Figure Skating: From the Boards

When the world needs hope…skate? March 12, 2011

Filed under: 2010-2011 Season News — Tara Wellman @ 2:40 pm

It’s funny how quickly plans can change. Not funny, “ha-ha,” of course, but more like funny, “you laugh because if you don’t you’ll cry.” Or maybe it’s more like strange. Or absurd. Or mindboggling. Maybe it’s not funny at all. But I digress.

You get the idea. Sometimes, things change so quickly you don’t have the chance to think.

Today, my plans were minimal: take advantage of the day off and sleep in, work on some music, write up the first Worlds preview blog. Get coffee.

While not much of that plan has changed, one thing has – a Worlds preview blog seems somehow…unkind, inconsiderate, and certainly insignificant considering the rest of the story in Japan today.

I’m no mind reader, but I’m betting waking up to this wasn’t a part of their plans for today:

Houses smolder near Sendai Airport in Japan. PHOTO: REUTERS

I can only imagine how many people collapsed in sleep last night, hoping — praying — to wake up to a different set of plans. One that didn’t involve searching for loved ones or grieving those already lost.

In roughly 10 days, the world’s best figure skaters — and some of the world’s best fans — should be gathering in Tokyo to celebrate the biggest international skating event of the year.

Now, though, there are concerns about other things far more significant. Radiation. Aftershocks. Survivors. Provisions. Stability. And somehow, somewhere, hope.

A question was posed on twitter this morning, asking for thoughts on whether the Championships should go on as planned in Tokyo. The answer’s not an easy one, at least not in my mind.

See, first and foremost, the safety of the skaters, coaches, and fans must be certain. Deeming the building safe is one thing, but the surrounding area, the air quality, the possibilities of radiation, all must be part of the safety debate as well.

No doubt, the business aspect will be involved. The impact of the disaster economically will no doubt be immense. An event like this would not only be good for the International Skating Union, but also for the host nation itself. As a business decision, you plow ahead, regardless.

But then there is the issue of morale.

I’m not from Japan. Never been there. Don’t know anyone there now, or ever, as far as I can remember. Yet, my heart is in knots over this. I want to see the silver lining. I want to see the hope for tomorrow. Maybe it’s simply too soon, but I want to see some glimmer of a way for these people to smile again. Maybe, just maybe, an event like Worlds is just that thing.

With both the men’s and women’s competitions heavily favoring the home nation, perhaps the potential thrill of victory would be enough to bring the nation to its feet, not only in support of the athletes performing under the pressure of the world, but also in support of each other. Of the survivors. Of the future. Of rebuilding. Of always having something to hold on to in the midst of a tragedy.

In 2002, the United States hosted the Olympics in Salt Lake City, just months after the 9/11 tragedy. While it wasn’t in New York itself, it gave everyone a reason to breath again.

I want that for the people of Japan.

And while predictions for the World podium seem far less significant today than they did last week, maybe it’s just what Japan — and the world — needs to bring strength in a time where there is none.


To the people of Japan: My heart breaks with you, and my prayers are lifted for you.

As for Worlds in Japan? Do what is right. That is all I ask.


UPDATE: The more news that comes out about the fragility of the nuclear plants in Japan, the more I shudder at the thought of continuing ahead with Worlds as planned. Not only does it seem far too soon out of respect for the nation still reeling from this, but it also seems entirely too unsafe. Several nations are already contemplating withdrawing from the competition if it isn’t moved, and, I believe, rightfully so. As much as I hate to see Japan lose yet one more thing because of this, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s not the right choice. The only debate, in my mind, should be how long to postpone in order to secure a secondary location.

News from the ISU is due out before morning, so we’ll see what they decide.

Until then…



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