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Thread: Winning Ways

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    Winning Ways

    I have always been very interested in the working of human minds, particularly those of successful people, aka winners. I certainly consider elite figure skaters highly successful and, well, elite. The winningest of them of course are the creme de la creme, excelling in an extremely demanding, unforgiving, and often cruel sport. I discussed the mental espects of competing in this sport in the Peak At Right Time thread and was stirred by the plight of Swedish Men Skaters, Adrain Schultheiss in particular.

    In the current What do you want to see at Worlds for the Men? thread, I posed a question to our new, insightful, and articulate member mot regarding Takahashi and her, as well as others', reaponses are interesting and intriguing. I therefore decided to continue the discussion on this new thread so as not to derail the original thread. I will "move", well copy, the original posts on topic here to begin. I'm not too sure when I myself will continue the discussion as I may be quite occupied today. Please contribute.

    My initial quesion:

    mot, can you explain for me something about Takahashi from a cultural perspective?

    As you can see from the Quads Of The Season list I've compliled, Dai has a very poor record in his quad attempts this season. He has had just one success and the rest cost him so much directly and indirectly. He is much better off doing triples and even doubles than trying for quads. I know he has problems with 4T due to his knee injury so he's trying 4F, which is very smart because the GOE penalty is lighter relative to that for a 4T. Still, with the miserable success rate he's had, it's just not worth it and it hurts his overall scores and medal chances substantially.

    Why does he insist on doing it? I feel the Japanese skaters, male and female, are pressured to do the hardest jumps, whether or not it's a good strategy. Could it be because of the tradition initiated by the great successful Japanese skating pioneers like Midori Ito, or other aspect of Japanese culture that place such importance on quad attempts?

    eta I am especially interested in whether there is more pressure on someone with a hero status like Daisuke or if the same demand is made on all capable skaters? Unlike some earlier Japanese great jumpers, Daisuke is all round and the PCS king, so why is doing a quad in competition imperative?

    mot kindly replied:

    SkateFiguring, let me try...

    Yes, Japanese media do focus on so-called harder jumps, meaning rotation wise - I mean I do not think they know much about the difference between let's say lutz and sal. But I do not think there is pressure put on the skaters by them. The federation, coaches and teams are also not silly enough to take the media too seriously. Having said that, it is only quite recently that Japanese skaters become highly regarded for their artistic sides not only for their jumps, it is possible that in the training there has traditionally been stronger emphasis on mastering jumps when skaters are young. (The same way, there seems to be stronger focus on basic skating skills in the North America and more balletic training in Russia in general.)

    I can also add something from Daisuke's personal view to answer your query. He explained the reason why he continues to try on quads regardless of rather poor success rate for the last couple of seasons as follows;

    1. He started competing in the senior rank when it was considered not possible to win Men's competition without putting in quads - not only one but multiple of them if poss. The idea has stuck with him, he said - the true Men's champion for him was the one with the quad.
    2. He used to be able to include two quads in a programme (07-08 season in which he landed them successfully at Japan Nats and the 4CC). According to his own words, for him to say he has truly returned to his former self after the injury, it is necessary to get back to that level technically.
    3. He believes the only way to nail the quad in the competition is to keep on trying it in competitions regardless of the success rate. (This attitude seems to be shared by Kozuka - I think he has included the quad in his long programmes before he landed one for the first time - though two-footed - at the Olys for two seasons without a single success?)
    4. Funnily enough, he said he does not like the quad as a jump and he would not therefore try it in the exhibitions and shows. He goes for the quad because it is in the spirit of competitive sport that one always trys the best they can. Ah, allegedly someone - perhaps from the federation? - suggested he should NOT include the quad in the free at the Vancouver Olys to secure a podium finish - a suggestion he ignored.


    So it seems all personal.

    You may still call it Japanese cultural aspect of his quest for the quad - that it is all about personal attitude. Culturally speaking, we do regard one's path to and/or quest for success as highly as success itself.

    Hope this gives you some insight.
    genki:

    I have a suspicion that his true love maybe Ice Dance
    Hi Mot. Haqjimemashite:
    I am Japanese too, living in US.
    I guess your suspicion is right. He said somewhere long time ago, that if he has a choice between dance/pair, he said he would choose dance.
    He also said in a variety show that if he is not a skater, he would probably be a dancer.

    Hope he would do latin dance or something after he retires. I dance ballrroom, so it is my dream to see sexy Latin dance on the floor from Dai !!
    SkateFiguring:

    Well, Dai can always do ice shows with emphasis on his fabulous dance steps and hot performances when he retires from competitions. He will be so loved and in demand.

    I have felt that there is a value placed on trying those quads higher than scores and winning. It is a compelling honour worth the price or sacrifice if the goal is not achieved. It may be personal, but personal values are generally influenced and nurtured by society. What is interesting is that though it may be manly or macho for Dai to hold such belief, the top female skater, Mao, also seems compelled to do her 3A. That's why I thought there may be a more broad based value system that makes trying to achieve the most respected element in the sport extremely important, reflecting the skater's character, especially as a role model.

    I remember how cute Dai was meeting, and being star struck by, Kumakawa. He said he almost fell in love! Maybe now he knows how his fans feel about him!
    Layfan:

    Daisuke usually seems to be able to get himself together even after falling on the quad and deliver the rest of the program well. He gets the audience going and makes them forget about the fall. So from the perspective, I've always thought, yeah, go for it. It seems to give him confidence just to try it.
    mot:

    Hi genki,

    I am also an ex-pat, living on the other side of the Atlantic from you. I am always very envious that figure skating receives much more media coverage over on your side than here in the UK, which is a real pity considering the long successful history of figure skating in this country, and also a big contribution it had on the sport - well, up until a few decades ago. My love affair with figure skating started with T&D.

    I would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.

    SkateFiguring, perhaps I am going off the topic too much, but I thought I'd better clarify further...

    I suspect Daisuke and Mao could somehow get away with their not-always-successful pursuit for the quad and the triple axel, as they still managed to get the results. Miki on the other hand suffered a massive media bashing when her failed attempt on the quad sal costed her higher placement at the Torino Olympics. (Poor soul - the media still wants to know the season after the season whether she would try the quad sal again though. Here goes again, the country's fascination with rotations!) At the same Olympics, Shizuka did not put in her triple-triple combination, which she was capable of, in her gold-medal-winning performance and was never really criticised for it - everyone was congratulatory on her beautiful, flawless performance and the GOLD MEDAL! (I must add here that it was very wise of her not to attempt it just for the sake of it, because it was clear in her own mind that her goal was to win the gold so that she could be on the advantageous starting point for her career as a pro skater, which she much preferred to be than a competitive one. And I LOVE and praise her to bits for it.)

    Sad to admit, but if Daisuke had sunk again down in the 8th because of his failed quad attempt in 2010, like he did in 2006, I cannot tell whether his 'personal' attitude would have been equally praised or not. (Yes, 'he was the MAN!' was the sentiment widely shared by the Japanese population after the Vancouver Olys - because he won the bronze despite the failed quad, I believe.) I mean his decision to pursue the quad was, I presume, culturally-based / influenced as I have written previously, but whether it was socially accepted / praised or not could have been depending on the result. As a fan, I am glad he delivered the result.
    treeloving:

    DearMot,

    I'm not Japanese so there would be no way I know about Japan more than you. But if the concern about quad is personal thing or media thing, could you pleae kindly explain why it seems that many top Japan skates put the difficult jump as their priority. For example, beside Dai, I remember Miki wanted to do do 3-3 at world 2009 but Morozov doesn't her to do it and told her to focus on performance instead. After she got bronze I remember Miki said something about how she use to only concern on jump or something like that.

    This case seems to be the same with Yuzuru as it seems that he put quad as his priority and when the media did a documentary about him, they seems to choose the theme "quad"(but this may be just the work of media right?). Anyway, from his interview this season it seems that he focus a lot on quad. Also, top five men from Japan now attemp Quad.

    Mathman:

    I think there are individuals in every culture who go for broke and others who take a more calculated path to their goals.
    mot:

    I totally agree with you, Mathman.

    Treeloving:,I am afraid I cannot talk on behalf of Japanese skaters and summarise why they prioritise difficult jumps (rotation-wise, let me emphasise again ... as flutzing seems to be common amongst Japanese skaters and if the focus is on 'difficulty', then they should have sorted it out long time ago!)

    I also do not think it is an exclusively Japanese trait either - perhaps it is because there are so many of them in GPS and Championships that they stand out? European girls have a go at 3-3 combo (and occasionally land), Stephen Carriere tried a quad in Skate America this season and took me by surprise. Patrick's quad is no way near as reliable as let's say Kevin van Der Perren's in GPS but he put it in anyway. Last season, Oda, whose gorgeous quad and quad combo were regularly witnessed in practice sessions, never really attempted one in competitions (only at Japan Nats and he fell). Japan also had a world champ without great jumping ability but with everything else - Yuka Sato. Akiko Suzuki's strength and priority are not jumps either.

    If you allow me to simplify, I thinks there are roughly three camps, in which we can categorise those skaters who attempt the difficult jumps regardless of success rate;
    1. those who have to otherwise they have no chance of winning / medalling / being on the higher placement - because of low PCS, weak footwork, spins, etc;
    2. those who have a good success rate during practice and need to get used to put one in when it counts; and
    3. those who can afford to fail as they have other things in thier arsenal to compensate - high PCS, strong footwork, spins, etc.


    Using Japanese skaters as examples;

    I think Miki in 2009 was the case #1; despite her coach's repeated encouragement, she herself lacked in confidence, and believed she needed her jumps to win. This seems to have changed drastically last season, she concentrated on her presentation side and gained confidence from her relative success. I put Yuzuru Hanyu in this category too. This is his first senior season and he could not rely on PCS, which was low in GPS, and he had nothing to loose. (having solid 3A also made it easier for him to go for the quad though) Machida, Mura, Haruka Imai are the same. They have no choice but to jump. Mao last season may have been feeling like this too, as she needed 3A to compete with Yu-Na.

    Kozuka and Oda (this season) seems be the case #2. Both of them land the quad regularly in practice, so all is left for them to do is to nail it in competitions.

    Daisuke may be the case #3. As well as his personal quest for the quad, I am sure he kind of knows that he can afford to fail to some extent, as he is a so-called complete package and has means to make up the points lost. He seems to be now aware though, that he needs the quad to be on the level playing field with Patrick.

    Talking about Yuzuru - he at the beginning of the season said the quad is what separates the senior skaters from the juniors. He in reality needed the quad just to compete with those who are expected to be in the final flight of Japan Nats - all have the quad or nearly do in their arsenals. (Daisuke Murakami, Japanese No 7 man, fell but rotated 4S at Universiade BTW.)

    However, his focus is not only on the quad - in the recent interview, he said he had been overwhelmed and fascinated by Patrick's skating skills, which he witnessed with his own eyes during the practice at COR. He now calls Patrick as his role model in skating skills. How he described his admiration was rather funny and cute - he said he wanted Patrick to give him a piggyback and skate, so that he could learn how to do it, and he was afraid if they'd hold and skate together like ice dancers, he would fall by trying to keep up with Patrick. He said he'd then even imitated Patrick a bit and went for deeper edges than usual during the warm-up and was surprised that it gave him much more speed. He now says that Plushenko is his hero, Johnny his idol, Tod his textbook, Patrick his role model - the young boy wants everything!

    Serious Business:

    How he described his admiration was rather funny and cute - he said he wanted Patrick to give him a piggyback and skate, so that he could learn how to do it
    That is going to inspire a few slashfics.

    mot:

    That is going to inspire a few slashfics.
    I googled the word as I had never come across it ... Blimey... Gob-smacked that some people's imagination could stretch that far. Hope they remember he's just turned 16 and leave the poor kid alone.

    genki:

    Hi Mot
    would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.
    Yeah!! Exactly!! That is a true choreographic masterpiece done by Kenji Miyamoto.
    I am so happy to find a person like you. I showed it to some of my American friends and they said something like," Is he gay?" Common, why can you not appreciate art like that?

    Re Quad, I would like to add one thing about Dai.

    Dai used to land two beautiful quads in one program before injury. He said in the interview, " I used to do two quads in one program, so at least I will have to come back to that level or even exceed it."
    This may explain his strong quest for quads.

    SkateFiguring:

    mot, very interesting information. I'd love to comment on it but it's so OT, starting from my question for you. I'd like to take it to a new thread but don't have an appropriete thread title for it. I like to analyse mindsets and assess the skaters from where their heads are at. I need to know what to call the subject.

    mot:

    SkateFiguring, I shall keenly await your new thread.

    Buttercup:

    I would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.)
    Bachelorette was a fabulous program. Seeing it at the 2008 Worlds gala, I couldn't understand why everyone had been so excited about the techno Swan; Bachelorette was so much cooler (well, Morozov vs. Miyamoto, there you go). I would love to see Daisuke do something like it competitively.

    He now says that Plushenko is his hero, Johnny his idol, Tod his textbook, Patrick his role model - the young boy wants everything!

    I know Yuzuru admires Johnny and Plushenko, and I think you can see it in his skating. It's nice that he is constantly inspired by others and tries to incorporate things he learns from observing their skating into what he does, while still pursuing his own style. Yuzuru seems to be going in the right direction and considering he is amazingly talented already, that bodes well for his future in the sport.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 03-02-2011 at 09:15 AM.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    This topic seems interesting and everything but I'm not entirely sure what it's about. Are we talking about Playing it Safe vs. Going for Broke? Or is this supposed to be a general discussion about mental toughness?

    Anyway, it's interesting because if you look back there are plenty of examples that fit either argument. Playing it safe worked out just fine for Shizuka in Torino. It was the smart thing to do - she knew she didn't need the triple triples after Sasha's mistakes. I suppose Irina still could have beat her but it would have been hard.

    I think there's also a difference between playing it safe and having a plan and sticking to it. Shizuka played it safe - she could to triple triples if she wanted to. IMO Evan had a plan and stuck to it. He knew his quad wasn't consistent so he left it out and just let things fall where they fell. Joannie Rochette talked about that earlier in the season when she tried to throw in a 3-3 during the GPS and it didn't work out. She later said she had learned about listening to her coaches and sticking with the plan.

    But Michelle sort of played it safe and was reserved in Nagano and it didn't work out for her at all.

    I guess you just have to know yourself as a skater. You have to know what your abilities are and you have to know who your competition is. If you have formidable competition, you can't play it safe.

    Incidently, it was so great last year to see Yuna give it her all at the Olympics and not hold back despite being the overwhelming favorite. She might just have decided to play it a little safe. It might even have led to mistakes and cost her the gold as her lead over Mao wasn't as huge as normal going into the FS.

    I suppose there is a fine line between playing it safe and doubting yourself. Probably in a lot of cases it's best to just know you can deliver the very best performance you've been doing in practice and just must the confidence and courage to go for it - like Yuna did. But there are cases like Shizuka...

    Like a said earlier, in Daisuke's case he seems to know himself as a skater and he has a rare ability to put a fall behind him and deliver the rest of the program perfectly so he should go for it. Hopefully land it.
    Last edited by Layfan; 03-02-2011 at 01:08 PM.

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    I definitely admire Takashi for trying something that is risky to have personal fulfillment in the sport he is in. Like now you have skaters trying quads because failure in't so risky. But Takahashi was doing quads when failure meant no points. None at all not even for trying or doing 3 revolutions or more in the air but underrotating. Like with Oda he is now doing quads and that could be because he is not with Morozov anymore (who tends to encourge his students to go for BV and GOE rather than big jumps)or the rule changes. Lysacek and Buttle could find fulfillment while doing all triple programs knowing that quads were considered something champions did-they redifined champions as men who didn't do quads. This could not be something Takahashi could embrace ever and I like that. You could say personal belief and skating culture can trump country culture. There is definitely seems to be different groups. You have Ando Vs. Asada with being clean vs doing a 3A all the time. Basically all the japanese men are trying quads now but Oda didn't do any for a whole season-but in that season takahashi won Japanese nationals but this season Ando beat Asada - so it is not the Japanese judges at nationals tried to skew results to the jumpers.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gmyers View Post
    Lysacek and Buttle could find fulfillment while doing all triple programs knowing that quads were considered something champions did-they redifined champions as men who didn't do quads.
    It is interesting to look at the history of the CoP in that regard. You could call it the Yagudin Rule.

    When the Cop was being developed in the 2002-03 season, quads were initially given a high base value. Then they tested the system by re-scoring the 2002 Olympics under CoP. Quad King Tim Goebel came out the winner.

    Well, it was obviously wrong (reasoned the ISU) for a one-jump wonder like Goebel to beat an all-round champion like Yagudin, so they lowered the base value of quads sufficiently to make sure that Yaguldin would win.

    Then when Buttle and Lysacek came along, the ISU decided that they had gone too far in the direction of a "balanced program," so they went back and raised the values of quads twice in the last two years.

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    I want to also call something to your attention about 'going for broke'

    Often times skaters do a hundred jumps in a week and if they are successful the majority of the time a feel comfortable doing a quad (for arguments sake) they will put it in the program.

    So you see them 3 times and they fall 5 times on the quad so you say "why not just do a triple?" but in their minds they have done that quad hundreds of time perfectly in practice and missed it 5 times when it counted, you just didn't see the ones they landed.

    Skaters wouldn’t put in a hard element they haven’t mastered at home; no skaters would ever say “I landed the Axel once, let’s put it in”

    Why risk it? Why not?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Here is another question that I have wondered about. In a team sport like basketball, some players relish the chance to take the last shot to win or lose the game. "Gimme the ball! Gimme the ball!" Others dread being put it this position.

    Is there any analogous situation in figure skating? Sometimes skaters are raring to go. They charge onto the ice before the previous skater has finished his closing pose. Others look like they want to fall though a hole in the ice.

    Mirai Nagasu, for instance, is sometimes one and sometmes the other.

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    SkateFiguring, thanks for giving us the place to continue our discussion.

    I have been following Takahashi's case quite closely, not only his performance in the competitions but also what he is like as a person, who is a figure skater, because:
    a) I like him as a skater; and
    b) he is one of the easiest to follow - with already two autobiographies published, another book by a journalist just came out, two serial articles by himself in the newspaper (still on-going, following his journey through the season), and literally his interviews are everywhere in Japanese media. If you are interested in what is in the head and mind of a competitive figure skater, who are still competing, he is indeed an interesting one to observe. And he has been surprisingly honest about his lack of confidence, vanity, desire for applause, shortcomings, inferiority complex, etc.

    But I am in general interested in how skaters deal with their competitive career, off ice as well as on ice - as I cannot even begin to imagine what takes to be out there on the ice, on their own, competing to be the very best - what drives them, what supports them, how they prepare, how they overcome. How do they start and persevere and come to the decision to end it all?

    I would love to learn more about inner working of other figure skaters, but lack of time and language skills often prevent me from gathering information and developing insights of other skaters, except Japanese ones. So I would be delighted if any fellow posters can share what they read/heard/know, and we can chat about it. For example, this season, I am very much intrigued by the way Alissa is dealing with her nerves - how is she doing it? How about Verner, what is he doing to rebuild his strength and confidence after the disastrous season? Joubert (oh Joubert!) what does he want to do / is he going to do for the rest of his career?

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    Did Charlie Sheen inspire this topic? Kidding!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Here is another question that I have wondered about. In a team sport like basketball, some players relish the chance to take the last shot to win or lose the game. "Gimme the ball! Gimme the ball!" Others dread being put it this position.

    Is there any analogous situation in figure skating?
    No, I don't think there is one. There is a team dynamic involved that you just don't have in the skating world. It is the willingness to stand up and say, "It's on me if we lose this game." I believe it is one of leadership and responsibility...and takes a lot of guts to do.

    In skating, it's all individual. Even your coach has a very limited role in the process. There is no one who controls the skater's destiny except herself. In team sports, it CAN, and very often DOES, come down to one player's skill and ability under pressure to decide the outcome of the game. There is that element of trust, and also forgiveness should the player fail to execute (think a missed shot at the buzzer in basketball, or a game-winning field goal in overtime in the NFL).

    I suppose if a team skating event were to be created in the future, you could have elements of this dynamic depending on the rules set. Say the score between two countries was close (a virtual tie), and teams had a choice as to which skater to send out to break the tie. Possibly something there, but still.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan View Post
    I think there's also a difference between playing it safe and having a plan and sticking to it. Shizuka played it safe - she could to triple triples if she wanted to. IMO Evan had a plan and stuck to it. He knew his quad wasn't consistent so he left it out and just let things fall where they fell. Joannie Rochette talked about that earlier in the season when she tried to throw in a 3-3 during the GPS and it didn't work out. She later said she had learned about listening to her coaches and sticking with the plan.
    I wonder maturity as a competitive skater comes into an equation. When they are younger, and not expected a podium finish each time they compete, they can throw in whatever and get away with it.

    But once you have become the top skater representing your country, and are expected (by yourself, included) to be on the podium when it really counts, then you have to change your mind set. It takes personal maturity to do so (hence, you quoted Joannie talking about having learnt to listen to her coaches).

    It also takes maturity to know what your strength is and trust it - Evan worked hard until he reached the level he did not need the quad, he believed in his ability and training, so he stuck with the plan and succeeded. Mind you, he tried on the quad in the US Nats running up to the Olys, so I am not sure how strong his belief was at that stage.

    I think Shizuka knew what she wanted and what she needed to get it, so calmly and collectedly, she did exactly what she needed to do there and then. The difference was that she had to have plan A and B (with or without 3-3) as the competition she had was very close. I think she worked on her spins, footwork and presentation so that she did not have to rely on 3-3, so that she could have 2 plans. Sometimes, getting to the level to have an option of playing it safe is hard work.

    Sometimes, younger skaters have maturity to understand the situation they are in and act accordingly. I think Michal Brezina in Torino Worlds had no choice but to leave the quad out, which he was witnessed nailing consistently in practice. As Tomas not being there, he was solely responsible to secure the two spots in the next Worlds for his country and could not afford to bomb. Kozuka was placed in the similar situation in the 09 Worlds, after Oda didn't get the score he was expected, to secure three spots for Japan at the Olys - he for the first time in the season took the quad out of his long and replaced it with 2A, and it paid off.
    Last edited by mot; 03-02-2011 at 05:09 PM. Reason: edit to calryfing a few points

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    What an interesting topic. Just wanted to add a case of Midori Ito 'playing it safe' in Albertville going for 3lutz instead of 3axel in the TP, only to fall, a jump she almost never missed.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mousepotato View Post
    I want to also call something to your attention about 'going for broke'

    Often times skaters do a hundred jumps in a week and if they are successful the majority of the time a feel comfortable doing a quad (for arguments sake) they will put it in the program.

    So you see them 3 times and they fall 5 times on the quad so you say "why not just do a triple?" but in their minds they have done that quad hundreds of time perfectly in practice and missed it 5 times when it counted, you just didn't see the ones they landed.

    Skaters wouldn’t put in a hard element they haven’t mastered at home; no skaters would ever say “I landed the Axel once, let’s put it in”

    Why risk it? Why not?
    B
    That's very true and I've never thought, seeing a skater fall, that it's not something they haven't landed many times in practice. I always assume that if a skater does a jump in competition it's because he or she lands it most of the time in practice. But with Daisuke, you get the sense from his comments that's it sort of 50-50 and he wants to do it anyway. Still, there always seems to be a some jump that skaters struggle with more than others. With Kristi it was the salchow and with Yuna it's the flip.

    It is interesting to look at the history of the CoP in that regard. You could call it the Yagudin Rule.

    When the Cop was being developed in the 2002-03 season, quads were initially given a high base value. Then they tested the system by re-scoring the 2002 Olympics under CoP. Quad King Tim Goebel came out the winner.

    Well, it was obviously wrong (reasoned the ISU) for a one-jump wonder like Goebel to beat an all-round champion like Yagudin, so they lowered the base value of quads sufficiently to make sure that Yaguldin would win.

    Then when Buttle and Lysacek came along, the ISU decided that they had gone too far in the direction of a "balanced program," so they went back and raised the values of quads twice in the last two years.
    I didn't know that! About 2002. It's very interesting. Goebel was wonderful in those Olympics but watching them back-to-back there can just be no question for me that Alexei is a higher caliber skater. And he did have two quads. He was hardly some artistic type who couldn't jump.

    Here is another question that I have wondered about. In a team sport like basketball, some players relish the chance to take the last shot to win or lose the game. "Gimme the ball! Gimme the ball!" Others dread being put it this position.

    Is there any analogous situation in figure skating? Sometimes skaters are raring to go. They charge onto the ice before the previous skater has finished his closing pose. Others look like they want to fall though a hole in the ice.

    Mirai Nagasu, for instance, is sometimes one and sometmes the other.
    She so is! I'll never forget her face when she took the ice last year for her FS at nationals. She was skating last with everything on the line and Rachael and Ashley had skated great. There was so much pressure but Mirai had this huge, confident smile that said 'Oh yeah? Watch this."

    This year her face before the LP was a completely different story. I also think preparation comes into play and I think Mirai was better trained last year by nationals time than this year and she knew it. She's a heart-on-her sleeve kind of girl so whatever she's feeling just shows. She's no poker face type. But that's what I love about her.

  12. #12
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    So we are focusing on quads? My $0.02 worth:

    Just as mot is familiar and knowledgeable about Daisuke Takahashi, I have easy access to Patrick Chan's interviews and info, with the advantage that the guy says what he thinks. He tells the honest truth even if he is often mistaken as being arrogant. He was proven right that one didn't need a quad to win. (However, he has personally nullified the statement this season because, as I said before, when somebody who doesn't need a quad to win has a quad or three, nobody can win without one.) He said quads were easier than high level footwork and, for him, triple Axels, and he has proved it. Even so, I recently made a mistake and interpreted his words. In an interview at GPF, he said he had just learned that he could land an underrotated quad whereas he would normally fall if he did that. I thought he was being unconvinced about the UR call on his SP quad since his coach insinuated disagreements about the UR call. Turned out he meant exactly what he said. In subsequent interviews, he talked about working to not under-rotate his quads again. I was almost embarassed to not have taken his words at face value for once.

    Patrick has been a tremandous success and he has inspired many up and coming skaters close to his own age. I see so many attributes for success in him that he has become a standard to compare and measure against. So that's what I shall do - compare the relationships the top skaters have with their quads and their probable learning process to Patrick Chan's.

    One of Patrick's winning ways is his dedicated learning. He identifies and focuses on what he needs to learn, with practice, with technology, with his coaches as well as consulting specialists and mentors. While he was falling repeatedly in the first two competitions, it was definitely no fun for him or his fans. But while most people called him inconsistent and much worse, I saw his amazing learning curve. He, like Oda and Kozuka, had the quad down pat in practice, but when a skater puts a quad in competitions he begins a whole new learning experience. Now it is all mental and this is where these top skaters differ. First attempts usually fail for everybody. Besides landing the quad, they also have to learn to deal with the after effect of mssing up subsequent elements. A lot to learn and some never do. Patrick fell on his first quad attempt, then on the 3A, and even during his step sequence! It was a reality check and a shock, but an unavoidable lesson. Determinedly he went for the quad again in his LP and succeeded, beautifully, but failed the 3A right after. At the next competition, he landed a 4T/3T in his SP. In the LP, he fell 3times again. But this time his did the 3A/3T. So in stages, he learned to do each quad and each 3A in his programs. The learning was almost complete. He put them all together at the GPF and confidently added another quad at the Nationals. He plans to bundle up all he has learned in these successful events and bring them with him on the plane to Tokyo. I don't know what will happen on Worlds' slippery ice, but I believe his chances of landing those quads are high. As he says, it was not luck or a prayer answered. He worked on it. Amazing progress!

    Now, Oda and Kozuka have had their quads before Patrick does, yet they still have very little success in competition. We know they can do them beautifully because they have shown us. I only get glimpses of their state of mind from a few interviews. They are quite sheltered and they respectfully follow their elders' directions. They admittedly don't have enough confidence, thus liable to self-sabotage at major competitions and they have taken time to reach the top tier of Men's skating even though they have been among the best technically.

    As in life, one of the hardest thing to do in skating is to unlearn bad habits and wrong ways of doing things one has learned, often unconsciously. The main reason harnesses are used on skaters when learning difficult jumps is so that falling wouldn't become a habit and an expectation, preventing learning of proper techniques. When a skater starts doing quads in competions, falls are inevitable and the skater also learns to deal with the after effect. My suspicion is that most skaters learn to expect high probability of falling. Takahashi, Oda, and Kozuka have all learned how to continue their program unperturbed from a quad fall. Witness how awkwardly Oda recovered from the unexpected fall from the 2A! Falling on a quad is no problem because he is mentally prepared for it. Unfortunately, what is expected usually happens. My take is that they've probably learned much from their quad failures in competition.

    In contrast, Patrick learns from his every success along the way even as he seemed to fail initially. He has a winner's attitude in how he learns, in his expectations and his confidence. Nobody else has that undaunted commitment to his quads.

    Takahashi, IMO, also has the winner's attitude. His problems with the quad is not mental but physical. When the chips are down, he puts himself out there, and skates his heart out with no reservation. He has the skills to go for broke without as much risk as a lesser skater. He may forget to do this during most the season, but at the end, he wakes up and remembers how it is done. He also seems very self-aware and confident. A true champion. Whether his winning attitude is natural or acquired, I don't know. Probably both. Mot can tell you a lot more than I can.

    Takahashi and Chan are the ones who usually step up when the challenge is great. Koz and Oda had their meltdowns but I think they have grown a lot since.

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    It's an interesting question - what keep competitors going, what drives them on.

    When I watch Joubert, personally I want him to retire. It's been years since I've enjoyed his skating, though at one time he was one of my favorites. I feel like he's regressing technically and at best holding steady in artistry. I just wish I felt like he had more of a new story to tell, rather then just filling out his resume.

    Maria Butyrskaya is someone that always intrigued me as a competitor. She could be hot or cold, but always intense. She also stayed around for long time, but I never thought is was so much to winning this particular competition or that one, but proving that she had a right to be considered one of the best, and that an adult could deliver a program with more passion and artistry then a teenager.

    Lu Chen is another that I would say stayed competitive for 'artistic' reasons. Maybe the same could be said of Shen & Zhao? Elvis Stoyko, on the other hand, seemed to stick around to show that his variety of athletic skating was important.

    Michelle Kwan (at risk of sidetracking the thread) was a great competitor who seemed motivated by both the record books and achieving new artistic statements. I do think though towards the end of her competitive career she was skating a bit more for the record books and casting about a bit trying to figure out how to get that Olympic gold.

    It shows what a tough sport skating is. You can only stay at the top of the technical aspect for so long. What happens if you haven't achieved your competitive/artistic goal when your jumps start to become less reliable?

  14. #14
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    Ah Joubert. He, the icon of macusline skating, has a fragile psyche. His (long suffering) fans can always tell when he is not confident and will likely screw up. He often doubts himself. He won't leave his hometown and his mother, even temporarily, despite the big problem of finding a good coach.

    And the fans, ah, so dedicated and so in love with him. He can do no wrong and they blame everything and every one else for his meltdowns and problems. But they have to get all the info about him from interviews because he doesn't communicate via any social media. Sometimes I wonder if he has an unhappy secret, like illiteracy. That's just a wild example from me; Don't spread the rumour.

    It's sad to see him struggle. Though he has been a strong competitor and somehow always gets back up, his time seems to have passed. I don't know why he stays on competing. Perhaps he doesn't know what else to do. He would be a very popular show skater but if he wouldn't travel, that would ne a very limited option. I think he wants to do coaching in his hometown, n'est-ce pas?

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    I have 2 odd pairs of skaters to compare:

    1. Nobunari Oda and Mirai Nagasu. They both tend to squander their SP lead. Mirai, especially, often has horrible LPs after winning the SPs. She has voiced that she dislikes competing from the first place so I know a wrong lesson and bad expectations have been learned. Unless she changes/corrects this mindset, no stern lectures and public complaints by her coach can change the outcomes in such situations. Nobu doesn't exactly meltdown but somehow he finds ways to give up the Gold medal. He has earned Silver medals, or rather lost Gold medals, four times this season, twice to Patrick, once to Daisuke and once to Kozuka. Once is a fluke, twice may be coincidental, but four times is a definite pattern. He must be frustrated. I can't forget his face when he realized his silly mistake at SA after a brilliant performance. But he continued to surrender the Gold. What is in his subconscious mind? Does he not feel like a champion, not really as good as his rivals, or is there something negative in his unconscious mind associated with winning, the same way why some people never get rich? I could tell from his GPF interview that he was somewhat intimidated by Patrick. Interesting Patrick's rivals never lost their respect even though he had fallen numerous times and gotten laughed at by so many. I think they had similar observations to mine about Patrick's journey. No skating experts wrote him off the whole time during that part of his journey.

    2. Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan. I didn't know as much about Yuzuru so I thank mot for the tidbit into his head. I already expressed my admiration for Patrick's learning, which is so effective that it has contributed majorly to his amazing ascent into the top tier of Men's skating. I thought Yuzuru had interesting set of idols in Pushenko and Johnny Weir before but now I see the kid is an earnest learner, motivated to pick out the best attributes of different top skaters to emulate. Interesting too that he is not choosing his compatriots, three of today's best, to be his idols or role models. I don't know if he has watched live performances by Plush, Johnny and Todd but seeing Patrick live had an immediate impact on him, as it does many skaters. The "cute and funny" way he described how he wished to learn Patrick's way does not set my mind to erotic/romantic fantasies. Instead it intrigues me that rather than wanting to be taught, he wishes a ride on Patrick's back, i.e. to "be" Patrick during his skate. He wants to "feel" Patrick's skating. I believe he will be very successful because of his keen interest in learning, and because of his way of learning. I think he has an ability to absorb intuitively. If he could emulate and meld the best aspects of different great skaters, he could be a very well rounded champion. However, the ultimate success would be to formulate his own unique style. The boy has time to grow, physically, technically, and artistically. I wasn't blown away before but now I will keep a watch on his development.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 03-03-2011 at 02:35 PM.

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