Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Quick US Figure Skating Update (Men’s and Women’s 2012 Worlds)

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Folks, it annoys me severely when I can’t watch the United States Figure Skating Team compete, especially when they go to the World Figure Skating Championship — this year’s venue was in Nice, France.  That makes it tough to comment on what happened, because all I know is what I can read about online, or when I’m able to see YouTube videos after the fact.  And this can’t convey the energy in the arena or the circumstances of the event, as they’re just a snapshot of one person’s skating, without the context necessary in which to judge the event.

So all I can tell you is the bare facts.  Which aren’t pretty.

Here goes:

The United States men’s team, comprised of the talented duo of Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon, did not do very well in France.  This was Rippon’s first time at Worlds, so for him to finish 13th isn’t terrible — other people who’ve gone to Worlds for the first time have finished lower than that.  But it also wasn’t very good, and I haven’t a clue about why except that Rippon apparently was a bit rattled (nerves, most likely) and fell on his opening jump in the free skate.  This threw him off enough that he wasn’t able to get back on his game.

But while nerves can perhaps be blamed for Rippon’s 13th place finish, I really don’t know what happened with U.S. Champ Jeremy Abbott, who finished 8th.  I know he battles severe problems with nerves, because he sees a sports psychologist (something I admire him for doing).  And I know that when he went to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver as the 2010 U.S. Champ, he finished 9th.  This sounds a lot better than it was, as Abbott had to work hard to move up to get into the top ten, as he had a disastrous short program; apparently something similar happened in France, which is a shame.

Both of these men are lyrical, elegant skaters with excellent skating skills and technique.  When they’re on, they can light up the room in a similar manner to my favorite U.S. skater, Johnny Weir; because of this, they are fan favorites (perhaps not as much as Weir, who’s attempting a comeback).  That’s why it hurts so much to have to report such results.

Here’s an article from the Chicago Tribune online that describes what happened to the men, and how disappointing it is:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/globetrotting/chi-the-truth-hurts-us-men-dismal-at-world-skate-20120331,0,1277841.column

And the women did no better; U.S. champ Ashley Wagner finished fourth only because she worked her heart out in the free skate, pulling way up.  And poor Alissa Czisny — I ache for this woman — finished a dismal 22nd after falling in the free skate five times.  Czisny also fell twice in the short program, which begs the question: was she injured?  And if so, why did she go and skate, especially as she has had trouble with her nerves before, and something like this would not help her at all?

Here’s the article, again from the Chicago Tribune, that explains this:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/globetrotting/chi-no-bad-just-good-and-ugly-for-us-women-at-world-skate-20120331,0,3166346.column

Here’s writer Philip Hersh’s assessment of what happened to Czisny:

Czisny, U.S. champion in 2009 and 2011 and second this year, wound up 22nd after what may have been the worst free skate ever by a skater with her talent and record. (emphasis mine: BC)

She fell five times in four minutes.  She landed no clean triple jumps.

She had fallen twice in the short program and finished 16th.  Seven falls in a competition must be some kind of record.

Czisny has so much talent that a result like this is unfathomable.  I’ve written posts before about her persistence and her elegance and grace; this woman always gives it her best effort, has rallied back from huge defeats, and has apparently battled nerves throughout.  When Czisny is on — and she’s on far more than she’s off — she lights up the room, especially when she spins as she’s one of the best spinners, male or female, in the world.  And she’d improved her jumping technique — her only real weakness — very much in the past few years, which is why I really don’t understand how Czisny didn’t land a single triple jump.

My only guess is that Czisny was injured, but if she was injured, why was she in France at all?  Why not withdraw rather than “take one for the team” and finish 22nd?

I’m well aware that the others who could’ve been sent — Caroline Zhang, Mirai Nagasu, and Agnes Zawadski — would’ve had a tough time at Worlds, too.  But they’d probably have done better than 22nd as this was the lowest finish ever for an American woman — much less someone with top talent like Czisny (she finished a strong fifth last year, for pity’s sake!).

My hope for all of these skaters is that they keep at it.  Abbott has tons of talent; so does Czisny.  Rippon has barely scratched the surface of what he can do.  Wagner has improved so much, she could be our next Olympic gold medalist — but of these four, she’s the only one who appears to be on an even keel.  (Though it’s quite possible Rippon is, too.  It’s not unknown to go to Worlds for the first time and finish under where your ability should put you; in fact, it’s odd when something like that doesn’t happen.)

Abbott and Czisny are both in their mid-twenties; that’s old for the sport.  That makes getting a handle on whatever went wrong for them more time-sensitive than it is for Rippon or Wagner (especially as Wagner did have an excellent free skate).  I sincerely hope for both of their sakes they will realize that this was just one bad day (very bad in Czisny’s case), and that the talent they embody continues, undimished.  They must shake this off, and keep trying; that’s the best way to win in the only way that truly counts: being your best self, and using your talents accordingly.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

April 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm

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