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We Interrupt This Disaster For A Diversion

A journalist was brutally murdered and no one will probably face any consequences. Over 5,000 people are headed for the southern border of the U.S., demanding to be let in. Yet another police officer was gunned down, this time in Georgia. And two days after Canada legalized marijuana, they've almost run out of it. The world is in chaos. So, let's talk about skating.


Back in the 1990's, at the height of its popularity, I spent four years writing about the problems in the sport of figure skating. No one wanted to listen. I warned the powers-that-be to clean house or suffer the consequences. No one wanted to listen. I told them they'd get caught and the damage would be irreparable. No one wanted to listen.


Now, no one wants to watch. Why? Well, there are a multitude of reasons.


First and foremost is the flat out cheating. For many years it was well known to be an accepted policy that winners were chosen in advance as a result of deals made between the officials of various countries. Vote for my ladies singles and I'll vote for your ice dancers.


The scandal that rocked the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games resulted in major changes in the sport along with a rare confession from one of the judges involved.


https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2018-figs-scandal/years-after-salt-lake-city-scandal-french-judge-finds-peace-idUSKBN1F11L8


How skaters are chosen to represent their countries in the Olympics and World Championships has always been controversial to say the least, but it seems to have reached the boiling point in the last few years. The best win and get to go, right? Uh, not so much.


https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/christinebrennan/2018/01/07/us-figure-skating-pyeongchang-controversy-ross-miner-adam-rippon/1011464001/


Let's not forget homophobia, bulimia and anorexia, champions who have had to bow out of the sport due to stress and as was recently discovered, coaches that are sexual predators. And you thought Nancy and Tonya were the big story.


Not convinced it's as bad as it sounds? Take a look at these articles that barely scrape the tip of the iceberg that has managed to sink what was thought to be an unsinkable sport much like the arrogance that doomed the Titanic.


https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a16562345/olympics-figure-skating-controversy-feuds-tonya-nancy/


https://www.eonline.com/news/912725/the-biggest-scandals-in-olympic-figure-skating-history


There were attempts to move the sport into the 21st century, such as allowing vocal music of all different styles, trading swans and Carmens for skaters rocking out to Broadway tunes and heavy metal as well as relaxing the restrictions on costumes. But it appears to be be too little too late.


So as the new figure skating season begins, where is the sport now? A mere shadow of what it once was. There was a time when you literally couldn't turn on the TV without seeing a competition (both amateur and professional), tours of which there were many and countless specials. Now, only the events approved by the International Skating Union make it to commercial television along with the rare holiday extravaganza. The rest are relegated to obscure cable stations.


Then there are the rule changes. The scoring system is so complex, even skaters and coaches struggle with it. Here's a look at how it works.


https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/2/14/17004314/figure-skating-scoring-winter-olympics-2018


Absolutely mind-numbing. Which begs the question of why would they do that? Why drive away the diehard fans that are still left with a system that would give Einstein a headache? The answer is the same today as it was then. Power.


Fans had become extremely savvy about the way competitions were judged. It was simple. There was a total of 6 possible points. The one who fell the least amount of times was expected to win. And when that didn't happen, the fans didn't hesitate to vocalize their displeasure.


However, now with what is known as the International Judging System, it's much harder to argue a score because there are so many categories and points. It's a clever ploy that allows judges and officials to beat back the angry hoards by telling us we don't know what we're talking about. It's a system beyond our feeble comprehension. Just sit in your seats and applaud.


But then there was a game-changer no one anticipated. Social Media. Now, when something sinister happens, it's all over the Internet is seconds. And because fans are speaking up, skaters, journalists and on-air announcers are beginning to find their voices as well.


It's about time someone joined my party. I've been waiting more than twenty years for the tide to turn. When I was writing about skating, I was cheered by the skaters and fans, but reviled and ultimately silenced by the federation officials.


When the interest in the sport waned, there was nothing left to write anyone cared about or was willing to publish as a result of pressure and intimidation. Everyone got the message loud and clear. Do as you're told or you're out in the cold (pun intended).


That's why I wrote The Chosen Ones. The suits controlling the sport may have been able to scare newspaper and magazine publishers into jettisoning me, but they couldn't stop me from writing a novel. The story is fictional, but the world in which the characters live was based on the truth hidden behind the sequins.


But, as strange as it will seem, despite everything, I still love the sport. And I hope it finds its way to a better place... for the fans, but more than anything for the skaters, coaches and parents who make sacrifices and deal with disappointment and injustice on a level most of us will never understand.


They deserve better. They deserve a sport that plays fair and judges people for what they do on the ice, not behind closed doors.


Maybe the light that social media casts on all things it touches will give those who care about the sport the ability to right the ship before it is too late.


Until then, I will never stop hoping for something very simple - that the best man or woman wins. End of story.


But let's finish on a positive note with the beauty and power of figure skating. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder of what it should and still could be.



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© 2019 by Lisa Luciano - What It Is