Same Butts, Tighter Pants

Figure Skating for a Hockey Audience  

Billy will be offering guest posts on figure skating during the Olympics. Don’t be a lutz, follow him here on Twitter @waflanagan, or face his Death Spiral!

NYr PutinHello Hockey Fans! I’m Billy Flanagan, and I’ve been asked to write about figure skating during the Sochi Olympics for you all. A brief bit of background on me – I was a competitive figure skater for about 11 years growing up, and though the participatory part of my involvement in the sport has ended, my interest (obsession?) continues. In fact, I hauled my ass up to Boston from DC in January to watch this year’s National Championships (which is where the Olympic team was named) in person. But enough about me, let’s talk about figure skating.

Putin on ice EconomistFigure skaters. Long the bane of the hockey player’s existence – having to split ice time, and getting in your way on open ice sessions. There are many stereotypes regarding figure skaters – the sequins, the drama, the sabotaging other skaters (and that’s just the men!) – some of which I hope to dispel in these posts. There are skaters from every background competing in Sochi, so whether you’re into tall guys, short guys, Asian guys, black guys, twinks, bears, girls(?!) or anything in between, you’re sure to find someone to fit your fancy (and chances are they’ll be wearing tight pants – who doesn’t like that).

The Olympics are figure skating’s big show. Once every four years, the general public actually pays attention to the sport and everyone needs a little refresher course on how things work.

Philippines' Martinez skates during the figure skating training session at the Iceberg Skating Palace at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

In Sochi, we’ll see the four traditional skating events – ladies’, men’s, pairs, and ice dance – plus a new event, the team competition where skaters from each discipline join efforts to win medals for their country. Each event involves both a short program (which has 8 required elements – jumps, spins, and footwork – and is 2-2 ½ minutes in length) and a free skate (which has less stringent guidelines on elements and lasts between 4 and 4 ½ minutes each). I’ll break them down in the order that the events will occur in Sochi. To stay abreast of all the events, here’s the NBC skating broadcast schedule and athlete information page. The links below will take you to the official Sochi events pages.

The team competition actually starts on the day before the Opening Ceremonies, February 6, with short programs by the pairs and men. With everyone getting the day off on Opening Ceremonies day, the competition heats up again on Feb. 8, with the pairs skating their free programs and the ladies and ice dancers doing their short programs. Medals will be awarded on the 9th following the men, ladies and ice dance free programs. Watch for the US, Canada, and Russia to vie for the medals in the team competition, since those three countries have the strongest all-around programs.

The pairs event is the first to hit the solo stage. If you like seeing girls thrown 20 feet into the air while twisting 3 or 4 times, along with pretty spectacular lifts, this is the event for you. The Russian team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov (below, quite a looker) are the front-runners and could very well set new world records for score in this event.

1 tatiana-volosozhar-maxim-trankov

The German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (below, also a looker!) will challenge them for gold; the Canadians and Chinese will also be vying for podium spots.

aliona_savchenko_and_robin_szolkowy_3000x2000

Javier Fernandez

Javier Fernandez

The men take the ice next. The favorite going in is Canadian Patrick Chan, the defending world champ. Expect quadruple jumps (where a skater jumps in the air and rotates four times before landing on one foot) to play a central role – the guy that lands them cleanly will rise to the top. Other medal challengers will come from Japan (Yuzuru Hanyu, Tatsuki Machida, and Daisuke Takahashi) and Spain (Javier Fernandez, who is cute as a button), with outside possibilities of medals from the Russians and Americans.

The much-maligned ice dancers are next up, but this Olympics, the US team of Meryl Davis and Charlie White (she of the Belle-the-Disney-princess looks, he of the adorably-floppy hair) are favored for gold!

3 Davis White

If they win, it would be the first-ever gold for the US in ice dancing (they already have a silver medal from the 2010 Vancouver games). While you won’t see the spectacular overhead lifts and throws that you see in pairs, you’ll see intricate footwork, lifts that spin like a top, and some pretty amazing costumes. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the defending Olympic champs, are really the only ones who could challenge Davis and White for gold.

Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim

Last, but certainly not least, comes the marquis event for figure skating – the ladies. It’s shaping up to be a rematch from Vancouver, with South Korea’s defending gold medalist Yuna Kim going up against Japan’s defending silver medalist Mao Asada. This is by no means a two-woman show, however… There are two ladies from Russia (Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova), two more from Japan (Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami) and two from the US (Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold) with legitimate shots at the podium, along with former world champion Carolina Koster from Italy.

There you have it, hockey fans! No, there won’t be any board checks, and not a single goal will be scored, but there will be some excellent skating and some very close contests (and some really nice butts). Enjoy the action on the other rink!

OLY-2014-FSKATE-MEN-TRAINING

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