Figure Skating: From the Boards

When in doubt, pick “C” March 16, 2011

Filed under: 2010-2011 Season News — Tara Wellman @ 9:53 pm

Let’s pretend for one, glorious moment that Ottavio Cinquanta is not the president of the International Skating Union (simply because most people would find that easier than imagining that he is qualified to make decisions about the figure skating world).

In that moment of time, say you were in charge. You were tasked with making the undeniably troublesome decision on whether to:

a.) Cancel the 2011 World Championships,
b.) Postpone the event until October, in hopes that Japan will be able to host, or
c.) Explore the alternate options, including the several other nations who have offered serious bids to help.

What would you do?

I won’t even pretend that this decision is simple. There are too many delicate issues at stake, too many people and situations to try to accommodate.

It is of utmost importance to be compassionate and considerate of the people of Japan. The catastrophe they are dealing with far outweighs the importance of any sporting event, it’s true. My heart aches for their losses, and the unknowns that they still face. I wish there was a way around taking the event out of Japan entirely, but, as the events unfold, I feel more and more strongly that it is inevitable.

The ISU seems to be determined to make every attempt to keep the event in Japan, however, and the best suggestion they can come up with thus far is to postpone the event until…drumroll….October. No, you didn’t just slip into a time machine and magically end up in late August. “Speedy” wants to hold off for seven months.

Not that I really need to rehash the reasons this is utterly ridiculous, but for the sake of making a point, here are a few.

  1. No one can expect skaters to train through the entire off season and be in World Championship shape come October.
  2. The 2012 season would begin, what, two weeks later?
  3. Seeing how the rule book changes every year, chances are skaters who are planning to compete next season would have to train both programs under the 2011 rules and the 2012 rules at the same time.
  4. Those who have peaked in time for next week will be at a serious disadvantage. They’ve built momentum through the season for a reason.

So option B is a no.

I’ve heard from many people who believe the moral thing to do is to cancel the event altogether. And I understand that perspective. As I said, the tragedy in Japan and their “new normal” as I heard it put, is the kind of thing that makes you wonder if you can ever do enough to show your support. So I understand.

That said, I disagree.

I’ve also heard many writers arguing that we need to support the people of Japan by not focusing on something so trivial. …but my question all along has been, what are the people of Japan really saying themselves?

We don’t know. And since we can’t realistically put ourselves in their shoes, it’s probably best not to assume.

The ISU says it has yet to hear back from the Japanese Skating Federation, so we don’t even know from the Fed’s perspective what they’re feeling.

But to say that hosting the event is disrespectful is, in my ever-humble opinion, a stretch.

My long-windedness is trying to kick in here (I just deleted an entire paragraph of explanation), so suffice it to say, somehow I think the nation of Japan has bigger things to focus on than whether or not the figure skating championships take place.

At that point, then, it becomes about the skaters and what is best for them. They want to compete, no doubt. They’ve all been so commendably gracious, but they look forward to this competition as much as, if not more than, the fans do. And to simply say, “There’s always next year,” is to disregard the erratic nature of this particular sport. Things can change by the day, much less by the year.

The harsh reality is, several of this year’s top skaters may be looking at this as their last hurrah. So it’s also heartbreaking to think of these athletes not getting the chance to skate here. They’ve earned this opportunity, and to insist that there’s no way for it to happen (especially considering the growing list of nations willing to take on the challenge) is unfortunate. Cinquanta made clear that he has interests other than those of the skaters as his top priority, and that, to me, is truly detrimental to the sport itself.

Since I’ve now eliminated options A and B, by process of elimination, I’ve arrived at option C.

As time goes on, more and more nations offer themselves as viable options. Even on a timetable looking at more of an April/May start date, countries including Italy, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US, have appeared willing to take on the challenge, even though it requires putting together a world-class event in a matter of weeks.

To think that there is no way to gather the volunteers or the fans is to underestimate the people of the skating community who would, no doubt, come together in a very special way to honor the victims of the disaster in Japan as well as give the world’s best skaters the gift of a chance to compete. Skating people are a special kind of people, and I have no doubt that they can pull this off.

The fact is, the world hurts with Japan today. But the world still wants this event to take place. Yes, there are economic motives. But there’s also the power of the human spirit, and the desire to see some kind of triumph in the midst of such tragedy.

To take that away, to eliminate the possibility without giving someone a legitimate chance to make this event happen, would truly be a shame.

As president for the day, I say we give option C a chance.

What would you do?


2 Responses to “When in doubt, pick “C””

  1. Great article Tara! I love that line about underestimating the power of the human spirit, those are my thoughts exactly. The ISU is underestimating how strongly Japan feels about skating and how much it would mean for them to see their skaters win medals at Worlds, regardless of the location.

    • Exactly! Just think — Japan is likely to put at least two skaters on the podium in both the men’s and ladies events. Why wouldn’t they want that? Japan is a nation so proud of these athletes’ success. Are we really supposed to think they would find it more “respectful” to cancel the event? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

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