No Limit on Talent

Clara Peters, Paul Richardeau, and Reyna Hamui.

A skater should be excited to win their national title.

It’s like finding the golden ticket in a chocolate bar/ Or an invitation to that cool kid’s party.

Unless that invitation was meant for someone else.

In 2011, someone at the ISU had an ingenious idea, “Hey! Let’s place eliminate people from figure skating competitions. With a score they have to reach! This sport is hard. Let’s make this sport so hard, few will be able to reach the heights of glory! Another scotch. Neat.”

Okay, I’m sure it play out like this, but that’s what happened.

In figure skating, there’s two parts to the overall score, technical and component. This season, to qualify for the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, depending on the discipline, skaters needed a technical score ranging from 24 to 32 in the short and 39 to 60 in the free program.

This may not seem high. One could look at some scores received by the mean, and think, “Meh, this should be a walk in the country.” If you like bears bears chasing you. One missed combination can blow the technical score. Fail to land on your double Axel on the toonie-thin blade, and see the marks plummet.

And it can happen to the best.

Canada’s Amelié Lacoste, for example, did not meet the ISU technical requirement, despite her undeniable talent. It doesn’t matter what’s landed in practice. What matters is the three or four and a half minutes in front of 7,000 people.

Then we have the Kevin O’Leary factor: money. Not all skaters have access to proper skating equipment, facilities, coaches, choreographers. Ice time is a luxury.

One of the arguments on a forum was “it’s time consuming to judge a bevy of skaters at the Worlds.” In my opinion, the ISU is discouraging skaters from wanting to compete at the higher levels. Many skaters dream about the Olympics and Worlds. If a skater is the champion of their country, it should be a realistic dream.

The lesser known skaters are often the most memorable.

In the 1994 Winter Olympics, a skater from Estonia lost the rivets on his skates after a jump. Margus Hernits short program came to a halt. After his rivets were gathered and his skates were repaired, Hernits was allowed to restart his program. His alien-like music blared over the speakers, and the crowd cheered for the 17-year-old. Hernits placed last, and he didn’t qualify to skate the free program. However, that program stands out. Because it was memorable. If he skated today, he may not qualify. Hernits had shaky landings and weak spins, but he skated with heart.

Remember Eddie the Eagle? Or the Jamaican bobsled team?

Years later, people remember them.

It should be the same for skaters from Ireland, South Africa and Mexico.

Clara Peters, Paul Richardeau, and Reyna Hamui.

When coaches tell skaters never limit their potential, why is the ISU telling them otherwise?

[Originally posted on the Edmonton Journal website]

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