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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A New Era

I read the news about Michelle Kwan pulling out of the Olympics with great sadness. She has been so prominent in the sport for the past decade, winning all that mattered except for the one elusive Olympic gold. It must be painful to have to give up what may be her last shot!

Will she retire? Will she turn pro? Will she come back? We don't know yet.

As female skaters like Michelle Kwan and Irina Slutskaya, who have been strong and consistent in the past decade exit the sport, we will start to see new, young faces. This marks the end of an era, the start of another.

In this new era, who will we see in the Ladies' singles? American skaters like Sasha Cohen are promising. The Japanese ladies are coming up fast. Very fast! There are top skaters from Japan who are not even on this year's Olympic squad!

Is Singapore on the map? What are our chances? There are, currently, many talented young skaters here, and it seems promising that this is a sport in which Singapore can send its first representative to the Winter Olympics. Will our skaters succeed? Will they get their chance on the world stage? Will they do Singapore proud?

Questions... always questions... where are the answers?

Unfortunately, our skaters do not and cannot fully control their destiny. However much talent a skater has, however hard a skater trains, Singapore is still not qualified to compete in ISU international competitions (including the Olympics). Why? Because Singapore still lacks ISU membership - one of the reasons being that Singapore does not yet have a full-size rink!

Young skaters in Singapore also face tremendous amounts of pressure. Not that skaters in other countries don't, but the school system (and people's mentality) in Singapore puts a lot of emphases on academic success. That, coupled with the lack of recognition of the sport and inadequate facilities makes it terribly difficult for Singapore to cultivate figure skating as a sport.

However, there are a handful of talented, extremely enthusiastic and committed young skaters here who are determined to overcome all these difficulties and continue training. These are the skaters who will eventually rise to the occasion - if they are given the chance!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Olympic Dreams

An article in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday was titled:
"Does it make sense to let a 12-year-old chase her olympic dream?"

The article is about Marcy Hinzmann, who is at Turin this week, fufilling her childhood dream of going to the Olympics. The decision to take Hinzmann out of school at the age of 12, to dedicate her life to figure skating, was a difficult one, wrought with sacrifices and uncertainty. For her case, it turned out to be the right one.

How many others are there, who, like Marcy, have a dream? How many of them chose to take the risk and make sacrifices to fufil their dream? How many of them made the right choice?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Types of Jumps

Jumps are characterised by the take off edge (FO/FI/BO/BI), whether there is a toe assist and its rotational direction relative to the edge. In general, backward take off is more common. Indeed, the Axel is the only jump that takes off forwards.

Hence, we can tabulate the known jumps as follows:
Take-off edge  Toe assist  Rotation   Jump
BO Yes same dir toe loop
BO Yes counter Lutz
BO No same dir Loop
BO No counter toeless Lutz
BI Yes same dir flip
BI Yes counter toe Walley
BI No same dir Salchow
BI No counter Walley
FO No same dir Axel
FI No same dir Inside Axel

Why is there no other jump taking off forwards?
Perhaps it is harder to get the rotation.
Perhaps since all jumps land backwards, a forward take off requires 1-1/2 revolutions in the air, making it "harder".
Perhaps it is impossible to use a toe assist (seriously, how would you do that going forwards?).
Perhaps it is just physically impossible?

BUT maybe one day someone will come up with a new jump, taking off from a FO outside edge with counter rotation... perhaps somehow use a toe assist... Now that would be interesting to see!

Friday, February 03, 2006

How much do sports writers in Singapore know about Figure Skating?

Yesterday, there was an article in the Straits Times by Abdul Hafiz, titled "Quit? It can make or break your reputation" where he compares Justine Henin-Hardenne who "quit when she should not have" and Michelle Kwan who "still goes on when maybe it is time to call it a day".

First off, he wrote that Michelle Kwan "is 25 - old for a skater". The next sentence claims that World Champ Irina Slutskaya is one of the favorites. HELLO!?! Irina is 26 going on 27! Ok, fine, maybe Irina is *also* old but still capable??

Next he said that "Kwan did not even qualify for this Olympics. She is only going because she asked for a medical waiver, which was granted by the US Figure Skating Association after watching her skate in a private session last Friday". Uh, the last I know, the medical bye was considered and Kwan was selected on Jan 14! The "private session last Friday" was a session to re-confirm that Michelle would be physically ready.

Finally - and a mistake that CANNOT be forgiven - he wrote "Emily Hughes, Sasha's youner sister". GOODNESS!! What is reporting coming to these days?