EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... It’s figure skating, but not as we know it!
The discussion in the “Alternative Nationalities” thread has started me wondering how different figure skating would be if certain skaters had taken up the option of representing an alternative country.
So, let’s travel to a parallel universe…
Imagine how different things would have been if Kwan Wing-Shan (i.e. Michelle) and Chan Wai-Kuan (i.e. Patrick) had skated for their ancestral homeland of Hong Kong rather than their countries of birth.
If Michelle Kwan had been skating for Hong Kong when she was being so successful in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, would the US have had so many slots in the international Ladies competitions for so long?
Looking back at the World Championship results for the late 1990’s, you have to ask: where are the other American Ladies? The answer is that although they are in the top-10, they are not troubling the medalists. It is only around the turn of the Millennium that the other American girls start to edge closer to the podium.
But, if Kwan had been competing for HK, then the US would not have been getting as many slots. Sure, Tara Lipinski winning the Worlds in 1997 would have earned an extra slot or 2, but that might just have turned out to be a temporary thing, especially with Tara retiring in 1998.
So, would the likes of Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen have got the chance to compete at Worlds? In my opinion, yes. But the difference is that they would probably have been fighting over a single slot for many years, rather than both getting through on the back of Kwan’s success.
But for the other American girls that were being sent to Worlds in that period, the chances of getting selected without Kwan would have been zilch. This in turn could have led to those with alternative options jumping ship, such as Nicole Bobek switching to the Czech Republic (via a Czech Mum), or Angela Nikodinov switching to Bulgaria (via Bulgarian parents).
Even going into the post-Kwan era, she is still having an influence on the number of slots the US has. It may be a bit round-about, but consider this:
If Kwan had been skating for Hong Kong when she was being so successful in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, would figure skating have become as popular in America as it did?
Many of the promising American skaters coming through at the moment, such as Gracie Gold or Agnes Zawadzki, are of the age that they would have been introduced to figure skating when Kwan was at her peak. So, if Kwan had not been competing for America, would so many American children have been enticed to take up figure skating?
Without an “all-American”(!) hero like Kwan as inspiration for American children, I would expect that we would be seeing less American skaters coming through now.
Of course, there will always be some children taking up sports whether the country/person they support is being successful in that sport or not. But it is a fact of life that when a particular country is being successful at a particular sport, then more children in that country take up that sport.
Looking at it from the other angle, if Kwan had been competing for HK back then, would we now be seeing lots of skaters from Hong Kong coming through?
I suspect we would. And, the Hong Kong government would be throwing a lot of money into their Federation to try to keep HK at the forefront of figure skating after Kwan’s retirement. Hence, the standard of skating would be an awful lot higher than what we are currently seeing (in the real world) from HK skaters.
So, when you take everything I have discussed into consideration, it is probably not an exaggeration to say that we are still feeling the “Kwan-affect”.
It’s the same with Patrick Chan. If he had competed for HK instead of his country of birth, it is highly unlikely that Canada would currently have 3 slots in the Men’s category. They would probably only have one slot, which would have made it even more competitive to get into the team.
Over the years, Kevin Reynolds has been very inconsistent. Given that Kevin won 4 Continents this year, persevering with him seems like a good decision, as it has earned Canada an extra slot for next year. But, if Canada had only one slot, would they have persevered with Kevin until now, or given up on him years ago? I suspect the latter, but I may be wrong.
Would Rogozine have stayed with Canada, where he would have been fighting over 1 slot, or headed back to Russia, where he would be fighting over 1 of 3 slots? I suppose it all depends on how competitive the Russian team is.
If Guinea had the infrastructure and funding in place, Baldé would have undoubtedly opted to compete with them, as the place in the team would have been guaranteed. But, if not, I think he would have stuck with Canada rather than headed to Russia.
So, basically, the fight over international slots would still have been between Firus and some (or all) out of Reynolds, Rogozine and Baldé. The difference is that there would have been less slots for them to fight over.
Of course, with Patrick still competing, it is too soon to tell the long-term consequences of his success on Canadian skating.
If Chan continues to be as successful as he has been in recent years (regardless of whether or not it is due to help from the judges…), then we may develop a “Chan-affect” in Canada similar to the “Kwan-affect” we had in America.
But, good though Patrick is, I have doubts over whether he can stay at the forefront of skating for as long as Michelle did.
At the start of this season, there were many of us (myself included) that thought we were seeing the beginning of the end of Chan’s spell at the top. It looked like the change in coach had backfired. Luckily for Chan, he came back to form very quickly. But the controversy of the results at this year’s World’s will hang over Chan for a long time to come, and I have a feeling that the burden of this weight will start him off on the slippery slope down the order.
I really fear Patrick may not be at the top of the sport for long enough to leave a long-term impression on skating in Canada. I hope I am wrong, though.
But let’s not end this part of the discussion on a negative. Patrick is a great skater who has been a great ambassador for Canadian skating. Plus, on top of this, he seems like a really nice guy!
In conclusion, if Michelle had skated for Hong Kong instead of America, it is realistic to imagine that Hong Kong would have become a major force in figure skating. And, if the "Kwan-affect" had started to wane, the arrival of Patrick Chan would probably have refreshed interest.
I think the American Ladies team and the Canadian Men’s team should be very grateful that Michelle and Patrick did not opt to compete for Hong Kong!!!
So, that is our first excursion into the figure-skating parallel universe. What are your thoughts on my theory?
Does anybody else want to take us on a trip to explore a different part of the parallel universe? Please feel free to do so!
Yes I think with Bobek united states may have been able to get as many spots. Say there is no Kwan at 96 nationals then kwiatkowski wins and Lipinski is next and Bobek petitions for a spot but gets it instead of being denied and maybe she does well at 1996 worlds instead of not even being there!!
Wow! That really is so interesting. But yes, I completely agree - they both are so influential (as for example I've seen on interviews that many top US ladies for example say their idol was Kwan - e.g. they saw her competing and thus wanted to skate too) so I do think Canada and USA's skating would be different today if this had happened.
Kristi Yamaguchi skates for Japan.
1992. Japan dominates women’s figure skating and sweeps the Olympic podium with Midori Ito, Tsuya Yamaguchi, and Yuka Sato. Figure skating becomes huge in Japan 15 years earlier than in our galaxy, even as interest in the United States fades.
Tonya Harding (instead of Kristi) marries hockey guy Bret Hedican (instead of Jeff Gillooly), No incident occurs to grab the attention of the U.S. public and figure skating in the 1990s falls off the U.S, sports radar. Young sports prodigy Michelle Kwan takes up kayaking, competing in three summer Olympic games.
Rudy Galindo, competing in men’s singles for Mexico, becomes the first person from that country to win a world medal. He confides, I was always interested in pairs skating, but couldn’t find a suitable partner in the U.S., so I decided to go back to my roots.
But wait a minute. Is Hong Kong still a separate entity in world sports? It became part of China in 1997, though it retains special administrative privileges.
From Wiki: "After the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to the People's Republic of China in 1997, the NOC for the special administrative region has been designated Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong is represented separately at the Olympics by its own choice (for any gold medal ceremony the Hong Kong SAR flag is raised and the PRC national anthem is played). As permitted under its constitution as agreed upon handover from the United Kingdom (specifically, Article 151, Chapter 7 of The Basic Law), it "may, on its own, ... maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions and relevant international organizations in the appropriate fields, including the economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong_at_the_Olympics
Originally Posted by Olympia
So yes, Hong Kong is a separate entry, but the PRC anthem is played to honor any gold medalist.
So Michelle could have skated for Hong Kong. Well, I'm glad I live in this dimension, where she skated for us. But, seeing how I feel about Yuka Sato, Mao Asada, YuNa Kim, and Shizuka Arakawa (and men like Kurt Browning, Stephane Lambiel, and Alexei Yagudin), I would have loved Michelle just as much had she skated for someone else.
It's like how the united states has puerto Rico as part of it's control but PR has it's own skating fed and noc.
Good comparison, Gmyers. Puerto Rico has commonwealth status, so it has an unusual relationship with the U.S. I hadn't realized the extent of the deal worked out with China about Hong Kong, though. I'm telling you--become a skate fan and see the world. I've learned so much from following skating and from listening to all of you.
EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA
I take back what I said about Patrick being a "great ambassador for Canadian skating". With what he has been saying lately, he is becoming a bit of an embarassing liability.
Originally Posted by CaroLiza_fan
It's starting to look like it will be his controversial coments rather than his good results that will be leaving a "long-term impression on skating in Canada". And that really would be a shame.
Perhaps some at Skate Canada are secretly wishing now that Patrick did opt to compete for Hong Kong...
By the way, in case you are interested, Golden Skate has a page listing skaters from Hong Kong:
Originally Posted by Olympia
Despite this impressive length of a list (I didn't realise they had so many figure skaters!), Hong Kong only had one entry in Worlds this year:
Ronald LAM (30th in Men's SP; didn't progress to FS)
And I fully agree about learning a lot from following figure skating, and in particular through being a member of this forum.
Right, we've dealt with Hong Kong's most famous diaspora, and with one Japanese-American (Tsuya "Kristi" Yamaguchi). So, any other parallel universe ideas out there?
Well, Chan still isn't the household name than Kwan is, and I do think Virtue/Moir is definitely adding to the current top form of figure skating in Canada and not just Chan, but he's certainly doing the job and I agree. It is a fun AU to contemplate.
Actually, given Canada's commonwealth status, technically they could ALL be playing for the UK and... that's another story (universe?) altogether.
While it doesn't have a skating federation since we have no figure skaters that I'm aware of, the U.S. Virgin Islands does have an Olympic committee. In addition to summer sports, we've had entries in bob sledding, luge and another sled sport, I seem to recall.
Originally Posted by gmyers
We did have a traveling ice show with performers you've never heard of make a visit. It was so popular that had to do extra performances. They got ice from the ice plant on St. Thomas and made a rink on the gym floor of a private school on St. Thomas.
Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States is not unusual. Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and of course, the U.S. Virgin Islands are all territories. While Puerto Rico is considered a commonwealth, the U.S. Virgin Islands is an unincorporated territory. I'd have look up the others. But, the status issue frequently raises its head, with a big faction in Puerto Rico agitating for statehood and another big faction wanting independence. Here in the Virgin Islands, we can't seem to make up our mind despite millions spent and several votes on the matter.
I digress, but I don't think many people on the mainland understand the territories' relationships with the U.S. government. As for figure skating. There are a few fans here, and thanks to the Internet we can indulge and stay in touch.
Heh thread like this makes me wonder. How Michelle Kwan vs Lu Chen at world championship '96 might go in this galaxy far far away.
Can US ever fall in love with ex commies? :P
Can China be today's skating superpower (imagine a generation of skaters inspired by Kwan).
Can Kwan be more popular in China, and therefore Russia?
Kwan with a British accent, might skate for Britain!!