Did you know that the World Figure Skating Championships just finished, in Canada? Maybe not, since American TV mostly ignored the event. So did the sports sections of newspapers. For much of the media, the sport is now nonexistent. That’s quite a shift for a sport that only a few years back had TV ratings second only to the Superbowl.
Our new World Champion, Yu-Na Kim is the South Korean Olympic champ, getting ready for another try. She was first in her short and long programs by so far that she really had no competition. There is where the fun ended. Italian Carolina Kostner was second after placing second and third in her two programs. She reportedly errored twice in her free skate. Third was Japan’s Mao Asada with a sixth in her short and second in the long program, that included four errors per report. Next was Japanese Kanako Murikami who combined a third with a seventh place, fifth was U.S. Champ Ashley Wagner via her fifth and sixth places and sixth was U.S. runner-up Gracie Gold on her 9th and 5th places. If this isn’t clear to you, move over and save me a place.
The scoring of figure skating is now an exercise in quantum mechanics because they found a crooked judge. Instead of just shooting the crooked judges and going on, the International Skating Union shot the perfectly understandable scoring system and hid the judges’ identities. A skating champ now may just as well have been picked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The greater problem seems to be that the system no longer picks the best performance; it now selects the performance that best conforms to detailed rules that change every year. And to win requires doing more of the most difficult things than the rest, so every outing is a gamble, which means that an actually weaker skater beats a better one on a lucky day. With so heavy an emphasis on jump landings, little time goes into preparing and mastering entertaining programs; the payoff is too little.
We wrote recently of the dearth of men in the sport; that will be reinforced by this World Championship, won by Canadian Patrick Chan after a clearly dominant short program and a long program so inferior that the Chicago Tribunes’s Phil Hersh characterized the judging of it as: “…ridiculously unjustifiable.”
Another recent subject was the vanished funding from the exit of the TV folk. We see, between the figure skating officials running the sport and the U.S. and E.U. leaders, a remarkable resemblance. They’re all presiding over economic failure while holding spending in excess of income. And they’re all on metaphorically thinning ice…
Perhaps there’s a Nobel Prize awaiting someone for some biological research on “The Effects of Elective Office on the Human Brain.”
Anyway, figure skating is now lined up with the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow and the Spotted Owl as a genuinely vanishing species except that no government seems to care, including the governments of figure skating. Funny how so many–Figure skating bosses, Barack Obama, E.U. leaders–all seem to follow old King Louis XIV’s “Apres moi, le deluge!” You’d think they’d have learned by now… . Except of course, that we keep reelecting them!