(Top 101) #59. We Belong Together – Mariah Carey

Evan Lysacek--Red, White, Blue, and Gold (I won't mention the strange tan)

First up, I’ve gotta give props to Evan Lysacek for his gold medal. He was solid and steady, if not quite spectacular. All in all, there was a lot of spotty skating, not too surprising with all that Olympic pressure. I know there’s been grumbling from different corners about how Evgeni Plushenko should have won, but I’ll have to beg to differ. Sometimes, going for too much is simply, well, too much, if you’re able to pull it off well, which Plushenko didn’t. He landed his jumps, but his take-offs were messy, and he never inspired any momentum or real energy. Instead, it was all about, ‘Whew, that was a really close one, too…”

I’ve actually been meaning to write a post detailing the changes that I think need to be made in the sport of skating, but I simply haven’t had the time–I’m now at 107 pages and counting on my novel-to-be. However, I do want to mention what’s perhaps the biggest problem: the whole obsession with the Olympics. Everything in skating is either about the Olympics, leading up to the Olympics, or coming out from the Olympics. That’s a problem, a serious one. Sure, it makes the Olympics incredibly dramatic and exciting, but you’re talking about two weeks of competition every four years. That leaves, oh let’s do the math, about 202 weeks out of the four years that are pretty much meaningless.

Skating is an amazing sport. It’s athletic–think about it, even a hack can hit a good golf shot or forehand winner once in a while, but NO ONE’s gonna cork off a double axel while skating at the local rink without the requisitie training–and it’s artistic at once. The skaters themselves seem like good, interesting people who are nowhere as full of themselves as most millionaire athletes are. And of course, the drama and the controversy in skating is just as spectacular as the triple axels. Everybody remembers the whole Tonya-Nancy scandal, but there have been other classic moments, like Surya Bonaly doing an illegal backflip just to spite the judges and in my personal favorite moment, Midori Ito jumping so big that she literally jumped off the ice and landed in the camera pit.

What the skaters need more than anything is a meaningful skating tour, a series of events that are prestigious in their own right. The ISU Grand Prix is supposed to fill the role, but they’re too small-scale. They need to expand the number of events, the number of skaters per event, and drastically increase the level of prize money so that the skaters will have real motivation to keep competing. It’s ridiculous how many skaters compete at an Olympics and then either disappear forever or do nothing until the next Olympics are about to come around. Tennis players play tennis events. Basketball players play basketball games. But skaters often times don’t seem to want to skate very much. And in a way, it’s understandable. There’s little prize money, and not many people seem to care about the results unless it’s an Olympic season. A meaningful tour that’s successful on its own and with sizable prize money; unless it comes to pass, skating will always be a niche sport, I’m afraid…

Anyhow, there’s only the ladies left (sorry, but I’ve never cared for ice dancing), and it’s going to be interesting. Yu-Na Kim is of course the favorite, and I can say that the hype has reached a feverish pitch here in Korea. I can’t even imagine what will happen if she doesn’t win (although the nasty part of me almost wants to find out). Overall, though, I think she’ll deliver fairly well. I actually think all the ladies are going to have mini-meltdowns due to the overwhelming pressure (also, it’s going to be the first Olympics for pretty much all the main contenders aside from Ando and Rochette, I believe), and it’s gonna get pretty messy just like the men aside from Lysacek. But I think Yu-Na has the cleanest technique, which will give her a foundation to fall back on if she makes a nervous error or two. After Yu-Na, I’m gonna go with Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki as the other medalists. I like Mao Asada, but I just think she’s made a mistake with the whole triple-axel-or-nothing strategy, and it’s going to bite her in the end. Ando’s been inconsistent, but I think her experience and the Japanese focus on Asada are both going to help her. Suzuki’s been skating really clean all season long, and I think she’s going to surprise a lot of people. As for the Americans, I think Rachel Flatt has an outside chance for a medal, but I don’t think Mirai Nagasu is ready quite yet.

But of course, as they say, skating is a slippery sport, and who knows what’s going to happen? The only thing I can confidently predict is that there will be a whole lot of tears and a whole lot of drama. I can’t wait.

Now, apropos of nothing is the #59 song in our countdown: Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.” It’s Mariah at her very best; let’s hope the skaters find their best as well in the coming days…

59. We Belong Together – Mariah Carey

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