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Monday, August 27, 2007

Progression of the Double Toe Loop

As I had done with my Axel and double Salchow jumps, I had wanted to put together a video on the progression of my double toe loop. I also had wanted to do it after it is landed in competition. However, given that I'm not skating for the next many months, I figured I might as well do the video now...

Admittedly, the double toe has not taken as long as the Axel or double Sal. Nevertheless it is just as frustrating - starting from the very beginning when I found out that the toe loop isn't quite as easy to do "correctly"!! I had once billed the toe loop as my least favorite jump, and no, it hasn't become a fav overnight, but I have come to realise that it is actually an easy jump once the technique is mastered! :-)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why do people ask if I have an "English" name?

OK, I am Chinese (by ethnicity) and yes, I live in Singapore... and the strangest thing I find is that Chinese (especially those from China) would ask if I have an "English" name!

When I was studying in the US, everyone accepted - and respected - that I use my Chinese name... of course not written in Chinese but anglicised so that it is actually pronouncable! Even as I work and make friends with non-Chinese all over the world, none have ever asked if I had an alternative name!

Yet, many Chinese in Singapore (and I'm sure increasingly in China and all around the world) have chosen to take up an "English" name. This is partly because of the spread of the Christian faith, and also partly because an "english" name would be easier for friends and business associates to remember.

I'm not passing a value judgement, and I respect the many reasons for doing so. For me, I am proud of the name I was given and see no reason to shy away from the culture that I was born into.

Then, why go on this 'tirade' about Chinese names vs English names?

Well, this morning I chatted briefly with the new coach - she is from China, and started just 2 weeks ago - and as usual, the rink doesn't tell us anything like that, so I had no idea until I started asking other people who this stranger was! Anyway, when I told her my name, she asked "what about your English name?"

That reminded me also of my first coach after I came back to Singapore after graduation... He is also from China, and after one month of coaching me, suddenly asked "do you have an English name?" Well, on a side note, he also asked "do you speak Chinese" after struggling to speak to me in English for one month!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Swan Lake On Ice

Imperial Ice Stars is bringing to Singapore an ice theatre production, Swan Lake on Ice. It will be opening on 12 September 2007 at the Esplanade Theatre, and will run through 16 September 2007.

Tickets may be purchased through SISTIC.

Link to the Swan Lake On Ice story by Imperial Ice Stars.

This performance should be a good one to see, somewhat different from Disney On Ice. The previous time Imperial Ice Stars came to Singapore was in 2004 when they put up the production Sleeping Beauty on Ice. Though I did not watch that, a friend said that it was very well done!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Poll #3: Is a quintuple Axel physically possible?

I put up this question because I recalled friend telling me years ago that a quintuple Axel is not possible given human's physical limitations. This time, only 12 readers voted, with
  5 (42%) for "Yes, why not?"
  5 (42%) for "No, it is beyond human limits"
  2 (16%) asking "What is a quintuple Axel?!?!"

Well, I thought that in the last two weeks I could learn and understand enough about physics and bio-mechanics to calculate why it is not possible. However, I didn't manage to do come up with a rigorous proof either way, but did come across interesting articles and a train of thought:

Oh yes, first, what is a quintuple Axel?!?! I had put up an earlier post, "What is an Axel?". Well, a quintuple Axel is an Axel with 5 1/2 revolutions in the air.

So, the two important things that need to be considered are how much time we can get in the air, and how fast we can rotate in that amount of air time. All jumps are completed in a fraction of a second. Elite figure skaters can get about 0.5s air time. Even Michael Jordan has less than 1s of air time - long as he may seem to hang in the air! In fact, a quick computation will show that jumping 1.2m (~4ft) high would only give 0.97s in the air.

Next, how fast can we rotate? A skating doing a quad toe or quad sal would rotate approximately 7rev/s. Let's say one day we will have skaters being able to generate enough rotational force to make 9rev/s. Even so, with 0.5s in the air, that would only give 4.5 revolutions - enough for a quad Axel, but not the quint!

However, we have not even considered that effort put into generating rotational force may also take from the energy put into generating the vertical height...

So, even though I have not done all the theoretical calculations and thorough check of physical limitations, it does seem rather unlikely that we will see a quint Axel... or at least not one that is edited and put on YouTube!

Meanwhile, to share an interesting article I came across, here is a paper on "Biomechanical conditions for stabilizing quadruple figure skating jumps as a process of optimization" by Karin Knoll & Thomas Härtel.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

ISU Judging System Updates

In May, ISU put up the technical rules clarifications and changes for the 2007-2008 season. Last week, it put up another set of clarifications and amendments.

There have been some changes since last season. A few points of note...

Of the changes and clarifications, the most significant is in the definition of a jump sequence. Now, jumps in a jump sequence "may be linked by non-listed jumps or hops", and "there can be no turns/steps, crossovers or stroking during the sequence".

However, in the first set of rule changes, it said:
If this definition is not fulfilled, two solo jumps will be called.

In the clarifications/amendments, there is now an "addition" that says:
From the moment the jump sequence does not fulfill the above requirements, the remainder of the jump sequence will be ignored and the element will be called “name of the first jump(s) plus sequence”.

So... is the "addition" actually meant to "replace" the previous sentence? It can make a world of difference!

Spiral Sequences
There are several changes, but most significantly, "Only the first 3 attempted positions are to be considered for Level features".

Spiral positions have been defined according to the skating leg, edge, direction, and position of the free leg. Other changes to the features that count towards a level of difficulty makes it... well, a little more difficult to get that Level 4 spiral... BUT once you figure it out, the rest of the world is probably doing the same sequence or some variant of the same thing!

The most extensive change, I think, is for spins. Definitions of the three basic spin positions are made, and there is even a new concept of an "intermediate position", which is basically anything else that does not fit the definition of a basic position!

Hence, much of the level features for spins have been revised. An additional level feature was added for spins with no change of position: "At least 8 revolutions without any changes in position/variation and edge". Some incentive to actually hold the spin for more than 3 revolutions!! BUT this is only for camel, sit, layback, or difficult variation of upright... sorry, it won't work on just a regular upright spin!

    ISU Communication #1445 - Technical rules clarifications and changes
    ISU Communication #1459 - Clarifications & amendments to ISU Communication #1445

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

News on Skate Asia 2007

When I last checked the Skate Asia website, neither schedule nor results are up yet. However, here are some headlines that have appeared in online news:

  "Skaters set ice on fire" -

  "China goal: Break ice reign of RP" -

  "RP skaters vow to soar in Skate Asia 2007" -

  "Barbosa captures two golds" - The Manila Times

  "Pinoy ice skaters display skills in ‘07 Skate Asia" - Malaya Sports

  "SM Mall of Asia hosts Skate Asia 2007" - SM Investments Corporation

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Skate Asia 2007 Opens in Manila

Today is the start of Skate Asia 2007, held in Philippines for the first time! Here are some reports:

  "Mall of Asia to Host Skate Asia" - Manila Standard Today

  "Ice whiz kids strut wares in Skate Asia" - The Manila Bulletin Online

  "Pinoys defend crown in Skate Asia" - Journal Online

And of course, all the best to the team from Singapore's Fuji Ice Palace -- I hope you all come back with lots of medals!! :-)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Zamboni Catches Fire

A Zamboni caught fire in Novi, Michigan:
Zamboni Fire Ices Novi Operations (link is broken)
Zamboni fire shuts down Novi Ice Arena posted on Topix

It was during an ice resurface, so everybody was off the ice, and nobody got hurt... Still, it is kinda scary!

Rink hazards?

The Zamboni story makes me think of rink hazards... though I never thought of the Zamboni catching fire as a high-probability hazard! The rink is an enclosed space, and I sometimes wonder how good the ventilation system is. Every session, my clothes and hair will smell fumy, and though the odors are unpleasant, the more worrisome aspect is whether they are health hazards!

Zamboni fumes - the Zamboni here runs on gas, and I often wonder if there is sufficient ventilation to expel all the fumes!

Leaks - once during ice time early in the morning, the entire rink was smelling of gas... it was scary. It turned out to be a gasoline leak, not from the Zamboni, but from another smaller machine that is used to level the ice next to the boards.

Cigarette smoke - in Singapore, smoking is banned in public buildings, and there are signs put up around the rink to that effect. Still, some public skaters can be obnoxious, and smoke in the toilets. Even the staff find it difficult to stop them!

However, I suppose odors are not the only things we should be concerned about - there are other dangers. Carbon monoxide is odorless but can kill; asbestos doesn't smell but causes mesothelioma. I hope there are sufficient checks in place, and anyway, I really don't think there's any asbestos in buildings in Singapore!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Singapore! (And still we want more!)

Happy Birthday, Singapore
And still we want more
Today we celebrate
Our successes to date
But back to work tomorrow
To make our nation grow!

  - by LCY, 9 August 2007

Singapore is 42 years old! In this short time, the small island nation has built itself up and accomplished a certain level of peace and prosperity. It has come a long way, and there is still a long way more to go. In the recent years, the government has been working to promote the arts and sports - areas that have, unfortunately, been neglected in the race to build up the nation's "only natural resource" - its people.

So, in sports - emphasis is placed on the sports that are already performing well. Yes, it is worth to ensure that we continue to perform well in areas that we are already good at, but then I wonder why, as part of the "other sports", I feel we are a little neglected!

Figure skating is an unusual sport in an unusual location. BUT, it is a sport with potential - if we have the resources to build up our athletes, coaches and officials. Singapore has yet to have a representation in ISU competitions, and it seems we are just "a full-size rink" away from it. It does seem a shame that we can't send our most talented young skaters to competitions just because we still haven't built a full-size rink!

Maybe that is not the real reason. Perhaps there is more that meets the eye, but obviously I don't know about it... Figure skaters form a small fraternity, and ideally we should put aside our biases, overcome our differences and eliminate elitism to work together to grow the sport.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Ice dancer in drink-driving accident

Monday's news on Sofia News Agency site:
Bulgaria's World Skating Champ Staviiski Kills 1 in Drunk-Driving Crash

This happened barely two weeks after Japan's Nobunari Oda was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. What is most ironic is that Maxim and his partner Albena are faces in the anti-drink-driving campaign "If you're drunk get off the car - I want to get there alive".

BUT apparently Staviski might not even be brought to court... another article, Bulgaria's World Skating Champ Still Not Arrested for Causing Deadly Crash mentions that "Drivers in Bulgaria only face legal prosecution for drunk driving when the two alcohol tests showed more 1.20 permilles of blood alcohol or more."
The two tests are the breath test and the blood test, and Staviski tested 1.1 permilles.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Auditions for "Cutting Edge 3"

I recently read that Cutting Edge 3 is auditioning for actors and doubles. The information is at Auditions pour Cutting Edge 3. Umm, yes, it is in French, mais t'inquiete pas, les informations officielles sont en Anglais. Oops, I mean, but don't worry, the official information is in English.

Thank goodness, as it would probably take me 10 times as long to read it if it were in French... but as I read through the brief synopsis, it just sounded so incredulous I wanted to laugh... well, not that it is impossible, but how many pair teams would look for a "replacement" partner when one gets injured? Even "temporarily"? And of course it would have to be somebody new to the sport, wouldn't it?

Along the same line, they could have made a parody on Zhang Dan's fall in the Olympics - have Zhang Hao come back on ice with another partner to complete the program!! Oh but that wouldn't fill a 90-minute movie, would it?

Ah, I have another idea: the replacement partner would injure herself during the warm-up, and miraculously, the original partner would feel well enough to step up and skate the program, and they win! Yes, that would be more interesting!!

And I thought my 2-day-before-competition partnering for a pairs program was crazy...

Monday, August 06, 2007

What is an Axel?

The Axel is a jump first performed by Axel Paulsen in 1882. This is the only type of jump with a forward take-off. In figure skating all jumps land backwards (nobody wants to fall on their faces!), and the forward take-off means that a "single" Axel is really 1-1/2 revolutions in the air, a double Axel 2-1/2 revs, a triple Axel 3-1/2 revs, etc.

Here's my single Axel as of 2005:

The additional 1/2 revolution sounds more innocent that it really is! Not just that, the forward take-off can be tricky. Skaters often take longer to learn the single Axel than most other single jumps, some even claiming double jumps before "getting" the Axel. In an earlier post, I had put together a series of videos of my "Axel Progression"!

Various other interesting facts about the Axel jump are captured in Wikipedia!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Poll #2: Skating Involvement

My second attempt at Blogger's new poll feature was to see what kind of skating background my readers have. Of a total of 137 readers who voted,
35 (25%) are figure skaters
15 (10%) play hockey
38 (27%) skate occassionally, for fun
and last, but not least,
80 (58%) love to watch figure skating

Indeed, figure skating is a very popular spectator sport. Earlier this year, Skate Canada reported that "Figure skating tops hockey in television ratings". In the UK, the show "Dancing on Ice" drew over 10 million viewers.

Figure skating, however, is a challenging sport, as I had described in a previous post Sports Skills Difficulty. Still, it is nice to see that a quarter of the voters are figure skaters... For those who aren't, it is not too late to start! :-)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vegetarian in Singapore

I often get a surprised look when my local skating friends first find out I'm vegetarian. The first question would be "where do you get your energy from?". The next question is, "then... where can we go to eat?".

Eating out poses some restrictions, but most of my friends are adapting and look for places where I can find something to eat. Over the years, my DH and I have set up a blog, Vegetarian Dining, about our experiences as vegetarians in Singapore and also as we travel around the wold.

Some years ago, I had a coach who disliked eating with me - not because of the restrictions on where to eat but because he didn't like the thought of me not eating meat!

So... if a person who eats vegetables is called a vegetarian, shouldn't a person who eats humans be called a humanitarian?