olympic ice becomes splat mat for male figure skaters
At spin class this morning, my friend Kristen Grossman (once an Olympic caliber diver) asked me why so many men are falling all over the ice at the Winter Games in PyeongChang.
She said, “it makes the sport really hard to watch.”
Kristen is right. Viewers get uncomfortable seeing wipe out after wipe out in a sport that is known for it’s beauty, grace and execution. Especially at the Olympic level.
There is no easy answer as to why Olympic ice has become a cold and unforgiving splat mat, but here is my take.
- Quad mania. The four revolution jump, be it a toe, loop, flip, or lutz is a “must have” in men’s competition at the National, World, and Olympic level. Quads are so tough to land that a skater is given some credit for just attempting it. The skater can land flat on his butt and get more technical points than another skater executing a flawless triple. It’s the bloody judging system that most viewers and may seasoned figure skating fans just “don’t get.”
- Early wake up calls. Because of the twelve hour time difference between South Korea and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, skaters are being asked to roll out of bed at 6:00am and compete at their highest level at 8:30 in the morning. Any parent who has a teenager in high school knows this is not an optimum time for getting out of the sack, let alone high athletic performance. There is a reason NHL hockey players have a “morning skate” on game days. A skater’s body takes time to “warm up and wake up.”
- Ice Baby Ice. No two skating surfaces are ever alike. Figure skaters tend to prefer softer ice than hockey players. The ice at the Gangeung Ice Arena looks as hard as granite. Seeing so many slips and shaky landings leads me to believe the ice could be a factor. But no figure skater in the world is going to complain about the ice.
- Nerves. A wise person once told me “butterflies are ok as long as they are flying in formation.” There is no scarier stage for a figure skater than the Olympic Arena. US skater Adam Rippon was asked the other night how he felt before competing. He said, ” I feel like I am going to throw up and I want to skate over to the judges and ask for a Xanax.”
The truth of the matter is, ice is slippery and quads are really, really hard to land.
The quad is here and isn’t going away any time soon. So let’s give credit to all these brave and talented men who go for it. And major kudos for skaters like Nathan Chen who is capable of landing 6 quads in a single long program on a good night.
There is a long way to go with the individual event up next. Viewers will have to be ready for some big falls. Just remember, the skater is getting “points” for trying.