Sunday, March 29, 2009

Skating World Comes to LA

Last week the World Championships of Figure Skating were held here in Los Angeles.

I've been an avid skating fan ever since my husband bought me my first VCR in 1984 right before the Sarajevo Olympic Games. I set the device to record every day before going to work, then watched in the evening, fast-forwarding through everything that wasn't skating. I was hooked and I've been watching ever since. For me, figure skating is the perfect melding of artistry and athleticism, and it's the only sport I really enjoy watching.

It has been interesting to watch the sport for so many years, and to see how national fortunes rise and fall. When I started watching, the Soviet Union dominated the sport, but at the moment Russia isn't a force. Japan dominates ladies skating, with the exception of Korea's Kim Y-Na while our ladies are struggling to stay competitive. They're young, though, and I expect that to change. China is a huge force in the pairs event. For the first time since I've been watching, the US has a strong, competitive ice dance field. And we have some of the strongest male single skaters in the world.

I'd thought about trying to attend the event at LA's Staples Center, but didn't follow through. But thanks to the Oxygen Channel, I was able to watch lots of skating, starting with four hours on Wed. for the Pairs and Men's short programs. I had to work on Thursday, so I set the DVR. On Friday I went on a skate-watching binge: six hours, including the Men's free skate, the ladies short program and the original dance. The men's free skate was the highlight since Evan Lysacek captured the only win for the US. More about Evan on Monday.

Last night Kim Yu-Na lit up the ice, winning the first world medal for Korea. She also became the first woman to rack up more than 200 points in the new scoring system. Her skate was amazing, both artistic and athletic. The complete package, as commentator Sandra Bezic likes to say. Kim is a talented singer and that seems to help her feel the music. Though young, she's the most popular celebrity in Korea, and seems like a delightful young lady. She's coached by Candian skater, Brian Orser, two-time Olympic silver medalist. It seems like a great pairing. It was great to see Joannie Rochette take the silver medal, the first time a Canadian woman has been on the podium since Elizabeth Manley's second place finish in 1988.

The year's worlds was more important than usual because the results determine how many skaters each country gets to send to next year's Olympic Games in Vancouver. Thanks to Evan and Brandon Mroz, who came in 9th in the men's competition, the US will be able to send three men to Vancouver. We'll have three dance teams, too, courtesy of Belbin and Agosto's silver medal and Davis and White's fourth place finish in ice dancing.

You can check out the results here.

Now all eyes are on Vancouver. I can't wait.



Teresa said...

Hope your eyes aren't too strained from all the TV viewing :) It's interesting considering all the trends of who's up and who's down in the skating world.

Travis Erwin said...

I admire the skill and grace of figure skaters but the judging system kills me. There is too much bias for reputation and I have a hard time enjoying any sport that relies solely on a judges opinion.

My mom is also an avid fan however.

Kathleen Rowland said...

Linda, I love watching figure skating. Every time I watch, I'm impressed with new complexity of the sport.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Travis, the new scoring system isn't nearly as subjective since some judges were caught cheating at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002. The new scoring system is very detailed and there's not much room for subjective bias. It's harder to understand and some people miss the "perfect 6" days, but I like it better. Skaters can no longer string together a series of jumps and call it a program. Now they have to do spins, and footwork, too.