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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!

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