Will Call: Facts and figures
Recently, I found myself in a good natured debate on the relative merits of track and field and figure skating.
The opposition rightfully asserted that track is a pure athletic pursuit with clear quantitative scoring. Since the original question was which is more exciting, I argued that the subjective, artistic element in figure skating is precisely what makes it so watchable.
It’s the perfect blend of sport and entertainment.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I grew up watching figure skating the way a lot of kids did with football. I had my favorite athletes – Kurt Browning and Katarina Witt – and cheered for them during big competitions.
I attempted my own jumps and routines in the living room, though I proved unsteady in actual skates. When we were assigned a biography book report in elementary school, I chose to read about Tara Lipinski, which gave me a child’s grasp of the terminology.
My mother recalls taking me to a skating event in Aspen when I was 3. When I witnessed my first live jump I screamed out, “triple toe loop!”
It was more like a double lutz.
When our favorite skaters went pro, we followed them to Stars on Ice. I was particularly taken with Scott Hamilton’s backflip, and while my mother made the trip to Denver mostly to see Ekaterina Gordeeva and Ilia Kulik, I thought Jenni Meno and Todd Sands stole the show with a scorching skate to Chris Issak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.”
It must have been around 2005 when I stopped following figure skating.
I vaguely remember Sasha Cohen’s Olympic bid, but I think our television was in the attic by then.
The rise of the Internet has enabled me to catch a few standout past and present performances since then, but until the aforementioned conversation, it was mostly in passing.
This reminder, however, was conveniently timed with the World Figure Skating Championships, so I had a chance to catch up.
I had been dazzled by Gracie Gold’s performance in nationals, so it was no surprise to me when Gold led after the short program at Worlds on her home turf in Boston. I didn’t expect Ashley Wagner, though.
Coming into the long program in fourth place, her Moulin Rouge themed program certainly earned her silver. It also bumped Gold off the podium due to a fall in her “Firebird” free skate.
I’m not going to even try to claim Russian judge bias for Evgenia Medvedeva’s win. Her long program was both technically and artistically near perfect– fluid with those elegant arm-above-the-head jumps. If you’re on the fence about figure skating, I encourage you to YouTube it.
As for the other winners, I must admit I’ve never been terribly thrilled with ice dancing’s technical limitations, while men’s figure skating sometimes veers too far in the other direction.
Pairs, though, have become my favorite. Done well, the synchronicity, the dialogue of motion, and the opportunity for a whole variety of new tricks puts it head and shoulders above the rest.
Take a look at Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s world championship long program and you’ll see what I mean.
If you can’t see the athleticism, I challenge you to attempt a throw quadruple salchow or a trio of side by side toe loops.
If you’d still rather watch a javelin throw or hurdles, I totally understand. The Ancient Greeks would certainly have approved.
Myself, I’m looking forward to PyeongChang 2018.
Will Grandbois doesn’t care if his interests aren’t stereotypically masculine. He can be reached at 384-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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