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 the secret code to the cool kid’s party.

That’s if you’re invited.

In 2011, someone at the ISU had an ingenious idea: let’s eliminate people from figure skating competitions.

OK, I’m sure it wasn’t quite like that, but that’s what it did.

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

This may not seem high. In fact, when one looks at some of the scores the men received, it might be difficult to believe these scores are unattainable. But, they can be. One missed combination can blow the technical score. Fail to land on that toonie-thin blade out of a double-Axel and the marks plummet. And it can happen to the best. Amelié Lacoste, for example, did not meet the ISU technical requirement, despite her undeniable talent. It doesn’t matter what’s done in practice. What matters is the three or 4 ½ minutes on the ice in front of 7,000 people.

And the other factor, called the Kevin O’Leary factor: money. Not all skaters have access to the proper skating equipment and facilities. Coaches, choreographers, it adds up. 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 view, they are discouraging skaters from wanting to compete at the World level, if not at all. Many skaters dream of the Olympics and Worlds, and for skaters at the senior level, no matter what country, it should be a realistic dream.

And all skaters need exposure. The lesser known gliders are often the most memorable. In the 1994 Olympics, a skater from Estonia lost the rivets on his skates after a jump. Margus Hernits program came to a halt. While Hernits was allowed to restart, as his alien-like music blared over the speakers, the crowd cheered on the 17-year-old. Hernits placed last. While he didn’t qualify to skate the free program, it’s skate that sticks out. 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.

[Originally posted on the Edmonton Journal website]


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