Figure skating has been contradictory since its origin, created as a dance form by American danseur noble Jackson Haines and wrested into athletic competition by expanding its jumps. It has never been certain whether it is more sport or art, as enough observers have pointed out.
It is doubly contradictory now, where the men’s events expect quadruple jumps while the women make do with triples but the women’s crown is easily worth several times the value of a men’s title. This last contradiction sets up what may be an even more scandalous future than many expect from the sport, which has amused audiences with successive scandals and accusations of scandals for decades.
The backstory for this lies in Alaska and in the recent summer Olympics. First, a boy won all-state honors in Alaska’s high school track and field championships for girls. Second, reinforcing the issue, an intense fuss still rages over the winner of the women’s 800 meter race at the Rio Olympics. Other such happenings are proceeding as well, under the politically correct radar. As a backdrop to this, we all are offered the ongoing spectacle of boys and girls selecting their bathrooms and showers according to their current whim or sexual identity if preferred. Gender identification has become politically inconvenient.
So, should we not expect some biologically male figure skater or if not that, some genetic rarity, recognizing that he/she routinely outjumps all the women, to enter competition for the much more lucrative women’s title? We are living in such interesting times …
This scenario presents two different if similar realities. In Alaska, the boy who competed against girls made no pretense that he was not a boy; e merely “identified” as a girl. The politically correct mavens of unrealistic equality simply tossed biological gender out the window. In Rio the runner, South African Caster Semenya, is reportedly some sort of biological sport, a genetic rarity with attributes of both sexes. Two things however seem settled: Semanya has considerably more testosterone than normal females and she/he can outrun genetically “normal” females.
One might expect, with decades of international competition, that uniform rules governed the situation but such appears not to be the case. It seems that not all sports governance follows the same rules. Add to that, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has suspended the rule regarding Caster Semenya’s testosterone for two years in a quest for supporting evidence.
Parenthetically, those who appreciate irony can enjoy knowing that the same political grouping that raised women’s sports from their older status as a sort of joke in the public mind, is the same political grouping now responsible for returning them to joke status by admitting males and abnormal females with whom normal women cannot compete. While sad, it IS funny.
So to predict who will be the next Figure Skating Queen may be unusually risky nowadays. There is no dealing with places that adopt the Alaskan model; we recognize that societies often go mad as they dissolve. One must simply await a return of sanity. At the Olympic level, it seems that a world-wide agreement on an objective and verifiable definition of a man and a woman will be needed to finally settle this sort of thing. Given the potential for politics involved, that too may require a return to sanity. We await events in figure skating with keen anticipation; the art/sport has always delivered entertainment.