Article about Mariah Bell (and artistry vs technical prowess) in The Guardian

lappo

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Feb 12, 2016
The article describes Mariah's journey and achievements in the past year. It also depicts Bell as someone "technically overmatched by the encroaching generation of youngsters whose programs are packed with point-gobbling quadruple jumps and triple axels" and who "will always be the sentimental favorites of aesthetes who believe the sport has become a numbers game in the years since the judging was overhauled".
My two cents on the matter:
- while Mariah had a great year and I'm very happy for her, she is not my cup of tea, artistically speaking; of course, this is not her fault or anything, it's just my own preference which can be shared or not by others - after all, the perception of all kind of arts is one of the most subjective things ever;
- there are many skaters, youngsters or not, who I think have managed to combine point-gobbling jumps with aestethical qualities, they would be too many to mention them all (just some examples: among the senior skaters we just came back from Kolyada and Hanyu, with two amazing FP; among the youngsters I adore Valieva SP and Maiia SP this year); while difficult jumps can sometimes detract from the beauty of the skating they can also add to it;
- I know US figure skating doesn't really have anyone else at the moment to push on top (with Alysa Liu uncertain status) but I think they are really stuck in the past and fighting the proverbial windmills while most other federations have progressed and adapted to the new system and I think that they should really rethink their approach if they want to mantain a minimum of competitiveness.
Your thoughts?
 

Mathman

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Jun 21, 2003
I think that the problem is not so much tech versus artistry as it is with defining what "exceptional artistry" ought to mean in the first place. It is obvious what exceptional tech means. It means Nathan Chen doing 6 quads.

But I believe that we conflate "artistry" with looking pretty, moving gracefully, emoting to the music -- that sort of thing. I am all for pretty and graceful, but is it "art"? To me, I would think of someone like Toller Cranston who was able to create something unique in his performances.

This probably is asking too much of these young athletes, who have more important concerns (get all the way arround on that quad Salchow!) Still, I continue to be intrigued by the ISU's ruminations aboiut a "technical program" and an "artistic program" with slightly different judging criteria.
 

Skatefan15

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Mar 8, 2015
The US is pushing so hard for a skater who imo (and many others) isn’t even the best the US has. I find many US skaters artistically and especially technically more talented (other people can like her and that’s ok! I personally just don’t really like any of her skating). She had a good year last year, good for her, but I just can’t agree with all these hype articles acting as if she’s going to medal at any actually hard events (GPF - if she ever qualified, FCC, Worlds, and Olympics). Another problem I had with the article (which was hard to read imo in terms of frustration) was that they were really trying to push another narrative that Mariah was basically robbed of the US title to Alysa. Alysa landed 2 3A’s and 1 quad (although under) and a few harder triple triples (which is lacking amongst most of the US ladies). Yes, Mariah had a good skate (not 151 worthy but I digress), but Alysa also had a good skate technically and slightly artistically. However, I feel like no matter what Mariah does, it looks like she’s being set up to win Nationals in a few weeks... :slink:
 

DizzyFrenchie

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Dec 9, 2019
It is obvious what exceptional tech means. It means Nathan Chen doing 6 quads.
A happy new year to everybody!
Well, this is not at all how I see tech in figure skating, so it mustn't be that obvious.
I follow on men's, as you started, though this is not the subject, because differences are more extreme.
Of course doing 6 quads is exceptional tech because only him can do it (Yuzuru Hanyu seeming to have decided to skip 4F to focus on 4A, and having less-than-ideal training conditions at the moment, preventing him from being "top").
But his competitive programs are so much lacking tech on all aspects but jumps, tough exceptional, it can also be called very unbalanced and partial.
Tech-wise, he would not be able to skate, not only Yuzuru Hanyu's programs, quads replaced by triples, these are really too "exceptional tech" — even his programs from when he was younger than Nathan Chen (because when comparing them, we tend to forget the latter is more than four years younger) and was still inferior to Patrick Chan in skating skills (he overcame it in 2016-2017, so, older than Nathan Chen's present age); or Jason Brown, who's Yuzuru Hanyu's age; but to Roman Sadovsky's or Jun Hwan Cha's, for instance, the latter being the same age as Nathan Chen, because he doesn't seem to be able to endanger his balance, either in step sequences or in spins for instance, as they do, and as in fact all other top Men skaters do. Also, his jumping with such long entries is a tech fault, his stiffness in jumps landings too (when I see what is written, and what Yuzuru Hanyu himself said, of his landings in Let Me Entertain You, still so much softer than Nathan Chen's!) He also tends to keep a medium speed, and indeed I don't see how one could land so many quads without, but tech-wise, he's lacking steep accelerations and decelerations. I don't think he would have the stamina either for a Yuzuru Hanyu program, even without quad, because they are so taxing. On the same ground, Nathan Chen doesn't manage to make his moves look effortless, which is a technical ability as well as an artistical one. (I know I'm missing some.)
He's obviously exceptional element base value-wise (and indeed real core of jumps-wise), but this is far from being all tech, and he's "exceptionally" (for a top skater!) deficient in all other tech matters.
I don't see such enormous differences among Ladies. If you take the "quad queen" for instance, Alexandra Trusova, she has not only quads, she has difficult entries and transitions, she shows very good skating skills, spins, flow... Of course all this lower the probability of landing her quads successfully, but she's 16 and I have great hopes that she gets technically close to Yuzuru Hanyu some day, or who knows, better? She's on the way. (We cannot compare with his level at her age because boys tend to grow later than girls.) and other Russian "quadsters" (or "nearly") are rather better than her on these tech aspects, though not dramatically.
So, for Ladies, we can say that Mariah Bell is not up to Russian Ladies tech-wise, but this is also a question of generations! And I would say, at last Nationals she was better than Alysa Liu tech-wise too, whose 4Lz should have been downgraded, I suppose you agree, and whose general tech level shows her age, which is quite normal of course.
Her precise arms and body movements are both of technical and artistic relevance.
And I will disagree further on The Guardian on the artistic side, because I think both are good, not exceptional, artistically, of course Mariah Bell being more "polished" but then, I love so much Alysa Liu's style (she should have been a Parisian) and am a bit indifferent to Mariah Bell's... which is quite subjective, I'll admit. :wink:
And I won't always agree with The Guardian about ballet either. After all we all all different in our eyes and ears, and in the way we process the information we get from them. But regarding tech, there are ISU manuals and things can (should) be measured, and there are multiple factors.
 

Skatefan15

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there are many skaters, youngsters or not, who I think have managed to combine point-gobbling jumps with aestethical qualities, they would be too many to mention them all (just some examples: among the senior skaters we just came back from Kolyada and Hanyu, with two amazing FP; among the youngsters I adore Valieva SP and Maiia SP this year)
I agree! I hate how articles make it seem that all skaters are either “jumpers” or “artists”. There are skaters who have managed to combine both and make skating look beautiful while also doing hard elements.
 

YuBluByMe

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Mar 21, 2018
Article says:
Critics say it has become a jumping contest that strikes a blow at the artistry that sets skating apart from all other sports.

Dude, bye. For starters, musicality is very important to me and the lack of it never gets past me. I can tell if a skater is genuinely musical or if they just memorized their program and where to hit the nuances. There’s a big difference. Using the body to express the program and their skating skills is also important. A story should be told with the body and feet - the step sequence is my favorite part of the program and it should be its highlight. The summary of an idea, if you will. Well, the Americans aren’t ticking these boxes and are behind not only technically, but artistically as well.

If an “artistic program” is ever implemented, Bell will still lose to the Japanese ladies (they are the ones ticking those boxes with me). She’s not going to suddenly start winning competitions in an alternate universe where 3As and quads don’t exist. She’s not automatically some paragon of artistry just because she’s in her 20s. I’ve said this before (especially in relation to Tennell), but the Americans continue to skate as if it’s 1996.

Lastly, figure skating is a sport. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Major technical strides have been made (finally!), but I wouldn’t say it’s a jumping contest. Many said that when Boyang Jin burst on the scene. Did he dominate? No. The complaints started up again when Chen started attempting five and six quads in his free skate. Did he dominate? No. Did Trusova dominate? No.

The winners are most often those that can combine technical merit with a strong second mark. You’re not going to win if you only have that second mark down.

...and you shouldn’t.
 
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withwings

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Jan 5, 2014
Mariah skates emotionally and that is it. To skate artistically/ to be an artist on the ice.... it is something completely different.
I am not familiar with all the women skaters in US, however for me Bradie Tennel really stands out as an artistic ( and techical as well ) skater in progress. Though, i do not think that her coaching change will help her. I wish to be wrong.

People are thirsty for the real emotions so no wonder they like Mariah's skating.
 

1111bm

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Dec 31, 2016
I'll never get what's oh-so-artistic about Mariah. She has one style which she seems to enjoy, but that is rather one-note and generic imo, but some people enjoy that and she does take her time to emote, so I'll give her that.

Other than that she's got amazing spins, but that's technical and her spirals are great too, I think (don't care for spirals so no idea) but that's also more of a 'technical feat'.

I personally think her skating skills are weak, which imo makes her presentation suffer a lot, so maybe that's also one big reason why I don't find her artistry as convincing.
 

figureskatingandrainbows

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Also, his jumping with such long entries is a tech fault, his stiffness in jumps landings too (when I see what is written, and what Yuzuru Hanyu himself said, of his landings in Let Me Entertain You, still so much softer than Nathan Chen's!) He also tends to keep a medium speed, and indeed I don't see how one could land so many quads without, but tech-wise, he's lacking steep accelerations and decelerations. I don't think he would have the stamina either for a Yuzuru Hanyu program, even without quad, because they are so taxing. On the same ground, Nathan Chen doesn't manage to make his moves look effortless, which is a technical ability as well as an artistical one. (I know I'm missing some.)
I agree with you on Nathan's jump landings. I've always thought they seemed a little rough.

I like Alysa Liu a lot more this season. She's been struggling because of a growth spurt, but I think she's also developed a lot as a skater. I think for me, I never really got the "wow" factor with Alysa, but I certainly never got it with Mariah or Bradie. They are okay skaters. They have solid jumps and solid artistry, but compared to any of the Japanese women or Russian ladies, they pale by comparison. I really don't think they are stand-out skaters, but the article is trying to paint Mariah as a victim.

With figure skating, it always seems to be a race with tech content. Quads were only recently regularly included in men's skating. There has been a quad explosion in men, and now in women's skating as well. Russia is a few years ahead, but Rika Kihira and Alysa have been pushing to catch up. I think skaters like Mariah and Bradie are now in the same position as Jason Brown or Adam Rippon were a few years ago: just a year or two behind on the jumps. It's unfortunate, since they are talented, but this isn't anything new. There will always be figure skaters who just can't quite catch up with the jumps. The article is trying to victimize Mariah when this has happened before, and will continue to happen.
 

DizzyFrenchie

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Dec 9, 2019
I agree with you on Nathan's jump landings. I've always thought they seemed a little rough.

I like Alysa Liu a lot more this season. She's been struggling because of a growth spurt, but I think she's also developed a lot as a skater. I think for me, I never really got the "wow" factor with Alysa, but I certainly never got it with Mariah or Bradie. They are okay skaters. They have solid jumps and solid artistry, but compared to any of the Japanese women or Russian ladies, they pale by comparison. I really don't think they are stand-out skaters, but the article is trying to paint Mariah as a victim.

With figure skating, it always seems to be a race with tech content. Quads were only recently regularly included in men's skating. There has been a quad explosion in men, and now in women's skating as well. Russia is a few years ahead, but Rika Kihira and Alysa have been pushing to catch up. I think skaters like Mariah and Bradie are now in the same position as Jason Brown or Adam Rippon were a few years ago: just a year or two behind on the jumps. It's unfortunate, since they are talented, but this isn't anything new. There will always be figure skaters who just can't quite catch up with the jumps. The article is trying to victimize Mariah when this has happened before, and will continue to happen.
In fact I am rather admiring Bradie Tennell, because she's typically the athlete in figure skating, yet endeavouring to perform and interpret, and provided she has the right (artistically simple) program, she does. But of course, she will never be an artistic skater.
As to Alysa Liu, it is her style, her smartness, cheerfulness, playfulness... which make the "wow" factor with me, and I hope she doesn't get too much pressure and can develop as a complete skater. I think requiring immediate results from a growing skater is quite a destructive attitude in a federation. I am eager to see her at Nationals though, but I really don't mind if she jumps a quad or not there.
I also think that at the moment, Rika Kihira is "the best package". And she has just confessed to YOLOing her step sequence at her free skating! What a presence of mind! Although she still had to avoid 3Lz. If there were virtual Worlds today, based on actual skating (not scores, because judging is so different at Russian and Japanese Nationals) at National championships, I think she would get Gold, and no American (or other) Lady could approach her. The only thing she's still lacking, in my opinion, is variability in speed. These Ladies are so beautiful! I hope they will all hold on developing their talents.
 

Skatefan15

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Mar 8, 2015
I'll never get what's oh-so-artistic about Mariah. She has one style which she seems to enjoy, but that is rather one-note and generic imo, but some people enjoy that and she does take her time to emote, so I'll give her that.

Other than that she's got amazing spins, but that's technical and her spirals are great too, I think (don't care for spirals so no idea) but that's also more of a 'technical feat'.

I personally think her skating skills are weak, which imo makes her presentation suffer a lot, so maybe that's also one big reason why I don't find her artistry as convincing.
I agree with you 100%! I’ve never gotten why people consider her superior to other US skaters in PCS since besides the performance component, she lacks every other one to US skaters and top international skaters as well.
 

Thrashergurl

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Oct 27, 2019
Mariah’s performances last season were amazing. Let’s not forget that she beat Alina’s LP. She’s definitely better than some of the comments on this thread suggest.
That said, her LP this year is terrible and won’t get her anywhere. Bourne is a terrible choreographer based on the work I’ve seen so far this season.
 

NAOTMAA

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Nov 9, 2014
Anybody see the "100 years of American skating" special on Sunday? In reality a preview for nationals next month.

-Mariah got an interview and comment on last year's free skate which they showed.
-One of Alysa's performances was shown and I think they talked to her too but compared to the last two years the hype wasn't there.
-And what did Bradie get???? ZIP!!! NADDA!!! NOTHING!!! Only a mention of her name when talking about past champions.
-Karen Chen was pretty much ignored as well.

Combined with Skate America it's pretty clear they are trying to set up a run away Mariah victory. Mariah is no underdog no matter how they try to spin it. The USFSA is making the Russian fed. look subtle and it takes a lot to do that
 
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Mathman

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Jun 21, 2003
I actually sort of disagree that vthe USFSA is over-hyping Mariah or any other particular skater. This article happens to be about Mariah and tries (without very much originality or success) to tap into the old artistry versus technique meme). Two years ago Alysa got some cobverage as a fresh face with a triple Axel. (Now she is not quite so fresh and triple Axels and quads are more common internationally.) The year before that, Bradie performed surprisingly well at Skate America and then went on to win the national championship -- she picked up the tag of "at last, a U.S. skatrer with some consistency.")

Headline writers have to say something after all.

Personally, I agree with the posters who like Bradie's choreography and presentation -- there is something unique and a little bit edgy there. Bottom ine, though -- between the three of them (and Karen Chen, maybe Audry Shin?), the winner will be the one who lands all her jumps with no URs, etc. Point-wise, I think that this consideration will overwhelm any preference for one artistic style over another.
 

kirauza343

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Oct 1, 2020
Mariah’s performances last season were amazing. Let’s not forget that she beat Alina’s LP. She’s definitely better than some of the comments on this thread suggest.
That said, her LP this year is terrible and won’t get her anywhere. Bourne is a terrible choreographer based on the work I’ve seen so far this season.
She beat a very poor free skate of Alina’s with a score that 10 other ladies surpassed at least once last season (and that’s with Kaori and Wakaba struggling). She had a good season without a doubt but not good enough to warrant the push she’s been getting IMO.
 

Skatefan15

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Mariah’s performances last season were amazing. Let’s not forget that she beat Alina’s LP. She’s definitely better than some of the comments on this thread suggest.
That said, her LP this year is terrible and won’t get her anywhere. Bourne is a terrible choreographer based on the work I’ve seen so far this season.
If we are using the argument of beating Alina (who isn’t even competing at the moment) then why isn’t Bradie getting the same push Mariah is? She had a better season (made the final and had good skates at FCC) and beat Alina overall (not just in a free skate) at the final. However, for both Mariah and Bradie, they did luck out with Alina not performing at her best against them because she would have definitely beaten them. Anyway, no ones saying Mariah’s a bad skater, they are just saying there really isn’t anything about her that’s more special than the other top US ladies that would warrant this many people involved in USFS to be this behind her (especially in terms of artistry because there are many Japanese and some Russians that have her beat there as well as having far superior technical).
 

BlissfulSynergy

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I have yet to read the article. Thanks for sharing it @lappo.

In general, I slightly disagree with your views. I think what's going on in figure skating is multi-layered and complicated, as it has always been. There are, as usual, a ton of issues and complexities that the people running the sport never adequately pay attention to. They tend to put bandaids on stuff, or stick their heads in the sand until some scandal or controversy forces attention and action, which is always woefully behind-the-curve, and never ahead of the game.

Visionary, creative and responsible leadership is simply lacking. There are so many things that need to be studied and addressed, and the political conflicts are many, which further complicates anything being adequately or beneficially addressed, much less effectively resolved. The mainstream media understand very little about figure skating and nothing about its history. It is nice to see some articles being written here and there that try to go beyond the usual hype and simplistic views surrounding skating. Again, I still have to take a look at this particular article to see exactly what their take is. It sounds like a genuine effort to discuss the age-old problem the sport has faced regarding technical evolution vs the artistic soul of the sport.

I disagree that all these very young ladies landing quads and triples is such a fantastic or necessary thing. In my view, there are still some very problematic issues surrounding the enormous technical and physical demands of the sport not keeping up with equipment innovation. There have been advances in physical therapy management, training strategies, and dietary approaches, but even in those areas, there's a lot of work to be done. Other neglected aspects (including mental and emotional health, the problematic sports culture, plus abuse and diversity issues) are only recently being looked at more, tackled and addressed in many cases by current and former skaters themselves, including Rachael Flatt, Kira Korpii, Jenny Kirk, Asher Hill & colleagues, and to a degree on a personal basis by Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner, Amber Glenn, Karina Manta, Rachel Parsons, et al.

The jury is still out regarding the current trend toward over-rewarding young teenyboppers with technically demanding jumps. Yes, a few of the young Russian ladies combine graceful sensibilities with difficult jumps, but the problems are many, including the tendency to have a very short career while being over-rewarded before gaining sufficient competitive experience and maturity.

I will start by acknowledging the fact that the rest of the world simply caught up with the talent and dominance of U.S. ladies. Without question, it's also true that U.S. fed and U.S. fans were completely spoiled by the dominance of the Michelle Kwan era. I suppose the expectation was that U.S. ladies' podium presence would continue on after MK's retirement, just as there had always traditionally been a U.S. lady or ladies battling and winning against the rest of the world, since the 1950s. It is interesting that it will still take years before either Russia or Japan, much less South Korea can begin to amass the record-breaking total number of World and Olympics medals that are still held by the U.S. in their ladies storied division (historically). The problems faced by the U.S. ladies discipline are to a large degree politically-based (i.e., the U.S. lacks substantial political clout), in addition to the lack of leadership and sound decision-making by those running U.S. fed. They have just seemed to be caught betwixt and between. I don't think U.S. fed officials were sure how to address the changing landscape (regarding IJS/CoP and the gains by other countries in ladies competition), so most definitely they have been slow off the mark. But the direction the sport was/ is going in is not necessarily the best direction. So U.S. fed seemed to be hedging their bets in recent years with the thinking that perhaps the new system would resolve on its own and maybe eventually get back to what they were used to seeing with U.S. skaters making their way to the top.

That's similar to how the entire sport seemed to view quads. They seemed to think: Oh, it will all resolve by itself without any need to update the rules, or to listen to the voices of skaters and coaches regarding the need to figure out how to reward quads, and how to simply study what kind of impact quads might have long term. And so, the problems in scoring quads (especially with falls) in the men's field ensued, and then culminated in the rise of Nathan Chen post the phenomenon of Boyang Jin and his quad lutz triple combo. With strong and rare jumps, Jin landed on the World podium in his first year as a senior, without adequate presentation skills, and with some questionable skating skills, which to be fair were addressed later by Jin, and he's come far because he learns well, though artistry is still not his strong suit. ISU and fed officials also seemed to think that Hanyu and Javi would battle on forever at the top, as Patrick Chan's dominance began to wane. But no, Denis Ten made a run with his exquisite brand of artistry and technical brilliance, and then inspired by Jin, et al, Nathan Chen changed the game. And the sport's honchos quickly implemented additional bandaid-measure scoring changes. LOL

Meanwhile, with our entire culture's misogynistic leanings, no one in figure skating fully contemplated that very young ladies would begin to challenge at the Game of Quads. This despite the fact that 3-axels were already being trained more among ladies, and that historically 3-axels and quads had already been landed by a few amazing former ladies competitors. It's about paying attention and taking the time to develop studies and to include voices and viewpoints from everyone in the sport's global community. Also, being brave and forward-thinking enough to bring in outside opinions and expertise that might benefit the sport's overall necessary decision-making for the future.

Of course, now an entirely new wrench has been thrown into this challenging mishmash in the aftermath of COVID reality 2020 and beyond.
 

Thrashergurl

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Oct 27, 2019
If we are using the argument of beating Alina (who isn’t even competing at the moment) then why isn’t Bradie getting the same push Mariah is? She had a better season (made the final and had good skates at FCC) and beat Alina overall (not just in a free skate) at the final. However, for both Mariah and Bradie, they did luck out with Alina not performing at her best against them because she would have definitely beaten them. Anyway, no ones saying Mariah’s a bad skater, they are just saying there really isn’t anything about her that’s more special than the other top US ladies that would warrant this many people involved in USFS to be this behind her (especially in terms of artistry because there are many Japanese and some Russians that have her beat there as well as having far superior technical).
Unless I read a different article than was was linked in the original post, this article focuses on Bell’s performance at Nationals and basically says she has shown improvements. I didn’t take it as anything more or less.
There have been plenty of articles about Bradie and Lui, yet I didn’t see anyone complaining when these articles were published.

And yes, it was a huge accomplishment when Bell AND Bradie beat Alina. When was the last time an American beat one of the Russians- who’re specifically the reigning Olympic champion. Maybe it is one of Alina’s weakest performances, but her skating was declining that year and it’s possible they would’ve beaten her anyhow. Let’s give them credit when it’s deserves.
 

TallyT

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Apr 23, 2018
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It's the Guardian, folks. Some of their stuff I read but they are about as balanced as half a spinning top and they play the favourites their sponsors want almost as blatantly as tabloids. Hell, even in their Aussie edition, they made the results of the men's final in PC all about Nathan Chen ("oh and some other guys actually podiumed"). Below The Line was impressively unimpressed.

And don't get my relatives started on other sports coverage like cricket, please.

I don't like Bell but good or bad, this is pure clickbait.
 
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