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Thread: Should the ISU regulate how much money amateur skaters can spend for training?

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    it's olympic season :D bethissoawesome's Avatar
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    Should the ISU regulate how much money amateur skaters can spend for training?

    A lot of people say in major league sports that the team with the most money wins; they can buy the best players, etc. But what about figure skating? Under the old system, natural talent and coaching could do it, but CoP is a different story... you could have a great skater but without the right guidance have them have no clue what they are doing. Then you also hear other stories about how skaters' parents have taken out mortgages and second mortgages on their homes just to continue to pay for training. Even in "Johnny Weir Be Good," he has to seriously think about his finances and talk to his family about the extreme costs of having just ONE of his programs receiving choreography from David Wilson (Yu-Na Kim's full-time choreographer), because he is so expensive.... even though he has been the 3-time Mens National Champ and won Bronze at Worlds (this was right after that). He had to skate in extra shows during the off-season to earn enough money to keep competing. This is a pretty common story for skaters.... When Mirai first took the ice in 2008, we heard about her sleeping in the closet of her parents' restaraunt.

    (Warning, I'm not bashing on Yu-Na Kim here... she is just the easiest example since her earnings have been publicized.)

    Now switch gears, we have Yu-Na Kim, who has been getting paid around 9 mililon USD per season now (and is said to be picking up an extra 10 million in endorsement deals now that she has won the OGM), She skates on private ice at a club charging $18,000 at an elitist private club; she doesn't just have A coach, she has a separate full-time coaches for spinning, jumping, general skating, and presentation... and not cheap ones at that (Olympic Bronze medalist in dance Tracy Wilson for general skating skills, for example, and Dutch National Champion Astrid Schrubb for spinning) Add to that her choreographer (David Wilson), main coach (Brian Orser), music team, and off-ice team of physical therapists, pilates instructors, and don't forget the full-time personal security (bodyguards) etc. To be able to have SO many talented people focused on just you would be any skater's dream... that is a team that could probably train a lump of mud to get up and skate an OGM-worthy performance, but with Yu-Na the talent was already there.

    But what about other skaters that have that talent? After winning Nationals in 2008, do you think Mirai Nagasu could have had the financial capacity to put a team like that together, have enough money to join a private club and get her own ice time that isn't shared to get her out of her '08-'09 season slump? Probably the only other skaters capable of putting together what Yu-Na has would be Mao Asada and Miki Ando from their endorsements in Japan, but in the US and other countries, figure skaters aren't pulling in millions of dollars in endorsement deals... they can't afford separate coaches for each element of skating, some can barely afford one.

    When you look at who has won Worlds for the past 3 years... it's Miki Ando, Mao Asada, and Yu-Na Kim... all phenomenally talented skaters, but also all skaters who can afford coaches and choreographers that other skaters could only work with if they won the lottery.

    I'm not saying skater's shouldn't be allowed to rake in extra cash from endorsements, but how fair is it when that extra money can be used to give you a leg up on the competition?

    So, the general question, should there be a limit on how much money an amateur figure skater can spend for training purposes?

  2. #2
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    IMO, NO.

    I know Yuna has this amazing team around her that probably no other skater can afford, but she was competing at a top level and winning before that. If anything, she managed to arrive at the top despite the dismal conditions for figure skating in Korea. It's a chicken or egg situation. If you are talented and you're getting results, then the sponsorship and endorsement money will come. It might not buy the kind of team that Yuna has, but it should be enough. Yuna's situation is unique because she has the entire country supporting her financially. For Korea, she is the first and only figure skating hero. No other skater will be able to earn anywhere near her income anytime soon. People talk about Mao, but Japan's support for Mao is nowhere near the level of Yuna fanaticism in Korea. When I was in Seoul, Yuna was just everywhere. It just blew my mind. I don't think we'll have to worry about other skaters being in the position to have such a financial advantage over their competitors.

    What I do have problem with, is how much having a good choreographer affects the score under the current COP system. This is why the choreographers charge so much (not that they were cheap before COP though). Not all skaters can afford somebody like David Wilson, who, IMO, is THE best when it comes to milking points. I really don't think some of the skaters losing points on PCS are really incapable of having good transitions, but they probably can't afford choreographers to present their best side.

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    it's olympic season :D bethissoawesome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pshla View Post
    IMO, NO.

    I know Yuna has this amazing team around her that probably no other skater can afford, but she was competing at a top level and winning before that. If anything, she managed to arrive at the top despite the dismal conditions for figure skating in Korea. It's a chicken or egg situation. If you are talented and you're getting results, then the sponsorship and endorsement money will come. It might not buy the kind of team that Yuna has, but it should be enough. Yuna's situation is unique because she has the entire country supporting her financially. For Korea, she is the first and only figure skating hero. No other skater will be able to earn anywhere near her income anytime soon. People talk about Mao, but Japan's support for Mao is nowhere near the level of Yuna fanaticism in Korea. When I was in Seoul, Yuna was just everywhere. It just blew my mind. I don't think we'll have to worry about other skaters being in the position to have such a financial advantage over their competitors.

    What I do have problem with, is how much having a good choreographer affects the score under the current COP system. This is why the choreographers charge so much (not that they were cheap before COP though). Not all skaters can afford somebody like David Wilson, who, IMO, is THE best when it comes to milking points. I really don't think some of the skaters losing points on PCS are really incapable of having good transitions, but they probably can't afford choreographers to present their best side.
    I see what you mean, but Yu-Na got this support originally from her placements in the JGP, JGPF and Junior Worlds. Skaters from the US certainly don't garner that kind of income and support from taking home a gold or silver medal at the JGPF or Junior Worlds (if you aren't a skating fan, you probably wouldn't even know their name). Mao certainly doesn't have the same amount of publicity in Japan that she did several years ago and Miki's has dwindled significantly, but the fact still remains that (out of the female skaters), probably only these 3 can afford putting a team behind them that really gets them noticed. A lot of it has to do with way people in Japan and Korea idolize celebrities... it's like no other place in the world. South Korea's other huge star (pop star) BoA, can't even live in Korea or visit her family there because of the fans. Ayumi Hamasaki (Japan) has to travel abroad to film music videos because of the Japanese fans.

    LOL actually... typing about it is similar... even the "most popular" music we hear on the radio gets played because of the production team behind it. A big name + big production team in the background = Success in the music industry. And it's starting to look that way for skating too.

    But even at the Olympics, there were skaters with music that wasn't even mixed for a program... it just played through a song and finished when the skater did. It makes me wonder how much you could see a skater with talent, but without the finances to have a great choreographer or coach, change or improve if they had the opportunity to work with a great team.

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    Well, the popularity of skating comes in cycles. It used to be that American skaters had higher income than Asian ones and could afford better coaching. The Russians used to have the support of the government. Now the popularity of figure skating is at an all-time high in Japan and Korea while it's dwindling in North America and Russia. It comes in cycles, so you never know what the future will bring.

    Now I agree with this whole Korea and their celebrities phenomenon. The reason is that Korea is such a tight-knit country, and they really throw their support behind their stars sometimes. This is a cultural thing that we probably will never see here in North America. Shaun White, for all his dominance in a popular sport (now THAT's what I call dominance), will never reach the level of popularity or income as Yuna Kim in Korea.

    As for the disparity in training, it's unavoidable, and it's certainly not unique to figure skating. Look at Shaun White, Red Bull built him a private pipe accessible only by helicopters so he can perfect that trick he threw down at this Olympcs. it makes me sad too, but it is what it is. What I don't like though, is how much things like music, costumes and choreography can have such a massive effect on the marks. It's nothing new, and I don't think it'll ever change. Just look at the amount of scorn and ridicule Mira Leung got for having costume that didn't fit perfectly. Like I said before, just because somebody can't afford an intricate choreography that maximizes COP doesn't mean he/she is incapable of executing one. Despite all the artistry, Olympic figure skating is still a sport.
    Last edited by pshla; 02-26-2010 at 08:37 PM.

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    it's olympic season :D bethissoawesome's Avatar
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    It's kind of sad in a way, because it does mean that there are a lot of skaters, well athletes in general especially in subjective sports, that will never reach their full potential; and when you see how hard they work to get where they are, *sigh* it just makes me wish that coaches and choreographers would take skaters on for just pure talent too, even if they aren't pocketing a huge paycheck from it as well (that's not saying Yu-Na isn't talented, she's enormously talented and hard working).

    Popularity too is a scary thing, because everything winds up being analyzed under a microscope. I'm worried about the backlash the Japanese media will have on Mao for her 2nd placement and also Yu-Na for a comment she made in an interview with the LA Times going into the Olympics (hopefully that will be overlooked now with her OGM).

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    can't come down to Earth prettykeys's Avatar
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    You want the sporting world to be Communist? This is the funniest thing to be bitching about...it just so happens that the prime example is YuNa, a figure skater from a country whose Figure Skating amenities and resources were almost non-existent that she and her family themselves had to work their way up and sacrifice so much. I'd say it was her success that brought her wealth, not the other way around. beth, this is a terrible example. While you're at it, perhaps the United States should be barred from spending so much on their athletics, as well as China, who has been known to take potential athletes from their homes and coerce them to engage in sports the individuals themselves hardly expressed any interest for (ever heard of that country girl made to take up Weight Lifting? Yeah. Borderline human rights violation, but whatever.)

    By the way, Shaun White has his own private half-pipe. LOL That's a huge advantage that matters more, I'd say.

    Edit: Oooops, pshla already said all my main points. They're fairly obvious.
    Last edited by prettykeys; 02-26-2010 at 09:07 PM.

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    it's olympic season :D bethissoawesome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prettykeys View Post
    You want the sporting world to be Communist? This is the funniest thing to be bitching about...it just so happens that the prime example is YuNa, a figure skater from a country whose Figure Skating amenities and resources were almost non-existent that she and her family themselves had to work their way up and sacrifice so much. I'd say it was her success that brought her wealth, not the other way around. beth, this is a terrible example. While you're at it, perhaps the United States should be barred from spending so much on their athletics, as well as China, who has been known to take potential athletes from their homes and coerce them to engage in sports the individuals themselves hardly expressed any interest for (ever heard of that country girl made to take up Weight Lifting? Yeah. Borderline human rights violation, but whatever.)

    By the way, Shaun White has his own private half-pipe. LOL That's a huge advantage that matters more, I'd say.
    Your concern seems to be using Yu-Na as an example... yes, I know she worked her way up to where she is, but have other skaters not done the same? Every skater works to the point where they can eventually start hiring better choreographers, etc. And yes, her success did bring her to wealth, but other skaters have similar success that only brings them the prize money from the competition, not millions od dollars in endorsements. And there is nothing wrong with taking endorsements, because they are earned. The USFSA doesn't give its top atheletes enough money to cover the costs of great choreographers and coaches, that comes from their pockets. As for what China does, that is the internal affairs of a country, not an international organization... and yes, it's well known that China takes children from a very young age and puts them through athletic bootcamp (ie. their gymnastics team). Yu-Na is extraordinarily talented, but you'd have to be blind watching the Olympics to not see the differences between scores of the programs with great choreography as opposed to the ones that didn't, and with the way the system works, it's a matter if you show it, not if you can do it. Who is to say that another talented skater without the means to hire one of the best choreographers or coaches couldn't perform it as well? It's something we will never know.

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    I don't think regulating costs would make any difference. It would probably mean that choreographers and coaches would not be able to charge as much. If I were David Wilson I would still want to work with Yuna, even if there is an upper limit on how much she can pay me, and if I don't lower my rates I wouldn't get any clients under this scenario. Not everybody who works with a top coach/choreographer becomes an Olympic Champ. On the other hand, when talent is obvious, sponsors will come. Yuna had no sponsors prior to Worlds 07. Look where she is a mere 3 years later.

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    it's olympic season :D bethissoawesome's Avatar
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    So maybe a better or another question to pose then is should there be a price cap on how much choreographers, coaches, etc. can charge (to amateur skaters) so that they are accessible to more skaters?

    Quote Originally Posted by yunasashafan View Post
    I don't think regulating costs would make any difference. It would probably mean that choreographers and coaches would not be able to charge as much. If I were David Wilson I would still want to work with Yuna, even if there is an upper limit on how much she can pay me, and if I don't lower my rates I wouldn't get any clients under this scenario. Not everybody who works with a top coach/choreographer becomes an Olympic Champ. On the other hand, when talent is obvious, sponsors will come. Yuna had no sponsors prior to Worlds 07. Look where she is a mere 3 years later.
    Wouldn't it be a good thing then that more skaters would be able to work with them? It doesn't change the fact they can work with who they want, it just means more people will also have the opportunity to work with them. And the '06-'07 season was the year that Yu-Na moved to Toronto and had a whole team put together for her... the sponsors came with Junior Worlds, I believe (or so IFS magazine says).
    Last edited by bethissoawesome; 02-26-2010 at 09:32 PM.

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    can't come down to Earth prettykeys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bethissoawesome View Post
    As for what China does, that is the internal affairs of a country, not an international organization... and yes, it's well known that China takes children from a very young age and puts them through athletic bootcamp (ie. their gymnastics team)..
    I'm sorry, but I have to wonder how your mind is ticking. If you want an "international organization" like the ISU to have regulation over individuals like it's its own dictatorship, and you're concerned about "fairness", logic has it you should start with the basics like human rights. Any sporting body (the IOC or the ISU) can ban countries that don't comply with certain rules, from participating. But I guess you are more concerned about ISU Communification of the skating world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bethissoawesome View Post
    Wouldn't it be a good thing then that more skaters would be able to work with them? It doesn't change the fact they can work with who they want, it just means more people will also have the opportunity to work with them.
    I would agree with that. I think however that a certain coach/choreographer would only be able to work with a limited number of skaters and a great one would still pick from the top of the talent heap.

    Quote Originally Posted by bethissoawesome View Post
    And the '06-'07 season was the year that Yu-Na moved to Toronto and had a whole team put together for her... the sponsors came with Junior Worlds, I believe (or so IFS magazine says).
    She moved there mid-season. If you look at her in the K and C at worlds you'll notice that the jacket she's wearing has no sponsors on it. The Hyundai logo appeared after 07 worlds, even not after her victory at the 06 GPF.
    Last edited by yunasashafan; 02-26-2010 at 10:56 PM.

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    Well perhaps we could talk about how people like Mirai and Johnny by virtue of living in the United States have access to a lot more top coachies, facilities and specialists than people living in Korea or in other countries without a figure skating history. This idea of poor American skaters because Korea has one star is ridiculous.

    Yes Yu-na has the best training stuff now, but she didn't have it when she was younger. And by the time she went to train in Canada full time. She was already the Senior Grand Prix Final Champion. And do you know what Alexei Mishin said about her at that competition. He said "Mao and Yu-na are the two best female skaters in the world by far. No one else comes close." And that was before Yu-na had the fulltime specialists etc.

    And seriously since when is having Frank Carroll and Lori Nichol some kind of disadvantage.. Mirai when she was young if I call had some specialists and I wouldn't be surprised if Frank did. Heck Caroline worked with Lucinda Ruh on spins. Skaters from the US have a lot more access to stuff than Yu-na had when she was a child.

    And in Mirai's case, she's a Japanese citizen. If she feels there could be more money in Japan, there was nothing stopping Mirai from going over to Japan and skating for them. She could have said no to her first Junior worlds assignment and nobody would have stopped her. Of course though she didn't want to do that and I'm sure part of the reason for that was because it would be so freakin difficult to even make the team there.

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    Yeah, the word that popped into my mind when I read this post too was "Communist." Sorry, might sound nice and fair on paper, but in real life, not so much. Anyhow, are these skaters even considered amateur anymore? They skate, they tour, they have reality shows, and they're making money (I actually think skaters should be getting paid MORE). Anyhow, it's a free market our there, whether you're skating or doing whatever else.

  14. #14
    Go marry the quad if you love it so much DesertRoad's Avatar
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    As bekalc analysis shows, it's rather asinine to use Yu Na Kim as an example, as she rose to the top of the sport with far less access to the top coaches, choreographers and skating culture afforded to skaters in countries where the sport has flourished. It's rather like citing a self-made billionaire as an example of how wealth breeds wealth. Your basic assertion has some truth to it, but the example could not be more off.

    Here's what this all boils down to: access. Two skaters, with exactly the same kind of wealth, would still have a totally different level of access to the best facilities, coaches and choreographers depending on where they live. A skater who lives in Australia, for example, would have the added expense of having to travel abroad, possibly live there, just to have the access that say, a skater in New Jersey already has her whole life. And a skater from Kazakhstan might have the added difficulty of having to hire a translator and/or learn the language himself. And in either case, the skater abroad has to deal with culture shock, isolation, lack of family support and all kinds of things a local skater doesn't have to. Measuring this by wealth and spending is simplistic. We are all missing out on great skaters and wonderful performances because those skaters don't have the same access as others. This is not something we can ever completely equalize.

    But that doesn't mean we can't try. Here are some ideas that come to mind:

    While some kind of regulation would help, do you trust the horribly corrupt and inept ISU to do it? I don't. I wouldn't trust the ISU to handle the finances of a bum. In fact, fixing the corruption in the ISU and its judges is a place to start. The ISU waste resources that should be going to athletes instead. Same with any corrupt national federation. Their job should be to cultivate athletes, not themselves.

    Judges should be required to write out an explanation of their PCS to all the skaters they judge. It'd A) maybe help judges come up with less ridiculous PCS, and B) help skaters improve even if they don't have access to the top choreographers and coaches. The less opaque the scoring system is, the less need there is for people with secret special knowledge to parse the crap that goes into a high score.

    Top choreographers and coaches should do more pro bono work. The top choreographers should travel around the world and create programs for promising local skaters, just a little bit.

    Skating fans should make more of an effort to donate to promising athletes from around the world. Not just in money, but in COP advice, too. I'd wager there are skate-nerds who know more about the COP than a lot of coaches and choreographers. Get a webcam and an IM program and start doing some armchair coaching.
    Last edited by DesertRoad; 02-27-2010 at 06:06 AM.

  15. #15
    Dreaming and dancing Bennett's Avatar
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    I think that FS is getting a bit like the chess. You really have to have the brain to strategically maximize the points. It's no coincident that Jeff's hobby was Sudoku, in addition to having David Wilson in his team.

    Yes, it is possible to beat quad jumpers without a quad, but this is possible only if you really study the rules. Perhaps Jeff's studious by nature and strong at math and he also has extra needs to study the rules very well because he didn't have the quad or very reliable 3A or 3Lz.

    A lot of established coaches and chorepgrahers are relatively old and I think that there is a chance for younger coaches to do a lot better, esp if they themselves skated under the CoP.

    Like Morosov doing better than TAT. He was creative and flexible enough to adjust to CoP better than TAT.

    Dai's SP is choreographed by Mr. Kenji Miyamoto who's young and not famous yet as a choreograher. Mr. Miyamoto was an ice dancer taught by Mr. Yutaka Higuchi. He also skated as a single originally. I don't know how old he is but he wouldn't be older than Morosov (I used to skate in the same rink with him). I heard that Dai himself participated in the program creation process. Dai's SP was one of the most sophisticated ones in the men's comps. It was full of delicate transitions that Morosov's programs didn't have. It did garner a lot of points, without missing levels.

    Yes, you can buy the brain if you have the money (e.g., invite tech specialists and ISU associates to learn the system better and get advice). But the brain can come without enormous amount of money.

    I think it can be less political and less intangible than the ways in which personal connections work in other arts (e.g., like right before the piano competition, you'd better receive a lesson for $1,000 from a big name).
    Last edited by Bennett; 02-27-2010 at 06:49 AM.

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