The good (icenetwork.com), the bad (figure skating) and the ugly (China)
Ten things I know, and that you should too:
1. The good thing about having icenetwork.com, the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. subsidiary, is that figure skating aficionados can watch (for $29.95 a year) all the Grand Prix series skating events live on the Internet. I watched Skate Canada over the weekend on a cable connection, and the stream never broke during the many hours it was running. The picture was pretty good at 400 kbs.
2. The bad thing about having icenetwork.com is that you can see for hours on end just what a mess figure skating has become as athletes waste time and energy trying to satisfy the meaningless demands of the new (OK, not so new any more) scoring system.
3. The more you watch the current slop, the more you appreciate how good Michelle Kwan was for an extended period (1996 through 2003) –- and not just because of her artistry. Kwan landed seven triple jumps in the free skate at least six times in major competitions: 1996, 2000 and 2001 worlds; 1998 nationals and Olympics (and the qualifying round of 1998 worlds). Maybe with the nitpicking of the new judging system, some of those triples
would have been marked down for wrong edge takeoff or under-rotation. But how many women skaters today would even stay upright while doing those triples?
4. Evan Lysacek needs to reconsider his decision to drop the quad from his programs. While Lysacek won two world bronze medals without a clean one (in 2005 and 2006), the jump helped define the best performance of his career, at the 2007 nationals. Lysacek should have plenty of time to rework the quad, since he is unlikely to make the Grand Prix Final after consecutive third places at Skate America and Skate Canada. His long program at Skate Canada was watered down to the level that would be comfortable for a leading junior man.
5. Some posters to figure skating forums have suggested I must read their content. Of course I do. Any journalist would. Members of these groups follow the sport so closely that their posts often contain news and other useful facts. And, amidst the mindless rants and ill-informed opinions in figure skating forums (and Internet forums of all sorts) are some very informed, well-reasoned, interesting and passionate opinions. So, I confess to lurking. And following up on leads. And correcting errors in my blog posts when you note them in a forum.
6. U.S. Speedskating’s nice new media guide contains no photo or bio for 2006 Olympic champion Shani Davis of Chicago, who undoubtedly will be an Olympic medal contender again next year. The Davis clan still will not allow the federation to include anything about him. One would think that by now the Davises would have stopped cutting off their nose to spite their face. Sadly, some things never change.
7. Kara Goucher got off to a stunning start in her marathon career. Goucher, 2007 world track bronze medalist at 10,000 meters, finished third place in Sunday’s New York marathon with the fastest time ever (2 hours, 25 minutes, 43 seconds) for a U.S. marathon debutante. That time translates to 2:22-something over a faster course. And Goucher, 30, is the first U.S. woman to make the top three in New York since 1994.
8. Universal Sports is the best thing that ever happened to fans of Olympic sports such as swimming, track and field, skiing and gymnastics. Now could you guys please get the bandwidth for HD broadcasts?
9. Marion Jones’ brief public reemergence on "Oprah" raised the question of why she got six months in jail for lying about her use of banned performance-enhancing drugs while her ex-coach, Trevor Graham, two weeks ago got just 12 months' house arrest for lying about distributing such drugs to his athletes. The difference? The feds also had Jones for lying about her role in a money-laundering scheme. Without that leverage ("Here’s the deal, Marion: Admit doping, you get six months in jail, max; Stonewall, maybe three years on the laundering thing."), Jones likely would have kept lying.
10. McCarthyism, Chinese-style: USA Today’s revelation that Chinese officials had compiled a list of U.S. athletes who might be troublemakers because they had spoken out about human rights or belonged to Team Darfur is just another example of how morally bankrupt the International Olympic Committee was in giving the 2008 Summer Games to the world’s largest repressive state because it also is the world’s largest consumer market. At least the U.S. Olympic Committee apparently told the Chinese to take a flying leap when a staffer at the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., raised concerns about the athletes to the USOC. The athletes named -– including soccer player Abby Wambach and softball players Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza -– should be proud to have made the list.
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Keauna McLauchlin of the United States is spun by her partner, Rockne Brubaker, during the gala performance at the completion of Skate Canada on Sunday. The two came in third in the pairs competition. Credit: Geoff Robins / AFP/Getty Images