February 10, 2010

Ice Charade's Preview for the Olympics

Is everyone getting excited? Two more days!

Hey kids, Ice Charades was asked to write an article for a local organization of non-skating fans to get them up to speed on the sport. So here it is. And I bet they'll never ask for my opinion again.

It’s that time of (every four) years again. The Winter Olympics. By the time you are reading this, football will be over, the NBA playoffs far away, and you’ll have to wander deep into your satellite premium sports package if you hope to catch any of the regular NHL games. This is the time of year when we’ll be reminded how dangerous the downhill is, how intense the South Korean short-track speed skating fans are, and how corrupt the figure skating judges were (well, still are).

And what will you likely see the most? My guess is figure skating.

So, here’s a primer to get you talking triple axels and program component scores in no time. You don’t know what a program component score is? It has been a while, hasn't it.

First thing you need to know: the judging has changed. Forget that 6.0 stuff. If the last time you thought the artistic score was something Tonya settled with Nancy, you need to upgrade to Figure Skating 2.0.

Gone are the days when the artistic score was what the East German judge used to prop up a skater who blew her long program that day. Everyone knew a skater got two sets of scores, up to a 6.0, and then waited for some little accountant behind the curtain to tell the audience whether the skater could go on to star in Ice Capades or slink back home to coach runny-nosed six-year olds.

That system is out. Now there is just one large, cryptic score like your credit report - really hard to understand or dispute.

You would think with the judging scandal at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Ice Skating Union (ISU) would have made everything more transparent and easier to understand. For the sake of the sport that sends them on first class flights to five-star hotels, they still bite the hand that feeds them caviar on crostini.

Despite proof that skating was corrupt, the Ice Skating Union (ISU) doubled-down by deciding it was better to have anonymous judging, and designate a “technical” judge to have more say than the rest. That’s the kind of move that would make Tony Soprano proud.

But let’s face it, that scandal made the television ratings soar. It had been a while since the “Knee Whack Heard Round the World” last put skating on the map. So, if I were NBC, I would have a new judging scandal in the works. Stay tuned.

But some things haven’t changed. There is still the Kiss-N-Cry area, not to be confused with the Sit-n-Spin area – that’s for politicians. Although it seems skaters have worked on their game face and forgo the crying these days. I think the real crying and temper tantrums take place off-camera back at their hotel suite. Cue TMZ to give us the real scoop.

Here’s my theory for deciding who is the better skater in the Kiss-N-Cry. Without even seeing their program, you can tally the amount of silly hand-gestures and verbal shout-outs the skater pantomimes to friends and family as their scores are being read. Shout-outs get five points apiece. The half-fingered wave or ear pull gets ten and an all-out blowing a kiss gets fifteen. For me, those are the skaters who spend too much time socializing at their home rinks lest they risk missing out on the next, killer, Sweet Sixteen party. Those are not the better skaters.

The better ones have ticked off countless skaters at home and have no time to thank anyone but themselves. Even their coaches are suspect of gratitude. I’d put my money on those skaters.

And who are those skaters? They come in four categories: pairs, ice dance, mens, and womens. Unlike the diehard fans, I can’t use up limited real estate in my brain to remember the names of pair and ice dance teams, so I just lock in on one team in each category and focus on the number of falls for the pair teams and the number of costumed accessories for the dance teams. If the team you memorized doesn’t medal, you can always say, “Well, I really thought so and so would nail it, but the judges colluded to let so and so win.” No one will be able to argue that.

Save your compare and contrast abilities for the men’s and women’s categories.

Here’s what you need to know about the men – there are lots of contenders from all over the map and they are all chasing down the quad. That means being daring, almost out-of-control and I’m not just talking about their costumes. The men will have to go balls to the wall for a medal, which is where I hope they don’t end up after crashing on their quad.

The women’s category, of course, gets most of the attention. But unlike years past, be prepared for an American princess who is a long shot to win a medal at the Olympics. Make way for Asia. There are several Japanese gals who keep landing triple axels, which have been extinct since the days of Tonya Harding. Yes, that Tonya.

But the one skater you should really watch for is a spunky little spitfire from South Korea who has taken the world by storm. The skating world that is. Kim Yu-Na will be pitted against the three Japanese skaters in a media war Japan and South Korea have built up since she came on the scene. She is a rock star in her native South Korea, twice voted their Person Of The Year, so the frenzy of the Olympics shouldn’t faze her a bit. Let’s hope those crazed short-track speed skating fans can move over for the new girl in town.

So gear up folks. Skating is back (for two weeks at least).

I kid, because I love (skating). And I put the jokes ahead of some of the facts.

What I would say seriously to all of the skaters competing at the Olympics is - you are amazing. Like Ice Mom said in an earlier post, to have beaten the odds and gotten where you are, you are amazing. Now go and have a good time.


Anonymous said...

Best (smartass) viewpoint I've seen.

Jane said...

Aaaah, Tonya and Nancy!