It’s OK, We Can Sit This One Out

Screenshot of Nathan Chen's step sequence fall during the 2022 US National Championships
Screenshot of Nathan Chen's now-legendary step sequence splat at the 2022 US National Championships

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks mentally planning for how I would break down the Figure Skating events at 2022 Winter Olympic Games for y’all and every time I sat down to write something I felt EXHAUSTED.

Which is pretty on point for any true figure skating fan at this stage in the game. While the rest of youse are out living your lives and not paying attention to the sport for the interim 3 years, us suckers are here armchair analyzing summer practice reports, no-tier competitions, coaching changes and everything in between.

So by the time the Olys come around, we are tired and ready to let the inevitable happen—which comes off as a huge surprise to the rest of you unsuspecting fools.

I started participating in a Song-A-Day challenge last year and I’m glad to return to it this time around because this year’s Games aren’t worth giving a fuck about, for both diehard and casual viewers.

There’s this whole business of Le Pandemique. It’s still going strong! People are dying in record numbers! Figure skating keeps pretending it’s not real! Then there’s the issue the host country itself, China, a deeply authoritarian state that is most definitely surveilling everyone and participating in a wide array of human rights abuses—on top of whateverthefuck they’re doing with the Uyghurs, Peng Shuai, and so on. And then there’s this whole potential land war between Russia and Ukraine that’s going to happen any second with the help of the United States, so that’s fucking great too. And let’s not forget that Russia ain’t even technically at these Games—they’re still being punished for the massive, state-sponsored doping program they created—that they don’t even get to compete under their own name. ROC. LOL.

So yeah, it feels morally wrong to engage with the Winter Olympics—moreso than usual—this time around. And for figure skating, it feels so deeply prescribed that I am perfectly fine catching replays or reading scores, which is something I typically reserve for, like, a Challenger Series event being held in an former Soviet bloc country at 2AM.

This time 4 years ago I was bedridden for multiple weeks after contracting the flu—which only occurred because I missed getting my vaccine that year, as I had done for basically every other year of my life. It was a mild flu and yet it was easily the worst illness I’ve experienced of my adult life. And I’ve had a stroke!!! I honestly thought I would die and this is also why I have a will now. But I got to watch the Olympics in their entirety. That’s basically all I remember. So to see the entire world in a similar situation is just some real fucking karmic payback. Or foreshadowing. Or both! I don’t know. It’s just wild. Like I said, you can stay home.

Anyhow, here are my opinions on what I think will happen, what you should pay attention for, and I dunno, whatever else I can bring myself to type down. The least I can hope for is a pleasant surprise.

Figure Skating Team Event

Oh my god, does anyone actually fucking care about this? They pushed back the team announcements because ROC hadn’t bothered to arrive in the country yet (a solid chunk of them have The Crud and there is massive disinfo being spread about it in the media) and then Germany announced half of their pair team contracted the virus, so they’re just gonna take a 0 for the event. Honestly, the IOC should take a cue from them and cancel the Team Event because it’s wildly apparent athletes need time to quarantine. And once again, who the fuck cares about this?!

Women’s Event

I might as well get this out of the way. We will see a sweep of the podium by the Russian child brides. I mean women. No, I mean children. Kamila Valieva, who is all of 15 years old, will win the dang thing with her atrocious rendition of “Bolero,” in which she will display her glorious extension and flexbility, but hold none of the positions for more than .0000000000000012 seconds. There is only one “Bolero,” and it is Torvill & Dean’s from the 1984 Games, so clearly the conceptual masterminds behind this are trying to Say Something. Valieva will hit her triple axel and quadruple jumps and gain a ridiculous point lead that no one will match her. It’s going to be dead-eyed and suck, so I dunno, disassociate during the 4 minutes of her program.

The other two Russian skaters—Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova—will join her. Sherbert will gut out a performance, a la 2018 Silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva, and it could potentially beat Valieva. But honestly, the way the winds have been blowing scoring-wise all season long, it will be hard. Then again, many thought Medvedeva had the whole thing locked up and lo, Alina Zagitova with her fuckin’ tutu and all jumps in the second half of the program (which isn’t allowed anymore).

Trusova doesn’t stand a chance of beating either, though she has the technical skills. She’s less of an “artiste” than the others, typically half-asses her way through movements, but watching her skate to a cover of the Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” will be a personal highlight for me and anyone who doesn’t despise music. I just want her to show up at 10000% that day and not fuck her jumps up.

All three of these skaters are coached by Eteri Tutberidze, whose training methods are questionable at best, and at worst, should be construed as abusive. But the media has and continues to frame her approach as “results-oriented,” which should be a good signal to you, dear reader, to realize their writing/coverage is trash. We should be concerned that teenage girls win the most prestigious prizes and are basically unable to perform these same elements only a scant few years later, either on account of puberty or significant bodily injury—not to mention the psychological toll of training in this matter. When people say Eteri is driving the sport forward, what they really mean is that she is driving it into the ground.

A host of former Russian skaters that have switched to other countries, the Japanese women, and Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx (whom we LOVE) will be in strong contention for the medal here if any of these three skaters fuck up. American women will round out the top 10. Are we supposed to care about Mariah Bell, Alysa Liu, or Karen Chen? Not really, but don’t let that stop NBC. Anyone else competing is just delighted to be here and gets to put Olympian on their resume.

Men’s Event

Let’s just hope for the sake of Nathan Chen’s hip and waning interest in the world of skating he wins the dang thing, mostly so we can get all the Yuzuru Hanyu fans to shut the fuck up. Oh wait, if Nathan wins, they won’t. They’ll just become more insufferable. Mark my words!

Any what of Yuzu? Homeboy has been La Mancha-levels of obsessed with being the first to land a quadruple axel in competition to the point that everything else has fallen by the wayside. His skating is still beautiful to watch but who fucking cares at this point?

Rounding out the medal hopes are Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno, followed by Vincent Zhou and Jason Brown of the United States, and South Korea’s Junwhan Cha. I’m sure there’s a Russian man who can upset too, but they’re so hot-and-cold that you never just know what you’re going to get.

Jason Brown is the outlier here and would need this to become a splatfest along the lines of 2018 Milan Worlds to wind up on the podium, as he doesn’t have a clean quadruple jump to put in him in real contention. But his skating skills and the programs he brings to the Games this year are among the finest we’ve ever seen in the sport, and frankly that’s fucking enough. I can’t wait for you to see his “Sinnerman” Short Program. A masterwork of skating.

Beyond that we are rooting for Latvia’s Deniss Vassilevs and his ponytail, and I await everyone’s confusion upon seeing Italian Gumby Daniel Grassl. As with all these events, the “small federation” skaters (as we call them) are usually a delight and worth rooting for, even if they lack in a lot of things. Pick one! That is how you become a fan.

Pairs Event

Well, if China’s Sui and Han don’t get the gold, the state will probably murder them. But seriously, we are hoping that’s not how it ends and they win the dang thing. It is a long time coming and deserved. No team has the technical and artistic skills the way that they do, and WOWOWOWOWOW do they fucking emote on the ice. And not in a goofy Disney on Ice way, there is real 🔥🔥🔥🔥 there.

Their biggest competition this season are Russia’s Mishina/Galliamov and Boikova/Kozlovskii. What of Tarasova/Morozov? Well, they’ve squandered every chance they’ve had. If they do get it together, they could wind up on the podium.

Rounding out the pack are China’s Peng/Jin, and Japan’s Miura/Kihara. JAPAN FINALLY HAS A REAL PAIR TEAM. They’re like, one season in, and brilliant. The next 4 years are theirs to grow and ultimately podium at the 2026 Games in Italy.

The US has 2 worthwhile teams in Cain/LeDuc and Knierim/Frazier. Kind of wild to see in my lifetime a real thriving pairs discipline in the US, but unfortunately that’s being built on a foundation of decades of abuse in the discipline. It is worth noting that Timothy LeDuc is one of the few out non-binary athletes at the Games, and the first in figure skating. We love them, and will most likely wind up being our top-ranking team here. I’m less stoked on K/F because the didn’t even finish Nationals (Brendan Frazier contracted covid and they withdrew) but because they petitioned to be here, they got the spot. I’m ready for them to retire.

The only thing I can hope for is that we get no scary pair falls, which has been a shocking trend over the last couple of years, particularly as the lifts get more and more technically challenging. Please. No pair falls.

Ice Dance Event

If there’s going to be a scoring scandal a la Meddling or Bad Sport, then it will happen if the Russian dance teams—Sinitsina/Katsalapov and Stepanova/Bukin—beat France’s Papadakis/Cizeron. There’s been a lot of jockeying here, but honestly, the Russian teams aren’t as good or as interesting as P/C. And given that Gabriella Papadakis almost gave us a full frontal show during the 2018 Games, she has earned a medal this time around.

And let’s not forget that Nikita Katsalapov is an abuser. It was a known thing around the Detroit ice rinks that he hit his partners. Do we want creeps winning things? Nope. We like S/B though, who always seem geniunely surprised by how well they do, even if they are kinda creepy and do things like KISS IN THEIR PROGRAMS even though they are not a real-life couple!

The US dance teams trail behind and it’s a toss-up between Chock/Bates and Hubbell/Donohue. Mostly I am stoked to see how the public responds to C/B’s Billie Eilish and Daft Punk programs—you’re either all in on Sexy Space Caterpillar or you’re not, and frankly that is how I determine whether we will be friends. I am just ready for H/D to go away but they are a powerful athletic team.

Outside of that, we’ve got Canada’s Gilles and Poirier who can upset. They are an exceptionally talented, creative team with material that is interesting and emotive. Also, they have the best Rhythm Dance costumes.

Lots of great talent and programs to watch from Spain and Great Britain. This is not their year to podium, but they’ll be the ones to watch in 2026.

Wow this is a lot of thought and feelings for a discipline that I find absolutely boring and the equivalent of skating kayfabe!

Anyhow, I’m done here! You can watch me scream about the sport on Twitter, if I find the time.