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Thread: The "Ice Queens"

  1. #1
    SkateFan4Life
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    The "Ice Queens"

    While viewing my videotape of the "Fire and Ice" figure skating television documentary that featured segments on most of the top American women skaters from the post World War II period through the 1998 Winter Olympics, I was intrigued by a quote attributed to 1960 Olympic gold medalist, Carol Heiss.

    She said (to paraphrase) "The woman figure skater carries a burden that the male figure skater doesn't have to carry. A male figure skater can go out there and be strong, tough, aggressive, and in harmony with his technique, and that's all that's required of him. A female skater, however, has to be just as strong and competitive, but she also has to look like a princess."

    There's some truth in this statement, I believe. For so long the women skaters have been expected to be virtual princesses, both with their appearance, behavior, and skating. They were supposed to be "ladies", despite the fact that they competed in a sport that required years of grueling, tough practice - tons of sweat and long hours. There's nothing terribly glamorous about training, but these women are expected to make it all look so easy and carefree. In my opinion, this fairy-tale persona is very misleading and can give a very unrealistic impression to young girls as to just what they must go through, and endure, if they want to be top competitive figure skaters. It's tough, tough work.
    I bet some are in for a major shock when they start to realize the years of work and effort that are required to just learn all of the jumps, spins, and other moves, not to mention learning how to present a feminine look while performing these moves.

    Carol Heiss's comments about the guys - how they just have to go out their and perform their athletic moves - may explain in part why her former student, Timothy Goebel, had such undeveloped artistry. Maybe Heiss did not consider this aspect terribly important, and perhaps she just did not place much emphasis on Timothy's learning correct carriage, line, etc.

  2. #2
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    I did always wonder why he never developed more artistically.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    I would say that Ms Heiss is correct up to John Curry. It was he who first showed that in addition to all the macho moves, one could also be a Prince!

    Joe

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Tonia Kwiatkowski, another long time Heiss student, wasn't terribly artistic either, most of the time.

    Does anyone remember any Heiss student that had decent presentation?

    Years ago I read a book about Carol which said that she took ballet as kind of a remedial cure for not so good presentation prior to becoming a winner, so this theory may fit.

    dpp

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    Joesitz:

    I thought that honour belonged to Toller. He changed men's skating and influenced generations of male skaters to not be afraid to express themselves.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    SkateFan4Life:

    That's the great thing about figure skating - the ladies are called "ladies" for a reason. I suppose now in this generation the term has somewhat lost its meaning.

    "Ice Queen" has a total different meaning to me. I wouldn't call Katarina Witt a "Princess" she is an "Ice Queen." Katarina used to display agression!

    Anyway, what's wrong with being ladylike?

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    Does anyone remember any Heiss student that had decent presentation?
    I was wondering the same thing. I'm not terribly "up" on all Heiss's students but the ones I am familiar with really don't have much presentation. Tim Goebel is an excellent example. I can understand to a certain degree about gaining the jumps and then working on the artistic side but he was terrible before he went to Frank. Maybe just because you can do it, doesn't mean you can teach it. Carol Heiss was before my time so I don't know anything about her skating.

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    In defence of Carol. Do coaches actually teach artistry? I would think the choreographer would demonstrate a move to the music and the skater would find his own personal artistry to complete this move.

    There is a lack of artistry throughout competitive skating in general. Much is due to the drive for technical superiority. Basic skills include balletic line (unless a specific character is being employed). I don't think style can be taught. It is so individual but yes, proper line can at least be shown.

    Joe

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    You're right, Joe. A coach can't "teach" artistry. Style and artistry are going to depend on the individual.
    Posture is such a noticible flaw in skating and it looks like Carol could have done something to help correct that, for instance. I wonder if Tim had stayed with her, how much he would have progressed at this time?

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    Hm. I think one can learn a lot about good presentation - from teachers on and off the ice.

    And a coach can stress choreography or he can purely concentrate on jumps.

    I think it's not a coincidence that grown and renowned skaters like Kurt Browning and Torvill&Dean said they learnt a lot from ballet. If you watch Winkler & Lohses original dances - and they are really good at them - they work a lot with floor dancers to get the feeling of a waltz or flamenco steps....

    In my opinion you need
    - a coach who is good at technique
    - nevertheless has a good eye for style
    - who encourages the skater to try out new things
    - brings out the inner capacities of the skaters
    - and is not too arrogant to allow outside influences...

  11. #11
    SkateFan4Life
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    Two of Carol Heiss' top women students, Tonia Kwiatowski and Lisa Erin, won medals at Nationals and qualified for World Teams.
    Neither rose to the top in the US or on the World scene.

    Both Tonia and Lisa had presentation skills that, well, had a bit to be desired. Tonia was a very frenetic skater - zipping around the rink at breakneck speed, popping off jumps, dashing to the next element, etc. She never learned how to hold her moves so that they would have greater emphasis. Lisa also skated quickly, jumped all over the place, and had some nice spins, but not the best artistry.

    When she was an amateur skater, Carol Heiss won five World titles and the 1960 Olympic gold medal. She was known primarily as a strong, athletic skater. I've seen clips from her 1960 Olympic long program, and it was full of jumps, but had very little in the way of musicality, artistry, or line. Carol was the best jumper of her era, and she had strong school figures, so she undoubtedly was the best overall skater of her era and deserved all of her titles. She just wasn't an artistic skater. Perhaps that explains why she, apparently, did not emphasis presentation with Tonia, Lisa, and especially with Timothy Goebel.

    Just my two cents, of course.

  12. #12
    Old school Tim fan
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    I disagree about Tonia and Lisa not being artistic but thats just my opinion. But, one of Carol's former students, Aren Neilson, was very artistic. When his jumps were on, there were great. Her current student, Parker Pennington, IMO, is following in that.

  13. #13
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    Perhaps Carol Heiss could not be held responsible for Timothy Goebel's lack of artistry, but I think she should have seen that he was taught proper carriage and line. Look at his curved back and slumped carriage. Ugh!

  14. #14
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Well, she could at least have kept him from skating in that odd outfit that looked like overalls with one of the straps undone (the last year he was with her).

    It emphasized all his worst features.

    It is not clear to me how much of the slumping and round shoulderness people complain of in Tim is structural and therefore not fixable, only minimizable by costume, choreography, and extra effort by the skater.

    I have also wondered if his arthritis affected his back as well as his hips.

    dpp

  15. #15
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    Actually, I think that Tim's artistry was noticeably improved last season, perhaps due to his working with Frank Carroll, Lori Nichol,
    and others. Tim's rotational ability is absolutely outstanding - if he can really crank it up, artistically, he will be a definite threat to win a World title.

    As for the "Ice Queens" concept, when I began this post, I was querying all of you on your reaction to Carol Heiss' statement that the women have to be just as athletic as the men, but they have to look like princesses - an extra "burden" for them to carry.
    I'm responsible for this thread meandering off towards Timothy Goebel, for I brought his artistry - or lack thereof- into the initial post.

    So - what do you all think? Do the women really carry the burden of looking like princesses when they compete? Looks aren't the primary criteria for success in women's competitive figure skating, but it can't hurt if the female skater is attractive. Peggy Fleming was a knockout, as was Nancy Kerrigan and Jill Trenary, and Michelle, Sasha, Ann Patrice, Tara, Kristi and, yes - Tonya - are all attractive young women. It seems that you have to have "the look" - glamorous costume, lots of makeup, etc - so that you look like a princess when you compete.

    This "Ice Queen" concept carries over to expected behavior as well. Dorothy Hamill has been quoted as saying that, in her era, the women were expected to be "goody two-skates", always wear a smile, and always act ladylike. No pouting, hissy fits, backstabbing the competition, etc. If you don't win, you are a gracious runner-up (or whatever place you finish), and if you win, you graciously and humbly accept your gold medal.

    Sounds as though the women were placed on two pedestals - one for appearance/performance, the other for behavior.

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