Pairs Skating, and Questionable Taste Theatre: “The Cutting Edge”

Today, two great tastes that taste great together: Olympic Pairs skating, and the greatest sports movie ever made, The Cutting Edge.

Here’s the thing about The Cutting Edge: it’s a seriously early-90s movie, as evidenced by D. B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly. It is super-predictable. It also tries to tackle What Ambitious Women Are Up Against, and ends up saying, “Ambitious women are up against an awful lot! Poor thing; let’s give her a boyfriend to help her with that.”

On the other hand, it is a movie that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about pairs skating, so at least it’s useful! It will be especially useful when applied to the Pairs event that just wrapped at the Vancouver Olympics.

“It’s a bounce spin into a throw twist?”

Things we know about pairs skating from The Cutting Edge:

- You can have a tempestuous relationship on the ice and still do well, unless you’re in love and can’t admit it, at which point your relationship will go downhill until a key moment when you rally, admit your feelings, and do spectacularly well against all odds.

- Toe picks.

- You will be exhausted all the time from your training. Be sure to save time to skate gently to a ballad later, and don’t fall asleep in your food!

- Everyone in figure skating is dating, has dated, or is about to date everyone else in figure skating.

- Your coach is your only real parent. Choose wisely.

- Toooooooe piiiiiicks.

- If you are a dude, your costume will look laughable unless you fight them to be able to wear something more subdued.

- No matter what scoring system is in place, the judges have their favorites, and you are fighting that on top of all your actual problems.

Sure, this is all just a movie, and sure, you are supposed to laugh at Kate and Doug’s hilarious antics and their horrible-caricature coach and their semi-abusive relationship that only resolves when Kate admits that she’s been spoiled (by a father who pushed her when she was eensy and doesn’t let her have a life?) and is an awful person (for being a little prickly and wanting people to excel?) and in so doing makes Doug correct. Pamchenko Twist, everyone!

However, this movie gave you an opinion about whether a bounce spin into a throw twist should be legal (fun fact: according to Olympic regulations, it is called a “headbanger” and is totally freaking illegal), and therefore, made pairs skating more interesting than ever before.

Now, I would be happy to call this movie a bunch of made-up lies and say no more about it, except that I have a feeling there are some grains of truth in this movie. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s put it to the test!

This year’s Pairs competition featured the following:

- At least two romantically-involved pairs: Shen/Zhao of China and Langlois/Hay of Canada.

- One pair that are romantically involved but each dancing with other people: USA’s Amanda Evora (skating with Mark Ladwig) and Jeremy Barrett (dancing with Caydee Denney).

- One pair that used to be romantically involved: Canada’s Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison. (They danced to “The Way We Were”. Awkwaaaaaard.)

- One skater who had given up her citizenship to train in the home country of her chosen coach: Yuko Kavaguti, formerly of Japan, skating for Russia.

- One couple who dressed as clowns for their short program, including huge buttons and neck ruffs. No one will ever remember their bronze medal; it will only ever be, “Man, remember that clown skate? What the hell?”

- The low-seeded American couple Evora and Ladwig delivered an amazing short program. (I remember it being fall-free, but since I can’t currently watch the replay, I don’t know about this.) It was expressive, musical, and full of what looked like tough lifts. They ended up behind so many couples whose programs weren’t as good that the American announcers were, by the end, expressing open disbelief at the “generous” scores some couples were getting. (It was very sweet of them to pretend to be surprised, I guess!)

Evora and Ladwig’s long program had two mistakes, but was, again, very finished and elegant and skated with great feeling. They came in tenth place, behind people who fell right on their asses more than once in the long program. (To be perfectly fair, I think someone seeded the rink with coffee grounds or something, because in almost all the routines, there was at least one fall. I seem to remember ONE TEAM that stayed upright. What the hell, Olympics?)

I’m not saying they should have medaled or anything; they made two straight-up mistakes, and in the long program at the Olympics that takes you out of the running. What I am saying is that the “I came out of retirement for one last go,” in-love Shen and Zhao had a drop from a hold where she almost crashed onto the ice and had to be saved by his outstretched arm (giving one of the announcers a heart attack), and at least one other error, and they still won gold by three full points over the only team that didn’t fall on their asses, Pang/Tong of China, who were also gorgeous and expressive and did not fall over. So, no matter how they had skated, Evora/Ladwig did not stand much of a chance, is what I’m saying.

And that’s sad, because I really loved them.

(Bonus: apparently ALL the pairs programs are available online, so I will be going through them with great interest, just because I have a feeling some of them might have been a teensy bit overlooked.)

I understand the new scoring system doesn’t penalize falls the same way the old system did. I actually don’t mind this, even though it’s the only part of the new system I don’t mind. (Everyone’s routine looks exactly the same now! If everything is going to look the same, shouldn’t falls actually count more? Are there any points for artistry left? IN MY DAY…)

Anyway, for proof that this couple was lovely, I’d direct you to the short program. You can see it here, if you don’t mind downloading Silverlight. You probably won’t be seeing it on YouTube, because NBC has decided that this worldwide symbol of global participation should be kept from going viral at all costs and are slapping down videos as soon as they appear. *thumbs up*

Plus, you know this couple has it together:

Because if it’s good enough for Kate Moseley, it’s good enough for you.

Below, the most amazing “let’s pretend we’re skating” routines of all time, complete with commentary that we all heard verbatim last night, and, at the end, that montage of judges who are so enthralled that they lean forward, blinding themselves with their little lamps, because they never want to see another skating move ever again.

Archives

2014 Appearances

Often updated. Please check back!

March 19-23: ICFA (Orlando, FL)

May 23-26: WisCon (Madison, WI)

July 11-14: Readercon (Boston, MA)

August 4: Books Beneath the Bridge, Brooklyn

October 10-12: CapClave (Washington, DC) [GOH]