Today someone asked if I was planning on posting any thoughts on the ladies figure skating event, which concluded Thursday night. I had been mulling over the events during the day, trying to sort my thoughts and opinions on the evening’s skating. At last, I realized that I am feeling almost puzzled, confused–or, maybe almost feeling nothing.
To use a music metaphor, the ladies figure skating event is for many fans the crescendo and finale of the Games. It’s what we anticipate from the Games’ beginning. And as the event’s date gets closer, that anticipation and tension begins to swell, so that by the time each skater takes the ice in the short program, I, at least, find my fists clinched, and literally, sometimes, on the edge of the sofa.
That was all, for the most part, missing last night. And please, know that when I make such a comment, I am not including Joannie Rochette. What I am trying to say is, last night’s performance was probably the most boring skate by a gold medalist I ever remember seeing. It was just…well, boring.
Opinions on figure skating always stir up debates. We fans are very opinionated and always wish to be heard. For anyone who reads this, there might be some shock and outraged that I could make such a statement about Kim Yu-Na’s (or Yu-Na Kim’s) free skate. Let me say that I don’t doubt she’s the best skater in the world and one of the best the sport has ever seen. But as a spectator, her skating leaves me bored.
It’s almost ironic that I would feel this way, considering that I prefer a skater who blends both artistry and jumping, which Kim does. During the year I have replayed her long program at competitions, which I also did last night. I keep asking myself what it is about Kim’s programs this year that I haven’t liked. I hesitate to use the word unimpressive because the difficulty is there and I know this. But her free skate’s music and choreography are so lifeless and boring, which makes the overall skate almost…unimpressive. Then, I wonder, is it not this, but that she’s so darn good and the skating almost seems effortless, and therefore boring? Or is it not the music and choreography, but instead Kim herself? Is it, rather, that she just doesn’t put enough personality and feeling into her skating? Yes, she makes eye contact with the judges. Yes, she even can use a smile or a pointed finger to seem charming and like a “James Bond” seductress. But where’s the feeling? The passion? The spark? The emotion?
I came away feeling bewildered that I just saw, probably, the most perfectly skated long program by a gold medalist in my lifetime, and yet came was left feeling empty. Perhaps this is another warning sign of my frustration with the sport.
Maybe I’m becoming too old, my preferences too old-fashioned. I could probably even share some common grievances with Dick Button. When I replayed the top skaters’ programs, I realized that there were so many elements of skating absent, or at least they were present in a great enough quantity for my viewing pleasure:
- Falling leaf jump
- Layback spins–There were hardly any layback spins! (God Bless you, Mirai Nagasu.)
- Death Drop
- Split Jump
- Illusion spins
What was also frustrating is that going into the ladies event, I knew that no one could catch Kim. Yes, it’s the Olympics and anything can happen, but having watched skating throughout the year, I knew it was highly unlikely.
Japan’s Mao Asada did make me clinch my fists, and I was mentally trying to help her land those triple a
xels, which she did not land just once, but twice! Yet where was the excitement on her face? Where was the passion?
It’s awful that from such upsetting tragedy probably came the most
memorable performance—that of Joannie Rochette’s. Yes, it was memorable because we all were rooting for her to skate a clean program. Yet honestly, she skated with more heart, passion, and fire than Kim and Asada combined. I hate that such a devastating loss brought that out in her. I really do. I still am bewildered as to how she was able to pull herself together for two clean skates. I just can’t imagine how she did it.
As Mirai Nagasu closed the evening’s event with a charming program to Bizet’s “Carmen,” it reminded me of how far skating has come technically since 1988’s “Battle of the Carmens.” Yet it also served as a reminder to how much it once again needs new life pumped into it again, like it had in the days of Witt, Thomas, and Manley. Seeing the pint-size Nagasu with her gorgeous spirals, layback spins, and personality on the ice, perhaps it was skating’s way of letting us know that better days are ahead?
Swifter, Higher, Stronger.