When I posted a few weeks ago with a dizzying array of mostly-true skating headlines from last month, there was a big one that I deliberately left out... mostly because I wasn’t sure yet of the story behind it, and I didn’t want to speculate out of turn. (As opposed to my typical, well-timed speculations... ha ha)
But thanks to this column by Monica Friedlander, I’ve got it. You should, too, if you don’t already—in other words, go read this article. RIGHT NOW. I’ll wait.
(And don’t forget to read the comments below it... which include one from 1968 Olympic Silver medalist and 1969-70 World Champion Tim Wood, and another one from 1973-75 U.S. Champion Gordon McKellan. Here's a clip of Wood's Olympic performance in case you're interested.)
OK, any questions? Well... yes. A few. I’ll speculate on what “we” might be asking/answering, anyway...
Q: So as I understand it, current ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta has strong-armed, or bribed, or as the article says, “asked” the ISU to extend his reign of terror term through 2016 since he’s age-ineligible to run again when his term actually expires (in 2014). Does this mean I'm finally allowed to punch Mr. Cinquanta in the face?
A: Punching Mr. Cinquanta in the face is not recommended, as he is not worth the paper on which your formal assault charges would be written. You may, however, feel free to dream about it.
Q: But I’m so ANGRY! First he mishandles figure skating into near oblivion, then he remains arrogant enough to think he’s doing the sport a favor instead... then the ISU is either too corrupt or too brainwashed to elect him out of office... THEN they sign on for TWO MORE (unnecessary, violating) YEARS?? REALLY?!?
A: Um, yeah, seems like it.
Q: There must be something the skating community and its fans can do about this, right?
A: Name some options.
Q: They could abandon the ISU and form their own governing body, away from speed skating and short-track skating...
A: “They” tried—almost a decade ago. It was called the World Skating Federation. And not only did the effort prove unsuccessful, it resulted in at least a half-dozen ISU officials/WSF supporters losing their ISU positions for life. (This link off of FS Universe can provide more details.) In any case, the whole incident has thus far scared off any other prospective ISU dissidents. Name another option, please.
Q: How about if all those previous champions who are leaving the door open for an Olympic-year comeback makes headlines by announcing instead that they won’t return to the sport under these current conditions? Wouldn’t that shake things up?
A: That could be interesting... but Weir, Lysacek, and Plushenko are already plotting their respective returns. Miki Ando? The same. And now Kim Yu-Na has announced plans to throw her little black Bond Girl dress back into the ring. All these comebacks are bound to be interesting, but it’s like they’re uniformly saying Competitive figure skating is a hot mess... still... give me MORE! Know what I mean?
(Especially for Weir. At least the others have Olympic and/or World titles to their names.)
Q: OK, another option... fans could abandon the sport on grounds of misrepresentation—“figure skating” seldom involves figures nowadays, “free skates” are too shackled by IJS requirements to be truly free, etc...
A: It seems a great number of former fans have done just that. Sadly, Cinquanta & Co. appear far too deep into their own self-appreciation to notice and/or care.
Q: But how can fans cease to support those that somehow transcend the rules and make us love figure skating in spite of the shackles? Jeremy Abbott, Daisuke Takahashi, Akiko Suzuki, Davis/White... they deserve better, don’t they?
A: Of course they do.
Q: So how can this “dictatorship” of a sport be saved?
A: Maybe by way of this very tool at your fingertips. Think of how frequently the internet and social media are used nowadays for change—sometimes mind-blowing, positive change. Fans of figure skating could do the same thing, it seems.
A: Well-- clearly, I’m just one writer. But there are lots of us out there, and plenty of ideas to be communicated. Did you read Vlad’s ideas at his World Figure Skating blog several days back? That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about... and there’s so much more out there. I hope I sound optimistic (rather than simply naïve) when I say we have the collective ability to pull skating’s ice out of the fire... hopefully sooner rather than later.