Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What would Brian Boitano do?

A couple of declarations regarding The Monk and the Olympics:

First, I am NOT giving up my man card just b/c I watched the latter part of yesterday's women's figure skating short program.

Second, the women's figure skaters do NOT turn me on, unlike some of the radio talkers I've heard this morning (who are in their 40s!). Good gosh -- most of these women look like 13-year olds, even the ones who are deep in their 20s.

Third, I am absolutely amazed that these small women can generate the height, speed and twist on their jumps and then land on the edge of a skate blade. Given the biological differences between men and women, especially regarding bone structure and muscle, the fact that these small frames can handle the punishment is remarkable.

And the punishment is just that -- punishment. Skaters POUND their joints with tremendous force in practice and in competitions. The WSJ had a front-page article on the damage that skaters do to their bodies thanks to the repeated beatings they give themselves on landing (including one male competitive skater who had to have both hips replaced and he's thin and 33; The Monk is burly and 35 and my hips are ok), especially because skating equipment is based on a 100+ year old design that has not been updated in the wake of increased orthopedic research as the skaters have increased the athleticism and intensity of their routines in the past decades.

Another problem -- the nature of the training. The International Skating Federation did away with compulsory figures after the 1994 games -- those triple circle/multiple figure 8/retrace the pattern required tasks that put the FIGURE into figure skating. The compulsories used to be worth 30% of the final score, but they were pits where gold medal hopes died. Thus the skaters would train for hours DAILY on the figures, then work on their programs. Without the compulsory exercises, skaters train for their leaps and twists much more, which means more landings, more impacts and more injuries.

So the skaters are tremendous athletes. And that's what I watched last night.

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