Apologies to our non sports fans, but the Olympics keep bringing up good questions.
There’s a big brouhaha happening over the results of the men’s figure skating competition. Â Defending world champion, Russian Evgeni Plushenko is throwing a bit of a hissy fit at placing second to American Evan Lysacek, arguing that his performance was more difficult, and therefore he deserved to win. Â This is of course stirring up all sorts of nationalistic silliness, including a half serious question as to whether or not Russia will grant Lysacek a visa to compete in the 2014 winter games in Sochi.
I might be biased by the fact that I generally find Plushenko to be a bit of an overly arrogant douche, and by the fact that Evan happens to be my new boyfriend ;), but this is my take: Â Plushenko is a natural. Â He’s an amazing skater, and as a result was able to come out of retirement less than a year ago and pull out a high caliber technical performance, which included a quadruple jump. Â But that performance was very unpolished. Â Plushenko can get away with half-assery like this because he is so talented, but even though he landed all of his jumps, he looked sloppy. Â Lysacek’s performance, while it didn’t include a quad, did have several difficult jump combinations, and was near perfectly executed. He was focused, polished, and detail oriented.
This of course goes back to the age old debate about figure skating: Â Is it a sport or an art? Â Well, really, it’s both, so people will argue endlessly over how those two sides should be balanced. Â I think you have to look at the whole picture; difficulty of elements and how well those elements were carried out. Â To me, Plushenko is the genius kid in the class whinging over getting a B because he didn’t study. Â Lysacek is the B student who worked his ass off and aced it.
Then there’s the whole problem of how you objectively score artistry, and whether the subjective elements of judging affect people like Johnny Weir; a very talented, very much not heteronormative young skater who tends toward the eccentric in his performances and costumes.
What’s your take? Â Should technical difficulty necessarily trump technique? Â What is the proper balance between sport and artistry? Â Is this kind of complaint ever helpful? Â Is it possible to set up a judging system that accounts for artistry without allowing for personal bias?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.