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Jan 11, 2013

Fans Excited About Figure Skating

As the 2014 Sochi Olympics draws closer, the prospect of watching figure skating has inspired a surprising amount of enthusiasm and exuberance worldwide. Thousands--both young and old--have flocked to the sport, lauding its inherent watchability and high entertainment value.

"I love figure skating--the sheer excitement of seeing whether a skater's quadruple toe loop is missing rotation of more than 1/4 revolution, but less than 1/2 revolution, is just riveting," enthused figure skating fan Benedict Kingsley. "It's the most fun when things get so close that nobody agrees on whether a jump is rotated or not, because that's when we can go on Youtube and obsessively dissect every pixellated slo-mo closeup of a skater's feet for a few hours."

Despite prominent scandals such as the pairs controversy at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and the resulting introduction of a new scoring system, the appeal of figure skating has remained strong among fans both new and old.

"It's a great time to be a figure skating fan right now," said Ayesha Hadiqa, who has followed the sport since childhood. "Sure, sometimes I don't understand the results while watching the competition, but fortunately there are protocols now to tell me why the skater won. I mean, practically every competition is now an endless source of deeply engrossing contemplation. A night spent poring over the protocols--why did this skater get an 8.25 in Transitions when he didn't have any transitions? Or did the skater truly demonstrate full body rotation covering at least 1/3 of the pattern in total for each rotational direction in her Level 4 step sequence?--is just about the most fascinating evening I can imagine."

When asked to comment on figure skating's universal appeal, the International Skating Union's President Ottavio Cinquanta nodded sagely, saying only, "You're welcome, speed skating really is the best sport in the world."


  1. You know, it does sound ridiculous when stated that way - but if we think about it, how is looking at a jump's rotation any different than arguing over balls and strikes in baseball or the offside rule in soccer? What's the difference between poring over protocols and getting into fantasy leagues and sabermetrics? And yet some sports are able to draw in both casual fans who don't really understand all the rules and numbers as well as more serious fans who do take it to that level. That's the real challenge for skating - how to get both types of fans interested.

    1. Ah, the point of this 'article' is that under the current incarnation of figure skating, sometimes it feels like there is a overly-myopic focus on the minutiae at the expense of the overall performance, when (IMO) it is the performance part of figure skating that forms the crux of its unique appeal. Although I recognize that my point was probably not communicated particularly well in this blog post--I'll have to pre-emptively apologize for the varying quality of my posts as I am trying to work past my writer's block right now by forcibly editing and publishing the half-written blog posts I had previously abandoned, some of them months ago.

    2. The post is very poignant, writer's block or not. :) There's nothing wrong with discussing components or talking about someone's cheated jumps on occasion. But the sport's appeal shouldn't hinge on things you can only observe on high definition super slow motion with a magnifying glass in both hands or on tenths of arbitrary numbers.

      Reading the skating message boards, there also seem to be a lot of people who watch a competition, and then read the protocols to let them convice themselves of the result and assess the performances through 2nd hand arbitrary numbers. These numbers let people reevaluate their impressions of the actual skating to a very high degree. If the focus of the fan's attention is shifted from the actual skating to the protocols, there is something going wrong.

  2. LOL. Your point comes through loud and clear. Where are the fans??? I don't think the baseball comparison is entirely apt. Yes, many baseball fans love to follow the arcane rules, but there are countless others who don't know the rules and still get a thrill from the sport. Baseball has so many visceral, almost primitive qualities -- the teams battling in an outdoor amphitheatre, going back to ancient Greece and Rome... the larger than life gladiators... the deep attachment to a team that transcends individual players... the season that goes on so long with wins and losses on a daily basis... you live baseball. you taste blood in baseball! COP seems to have squeezed a lot of the primitive juices out of figure skating and made it an intellectual sport, for fans at least. Of course this is a big generalization with many exceptions but even in principle one can wonder if a system based on packing ever more points into a few minutes of skating, and one with an ever changing plethora of rules determining program construction and judging, is ever going to be conducive to the big personalities and mesmerizing programs that audiences used to love. Of course we have skaters rising to the challenge... Jeremy, Daisuke, Meryl and Charlie are just a few that can be cited in men's and dance. Not so sure about ladies and pairs although at the moment the thought of a battle in Sochi between Yu Na and young Caitlyn is getting me excited. But if the fans are not there, these wonderful skaters are losing so much of the support they deserve, and the sport itself is shrinking under our eyes with smaller competitions and less media coverage. Anyway... I am just defending the original blog entry. Keep battling the writer's block, Morozombie! Your blog is really lovely and I want to keep hearing your thoughts on all matters figure skating.