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The next "great one" or lack thereof
Preface: This post is not directed at anyone specifically. It is just my general observations from several years of reading skating boards and watching broadcasts.
The whole "thoughts on this season" thread made me able to put something into words that I have wanted to say for a while but not been able to articulate. It appears to me that skating fans, or maybe US skating fans, or maybe just US skating fans more than other fans, are looking for the next "great one" to "save" or reinvigerate skating ratings and preception around the world. Something or someone to make it more popular back to where it was in the mid-90's.
It seems to me that the last couple of years fans (on the internet at least) have annointed the latest "junior superstar" coming into her first year as a senior. I say her, b/c I have noticed that this is primarily about the young girl skaters coming up. I.e. last year Rachel Flatt. This year Caroline Zhang, a couple of years ago a lot of the buzz seemed to be about Carolina Kostner (not US, but mostly the same principle).
The girl knocks 'em out as a junior. She has the jumps, the style, the "it" factor. She moves up to seniors, has a typical or some would even say exceptional first year, yet the sentiment on the boards turns against her (or maybe it just seems that way to me). Maybe she's not landing the 3/3 combos. Maybe her presentation scores aren't on par with some of the other senior ladies she's competed against. Whatever. You get the idea.
My point of this post is to say, please give these girls a break. As I said in my reply in the other thread, there's a world of difference between juniors and seniors. The time difference in the programs is only one thing. Another is the media exposure that wasn't there as a junior. All of a sudden there are lots more people looking and and more saying the girl is not measuring up. Yes, I realize more eyes means more comments and more comments mean more critisizm. But come on.
Do I think skating needs a shot in the arm? Yes. Do I think it would be great if it could be as popular as it was in the 90's? Yes. Do I watch every competition I can and look for the results as soon as their out? Yes. But I like to think I'm a little more realistic in my expectations. If Caroline Zhang or Mira Nagasu or Ashley Wagner or anyone else turns out to be skating's next "it" girl and helps the ratings skyrocket to the top, or even take a nice leap, I'll be happy and enjoy it. But I don't plan to nitpick them in the meanwhile.
As a side note, I purposely didn't use a guy or a pair or dance team as an example b/c I don't recall seeing nearly the number of threads related to those as I did the ladies division.
As always, this is JMHO.
Gadfly and Bon Vivant
ITA that the internet skating fanbase is entirely to quick to proclaim some junior hotshot 'the next big thing' and to discard skaters after one bad (or in the case of Weir, one _good_ ) competition.
Let's give them some breathing room.
I know it doesn't help with ratings & I don't want to see any of these young girls fade out before they even get a chance to shine but I will say that I find the present state of parity in figure skating to be VERY exciting. It seems to help other sports (the NFL, MLB, etc.) I'm not certain why skating NEEDS a big star. Strange that that seems to be the case though.
As a US native and a Big fan of Figure Skating - not necessarily American skaters, I have to say, I enjoy discovering young talent - girls of 14, boys of 16. My regret is that I only get to see American juniors, and I don't think they are all great. I did pick out Johnny and Caroline, and Stephane Lambiel way back when everyone was going ga ga for Joubert. (They were seen on TV in their first Euros, and finished 3rd and 4th, respectively. I use the term special when I discover one - has nothing to do with medals or quads or spirals. If the skater has rhythm with the music, I follow the skater.
I wish there were a way to see all young skaters on the internet from every where in the world. So maybe it seems I am looking for the next best 'special'. Well, I think I found him anyway. He's from Canada.
~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~
The problem is, figure skating - like everything else - has changed so much over the past few years. Even ten years ago one could see "the next great one" come on the scene and stay there for quite some time. I will use Toller Cranston as an example. Toller took men's figure skating by storm and changed it from what it was. The guys suddenly started paying attention to detail and costumes and yes - music. Toller broke free from the old school of skating and made it okay for men to express themselves on the ice. It was incredible to see Toller for the first time. His feet moved like no other skater I had ever seen. It was easy to see Toller would be the "next great one" and he was. His influence is still felt by skaters today.
I think it is harder now for skaters to earn that spot today. It's more difficult for the men because of the quad factor and also there are so many more competitions and pressures and expectations put on young skaters at an early age. The world of skating has also shrunk. We see skaters from all over the globe constanly improving. The new kid on the block has to be prepared because there is always someone else waiting in the wings.
Interesting post and I am sure the response will be varied.
In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
Originally Posted by Mafke
I have said on this board many times before, and have been saying for years before that, that I find it completely ridiculous to crown some 13- or 14- year old girl as the next Olympic champion, or anything along that line. I could give you a list a mile long of girls who inspired all kinds of ooohs and aaahs when they were 14 but by 17 they were finishing 12th at Nationals, if they were even still in the sport at all. And these are just the AMERICAN ones. 16 and 17 seem to be especially dangerous ages; due to changes in the adolescent female body, many of these young ladies have an EXTREMELY tough time. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting excited about a talented young prospect and enjoying their skating, but to go overboard and crown them with future titles when history, quite frankly, is not on their side, seems excessive. I used to do this, too -- but I learned my lesson with Lisa Ervin in the mid-90's. But, wow -- she is still one of the most talented 14-year-olds I ever saw.
On a related note, this type of thing makes the accomplishments of Michelle and Irina in a way more impressive. These were two young ladies who came along at approximately the same time, were both dubbed "the next big thing", and actually DELIVERED. But so far that has been a pretty rare thing to have not one, but two, come along at the same time and end up fulfilling expectations.
Desperate Mouse Killer
I think it is quite understandable why everyone is expecting so much from a junior rising star. Since this sport, esp. female peak and drop very fast. You have been training for whole life for just short competitive periods. Of course ,these issues came the wrong jump learning in order to win in competition .
IMO, the fact that skating is a sport where many peak, and then drop very fast is a reason why junior level skaters should not be hyped as "the next great one" at the senior level -- the chances of junior greatness being the peak, are simply too great.
Bona Fide Member
Well, according to the statistics, if you win the World Junior Championship your chance of one day winning the World Senior Chamiponship is 25% (7 out of 28 )
Ann Patrice McDonough
Well, you shouldn't count the last three, since they are only just beginning their senior career! Also, you missed out on Jennifer Kirk.
Originally Posted by Mathman
I think it is educational to review the list along with the skaters' ages (since 1990, both b/c the demands/scoring of the sport have changed, and because I couldn't find much info about many of the earlier JW champions). Note that the skaters who won JW younger than 16 (with the exception of Jennifer Kirk) became WC's, and those who won older than 16 never became WC. Of those who won at exactly 16, some (Yuka Sato, Miki Ando) proceeded to win the WC, and the rest didn't.
Of the last three, I think both Mao Asada & Yu-na Kim have a great opportunity to win the WC at some point, and Caroline may have a good chance after Mao & Yu-na retire, as long as she can maintain her triples into the ripe old age (of, let's say, 20!).
Of the skaters who win junior worlds', they roughly fall into two categories: either they are not among the top skaters in their country and therefore get sent to JW as a consolation prize, or they're too young to qualify for WC. Those in the former category often never win a WC, and those in the latter do.
Statistically speaking, the younger you are when you win the JW, the greater chance you have at winning a WC.
Yuka Sato* (16)
Surya Bonaly (17)
Laetitia Hubert (17)
Kumiko Koiwai (?)
Michelle Kwan* (13)
Irina Slutskaya* (15)
Elena Ivanova (?)
Sydne Vogel (17)
Julia Soldatova (16)
Daria Timoshenko (18)
Jennifer Kirk (15)
Kristina Oblasova (16)
Ann Patrice McDonough (16)
Yukina Ota (16)
Miki Ando* (16)
Mao Asada (14)
Yu-Na Kim (15)
Caroline Zhang (13)
It's only natural to want to see greatness in any sphere. I think a great junior may not translate into a great senior for many reasons. I never thought Kostner would be great. Too many tehcnique problems and she is very tall for a skater, which brings it's own set of problems. When Michelle skated Salome I knew she would be one for the ages. I think being great or not is a moot point, they either are or they aren't. It doesn't mean that you can't give a brilliant performance that will give you a place in skating history, like Rudy Galindo at Nationals and Chen Lu at Worlds. That shows a courage all its own.
Bona Fide Member
The question I wonder most about is this. Suppose a new "great one" in U.S. figure skating does come along. Will that be enough to restore the popularity of the sport among the general public?
Michelle won five world championships -- something that hadn't been done in 40 years! Yet figure skating in the U.S. barely held its own during the Kwan era.
Public tastes and preferences change, no matter what we try to do. If Caroline Zhang jumped up and won an Olympic gold medal, would anyone notice?
Last edited by Mathman; 11-21-2007 at 03:01 PM.
What do you mean?! If a U.S. lady won the Olympic gold, whether it's Caroline or Kimmie or Rachael or Mirai, I'm sure people will notice. Ladies' FS is the single most popular winter olympics event. I seem to recall that flights in SLC were temporarily suspended during that event to minimize interference. Both ESPN & NBC have shown willingness to fluff up the younger skaters even now. I trust that by the time the LA Olympics have rolled around, NBC will hyped up all three U.S. entries quite a lot, such that if any one of them wins the Olympics, it will make quite a big splash.
Originally Posted by Mathman
I think figure skating is stuck in a vicious cycle right now: low ratings --> less TV coverage/advertising --> low ratings ... But this cycle can be broken if a young phenom like Caroline or Mirai or even Kimmie (again) wins the WC, and/or NBC decides to invest more publicity in skating in anticipation of 2010.
The combination of Michelle withdrawing from the Olympics '06, Sasha not delivering a clean LP in either the Olympics or the WC in '06, and Kimmie not making the podium in the subsequent year, have together undermined skating's popularity. Added to this is the inscrutability of the new COP system, and the lack of initiative on the media's part to explain COP to the average viewer. But despite the obtuse COP system, I think skating is bound to regain some popularity in the next 2-3 years as long as the young US skaters live up to their potentials.
When you say "barely held its own", what do you mean? During the bulk of the Kwan era (which happened to coincide with the "post whack boom", ticket sales and TV ratings skyrocketed -- and in 2003, Worlds got ratings in the 6's -- which has been a ratings high point in the post-SLC-scandal era.
Originally Posted by Mathman
I don't think hype started with the Internet: I think it's a staple of the post-figures era, when agents could hype their young kids, and when free skating allowed younger and younger winners to emerge, at least internationally. When Tara Lipinski lost to Sydne Vogel in Juniors, it was Lipinski's photo that appeared in Sports Illustrated, no doubt due to her agent's connections. The Zhang hype is no worse than the Lipinski hype; if anything, for every person who proclaims Zhang as the "Next Great Thing," there are a hundred who will rip apart every flaw and explain why she's not or what she has to fix to get there.
Originally Posted by Mafke
The videotape wasn't around when Lipinski could be hyped over Vogel. No one was comparing YouTube videos to tear Lipinski's performances apart.
The unexamined hype about Zhang is in the general media, not on Internet boards, where the proclamations are shot down.
What we're seeing due to the Internet is the rise and fall of skaters in detail, due to the accessibility of video, and in the worldwide media's interest in actually showing more and more skaters, unlike in the US. In the past, if a skater had a breakout performance, and was actually shown on TV and then struggled the next season, the skater could fade into oblivion, and maybe get a mention on the broadcast, and while there weren't huge number of "he's on the wrong path"/"she's a choker" comments, there was no visibility to the performances themselves.
How many times has someone said about a 19-year-old or a 22-year-old who is trying to add the quad or a 3/3 or otherwise increase tech content, "Well, Plushenko was doing X quads a competition when he was 15" or "Kwan had three World titles by her age, never going to happen"? If a skater hasn't won an Olympic title or medal at 16, /she's out, washed-up, about to be replaced by the four skaters coming out of Juniors. That kind of thinking began to be prevalent in the decade before YouTube.
Last edited by hockeyfan228; 11-21-2007 at 03:55 PM.