Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thirteen Reasons to watch the US National Figure Skating Competition

The Sochi Olympics are coming soon, everyone! I've always had a soft spot for the Winter Olympics which can basically be boiled down to I've always had a soft spot for the underdogs. It took growing up and maturing a little to realize not everyone has winter so the Winter Olympics are the less popular event for a reason. Plus, well, winter sports seem to be really really expensive. So, yeah. But I still love them! Figure skating is my all time favorite Olympic sport and I love hockey and skiing and snowboarding and speed skating and everything.

Back to figure skating. In December, I talked a little bit about how figure skating was my first great sports love and my 90's fandom of the sport when I reviewed Skating on Air. Please if you missed it, check out my review and interview with the author! I decided to make it my one woman mission to get everyone excited about figure skating again before it completely dries up and dies here in the States. So consider this post part of that.

I AM SORRY THIS IS SO US CENTRIC. But feel free to apply this to the national competition in your own country as best you can (The Canadian nationals start today) if they haven't happened yet. Or just get excited about Olympic skating with me anyway.

The US Nationals are this weekend and NBC is broadcasting the free programs live. Here are the reasons I think you should watch!

1) Figure skating broadcasting has really dried up and the opportunity to watch live competitions is rare. This is your best chance to see some of the best US figure skaters.

2) If you watch this competition you'll have a chance to get educated on the US Olympic figure skating team. Nationals pretty much decides who goes for our country (with the rare exception) and you'll be able to discuss our team intelligently as the Olympics approach. You'll also get a preview of their Olympic programs and when the Olympics roll around you can note their improvements on the international stage.

3) Meryl Davis and Charlie White are basically our only hope for a medal in Sochi. Also, have I mentioned they are the most adorable ice dancing pair to ever hit the ice? And that's really saying something considering how many great ice dancers are also adorable. Their faces alone are worth tuning in for!

Also they like books!

4) Since they are our only hope and the US is not the most fanatical about ice dancing, now is the time to learn all about it! It's actually a decent discipline for the States and it should be fun to see which other duos make the Olympic Team.

5) Davis and White's Scheherazade free dance is stunning! And who knows what tweaks you might see from their World Record breaking Grand Prix Final!

6) See Jason Brown skate! He is largely considered to be an up and coming star and this will be his first attempt to make an Olympic team.

7) Figure skating costumes are the best. Worth tuning in for them alone.

8) Familiarize yourself with the new scoring system. It's not easy, but it's not impossible to get a general grasp of it either (as I once thought). It's also not really new anymore having been in place for ten years but I do think it's a huge turnoff to audiences, I mean it was to me. But you can start to figure it out and you'll have a lot more fun watching!

9) Start cluing into the narratives NBC will be using during the Olympics. They are in a unique and difficult position this year because skating is probably the most popular sport of the games but the US has no real medal hopefuls in the singles--the more popular disciplines. How will NBC sell these athletes stories? Will they build up Davis and White more? Will they mostly ignore pairs and try to rush through them? Will they strongly favor skaters in their commentary who end up not making the team? Watch and learn!

10) I feel like I should say something about the ladies skating but I am not really into the American ladies skaters. Ashley Wagner has maybe an outside chance at a bronze at the Olympics I guess but it depends too much on others not skating well. She's a fine skater but not the kind that gets me excited. She does have a lot of personality, though.

11) The men's competition, however, should be very interesting. Most skating fans seem to have no idea who will make the team. There are skaters making their last attempt at the Olympics and those making their first.

12) The skating will be live! (unless you live on the West Coast, like me, in which event most of it will be live but not all) After reading about the difficulties of broadcasting skating live in Skating On Air, I'm actually really excited for this. This is so rare and we might get to see mess ups and stuff! Woo-hoo!

13) Obviously, the number one reason is because I made a Thursday Thirteen about it! And you know how HOW HARD these things are, thirteen is an impossible number. I kind of wanted to make it all about Davis and White, but I think I might try to do that closer to the Olympics! Besides I really do want all you to watch so we can discuss.

Seniors competition begins today with the ladies and pairs short programs but unfortunately those will not be broadcast.

Here's what you can watch:


Saturday January 11 3-6 EST (on the West Coast this is 12-3)--Pairs free skate and free dance
Saturday January 11 8-11 EST (same time on the West Coast and we won't be seeing it live, BOO)--Ladies Free Skate
Sunday January 12 3-5 PM EST (12-2 PST) --Men's Free Dance

And the following Sunday I think they will show the exhibition if you like that sort of thing.

Watch and then tell me about it! I know figure skating as sport has some issues (which, hopefully more on this tomorrow) but I still find it so fun and beautiful to watch.


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