UPDATE: Apprarently the ISU has, as of this afternoon, changed their tune on the matter I wrote about below... and Rochette will be allowed to skate on the ABC program after all. I just read that on IceNetwork's home page, anyway.
So to that, I say Better late than never, ISU. Thank you for your change of heart.
(But if you still feel like reading my rip on their previous decision, be my guest...)
In this corner… is Joannie Rochette and her recent decision to sit out Worlds this year—something I think many of us could see coming once the reality of her mom’s passing sunk in a little.
In this corner…is the ISU. According to this article by Philip Hersh, the ISU is putting the screws to Ms. Rochette because she’s not only withdrawing from next week’s Worlds, but planning to skate a tribute to her mother during the ABC 2-day reality series Thin Ice. Or should I say WAS planning.
And over here, in my corner, I’m going to do a little thing called SERIOUSLY?!
(Which may bear more than a passing resemblance to a recurring bit they do on Saturday Night Live called “REALLY?!?”)
It goes like this:
SERIOUSLY, ISU?! You’re going to decide now’s the time to flex your big powerful sanctioning muscles, and kick a young woman when she’s down? I mean, seriously…
So you’re pissed off, ISU. I get that. Like so many other post-Olympic Worlds, you’re going to be missing several of your Olympic headliners. No Lysacek. No Weir. No Shen & Zhao. No Lambiel. No Belbin; no Agosto. And now, no Rochette either… and the week is still young, right?
And you’re probably pissed at ABC for being the home of Dancing with the Stars, and Thin Ice, and this new Skating with the Stars thing if it gets off the ground… because, God forbid, someone else make money off of top-flight skaters besides the all-mighty ISU. Seriously!
So this is what you do… seriously?! You wave sanctions and threats in Skate Canada’s face? You take out your frustrations on your new Olympic Bronze Medalist… someone who couldn’t possibly be expected under the circumstances to compete in Worlds anyway?
Someone who had to suffer the biggest emotional earthquake there is, then wore her personal heartache for 22.5 million to see as she channeled deep and did some of her best work ever? Over twenty-two million viewers; a number that could’ve been considerably lower if not for her misfortune.
I mean, seriously… all we kept hearing in the weeks before Vancouver was the disappointment of American ladies this, and the no-ladies-medalist-since-Manley that. Of course, no mere mortal would wish for something so profoundly sad to befall an athlete at the Olympics. But it happened… and she was North American… and like it or not, her terrible loss was NBC’s and CTV’s gain. And yours too, ISU.
But I’m sure that makes the ISU uncomfortable, so please, by all means, let’s not talk about the good she’s already done for skating and/or the Olympics. Let’s focus instead on the 3 ½ minute exhibition piece she wanted to skate in a show that happens to come a few scant days ahead of Worlds. Let’s look at that as Joannie Cashing In, rather than putting herself through one more week of competition when she’s emotionally spent and physically undertrained. No, seriously, ISU… let’s do that! Let’s make Rochette the villain! Just like you tried to do with Kim Yu-Na a couple months ago, when you threatened South Korea with sanctions and fines if they didn’t “persuade” Kim to gum up her pre-Olympic training regimen and hi-tail it over to the homeland for a pre-Olympic showdown with Mao Asada that was about as necessary as reading the directions on a public restroom hand dryer. Thank goodness South Korea scoffed at your strong-arming tactics there. How I wish Rochette and Skate Canada would do the same in this case. Seriously.
Ya know, ISU, I’d so love to think that as a collective unit you’d learned something over the past 8 years. You’ve struggled (and I mean that loosely) through scandal, the efforts of the World Skating Federation, declining revenues, a rights agreement that’s hardly worth the paper it’s written on anymore, a new scoring system that remains the target of endless ridicule… you’d think you’d be thrilled that so many skaters put down brilliant performances in Vancouver in spite of all of this. You’d think the bump in learn-to-skate classes that’s sure to happen over the next year or so…and the ripple effect they’re likely to create over time… you’d think that would be enough, ISU, for you to realize the acute uniqueness of Rochette’s circumstances, and look the other way this time… and welcome her back into the fold next season, if in fact Rochette even chooses to keep her all-important “Olympic Eligibility” after all this nonsense.
You’d think so, but so far… not a chance.
Seriously, ISU? You’re doing the wrong thing. Again.