Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic skating - IMHO

Watching the Olympic figure skating is causing sleep deprivation as I'm staying up too late to watch the events. It's been worth it since I'm seeing some amazing programs and enjoy cheering on Team USA. I know the judges are always looked at as an enemy of the skater, but being a judge myself, I can tell you that they want the skaters to succeed because when they skate well, judging is an enjoyable experience.

You didn't hear it during the pairs events, but suddenly we're hearing trash talk by the skaters about how the judges are against them or how all the skaters hate him because he's so good or how if you don't have a quad, you might as well be in ladies' skating. Is it just a way to make excuses in advance?

Everyone knew the men's event was going to be the most competitive event with one of the best field of men I can remember. There were some inconsistent performances last night - maybe because some were more than just a little nervous skating at the Olympics - but there were some incredible programs. I thought Plushenko was technically perfect, but his presentation was painful to watch.

I love a great footwork sequence as skaters show how well they can control their edges and balance. You want to see the skater using their full body, but Plushenko's footwork was mostly arm flailing to distract from his crappy edge quality.

The short program is often referred to as the "technical program" because the skaters have required elements that have to be included. In the short program, technique is what its all about. I have to remind myself of that fact quite often when watching because I'm always looking for the total package of technical and presentation. When I was training (we call it trial judging), I would get dinged when I would put too much emphasis on the presentation.

There is a wonderful judge named Bette Snuggerud who worked with judges in training. At one event, I had a skater marked too low against where she placed and while I thought I was giving great reasons why I marked her low (no presentation), Bette reminded me that it is the TECHNICAL program and that I need to keep that in mind. But she went on to say the one thing that has always stuck with me, that "Dollars for donuts, the skater will not be in the top tomorrow if her presentation skills are weak."  It was the dollars for donuts part that made the lesson stick.

I'm hoping that all the skaters do well tomorrow night, and yes, I'm pulling for Evan over Plushenko because I'm an American and have always thought of him as a nice midwest kid.  Never cared that much for Plushenko and I think it speaks volumes about Plushenko that besides his coach, he also had his publicity agent at the boards during the competition. I've seen skaters have their choreographer or sports psychologist at the boards during a competition, but a press agent? It tells you where his priorities are.

Go Team USA. Kick some Russian butt.

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