Competitions Are Done, Now The Real Work Begins In Skating

“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” ~ Misty Copeland

What a Week

Hello friends! Happy Weekend! What a week it has been! It has been a rollercoaster of sorts, with the Olympics, Fashion Week, and some health stuff and I feel like on Thursday it all came to a head after the women’s long program. I shared a blog post right before the final two groups in the women’s event took the ice, and friends if I had only known. Seriously, as I said on Twitter, “You can not be human and not be affected by what took place.” And I stand by that Tweet. It was gut wrenching.

While I have been discussing the goings on within my skating and journalist circles, I began getting messages from friends in other circles, those who might watch when it is on, or what I call the every four year fan. People who watch, but really don’t know the politics of the sports. I might get asked questions because they know I use to skate, or their child got skates for Christmas, but they really are the amateur viewer. When I began to get messages (and I still am) from THOSE friends, I knew IOC and the ISU had a much bigger problem on their hands.

Gold or Nothing Mentality

Finally what had been skating’s biggest known secret had roared its ugly head for everyone to see which included the general public. Much like gymnastic’s own abuse scandals, and the traumatic brain injuries in football, this is our moment of reckoning with the skeletons buried beneath the ice. While many thought that the Salt Lake Games were bad it is nothing compared to what has occurred at these games and even prior. When the IOC comes out in condemnation when for so long they have been silent you stop and take notice. BUT it can not stop just here.

Nor can we just put a band aid on the issue. First and foremost, I am NOT a fan of raising the age limit. It will do nothing to stop the problem, but much like the overall of the judging system, make the problem go away for a few years before it roars it’s ugly ahead again. After all, “Silver is the first place loser,” and when a country has that kind of mentality, they will do ANYTHING to achieve their goal, including drugging, doping, and abusing their athletes. All allegedly of course. Then again we did see the whole saga play out on national television.

We don’t need to raise the age, but we do need to put programs into place that protect our athletes from abuse. And we need to make sure that countries, irregardless of how much money they give to the IOC and ISU, are held to the same standards as other countries, and punished when they break the rules. The US is by no means perfect. We have plenty of skeletons under our own ice, some of which I have unfortunately witnessed, and while it isn’t perfect, we have implemented organizations like SafeSport which looks into abuse of all kinds and works to protect US athletes. But it can’t just be a US organization or even fight, it needs to be global. There was so much talk about how if Kamila Valieva was suspended it would do her undo harm, what I saw Thursday morning, looked pretty damn harmful to me.

It Can’t End Here

There is another aspect that Tara Lipinski touched on in the team event BEFORE all the drama roared its ugly blades, and that of the double standard in men’s and women’s skating. While there was an unprecedented amount of quads performed at these Olympics, women could only perform them in the long program. They are still banned in the short, something I have a huge issue with. And if we are to raise the age limit, like some people want too, will we also raise it in men’s? And yes I am well aware WHY they want to raise it, (puberty) but it is still a double standard. And it will also do nothing to address the abuse that athletes receive at the hands of those they have entrusted (and paid!) themselves too.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that despite the extinguishing of the cauldron this morning, what has taken place in skating can not go with it only to be brought back to the general public in four years, while the rest of us in this sport further watch it deteriorate. We have the chance for real change and we need to do it. For the sport of skating, but also the Olympics as a whole. What happened might have overshadowed it, but if we shine light on the shadows, we will see that for many the Olympic values were upheld, from Mariah Bell running and giving Alyssa Liu a hug after her long, to Kaori Sakamoto showcasing that bronze is worth ten gold, to Alyssa Liu getting a skating make-over from all her skating Mama’s (and Papa!) from various countries who helped her get ready for the skating gala after receiving a surprise invite, to Nathan Chen and all of Team USA who was in the stands consistently cheering on their teammates.

Yes, there was drama, (it is a skating soap opera after all) yes there needs to be reform, but the Olympic spirit was and is still alive. And amidst all that drama, dreams were achieved, Olympians made, memories forged, and they inspired a world. Given the unique circumstances these games will be remembered for good or bad, but one thing is certain a bond was also created between these athletes that they will forever have. Until Milan friends.

What are you thoughts on these games? What do you think should happen with skating? 

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