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Hersh deplores the state of figure skating


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#1 dirac

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 01:58 PM

Philip Hersh writes a what's-up-with-the-sport piece for the Chicago Tribune (11/15):



http://chicagosports...0294nov15.story

#2 balletmom1

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 10:39 PM

This author captured my thoughts EXACTLY. I'm a recent ballet fan (since my daughter's been involved these last 6 years) but have watched and enjoyed skating since Janet Lyn captured our hearts oh so many years ago (am I dating myself?).
This season seems to have gotten off to a dismal start. Has anyone stayed upright for a long program yet? I love Michelle - think she's a great role model for young women - but she seems to have lost her way a bit. Sasha Cohen is a beautiful artist and will excel if she can stay on her feet. The rest of the women's field looks young or just not up to the calibre we've come to appreciate. The men's field looks more than a bit dismal, with Yagudin and Goebel both out. I've been discouraged with the Men's field, since my favorite, Paul Wylie, retired.)
And pairs - yikes - The US has nothing to offer right now. Hopefully this lull will end soon.
I hope that someone will evaluate seriously the schedule these young men and women are under so that good skaters can stay healthy and skating. Have there ever been this many sidelying injuries all at once?

#3 dirac

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Posted 20 November 2002 - 02:01 PM

I have no stats on the subject, but I don't think that injuries are that much more prevalent now than they were a few decades ago (although it would be interesting to have some data on stress fractures). Personally, I have some reservations about Cohen, but there's no question that she would be formidable if she could manage to skate a clean long.

Yes, Janet Lynn. She was just a little before my time, but I've seen the tapes. Unfortunately, talk about not being able to stay on her feet…

#4 Brioche

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 03:44 PM

Unfortunately, talk about not being able to stay on her feet…



An unfair assessment due to the fact that the media loves to show the clip where she blew the short program in '73. And since the addition of the short program was invented for her (so they say) the pressure of the event got the better of her. I believe in her autobiography she states that she didn't want to go another year after the '72 Olympics................... she made an amazing comeback in the mid 80's at a few pro competitions.


Best,
D

#5 vagansmom

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 04:19 PM

I can no longer access that URL, Dirac, so I missed the article itself but can guess as to its content. The pressure for young talented figure skaters must be enormous.

Balletmom1, Janet Lynn was also a great favorite of mine. But I must REALLY be dating myself because I still think of her as an almost newcomer! I remember watching Carol Heiss win her Olympic gold in 1960.

The great favorite of my teen years was Toller Cranston. I admired his line, although I didn't know at the time that's what it was called. I remember when Paul Wylie first became well-known, his line was compared to Cranston's - I agree that it's an apt comparison. Cranston's skating was also my first exposure to opera; his performance to music from "Pagliacci" had the audience tittering the first time he skated it, but became a widespread favorite in time. I went out and bought it as my first album of opera.

#6 sylvia

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Posted 07 January 2003 - 06:54 PM

Originally posted by balletmom1
I hope that someone will evaluate seriously the schedule these young men and women are under so that good skaters can stay healthy and skating.  Have there ever been this many sidelying injuries all at once?


I actually fault the skaters more for this! Everyone seemed to rush on tour after the Olympics, and to perform day after day, week after week and then come home to come up with new programs and demanding jumps for the new season sounds terrible to me. The actual skating season feels too short - I can't believe the grand prix's over already.

I agree about the state of figure-skating, especially in pairs and dance but isn't this what we see after every Olympic year?

#7 Natalia

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 08:08 AM

Hi, Sylvia,

The Grand Prix season is not quite over yet. The finals are in St Petersburg, at the end of February. I'll be attending and, hopefully, will file a report or two here...in between reports on the Mariinsky Int'l Ballet Festival, which runs concurrently with the Grand Prix. YIKES! - I can now see myself shuttling on the Metro between Sennaya Ploschad (near Mariinsky) and Prospekt Bolshevikov (way out in eastern suburbs, where the Ice Palace is located). At least I won't have to change stations; they're on the same line. ;)

GO, SASHA, GO!! GO, PLUSHY, GO!!

#8 Drew

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 08:38 AM

Sasha Cohen skated two clean programs at the third of her grand prix competitions this season (cup of Russia maybe?). She didn't win (came in second), and the event itself didn't 'count' points-wise since it WAS her third event, but to a completely amateur eye it certainly looked like her best skating...

#9 Natalia

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 09:28 AM

Yes, Drew, it was Cup of Russia. It was in Moscow and I attended the ladies finals. Viktoria Volchkova had the skate of her life to pull up over Sasha AND the embarrasingly weak Irina Slutskaya (reigning world champion!). I would have given Sasha the free skate, were I a judge...but I'm not a judge and I'm not Russian...and the stadium was bursting with emotion as the Pride of Russia, Volchkova, left the ice.

Funny, how Russian female ice skaters are among the LEAST balletic in the field? All of them -- Slutskaya, Volchkova, tripe-axel-gal Ludmilla Nelidina -- are the most 'tomboyish' of skaters in the entire Grand Prix field. Russian skating coaches seem to stir the girls with the lyrical style & balletic bodies into pairs or ice dancing. Had Sasha Cohen grown up in Russia, she would undoubtedly have been pushed into being a pairs skater.

By the way, the new Champion of Russia is -- hold onto your hat -- Elena Sokolova, who has been on the second-string team for years. She beat Slutskaya and other notables for the national crown, two weeks ago. HUGE disappointment...the present Olympic silver medalist and world champion lost her national title to an also-ran!!!!! Hmmmm...I wonder if something similar will happen at the U.S. Nationals next week?

#10 Drew

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 10:43 AM

How nice that you were able to see the 'Cup of Russia' live...At this point in her career, with a place in the Grand Prix Final assured, perhaps it was more important for Sasha Cohen to skate two clean programs than to win.

I often admire forceful, athletic women skaters, but I greatly dislike it when a skater like Slutskaya dresses that style up with ersats drama. She was so successful with Tosca (the first program she has done that I actively disliked) that I suppose she can't be blamed exactly for trying something similar with La Traviata. But I don't think there is a Ladies skater who looks LESS as if she were dying of tuberculosis...

#11 dirac

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 12:16 PM

Brioche, I didn't mean the remark on Lynn not being able to stay on her feet literally. (For the record, she also took a famous fall on her flying sit spin at the Olympics in '72.) Lynn's good programs as well as her less successful ones have received plenty of exposure over the years, I think.


balletmom1, it's interesting that you compare Wylie to Cranston – I always thought of Wylie being more in the Curry-Cousins line, although his dramatic style was closer to Cranston, definitely. Toller Cranston – I could never decide about him. Yes, he was good, yes he was incredibly brave to go out there and perform in that style to the music he chose…but – well, just not always to my taste. He was never less than interesting to watch, though, and he certainly didn't get his due in competition.


I think historically the best women skaters in Russia were directed to pairs and not singles. Cohen would certainly have been encouraged in that direction not only because she's good but also because of her size. One and a half of a pair, as Dick Button used to complain occasionally. (Interestingly, Irina Rodnina, the best of these ladies for my money, was neither especially balletic nor lyrical, although she was great to watch.)


Drew, I agree completely about that "Tosca" program. The terrible thing is that when she did it well it worked for her in that her presentation marks did go up (!)

#12 vagansmom

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 04:38 PM

Irina Rodnina was a powerhouse. Small, muscular firecracker of a skater. I adored her skating, much as I wanted Babylonia and Gardner to beat that Russian pair just once.

I was the person who compared Wylie to Cranston. I still stick by it. I don't think of him in the Curry/Cousins tradition, possibly because he wasn't quite as good a skater as they (which is one more reason why I compared him to Cranston, always an also-ran). I agree that a huge part of Cranston's success, and my endearing love for his skating, was in his willingness to take risks and try something different. Much as I admired John Curry, I often thought that he received more credit for being a creative skater than did Toller Cranston, but then again John Curry was #1 to Cranston's frequent #2.

I seem to recall that a big part of Janet Lynn's problem in her consistency had to do with an uncontrolled asthma and her resulting fears (not to mention inability to breathe!) about it cropping up while she was skating. When she made that brief, and so lovely, comeback, she'd had her asthma under control for awhile.

Well, my present favorite still remains Sasha Cohen. I'm hoping against hope she continues to improve, gets those nerves under control, and sets a higher bar aesthetically. Kwan did that for a time before she seemed to have lost her nerve.

#13 dirac

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Posted 08 January 2003 - 05:23 PM

I see what you mean. I was thinking more in stylistic terms – Wylie used to model some of his moves on Curry's, for example, which I didn't think quite worked for him because of the height discrepancy.



That was an odd era in men's skating – there was a lot of jostling going on at the top. I'm not sure that Curry himself ever regarded Cranston as his number 2 competition,– I imagine Kovalev and Hoffmann (when not injured) worried him more in 1976. Poor Cranston was third at the Olympics and fourth at worlds that year, humiliating spots for a skater of his calibre. But it was true that they were trying for the same things and introducing new styles, but Curry made it to the top spot and Cranston didn't. I think this was the correct ranking, in all honesty, but Toller deserves his due.



I have divided feelings about Cohen. In the past I really did not care for the way she neglected her edges, seemingly preferring to wow the crowd with gimmicky Look How Flexible I Am moves. She still does this, but it's not as bad as it was before, and she seems to be focusing on her edges more. And unlike Hersh, I don't find her to be especially musical. I still get irritated when Button oohs and aahs over Cohen's change edge spiral, as if it were the equal of Kwan's (!!!)

Thank you,vagansmom and balletmom1, for giving me the opportunity to revisit thegoodolddays.....

#14 dirac

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Posted 09 January 2003 - 10:59 AM

An article surveying the year in skating so far, noting the post-Olympics presence of Kwan, Slutskaya, et al., with quotes from Kwan and Cohen:



http://sportsillustr...ure_skating_ap/



One thing worth noting. The article says, "Not even Carol Heiss, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill or Kristi Yamaguchi were as dominant on the American scene," referring to the number of titles Kwan has won and the length of time she has spent at the top. I've seen comments like this before, and rarely is it mentioned that until quite recently it was financially almost impossible to stay in competition for longer than one Olympic cycle, because amateurs were not allowed to make real money. (It was customary for the women to retire from competition at about nineteen or twenty, and if you didn't retire on schedule in those tradition-bound days, the judges were likely to give you a push by marking you down.) This doesn't take away from Kwan's considerable achievement in staying at the top of her sport in a time when it's more competitive on the women's side than maybe ever before, of course.

#15 dirac

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Posted 13 January 2003 - 11:39 AM

Philip Hersh talks to Michelle Kwan for the Chicago Tribune (Jan. 9):


http://www.chicagotr...1,7233090.story


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