Scoring system, Dick and Michelle, Kim Yu-Na and other thoughts
Came home from the final evening of the World Figure Skating Championships late Saturday night and watched my tape of the NBC broadcast. Wished there had been more Dick Button and Michelle Kwan.
Noticed that there didn't seem to be a mention of figure skating on ESPN all week. Maybe I missed it. If so, sorry. But, geez, the world championships are held in the United States, an American man, Evan Lysacek, is the surprise men's gold medalist, and about 18,000 people are brought to their feet in a standing awe-vation over a Korean skater named Kim Yu-Na -- who, if you're an avid watcher of ESPN you've now probably not heard of. It was sports news; it's worth covering the worldwide leader.
And about the skating. It was lovely, it was inspiring, it made this skating fan look forward to the Olympic season. For awhile, especially during the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan and Tara Lipinski-Michelle Kwan-Sarah Hughes years, I covered a lot of figure skating. I first wrote about Naomi Nari Nam and Sasha Cohen here too. I've been more removed from the sport since the new scoring system was installed, but I've heard much about how horrible it is and how it's taking away the artistry and making the sport a robotic, jump-by-numbers snoozefest.
But that's not what I saw this week at Staples. It wouldn't matter if you used numbers, letters or perfect 6's, 10's, 100's or 1,000's, Kim was graceful and athletic, interpreted her music, felt her moves, covered the ice, jumped like Kobe and landed them like a Tiger Woods chip shot: silently and without movement. I don't see how the new scoring system has hindered Kim's development in any way.
Lysacek didn't need a quadruple jump to win a world title. He needed to land his triples, feel his spirals, play on the ice as if he were a gallant 1940s gentleman dancing to Gershwin, which he did, and the scoring system didn't stop Lysacek from playing to his strengths.
And it isn't the scoring system that is keeping the U.S. women behind Kim or Canada's Joannie Rochette or Japan's Mao Asada and Miki Ando. Can Del Mar's Rachael Flatt become a more musical, lyrical skater as she matures? Is Irvine's Caroline Zhang committed to the sport enough to rediscover the spark that made her a junior national champion? Will Arcadia skater Mirai Nagasu's foot heel? Will she be able to corral her talent and growth spurt and become the skater many think could challenge Kim and Asada? What if Cohen, who is living in Corona del Mar, decides to come back? Or Kwan (she teased NBC co-hosts Bob Costas and Button in Saturday's broadcast about whether she might make a comeback)?
What I liked was that even after Kwan saw Kim's ethereal, athletic and dominating winning performance, she was not intimidated. And maybe she shouldn't be. The top female skaters are still only doing five or six triples in their long programs. That's what Kwan was doing up until her injuries forced her from the Turin Games.
Should be a fun skating year leading to Vancouver. And a lot of the skating stories will be coming from Southern California. ESPN is opening its own studio out here next month. Maybe they'll even report on some of them!
-- Diane Pucin