Olympic sports are notorious for having rich, storied histories of individual achievement as well as individual agony. There are few more respected athletic goals than aiming for the right to climb to the top step of an Olympic podium and claim — medal of proof draped around your neck — that you are, in fact, the best.
There is, perhaps, no richer history of such personal achievement than that of the figure skating world. From standing completely alone at center ice, through every spin, every take off, every landing, to the finality of the victory or defeat, there’s a grand understanding of the individual-ness of it all. National and international rivals compete for one spot. And only one can win.
It was announced today that the International Olympic Committee has accepted proposals for six new events to make their Olympic Debut in Sochi in 2014. Of those six events, the most relevant to this particular blog is that of the figure skating team event.
For a sport so focused on individual achievements, it’s interesting to imagine this new dynamic. Interesting…in a good way.
In 2009, a similar event was held. The World Team Trophy event that year featured the top six all-around national teams consisting of two men, two ladies, one pairs team, and one dance team. Each discipline squared off, and scores were combined for each country’s skaters, and the nation with the highest total won. Simple, right? (Though it appears the Olympic version will only have one man/lady.)
That event was initially supposed to be analyzed along with this year’s World Team event in Tokyo, scheduled to follow the ISU World Championships in March. However, as we’re all now quite aware, Worlds was moved, but the Team Trophy was not.
Thus, the ISU decision was based on the one event from 2009, which will be the blueprint for how the Olympic event is organized.
I, for one, am pretty excited about this.
The skeptic in me hesitates to break with the rich, individual traditions of the sport, but the rest of me appreciates the added opportunities elite skaters will have to win an Olympic medal. Plus, who doesn’t love the chance to cheer for a whole team, not just one skater?!
There are certainly plenty of questions to be answered, though. Questions like how will nations select the team members? And will they be the same skaters who are competing for individual medals?
I would love for this to be an opportunity for additional skaters to earn a spot on the Olympic team…that said, I wouldn’t want it to have the feeling of a “B-team” event that skaters who didn’t grab one of the “top” spots was assigned to.
Then again, would a skater with chances at individual gold really want to add the stress of training for another event?
Also, if there are six competing teams as there were in 2009, will we see a constant circle of American, Canadian and Japanese dominance? Will it become a three-team race over and over again?
Some have already suggested that the simple solution to wanting a team event in the Olympics would be to add Synchro as a new discipline. These teams compete on the World stage, too…but are not given the shot at Olympic glory. This is another interesting possibility, but with a very different feel than the new team event.
Of course, there are no answers to these questions as of yet. But I can’t help but wonder.
What do you think?
What’s the biggest positive?
And what is your biggest concern?
Regardless, the team event is in, and at least one Olympic figure skating gold will be up to more than one individual!