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The Shape of Things to Come

It’s a mystery how the US produces such outstanding female figure skaters. Canadians in particular must wonder as it’s been more than a decade since we’ve seen remarkable female free skaters in Canada (sorry, Jennifer Robinson). While watching both the Canadian and US women compete this weekend I couldn’t help but wonder if the shape of the skaters is a clue.

Canadian figure skaters almost always have strong, muscular bodies. As a one-time figure skater myself I can attest to that. However, all the US female champions in the last decade were waifs: Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lapinski, Michelle Kwan and now Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meisner. Have Canadians been training for strength when the answer is simply to weigh as little as possible?

Perhaps there’s something to be said for letting the physics of speed and momentum do their jobs and not hindering them with excess muscle that could be slowing down the rotation.

There is a downside to producing pint-sized skaters, even if they are phenoms. Figure skating fans are forced to watch skin and bones athletes push their undernourished selves through their four-minutes routines. Both Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meisner, were flesh and bone at nationals — their skeletons completely visible through their dresses. And they were both fighting the flu. If being uber-thin is the secret ingredient to executing successful triple jumps then I worry about the shape of things to come.

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