fields of law. Her Dad is a human rights lawyer - not exactly the most lucrative field of law. And, given how expensive the Bay Area is, a single income doesn't go that far. They live in a 3BR house in Richmond - a city with high crime rates and bad schools. If she truly were from a privileged background with a rockstar lawyer for a Dad like you and others here want to believe, they'd be living in one of those mansions in Piedmont or the hills - a much shorter commute to the rink.
 

overedge

Mayor of Carrot City
Messages
33,031
...is that enough?

And there are many, many more skaters from similar backgrounds who dropped out of skating along the way, because their parents couldn't afford the sport or because the logistics of training/competing (getting to and from the rink every day, keeping up with school, etc.) were too much.

Also, most of the skaters on that list were lucky enough to cross paths with someone who helped them, like Rohene Ward's first coach, who got meals for him when there wasn't enough food for everyone at his home. If he hadn't made that connection and gotten that support - and that coach surely went above and beyond for him, she didn't have to do that - he wouldn't be on your list.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
Messages
49,233
Being a lawyer doesn't mean you're wealthy by any means. Yes, there are lawyers who make millions, but those are lawyers in certain fields of law. Her Dad is a human rights lawyer - not exactly the most lucrative field of law. And, given how expensive the Bay Area is, a single income doesn't go that far. They live in a 3BR house in Richmond - a city with high crime rates and bad schools. If she truly were from a privileged background with a rockstar lawyer for a Dad like you and others here want to believe, they'd be living in one of those mansions in Piedmont or the hills - a much shorter commute to the rink.
You are putting the cart before the horse. They live in Richmond (which has nice areas, btw) because they spend so much money on skating. Not because they haven't got the money to live elsewhere. They are spending their discretionary money on skating and not on living in a posh neighborhood.
 

Willin

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,375
@MacMadame Perhaps you are. As far as I know they lived in Richmond since before Alysa started skating. And while Richmond has nice areas and they don't live in a really bad area like the Iron Triangle, the part of Richmond they live in is much more modestly priced than the neighboring cities. It's not those multimillion dollar bayfront mansions at Point Richmond.
 

MacMadame

Doing all the things
Messages
49,233
@MacMadame Perhaps you are. As far as I know they lived in Richmond since before Alysa started skating. And while Richmond has nice areas and they don't live in a really bad area like the Iron Triangle, the part of Richmond they live in is much more modestly priced than the neighboring cities. It's not those multimillion dollar bayfront mansions at Point Richmond.
Nope. I live here. With a similar salary to what Mr. Liu most likely makes. (If he were a different kind of lawyer, he'd make much, much more.) We also chose to live in a less pricy area to not be house-poor. It's not a popular choice but it's not unheard of.

I am not saying Alysa Liu comes from wealth. I am saying she doesn't come from a disadvantaged background. Her background is pretty typical for skating kids in the Bay Area.
 

vodkashot

Active Member
Messages
234
You need more examples?

How about these:

. . . .

9. Isabeau Levito (from a disadvantaged background)
Where did you get the information that Isabeau is from a "disadvantaged background"? If you Google her mother's name, it looks like she's an embryologist. Yeah, not a billionaire, but hardly "disadvantaged" ....
 

Trillian

Well-Known Member
Messages
508
Where did you get the information that Isabeau is from a "disadvantaged background"? If you Google her mother's name, it looks like she's an embryologist. Yeah, not a billionaire, but hardly "disadvantaged" ....

My understanding is that anyone who has ever mentioned that skating is expensive or sought external sources of funding is “disadvantaged.” But, you know. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
 

Willin

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,375
Nope. I live here. With a similar salary to what Mr. Liu most likely makes. (If he were a different kind of lawyer, he'd make much, much more.) We also chose to live in a less pricy area to not be house-poor. It's not a popular choice but it's not unheard of.

I am not saying Alysa Liu comes from wealth. I am saying she doesn't come from a disadvantaged background. Her background is pretty typical for skating kids in the Bay Area.
I don't think she comes from a disadvantaged background, but I also highly disagree that she's from a family anywhere near as wealthy as many of the other skating families, even in the Bay. Most of the kids who skate at her rink come from pretty wealthy families in pretty posh areas (Lamorinda, Piedmont, the Oakland/Berkeley hills, Danville/Alamo). Many live in houses that would be pricey even outside the Bay Area - think McMansions. Lots of the high level kids I knew in the Bay Area skated full time and took multiple vacations (Hawaii yearly + Europe, South/Central America, Asia, etc) along with competition travel. Actually most of her competitors across the country come from families that wealthy: skating + expensive family vacations. Some also attended expensive private schools. Alysa does none of that. All the elite skaters I know/knew growing up are from dual income households or households with one very high income earner (tech). She has a single parent. Yes, she's not Dinh Tran, but she's very, very far from the typical Bay Area elite skater these days.

Now, there are much more middle class skaters like her doing things like test tack, ISI, and synchro in the Bay, but while I skated in the Bay (2003-2018ish) I don't really know any that did Elite track other than her and Dinh who didn't come from rich families. From the people I still know skating there it's still the case. I know back in the day ('90s and earlier) it was different, but skating was different then too.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top
Do Not Sell My Personal Information