By Liz Leamy
Times are a-changing, especially on the domestic front. In the past few years, the U.S. figure skating community has adapted to ways of the IJS system, all the way from the lower competitive levels on up. Sure, there are some aspects of this evaluation process that need some tweaking, but as a whole, things seem to be working out.
American figure skating seems to be in a good place for the moment. Evan Lysacek is the reigning World men’s champion; Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are the current World silver dance medalists; Meryl Davis & Charlie White seem to be in strong contention for a 2010 Olympic dance medal; Rachael Flatt is ranked as one of the top-five women internationally; and our leading pair teams have been working vehemently to perhaps soon break into a top-five world championship position.
While many U.S. contenders have been hard at work trying to elevate the domestic standard, so have the forces that have guided them to this point, namely U.S. Figure Skating and the Professional Skaters Association.
Many prominent members of these two factions, who respectively represent the governing body and coaches guild, have been working and communicating with one another with the idea strengthening the general standard of all skaters.
In other words, U.S. Figure Skating and PSA are looking to do whatever they can to make certain every area is covered so that our skaters stand out in a positive light and reflect well on the sport here, whether they are singles, pairs, dance or synchronized competitors, test skaters or group-lesson students skating in a public session.
This spring, summer and fall, the crux of U.S. figure skating officials and coaches, have, as always, been busy attending and working at non-qualifying competitions, seminars and taking tests to insure that they are as on top of their game as ever.
Inevitably, certain trends seem have evolved this season, despite the fact that they have been popular previously. This year, perhaps more than ever, singles skating is all about clean and consistent jumps. Yes, footwork, spins and spiral sequences are important, but jumps seem to be separating the top finishers from those in the middle of the pack. Innovative, interesting programs that hold the viewer’s attention also seem to be de riguer.
For pairs, difficult jumps, throws and lifts are everything, but so are ‘big’ edges. Power, edges and flow of the connecting steps seem to set the winners apart from the rest of the competition. Like the singles, the best choreography is exciting.
Dance is all about the overall artistic performance now more than ever. This tone seems to have been augmented by Meryl Davis and Charlie White with their breathtaking "Samson and Delilah’ free dance at the 2009 World Championships last March. This season, the top U.S. dance teams have spent a great deal of time choosing their music so that their programs stand out and are smart, inspirational and entertaining. At the same time, they have been working steadfastly on their stroking and other technical skills in order to achieve the precedent set by Belbin & Agosto at Worlds last year.
The U.S. synch skaters are hoping for a World Championship medal this year and have been working like mad in order to achieve this goal. Again, power and choreography and good technical aptitude seem to be the theme for this group.
As a means to further boost the standard, a host of newly proposed field moves were passed at the 2009 Governing Council meeting last May that will go into effect as of September 2, 2010. These moves, formulated and presented by a task forced led by Wayne Hundley, a gold-level U.S. Figure Skating official and U.S. Championship judge from California, include forward and backward figure eights, twizzles, loops and different steps and sequences that will be featured in most of the eight Moves in the Field tests as of next fall.
The new moves were implemented to help increase power among all factions of the sport here.
In August, the PSA launched a series of seminars at 20-plus rinks across the country to educate coaches and officials on these new moves that will be held through April 2010.
These seminars, many of which have been filled to capacity so far, consist of day-long instructional on and off ice classes going over all of the new moves at every level.
Without a doubt, attendance at these seminars seems to indicate that we’re moving full speed straight ahead in regard to this goal. Let’s just continue to keep up and build upon this momentum.
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