Over at USA Today.com right now they are conducting their annual “Save Our Shows” survey—a chance for readers to cast a vote for or against a TV series that is deemed on the bubble by middling Nielsen ratings. It’s not any sort of vote that most likely makes a real difference, but it’s always interesting to see how the poll numbers stack up against the network decisions.
It’s probably only due to the timing of it all that I draw any sort of parallel between a TV show and a figure skater’s career. How can they really be compared? With an athlete like this we’re always talking about one that is already a proven success on some level—I hesitate to say the same about CBS’ Miami Medical (one of the “bubble” shows). Some series in the poll have already been around several years and have arguable run their course, and that’s indeed the real question behind these skaters—are their best years behind them, and if so, why continue? But when a TV show ends, a team of actors, writers and producers breaks up and dissipates… but those worth their salt tend to turn up on another “team” sooner or later, be it in television, films, theater, or even industrials.
On the other hand, when an elite skater decides their amateur career is at an end… especially a singles skater who never quite reached the heights they might have hoped for… I can only imagine it’s a much deeper, more personal kind of “breaking up”. And the options available for turning up elsewhere in the skating world are decidedly fewer.
Having said all that, here come five names you’ve likely heard by now… should they stay or should they go?
NOTE: I was hoping to add a poll over in the left margin—a “which one of these five do you want to STAY the most” sort of thing—but I’ve never done a poll and can’t figure out how to do it. I thought it was a “gadget” I could add, but that doesn’t seem to be working. If any of you can help with that, let me know via a comment or email and we’ll get it going… thanks.
1) Carolina Kostner, b. 2/8/87, ITALY
On Senior circuit since: 2003
Most significant titles (Wikipedia): She is the 2008 World silver medalist, the 2005 World bronze medalist, the 2007, 2008 and 2010 European champion and the 2007-08 & 2008-09 Grand Prix Final Bronze Medalist.
Most recent performances: Finished a demoralizing 16th at 2010 Winter Olympics, but rebounded to finish 6th at Worlds one month later (though it was an admittedly weak field).
Stay or Go? STAY.
Though I don’t care for her skating much, I’d hate to think her Worlds finish was enough of a high note for her to end a career on—especially when word on the street is that she could train a LOT harder than she has in the past. And as the youngest lady on this list, I’d like to see her hunker down like she never has before, and give it at least one more year.
2) Sarah Meier, b.5/4/84, SWITZERLAND
On Senior circuit since: 2001
Most significant titles (Wiki): She is the 2007 & 2008 European Silver medalist, the 2006-2007 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist and an eight-time (2000–2001, 2003, 2005–2008, 2010) Swiss national champion.
Most recent performances: After coming in a disappointing 15th in Vancouver (she finished 8th in Torino), she skated so poorly in the SP at Worlds she failed to qualify for the finals, plummeting from a 9th place finish in ’09 to 26th in ’10.
Stay or Go?
This is the hardest one of the five for me. I DO enjoy her skating, and looked forward to the time when she’d at least crack the top 5 at Worlds if not earn a medal. But she will be 26 next season… and has been plagued with injuries for the past several years. If you saw the fall she took on her lutz at Worlds, and the pain she appeared to skate in thereafter, maybe you understand why I gently advise her to GO… the pain ain’t worth it. (Plus, I couldn’t help but notice Switzerland’s got a pretty good up-and-comer in 20 year-old Bettina Haim, and Meier could be de-throned next year anyway.)
I know—I just said Kostner should leave on a better note than the one she left this season, and arguably Meier should too. But I think there’s a big difference between not doing your best because you aren’t working hard enough, and because your body is fighting you tooth and nail. Especially when you’re in your mid-twenties, not your mid-teens.
3) Julia Sebestyen, b. 5/14/81, HUNGARY
On Senior circuit since: 1998
Most significant titles (Wiki): She is the 2004 European Champion and 2002-2010 Hungarian national champion. At the 2004 European Figure Skating Championships, she became the first Hungarian woman to win the European title. She is also 4-time olympic team member of Hungary.
Most recent performances: Though she earned bronze at the most recent Skate America, she only came in 17th and 15th at 2010 Olympics and Worlds (respectively).
Stay or Go?
Her best Worlds finish (6th) was in 2004; her best Olympics (8th) were 2002. I say GO, and for heaven’s sake, get a book written about your experiences being in FOUR different Olympics—what a journey! (And by the way, Julia… if you speak any English… I’d be happy to help you write that book :-) )
4) Fumie Suguri, b. 12/31/80, JAPAN
On Senior circuit since: 1997 (GASP... and you thought 1998 was long)
Most significant titles (Wiki): She is a five-time Japanese National Champion, a three-time World Championship medalist, a three-time Four Continents Champion and the 2003-2004 Grand Prix Final Champion.
Most recent performances: Doing no better than 7th in an admittedly deep field at Japanese Nationals, Suguri failed to make either the Olympic or World team in 2010.
Stay or Go? GO! Go NOW!
I once heard Suguri imply in an interview what so many athletes must feel for a substantial part of their career—that she doesn’t really know what she’d do with herself if she didn’t train and compete every year. But I’m afraid she’s approaching “professional student” status now (the same status I think I once applied to U.S. skater John Baldwin Jr.). I thought after this year she’d finally bow out, but according to this article, she plans on continuing at least until 2011 Worlds (in Japan) if she can secure sponsorship. But sad as it would be, I kind of hope the sponsors don’t come through. Suguri’s already secured her place in Japanese skating history… and she needs to move on.
5) Akiko Suzuki, b. 3/28/85, JAPAN
On Senior circuit since: 2002
Most significant titles (Wiki): She is the 2010 Japanese national silver medalist, the 2010 Four Continents silver medalist, the 2009 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist and the 2007 Winter University Games Champion.
Most recent performances: After really coming alive in the first half of the season, Suzuki made the Olympic and World team for the first time ever—finishing 8th and 11th, respectively.
Stay or Go? STAY. As those who’ve heard her story know by now, Suzuki’s career truly stalled when her battles with anorexia plagued her training for several years. It wasn’t until she earned a surprise silver at 2008 NHK Trophy that her name really surfaced on the radar internationally. As hard as she’s worked to kick her disorder demons to the curb, I’d really love to see her stay in for at least one more season.
For the Clip of the Day I’m going with Meier; just not sure if I’ve featured her lately. This is her 6th place-finishing FS from 2008 Worlds, and if anyone out there is familiar with the artist on this piece (Tokuhide Nimi), please let me know as Pandora claims ignorance. It’s a unique and lovely piece to skate to, and while no blockbuster, definitely one of Meier’s best.