Thursday, January 05, 2006

Why I Want Michelle Kwan to go to the Olympics

Michelle Kwan is injured and cannot compete in the national championships, but is petitioning for a spot on the US Olympic team anyhow. Basically, she cannot skate in the competition that determines who gets sent to the Olympics, but she feels that they should just send her along anyway. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has even remotely been following figure skating over the last decade - America's little darling, the oh so graceful and elegant skater who has won the US title more times than I can remember, but never fails to come up short at the Olympics. The only thing she doesn't have is a gold medal and she wants it. Like really really fucking bad. She has persisted in competitive (amateur) skating, rather than turning professional, like anyone in her position who has a scrap of dignity or respect for the sport would have years ago.

Michelle Kwan is the ultimate professional skater. And that is definitely not a compliment.

Amateur skaters are the ones who compete in the nationals, worlds, Olympics. Professional skaters were either never good enough for competition or else are retired amateurs, and they skate in exhibitions, tours, things like Disney-on-ice, or the lamentable Brian Boitano skating spectacular that seriously exacerbated my post-NYE nausea last Sunday. Professional skaters maybe have to do a jump or two in an entire program; triples aren't even really necessary as long as you have enough funny props or are skating to a really "rock n' roll" song or are wearing a costume to make you look like a leopard. Professional skaters don't have to get better. They don't have to do big combination jumps or hard spins. All they have to do is cultivate their showmanship.

Which is exactly what fucking Michelle Kwan has been doing for the last ten years. Perfecting her dreamy, dopey-eyed expression for the camera as she skates along in her "trademark" spiral (that's the thing pictured above, where you lift one leg in the air; it is not difficult whatsoever and it is one of the first skills that a young skater would learn, once she is able to skate on one foot). Seeking out the sappiest, most bland classical pieces to accentuate her drab personality. What she has definitely NOT been doing is improving her jumping skills, or pushing herself whatsoever, or trying anything new or risky. Technically, she is one of the least talented skaters who competes at such a high level, which is why it is so easy for the underdogs to sneak up and beat her out. If you have read any of my entries before on this matter, you already know my opinion: Michelle Kwan is everything that is wrong with figure skating.

After the godawful Brian Boitano tv exhibition on New Year's Day, I went to hang with a friend of mine who was in town. I mentioned I've been skating a lot lately, and somehow we got on the topic of how male figure skaters are always gay, and it's surprising if you meet one who is not, whereas while most male hairdressers are gay, if you meet one who is not, you might not necessarily be surprised. I said it was a shame that so many male skaters are, in fact, gay, because skating is a serious athletic sport and it might be taken more seriously if all the dudes weren't acting so damn gay all the time with their little stretch tights and Robin Hood costumes and whatnot.
He said "What do you mean?"
Confused, I said "What do you mean, what do I mean?"
"How is it a sport?"
Not really sure how to answer a question that seemed so blatantly obvious to me, I tried to explain. "Well, you start out doing simple spins, and single jumps, and then once you can do those you move on to the harder spins, the spins on the opposite foot, flying spins, double jumps, then triple jumps.."
(Makes flapping motion with arms) "Yeah but don't you just sort of go along and like twirl around and stuff?"
"No! No!! You don't understand. That is just what you see on television. It is unfortunate that the program-to-music is the medium for competition, because it makes it look so fucking fluffy. All that shit with the costumes and twirly arms and footwork is NOT what figure skating is really about."

But that is the problem: that IS what it's about to Michelle Kwan. Young up-and-coming skaters are doing triple axel combinations, quadruple toe loops, and people like her still futz around and give skating a pansy reputation.

But not for much longer. She is getting old and this is surely going to be the last Olympics for her, whether she wins or loses. This writer acknowledges that her skills are really not up to snuff compared to today's skaters, and is worried about how the poor dear might take another disappointment, but claims she deserves the spot on the team because she is just such a gosh darn national icon. And you know what? I agree, fucking let her. I hope she goes, I hope they knock a more qualified skater off the US team, because for once and for all, I want her to experience the full onslaught of her irrelevance and outdatedness in comparison to the real athletes of the world who are doing difficult new things, who are pushing the sport forward, who are creating new standards. She will get completely massacred, and I will delight in every minute of it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I think you're being a little bit hard on Michelle Kwan.

Don't forget that Kwan pretty much single-handedly saved American women's figure skating after the Kerrigan/Harding fiasco. We know what a wretch Harding is, but Golden Nancy was a homewrecker, so there we are.

Americans expect their #1 skaters to be not just proficient, but virtuous and classy as well. Kwan has conducted herself for 13 years in an exemplary manner.

As for her skating, well, skating is, or ought to be, as much about edges and form as about jumps. The damn jumps are shortening the careers of these skaters, both male and female.

I think she should have retired after the last Olympics, but just as sometimes a baseball team will carry the 38-year-old pitcher to the World Series just because he deserves that last chance, I think if Michelle wants another chance, even if she can't hack it, she should have it.

Which brings us to "the gay issue" in men's skating. It's only in the U.S. where American male skaters are gay, because there are other sports that straight men go into. Russian men who go into dance and skating tend NOT to be gay, nor do the Canadians, Brian Orser notwithstanding. The gay factor also keeps many American men who might enjoy the sport away from it, which is a shame.

And by the way, if you think that skating is all about jumps and not edges, go see if you can find yourself some video of Canadian skater Gary Beacom in his prime. Beacom is straight, does NOT dress in spangles, and is probably the most original skater of his generation. He's a wacknut who can't skate in the U.S. because he decided once he started making real money that he didn't have to pay taxes, but he's a true "skater's skater."

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the number three finisher at the US Nationals will not be in a better position to win an Olympic medal than Michelle. The US team looses nothing by sending her.

Just for the record Sarah Hughes would not win under the new scoring either because she cheated her jumps and often flutzed too.

Some of Michelle's perfection has become uncommented-upon lately because we expect it of her. That is no mean spiral sequence. Other innovative moves of hers have been taken up by the whole field now.

The comments on Brian Boitano's spectacular are just plain ignorant about the sport. He still has some of the best edges and turns in the business and can do triple jumps at 42.

Michelle will remain Queen of the Ice for some time no matter what happens in this years Winter Olympics. She is that good and that loved.

1:56 PM  
Blogger darrelhuron8917 said...

I read over your blog, and i found it inquisitive, you may find My Blog interesting. My blog is just about my day to day life, as a park ranger. So please Click Here To Read My Blog

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is no secret that Michelle Kwan yearn for an Olympic gold medal. Most people work hard to acheive there dreams and Michelle is one of those people who has a dream that hasn't been fullfilled yet. There is nothing wrong in pursuing her dream. It doesn't matter how old you are, everyone can dream of acheiving something. There are no restrictions of age in the Olympic, as long as you are qualified and you love what you're doing.

Michelle has been a lady and has been a champion through victory and defeat for the last decade. She has won more medals than any other female skaters in the world. She has shared her dream and love for this sport to her audience and that is why she is the most loved skater in the world.

I think bad mouthing a skating icon who has acheived more than anyone has no shame at all. It really shows that you are ignorant and possibly jealous.

Michelle Kwan may not be a power jumper, who does triple-triple, but her skating shows quality and joy and that is something many skaters lack nowadays. If figure skating is just about jumps, then there is no need for artistry and music. Atheletes can just jump around for four minutes. I personally think quality is better than quantity.

If Michelle kwan did not pull a groin injury, she would have definitely competed in the 2006 national championship and most likely she would have won, considering that she has won the last nine national titles.

We should give her even more credit being the fact that she is at the prime of her sport and yet still beat out rivals who are 5 to 10 years younger than her.

After the Olympics, many amatuer skaters turn professional because they have medaled and made a lot of money so there is no need to go through grueling trainings anymore. It is such a waste for Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes to turn professional at such a young age because we will never know if they can push the limits of the sport if they had stayed in the amatuer level. But Michelle Kwan stayed in the sport not because of money or fame, it is because she wants to test herself how far can she go with her sport and that is something very admirable.

I am very sure after placing fourth in last year world championship, she has revised and improved her programs to adjust to the new scoring system. She was only half a point away from medaling. So I have high hopes that she will medal at this year Olympic,whether it is gold, silver or bronze. She will be remembered as a legend of figure skating.

2:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home