Study in a Skating Popularity-Disparity Across Different Regions | Golden Skate

Study in a Skating Popularity-Disparity Across Different Regions

Mathematician

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Recently in another thread the discussion came up about how to revive skating in western countries. It was off topic for that thread so I think its best so start a new thread specifically about this.

There were 4 big points of differing consensus and acceptance, firstly:

1. Skating is not popularized enough on social media for the younger generations in western countries ( Seemingly a split level of consensus/agreement about this idea)

2. The lack of an artistic and personal disposition to programs/athletes in skating-popularity-barren regions opposed to those with thriving skating communities. (Also split consensus)

3. Lack of western champions. / The lack of appreciation for men and masculinity in skating. (Overwhelming agreement)

4. Lack of convenient access to skating competitions. (Overwhelming agreement)


1st point:


TikTok is already flooded with skating content with millions of likes in western communities. It may garner the active interest but not prolonged engagement or care. Especially with the nature of such modern entertainment sites (TikTok, Instagram etc...) focusing on instant gratification and the superficial rather than cultivating long-term passions. This leads into the 2nd point which I proposed: in regions with thriving communities, there is an artistic and even revering culture to skating and the result is a more personal disposition to the athletes and programs. The point is that no matter how much trivial marketing you do, the natural disposition of the viewer isnt primed to care deeply about what theyre watching, even if they find it "interesting" or "cool". Pair this with point 4 and there is little reason given to the viewer to actually dedicate themselves to this sport.

"Perhaps we have differing views of sophistication or artistry, but thankfully for the point here we dont need to debate it. Perhaps instead of sophistication we will say instead emotional/personal concern to something more than a reductionist and purely spectacular purpose of that thing.

To explain my point I will bring attention to a thread in which there was a large debate happening on whether skating is an art or not, the merit of either side I wont discuss here but I will give my observation on what I think the outcome of those sides are on the skating scenes of the regions correlated to either side.

All those, and yes, all, who argued skating is not an art and proposed the existence of an intrinsic gap in lets say "sophistication" or "validity" between traditional arts like music to skating, with the implication that skating is inferior, were users from the west in which skating is self-admittedly struggling.

Those users from other areas where skating is prospering seemed to be unanimously shocked that someone can even hold this idea.

The result is what matters, not the essence of the arguments themselves: art consequents personal involvement, something to relate to and some way to receive or express emotion; this leads to dedicated fans who are willing to search out replays, streams, and follow skaters developing emotional attachment. Meanwhile TikTok, which by the way is flooded with skating content with millions of likes in western communities, may garner the active interest but not prolonged engagement or care. Especially with the nature of such entertainment sites focusing on instant gratification and the superficial rather than cultivating long-term passions.

Beware that I am not implying western skating itself to be less artistic in its programming or what not, but moreso I am drawing the parallel between the societal disposition to sports and perhaps things in general. Therefore I consider the issue of western skating popularity to be a societal consequence and not an issue of marketing, packaging or any linear system by which people seem to imply might fix things. What would be required is an entire philosophical overhaul of the society to be open for a new way to interpret sports and art - I think so. I hope I shared this opinion in a digestible, objective and non-pretentious way as much as possible."

Note that I was careful not to state any specific nations here, because the point is that when you consider any nation with thriving or dying skating scenes, and apply it to this idea, the correlation is not ignorable.

To expand on the effect:

This is my own subjective interpretation of things but here what I observe: in western skating discussions, on this forum and outside, the discussion typically follows the path of a general overview of tournaments, athletes, and programs as one collective unit and strictly in a competitive and athletic way. What I mean by this is that western viewers come to watch skating competition to see who wins, who does well, without much emotional investment on who that actually might be. Meanwhile in the thriving countries people come to watch *their* athlete(s), and *the* program(s) that they relate to as it were a piece of music or literature. I believe this results in a culture of significantly higher engagement and longevity.

This means that American skating is competing in what we call a "red ocean"; a niche in which there is already a mass of competition all doing the same things, trying to simply fine-tune the same strategy as everyone else to take a small edge. Point is that skating, competing in this read ocean of raw athleticism, will never beat the already established juggernauts of raw sport we know in the west. The thriving nations however compete in a blue ocean, which is a niche open to innovation and has more tolerance of ambiguity. Art intrinsically is far more open to value innovation, meaning Russia and Japan, for instance, can both create their own blue ocean of art with unique ice shows, programs, skaters, themes, culture, etc... whiteout having a blood bath clawing for the same viewer base as some competitive field like American skating seems to be.

Further, people proposed athletes like Malinin as potential marketing subjects due to their athletic feats, however, I also disagree with this for the following reason I earlier explained:

Malinin's quad axel can garner interest from someone like you because you already have reference on what it means, but people who arent already in the sport wont care. I could try to explain to you that I recently saw an athlete do pullups with a total of 300kg on his body but this wont make you interested in calisthenics because you didnt ever have a reason to care in the first place. Its just numbers, maybe impressive numbers even to you but it doesnt give something to relate to long term. You have seen many impressive numbers and statistics on many things in your life that you still dont care about.

Basically, if people want to watch raw athleticism in the west, they are going to watch LeBron or Biles because thats what they already have been fed since being a kid, Malinin does not interest them.

The 3rd point:


"On one hand I agree that successful athletes can garner interest, especially in the USA, but at the same time Chen is reigning OGM and absolute record holder. Even when Russia wasnt winning much before the last decade skating was still considered an intrinsic sport to the culture, girls were still interested in learning because the discipline is considered perhaps even equal to ballet in its sophistication. Again, I'm not saying it is or isnt, im just saying thats how people there judge it and thats important to their interest. As such we eventually achieved the level we are at. So again I think the root issue lies in what I was saying earlier."

Figure skating may never be considered intrinsically tied or valuable to US culture in the way it is in Russia, so I think the best that we can do here is have consistent champions and familiar faces to keep the popularity alive. The lack of a consistent ladies' champion has really hurt popularity of FS in the US.
Let's also not forget, he did have a pretty long career. Okay, so most of the biggest audiences that he skated to were due to the Japanese men and Russian women bringing them, but he and those audiences were shown on US TV etc for years. Didn't help the sport in the end (and to be fair, being good for the sport wasn't his, isn't really anyone's job no matter what TSL thinks) so what can someone else do?

"I think this all goes back to what someone else said, that male skating is unlikely to be appreciated in the west for many reasons. There is a more narrow minded and superficial understanding of masculinity in those areas of the world, at least thats how I see it. There are many reasons and consequences to that but whats relevant here is that it means a male champion isnt enough.

The most realistic solution to our problem then I think would be an American/Canadian women's champion. This would really motivate girls there to pick up skating as opposed to something like gymnastics. I think also a problem is that those who do become champions are not just from any country but specifically from a historical rival country. As such subconsciously perhaps for this reason in the society it is written off even further as something they arent supposed to be doing according to their culture. They dont even question the presupposition: "we have gymnastics, they have skating; all is fair and everyone stays in their lane".

I realize now that aside from the artistic disposition to skating being correlated with popularity, the disposition towards masculinity is also correlated. For example Japan and surprisingly even hyper-conservative Russia seem to appreciate masculinity in a more abstract and subjective way. This might also be a big reason as to why the sports thrive there. For example when Russia had no strong women they still appreciated Plushenko, or when Japan wasnt really looking to beat the Russian women they still appreciated Yuzuru, and as such the resilience of the sport is way higher because theres much more opportunity to have a relevant champion. Nathan Chen unfortunately didnt get such love outside of the obligatory, immediate praise for just bringing in a medal to USA."

I want to expand on that by adding that it isnt necessarily that Russia and the USA have the same sort of male skaters who are interpreted differently by their country, more specifically it is that the culture around skating is already set up in such a way that, in Russia, normal guys who would also be considered masculine by American standards, are actually accepted to become skaters, meanwhile in America that same kind of man is not expected to become skater. You see many Russian skaters who play hockey, soccer, wear their cross and are completely normal men who happen to skate. From what I understand this isnt really the case in the west. Even the Japanese Yuzuru is a normal guy even if not necessarily "macho".

Point 4 does not need to really be discussed. I think we all agree on that point. When I watched some international GP I had to check like 3 different sites before I could find a good stream, I also had to sign up for an account on the service and the only way I even managed to find that site was by sifting through comments of many different suggestions for streams, some of which didnt even work for me based on region.
 

el henry

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As I stated in the other thread, any stereotypical comments about the "West" and "masculinity" are disproved by Donovan Carrillo's almost single handed raising of visibility of skating in Mexico, Central America and South America.

There are many reasons for that, of course, but it shows the stereotype doesn't explain all. Or even most.
 

Mathematician

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As I stated in the other thread, any stereotypical comments about the "West" and "masculinity" are disproved by Donovan Carrillo's almost single handed raising of visibility of skating in Mexico, Central America and South America.

There are many reasons for that, of course, but it shows the stereotype doesn't explain all. Or even most.
I disagree because, like Nathan Chen got immediate attention for bringing a medal, Donovan got immediate attention for representing the flag where it is never represented. I dont see this outlier as disproving the correlation on nations with thriving skating communities. Like I also said in that other thread: if Latin American has a thriving skating community then I am wrong.

Stereotypes on an individual basis are harmful but when it comes to the emotionally unconcerned world of marketing, its a tool. If you wish to market the sport by the most politically correct way possible then its your choice, but its not a very common strategy in business.
 
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I would like to ask this question, though, about "the west," "masculinity," etc. In the United States and Canada, it seems like in ice dance the lady is the popular queen and the man does not get nearly as much fan attention? Madison Chock is w-a-a-y more admired, I think, than Evan Bates. Meryl Davis outshone Charlie White (she even won Dancing with the Stars in direct competition with Charlie for fan votes). Tessa Virtue was and still is a Canadian sports icon; Scott Moir -- lopts of people don't like him at all. Shae-Lynn Bourne was and still is all that, but Victor Kraatz kind of faded into the background in terms of fans' interest. (But I thinlk that Ben Agosto was quite popular, despite Tanith Belbin being so gorgeous. And Christopher Dean was probably more in the public eye than Jayne Torvill.)

Maybe this is the nature of dance. But in Russia male ballet dancers (Baryshnikov, Nureyev) soar to the heights of the discipline, maybe even more so than famous ballerinas.
 

Mathematician

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I would like to ask this question, though, about "the west," "masculinity," etc. In the United States and Canada, it seems like in ice dance the lady is the popular queen and the man does not get nearly as much fan attention? Madison Chock is w-a-a-y more admired, I think, than Evan Bates. Meryl Davis outshone Charlie White (she even won Dancing with the Stars in direct competition with Charlie for fan votes). Tessa Virtue was and still is a Canadian sports icon; Scott Moir -- lopts of people don't like him at all. Shae-Lynn Bourne was and still is all that, but Victor Kraatz kind of faded into the background in terms of fans' interest. (But I thinlk that Ben Agosto was quite popular, despite Tanith Belbin being so gorgeous. And Christopher Dean was probably more in the public eye than Jayne Torvill.)

Maybe this is the nature of dance. But in Russia male ballet dancers (Baryshnikov, Nureyev) soar to the heights of the discipline, maybe even more so than famous ballerinas.
Interesting observations. As I understand, this further supports my point?
 

TallyT

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I would like to ask this question, though, about "the west," "masculinity," etc. In the United States and Canada, it seems like in ice dance the lady is the popular queen and the man does not get nearly as much fan attention? Madison Chock is w-a-a-y more admired, I think, than Evan Bates. Meryl Davis outshone Charlie White (she even won Dancing with the Stars in direct competition with Charlie for fan votes). Tessa Virtue was and still is a Canadian sports icon; Scott Moir -- lopts of people don't like him at all. Shae-Lynn Bourne was and still is all that, but Victor Kraatz kind of faded into the background in terms of fans' interest.
There is to be fair an element of who is mediagenic per se, something that is important in this internet-driven world. Madison, Meryl and Tessa are all outstanding beautiful women; if you look at ID or pairs where the genetic gifts of fate are more equal (and the guys were dressed as more than a prop for the ladies' sartorial glory and yes I am looking at you Evan), maybe the profiles would be balance out a bit more. On the other hand, maybe not. The women in each discipline are expected to be more beautiful than the men (and spend a lot of time and money, costumes and makeup ensuring it.) Ours is an intensely visual sport, an emphasis on looks is one of the results and we may decry it, especially after something like Gracie's book, but we can't deny it.

(I do wonder sometimes, if Gracie had grasped that OBM in Sochi, what extra level of stardom might she have reached... higher than Chen's, I suspect. Which really does prove the OP's point.)
 
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Interesting observations. As I understand, this further supports my point?
I think that figure skating in the U.S. got off on the wrong foot in the 1930s when the multitalented Sonja Henie introduced cutsie-wootsie into the sport. For decades thereafter the popular conception fo figure skating was this:

https://i.etsystatic.com/12722236/r/il/746f37/4583089038/il_794xN.4583089038_itds.jpg

By the way, the ice show entrepreneurs Edie Shipshad and Oscar Johnson were included in the inaugural class (1976) of the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, along with such luminaries as Dick Button and Peggy Fleming.
 
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The women in each discipline are expected to be more beautiful than the men (and spend a lot of time and money, costumes and makeup ensuring it.)
It does, in fact, far outreach figure skating. The American (at least) ideal has always been, to quote "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess: "Your Daddy's rich and your Mama's good lookin'. (So hush, pretty baby, and don't you cry.)" ;)
 

TallyT

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It does, in fact, far outreach figure skating. The American (at least) ideal has always been, to quote "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess: "Your Daddy's rich and your Mama's good lookin'. (So hush, pretty baby, and don't you cry.)" ;)
I always sing it the other way these days :laugh: But for more grist to the mill I checked out Google Trends for the last 12 months and even though she retired in 2018 I think? Tessa's name is still being searched more than nearly anyone, both worldwide and combined North America, and that includes the two US male stars.

(Bar Tonya and Kamila, which proves a good scandal beats good... everything I guess? plus Sasha and Yuzu for other reasons)
 

cailuj365

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For many audiences, I think when they watch a pair/couple, they want to think that the boy and girl are in love. Tessa was gorgeous and Scott was handsome, but what made them very popular and led to a media craze during the Olympics was their romantic chemistry. US/Canada loved Sale/Pelletier, Gordeeva/Grinkov, Virtue/Moir because they all gave that vibe or were actually in love. The US loved Davis/White too, but more because they were good winners and not because of the chemistry. To me, Davis won DWTS and also made more media waves while on that show because she had that romantic chemistry with her partner Maxim.

Maybe figure skating has just gotten too nice recently. We all love a good rivalry, intrigue, drama, love story, and scandal. If there was a Drive To Survive-like show for FS, it could be compelling, but we definitely need some juicy soundbites from the skaters and the coaches.
 

Flying Feijoa

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3. Lack of western champions. / The lack of appreciation for men and masculinity in skating.
These are two separate points, but regarding the latter point, I don't think it's exactly a lack of appreciation for masculinity. It's more a problem of a narrow definition of masculinity, at least in North America.

Some more conservative social circles often hold that men doing figure skating at all is considered effeminate. This sort of environment would discourage any boy from taking up the sport, including the more 'heteronormative' ones. The people holding this viewpoint just don't see any form of skating as compatible with being masculine, and so aren't interested in watching male skating.

Those who appreciate good skating regardless of gender presentation tend to be either established skating fans or fall towards the liberal end of the political spectrum.

This leaves casual viewers with in-between views, who tend to be drawn towards skaters that conform to their idea of 'masculinity', which depends on the cultural norms in their local communities. This, I think, might explain why men's skating is more popular in places like Japan (different concept of what a straight cis man looks/behaves like), or historically Russia (where attention is often placed on jump content and medal counts). It might also help to explain why many current US/Canadian male skaters are of Asian and Eastern European heritage - as kids their families may have had less hang-ups about letting them do figure skating instead of pushing them into hockey.
 

el henry

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....

Maybe this is the nature of dance. But in Russia male ballet dancers (Baryshnikov, Nureyev) soar to the heights of the discipline, maybe even more so than famous ballerinas.


And so did John Curry here in the "West". ;)

Jumping off, I still think that over generalizations and stereotyping is just that, and not helpful for attempts to popularize the sport. At a time when all societies worldwide were homophobic, John Curry and Toller Cranston were the two most popular men's figure skaters in the world.
And certainly in the "West".

I can say for a fact, having lived through it all (and I know I speak to a fellow traveler through the years) my little corner of the "West" is less homophobic now. Perfect? God help us, no, much work to be done, but better.

So what happened in skating since then?
 

icewhite

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Oh god, my day already started terribly and now this thread which, sorry, looks to be full of nonsense to me.
I don't even know where to start, but 1 all the assumptions about masculinity or whatever in different countries are all over the place. @Mathematician you don't even watch men's figure skating at all as far as I'm aware, no matter which country. Do you watch ice dance?
One thing I know is that many Russians and people with Russian heritage see it as totally unfitting for a boy to do figure skating - yet there are great Russian male figure skaters.

It seems many people mean "North American" when they say western, well, as a European/German I don't even know where to join the discussion if we start at that point. Like I already said, the "western" does not help me at all in this discussion.

Also, personally I don't find the comparisons with figure skating in the past so helpful, I am always much more looking at other smaller sports that are booming.

I am going to take a hot shower now.
 

Mathematician

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These are two separate points, but regarding the latter point, I don't think it's exactly a lack of appreciation for masculinity. It's more a problem of a narrow definition of masculinity, at least in North America.

Some more conservative social circles often hold that men doing figure skating at all is considered effeminate. This sort of environment would discourage any boy from taking up the sport, including the more 'heteronormative' ones. The people holding this viewpoint just don't see any form of skating as compatible with being masculine, and so aren't interested in watching male skating.

Those who appreciate good skating regardless of gender presentation tend to be either established skating fans or fall towards the liberal end of the political spectrum.

This leaves casual viewers with in-between views, who tend to be drawn towards skaters that conform to their idea of 'masculinity', which depends on the cultural norms in their local communities. This, I think, might explain why men's skating is more popular in places like Japan (different concept of what a straight cis man looks/behaves like), or historically Russia (where attention is often placed on jump content and medal counts). It might also help to explain why many current US/Canadian male skaters are of Asian and Eastern European heritage - as kids their families may have had less hang-ups about letting them do figure skating instead of pushing them into hockey.
Hm, I am unsure where I was unclear. Indeed my exact point was about the interpretation of masculinity being more ambiguous allowing for men to be more appreciated in such things as skating. I was not trying to say anything about the appreciation of masculinity in and of itself. Re-reading my point, I do not really know where I went wrong for you to think that

About conservative/liberal, I dont think thats true because like I said Russia is quite conservative but appreciates male skating way more than liberal Canada for example.

By the way I mixed the points because the example of Nathan Chen, who is OGM and world record holder but did little for long term skating popularity in USA. Therefore the issue arises of specifically female champions. It is fair then to consider them together.


Oh god, my day already started terribly and now this thread which, sorry, looks to be full of nonsense to me.
I don't even know where to start, but 1 all the assumptions about masculinity or whatever in different countries are all over the place. @Mathematician you don't even watch men's figure skating at all as far as I'm aware, no matter which country. Do you watch ice dance?
One thing I know is that many Russians and people with Russian heritage see it as totally unfitting for a boy to do figure skating - yet there are great Russian male figure skaters.

It seems many people mean "North American" when they say western, well, as a European/German I don't even know where to join the discussion if we start at that point. Like I already said, the "western" does not help me at all in this discussion.

Also, personally I don't find the comparisons with figure skating in the past so helpful, I am always much more looking at other smaller sports that are booming.

I am going to take a hot shower now.
Sorry to ruin your day with my thread; its just the internet, I'm glad you decided to take a step away from the computer and relax.

I thought the way I made the distinction between the two sides was pretty cohesive, as well as the correlation to skating popularity.

Figure skating is rather normal for a boy in Russia. Maybe only in the Caucasus area is it still considered taboo.

And here we made many comparisons between current skating which thrives and current skating which does not. I think this is the best way to learn. But if there is another niche sport we can learn from let me know which you're thinking of.
 
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ladyjane

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I like men's skating, always have, and women's less so. Pairs is my favourite but ID is nice to watch as well. Not because of the athleticism (which I do admire) but mostly because men's, pairs and ID are just more interesting in steps, turns and spirals than women (they always do the Bielman while men tend to be more creative in spins). Does that mean I have a different view of masculinity? Or do I just like a variety of programmes? Oh, and FS is not thriving here like it is in some countries but we do have a pair, two ID couples and a woman who are making it more popular. Even an advanced novice boy nowadays. For years we had just women who weren't very good.
 

Andrina

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Revive Western figure skating?

When I was watching the European Championships this year, I didn't have the impression it was dead. And the range of amazing skaters with solid performances from Canada and the US is beyond compare, so these two Western countries are also far from the need to get revived.

Many Western countries have wonderful skaters at both Junior and Senior levels. These skaters not only perform well but also get medals. At the EC2024, again, 7 different countries got at least one of the 12 medals. In the Junior GFP last year, also 7 out 12 medals were given to a representant of a Western country.

I genuinely can't understand who would claim that Western figure skating is dead... Ah wait, I can! There is actually one country...
 
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gkelly

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Recently in another thread the discussion came up about how to revive skating in western countries. It was off topic for that thread so I think its best so start a new thread specifically about this.
First, I have to ask whether you're looking at this from the point of view of viewership or the point of view of participation?

2. The lack of an artistic and personal disposition to programs/athletes in skating-popularity-barren regions opposed to those with thriving skating communities.

2nd point which I proposed: in regions with thriving communities, there is an artistic and even revering culture to skating and the result is a more personal disposition to the athletes and programs.
Still not clear. Do you mean a thriving skating community, or a thriving fan community (in the broad sense, including what we might consider casual fans)?

Of course there is a correlation between participation and viewership, but which comes first? Do skating communities with greater participation and/or more international success attract more viewers, or does greater viewership (perhaps driven by a single successful skater) lead to more viewers, or their children, then taking up the sport?

The interaction probably works both ways. But what is it you're aiming to increase, and which side do you want to focus efforts on?

Also, personally I don't find the comparisons with figure skating in the past so helpful, I am always much more looking at other smaller sports that are booming.
I'd ask the same question of you. When you speak of smaller sports that are booming, do you mean sports that started tiny but have recently seen significant influxes of participation? Or sports where participation remains very niche, but those few athletes are able to attract large audiences?
 

el henry

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I have to admit that the title of this thread got my hopes up. A STUDY of the popularity of skating in various countries. Opinions and rehashes are fun, but largely data free. :(

True, I thought there was actually going to be an independent study out there somewhere that collated all the data and my heart skipped a beat.:drama:

Of course an opinion thread doesn't stop me from adding my own opinions.:laugh:
 
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