Figuring Out the Figures

This past week, as I reported in my most recent PM column, ReDotPop, The ISU World Figure Skating Championships were held in Los Angeles, California. Now, what I know about skating probably rivals the amount of hair remaining on my head (which is to say, very little), but when I happened to score a couple of tickets for one of the 5 nights of the competition, I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to go. I figured (ha ha) I might even learn something in the process.

What I didn’t figure on was that the seats would be — like, right on the ice — but since they were, they rendered the immense, pre-war German binoculars I had brought superfluous. Fortunately, my proximity to the skaters empowered my miniature Japanese camera which, thanks to a fairly promiscuous trigger finger, snapped off a good 200 shots. The (less fuzzy) of this (unorganized) lot has now been posted on Picasa, which you can find here, if you are interested.

As for what I learned after my 3 hours of viewing and shooting, well, that can be found after the jump . . .

  1. First of all, these skaters are all rather skilled, when you stop to think about it. I mean, even the ones who move for shit — slow, ungainly, unsynchronized with music and/or partner, who endure occasional tosses in the air that result in cheeks slamming against the ice — the fact is that they are generally able to remain on blade about four and a half minutes longer than I could, and the fact that they can turn in complete circles and jump, and do mid-air splits, and still land flush on blade — well, that is something; truly something.

  2. Next, some of these costumes make you wonder whether the skaters and their handlers are colorblind, lack basic aesthetic judgment, or they simply think that mixing a sangria on ice is the way to score big time with the judges:

  3. Another thing is that, while I understand that there is an ideal height differential which makes for a kind of prototypical couple when spied 75 meters away in the stands, since few of the men are 6 foot 5, this means that the women often have to be somewhere hovering below 5 feet. That makes for a lot of microscopic dancers on ice.

    On the other hand, the smaller they are, the easier it is to lift them (and, of course, the farther they can be thrown and the more the audience will then gasp, marvel, and applaud — and maybe the higher the judges just might then score them). It turns out, though, that some of these diminutive human projectiles travel a good distance in the air — which makes their landings (on one thin edge going 30 miles and hour) — feats quite brave and skillful.

  4. Speaking of miles per hour, the skaters often move so fast that they can meld into an artistic blur:

    (Another way of saying: “don’t blame the photographer”)

  5. In the case of this woman, depicted below, she either really loves this guy or else is extremely forgiving because a couple years ago his skate slashed her face as they were executing side-by-side “camel spins”:

  6. It is probably important that you don’t despise the person that you are paired with — or that, like, they haven’t slashed your face before, or even that they don’t have a severe case of haliotosis, for that matter) since these skaters spend an inordinate amount of time with one another cheek to cheek:

    (Just imagine the one who has to paste a smile on her face the entire time she is muttering beneath her breath: “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you”)

  7. This maneuver, below, is called a death spiral. It is a required element of the pairs program and has variations that get classified as “inside” or “outside” and “forward” or backward”:

  8. The couple, above, performing this maneuver, was by far and away the best in the competition. They were German and, like most of the other couples in the competition seemed to enjoy hugging one another:

    (the one exception to the “let’s-get-close” vibe being the Russian woman who refused to bow to the judges or touch hands with her partner or even scootch over to sit next to him during the awarding of points because she felt he had torpedoed their routine):

  9. When skaters do really well, like the German couple above, they often got stuff thrown to them. Until Thursday night, I always thought it was rose bouquets or maybe underwear or jewelry, but it turns out that it is sometimes other stuff — as in stuffed animals:

    Which . . . well, I don’t know about you, but I found sort of curious.

Well, now that you have read my list, you might catch yourself thinking: “hey, that was a lot of knowledge gleaned for just a few hours of casual viewing.” And if you thought that you’d be right, and you’d probably also be sort of glad that you’d read this entry, I suppose.

On the other hand, if you are like me, you might be feeling a little up in the air. Because, at least for my part, there’s still a lot of things that I have yet to figure out about figure skating. For instance . . . well, those bears, for one. After witnessing the bear toss, I ended up leaving the hall with more questions in mind than when I had first entered. Which in some ways, despite the great seats and the even better pictures, the stuffed toys sort of left an incomplete feeling inside — the kind that kept me from falling quickly to sleep that evening.

Oh well, some things in life are destined to remain a puzzle. Not everything can always be figured out.

And when that happens, you simply have to know how to let it go. Skate away, move on. Just say: “go figure”.