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Skating Hurts

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Here is a Wall Street Journal article about how Skate Canada is encouraging its skaters to promote the rougher side of skating.

"We have to find ways to show the masculinity," says Mr. Chipeur, who came in 12th place at the World Figure Skating Championships here last month after losing points for touching the ice during a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

Once a prized national sport in Canada, figure skating has been losing its edge. Television viewership dropped more than 30% in the past decade. Skate Canada blames a dearth of big international stars like Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko who reigned in the '90s, while some fans say a new scoring system is so confusing, it's ruining all the fun. Canada particularly wants to drum up new interest in the sport ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Apparently one of the solutions is to get more men to tune in. Good luck with that!

At the same time, Skate Canada is discouraging skaters from using too many sequins, feathers or anything else that dangles from their costumes. Adornments like that are "garish" and "distracting," says Skate Canada Chief Executive William Thompson, and belong "in an ice show, not a competition."

Now, I love me some Vaughn Chipeur, but I'm not sure if he got that garish/distracting memo. Heh.

Aside from the "rebranding" ridiculousness, there is also some controversy:

But attracting the football crowd could be a challenge for a sport whose fans routinely throw stuffed animals onto the ice as a show of admiration. The move is also hitting a nerve among gay and lesbian advocates who say it's a red herring for Skate Canada's real motivation: making the sport seem more straight. "Figure skating has always been a little embarrassed by the perception that the male figure skaters are gay," wrote sports blogger Pat Griffin in a recent posting about Skate Canada's campaign, who suggested they change the name of the sport to "Ultimate Skating," after the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Egale Canada, a gay-advocacy group, says it's been deluged with emails from angry members. In February, the group spoke with Skate Canada's Mr. Thompson to discuss the group's concern that the campaign could lead to stereotyping of young gays and lesbians.

Mr. Thompson says his organization's words have been skewed, and calls the criticism from the gay community "ironic" because ice skating is one sport "where you can be openly gay and successful." He says he isn't suggesting skaters need to adopt a tough-guy image, only that they spread the word about how physically demanding the sport is.

I understand wanting to branch out to new fans, but is the football demographic really the one that ever watched figure skating? Maybe in Canada, but in America I think it would serve the sport better to tap into that tween market. Just keep putting the skating hotties on Access Hollywood!

The article goes on to say that the 2004 judging change pushed the sport more towards artistry. Ok, um, I just want to say that I love how every article that I read alternatively criticizes the judging system for making the sport too athletic or too artistic, depending on who won a competition most recently and which agenda they are trying to push. Yes, there is a case to be made that says that people score big without doing certain jumps or as many jumps, but others have argued that there is actually less artistry in the programs because the skater is always doing something (sometimes something distracting) to ratchet up those points.

Anyway, Skate Canada is encouraging skaters to talk about their injuries...show offs! Isn't it more...football-esque to not focus on the pain? Who looked tougher - Evan Lysacek winning worlds without discussing his painful stress fracture or Johnny Weir afer nationals talking about being a sparkly boy who had to be force-fed chicken cutlets because he was so sick? As a sports fan, there is something within me that admires someone who fights through the pain....without drawing attention to it. But maybe I'm not the target demographic, as I am not an 18-year-old boy. Plus, I love sequins.