North American competitive system lacking

lappo

Final Flight
Joined
Feb 12, 2016
I figure I'll point to underdogs to show that "Gold or nothing" doesn't really apply to G.O.A.Ts.

"People really only can remember the winners." Rasmus Winther
"Losing at Worlds felt like throwing away everything I had worked towards and built." Martin Larsson
"Only five people are truly able to make their names known [...] because nobody remembers the runners-up." Hu Shou-Chieh
"To me, I'm like, what a failure. We made it all the way to the Finals and we didn't win.
So... I don't think I'll look back with pride ever on that. Like, I will always be really ashamed that we didn't win the Finals." Yiliang Peng

Athletes who aren't expected to win will still feel like they were expected to win. I think you underestimate the pressure that athletes place on themselves to get gold. Losing or getting runners up can still mean people will still be your fan and will still support you, but you need to get the gold to cement your legacy.

Of course that make that skater any less great in the eyes of their fan; I don't think Alysa Liu or Mariah Bell will suddenly stop becoming relevant or less loved if they fail to win Nationals or Skate America, but to point to runners up in general and say "that is what success looks like" or "this is peak figure skating" is missing the mark.
I think we are approaching the subject from another point of view that the one we were discussing. Of course, from the point of view of an athlete who has made immense sacrifices since tender youth anything but gold is a failure. You can listen to this very informative interview with gymnast Shawn Johnson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEmtRuJwb7A&ab_channel=TheEastFamily) that will bring you in the mind of a favourite for gold medal who came up second...you will see that after many years, even though she came to accept it, the regret is still lingering.
Do we think that Mao would not have loved to be in Yuna's place at Vancouver? Do we think Michelle would not have loved to be in the place of Tara or Sarah? Of course not, that must be the most regretful moment of all their life. However, this is just the point of view of the athletes, who are totally entitled to feel that way given the fact that they spent years of their lives chasing that elusive gold medal.
Now, let's switch to the point of view of figure skating fans. Has the gold medal really cemented Sarah Hughes status as one of the greatest skaters in the word (just to make an example, you could mention others such as Lysacek)? If I remember correctly, Michelle at the time was paid millions to skate in ice shows and you would think that people would have flocked to see Sarah instead. Can Mao be considered not successful for the lack of an Olympic medal? Can Midori? In the unlikely, thanks God, event that Sasha Trusova leaves the sport tomorrow, wouldn't she be remembered as a super pioneer of ladies advancement in the future? My point is that some exceptional skaters, not all of them, really contributed to the sports either technically or artistically and even if they lack an Olympic gold medal they will be remembered not only by their fans but also by history.
 

Skatesocs

Final Flight
Joined
May 16, 2020
I disagree that it's medalists that who are remembered, whether gold or silver or bronze. But it's still "gold" that is remembered - the gold standards of the sport - hence the Itos, Kwans, Asadas, Chen Lus, and Lynns of the sport are remembered.

So I guess I disagree with everyone who just brought up the colour of the medals.
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 25, 2013
I think we are approaching the subject from another point of view that the one we were discussing. Of course, from the point of view of an athlete who has made immense sacrifices since tender youth anything but gold is a failure. You can listen to this very informative interview with gymnast Shawn Johnson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEmtRuJwb7A&ab_channel=TheEastFamily) that will bring you in the mind of a favourite for gold medal who came up second...you will see that after many years, even though she came to accept it, the regret is still lingering.
Do we think that Mao would not have loved to be in Yuna's place at Vancouver? Do we think Michelle would not have loved to be in the place of Tara or Sarah? Of course not, that must be the most regretful moment of all their life. However, this is just the point of view of the athletes, who are totally entitled to feel that way given the fact that they spent years of their lives chasing that elusive gold medal.
Now, let's switch to the point of view of figure skating fans. Has the gold medal really cemented Sarah Hughes status as one of the greatest skaters in the word (just to make an example, you could mention others such as Lysacek)? If I remember correctly, Michelle at the time was paid millions to skate in ice shows and you would think that people would have flocked to see Sarah instead. Can Mao be considered not successful for the lack of an Olympic medal? Can Midori? In the unlikely, thanks God, event that Sasha Trusova leaves the sport tomorrow, wouldn't she be remembered as a super pioneer of ladies advancement in the future? My point is that some exceptional skaters, not all of them, really contributed to the sports either technically or artistically and even if they lack an Olympic gold medal they will be remembered not only by their fans but also by history.
Well said. Since we are making sweeping generalizations here, I’ll add mine - you’re not really a true fan of figure skating if you believe that the only skaters who deserve to go down in skating history are ones who happened to win the big golds.

Skaters go down in history based on their skating not their medals. And not who happened to be around at the time to beat them. For example Kwan’s 1998 Olympics was worthy of gold, but Lipinski happened to exist. Ito’s Olympic FS was epic and was worthy and was historical with the 3A but she was too far behind in figures, and Yamaguchi existed. Asada did THREE triple axels but Kim existed.

And it goes the other way. There are skaters who have won World/Olympics who earned the gold but aren’t particularly remarkable - they just skated the best. Totmianina/Marinin won 2006 Olympics but arguably people will remember the quad attempt, horrific fall and amazing comeback (2A+3T!!!) by the Zhangs.

IMO, skating history isn’t just about medalability - it’s about memorability.
 
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Mathman

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Jun 21, 2003
^ Julia Lipnitskaia is a good example. What people remember is her Schindler's List program. (Of course, she is in the almanac as an Olympic Gold Medalist -- in the team event.)

Another good example is the 1988 ladies' event. The two favorites flubbed the LP, although Katarina Witt did enough to take the gold overall. Long shot Liz Manley gave the performance of her career and is still remembered with fondness and appreciation.
 
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TallyT

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There's a difference between being a big star while you are competing and being a name people will remember once you're not, and I think it's a bit of a furphy to bring in the big historical names, OGM/WGM or not, since they are only a tiny scattering of all the skaters. All meaning the Shoma Unos and Alina Zagitovas and Aliona Kostornaias and yes, the Jason Browns and Bradie Tennels and Keegan Messings and Kaori Sakamotos and Eunsoo Lims of previous times who were international names then whether or not they've been forgotten now.

Trying to compare how the current crop of top skaters, both in the US and overseas, are in the stardom stakes with the very very small number of most memorable ones from the past is totally unfair. Totally unfair even to Chen, Liu, Brown, Medvedeva, Zagitova, Trusova, Uno, Kihira, Jin... because all but two or three - or one, or maybe even none - are going to fade from memory even in their own country, except for hard-core fans (be honest, how many casual fans in North America would know who Lysacek or Hughes, both OGMs, were? Or WGMs Tickner and Fratianne? What names would casual fans recognise from more than just 3-4 years ago? And how many Russian skaters from 2010 could their casual fans name?)

One or two might not, and to be honest we don't know yet who those one or two are going to be, so we can't compare even Zagitova with Kwan. Not yet.
 
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Kraft des Bösen

Spectator
Joined
Nov 12, 2020
Well said. Since we are making sweeping generalizations here, I’ll add mine - you’re not really a true fan of figure skating if you believe that the only skaters who deserve to go down in skating history are ones who happened to win the big golds.

Skaters go down in history based on their skating not their medals. And not who happened to be around at the time to beat them. For example Kwan’s 1998 Olympics was worthy of gold, but Lipinski happened to exist. Ito’s Olympic FS was epic and was worthy and was historical with the 3A but she was too far behind in figures, and Yamaguchi existed. Asada did THREE triple axels but Kim existed.

And it goes the other way. There are skaters who have won World/Olympics who earned the gold but aren’t particularly remarkable - they just skated the best. Totmianina/Marinin won 2006 Olympics but arguably people will remember the quad attempt, horrific fall and amazing comeback (2A+3T!!!) by the Zhangs.

IMO, skating history isn’t just about medalability - it’s about memorability.
That's fair and all, and I agree that fan's opinions will never be swayed by medals or results. But - since the thread was arguing that the US development system is lacking, I think gold medals are a pretty good pointer of that. If the US is consistently able to produce gold medals, then it is sufficient proof that their system is working. But this is not the case, the US hasn't been able to produce gold medals since the 1990s, losing to Canada, Russia, China, etc. in events that they were historically dominant in. You can argue that Ashley was a great skater or whatever, but you can't argue that just because the US was able to produce a skater like her, they are doing well in terms of talent development.

The most important thing is the USFSA (and SkateCanada) recognize that they should be doing more to promote talents at the junior/senior level, by subsidizing the costs of training semi-competitive athletes are facing, or by making scouting them easier (Nationals are doing a pretty bad job of highlighting up and coming skaters). Sports schools or programs that allows athletes to complete while earning a degree? That's certainly something that will benefit everybody. It's probably harder to do in the US but Canada is pretty socialist. There's probably so much more we could and should be doing for our skaters but obviously it's not there.
 

TallyT

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That's fair and all, and I agree that fan's opinions will never be swayed by medals or results. But - since the thread was arguing that the US development system is lacking, I think gold medals are a pretty good pointer of that.

This is true. Fans can love anyone they like, but the feds - especially the big ones whose country expect them to shine - do have to look at the bottom line and whether or not they are getting results, medals and audiences right now.
 

el henry

Fangirl of men’s spirals and split jumps
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Mar 3, 2014
That's fair and all, and I agree that fan's opinions will never be swayed by medals or results. But - since the thread was arguing that the US development system is lacking, I think gold medals are a pretty good pointer of that. If the US is consistently able to produce gold medals, then it is sufficient proof that their system is working. But this is not the case, the US hasn't been able to produce gold medals since the 1990s, losing to Canada, Russia, China, etc. in events that they were historically dominant in. You can argue that Ashley was a great skater or whatever, but you can't argue that just because the US was able to produce a skater like her, they are doing well in terms of talent development.

The most important thing is the USFSA (and SkateCanada) recognize that they should be doing more to promote talents at the junior/senior level, by subsidizing the costs of training semi-competitive athletes are facing, or by making scouting them easier (Nationals are doing a pretty bad job of highlighting up and coming skaters). Sports schools or programs that allows athletes to complete while earning a degree? That's certainly something that will benefit everybody. It's probably harder to do in the US but Canada is pretty socialist. There's probably so much more we could and should be doing for our skaters but obviously it's not there.
Can I ask you where you propose the USFS will get the money to subsidize the training costs?
And in what way Canada is "pretty socialist"? I'm not sure what you mean by that.

I still disagree that a skater's impact on the sport is measured by medals (and that has nothing to do with fan's opinions, that has to do with impact on the sport. Toller Cranston. Janet Lynn. etc.) but even assuming arguendo that was an accurate measurement, from what I understand, the USFS simply doesn't have the funds to massively subsidize costs.

And, assuming arguendo that medals were the correct barometer, why does the system work for men? Why does it work for ice dance? They all go to the same Nats and all go through the same "system":scratch2:
 

Mathman

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Historically, it's kind of funny that now it is the Russians who are leading the younth movement, with an ever-younger cadre coming up each year. Previously, the two most successful Russian ladies were Maria Butyrskaya (who won the world championship at age 26) and Irina Slutskaya (whose best performance was 2005 Worlds, also at age 26.)
 

Kraft des Bösen

Spectator
Joined
Nov 12, 2020
Can I ask you where you propose the USFS will get the money to subsidize the training costs?
And in what way Canada is "pretty socialist"? I'm not sure what you mean by that.

I still disagree that a skater's impact on the sport is measured by medals (and that has nothing to do with fan's opinions, that has to do with impact on the sport. Toller Cranston. Janet Lynn. etc.) but even assuming arguendo that was an accurate measurement, from what I understand, the USFS simply doesn't have the funds to massively subsidize costs.

And, assuming arguendo that medals were the correct barometer, why does the system work for men? Why does it work for ice dance? They all go to the same Nats and all go through the same "system":scratch2:
The system doesn't work for men and ice dance? They have fared better than the ladies and pairs, but they are still struggling to make podium against smaller countries which aren't that invested into skating.

2018 Olympics - No NA men on the podium

2015-2017 Worlds - No NA men on the podium

And considering NA's historical ice dance dominance, the French couple has gotten a fair bit of medals over the last 5 years.

As for prize money: the USFSA could be looking for more sponsors.

Considering they already have about 21 million viewers during Nationals, compared to the LCS's 24 million viewers during their Finals, I would say the LCS and Figure Skating has about the same viewership, and NBC actually charges people to watch FS. The average LCS pro's salary (what their employer pays them) is $300,000 (remember, this is before sponsorships or prize money). So a total of $15 million spent on salary for 50 players in the league. USFSA claims they spend $13.7 million annually for skaters and other expenses. Pretty reasonable compared to LCS, except LCS is free to watch (cable is not), LCS pros' expenses are all paid for (skaters pay for their own training with subsidies), oh, and playing video games cost pretty much nothing (skating is one of the most expensive sports).

In conclusion, USFSA is not paying their top skaters $300,000 a year, they are not covering for their athletes' expenses, and they should be, because it is doable. Don't give them a pass on this issue. Numerous other niche sports are paying their athletes enough and they are doing enough to develop talents. USFSA is not doing enough.

Oh have you ever been to Canada? It's practically Soviet Union 2.0 up there. They tax so high they can definitely afford to build sports schools for every sport.
 

Lamente Ariane

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Apr 5, 2017
North America’s historical dominance? The USA had won one Olympic medal (bronze) in Dance before 2006, and that was way back in 1976. Canada won bronze in 1988 and that was it till 2010.
 

Amei

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Joined
Nov 11, 2013
Well said. Since we are making sweeping generalizations here, I’ll add mine - you’re not really a true fan of figure skating if you believe that the only skaters who deserve to go down in skating history are ones who happened to win the big golds.

Skaters go down in history based on their skating not their medals. And not who happened to be around at the time to beat them. For example Kwan’s 1998 Olympics was worthy of gold, but Lipinski happened to exist. Ito’s Olympic FS was epic and was worthy and was historical with the 3A but she was too far behind in figures, and Yamaguchi existed. Asada did THREE triple axels but Kim existed.

And it goes the other way. There are skaters who have won World/Olympics who earned the gold but aren’t particularly remarkable - they just skated the best. Totmianina/Marinin won 2006 Olympics but arguably people will remember the quad attempt, horrific fall and amazing comeback (2A+3T!!!) by the Zhangs.

IMO, skating history isn’t just about medalability - it’s about memorability.

So Tonya Harding is the greatest skater in American skating history cause she is far more memorable and well known than anyone else that's ever stepped on the ice for the US for non-figure skating fans.
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

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Joined
Jan 25, 2013
So Tonya Harding is the greatest skater in American skating history cause she is far more memorable and well known than anyone else that's ever stepped on the ice for the US for non-figure skating fans.
I wouldn’t say she’s the greatest skater but arguably the strongest jumper. I mean her jumps were massive. She landed a 3A (first American to do so) and that does cement her place in American skating history. Of course she is also in skating history for the wrong reasons but the Kerrigan scandal isn’t the only thing that defines her. She was an incredible athlete.

When I said memorability I was alluding to their skating.
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

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Jan 25, 2013
I will also say that circumstances don’t suddenly define a country’s success.

Also I can’t help but feel that some people are simply jerks - if a country doesn’t win these people criticize them for not having a gold winner, if they can’t keep producing winners then they are criticized for inconsistency (see people criticizing Canada for not having any successor to Osmond). There’s no satisfying people and when one country wins and holds off a salty person’s criticism they just shift their derisory comments to whoever lost.

Even if North American women could win every gold and then these people would just poke fun at the Japanese and Russians.

Only three skaters can medal at the Olympics/Worlds and only one can win. Some people seem to lose sight of that.
 

el henry

Fangirl of men’s spirals and split jumps
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Mar 3, 2014
The system doesn't work for men and ice dance? They have fared better than the ladies and pairs, but they are still struggling to make podium against smaller countries which aren't that invested into skating.

2018 Olympics - No NA men on the podium

2015-2017 Worlds - No NA men on the podium

And considering NA's historical ice dance dominance, the French couple has gotten a fair bit of medals over the last 5 years.

As for prize money: the USFSA could be looking for more sponsors.

Considering they already have about 21 million viewers during Nationals, compared to the LCS's 24 million viewers during their Finals, I would say the LCS and Figure Skating has about the same viewership, and NBC actually charges people to watch FS. The average LCS pro's salary (what their employer pays them) is $300,000 (remember, this is before sponsorships or prize money). So a total of $15 million spent on salary for 50 players in the league. USFSA claims they spend $13.7 million annually for skaters and other expenses. Pretty reasonable compared to LCS, except LCS is free to watch (cable is not), LCS pros' expenses are all paid for (skaters pay for their own training with subsidies), oh, and playing video games cost pretty much nothing (skating is one of the most expensive sports).

In conclusion, USFSA is not paying their top skaters $300,000 a year, they are not covering for their athletes' expenses, and they should be, because it is doable. Don't give them a pass on this issue. Numerous other niche sports are paying their athletes enough and they are doing enough to develop talents. USFSA is not doing enough.

Oh have you ever been to Canada? It's practically Soviet Union 2.0 up there. They tax so high they can definitely afford to build sports schools for every sport.

When I asked about socialism, I thought you might be talking about Canada's skating system, so I apologize for asking, as politics is prohibited by the Forum guidelines.

I am afraid that I have no idea what "LCS" is, so I cannot say if the LCS structure is similar to the USFS, whether any of the costs associated with "LCS" are as high as those associated with skating (which are pretty darn high), and whether "LCS" has country specific federations and country specific championships such as worlds.

Sad to say from a skating fans point of view, no employer anywhere is the USA today are paying skaters to skate. Good for "LCS" athletes if they can get that kind of money, but it won't happen in the USA for skating. :)
 

Mathman

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Sad to say from a skating fans point of view, no employer anywhere is the USA today are paying skaters to skate.
To me, that is the end of the story.

It is all very well to say that "they" should jump up and dish out big bucks to promote and advance the sport of figure skating. Or to say that the government should raise taxes to install such a program at public expense. (Presumably the reward for politicians advocating such a plan would be so that they could say "ha, ha on you" to the Russians, even as we got to say "ha, ha" on the Romanians in gymnastis a couple of decades ago.)

I suppose the USFSA could raise its membership fees -- but those fees would have to be paid by the same skaters, parents, and local clubs that are paying them now.
 
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