Monday, July 20, 2009

The Impact of Figures in Skating

Prior to the nineties, figure-skating competitions included a segment known as compulsory figures, in which the skater traced a set pattern on the ice, or the figure eight. Competitors had to skate the figures using a prescribed part of the blade, which included change of edge, steps and turns that were performed at specific points on the skating surface. Compulsory figures trained skaters to be faster, more quick-feet, and allowed them the ability to flow on the ice as well.

School of figures was the very foundation of skating. Figure Skating was named for the art form which involved creating intricate patterns on the ice with the edges of the blades. As a result, compulsory figures became a must for training and competitions. Compulsory figures were based on the figure eight and its variations. Skaters traced identical patterns on the ice three times and were judged on their ability to replicate the exact figures in the same place. They made circles on the ice with one foot, then retrace those circles with the other foot. The circles are the actual figures from which the term figure skating is stemmed.

The completed tracings left by the skater's blades were evaluated by judges. Judges would study and grade the patterns. Points were deducted if the skater skated outside of the line; or if there were additional tracings or wobbling. These intricate patterns into the ice, were designed to assure the judges that the skaters had mastered the fundamentals of their sport.

Skaters spend hours skating patches- Patch practice sessions were usually one-hour in length. Most skaters usually practiced at least two hours of patch time per day. These patches of ice were completely clean pieces of ice with not a mark or skid on them. The skater’s objective was to trace perfect circles on these clean pieces of ice

Figures allow them to learn edge control, good posture, and balance. Ideally, edges were supposed to be clean without scratches, undesired changes of an edge, or without evidence of no edge tracing. Now figures are no longer part of elite competition. With these changes, the emphasis in the free skate shifted to an increase in athleticism or a jumping contest.

Up until 1990, compulsory figures were part of the singles figure skating competition. Skaters had to execute figures which were then measured by judges. According to the review of literature, the judges sometimes used the school figures as a means of marking up or marking down skaters. The figures were also used by some judges as a basis for down grading newer skaters. Typically, a skater in his/her first appearance at an international competition would not expect high marks in the school figures, even if he or she might have felt that they had skated solid figures.

Even after the school figures were reduced from sixty percent to thirty percent of the overall score, with the new short program weighing twenty percent and the long program fifty percent by the 1980s, skaters who built a vast lead in figures had a strong chance of winning the competition. Figures still had a great impact on the final outcome.

The omission of compulsory has also taken a toll on the sport; compulsory figures are needed to teach skaters basic skills. Abolishing the compulsories has resulted skating into jumping contests and in turn may cause more injuries. Skating is about control, centering and balance. Those are the things school of figures brought. Now that we don't have school of figures, skaters are turning to ice dance instructors to teach them what they need to maintain speed and flow on the ice.

Compulsory is different from free skating. It is very difficult and has kept many skaters from the top of the podium. Many competitors feel that compulsories have no place in modern skating; they think it to be tedious, and boring to watch. Denise Bielman, like many skaters, did not like to practice figures. She preferred the free skate which gave her the freedom to bounce spin and dance to the music.

Now that figures are a thing of the past, skaters are flocking to dance instructors to teach them what they need to do to maintain speed, and flow on the ice. The omission of figures has impacted the art in the sport as well. Figures gave skaters the foundation they needed to balance, control, and command the ice. A skater cannot be an artist if those skills are lacked. This quality of skating is paramount to the art of skating. In the end, the sport will remain a jumping contest among prepubescent teens. The compulsories give students the quality of edges, technique, and control they need.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sasha Cohen: The Pressure to Win.

Sasha is an avid skater, a talented artist; she has modeled in major magazines, walked the red carpet, and has skated in many countries. As the two-time and reigning World Silver Medalist, the 2006 U.S. National Champion, Grand Prix Final Champion, and 2-Time Olympic Team Member (2002 and 2006), Sasha is a sure podium contender for the 2010 Olympic Games. Sasha has experience.

Alexandra Pauline Cohen was named after her mother's favorite ballerina. She was born on October 26, 1984. Sasha's mother is of Ukrainian background and she is a former ballerina. Because of her Russian heritage, Sasha can converse in Russian. She has translated competitor Viktoria Volchkova's interview responses from Russian to English at the 2001 Trophée Lalique competition (Cup Of Paris).

Sasha began skating around the age of seven. Prior to starting figure skating, she used to be a gymnast and had progressed to level five. Apparently, her mom was relieved when she made the switch to figure skating. She enjoys reading. One or her favorite places to be, is the public library. After years of hard work and training, Sasha is renowned. She has become one of the skaters in the world today. She won her first silver medal at the 2000 U.S. Nationals. Sasha missed the 2001 Nationals because of a serious back injury which required her to take time off from training. At the 2002 U.S. Nationals, she earned her second silver medal and a spot on the 2002 Olympic Team.

Her gymnastic background has made her resilient when it comes to sustaining those spills on the ice. She has a great deal of experience. I am going on a limb to say that Sasha Cohen knows the why, the where and the how when it comes to her skating. She knows her body. Things may not always be "perfect," however Sasha should know how to compete by now.

She is a different person from the inexperienced youngster who was introduced to us in 2000. She can handle skating. She may just need to reinvent herself. We should never think of inconsistency, or spills, by the mere mention of Sasha's name. She has nothing to learn as this point. Sasha needs to be more confident when it comes to the technical aspects of her skating. She has always verbalized (like most skaters) that she is having fun on the ice; when in reality, she does (they do) not believe in those words. Those are rehearsed thoughts for the media and viewers' sake. Deep down, most skaters don't believe they are having "fun" Those skaters are preoccupied with the ultimate goal.

Vying for top spot is well and good; however, it should not be the main focus. Like Sara Hughes, Sasha (or any other skaters) should be getting on that ice with the objective that she has nothing to lose. She really should believe that she is actually there to have fun. Skating well is the ultimate prize. The medal will be the bonus. She should approach both programs ( short and free) as if a flawless skate is her driving force; the prize she wants to obtain.

She has an exciting season ahead of her.

At this point, Sasha ( Flatt included) should be beyond feeling the pressure to win. Let the other skaters from other countries succumb to pressure or be pressured. Let them be the ones with that "something to lose" preoccupying their mind and their programs. Our skaters (we) live in a free society, it won't be the end of the world if they don't bring home the gold.

Sasha will be prepared. She just has to skate the way she does at practice. Her quest should be to skate well. According to Sasha, skating is her own commitment, her hard work and that no one is pushing her to do it. And, that is how she should approach the upcoming season. She is skating on her own terms.

As far as I am concerned, Sasha would benefit if she were to practice in a vacuum; without the interference, the scolding and the criticisms of the media. She does not need to be reminded of her flaws or her inconsistencies. She does not need to be asked if gold will be her color, or whom she she feels she has to beat; nor does she need to be compared to other skaters ( "I must think I am living in Utopia"). This type of attention can be nerve-racking. All of the skaters are good in their own way. They are a gifted bunch. Sasha needn't be perfect; nor does she need to skate perfectly. Sasha needs to be Sasha. She needs to skate and be there for Sasha.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that she is (Flatt, Meissner, Zhang, Nagasu,Hughes as well as the other skaters are ) injury free. Sasha can be unstoppable. She must first have to free her herself of the burden of having to be perfect. Her artistry, flawless connections, fluid extensions and techniques will be the determining factor. She has nothing to lose.

Her artistry, the way she interprets the music, the way she relates to the audience, her spiral and straight-line step sequence will set her apart; in turn, she will earn high marks with the judges. She is ready. She has the ability to skate two solid performances. She does not have to be perfect.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take The Quad Out!

While the most exciting portions of figure skating routine (for some) are the jumps, these high-flying athletic moves are the ultimate feats of a skater’s ability. Jumps, in figure skating, come in two varieties, rotational and positional. Positional jumps are short jumps that display an artistic position in the air. The primary objective of rotational jumps is to rotate while airborne. In these jumps, the skater appears to spin in the air. Skaters’ routines are measured partly on rotational jumps. For a quad, skaters have to achieve maximum rotation. While skaters need to develop as much rotational energy as possible, it is important that they obtain the best possible rotational position during the airborne portion of a performance as well.

Dick Button landed the first triple in 1952. Kurt Browning of Canada landed the first quad in 1982. Today, the quad jumps have become required elements in the men’s program. Quad toe loops seem to be the most frequently attempted quad jumps. While many skaters credit Jozef Sabovchik of Slovakia with landing the first quad jump, in 1984, at the Winter Olympics. The first official quad was performed by Kurt Browning at the 1988 world championships. Suddenly the quad is the rage. How far will we go with those risky jumps? Do we want five six rotations in the air? Are we looking for as many revolutions until we run out of numerical prefixes? What is the limit of jumping possibilities? Is a quintuple toe loop or a quadruple Axel in our future?

The jump is called a quadruple toe loop, and it is performed by gliding backward on the right skate, planting the left toe pick, lifting off with an outside edge of the right skate, spinning four times and landing on the same outside edge of the right skate. Art, science, agility and strength have all been used in describing skaters. However, it takes a high degree of difficulty to achieve the quad. The key is to get the optimal combination of height and rotation. There are four key events for the quad. Toe-pick: the instant the toe pick is planted onto the ice; Take off: the last contact with the ice; Height: the top of the flight phase; Landing: the immediate contact with the ice. Obviously, the quad alone will not win a title; it's the total package, the artistry, the spins and the footwork. Obviously the focused should be on elements other than just the jumps.

A mistake in the quad costs dear while skaters can gain points on easier jumps. Doing a quad comes down to risk vs. reward in a judging system that puts emphasis on energy-sapping footwork and stiffly penalizes faulty jumps. The quadruple toe loop, is worth 9.8 points. The quad can come at a price. If you do it, you're a star. But if there is anything wrong with it -for instance, a fall, or it's under rotated, or too weak to do a combination after it, it's downgraded. There are very few skaters who can make a mistake on the quad and still land it. A negative grade of execution can cost up to three points. A triple Axel is worth 8.2 points. When it is done well, it can earn up to three bonus points. So why risk falling on a quad when you're more likely to land a clean triple Axel anyhow?

Rotational energy is the fuel that skaters work with, and they have to have energy to work with. The quad is an important jump. It's fun. It's interesting. It's beautiful when it's done right. While the quad is big news, I wonder if it will be some time before figure skaters are doing quintuple jumps. If you can do a quad well, by all means do it. But skating should never be about the jumps. It should be poetry on ice! No quad. While I agree that quad jumpers should be given more points, because of the tremendous risks involved, but I would rather be very pleased with the attention given to creativity and to the art we are so used to when it comes to skating.

The quad jump is a spectacular move. It is a neat and exciting. With the techniques and equipment currently used now, I think the athletes are pushing the envelope. I don't see a quint any time soon or a quad Axel. I do see the other more difficult quads --Lutz's and flips however-- being done soon as well as more consistent and higher quality jumps. To add a revolution may take a while (or maybe not) and potentially some new technique, training or equipment modifications to the sport. I imagine that with different technologies in boots, blades, along with different training techniques, strength-training, and perhaps costumes, it might be possible for skaters to land bigger jumps.

There are limits to what the human body can do and I wonder how close we are to them in the sport of figure skating. I long for the good ole 6.0 system. Weir has complained of the new system, saying such things as, “It gives you points for being able to chew on your shoes,“ Concerns for artistic expression has become secondary with the preoccupation of racking up points. Technical ability does not only pertain to jumps, but it includes spins, footwork, and a general flexibility. I just love to watch figure skating, and to witness the numerous feats of athleticism, skill, courage, endurance and passion.

My Zimbio
Top Stories

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Go for it Sasha: Cohen 2010

Figure skating is one of the most difficult and demanding sport in the world. However, skaters have been landing triple jumps since before World War II. Great figure skating, does not mean one must dig their toe pick into the ice and rotate or revolve as much as they possibly can. I mourn the passing of the glorious spiral. No more do we see the absolutely fluid spirals; courtesy of Michelle Kwan, complete with the most radiant smile that has us totally convinced that she was absolutely loving every minute spent on ice. I don't care how high you can leap or rotate; one fact remains, no youngsters have seized the moment since Kwan. Those who could fill the void of fluid, entertaining and artistic skating are gone. Sasha can restore pride in the United States team.

It is refreshing to find skaters like Sasha Cohen who can inject life experience into their choreography. I love to watch Sasha. Her presence on the ice is one of pristine and incredible beauty. The leg extension, the spiral, the elasticity, the fluidity she displays as she glides across the ice are just marvelous.

It is such a pleasure to watch Sasha skates, and I am very glad she wants to come back, and she has as much chance as any of the skaters to get the crown. Under the Code of Points scoring system, Cohen often scored more points in the free skate than other ladies scored during the entire competition. She skates with grace and elegance. Her presentation and connecting moves are just outstanding, including her gorgeous Charlotte. She just has to have two good clean skates. While Yu Na Kim may appear invincible, don’t get me wrong, I find her to be one of the best skaters yet; however, all of the expectations may rattle her, or anyone for that matter. As a result, she may have a not so stellar skate, and “we” may in turn be surprise yet again. Someone unknown, from out of no where may come and snatch the spotlight. It has happened in our own backyard. Remember Mirai Nagasu? when all of the attention were on Zhang and Meissner, and Nagasu took the crown. She became the “future of figure skating.” Then again Yu Na never disappoints. She is the best skater in the world right now, maybe the best ever. She has jumps, flexibility, artistry, flair, fluidity and most important: consistency. If she skates her best which we know she will, there is no doubt that the crown will be hers.

This season Asada has attempted two triple Axels, in her Long Program and let’s not disregard the judges’ imposition on those skaters. Skaters are being penalized for incomplete rotations, or wrong edges entry. Sasha, may just finally have that stellar competition that she’s been missing from her amateur career days. She has a very hard road ahead of her however. I've always felt that Miss Cohen is one of the greatest talents to ever glide on the ice; but she lacks consistency and the focus, a huge hindrance in any sport, even more in figure skating.

The problem with Sasha is her lack of consistency in her jumps; as a result, it may lower her base value to a point where winning can almost be impossible. Sasha has it all: grace, elegance, and she knows how to interpret her music. Her focus should be on securing her jumps. She'll have to work hard on clean entries and clean landing of her jumps. Her incredible flexibility, artistry and flair will take care of the rest. She will be unbeatable then.

I have always been a huge fan of Sasha's and am very excited to see her come back. She will bring a lot of excitement to skating nationally and internationally. If only there were three spots available, it would be a marvel to see Meissner, Cohen, and Flatt in action. There is a distinctive charm to their skating. Those three have what audiences enjoy.

Sasha had not been very consistent with her jumps during the height of her competitive career. Strong spirals and great flexibility are great assets; however, they are not enough. The International Figure Skating Union (ISU) Technical Panels regularly awards Level 4 designation to many ladies' spiral sequences at any given high level competition such as Worlds for instance. The value of Spin Sequence, even at Level 4 is only worth 2.9, the difference will come down to the Grade of Execution (GOE) which may be minimal. Flexibility may earn some extra points for Sasha, but mental toughness is what will lead to the gold medal. In the Ladies’ event, the difference between victory and crushed dreams is often how one handles the pressure of this Olympic main event. Sasha cannot let nerves get the best of her. Her spins and spirals might be high levels. However, the jumps have to be clean.

The women's long program at the Olympic Games may be the hardest moment to deal with. Sasha is a great skater, but she has not been a clean skater. She had either a clean short program and a bad long program or a bad short program and a good long program. Before she considers returning to competitive figure skating, Sasha would need concentrate on two clean programs. Sasha has good spins and great flexibility however she is limited (as far as landing the jumps)when compared against a Triple Axel or a consistent and very well executed Triple Flip-Triple Toe combos that her competitors will be doing. Her Charlotte is an absolutely gorgeous move. Our team would be solid with Cohen Meissner, and/or Flatt, or perhaps Wagner and/or Hacker on the scene.

Sasha is the most artistic skater in the world today. She brings a quality to skating that most skaters sought after. Cohen would bring considerable experience to the United States team. She has unparalleled spins, spirals and lovely positions. Cohen is a mesmerizing skater who charms crowds. She has shown that she can make up her athletic shortcomings with wowing artistry; Cohen knows very well what is expected of her — and what she expects of herself.
Search this site or the web powered by FreeFind

Site search Web search