Panic! At the Figure Skating Competition

December 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

There’s a decorum that comes with watching an ice skating competition in person for the first time that is completely different from how you would act at a baseball game. Page Dr. Loggins because you’re about to enter the… wait.


Duh and/or hello... but then again, it's not that obvious.

Duh and/or hello… but then again, it’s not that obvious.

No one is born with an innate understanding of how to behave at an ice skating competition, not even Michelle Kwan. Competition decorum is not obvious if you’ve never been to a figure skating competition before, let alone recognize a triple axel you’ve always been asking about.

At a baseball game in AT&T Park, you can yell as loud as you can about how mean Justin Verlander is, how Barry surprisingly good Zito can be, how the Gordon Biersch garlic fries are damn good, how the damn good garlic fries make the $9.50 cup of Bud Light taste so much better, etc. But that is not the case when you’re at your first figure skating competition in Oakland Ice operated by Sharks Ice, (EPIC) Edora Pool and Ice Center, Joy Burns Arena, Honnen Ice Arena or any ice rink in general.


What Could Possibly Be Different From A Public?

Public session skating and competitive skating are a wee bit different. In public sessions, you get a family environment, public displays of affection and axels, hockey skate races and an overall vibe of fun as the speakers blast the top 40 of yesteryear (more Katy Perry, more Jay Sean, less E40 telling you when to go). You can do (almost) anything you want.

Don’t be embarrassed if you have to hold the wall to assist your skating since everyone starts somewhere. Follow your dreams and attempt that triple axel you’ve been waiting to try. Don’t stick your hand under any blades though. *shudders*

In Competitions Though…

With competitive skating, you get skaters pacing back and forth off the ice in glitter and rhinestone, hair worn in buns and/or drowned in hair product, skaters warming up, getting into their zones and taking the occasional photograph that will be Instagram’d later. It’s a high-stress, all-day affair.

Look for earphones/Beats, a coach nearby or lots of off-ice running/stretching to spot a skater canceling out the noise and trying to get ready for their event. The skaters have prepared for the entire season/year/lives to be freaking out over a nerve-wracking two to four minutes of their lives, with only one chance to execute every required element and plead their case for first place.

Avoid telling skaters to “have fun out there” because being on the ice trying to land everything and fighting for first place is not fun; it’s very scary. Really, don’t say, “Good luck landing this [jump].” Skaters just interpret it as “Gosh, I hope you fall on that [jump]” and shoot lasers out of their eyes.

Full Pence

Just like that.

Speaking from firsthand experience, be out of the way when the skaters are being put on the ice and just wish them luck before the competition warm-ups (you’ll know when the announcer calls out the names of people appearing in the warm-up, the one-minute warning and end of warm-ups). That is the safest way to go about.

Your Job From the Stands

Bring a jacket, a blanket and maybe a pair of gloves because you’ll be sitting in the stands all day or all of thirty minutes and it gets cold. Is that the Clair de Lune you’ve heard for the fifth time during competition weekend? That is the Clair de Lune you’ve heard for the fifth time during competition weekend; it happens due to the rules on music.


Cheer for your team, the people who land those triple axels, and/or your favorite(s) but pick the spots to do so. They landed a jump? Awesome, golf clap it up on the successful landing, not during the takeoff. Didn’t land the jump? Golf clap it up anyway and cheer the skaters on to keep going and not leaving the ice while the music is still playing (wouldn’t wish that on the worst of my enemies). If they’re spinning, even if they’re traveling and not keeping the spin in one spot a few revolutions in, golf clap it up. If they aren’t jumping or spinning, golf clap it up during the footwork sequences (they’re not jumping or spinning).

When the skaters finish and the music fades, clap wildly and go nuts at that point. Let the skaters catch their breath and a drink of water, a small conversation with their coach or teammate to lament what could’ve been better, all before you swarm them with congratulations, stick around for a little longer and bounce for the day.


Does all this work mean you should surrender and stop being fan of figure skating? Not really. Just gotta know what to say and when to clap with grace, just in case you want to look a little less out of place at a figure skating competition. Yeah, buddy.


For the Sanctity of Figure Skating Pt. 4

November 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

As a male figure skater who has competed with a collegiate team, you quickly come upon consequences of gender differences between you, the skaters on your team and skaters you compete with. Source: I am a male figure skater.

Oh my.

Just to get it out there, male figure skaters are equipped with rudimentary mammary glands, nipples and a different set of reproductive organs. Duh, and/or hello.

Most figure skaters previously have never had to change in front of other males. Over the course of their figure skating career, they have the luxury of a single-gender locker room to take instagram photos with their teammates and their longtime rivals, look at the event groupings, do flexibility stretches, put on bottles of hairspray and finally, put on rhinestone-studded figure skating dresses. Mind you, there are bathroom stalls where one could do such wardrobe procedures in bathroom stalls but you can’t fit too many team members in a stall. Plus, #toilets, #fluorescentlighting and #stalls aren’t that flattering in an instagram photo.

USFSA and the competition chairs go the extra mile in case they receive entries from teams with male figure skaters. They usually do. They’ll provide male figure skaters with the opportunity to change in their own locker room, away from the other locker rooms that are assigned to teams in general. If the competition chairs and the host arena cannot afford to give such an opportunity, well, guys have to change with girls in the locker room. Slap on those slacks, competition top (jersey, diamond-studded shirt, short-sleeve thermal, etc.), ankle bunga pads to prevent chafing and finally your skates. When the ladies have to change, some will change in the stalls and save the instagram/mirror pictures for later while there are others who will have this exchange with you.

Teammate: “Hey, I’m going to change into my figure skating dress. Could you go out of the locker room for a moment?”

You: “Sure.”

Depending on the tactfulness used in the conversation, it can be quick and painless. Other times, the exchange gives off a “Get the fuck out of my locker room because your testosterone is really adding to the tension and ruining my prep” kind of vibe. Really depends. God forbid you leave something in there and remember ten minutes later and walk in just when your teammate starts changing. Awkward.

That’d just be upsetting for all parties.


Gosh, that was a really long gender set-up for the next thing. Rule 4033 under the 2012-2013 USFSA handbook states that ladies can wear skirts, trousers and tights. You know, anything that leaves a visible outline of the pelvic orifice on the outside of the tights is covered by the skirts so female skaters are in the clear.

Well, that same rule 4033 clears up a common misconception. “Men must wear trousers; no tights for men are permitted.” Wait, wtf? But what about the stereotype that men who figure skate can wear tights?

That’s right. The higher ups of USFSA believe there are some packages mailmen should not deliver. Male figure skaters simply have no clothing accessory (skirt, a really frilly shirt, garish color scheme on the pants, etc.) to shield everyone’s eyes from their crotch creating a bulge in the tights. That’s just a topic parents aren’t ready to discuss with parents just yet. Really, this is just speculation at most and like the music with insinuating lyrics and swear words but it may be up to the competition referee’s discretion to determine if the skater can compete in his current outfit. That said, it may be up to the competition judges to determine how egregious your costume violation it is and dock your points accordingly, no matter how stunning your performance was. (Can a skater even get a negative cumulative score? Is that even possible?)

The “Sanctity of Figure Skating” posts generally address music and this was only about costume. I will leave the reader with a song that may or may not summarize the constant self-comparisons in the sport, from wishing I had those skates and blades, that dress, that body, that triple axel and those moves to wishing I was a little bit taller.


P.S.: Rule 4034 is a really innocuous rule. It’s not like there’s a rule 4034 of the internet out there… is there?

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