The Skater's Alumni Dinner is a fundraising event organized by the athletes, held during the annual Governing Council Meeting of U.S. Figure Skating. At the 2008 annual meeting, Janet Lynn was the keynote speaker. The text of her speech has been made available to us, and is provided here.
Following the dinner, several delegates we spoke to were dazed. They were expecting a feel-good trip down memory lane, but came out shell-shocked instead.
The joy of figure skating, says Lynn, comes from "the graceful culture of figure skating" and " the graceful language of figure skating."
In describing the graceful culture of figure skating Lynn spoke lovingly about growing up in figure skating, starting when she was not yet 3, through her National championships.
Lynn then asked the question, how did she and others of her time learn the "graceful language of figure skating." Her answer, school figures -- speaking passionately about what school figures brought to her skating.
From this departure, Lynn then went on to lament the state of figure skating today, saying, " That is why it is with such great sadness that many of my colleagues and I observe the present direction of the sport and art that we love. We do not recognize it anymore and sadly aren't often drawn to watch it because it is irritating;" and later, "Many of my very distinguished colleagues and I don't wonder, we know skating has taken a turn that is not correct or healthy. Those who are not afraid to be candid say that the skating structure and required content is now boring. If figure skating stays on its present path, the figure skating that we all have known and loved will not survive another generation."
In her address, Lynn strongly advocated the position that due to the loss of school figures, many skaters do not possess the necessary skating skills and body control needed for graceful, safe skating, or to present graceful sophisticated choreography in their programs.
She further advocated that the current scoring system, with its quest for points pushes skaters away from the graceful language of figure skating, and not towards it. "Skaters and coaches are working hard and are not at fault. They simply don't have the benefit of a structure or incentives to learn the essence of figure skating as my colleagues and I understand it to be," she said; and further, "It is time to study how to skate, instead of studying a massive rulebook and how to gain points." Though not mentioning names, in referring to the current structure, lack of incentives, the massive rulebook and the quest for points, Lynn clearly placed responsibility for the deterioration (in her view) of skating on the doorstep of the governing bodies of the sport (USFSA and ISU). She closed with an appeal for U.S. Figure Skating to create a commission to assess the current of figure skating. As its purpose, she said, "The commission should define the best structure and incentives for safely learning the complete language of figure skating. Their task should also include defining the kind of system and requirements that are healthiest for our rising athletes, and most enjoyable for those who watch."
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