7 Things That Have Me Ticked Off Already (and 5 Things I Love) About Figure Skating at the Sochi Olympics

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Some of these comments might not have much meaning to those outside the figure skating community, but since I'm a Professional Figure Skating Coach and former competitive skater, many of my friends and acquaintances have been asking me what I think of the Olympics so far.  The following is my attempt at a response:

7 Things That Have Me Ticked Off Already: 

1.  Tara Lipinski's comment during the pairs short program that went something like this, "The man has all the strength and the lady just has to sit there like a beautiful flower."  So not true, Tara.  Look at the lady's position.  Whatever position she's in, she's holding her entire body in that position ALL BY HERSELF.  The man, sure, is strong, but his job is to lift her up in that position and keep them moving across the ice.  She has to keep her entire body rigid enough for him to do this effectively.  Ugh.

 2.  The fact that they've added a new TEAM event (similar to gymnastics), but still won't include synchronized skating in the Games.  In order for a new event to be added to the Olympics, certain criteria must be met: 
  • The sport must have held sanctioned World Championship events for at least 10 years.  Synchronized skating has had them since 2000! 
  • The sport must include enough countries with competitive teams.  This year's World Championships (which begin today in Italy) includes 23 teams representing 18 different countries!

3.  The fact that the commentators keep saying that a team has "broken a record" with their score.  The new judging system has only been around since 2004, when the ISU (International Skating Union) had to find some way to "fix" the old system after the 2002 Olympics scandal in pairs.  A mere ten years' worth of records aren't too difficult to break!

4.  Furthermore, the commentators keep saying that teams have "beaten their personal record" by earning a certain score.  Several of these pairs have been together for just a short time (compared to most typical Olympic pair teams) and have only competed together a handful of times.  Of course they're going to beat their personal record, they're still getting used to skating together and thus doing a better job each time!

5.  The fact that we even have this silly new judging system at all.  I'm not saying that the old system was perfect, but boy do I miss the days when you'd see VARIETY in skating programs.  Skaters then were not only able to showcase their athleticism, but better flex their artistic muscles at the same time.  As my good friend and fellow blogger Pam said the other night, "It used to be that I found a good straight-line footwork sequence thrilling. (Kurt Browning, anyone?) Now, if I never saw another before I die it might be too soon."

6.  Elimination of the Compulsory and Original Dances, replaced by the Short Dance.  This occurred back in 2010 and was a change similar to the elimination of compulsory figures internationally in singles skating back in 1990.  Now, I do have to say that the short dance is beginning to grow on me, because the idea of a dance "mash-up" intrigues me and I do enjoy the fact that the pattern must repeat.  However, I really do miss those ballroom-inspired compulsory dances.  I can see that some people might gouge their eyes out if they see one more Yankee Polka after 20 teams skate it, but it seems like the popularity of shows like "Dancing with the Stars" is proof that some interest would be there.

7.  The continued surprise at the height difference of some of the pairs teams.  Yes it can create problems, but it can also be quite beneficial.  I'm just so tired of the commentators acting like it's some crazy, unheard-of situation.  Hello?  Remember Brasseur and Eisler?  They had a 13-inch height difference and they had a pretty decent record...

4 Things I Love So Far:

1.  Yuzuru Hanyu's rocker entrance into his triple axel in the team men's short program.  That prompted me to scream out loud, despite the fact that Gv was asleep in my lap.  I then had to hit rewind several times in order to watch it again.

2.  Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's transitions in the team pairs short program.  Yes, it was also a moving program, and incredible that Eric composed the music himself, but it was their creative transitions between elements that took my breath away.

3.  The fact that a coaching friend, Lyndon Johnston, is over there right now with three pairs teams representing three different countries!  How cool is that, and who knew that Florida would turn out to be such a hotbed for skating?  Maybe if this had happened years ago, I wouldn't have spent my summers (while I was training in Colorado) responding to the comment, "You're an ice skater?  And you're from Florida?" with a weary "Yes."  It's been so fun to have a backstage glimpse of all the happenings in the pairs events, as Lyndon has been posting lots of updates to his friends while he's been over there with his teams.

4.  Johnny Weir as a commentator.  I know he's not on in prime time and I've noticed lots of spoken errors as he gets his feet wet in this venture, but he was always such a character as a skater and obviously will continue to let his colorful personality shine through as a commentator.  If you have any doubts about this, just check out his outfit during the pairs short program, but you might want to don your sunglasses before you do.

5.  Okay, number 5 isn't actually about figure skating, but it is still about the Olympics.  Vanessa Mae, one of my absolute favorite musicians, is representing Thailand in skiing!  Vanessa is an amazing British violinist and apparently also an avid skier who decided back in 2010 that she wanted to compete in the Olympics.  Since swishing a bow rather than skies on the snow is her forte, she knew she'd never be able to represent Britain and therefore represents less-competitive Thailand, where her father was born.  If you've never heard Vanessa's music, I encourage you to check it out.  I love all of her albums, but the one that hooked me on her in the first place is probably still my favorite, The Violin Player.

So that's my reaction to the Olympics so far.  Have you been watching?  Do you have any favorite moments, or things that have annoyed you, up to this point?  I'd love to hear about it!  Either comment here or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.