Men's Top Figure Skaters Divided Between Artistry and Athleticism
One of the major attractions of the Winter Olympics is figure skating. When artistry meets athleticism, the outcome can be awe-inspiring, or soul-crushing. Last night during the men's short program we saw both.
Not to generalize or offend, but male figure skaters seem to fall into two camps: gay or not gay. The mainstream media might choose to call it flamboyant, flashy, showy, but what's the point in pretending or skirting the issue? Male figure skating, from the elaborate costumes (hello Johnny Weir), to the beautifully coiffed hair, to the perfectly executed dance steps lends itself to interpretation of being decidedly, well, gay. This is the nature of the beast and has been for decades, however, as society becomes more accepting and open, many male skaters are moving further from the fringes and embracing their inner diva. From my perspective, this is just part of the nature of putting dance to ice — which is essentially what figure skating is. But it's also something else.
If anyone who casually observes figure-skating thinks they can write off the sport as a froo-froo pastime, they are misinformed. These are athletes, they train hard, they work out hard and they are in great shape. They are essentially defying physics every time they compete. Imagine putting your body on two thin blades, gliding over an intentionally slippery surface going close to 30 mph, and then hurling your body into the air, while twisting and turning, and then landing on that same slippery surface on one foot. Sure, some skaters may be flamboyant, but they are all athletes.
Part of the appeal of witnessing the Olympics are the made-for-TV personal stories the networks use to build drama and fill in space between events. These "behind the scenes" mini-documentaries help the casual Olympic observer know who the key players are, and why they are compelling. Some names should be familiar — they are the superstars of their event.
For figure skating, Russian male skater Evgeni Plushenko is the villain for 2010. Plushenko is in Vancouver to defend his gold (he took the top prize Turin in 2006) and seems to be on a mission to prove a point about the divide between artistry and athleticism in figure skating. After taking the lead last night during the short program, Plushenko, who according to his TV "close up," chooses to view his opponents as enemies, also uses psychological warfare to gain an edge. Witness the master at work as he needled his closest competitor, American skater Evan Lysacek, whose performance put him second, with only .55 points between them. Plushenko said: