"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

31 January 2011

Ice: The Next Generation

Or: Why male figure skaters rock my world
While I miss the live feed of figure skating events, and the sharp decline in full coverage over the past couple years (except for the Olympics), I do love having the power of DVR to replay great showings and fast forward through commercials. It allows me to get through an entire weekend of U.S. Championships in about five hours.

As usual, though I love all forms of figure skating, the men’s competition consumed most of my attention. Don’t get me wrong, women skaters are amazing and their programs range from stunningly gorgeous to energetically playful. It’s also fun to see how the costumes adapt for each skater over the years and performances. Ice dance is like ballroom dancing with deadly weaponry, so that’s fun. Pairs skating is watched with a similar intensity to race car driving – it’s enchanting and much more artistic than racing, but let’s face it, you watch partly in case someone goes flying off their partner’s hands and crashes spectacularly into the boards, judges and/or crowd.

Men’s figure skating gets a bad rep because it requires an attention to artistic detail unlike any other sport, and since there aren’t any females skating with the competitors people speculate as to why one would choose this sport over another. Seriously? Why does artistry need to be limited to certain areas of performance and sport? Anyone with the ability to heave their body several feet in the air, rotate 3.5-4.5 times and land on huge razorblades strapped to their feet is certainly fulfilling their athletic quotient, so what’s wrong with adding meaning and creativity to the footwork and spins that come between building your body up for aerial acrobatics with deadly weapons? /rant

Going into the U.S. men’s portion of the championships I was rather underwhelmed. No Evan or Johnny for the first time in many years and without my two uber-talent beauties to watch and pine over, what kind of excitement could there be? Plenty, it turned out to be. Ryan Bradley put on a show unlike any he’s done since he rode Evan’s spectacular showing at the 2007 championships. Abbot (predictably) choked when it counted, opening the door for the new generation of young cuties to step up. While I wasn’t overly impressed with Ross Miner’s program, he did skate very well and clean. Richard Dornbush’s long program to Sherlock Holmes deserved every point he garnered. What I love most about the top two finishers is they know how to combine athleticism, musical interpretation and artistry into their skating and still have fun. As wonderful as some of the European and Asian skaters are (and even Evan and Johnny), they sometimes take competing a little too seriously, forgetting that in this sport it matters just as much that you engage with your audience as much as doing your utmost to skate a clean program. While some skaters have innate ability to draw the spectators in, it’s often through dramatic performances and yet it’s been proven time and again (and now again) that having the support of the crowd and giving them a little wink or backflip now and again is just as important as any quad jump… ok, maybe slightly less important. But not much.

Thanks to the excellence of the U.S. men I’m now exceptionally geeked for the men’s competition at the World Championships (anyone who can keep Joubert off the podium has my vote). Now if only NBC would stop taunting us and actually show all the short programs in addition to the long…

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