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.