Why do you love skater X?
Reading some posts tonight, I began to wonder: what is it that makes a person *really* love a particular skater or pair/dance team? This discussion has probably already been had here before. I apologize; I am a relative newcomer. I think it is an interesting question that requires some introspection.
I certainly find myself getting defensive when people criticize or otherwise say negative things about Alissa Czisny. I find this bizarre on my own part, because in general I love skaters who challenge traditional gender archetypes, such as Shawn Sawyer (who evinced flexibility usually reserved for female figure skaters) and Tonya Harding (gender norm challenges obvious, even if unintentional). I also get goose bumps when pair and ice dance teams reverse gender roles by having the female partner lift the male partner. Any yet, inexplicably, I love Alissa Czisny, the Platonic form of femininity.
So, my question is: Does anyone have a theory of this (not of my preferences, but of why people like the skaters they like)? I am inclined to think one deceives oneself insofar as one thinks, “I love skater X because skater X is just the best!” Or, less ambitiously, what concrete criteria does a skater have to satisfy for you to love them (i.e., be their defender on internet discussion threads)?
Rejoicing in the land of Kwan
Personally, I love a well-rounded skater. Jumps and spins are great but when a skater has all that plus the ability to bring a program to life, that's when I fall in love.
I grew up in the 90s under 6.0 when artistry and presentation were very important so that's something I value. Jumps are crucial; you can't win without them. However a person who is only capable of jumping doesn't excite me much. My favorite kind of skater can land jumps as well as entertain/move the audience.
Case in point: the big name new seniors this year are Kaetlyn Osmond, Gracie Gold and Julia Lipnitskaya. Of the three, Kaetlyn is my favorite because so far she has that something extra: she's a performer. She doesn't just go through the movements, she feels the music and you can see it in the way she moves. She connects with her music and the audience and it makes her entertaining and memorable to watch. Additionally, she's solid in her jumps (nice lift) and her spins are good too.
Contrasting Kaetlyn to Gracie and Julia...Gracie and Julia are nearly 100% technical skaters as of now.
I like Gracie b/c of her big jumps and I like Julia b/c she has a decent amount of maturity for someone so young plus a high level of consistency which is always good. However IMO both of these girls are very weak when it comes to artistry, musical interpretation and performing.
Julia has a wow factor b/c of her flexibility but I'm already bored with it. In her defense, her crap programs aren't really her fault. At 14, I don't think she has as much input in her choices as someone who is older; therefore, the blame needs to be directed at her team of people (coach, choreographer, etc.). I'd love to see how she'd do with some training from Lori Nichol (to learn how to emote and really listen and feel the music) and some choreography from David Wilson or Tom Dickson.
As for Gracie, I just don't believe her when she skates. She's so rehearsed. The word I always use for her is regurgitate...she regurgitates her choreography and expressions meaning she does the movement or makes the face but never looks like she feels what she's doing...she's just doing it without understanding or connecting to the reason why. That makes her a boring performer to me.
I need more substance from my skaters and as of now, Julia and Gracie leave me cold and bored respectively.
Michelle Kwan always connected to her music, her choreography and the audience. She made you feel something when she skated. She's made me cry more times than I'd like to admit because she's an expert at capturing an emotion and projecting it to the audience through her movement. Additionally, she was a solid technical skater who delivered an incredible number of flawless performances in her career. She had the entire package.
Different people love different skaters for different reasons, but those are mine. A skater who is solid across the board but has that extra sparkle when it comes to performing...that's what I value.
I also love a well rounded skater, and my all-time favorite is Baiul. She wasn't the best jumper but she connected to the music so well; she could be perky, dramatic, or regal depending on what the music called for. Scott H said she had no weaknesses and she really didn't: deep edges, great spins, tremendous speed, and of course an engaging personality. It saddens me that she was only in peak form for a couple of years because I would have loved to see more competitive programs from her.
Why do you love skater X?
The first time I saw Skater X perform I was feeling particularly low, trying to cope with a personal tragedy. Skater X came skating along (on TV) and said, "Buck up, Mathman. You’re sad? Check out this spiral. Feel better now?”
Yeah...as a matter of fact, I did. Skater X has never let me down since.
Last edited by Mathman; 11-02-2012 at 09:41 PM.
I too like good performers, those who can interpret the music and the program.
Among the newcomers, I actually think Lipnitskaya has good potential to be a great performer, if she can keep her jump consistency intact through puberty. Although her programs are not coherent yet, she seems to know how to move with the notes – a must to be a good performer – in a subtle and unpretentious way. I agree she’s mainly a technical skater at the moment and the display of her flexibility is not well incorporated into the programs and sometimes distracting, but she will learn how to use it better and we will get used to it, I think.
I am also an art over sport person. I love an Alissa spiral, Sasha spiral, and Mao spiral. Also love Johnny's flow out of a 3A. Beautiful lines, a la Rohene Ward. Of course, he's a great jumper too (in both directions!)
I love a skater based on how much they can move me with their skating- they show conviction and a love for what they do through their skating, paying attention to not just one element but to every little nuance, and making things look easy. It's also important to me that a skater is not arrogant, but is willing to work hard and continue to improve despite getting to the top, and it's always important to remain humble (so how much I like a skater also depends on how much I like them as a person).
Thanks for posting, saphiresky. Welcome to Golden Skate. Post often, post long!
Gotta Have Music
Originally Posted by sapphiresky
sapphiresky, welcome to GS!
Your post basically sums up why I'm such a Todd fan.
Wow - sapphiresky, you couldn't have said it better. I will say that the one aspect that turns me completely off with a skater is arrogance!!! And that's one of the reasons I've never been able to stomach several male skaters in particular. Like anybody who is at the top of their game in sports, the true classic sportsman is the one who has alot of self-confidence but doesn't smack you in the face with it. They let their performance do the talking!! And the swaggering and the posturing is completely unnecessary! Under the new rules, I appreciate any skater that can get all their elements in with top points but not make you feel like they're just skating from one trick to another to get those points. I like seamless transitions, someone who clearly feels the music and engages their performance with the crowd. I would love to see Michelle Kwan skating at the peak of her competition years under the new rules! To me she embodied all that was good or should be good about figure skating. She was athletic, beautiful, graceful and she could deliver. And in none of the interviews I either read or saw her do did she come off as a spoiled brat who was full of herself!!! I haven't seen enough of the "new" skaters to have a full appreciation for them yet.
When Todd Eldredge performs, everyone leaves the area smiling. Guaranteed.
Originally Posted by iluvtodd
Ha ha, Mathman. Very funny.
Originally Posted by Mathman
I appreciate the thoughts on my question everyone has shared. A few people mentioned having a preference for well-balanced skaters: skaters who are both athletic and artistic. Others have mentioned a preference for skaters who move them emotionally. I am inclined to think it would be pretty unreasonable to disagree with these criteria of figure skating goodness.
But I suppose what I meant to ask originally was, what is it in virtue of an person perceives a skater as “well-balanced,” “athletic,” or “artistic”? What is it that causes a skater’s performance to move you emotionally?
When a person has a favorite figure skater (or a few), as I suppose most of us do, she or he tends to discount what they don’t do so well (athletically or in terms of presentation), either in general or in a particular performance. At the same time, one tends to accord special salience to what that skater does especially well. As a result, when the judges’ marks reflect an assessment that diverges for the worse from one’s own, one usually thinks one of two things: (1) the judges/technical panel are being overly-harsh in their evaluation of this skater, skater X; or (2) the judges/technical panel are being fair in their assessment, but the things skater X doesn’t do well are given too much weight in the score (or, the things skate X does well aren’t given enough weight).
For example, when Alissa Czisny has a rough skate (jump-wise), I find myself thinking spins should get more weight in the final score, and that the scoring system is biased against skaters with her strengths.
It is not possible that we are all making objective judgments of which figure skaters are best, most “balanced,” most “athletic,” most “artistic.” Why? Because we disagree. Our disagreement entails one of the following two:
(a) With regard to any of the disciplines, some of us are correct and some of us (most of us, likely) are incorrect about who is best; or
(b) Evaluations of goodness in figure skating are at least partially subjective.
If (b) is correct, then all of us are being at least partially influenced by psychological factors unrelated to objective merit in our assessments of which figure skaters are the best, most balanced, etc. If (a) is correct, then most of us (those of us who are objectively incorrect) are being influenced by psychological factors unrelated to objective merit in our assessments of which figure skaters are the best, most balanced, etc. Thus, either way, it is at least the case that most of us are being influenced (in ways we probably do not usually recognize) by personal psychological factors in our assessments of which figure skaters are best, most balanced, etc.
So, the question I meant to ask originally is: What are these psychological factors? I don’t suppose that they are the same for all of us, though many of them are probably widespread. One hypothesis is that a person favors skaters she or he identifies with personally – if you think a skater is “like you” in some important respect, you will tend to favor them. Another hypothesis is that we favor skaters who share our nationality. I haven’t fully formulated them, but I can imagine other hypotheses involving a person’s (implicit) attitudes about gender and race.
In my original post, I said that I thought answering this question (What are the psychological factors that influence our assessments of skaters?) required introspection. I’m less sure of that now; I sort of think we are better able to identify other people’s psychological biases than we are able to identify our own. Most of us tend to think of our own preferences as objective and rational.
(For the record, I think the judges and technical specialists are also subject to these biases, though perhaps less so than lay fans.)
Last edited by Pepe Nero; 11-04-2012 at 02:41 PM.
The study of fandom is an interesting one indeed. Very perplexing in its nature, yet fascinating at the same time.
It's always a great question to ask: what makes one truly a fan of someone- in this case, a particular skater(s)? Is there a sense of attachment to said skater or do you simply watch in passing? How strong is this attachment (i.e. what is the point in which you will drop everything to meet or spend a day with that skater- ha)?
This one has fascinated me- If someone says something non-flattering about your skater - do you feel a need to defend? A need to try to get them to "see the light" and "convert" them? A dislike or even hatred of said person for daring to criticize your favorite? If so, where/how does this need arise? Or do you simply accept that there are differences of opinion and "live in your own world" so to speak?
What are the factors that go into fandom? Personality? Friendship (if you know the skater personally)? Admiration of their work (product on the ice)?
Where does one draw the line between FANDOM and FANATICISM? Or- does one draw a line at all?
As a fan of SKATING (not a particular SKATER) I take the "live in your own world" approach and don't argue or challenge people who don't like it. If they don't like it, then they don't. I certainly am not crazy about folks trying to challenge me when I say I don't like something.
I think the key is, do you like your favorite just as much when he/she fails and when he/she succeeds?
Do you guys remember the Hallmark card commercial, where a mother is sending her daughter out on the ice for her first competition? The mother gives the daughter two cards, and says, "Open this one if you win, and this one if you don't."
So the daughter sneaks and opens the first card. On the outside is says, "Do you know how special you are?" And on the inside: "I do."
Then she opens the second card. "Do you know how special you are?" "I do."
(Aw, I'm breaking my own heart, That's right up there with the one about the birthday card for the piano teacher. )