After finished watching the male long programs at the 2010 GPF, I started to wonder just how long since I "carefreely" enjoyed figure skating.
By “carefree,” I mean not to have to hold my breath and to count number of jump each skater performs until I finish counting all “eight” of them. And since ISU rule grants 10 % bonus to each jump after two minutes mark, I have to hold my breath for an awfully long time! Yeah, watching skating has become a real health hazard for me.
At this juncture, I’ve faced with two choices: quit watching figure skating to protect my health (both mental and physical), or reflect on factors contributing to the stale/lackluster nature of male figure skating, especially the long program. Here are some of my thoughts on the 2010 GPF male long program analysis, which started all:
1. Lack of variety in program composition across the six finalists:
a. Opening with three jumps, first of which are a featured jump, either quad or triple axel, followed by two other triple jumps, some of which are combination jumps;
b. Filling the time till the two minute mark with circular or serpentine step sequences and a combination spin. Note Chan did two spins, but rest of 5 men followed “b.” At this stage, skaters’ arms are not fraying too much, as frantic arm movement naturally consumes skaters’ energy. Remember name of the game at their quest for milking the maximum point is to preserve their energy till the 2 minutes mark;
c. As soon as the two minutes mark hits, skaters “rush” to finish 5 jumps before they lose their legs. Oftentimes skaters do lose their legs. Hence we are “forced” to witness some ugly “splat-fest.”
d. The home stretch – straight line step sequence. Many stop and pause before this element as if they are bracing themselves like, “Man, this is gonna hurt.” At this point skaters’ arms are fraying and often look frantic and chaotic, since they just finished 5 jumps and really tired. I know, step sequences are taxing; that’s why they reserve this element last. Musicality and artistic expression? Yea, forget about it. “Can’t you see how exhausted I am?” they’ll tell ya if they could.
e. Finishing touches (barely) – Spins. Often they do a combination spin and a spin element one after another, had they not put one of the spin elements right before the straight line step sequence.
f. Finishing pause – “Yea buddy, I feel for you. ‘Cus I’m exhaused, too, for watching you.”
So you see, stripping the music selection and costumes, the program compositions are basically the same. It’s as if the skaters and spectators collectively hold our breath with our mutual commiseration toward the finishing line – the final pause. I don’t know about you, but this has been my experience watching figure skating with acrobatic elements, namely, mens, lady’s, and pair skating.
With increase on tricks such as increased number of lifts, ice dancing has become more acrobatic, at least to me in this year. I have witnessed elevated number of falls and injuries. Hence ice dancing has become more anxiety ridden experience for me to watch.
I don’t enjoy the state of affair as it is presented now.
Looking back, I see the introduction of Code of Points as the turning point of figure skating becoming an anxiety ridden experience for me to watch. It is surprising that CoP has been around only since 2004. However the difference in my experience watching 2002 Olympics’ epic battle between Yagudin and Plushenko (pre-CoP), and ho-hum battle in 2010 Olympics (post-CoP between Lycacek and Plushenko) are truly striking.
Note that I am not necessarily blaming CoP per se. The inception of the CoP is noble in its effort to make the judging more objective and fair. Nor do I blame skaters’ attempt at maximizing points. It is criminal not to, if you are any self-respecting athlete.
However, right now, I feel something is lost. Figure skating has become less artistic, fluid; programs feel more mechanical, monotonous. In short, many programs look dull to watch.
I know I’ve written a lot. I will post my humble opinions on remedies, and suggestions later.