Two-time world champion Nathan Chen, who last month won his fourth consecutive American title, did six quadruple jumps at the Pyeongchang Olympics, in a Feb. 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Two-time world champion Nathan Chen, who last month won his fourth consecutive American title, did six quadruple jumps at the Pyeongchang Olympics, in a Feb. 10, 2020 story. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Is figure skating becoming acrobatics on ice?

There are times when Brian Boitano marvels at what he sees on the ice.

And there are times — far too many times nowadays — when he shakes his head and wonders where figure skating is headed.

Boitano was one of the sport’s greats as a competitor, winning four straight U.S. titles, two world championships and the 1988 Olympic gold medal in a memorable showdown with Brian Orser that people still talk about today.

One of the best jumpers America has developed, but in a time when triples were the currency, Boitano also had a flair artistically and incredible stamina. Working in the old 6.0 scoring system, he often came close to perfection.

The programs he now witnesses are anything but perfect. Blame the points method adopted soon after the 2002 Olympics judging scandal. And the adjustments made to that system that emphasize difficult jumps — yes, quads — and squeezing all sorts of elements into a program. That’s created, in some instances, acrobatics on the rink.

“Skating has always been a jumping contest in some respect,” Boitano says. “What’s really disturbing is looking at, literally, these little Russian girls doing all these quads. Can their bodies handle it?

“We always tried to make the creative side just as important as the jumps, so it was the mark that had the importance. That’s not the case anymore.”

With a reduction in the length of the free skate, Boitano sees artistry being curtailed even more.

“You can’t take away 30 seconds and then expect programs to be as full,” he said. “What will they take out of the programs to pack in everything, all the elements, the jumps and spins and footwork? It will be the artistry, the parts of a program that really connect with the audience.”

Tara Lipinski, the 1998 gold medallists at the Nagano Games who retired early due to injuries, also has concerns about the current makeup of figure skating. She recognizes that all sports advance, usually meaning tougher challenges getting to the top.

“We’re in a place where you just don’t know what’s possibly ahead,” Lipinski says. “But there’s been progress in knowledge about how you train and how much, and knowing your body.

“Yes, the jumps they are doing could be really hard on the bodies, but we just don’t know yet. And you can’t generalize.”

Adds her NBC broadcast partner, former three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir: “There’s not one skater I know who has not had an injury.”

Weir is comfortable with how many quadruple jumps the men attempt per program — two-time world champion Nathan Chen, who last month won his fourth consecutive American title, did six at the Pyeongchang Olympics. That the women, especially nearly every skater the Russians send to senior competitions, are doing several quads per free skate is, Weir says, “mind-boggling stuff.”

Maybe so. And when the parameters on the ice are stretched so much, it makes for enhanced strategies, which can wow the crowds in the arenas and those watching at home.

But is it figure skating?

No one is calling for a return to the compulsory figure-8s that dominated the scoring system for decades, boring all but the most devout fans. Nor is anyone claiming a ceiling, if you will, should be placed on how high and far skaters should journey with their jumps. There’s even talk of a quad axel (4 1/2 rotations from a forward takeoff) and, someday, quintuple jumps.

Boitano, and Chen himself, don’t see any of those in the near future. The fact that somewhere skaters are contemplating such manoeuvrs, or actually working on them, is — yes, Johnny — mind-boggling stuff.

“I am worried about the future of the sport,” Boitano says, even suggesting a return to the old 6.0 scoring system that balanced presentation with athleticism is intriguing. “A lot of fans don’t understand this (system) and they all understood what 6.0 meant. To go back to 6.0 would get so much attention and curiosity, too. It would bring back some of the popularity and definitely the artistry.

“Right now, I’m not sure what they are doing is working.”

By The Associated Press

Figure Skating

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don and Gloria Moore, of Red Deer, are set to celebrate their 70th anniversary later this month. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer couple to celebrate 70th anniversary

Red Deer couple Don and Gloria Moore are set to celebrate their… Continue reading

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
UPDATE: Central Alberta cafe owner arrested after anti-restriction protest

The owner of a central Alberta cafe, which was the site of… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Most Read