Only a few more days remain of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Are you sad? I'm kinda sad. What will we do & what will we talk about once they're over? I'll have to take up knitting (again), or read up on health care reform, or finally get around to writing my Christmas cards, or find some other sort of activity to fill my time until the drama begins anew on July 27, 2012. (London!)
But as long as the torch still glows in Canada...let's discuss!
The Men's Competition
The men ended their Olympic quests last Thursday with Evan Lysacek claiming gold, Yevgeny Plushenko earning his second silver medal (or "platinum" according to the delusional claim on his website), and Daisuke Takahashi taking the bronze.
My beloved Jeremy Abbott had significant errors in both his short and long programs and did not make the podium. I was real sad for him - he skated so beautifully at Nationals - it’s a shame he wasn’t able to shine like that at the international level. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Jeremy’s 9th place finish, even with all the errors, speaks to his overall talent and artistry and the strength of the elements that he was able to complete cleanly. I love to watch this boy skate! Here’s hoping for his success at Worlds next month in Torino.
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One more word about our new Olympic champion: I’ve read (and heard) a lot of glowing commentary on Evan Lysacek that made me worry I was perhaps missing something in his skating. One reviewer called Evan’s program “spell-binding,” and I wondered if they meant that the flailing of his limbs was somehow hypnotic.
Of course I do recognize that Evan is extremely talented and well-trained. His programs were *difficult* (for reals) and he skated them cleanly; the gold medal was well-earned. I just don’t particularly enjoy watching him skate. He used to be such a charming skater, but his choreography these days is more furious and intense than captivating.
I feel somewhat vindicated by this Slate article, which – in addition to being very entertaining – also seconds my opinion that Lysacek's moves are less than graceful, AND that he resembles a spider!
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Finally, a word on scoring. The recent protests from Plushenko as to who really deserved the gold medal are nothing new: there has always been some level of controversy and dissent when it comes to judging the wonderful world of figure skating. This came to a head during the Salt Lake City games in 2002, when the "scandal" involving the Canadian & Russian pairs teams prompted a wide-sweeping reform of the scoring system.
Gone are the perfect 6.0's of yesteryear, replaced now with a complex New Judging System (NJS) involving a whole lot of mathematics and machinations. The intent was to make judging more fair and transparent; I think the NJS succeeds at the former, but not necessarily the latter. Critics also accuse the new system of rewarding technical proficiency over artistry, thereby sucking "the soul" out of the sport.
So which is worse - the old system or the new system? I don't know. I do know that I've never watched figure skating for the numbers; I watch because it's beautiful and difficult and emotionally-connective and fun.
But also - if I'm being honest - because it is dramatic. And the scoring system contributes to that drama, most definitely. It wouldn't be figure skating without the judging debates, and the fur flying, and the spectacle of the kiss-n-cry.
New system, old system. Lysacek, Plushenko. Triple Axel, triple Salchow. Potato, Pahtahto. I just plain love me some figure skating.