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Does Figure Skating Need to Man Up?

Seven-time Canadian Champion Elvis Stojko has been speaking out about a lack of masculinity in the men’s figure skating event. As a life-long figure skating fan, I too have seen a rise in effeminate costumes and choreography. When Dick Button, Brian Boitano and Kurt Browning were skating, men didn’t do ladylike layback spins or make a show of their flexibility.

But, is men’s skating really in dire straits, as Stojko suggests?

I don’t think so. For starters, the media presents a skewed version of male figure skaters. Johnny Weir dominated the news thanks to his outrageous costumes and overtly feminine skating style.
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But he’s an outlier. He’s not representative of all male skaters. In reality, there are many competitors whose costumes and choreography don’t make the crowd giggle: Jeremy Abbott, Patrick Chan, Vaughn Chipeur, Brian Joubert to name a few.

Secondly, figure skating is not simply a jumping competition. It is jumping plus artistry, plus footwork, spins and style. If power and strength was the only factor then why bother with routines at all? Why not just stage a jump-off? It’s the artistic aspect of figure skating that makes it unique and, as such, invites a wide range of presentation styles, some which may not appeal to the majority of viewers.

I admit that I sometimes pine for the days when all men competed in tuxedo-style costumes, but I don’t think figure skating needs to be transformed into a pure power sport to keep its audience.

In a recent Salon.com article, a journalist asked Stojko if figure skating would appeal to a NASCAR fan if the men were more masculine. Why should it? I’m a figure skating fan who’s never watched a NASCAR race. Does that discredit NASCAR? Certainly not. Just because NASCAR fans aren’t sitting on the edge of their seats hoping Johnny Weir lands his triple axel doesn’t mean that figure skating needs an overhaul.

Today, the judges are rewarding the all-around athlete/artist whose combined abilities add up to a truly great performance. And, if the athlete that delivers the most well rounded performance happens to wear a wreath of roses on his head while waiting for his marks, and blow kisses to the crowd, then so be it.

2 Responses to “Does Figure Skating Need to Man Up?”

  1. Michael Gee Says:

    I look at Johnny Weir with a wreath on his head. Now picture if it was a “frat guy” type…Christopher Bowman comes to mind….who put a wreath on his head in the kiss and cry. It would be a funny gesture….not taken to be something that comes across “effeminate”. There you have it folks.

  2. Janice Buller Says:

    This same topic has been a part of skating for as far back as I can remember… so over 35 years… I can remember a certain American skater who used to roll around on the ice during his long program… now it wasn’t my favorite part of the program, but if it was how he chose to express himself, so be it. I do think that when the more accomplished athletes are more expressive, it does make it more difficult to attract boys to the sport… but that’s just a problem with society thinking that boys need to be physically expressive and repress their emotions.

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