by Alexandra Stevenson
The Olympic season is always a little off-putting from a publicity point of view. To start with, because of the impact of the Games, a small percentage of journalists turn up from the “scandal” press, searching desperately and intrusively for a front page story, sometimes with an utter disregard for truth or even probability.
Twenty years ago, the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan story, on which unsavory details seemed to emerge practically on a regular basis for months complete with unimaginable stupidity and incompetence on the part of the perpetrators, and the wholesomeness of the beautiful, wronged heroine with the legally blind mother on the other side.
The farcical event, known as “the whack heard around-the-world” was a wonderful gift for both the scandal mongers, and the actual popularity of the sport of figure skating, which gained notoriety and fame which translated, positively, into far greater interest in the sport than had previously ever existed. The names of Kerrigan and Harding still live on. Both are now mothers, with Kerrigan still apparently happily married to her agent, and Harding dealing with a third husband, the father of her only child.
That “gift” of publicity has long receded, and the popularity of the sport is fading. Even in Canada, where figure skating has always held a special place, the attendance at events is less, as was witnessed by attendance at the small venue for this season’s Skate Canada Grand Prix. The current center of the sport’s popularity is by far and away, Japan, despite that country’s lack of development in ice dance and pairs.
There are now several new Olympic events, including the Figure Skating team medal competition, and men's and women's “Slopestyle” contests. Slopestyle appears to be a combination of gymnastic somersaults on special skis which allow for “back” landings, and skiing along or over various obstacles at high speed. It appears to fit the Olympic requirement of television viewer appeal since it looks both spectacular and dangerous.
The International Olympic Committee is trying to cut down on the number of sports in the Summer Games, but say they have plenty of room for growth of the Winter version. It appears that TV viewers like to see crashes and, despite great skill, the participants, apparently, fulfill that requirement. However, all the “new” sports, including our team event, have been accepted on a “trial” basis.
Skaters are now gearing up for Boston, and possibly what could be the most important event of their career. If, they are successful at Nationals, and get on the U.S. team, that will almost certainly have an effect on the rest of their careers. Just by being an Olympian, that person has made their mark in life.
But nationals are always fraught with disappointment. How a skater handles such a shattering of career-length goals, is the true test of what they will be able to deal with and how successful they become in life itself.
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