At the rink. Again.
The "many male skaters are gay secret" (which is becoming less secretive) is the first that came to mind, but that's not the topic of this discussion...
I just picked out two skaters who have been targeted recently in my for instance here. I overhear conversation at the rinks I skate at among kids who are preparing for Regionals (and some hateful comments said behind the backs of others about "size", one of whom is super thin but muscular other than her bust size, which is genetic) and their eating habits, etc and I just hope parents intervene or this is just braggadacio because it's downright scary to listen to.
I just put the male orangutun's offspring on my ignore list.
Originally Posted by Robeye
My answer to the thread title question:
No, there is not a single ideal body type for figure skating.
To succeed at the elite levels, you need to be able to execute elite-level skills. Some body types will be much less likely to be able to achieve that, even with excellent technique.
That's true of all sports, with different sports favoring different body types.
If you love to do something that your body is not ideal for, you may have to face the reality that elite success is not going to happen for you and plan your future accordingly. The same is true for those who won't reach the top for other reasons, such as financial resources.
But each athlete can try to maximize his or her own potential, achieve the best results they can, and decide for themselves when they've passed the point of diminishing returns and move on to some other endeavor.
Different fans -- and different judges, for that matter -- may have preferences about their favorite styles of movement, favorite types of body shape, etc. But personal preference for viewing should not be taken as dictating an ideal that all should strive for, or that should limit who is or is not allowed to succeed or continue in the sport.
And I'd like to say the same about the dance world as well, but that would be a discussion for elsewhere.
At the rink. Again.
Here, here, gkelly! Personally, I like the "ripped" look on a skater (like Wagner and Gold) and the more athletic style that typically goes with that.
Even skaters who have an "ideal" shape may get stuck on one of the gateway elements, even with enough resources (coaching and practice time). Some kids never get over their fear enough to do a single Axel. Others never learn to jump high enough and/or rotate quick enough to land a double Axel.
FWIW, Megan Hyatt, who was a Junior National medalist, shot up to 5'8"+ the season after her breakthrough in Juniors. She was still landing 3Lz fairly consistently. She ended up with injuries and out of the sport from other things (like trying to get the flexibility items for higher level spins as it was during the IJS cutover), but it just proves that with proper technique, anything can be done.
I'll also say that ideal body type for jumping involves more than just body size and shape.
I've known skaters who were thin and long-limbed who were solid senior-level skaters in other areas but couldn't jump high enough to master triple jumps, because of natural muscle fiber composition (training can have an effect, but mostly it's genetic) or connective tissue issues.
One was a successful school figures specialist in the 1990s when the US had separate competitions for figures.
One in the 2000s did well at novice level with double jumps, scored especially well at IJS spins thanks to flexibility, and usually placed just below the triple jumpers when she skated clean with doubles in seniors.
Another was a lovely skater with great flow over the ice, stunning extension, and nice high double jumps, but extra-long legs made it hard for her to achieve a tight enough air position to rotate triple jumps (although she did come close enough to try them in her programs).
I don't know how some people can stay up on their high horse about their views on weight while at the same time, doing exactly what they claim others do -- pooh pooh body types. The line of reasoning usually goes like this: Everyone is thin. The ones who aren't thin are, in actuality, thin - they just look that way because of the camera adding 5 lbs/lighting adding 5 lbs/they're really tiny in person/they're only [x] lbs! A body with lots of muscle is still considered bad. It completely befuddles me, especially in a sports context. Why cry foul if a skater is said to have large quads or their arms have so much definition there is separation beneath the deltoids? Do you want them to execute triple jumps with good height or not?
I don't think I would be quite as annoyed if there were a good reason to pressure skaters to have a thin, willowy body. Even something like thinner bodies have smaller moments of inertia would at least give the impression of real thought. But there isn't a mechanical reason. It basically comes down to "thin bodies look pretty to me." If you think about it, a short but very muscular body like Kwan's or Gold's or Ito's or Wagner's is better for absorbing shock during falls and jumping, respectively. It is not nasty to say someone has big thighs; on the contrary, it is a compliment to their leg muscles and jumping ability. From this thread, it seems as if the highest compliment one can pay a skater is that they can execute all the elements of the sport, but has the body of someone who doesn't eat very much and probably just does a bit of cardio now and then.
I also suspect that if skaters did try to actively pursue the very muscular body instead of the very thin body, this would lead to longer skating careers as well. From the start, skaters would learn how to jump with height and not rely on extremely rapid rotation. It is more sustainable to build muscle and be stronger than to try to make your body as thin as possible to maximize rotation. Although the latter strategy does seem to work. I remember last year Asada had some sort of equation in which she calculated she need to lose 4 kg to keep her triple axel. And she still is the only lady with a triple axel.
The point about building muscle leading to longer careers is a really interesting one. The extra muscle would have other benefits, too: I suspect the body would be healthier and more able to withstand both injuries and illness--how many times do we hear of skaters dealing with a cold or "the flu" and dragging themselves through a routine? Bones would be stronger, and maybe cartilage and ligaments as well. Also, as you said in an earlier paragraph, better shock absorption for jump landings. And it would serve to give girls power over their own bodies. No longer would they be slaves to the onset of puberty, subsisting on grape skins and tea to keep their fat content down.
Originally Posted by brightphoton
I'd add that what I took exception to in your last comment was not the idea of more solid builds being an advantage but the word choices of the description. Michelle isn't a tiny sprite, but she's not large even by the standards of the skating world. Certainly her main rival, Irina Slutskaya, was more solidly built than Michelle, and even Irina would be considered small in the average population of either her country or the U.S. However, you're right to classify Michelle as more compactly built, and the fact that she seemed not to fight that in herself was very smart of her. I don't think that her arms and legs were "stumpy"; they were in proportion to her torso. They just weren't unusually long in that Balanchine ideal of a tiny torso and long limbs that can be seen even in a petite person like Sasha Cohen.