The Dark Side of Figure Skating Fandom

I’m actually trying to start another post on the issues of the ladies Olympic event but I feel that before I fuel the discussion even further, I should put out this post because there are truly some alarming things going on in figure skating fandom since the Olympics.

I think what makes this sport really special is how skaters can inspire such great feelings in their fans. Their programs give us a glimpse of their acting ability or their personality and because of that, we love them. We’ve seen Daisuke Takahashi fans coordinate their efforts around the world so that a green and white “Go Daisuke!” banner follows him and supports him wherever he goes. We’ve seen fans send messages of love and support when competitors go through hard times and we ourselves may have gone to a competition or show to see our favourite skaters, only to be rendered speechless and shaking when we hand them a pen and shyly ask for their autograph. The dedication of the figure skating community is truly a lovely thing to behold and I think we need to remember these positive feelings that the skaters give us and we give in return.

However, as we all know, love and hate are two sides of the same coin and when great rivalries arise in figure skating, the passion for the skater and the venomous loathing for their rivals comes out of the woodwork as well. Of course, we all have certain styles and skaters we dislike but I think we need to make sure that we criticize the skating or the judging with well-reasoned arguments and productive discussion. I hope that I have done this in the past and I will have this in mind as I continue to write for this blog.

Skating is an inexact science – they’ve tried to control subjectivity with the IJS but sometimes, the judges do abuse the system to inflate marks or sometimes, it really comes down to the subjective issues of the kind of art you prefer. HOWEVER…

Hating on a competitor just because you like their rival shows that you’re a fan. When you’re a fan, it automatically means that you have a bias towards your favourite. However, if you have good reasons supported by evidence on why your favourite is better, you’ve shown an understanding of the rules, the sport as well as the progress and limits of your favourites. At the same time, it allows for a discussion and invokes the art of persuasion and when done respectfully, I think it shows some of the best of the human spirit – logic, reasoning, eloquent writing or speech and intellect.

Pure hatred towards competitors on the other hand, is toxic and is just hurtful to competitors who have worked very hard for results that have been given to them by judges. Let me repeat that again: their scores were given to them by the judges. They had to deliver a product (aka their programs) and their scores are at the mercy of technical specialists who may or may not decide to reward them for their elements and judges who may or may not like their artistic styles.

So when you disagree with a result, there is no need to hate on the skaters themselves because they have done nothing wrong. They simply went out there to give it their best.

With that being said, let me be clear:

  • It is NOT APPROPRIATE at all to send death threats to competitors on social media because you dislike the results. (And yes, unfortunately, this has happened during this Olympic cycle. Also, it’s not appropriate to send people death threats ever. I mean, did I seriously need to spell that out?)
  • If you think the judging was unfair, it is crucial that you provide reasons and evidence on why and how the judging was unfair.
  • More than likely, you don’t know these people all that well and even if you did, personal attacks on their appearance or personality are hurtful and has nothing to do with their skating.
  • Just saying that someone is better or worse without giving a reason is unhelpful. No one knows if your answer is fueled by nationalism, fandom or knowledge of the sport.
  • When you spew all this negativity on behalf of a skater, you’re in the process of making a bad name for the fans for that competitor. Anyone who’s been a fan of skating in the last two Olympic cycles know about Yunabots and Maobots. They bring drama and negativity that discourages people from declaring that they’re fans in fear of being associated with them and we want people to love the sport and its competitors, not the opposite.

So everyone, let’s be positive and smart figure skating fans. When we talk about results, we want to sound smart to show that we know their own rules and how those rules were not followed by the judges. That way, the ISU can’t brush off our opinions as being nationalistic or fandom-fuelled.

~The Rinkside Cafe

And this, my friends, is what the future European Champions are skating to this season…

There’s a backlog of figure skating that I need to watch hence my lack of posts between competitions but I did want to keep an eye out for the Russians this season since Sochi 2014 is just around the corner and Elena Ilinykh has just raised the fortunes of her team by dating a certain Russian gino. Admittedly their FD from last year was completely unmemorable. I just remember bad music cuts and that’s pretty much it.

As for this year…

So they’re skating to the soundtrack of “Ghost.” I haven’t seen the film but after the dialogue in the program, I have a hard time taking it seriously.

“Hey you! Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you there, Sam??? (I have no clue what the heck those last two words were…)”

“Help him! Help me! He’s shot!” *insert dramatic 90s screaming woman voice here*

I’m looking at the film’s wikipedia entry and I have a hard time believing this is in any way a good film. I also can’t quite take this hot mess program very seriously either and have serious doubts that Nikolai Morozov choreographed this completely sober. It’s almost as if he’s seeing how batshit crazy his programs can go until the judges go, “Hey, Russian gino, you’re affiliated with Mother Russia and all but you need to lay off the vodka if you want your current girlfriend to medal.”

I’m not sure how strongly Mother Russia will be laying down the politicking but with the Elena-Morozov relationship and Sochi not too far up ahead, Nathalie and Fabian may need to step aside for these youngin’s… I just hope that the judges rein this in and doesn’t let I/K win important competitions or medals (aka the GPF, Euros and Worlds) with this… crazy piece of apeshit mess.

And for I/K fans, I’m really not trying to be mean to Elena and Nikita but you know they can do so much better than this.

What are your thoughts on the “Ghost” program?

~The Rinkside Cafe

P.S. To my darling friend and reader Ay-sa, we should somehow magically meet up despite our busy schedules and watch this movie. With a bottle of vodka and some cranberry juice. I don’t particularly want to watch this corny film but I long to hear your snarky comments.

Cappellini/Lanotte’s new Carmen FD

The very dedicated fans of Tessa and Scott on facebook have posted this video of Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte’s new FD to Carmen for this season. Did I mention that this team is now being trained by Igor Shpilband? Somehow, I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that these two are styled in a very similar war to Tessa and Scott – the high bun, the lack of ostentatious costuming often seen in a lot of European teams. The first half of the program had movements I would usually associate with Tessa and Scott, the way Anna holds out her arm, that lift that involved her wrapping her leg around Luca’s neck. However, one clear difference between this team and the Olympic gold champions is their lack of speed, most evident in their step sequences. There’s also a lack of polish but it is early in the season. That and the second half seems to branch out a little bit and is quite different from Tessa and Scott’s usual style.

I’ll also take this time to mention this: I am partly annoyed with the abundance of Carmen programs because they never manage to show the complexity that is Carmen, the character. Carmen is an old warhorse because it is the most performed and most popular opera in the world Opera companies often stage Carmen once every 4 or 5 seasons to ensure revenue because they will get sold out shows every night. In figure skating, the skaters get a classical piece of music (which is seen to be more difficult to skate to than contemporary or instrumental versions of pop songs) that the audience knows (so they can get into it easily) and all the skater has to do to pull off a program set to the music is to be sexy because it riles up a crowd and people know Carmen is a sexy biatch.

However, in the opera, Carmen isn’t just a seductress. That is, admittedly, a part of her personality that drives the plot but there is much, much more to her. Essential to the character is a fatalist attitude backed with an unwavering courage and a firm belief in her ideals. Defiant and bound only to her need for freedom, she is a powerful character in that she refuses to belong to any man – hence her infidelity –  and submit to him.  Even in her last moment, she chooses death and freedom over life and a lifetime as a slave to Don Jose’s passions. In life, she was an economically self-sufficient woman (she works in a cigarette factory and is also a smuggler), she uses the men and not the other way around. Anyone who wants her have to play on her terms. You don’t break up with Carmen, she breaks up with you. She would rather die than be forced to be with you. A free spirit until the very end.

Carmen does not die with a look of agony on her face or with any grief that she will lose her life. She had already accepted death a long time ago and she faced it with her chin up and head held high. (Take note of that, Anna and Luca.)

Anyways, that is my rant and sort of ode to Carmen.

Thoughts on the FD or anything else?

~The Rinkside Cafe

Seriously Canada?

For a country that prides itself on being fair and nice and all, they sure know how to go insane and inflate figure skating scores for Patrick Chan. Videos of his LP have yet to surface appeared and here are his scores:

SP – 88.78
LP – 197.07
Total – 285.85

Now, let’s stop for a bit and take a look at a few CoP records:

Men – highest score in an ISU-sanctioned competition:

SP – 91.30 (Evgeni Plushenko 2010 Euros)
LP – 175.84 (Daisuke Takahashi 2008 Four Continents)

Let’s just say that one skater got those scores for a competition, the total would be: 267.14
The actual world record for the highest total is 264.41 (Daisuke Takahashi 2008 Four Continents)

His scores have become more and more unreasonable. Next thing you know, he’ll be the first to get a score of 300+ or something. *knocks on wood*

I’ll try not to complain in my next post.

~The Rinkside Cafe

Further Proof that PCS = Patrick Chan Score

I knew that Patrick Chan was going to take a nauseating lead at Canadian Nationals but being the optimist that I am, I thought that his triple axel implosions would limit his ridiculous scores. I am ridiculously wrong, unfortunately. Patrick Chan can double a triple axel and still get a score only 3 points away from the world record short program score. Disgusting.

PJ Kwong states in her commentary: “He sets the bar for footwork for this generation of men’s skaters.” I’ve never been afraid of calling her delusional before and I stand by my word that this opinion is part of her nationalistic delusion. Patrick Chan’s footwork is good but it’s not that good. His footwork especially in this program seems to have no connection to the music and neither does he. It sickens me that this short program (88.78) score would beat Daisuke Takahashi’s masterpiece of a performance and program at 2008 Four Continents (88.57) by a hair. I know that scores at national competitions are always inflated but with Chan, you never know how much his scores will be inflated. In any case, whatever PCS Chan may be getting, I will stand by my opinion in the face of nationalistic Canadian figure skating fans and tell them: “THIS is good interpretation, choreography and footwork.” Chan just doesn’t compare with this performance, quad or no quad:

The expression! The musicality! His relation to the audience! Sheer perfection.

Not everyone can perform like Daisuke but Shawn Sawyer was pretty good in that respect at Canadian Nationals. This was a solid performance and his triple axel was better than Chan’s attempt at one.

Without Tessa and Scott to make Canadian Nationals worth watching, I’ll place my hopes on U.S. Nationals, which will definitely be more exciting, regardless of my nationality and the ire incurred from me saying this: the Americans have a better National figure skating competition than the Canadians, hands down. If you have an issue with my lack of nationalism, read Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”. It’s a brilliant book.

Wishing for Tessa and Scott…

~The Rinkside Cafe

Hey Amy Chua, what happened to Caroline Zhang?

After the garbage that was Macleans “too Asian” article, a new wave of Asian-mania has swept through the intertubes in the form of Amy Chua’s article on Asian parenting. In the article, Chua puts a positive spin on strict “Chinese parenting” stating that “the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Some have criticized Chua’s article for stereotyping the Chinese and promoting child abuse while others have written rebuttals defending the more relaxed “Western” style parenting. Since I have yet to be a parent, I wouldn’t know if a certain “style” is better. At the same time, I don’t see how insulting and threatening your children is a good way to teach by example. All you’re saying is that if you want something done, you yell and threaten someone and although that is the way some of the world works (especially in politics), I fear that if that’s how we deal with all of our relationships in life, this would be a horrible world indeed.

Personally, I find Chua’s implications of cultural superiority and the justification of abuse as cultural norms rather disturbing and while Chua may feel that her “Chinese” parenting methods are superior, let us just say that it probably isn’t the case for every single Asian family.

Exhibit A: Caroline Zhang