Thursday, March 29, 2007

Women's Sports Week: Gymnastics and Figure Skating

Too often I put my cool pictures and videos at the bottom of a post, after my reader has fled, complaining of eye strain and ennui. So here's some nice pictures of Sarah and Emily Hughes, both figureskaters, with David Wright of the Mets.

And here's Andy Roddick with Sarah.

I realized the other day that I've been depriving my reader of corny sport-appropriate pick-up lines. How sad! "Oh 'insert figure skater's name here', skate into my life, and let our love forever be quadruple and triple forever with no doubling!" There you go, should you meet a skater anytime soon. Just another service of this multi-talented blog! Next week, a few lines for those seeking a relationship with curlers or discus throwers. Just kidding.

Gymnastics and figure skating are perhaps the most widely accepted and loved feminine sports. And that was before those pictures gained the sports some new fans, ha. There's very little stigma, if any, attached to women participating in these events. Both are sports where the finish is completely determined by judges, as opposed to referee sports. Also, the looks and reputation of the performer are very important in the judging.

However, I thought it useful to share with you some information I recently read that disturbed me greatly. Have any of you read or heard of Joan Ryan's book, "Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters?" It's an older book from 1995 or so; look it up on Amazon for reviews and analysis. Basically, it said that young female gymnasts (and to a much lesser extent, figure skaters) were being badly mistreated, including a few deaths due to injury, depression, and eating disorders. It was quite horrifying; conduct that a pro football coach couldn't get away with in was the norm in gymnastics, where the competitors are young teens. I think gymnastics is dead to me now. It's not like I was a huge fan to begin with, but the book was way too much.

Figure skating really isn't so bad, according to the book. The one thing that bothered me from a fairness aspect is how much figure skating is rigged based on past reputations. The judges have their favorites. The competitors have to be "on" at all times at the competition, because the judges are always watching them, even in the hotel lobby. Thus, I find it ironic that many times, the champion of figure skating events at the Olympics has not been the favorite. Sarah Hughes is a well-known example in 2002.

I wanted to call attention to an up-and-coming skater today who's not a current favorite. She reminds me of Sarah Hughes, in that Alissa Czisny just has a way of coming up big in events where she's underrated. Alissa won the long program at Nationals this year, beating Kimmie Meissner and Hughes (Emily). Remember the name. Check out her official site if you wish, which is where I got the pictures from.

Now I know some of you guys may be horrified by the posts this week. I assure you, this isn't going to turn into "Figure-Skating Weekly" anytime soon. But this is a boring time of the year sports-wise; why not pay attention to some less-appreciated and followed sports now? One more post tomorrow, and then we'll get back to the usual 51 weeks-a-year diet of masculine sports.

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