Saturday, February 25, 2006

Why I hate Olympic figure skating

I now officially hate Olympic figure skating. Here's why:
  1. There's too much of it. Men's, women's, pairs, ice dancing, all with short and long programs (and a free skate, I think, though I never figured out what that was exactly...), and each program takes all night to resolve. Oh, and they also cover the practices, for heaven's sake.
  2. The winner's program after the actual medal events are all over. It's not a competition, it's an audition for Ice Capades! Why is this shown as part of a sport event???
  3. When you include the warm up sessions, the time for the skater to go on the ice, the time they spend taking bows, and the time they spend waiting for the results, it has a play-to-wasted-time ratio worse than professional football (where 60 minutes of game can take 3 hours).
  4. In the wake of "Skategate" (when the Canadian pairs were robbed by a French judge, who was on the take and gave the gold to the Russians; the fix was so blatant that they eventually gave the Canadians a co-gold), they've changed the scoring. The best part: they hide who votes for whom, so bribery isn't feasible. Unfortunately, they goofed the point allocations. If a skater tries for a big spin (like a quad) and land on their arse, they get a minimum score. The way they did it, that minimum for landing on your butt in a quad is worth more than doing a perfect double. This is why so many skaters at this Olympics ended up with ice rash, and why Sasha Cohen could fall twice in the long program and still get silver.
  5. In spite of #4, there's still a lot of subjective scoring in skating.
  6. Emanuel Sandhu. He won the Canadian title several times, and won a couple of important tournaments, but he's never done better than 7th at the Worlds, and his short program at this Olympics sucked.
  7. Elvis Stojko. Or, rather, the lack of Elvis Stojko. He brought athleticism and — dare I say it — masculinity to the sport, but never won an Olympic gold. His silver in 1998 was exceptional given that he was fighting a groin injury and the flu. The old fuddy-duddy judges would give him poor marks for artistry, mainly because he skated like an athletic male adult and not like a prebuscent hermaphrodite. Sandhu was his heir apparent in Canada, but hasn't lived up to it.
  8. Dick Button. Never has a man been given a more apt first name. He came across as snarky, rude and critical... of everyone except the American skaters. The only time he was conciliatory (or, for that matter, quiet!) was when an American skater was on the screen. From his comments, you can tell his impression of skating hasn't changed since the days he was skating, in the late 40s and the 50s. The best moment was when he made some snarky comment about the choice of music for one pairs team. A female commentator pointed out that they were skating to an instrumental version of Led Zepplin's "Kashmir". She asked if they were his favourite band. He never answered, leaving all the NBC commentators quiet for almost the rest of the performance.
  9. Chintzy music. An orchestral version of Led Zeppelin not withstanding, why do skaters continue to skate to music that was old fashioned during thePleistocene epoch? Isn't there anything from the last decade or two worth skating to?
  10. Sequines and make-up. I'm sorry, it's not a sport if it involves sequines and/or a requirement to wear make-up. It's not just skating that has this problem, it's also... uh... synchronized swimming (and ballroom dancing, if that becomes an Olympic sport).
Part of this comes from being peeved at NBC's Olympics coverage. They ran the men's curling championship earlier in the day, when I was at work (and our TV set up with digital cable makes taping a program a pain). Instead of running at least some of the curling championship (Canada won gold!) they ran the entire champion's fluff skate program. I know that figure skating is the most popular event at the games and NBC is only selling ad time. It's understandable, even if in Canada curling is sometimes shown in prime time. It just bothers me that this non-competition took up time that should have been used for actual sporting events. That and the fact that earlier today they ran a skating re-cap, as if the roughly 10,000 hours of skating this week wasn't enough!

We didn't spend much time watching the Olympics today. We did catch a really cool competition, the men's short-track speed skating relay event. It was an exciting finish. Canada win silver after they narrowly lost the gold to South Korea. The U.S. just barely fought off the Italians for bronze. NBC's coverage was spotty. They kept cutting to tight shots of the competitors, and hovered on the U.S.'s fight against Italy. That meant that we didn't see Canada lose the lead to Korea on the second last lap.

Bob Costas gave a short lecture at the end of the broadcast tonight aimed at skier Bode Miller. He castigated Miller for not working hard enough and for not taking the Olympics seriously enough. Not surprising, since the network built Miller up as a big anti-hero. They'd get a great story if Miller did well or crashed big time. Instead, he was merely mediocre (in that definition of mediocre that only applies to the Olympics, where a top 10 finish only counts if the athlete wins a medal). The story didn't go according to script.

It didn't go according to script with Sasha Cohen, either, which is why some in the media consider this winter Olympics a disappointment for the U.S. Costas put this in perspective when he pointed out the U.S. is within a couple of medals of their all time best winter Olympics, at Salt Lake City four years ago.

On the other side of the 48th parallel, this has been an excellent Olympics for Canada. Canada is currently third in the medal count, behind Germany and the U.S. and just ahead of Austria. This in spite of the men's hockey team not even making it to the medal round. This is the result of Canada pushing for better winter Olympics results with the next winter games taking place in Vancouver in 2010.

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