Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Shanghai Strangeness: Reflecting on a Chipped 2014 Cup of China

I still have the scar from my most significant collision with a fellow skater during a freestyle session. It was the late 70s; I was about 9 years old, the colli-dee (?) was even younger than that, and was setting up for a lutz jump. Her blade made contact with my right shin, piercing my tights and puncturing my leg, drawing enough blood (if I recall correctly) to take me off the ice for the remainder of that day while I got bandaged up. Thirty-some-odd years later, the scar on my leg is colorless—always has been—but there remains a small indentation that’s pretty easy to feel.

When Yuzuru Hanyu collided with Han Yan over the weekend at 2014 Cup of China, one of the most important notables is that neither saw the other coming AT ALL. There was no last-second skidding in a desperate attempt to minimize impact. Just... POW.

Comparing their crash to mine is like comparing the impact of semi tractor-trailers to that of a couple of tricycles. This I know. But thanks to my own little boo-boo—and witnessing several other, bigger ones through the years—I think a lot about angels when I watch skating practices. 

The potential for collisions during such practices is tremendous; all things being equal, they should happen far more often than they do. So I imagine angels assigned to these sessions, invisibly steering this skater a few feet to the left, giving that skater an extra push so they’ll get out of the lutz corner in time.

So what about accidents like we witnessed last weekend? Where were the angels for THAT doozy?

It’s my theory that... well... they blinked.

Or they got momentarily distracted. Or they couldn’t find their way to the Shanghai rink in time. Endless explanations. But of course, it’s tough to talk in exact terms when you’re talking about angels. So my theory will forever remain unproven for mere mortals like you and me...

But anyway, about that accident. By now you’ve either watched it a dozen times, watched it exactly once (and that’s enough, thank you very much), or have vowed not to watch it at all—because seeing a dazed and confused Olympic Champ struggle through the free skate while bandaged up like a combat victim is punishment enough. And by now, maybe the majority of us can agree on certain things:

1) That taking a FULL MINUTE for the on-duty medics to scurry out to the still-prone Hanyu (and finally, officially, stop the warmup) was about 50 seconds too long. Were they not already rinkside, monitoring the event? If not, where were they and why?

2) That head injuries, no matter how slight, are very different from other injuries and should be treated as such.

3) That neither  Yan Han nor Yuzuru Hanyu should have skated after that crash. Never mind the risk involved with the jumps and potential falls/additional head injury... at this level of skating, the spins alone could’ve/might’ve scrambled their fragile eggheads into further damage. (As I write this I’ve just learned, via Twitter, that Yan is now confirmed to have a concussion and is “suspected to have a pulmonary hemorrhage”...??!?!?! And he was the one who emerged in slightly better shape!)

4) That neither Yan nor Hanyu should have been making the decisions after that crash... and if it was somehow impossible to stop them from taking the ice—that is to say the coaches, or referees, or SOMEONE other than the head-injured athlete was not allowed to withdraw or disqualify said athlete—that’s a change the ISU needs to make as soon as humanly possible. There’s too much awareness these days about sports and head injuries to turn a deaf ear to this.

5) That a free skate with five falls equaling the second-best FS score of the night is more than crystal-clear proof that the points-for-rotating-it philosophy of IJS is ridiculous... it’s a sign that it’s actually rather dangerous. Hanyu was praised by some for “going for everything” (and getting points for such) despite his pain and disorientation, but what if IJS gave no points for missed jumps, as so many maintain is the way to go? Is it possible that someone in Hanyu’s camp (if Hanyu was not in his right mind to do so) would have thought twice, or thrice, or whatever it took before sending him out there?

In case you were wondering (I certainly was), here’s the protocol breakdown for the five jumps that Hanyu did not land:

4S (quad salchow)  10.50 -2.86 -2 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -2                 7.64
4T (quad toe loop) 10.30 -3.00 -2 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3                 7.30
3A (triple axel)     9.35 x -3.00 -2 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3                  6.35
3Lo< (UR triple loop) 3.96 x -2.10 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3           1.86
3Lz (triple lutz)   6.60 x -2.10 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3 -3                  4.50

TOTAL tech score (for just these elements): 27.63- 5.00
(deduction for falls @ 1.00 per fall)= 22.63 Net total

If you go to this link written by the incomparable Jackie Wong, you’ll see a more extensive look at the situation... as well as a perfectly feasible solution.

And by the way, in “other” Cup of China news...
+  Liza Tuktamysheva was back on top for the ladies, as Julia Lipnitskaia’s FS came apart in a way we hadn’t really seen from her before. She claimed second (and caught an ISU fine for her absence from the medal ceremony); Kanako Murakami took third. (Polina Edmunds of the U.S. was 4th)
 Pairs was a veritable Who’s Who... As in “Who’s that team? And what about that team—who are they?” In the end, it was a Chinese medal sweep of names I barely know, save for Uncle Hao and his lovely niece (aka Peng/Zhang). I hope to do a post in the near future teaching us how to differentiate between the two younger teams.
 Dance brought a first-time GP victory (and an upset) for Papadakis/Cizeron of France, a bronze for presumed victors Cappellini/Lanotte, and a silver (plus an SD win) for the Shib Sibs.

So much to talk about from last weekend; I surely didn’t do it all justice, so be sure to cover what I missed (and/or your own 2 cents) in the Comments!

Rostelecom Cup (of Russia) is next! Is it okay to pray for an, um, less "eventful" event?

1 comment:

SFM said...

1) That taking a FULL MINUTE for the on-duty medics to scurry out to the still-prone Hanyu (and finally, officially, stop the warmup) was about 50 seconds too long. Were they not already rinkside, monitoring the event? If not, where were they and why?

I wondered the exact same thing! Where on earth was everyone?! I suppose, they were waiting for Hanyu to just pop right back up off the ice and resume his warm-up? How reckless was that? What did they need to see before they moved on it?

Yes Yan, despite getting up on his own two feet, (unassisted - initially) was of equal concern. Sheer adrenaline was (most likely) responsible for that.

The whole sad scenario was completely botched from the get go and does not appeal to an already skeptical fan base, especially the every four year (casual) figure skating fan with whom the sport suffers a real credibility problem to begin with, and the handling of this incident certainly did not / will not help.