The Olympics have recently ended, and I enjoyed watching as many of the events as possible. Of course, it was the ladies’ figure skating that kept me spellbound. How easy it looks when we see skaters gliding over the ice. How effortless their movements appear.
All the while, of course, we know that years of hard work, training, time, money, determination, and devotion have gone into those lovely 4-minute programs we see.
Watching competitors at the world-class level is awesome. Each is at the top of his or her game, so to speak. Each is already a champion. Earning an Olympic medal remains, however, a dream for each.
Even though the American women failed to reach the podium at the 2014 Winter Olympics, I was one viewer who was pleased with the outcome.
I would have loved to see Mao Asada of Japan win the event. She’s been one of my favorite skaters. Her disastrous short program ruined her chances for a medal, yet the following night she took to the ice again and like a true champion she turned in a performance that brought the crowd to its feet.
MORAL OF THE STORY: EVEN THE BEST FALL DOWN, BUT THEY GET UP, THEY COME BACK, AND THEY PUT THEIR MISTAKES BEHIND THEM.
American skater Ashley Wagner also turned in what I considered a stellar performance in the free skate. But what do I know? Apparently not much, and I readily admit it. Still, I was stunned when the marks for her “Samson and Delilah” program were announced. How could they be so low?
Her facial expressions told an emotional story of excitement followed by disappointment. She later commented:
“I know what I’m capable of and what this program is capable of. I don’t agree with the marks, but that’s what the individual event is for.”
MORAL OF THE STORY: NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE WHAT YOU DO, BUT A TRUE CHAMPION ACCEPTS HER MARKS AND MOVES ON.
And what of Yuna Kim, the reigning champion, a national celebrity in South Korea, set to retire, and hoping to be the first female figure skater to win back-to-back gold since Katerina Witt in 1984 and 1988. Known as “the Queen”, she didn’t disappoint her fans. Even though she’d taken several years off from her sport, she stepped into the rink and showed that she deserved to be counted among the all-time greats. At the end of the short program, she was in the lead. Could she turn in another flawless performance in the free skate and win it all? That was the question on everyone’s mind as the second night of competition began.
Her performance was beautiful. Yuna Kim was, indeed, still the Queen, but when all the skaters had completed their routines and all the scores were totaled, the Queen had been dethroned. It was a shock to many, but Yuna Kim took it with grace and dignity. Even when questioned about the fairness of the judging, she remained poised.
…the scores are given by the judges so I am not in the right position to comment on it. There’s nothing that will change with my words. The most important thing for me is to participate in these Games. This was my last participation in the competition, so I’m happy with that.”
MORAL OF THE STORY: BE GRACIOUS AND APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITIES YOU’RE GIVEN. DO WHAT YOU LOVE, AND KNOW WHEN TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
And what to make of the Gold medal winner, young Russian teenager, Adelina Sotnikova? Oh, what a story to tell! It’s the story of two teenagers, actually.
Enter fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaya. She skated in the team event for Russia. Adelina Sotnikova did not. Suddenly, despite a long-held belief that Adelina might be Russia’s greatest hope for Olympic gold, overnight, the diminutive Julia rose to national fame, completely over-shadowing her fellow skater. A poll taken in Russia, in fact, showed little Julia ranking as the second most-popular person in all of Russia, the first being the president, Vladimir Putkin.
Julia was impressive. All the skaters were. But the pressure got to her. She fell. She fell again. She finished her program and went to the “kiss and cry” booth. And cry, she did. Give her a break. She’s only fifteen.
So, we come back again to Adelina Sotnikova. According to Tara Lipinski, a former US gold-medalist in figure skating, the best way to win is “to skate mad.” And who could blame Adelina for being a little ticked-off? She’d been quickly relegated to the sidelines, treated like the proverbial step-child, forced to listen to an entire nation of her countrymen singing the praises of little Julia. She’d been all but forgotten.
She skated with a vengeance. She skated with heart, with power, with passion, with a need to show the world that she would not be forgotten.
In the end, she won it all. All the love and admiration of her nation — oh, what fickle fans we can be — and all the anger and anguish of another nation as South Koreans overwhelmingly cried “Foul!”
What would ladies’ ice-skating be without a judging scandal, of course? Isn’t it at least in part the controversy that catches our emotions and gets us caught up in the lives of these beautiful young ladies who so perfectly exemplify that old adage of doing what you love?
“The judges decided what marks to give. I am not a judge, and I don’t decide that. I did what I could, and that was skate. I did the best I could. If there are questions about judging, you should ask judges. I just did my job.”
– Adelina Sotnikova –