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

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