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Thread: Instant gratification in figure skating

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Instant gratification in figure skating

    This topic has been brewing in my head for a bit because of a number of discussions in various threads. I feel like there's too much expectation on skaters to be instant hits or they are doomed for the rest of their careers. Here's a few examples.

    1.) In 2011, Adelina Sotnikova wins junior worlds. Everyone expects her to blow up at seniors. She does not. She has yet to make a GPF. Her clean SP at Euros is her first clean SP in sometime now. But yet I've seen posts of "I've given up on her."

    2.) The Shibutanis surprise everyone by winning World Bronze in 2011 due to poor skates from their competition. Since then, they have not lived up to that result, with claims that they have already peaked.

    3.) In 2012, Gracie Gold has been hyped to high heaven. She has yet to fully live up to expectations, hence raising questions of whether she can handle the pressure.

    4.) In 2012, Kaetlyn Osmond wins bronze at Canadian nationals. She then wins Skate Canada and Nebelhorn later in the year. She wins Canadians definitively in 2013. Now there are all sorts of people saying that she could win the world championship in London this spring. What would if she falls?

    Yes we have examples of people who were able to come in early and win everything -- Oksana Baiul, Mao Asada, Yuna Kim. But these should be seen as exceptions, rather than the rule.

    Think about some of your favorite skaters. Did they win on the first try?

    How about Daisuke Takahashi? Nope. He won the World Junior Championship in 2002. He would follow that with a 11th place finish in 2003. He didn't win his first Worlds medal until 4 years later in 2007.

    Or Savchenko/Szolkowy? Nope. They were 6th during their first two years at Worlds, before medaling for the first time in 2007, starting a streak of six medals, including 4 golds.

    Let's try a lady -- Carolina Kostner! After winning bronze in junior worlds in 2003, she went on and finished 10th at Worlds. We all know that she has been up and down and it would take 9 years before she would win her first championship.

    My point is, I feel like there's too much pressure on people to win on the first try -- that's why Ross Miner has been so below the radar. He never gets attention because of his slow-and-steady method of improvement.

    I feel skating careers are more like marathons, shouldn't be seen like a sprint. But yet, we put a lot of expectations on new skaters to hit it off the ball park on the first try, when really that doesn't always happen. And when I think about my own personal career, I realize that failure/struggled helped me grow more than if I was always successful. The guys from Twitter actually did another product -- a podcasting website -- that completely tanked. Should they have give up when they failed on the first try? Of course not?

    I get that these young skaters don't get a break because in reality they stand out -- they are quite advanced for their age be it Adelina's huge presence/speed on the ice, the Shibs textbook blade work or Gracie's huge jumps. But in the end they're still young. They still have a lot to learn and a lot of things to work on.

    I guess I wonder why there is so much urgency among people to see skaters succeed right away.

    Thoughts?
    Last edited by Mrs. P; 01-26-2013 at 01:13 AM.

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    One name springs to mind immediately: Artur Gachinski.

    17 years old, wins the bronze at Worlds unexpectedly. Suddenly, he is expected to win all the things, carry Russian skating, and so forth. He wasn't given any room to grow at the Senior level or time to adjust.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mrs. P View Post
    that's why Ross Miner has been so below the radar. He never gets attention because of his slow-and-steady method of improvement.
    I think there's a different reason that people block Ross Miner out of their minds ...

    But anyway I don't agree with the post. It's a bit strawman IMO.

    We're drawn to a particular skater for whatever reasons, and we want her to do well at competition. That's not because we want instant gratification; we just have hopes and well wishes for people that we like. Besides, look at how many fans Alissa Czisny, Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, Carolina Kostner, Mao Asada, Ashley Wagner, Kimmie Meissner, etc. have. Even when people say we're reading to stick a fork in them, the next season those same people are cheering again. Fans don't give up on their favorites so easily as you characterize them.

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brightphoton View Post
    I think there's a different reason that people block Ross Miner out of their minds ...

    But anyway I don't agree with the post. It's a bit strawman IMO.

    We're drawn to a particular skater for whatever reasons, and we want her to do well at competition. That's not because we want instant gratification; we just have hopes and well wishes for people that we like. Besides, look at how many fans Alissa Czisny, Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, Carolina Kostner, Mao Asada, Ashley Wagner, Kimmie Meissner, etc. have. Even when people say we're reading to stick a fork in them, the next season those same people are cheering again. Fans don't give up on their favorites so easily as you characterize them.
    Well, I wasn't really targeting this at fans of a given skater. Of course a skater will have fans who stand by them no matter what. I'm that way the Shibutanis, I have made it clear that regardless of how they do, I will remain a fan and the reasons I like them as a skater. Loyal fans of a skater do not expect instant gratification, I know that.

    I am referring to the figure skating community as a whole. Gracie Gold does well at a few events and suddenly everyone is thinking she could carry U.S. Women's figure skating. Same with Adelina and all the other Russian babies. And then people say they are headcases or whatever after doing poorly. Or the fact that the Shibutanis has done less-than-great as of late means that they'll never get back to medal level contention.

    As to whether I'm introducing a strawman argument-- as I said, this topic has been brewing in my head for a couple of weeks. Those examples I noted were based on actual forum posts made on these very boards. And I've seen similar posts from others on other skating boards,social media, etc. And really it comes from a desire that young skaters, whatever level they're at, are given grace and time to grow and develop.

    All I can say is I'm glad that I built my career when the internet chatter was not so prominent. I made so many mistakes and failed so many times -- it does break my heart how much more careful young people have to be as they're developing and growing up.

    As for Ross, I'm sure there are people who don't enjoy his skating. I get that. But I use Ross as an example because despite the fact he has done well and has beautiful jumps and great skating skills, his results until recently haven't really stood out so he's been a bit under the radar.
    Last edited by Mrs. P; 01-26-2013 at 01:49 AM.

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    It's less that Gracie Gold and Adelina and the Shibs will never amount to anything, and more of the massive hype super nebula surrounding those wunderkinds finally collapsing due to reality. You post one 3-3-3 video on Youtube, win Junior Worlds, or a Worlds bronze and suddenly the expectation is that you'll carry your entire nation's figure skating discipline. It's wildly unrealistic. No one can live up to that. But people don't always realize that and it's jarring to see it happen, thus the odd comments.

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    skating philosopher Mrs. P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brightphoton View Post
    It's less that Gracie Gold and Adelina and the Shibs will never amount to anything, and more of the massive hype super nebula surrounding those wunderkinds finally collapsing due to reality. You post one 3-3-3 video on Youtube, win Junior Worlds, or a Worlds bronze and suddenly the expectation is that you'll carry your entire nation's figure skating discipline. It's wildly unrealistic. No one can live up to that. But people don't always realize that and it's jarring to see it happen, thus the odd comments.
    I would agree with that.

    I guess I find the reaction jarring in itself. Have people never experienced failure or struggle in their own life or career? I mean even the best baseball players don't hit 1.000.

    I guess in the end, what is key is how these skaters deal with these criticism and what they will learn from it.

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    Six Point Zero Krislite's Avatar
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    I don't think it's so much a desire for instant gratification as it is a desire to find someone to root for who will consistently deliver the goods. There's a void in North American and European figure skating of a dominant ladies figure skater. When Michelle Kwan was dominant there wasn't this massive hype that moved from one young skater to another. Also, I think recent history might have misled more than informed. Yuna and Mao's rapid ascent from the junior ranks and their consistency at the top may be more of an exception than the rule, as you already mentioned.

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    I must admit, I've fallen pretty hard for the hype nebula my first go around. I have a superstition about proclaiming my favorites the gold medal winners in writing, but I always have that thought in my head. If you could read my mind years and years back, you would have probably seen a few of those jarring comments. This tempering of hype comes with experience ...

    It's all right when it's just us who get caught up. It's more sad when the athletes themselves get caught up in the hype. ie, tennis's Donald Young.

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    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Yeah but tara could be considered a fluke. She lived up to the hype... Though i guess the others did somewhat, too...

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    I don't think it was hype. It was genuine excitement. Sasha had a pretty decent career. From 2002 to 2006, she was never less than fourth in the world, I think, and was fourth and second in her two Olympics. She was on the World podium several times, though never champion. Most countries would be delirious about a skater with such a record, and we would be today, come to think of it. She was also a uniquely graceful skater. She deserved whatever praise she got.

    Kimmie had a triple-triple and a triple axel, which makes her one of about six ladies ever, and she was world champion once, a record Nancy Kerrigan and Janet Lynn can't equal. She wasn't around at the top for long, but she made the most of it. The only place she didn't succeed was in leading the U.S. for an entire Olympic cycle.

    Nam was splendid but was injured. Kirk probably had the least success of the ladies named in this group, but I don't think that at that point, with Kwan and Cohen in their prime, there were unrealistically huge expectations for Kirk. She was just a really, really good skater in a flock of great skaters.

    As for Tara and Sarah, well, their records speak for them. Neither stayed in skating very long, but, hey, they won the Olympics plus at least one other World medal (gold in Tara's case). The only hype I can think of in connection with Tara and Sara was the assumption that they would continue at that high level for several more years. Sarah wasn't able to--she sank through the ranks the following year and left to go to college. Tara left right away, largely for physical reasons and partly for financial reasons, I would imagine. I do remember that people at that time looked forward to a prolonged rivalry between her and Michelle, and that possibility vaporized almost at once.
    Last edited by Olympia; 01-26-2013 at 11:36 AM.

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    Custom Title LRK's Avatar
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    I started typing this for the Hype thread (or whatever it might be called at the moment ), but realised maybe it ought to go here instead.

    I think the potential for overhyping of Kaetlyn Osmond - and before her Gracie Gold - is in a measure worse, because there is little to temper it. When some people get too enthusastic about younger girls - like Adelina (though the backlash against her is off the charts in some people) and Liza before, and Julia Lipnitskaia and Elena Radionova now - there is always the threat of the Puberty Monster, always brought in by other posters - some of whom are overzealous in their turn: the Puberty Monster will come and the skaters will be left, shells of their former selves, their careers ruined for ever &c... Kaetlyn and Gracie came to prominence when they'd already passed that stage. All I can say is that I hope that fans of Kaetlyn REMAIN fans of her, and don't take out their disappointment when she doesn't win everything in sight by an opposite and equal reaction (as we've seen with Adelina) - plus of course all the people annoyed by the hype, who may take the opportunity to pounce.

    Hell hath no fury, like a fan disappointed?

    As for whether I'm one for instant gratification or a fair-weather fan, well. I'm a Brian Joubert fan. I''m scared silly every time he takes the ice, not knowing WHAT may happen. Did you see some of those fans in the audience, hands at their mouths, horror-stricken anxious faces? Well, that was how I was at home. Still, I think it's worth it.

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    We could all wax philosophical about this question - which, by the way, I thought was a good one for discussion. But IMO it comes down to something I think Scott Hamilton said one time "the ice is slippery!" No matter how good a skater is, no matter what they've done in the past, they can have an off night, they can have a growth spurt that throws their timing off, they can land on a cut in the ice, they can have a tummy ache or they're mad at their coach or 1000 other things that could affect their skating. What one does one year doesn't necessarily mean they can pull it off the next year. It might take a couple of years to get back in form. I honestly don't see how a skate at a competition this year means definitively that the skater will medal at the Olympics next year. It goes back to all the discussion about Evan Lysacek and how he would have been a force to be reckoned with at Nats this year - why would someone say that just because he won the Olympics 3 years ago? Skating is in the moment. And the moment is NOW. Skaters can have big-time potential based on what they've done in the past but the ice is slippery, people fall, bodies change. I think all we can do as fans is hope they continue to grow and improve and, like LRK says about Joubert, sit in the stands or at home with our hands at our mouths and our fingers crossed.

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    Custom Title bekalc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noskates View Post
    We could all wax philosophical about this question - which, by the way, I thought was a good one for discussion. But IMO it comes down to something I think Scott Hamilton said one time "the ice is slippery!" No matter how good a skater is, no matter what they've done in the past, they can have an off night, they can have a growth spurt that throws their timing off, they can land on a cut in the ice, they can have a tummy ache or they're mad at their coach or 1000 other things that could affect their skating. What one does one year doesn't necessarily mean they can pull it off the next year. It might take a couple of years to get back in form. I honestly don't see how a skate at a competition this year means definitively that the skater will medal at the Olympics next year. It goes back to all the discussion about Evan Lysacek and how he would have been a force to be reckoned with at Nats this year - why would someone say that just because he won the Olympics 3 years ago? Skating is in the moment. And the moment is NOW. Skaters can have big-time potential based on what they've done in the past but the ice is slippery, people fall, bodies change. I think all we can do as fans is hope they continue to grow and improve and, like LRK says about Joubert, sit in the stands or at home with our hands at our mouths and our fingers crossed.
    I think that Evan very well could be a force to be reckoned at US Nationals. However, I don't think he'd be a force to be reckoned at the international level. Evan was never the best quad jumper...I think mens has moved on. And frankly I don't think begging Johnny/Evan to come back is what USFSA needs. What they need is to get someone like Farris some experience/and maybe pray Dornbush also gets more consistent.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    I think I get what you are saying and it is as simple as this...Because figure skating is such an exacting sport and learning to figure skate takes much patience and time becoming a champion takes a lot of work, sacrifice and perseverance. Some skaters are blessed and blossom right away while other skaters take their time to develop. It's not always instant success for every skater. Some skaters love to compete while others find out it's too demanding. I've known many talented skaters over the years who tried competitive skating and decided it was not for them. They are still wonderful skaters and love to skate just for the joy of it. Some end up coaching or joining an ice show. Still it is thrilling when one sees a skater who does have that "it" factor right away. The first time I saw Kurt Browning skate at Canadians I knew he was that kind of skater. Kurt is still my favorite male skater of all time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladskater View Post
    I think I get what you are saying and it is as simple as this...Because figure skating is such an exacting sport and learning to figure skate takes much patience and time becoming a champion takes a lot of work, sacrifice and perseverance. Some skaters are blessed and blossom right away while other skaters take their time to develop. It's not always instant success for every skater. Some skaters love to compete while others find out it's too demanding. I've known many talented skaters over the years who tried competitive skating and decided it was not for them. They are still wonderful skaters and love to skate just for the joy of it. Some end up coaching or joining an ice show. Still it is thrilling when one sees a skater who does have that "it" factor right away. The first time I saw Kurt Browning skate at Canadians I knew he was that kind of skater. Kurt is still my favorite male skater of all time.
    That's how I felt the first time I saw Jeffrey Buttle skate at the 2002 Nationals. (I missed out on the Kurt era, sadly). That was also the first time I saw Joannie Rochette and I followed her career ever since. It was several years before she got her act together and rose through the ranks. I enjoyed every step! I also got a slight glimpse of that "it" factor with Osmond at last year's Nationals. I became a fan of her then because of her skating and programs, not because I saw OGM in her future.

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