Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Team Trophy 2012: Five Observations

A few things that came to mind as World Team Trophy unfolded last week...

1) Free live (almost) worldwide streaming?? Well played, ISU.

It’s a classic marketing move—not to mention a great reason to inhabit your local supermarket every Saturday afternoon. Got a new product? Then you’ve gotta offer free samples. And while “new” may not be the most accurate description of WTT (considering it made its debut three years ago), I believe this is the first time it’s taken place with a notion of of upcoming Olympic event suspended over it. Streaming it for free was probably one of the best ideas the ISU has had all year (with developing its own YouTube channel being the other one that comes to mind). Whether or not they ever do it again remains to be seen… but two years ahead of Sochi, when the “team” Olympic idea still needs a lot of selling, I suspect the ISU will get its money’s worth on that decision.

2) Smells Like Team Spirit (or at least looks and sounds like it)

I was looking at a clip of Evan Lysacek at the 2009 WTT, and although it’s not shown as prominently as it was this time around, there’s a similar Kiss’n’Cry scene with big patriotic hats, bigger flags, silly glasses, etc. But back then, when competitors such as Scott Moir and Tanith Belbin intimated to the press that they’d been given little notice and more than a fair share of pressure to participate, I have to think this year the spirit was more sincere by default. Even without 2009 in the mix, how can a fan DISlike seeing so many Kiss’n’Cry moments where the “cry” is replaced with world class skaters donning animal costume heads?

3) What We Learned (from the competitors)

There were those that seemed energized by their Worlds success (Suzuki, Wagner, and a who-knew-he-could-be-even-better Takahashi)…

Those that weren’t at Worlds, yet did better than reigning medalists (Adelina Sotnikova and Gracie Gold, both of whom outskated Alena Leonova)…

And then there were those that appeared exhausted—for lack of a better word—though not without good reason (Chan, Abbott, Kostner, the aforementioned Leonova)

4) What We Learned (from the event itself)

That competing as a team in a sport that is usually anything BUT team-oriented can be a fun and rewarding experience.

That turning in a sub-par performance is a little easier to take when you have a shredded mylar wig awaiting you in the Kiss’n’Cry… not to mention a half-dozen teammates in matching wigs.

That holding WTT at the end of the season is a little like the NFL’s Pro Bowl: a little anti-climatic, a mixed bag in terms of performance and enthusiasm, and fair-to-middling interest from the viewing public… though the die-hard fans will always be there. (Especially if they continue to make it easy to do so.)

That WTT should always be held in Tokyo… At least until another country gets as skating-crazy as Japan currently is!

That, as successful as WTT may be… the success of the Olympic edition of the event remains to be seen. (Sorry; I know my skepticism is showing.)

5) What About The Others?

There’s currently no place at the WTT for Kim Yu-Na, should she re-enter the realm of competition. Or Savchenko/Szolkowy (though they were there, and went around visiting each team’s box for moral support). Or Michal Brezina, or Denis Ten, or Javier Fernandez. The WTT was reportedly developed “in the hope of encouraging countries to develop top figure skaters in all disciplines” (according to Wikipedia). But for the Kazakhstans, and Uzbekistans, and Finlands, and United Kingdoms of the world—of which there are plenty—what are the chances they’ll ever get invited? Last week, Misha Ge of UZB made an interesting case on Facebook and Twitter for creating a team event that would be slightly less exclusive; that could have a “team” representing the best of the less dominant countries in the sport.

I’m not sure how serious he was—or if he plans to pursue his idea to any length—but I wish he would. It would be interesting to see how willing the ISU is to accommodate other voices… and really embrace the team spirit concept!

P.S. #1: I’ve neglected to mention that I’m now on Twitter (as of a few weeks ago)… and I usually mention new blog postings there. So if you’re there too, please look for me @KLBSt8ofSk8 … I need more followers in a big way!

P.S. #2: The skating season may be over, but the posting at the blog continues throughout the off-season… at least once or twice a week. Plus I intend to give State of the Skate a makeover (after 4 years on the blog circuit), and you wouldn’t want to miss that, would you?

So don’t forget to drop by now and then as spring rolls into summer…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Leonova wasn't exhausted, she was sick and had a fever. I'm not sure what happens if a skater WDs at the WTT, but I guess she figured she may as well skate.

As for other countries, my understanding is that the top ten countries will qualify for the Olympic event, with the top five teams going through to the LP. Had that been the case this year, apparently Germany, the Czech Republic, China and Spain would have also gotten a ticket. So there's hope yet for skaters from other countries, and for fans.

Team K&Cs are an excellent idea, especially France's and Italy's. And free (or cheap) streaming is also something I'd like to see more of.