Episode 33 – Figure Skating and Pop Culture

Maryam: You’re In The Loop – we’re here to
discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you
+5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week’s hosts. Yogeeta: Hi, I’m Yogeeta and I can’t wait
for competition season to begin. My Twitter handle is @liliorum. Maryam: Hi, my name is Maryam and I also can’t
wait to go to competitions and look at sparkles from close up. You can find me on Twitter
at @luckyyloopss. Karly: Hi, it’s Karly, both school and the
season are officially starting for me and I am stressed. My Twitter handle is @cyberswansp. Yogeeta: So, welcome to this week’s episode,
where we’re talking about figure skating in pop culture. So, what is pop culture? Pop
culture, as defined by Google, is the modern popular culture transmitted via the mass media
– as yes, I know that this definition of pop culture includes the words popular culture.
So it’s really circular and really hard to define but it’s basically just media as seen
by a greater audience. As long-time listeners may recall, we did previously release a Figure
Skating in Fiction episode, covering figure skating focused movies, shows, and games.
As such, we will mainly focus on aspects of figure skating in non-traditional figure skating
media, though we may mention them if they are culturally relevant. Karly: Pop culture is such a vast topic, so
we will be limiting our research to case studies looking at cultural differences between Western
countries, specifically the US [and Canada] and Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea.
Although there is so much more out there that we may cover in future episodes. Yogeeta: Cool. Let’s get started! Karly: So we’re going to start off by looking
at figure skating in the US. Maryam: The main takeaway when you’re talking
about figure skating in the US and in pop culture is that US figure skaters specifically
become entrenched in US pop culture when they challenge the image of the sport held in the
public imagination. So if they do anything that’s out of the ordinary that people think
is not what figure skating is supposed to look like, or if they go high and above the
bar or do something like a fantastic feat – which we’ll get into in a little bit. Karly: What’s really interesting about figure
skating in the US is that figure skating remains the most-watched winter sport of the Olympic
Games in America yet, even during the Olympic season, many Americans can’t even name an
Olympic figure skater, and even less so during a non-Olympic season. Maryam: So basically, for Canada, we’re better
at the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics. But for the US, a lot more people watch the
Summer than Winter Olympics. But, if they were to watch the Winter Olympics, they’d
be watching figure skating. Karly: And that’s kind of a whole other point
to be discussed – why figure skating is the most-watched sport at the [Winter] Olympic
Games. Yogeeta: Well it has primetime scheduling.
All of the [figure skating] events have primetime scheduling which is because in previous years
it was the most-watched sport. So NBC gives it primetime so it continues to be the most-watched
sport. Maryam: It kind of screwed the schedule of
the figure skaters [during PyeongChang 2018] because they had to get up at 4am and go to
their warm-up at 6am and do the official practice for the Free Skate or the Short Program that
would happen at 10am. Because there’s such a [big time difference], they scheduled it
and didn’t really care how affected how the athletes were. They were mostly concerned
with making money. And people were more likely to watch because whenever competitions happen
in Korea or Asia, they’re usually at a lot of later times [for the US] and people have
to stay up to watch them. But in order to get good ratings, they made it during primetime. Yogeeta: Growing up, I constantly was hearing
the names of Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan. I asked a few of my friends lately “What
figure skaters have you heard of?” and they could name Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi
– but nobody could name like Adam Rippon, Ashley Wagner, or Nathan Chen. Maryam: For me, if I asked people like “Do
you know Patrick Chan?” If you asked them 4 years ago, some of them would say yes, but
I asked a lot of people this even during the Olympic season and they said no. But if you
ask them “Do you know Tessa [Virtue] and Scott [Moir]?” They’re like “Yeah, the couple that
I ship!” (Hosts laugh) It just takes a lot for Olympic figure skaters to stay relevant.
They have to have something that draws in the audience, which we’ll also get into later. Yogeeta: Looking at the correlation between
female figure skating Olympians and figure skating popularity within the US, it’s interesting
to note that we haven’t had a female medallist at the Olympics since Sasha Cohen in 2006
and only one medallist in the past 12 years, which was Ashley Wagner at the Boston [2016]
World Championships. So, despite having a lot of success in other disciplines, it’s
interesting to note that it’s really the female figure skaters that are leading the popularity
wave for figure skating. And, on just the topic of the Olympics, while skating was the
most viewed Winter Olympic sport in 2018, [the Ladies Free Skate] only had 17.2 million
viewers, compared to previous years where it was a lot higher and has been consistently
been decreasing for every past Olympics. Maryam: Yeah, like PyeongChang had 20% fewer
people watching it than Vancouver did, which was only 8 years ago. But the Olympics in
1994, they had about 48% ratings [nationwide] – that was the Ladies Short Program. Which
is really good for the Olympics, it was the sixth-highest ratings at the time. It was
really impressive that they managed to garner that much attention. So we talked about Ladies
figure skating – what about the other disciplines? Yogeeta: Well, as I mentioned, we have top
skaters in Ice Dance and in Men’s, but we don’t really see a lot of talk about those.
At the previous Olympics, we had the Shibutani siblings who won an Olympic medal, but you
didn’t really see news of that in the news at all in the US. Maryam: No, because they won an Olympic bronze
and some people might not value it as much as gold. And [comparatively] they didn’t do
like six quads like Nathan Chen did, so they didn’t have much attention pre-Olympics. They
did have some, but not as much hype as he did. Their programs were really amazing and
they were fantastic, but in the eyes of the media, they weren’t doing anything new. They
might have not seen their worth pre-Olympics. Karly: Yeah, with Nathan, he was really doing
something that looked like it would set him apart from everyone else and it’s kind of
hard, for the regular viewer, to do that with Ice Dance. That’s why they might tend to focus
on Singles, where they’re doing all of these amazing jumps and everything. Maryam: Even if you can’t tell the number
of rotations, the commentators would yell every time he does a quad and would say “Oh,
that was a quad that’s never been done before [in the Olympics] or “That was five quads
– that’s never been done before in competition!” and they’ll hype them up. But when you’re
watching Ice Dance, the patterns are really hard to familiarise yourself with, so it’s
really hard to know what the judges are looking for. It’s really easy to enjoy the programs
but it’s hard to know what’s good about a program versus what’s not if you haven’t looked
into the technicalities of Ice Dance and what makes a good pattern versus what doesn’t,
what makes a good program versus what’s not. Mostly it’s like, if you’re watching Ice Dance
for the first time, you just want to see if you enjoy the program – not necessarily “Oh,
these people are really good Ice Dancers” or “Do their edges suck?” Karly: Yeah, you just want to focus on “Is
this program pretty?” Maryam: Yeah! Yogeeta: Well, on the topic of Nathan Chen,
he is pretty big, though. He was the first man to win a World medal since Evan Lysacek
and had a lot of sponsorships during the Olympic season. And he also has some big corporate
sponsorships with Nike, Acura, Kelloggs, and Coca-Cola – but really, outside of the Olympic
season, nobody [outside of figure skating] knows who he is. Maryam: Pre-Olympics, when the media was planning
who to hype the most, he had the perfect format. He was pushing the bar in skating, he had
all these quads, he liked basketball, he was California, he’s young, he’s a rising talent,
he’s doing things that only top people in the sport can do. All in all, he’s very marketable.
Also, if you watch his interviews, he’s very level-headed, which makes him likeable. So
he did have a lot of people wanting to watch him and cheer him on during the Olympics,
which probably led to some people following him through, but he didn’t win an Olympic
medal. It could be that some people thought “I’m not sure if I want to keep following
up with this sport or want to keep watching him” but I know a lot of people still followed
up with him through to him winning two World titles back to back. But there’s nowhere near
as many people watching World Championships than the Olympics, so not many people may
know that he’s won two World golds since then. They might just remember him as the boy who
had a lot of hype pre-Olympics. So that’s the problem with most people watching the
Olympics and only focusing on the skaters’ performances during the Olympics and not following
them through. And it’s a lot easier to get attached to a skater if you follow them pre-Olympics
and then after – if you know their life story, if you follow their performances at the Olympics
and know how much it meant to them and then follow them through after the Olympics. But
it’s hard to get attached to a skater if what you’re attached to is only the fact that they’re
doing all of these amazing things, not like them as a person or them as a role model.
If you’re just following them because everyone else is following them and they’re doing something
amazing and then they didn’t manage to do it when you were watching this one specific
event – it’s hard to get attached when you only watch Olympic figure skating. Yogeeta: Well, we’ve talked a lot about the
Olympics now, which is, obviously, a figure skating-focused event, so let’s move on to
talking about figure skating in our daily popular culture media. Karly: We’re going to start with a piece of
media that isn’t focused on figure skating, but you may have seen a lot of figure skaters
on – Dancing with the Stars. It’s an American TV show that used to a lot more popular than
it is now, but it’s still decently popular. I would say people see the winner every year
maybe and are like “I know them” or “I don’t know them.” Anyway, Dancing with the Stars
is an American TV show that pairs professional dancers with various public figures, which
often includes athletes, which is where figure skaters come in. Some prominent skaters that
have competed most recently; Mirai Nagasu and Adam Rippon competed- (Maryam: The same
year as Tonya Harding) and Adam won. Meryl Davis and Charlie White competed after the
Olympics in 2014, Meryl winning. Evan Lysacek competed after the 2010 Olympics, and then
Kristi Yamaguchi won in 2008. So what’s really interesting to look into with Dancing with
the Stars and figure skaters is that the interest and inclusion of figure skaters in the show
in the past 3 quads has come after the Olympics, and after success in the Olympics. So, Evan
winning [the Olympics] in 2010, Meryl and Charlie winning in 2014, and then Adam and
Mirai [competing] in 2018. The only exception would be Tonya Harding, where the interest
comes from the movie “I, Tonya,” which we will talk about a lot later. So the main question
we want to ask is – why do they bring skaters on Dancing with the Stars? Do you think it
actually makes people get interested in figure skating? Yogeeta: I don’t. (Karly: Yeah, I don’t either.)
Because the thing is, is that all these skaters that they bring in are all retired. Even after
you watch them and you’re like “I’m interested in what they’re doing,” they’ve stopped skating.
There’s no way to bring people back into skating from watching Dancing with the Stars. This
is their last hurrah kind of like before they fade into obscurity. Maryam: Yeah, it’s really hard to find US
figure skaters featured in entertainment, but with this show, US entertainment doesn’t
take many risks, they only want to game-on skaters who are already popular. A lot of
the times, when skaters win gold medals or win Olympic medals, they retire right after.
So, when they go onto the show, they’re already retired and if you’re just watching Dancing
with the Stars, and it’s your first time hearing about them, “Oh, this is an Olympic gold medallist,”
you go look them up, “Oh, they’re already retired. Okay, I’m not going to bother watching
figure skating because that was the only person I was interested in.” So it would help if
Dancing with the Stars featured less known figure skaters. Yogeeta: Or more up-and-coming skaters as
well. Maryam: Exactly, so you can actually follow
up with them after the show ends. Karly: I just think it’s interesting how they
come after the Olympics because that’s when interest in figure skating spikes. You get
four-year fans, you get viewership in the US increasing. So it would be nice to include
a figure skater not in an Olympic season or in a post-Olympic season. Yogeeta: Even in post-Olympic seasons, they
are basically only showing people who are about to retire or like someone who’s still
young and fresh and plans to keep competing. People can get to know them here in this space
and then follow them into figure skating. Karly: You know who I want to see on Dancing
With the Stars? Jimmy Ma. Maryam: Oh my god, he would be amazing. Yogeeta: Jimmy Ma would be my favorite person
to see on Dancing With the Stars. Maryam: The thing is with Dancing with the
Stars is that they do a lot of videos on the dancers on the show and their personal life.
It’s easy to get attached to them if you watch this show and if you watch all those videos
of them behind the scenes, but it’s really hard to get attached to them again. They’re
already retired. Yogeeta: Speaking of other really popular
figure skating personalities, we have to talk about Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. They
are the current commentators on NBC for figure skating and as many people know, Tara Lipinski
is our 1998 Olympic gold medalist, and as she’ll never let us forget, the youngest person
to ever win a gold medal in female figure skating. They’ve showed up in a variety of
different media that had nothing to do with figure skating themselves. Johnny had his
own documentary called “Popstar on Ice”, and he also had a reality show called “Be Good
Johnny Weir”, which I attempted to watch some of for this episode and quickly decided I
did not want to. Maryam: So Johnny and Tara, they were supposed
to commentate Sochi separately, but they were talking like, “what happens if we do it together,
let’s just try it” and they did commentate it, and they had a lot of good reviews from
critics and from fans so they were like, okay we’re going to commentate the rest of figure
skating from now on. Because they are kind of flashy, and the American Media and the
American public in general likes flashy people, they appear in runways and wear these flashy
costumes or when they’re commentating – look if you saw their pictures from Olympics, they
match their outfits. They’re very, very flashy. They’re very charismatic in the kind of charismatic
that American people in general like. They’ve had a decline in popularity among hardcore
figure skating fans since 2014, because they have made a lot of questionable comments when
they’re just commenting on figure skating, but they were still really, really relevant
to the American Media during the Olympic year, and they appeared on the Academy Awards. They
were commentating it, they commentate a whole lot of other shows; they even appeared on
Family Guy. That’s why they’re very, very well known. They’re kind of like an iconic
pair of commentators I guess you’d say? Karly: They’re just very memorable people. Yogeeta: That’s how they market themselves,
like that’s just really good marketing on their part. They know that figure skating
isn’t as well known, but they want to make themselves more well known in the public eye,
so how do you do that? You set yourself apart from basically every other sports commentator
in the business. If we’re talking about figure skating in the US media, we really don’t have
a choice but to talk about the movie “I, Tonya”, which we did discuss in our FS and Fiction
episode, but in the scope of how it portrayed figure skating, and now we’re going to share
how it actually affected figure skating in the rest of public media. So what was “I,
Tonya”? “I, Tonya” was the 2017 film about the career of Tonya Harding which painted
her in a more sympathetic light than a lot of other media. Maryam: A lot of critic reviews or a lot of
my friends coming out of the movie felt really, really bad for her, saying “Oh, she was misunderstood.
She was this, this, and that”, because they’ve never really looked into the story before
aside from the headlines, so it did feel like it was biased towards Tonya at least from
my perspective. If you want to hear more about our dissection of the movie, you can listen
to our Figure Skating Fiction episode. What makes Tonya Harding such a dynamic character
was the 1994 Olympics, which followed the events at the 1994 US Nationals between Tonya
Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. It was the sixth most well rated program of all time in the
US, which is forty eight point five million viewers. What makes people like Tonya Harding
really, really popular and what makes your story really easy to latch on to is that figure
skaters usually project an image of being princessy and being all sparkly and being
really proper and nothing could go wrong with and between figure skaters. The thing that
made her is a disparity between this perceived image and the vile act of what happened to
Nancy Kerrigan. It was a story that everyone around the world knew. Yogeeta: There are still references to it
throughout pop culture. Many TV shows make reference to like Bojack Horseman, Broad City,
Fall Out Boy included a reference to the event in one of their songs. Even Obama made the
reference to her in one of his campaign speeches, which blows my mind. Maryam: He did, he was like, “the people said
I shouldn’t run for president. I wouldn’t get elected for president unless I do something
like pull a Tonya Harding to another candidates knee.” Karly: What even. Maryam: It’s kind of like if you think of
when celebrities break the law, when they go into long episodes of drug abuse, the disparity
between the image of them being perfect human beings and being these imperfect beings kind
of shows that people really, really get interested in the dark side of the sport and in showcasing
it. That’s what made it get a whole lot of exposure and just idea that who would be so
competitive as to want their wife to get a medal by hurting another competitor. Karly: So we’re going to talk about the current
state of figure skating in media and in 2019, a large part of this is Adam Rippon, who just
had a huge media presence, especially after the Olympics, where he gained a lot of attention.
He was the first openly gay winter Olympian, and he was sort of a late bloomer success
story, because he made the team on his last try at age 28 when his teammates were over
ten years younger. He had a big emphasis on paving a path for other LGBT plus athletes
to be publicly open with their sexuality without fear of repercussions from public or governing
body. Maryam: There’s a lot of discussion around
athletes coming out in PyeongChang. Some people were saying why does it matter? Why does sexuality
matter? They’re an athlete and they want a medal. That’s it. But another person wrote
that it matters to people who are legitimately afraid of losing their jobs or getting abused
if they step out of the closet. When someone can reach the top of their fields without
having to hide their identity and who they are, it gives those people hope. That’s what
gathered attention around Adam Rippon during PyeongChang and the fact that a lot of figure
skaters, or a lot of people who come out as gay, they don’t come out as gay during the
height of the competitive career. They usually come out after they retire, so like Johnny
Weir, Brian Orser, all those people announced they were gay after they finished competing. Karly: Yeah, with Adam, there was also a lot
of emphasis placed on how he placed in the top 10 at the Olympics without a quad, which
was kind of an odd story. We all know how much the US media likes to play at the importance
of quads. Yogeeta: I actually remember a lot of local
papers questioning that Adam should have won because he had the cleanest free skate, and
that’s not how figure skating works, but I’m happy you’re reporting something at least. Karly: Adam was also really open about sensitive
topics, not only sexuality. He talked to the New York Times about struggling with an eating
disorder, and how it was handled by his coaching team, which was a very rare insight from any
figure skater, and even more so from a man. He’d basically just stepped into a very public
voice sort of role during the Olympics and drew attention to the unsavory sides of the
sport. He basically got all the attention for talking about the nitty-gritty, maybe
gross details of the sport. He was just like a connection between regular Olympics fans
and skaters because of his media presence. Maryam: Because the young audience, the millennials,
managed to connect with him so well, he got invited onto a lot of talk shows. He got invited
to Stephen Colbert, he was there on Ellen, there was a lot of videos made about him and
a lot of content produced about him. He even had his own show on YouTube, but all of that
decreased in popularity over the last year, because he’s retired, and because he’s no
longer competing, and media has nothing to talk about. If we’re talking about figure
skaters that came out while they were skating, Eric Radford came out; he went to the Olympics
in Sochi 2014 and he came out in late 2014 in the post-Olympic season. He didn’t really
want to come out during the Olympic season because it was his first Olympics with Megan
Duhamel, and he was concerned that he’d be known as the gay athlete rather than Eric
the medaling figure skater who happens to be gay, and he wanted the focus of the story
to be on his achievements rather then his identity and that’s just his choice. He’s
obviously competed in PyeongChang too. Yogeeta: Maryam, I’m not as familiar with
figure skating in Canada, but was Eric Radford a big name in Canada while he was competing? Maryam: Team Canada won silver in Sochi, so
once he won the medal, he became relevant, and he was invited to the Stars on Ice shows.
When Team Canada won gold, obviously he became relevant again, but not many people follow
him through other than the Olympics, but he didn’t have as much popularity as Adam Rippon.
He didn’t have as much focus on him, as much eye on him, or as much content produced of
him. Yogeeta: Speaking of other people who also
had like a pretty high rise in media post-Olympics like Adam was Mirai Nagasu, the first US lady
to land a triple Axel at the Olympics, which immediately draws huge media attention towards
her. She was another against the odds story, because she missed the team in 2014, but she
decided to, instead of backing down, take up trying to learn how to land this triple
Axel and made the team in 2018. She is often paired with Adam interviews, which is why
people get to see her and Adam together and relate them as like another duo in figure
skating. Maryam: Yeah, it’s another iconic pair. If
you just enjoy watching their interviews, there was a lot of videos on YouTube and interviews
made about them two. The thing about Mirai is that she was super relevant in 2010, when
she won nationals at 16, she made the Olympics at 16, but between then and 2018, she was
struggling, but at 2018 Nationals, there were so many people watching her get onto the team
and land the triple axel. There’s a lot of pre-PyeongChang hype for her, and she does
land the axel in the team event, but she didn’t in the individual event, and a lot of people
were kind of disappointed in her. Right after the free skate where she ended up tenth in
the competition, a reporter stuck a camera on her face, and she was crying, but she was
saying her sport psychologist told her to focus on something else that would distract
her, so she said that she was focused on hopefully doing Dancing with the Stars, and that was
what her focus was, and people thought that was like a controversy. People immediately
turned against her, like there was a lot of articles made that she was making excuses,
she wasn’t serious about it. It just shows you how quickly people can turn about a figure
skater if they only know like what the media shows them. If they knew Mirai, they would
have known that was just her under all the stress and her trying to deal with it, but
because they didn’t know her as well, they only followed her in PyeongChang, they thought
of her as this non hard worker and this lazy person, which isn’t true, because she did
manage to land the axel. But that’s just what their perception is. Yogeeta: So the most successful of the athletes
at PyeongChang for the US were none other than Maia and Alex Shibutani, or the Shibsibs
as they are lovingly called by their fans. They have multiple sponsorships, and they’re
very well known even outside of the figure skating community, especially within the Asian
American community, and they’ve done collaborations with Arden Cho, promoting Awkwafina’s movies,
going to award shows. They have a YouTube channel that they’ve been working on for many
years, so they’ve gone to VidCon. They’re very, very accessible to their fans as well,
which is why I think they’re still remaining in some level of popularity despite not actively
competing at this moment. Maryam: They’re very, very active on social
media. They make a whole lot of vlogs, and they connect with their audience pretty well,
and they make sure to take time and find stuff to talk to their fans all the time, which
is why everyone is still hoping for their comeback, because they still want to follow
them through, but we’ll see how that turns out. Yogeeta: Yeah, as we discussed with the Ice
Dancers, the media doesn’t really know how to handle them. I think after they won their
bronze, I only saw one article in the news about them, or saw a small news report that
wasn’t coming from NBC, but I didn’t really see anything in the US media even discussing
the Shibutanis. Karly: I didn’t either and I was really
disappointed. They won a bronze medal. Maryam: I mean, Tessa and Scott, they were
Ice Dancers too, but what made them popular in Canada is the fact that a lot of people
were like, “Oh they have so much chemistry, I want to ship them together.” So the fact
that there was a lot of things for you to talk about besides their skating, and they
were very, very lovable on screen, so they showed up on Ellen, and they did a lot of
interviews and are still really popular post-Olympics because they’re doing their “Rock The Rink”
tour which is sold out in some locations. And they did a tour after Pyeongchang, they’re
doing a tour this year so they’re still pretty relevant, even if the people watching them
don’t know Ice Dance, but I think they did help make Ice Dance more popular. Karly. And then finally, probably one of the
most recent incidents in media in the US was the situation between Mariah Bell and Eunsoo
Lim. We’re not trying to debate the facts of what happened between them, but it is interesting
to note that as soon as the news broke, multiple US media sources covered it with the slant
of “Another Tonya Harding-esque scandal.” And it kind of grasped the attention for a
lot of people who don’t know much about figure skating but know what Tonya Harding did. Yogeeta: Well, it’s as we discussed, people
are really interested when other people go against the norm, and this incident is very
much perceived as something against the norm for figure skaters when people think of them
as sparkly dresses on ice and princess-like behaviour. Maryam: Yeah, that could do no wrong or don’t
have a mean vein in them. But yeah, I remember opening Snapchat and seeing Snapchat stories
that were like, “Tonya Harding Attack 2.0” and showing that blurred video and now everyone
knows who Mariah and Eunsoo are. Yogeeta: Well, we’ve discussed a lot about
the US, with some mentions of Canada, but there are lots of other similarities with
how figure skating is perceived in the media – specifically around these shows, where people
compete. In Canada we have Battle of the Bades, which originally aired in 2009 and in 2013
was cancelled, but is coming back this fall right? Karly: Yep! 2019-2020 season. They have skaters
such as Vanessa James, Weaver and Poje, and Katia Gordeeva, and it’s coming back due to
public demand. Yogeeta: Wow. Maryam, is figure skating way
more popular in Canada than we thought? Maryam: I don’t know, hockey is way more popular.
People find these things – they really draw people in, it’s kind of like when you watch
a YouTube video that’s like “This famous person learns how to skate by an Olympic figure skater.”
It really, really draws people in, and it’s just funny to watch people struggle, so that’s
what people like about this show. Yogeeta: And it’s also interesting because
Vanessa James is still a competing figure skater. I’m very confused by Vanessa James
and the million things she’s attempting to do this season. Karly: Maryam, what you said about hockey
being more popular – the hook of the show is that it brings together figure skaters
and hockey players, combining their two totally different styles of skating and making them
perform figure skating programs. So the public demand might come from the hockey side, and
it kind of draws back to what you just said about seeing someone struggle since they’re
performing figure skating programs, the hockey players are going to struggle with skating
that way. We’ll talk about this a bit later, but it is interesting to note how people are
so fascinated with people who aren’t figure skaters (or dancers, in the Dancing With The
Stars case) trying to reach this almost unattainable level of perfection and flawlessness Maryam: Yeah. A lot of figure skaters actually
start in the CanSkate program, which teaches the basics of skating, wanting to become hockey
players so then they try out figure skating and then they’re like, “Oh, I want to be a
figure skater.” So a lot of them do still go into hockey, and when you’re in hockey,
it’s really hard to picture yourself as a figure skater, so when they look on the screen
and say, “Oh that’s a hockey player, that’s me.” A lot of it is the relate-ability factor
to the hockey players that they see on the ice, because hockey is pretty much the sport
that is always most about and that everyone knows about, whereas figure skating a lot
of people can’t see themselves doing it, whereas hockey they pretty much can because they begin
as a child or watch a lot of hockey games ever since they were a child, so it’s a lot
easier to relate themselves to the show. Karly: What you said about figure skating
being something that a lot of people see themselves doing, that’s really interesting and that’s
probably why people like seeing public figures do it, because they want to be like, “Oh if
maybe they can do it, I can do it.” Yogeeta: Well, I think part of why people
can’t see themselves doing it is that they don’t see other people in the media doing
it as well. I assume in Canada hockey players are a lot more famous than figure skaters,
so that when they try to think, “Oh, can I be a figure skater?” they don’t really have
people they can compare themselves to of what a future in figure skating would actually
look like. Maryam: No, and there’s kind of a barrier
to entry when you think about figure skating. to be able to do a figure skating jump, or
to learn even if you do singles, you would need so much ice time, really good skates
so that you don’t sprain your ankles on a pair of rental skates, whereas with hockey
you can just go and play with friends. There’s so many recreational hockey programs where
you just strap on a pair of hockey skates, doesn’t matter if they’re old, and grab a
puck and a stick and try it out, whereas in figure skating you kind of have to already
be invested in it in the first place to know that you want to spend all of this money on
it. Because it is a lot of money that not many people can afford. And when people see
people doing these what they call “these spinny twirly things” they’re like, “Oh I can never
do these things if I didn’t start skating at two years old,” whereas hockey “I can just
do it if I put a pair of skates on.” So it’s a lot easier to try out and get invested in.” Yogeeta: Well, we’ve talked a lot about figure
skating in the US and Canda, so let’s go to our neighbours in the east, and talk about
Japan. Karly: Figure skating in Japan is just a whole
different world. Starting with skating events, there’s lots of skating events that can be
found in Japan. For one, a Grand Prix is held in Japan – NHK. Worlds has been held in Japan
twice in the last five years, most recently the last Worlds. And there’s the huge popularity
of ice shows. There’s tons of examples. There is Fantasy On Ice, there’s Dreams On Ice,
there’s Stars On Ice – lots of “On Ice’s.” Mao Asada’s [Thank You] tour, and what’s interesting
is that most of ice shows host skaters from various countries. Javier Fernandez is a big
name in ice shows. Yogeeta: Stephan Lambiel, Johnny Weir, Evgeni
Plushenko… Karly: Virtue and Moir. Maryam: Yeah, whereas US, they only pretty
much invite US figure skaters, so if the US figure skating field is not that fantastic
during the year, the ticket sales will be really low, which I feel like they’ll be able
to easily increase it if they would invite international figure skaters or ones that
are more well known, but they only have, as of right now, the Stars On Ice, in the US
as the major skating show. But it only has six locations, it’s not accessible to everyone
and they weren’t sold out, unfortunately, because the popularity of the US skaters has
been declining ever since after the Olympics. Yogeeta: Meanwhile, in Japan, you can basically
find an ice show everywhere, year-round. There’s dozens of them, they’re all very accessible
to local fans. Even if you don’t know a lot about figure skating, you can probably see
an ice show, and not just get introduced to famous Japanes skaters, but also international
skaters, up-and-coming Juniors, and local skaters who would live right in your area.
And if you know those local skaters, you can think about going out to some more regional
competitions, and support them. So they have a way of bringing up support from when skaters
are very young in Japan, which we don’t really see in the Western countries. And also, just
a quick note about Fantasy On Ice, because I really love Fantasy On Ice, Fantasy On Ice
is really special in that it not only it has figure skaters from Japan, and internationally,
but it also includes famous Japanese singers and artists. This past year they had ToshI,
Benni and May J. Personally, as someone who is a fan of JPop, May J and Benni are huge
names in Japanese Pop. So just having some names, two people like that, show up in an
ice show means that people who aren’t interested in skating, but are interested in the music
and these singers, will still show up to try and see them. Maryam: And also Japan in itself is a smaller
country, and it’s easier to move around and to travel to locations than the US. And there’s
a whole lot more locations – there’s so many more ice shows, there’s so many more locations
where you don’t have to travel that far, whereas in the US you’d have to drive hours and hours
if you live, let’s say, in Texas, and Stars On Ice doesn’t come to you, because it only
goes to six locations. Yogeeta: Well, let’s look at how figure skating
became so popular in Japan. The first Japanese skater who won a medal at a World championships
was Minoru Sano, who I feel like many of our listeners remember from Continues With Wings
because he was invited there, which was amazing. Karly: He was blingy and great. Yogeeta: Obviously the rise of figure skating
really started out with the legend herself Midori Ito, the first woman to ever land a
triple Axel in competition. Maryam: It really did, even up to now, people
remember her name or people watch the videos of her doing the triple axels. People still
call it the highest triple axel. Karly: It was huge. Maryam: It was definitely a spark to ignite
the popularity in Japan. Yogeeta: And you can still see her inspiration
in many of the Japanese female skaters who are trying triple axels to this day. I think
about half of the female skaters who landed a triple axel in competition are all Japanese,
and following her was Mao Asada, and Yukari Nakano, and Rika Kihira. And we really saw
the rise begin in 2006, with Shizuka Arakawa’s Olympic gold medal in ladies figure skating. Karly: More on the men’s side, we had Daisuke
Takahashi, who was the first Japanese male skater to earn an Olympic medal and the first
Asian man to win a World title in 2010, and he really kickstarted the rise of Japanese
male figure skating. Yogeeta: Yes, and obviously we can’t talk
about the contemporaries of modern day figure skating without talking about Mao Asada [Karly:
My hero], who, to this day, is one of the biggest names in figure skating in Japan despite
having retired for a couple of years. Maryam: Yeah, she still has her show, which
sold out and which has so many locations, so she’s still very very relevant. She is
very much the Japanese people’s sweetheart when she was competing. She was landing triple
Axels when she was twelve, so it was very very impressive. Karly: She remains to this day the only female
figure skater to land three triple Axels in one competition in 2010. Yogeeta: One thing to note about her tour
that she does – her Mao’s Thank You tour – it’s extremely accessible to regular people. The
cheapest tickets are $35, and the most expensive ones are $75, obviously compared to USD here,
which is pretty cheap for ice shows. Karly: Yeah, that’s pretty nice. Yogeeta: She calls it her thanks tour to thank
everyone who’s supported her so she’s not doing this to stay in the media, she’s doing
this to be like, “Here. I’m doing this for the fans.” And that helped her likability
factor, and helps keep her as a very well-known and personable media figure. Maryam: It’s very sweet of her to reduce the
price of it. I think Yuzuru also reduced prices for CiONTU because he wanted a lot more families,
especially big families who can’t all go to the skating competitions. He just wanted it
to be an accessible event for everyone, which I think is really, really nice because figure
skating should be accessible, it shouldn’t be only privileged people can attend and watch
figure skating. Yogeeta: Well, speaking of Yuzuru, let’s talk
about the legend himself. Yuzuru Hanyu is probably the most famous figure skater in
the modern day, and his rise began 2012. He won bronze at Worlds in 2012, which brought
him into the general media. He won nationals in 2012, but he was still making smaller news
because of the tragedy that the Tohoku earthquake which actually destroyed his rink and he became
known to showing up in 60 ice shows that following summer in order to actually get rink time
so people started to know him and start to follow him. Maryam: Also, Japanese media is really, really
good at interviews with skaters when they’re really young, so you can find videos of Yuzuru
Hanyu when he was eight years old and winning competitions when he was only landing singles
and doubles. A lot of people became attached to him even before the earthquake, even before
he hit the senior circuit. When he was still a Junior, when he was starting to learn the
triple Axel, that’s why you can find all the videos of him still out there, because they
recognized his talent and they recognized that he’s very, very talented and very, very
committed to it at a very young age. He became Sendai’s sweetheart and he still is, pretty
much. Yogeeta: I do recall many videos I’ve watched
of a young Yuzuru Hanyu claiming he’ll win two Olympic gold medals and land the quad
Axel. (Hosts laugh) Karly: Yuzuru’s basically one of the most
recognizable names for fans of figure skating worldwide. He’s often mentioned in articles
and polls that are asking or writing about the greatest athletes in the world. Maryam: Even though most of his interviews
are in Japanese, there’s a lot of content in translating it, so it’s very, very accessible
to watch documentaries of him, to watch videos of him, to watch interviews and see the way
he thinks and become attached to him as not only an athlete, but as a role model. He’s
a very likable character, which is a good thing to have if you’re at the top of the
field and want people to stick with you the whole time. If we’re talking about pop culture
in Japan, we can’t help but mention Yuri On Ice. Karly: Most figure skating fans know it. It’s
a sports anime, which have been growing in popularity. Yuri On Ice follows a Japanese
figure skater and his journey through Regionals and the Grand Prix, and it gained lots of
popularity with anime fans worldwide and it got a ton of fans into figure skating because
it got fans motivated to watch more of the sport and try to understand it, because they’ve
already invested time into the anime, and so why not learn more about it? Yogeeta: Yuri On Ice was one of the reasons
why I got into figure skating and it’s definitely been for a lot of people I know online, how
people — especially people not in Japan, for a lot of Westerners and people in other
countries to actually get into skating and learn about the sport other than just being
a casual viewer from the Olympics, which is what I used to be. And now I’m here. And Yuri
On Ice was not just a figure skating anime. It featured a lot of popular figure skaters
themselves — Stephane Lambiel and Nobunari Oda voiced themselves in the show, and it
was endorsed by a lot of other skaters, like Johnny Weir, Evgenia Medvedeva, and it was
very well-treated within the figure skating fandom and the figure skaters themselves.
It also features choreography by an actual Japanese choreographer, Kenji Miyamoto, who
has choreographed for Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Akiko Suzuki, and many other very
popular skaters in Japan. Maryam: Again, go watch our Figure Skating
in Fiction episode, but the thing about Yuri On Ice is that it’s very, very accessible.
Competitions, meanwhile, while they’re not being deleted off YouTube, are not very accessible,
but Yuri On Ice is a good starting point for people to get invested into the sport. Yogeeta: I agree. It was actually released
during the Grand Prix in Japan, which I felt like really missing after the fact, because
people would watch Yuri’s journey during the Grand Prix while the similar Grand Prix events
were also being held during that season. It made people think, “Oh, what is this Grand
Prix event? Can I watch it myself?” And lo and behold, it was actually on TV. So they
can easily transition from watching Yuri On Ice to, “Oh, Cup of China’s on TV, too. I
can just watch Cup of China.” Karly: If I recall, it was pretty educational
about figure skating. Teaching you about how the Grand Prix works and sometimes how programs
work and everything. Maryam: A lot of figure skaters watched it
and said that watching it brings back memories. Watching the Grand Prix Final on Yuri On Ice
was really similar to the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, and it brought a lot of people,
a lot of skaters memories. It was the accurate depiction of events. I wish the jump scenes
were drawn a little bit better, or were focused a bit more on the feet, while a lot of times
they were focused on the person spinning in the air. But I know that it’s really, really
hard to animate it. So while people are waiting for the second season, they can familiarize
themselves with the sport, they can look up resources, which are available on Tumblr,
and get invested in the sport. The good thing about Yuri On Ice is that it features Japanese
skaters, so people in the US watching anime, they get invested not only in US skaters they
hear about in the media, but they get invested into Japanese skaters because of this show,
which I think is really, really nice. Yogeeta: Outside of having so many other media
focus around figure skating in Japan, figure skating itself just shows up in general media
all the time. In their daily news, especially around competitions, they have reports on
how the skaters are doing in their morning news, so people are watching the morning news
just get their daily, “Oh, here’s what the skaters are doing.” People are always in the
loop [Hosts laugh]. One thing that I remember very clearly is that when Yuzuru Hanyu won
his Olympic gold medals, that win was heavily featured in all of the news. It was the front
page of The Japan Times and a bunch of other newspapers and TV shows, etcetera. Everyone
knew about it. Karly: And with the daily news thing, I’ve
seen a lot of newspaper clippings of, like, “Here’s Tatsuki Machida’s retirement,” or
“Here’s Rika Kihira winning the Grand Prix Final.” They pay attention to their skaters
and things that they’re doing outside of the Olympics. Maryam: You don’t have to be necessarily a
flashy character to become popular in the media in Japan. Nobunari is like a very charismatic
character, which is why he has his own entertainment show, but basically, all the other skaters
that become popular in Japan, you can notice all of them are very level-headed, not too
up there. But they have a lot of really good world views, they’re very, very likable in
interviews, and the things they’re doing are amazing. Japan media does a really, really
good job of covering them and doing documentaries of them ever since they were kids, like we
talked about earlier. Yogeeta: It’s not just Japanese skaters that
get featured in these media. International skaters also get featured in a lot of Japanese
media as well. Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva have both been featured in many
Japanese commercials, and, obviously as mentioned, non-Japanese skaters show up and are heavily
beloved when they do show up in ice shows in Japan. Karly: Also, lots of non-Japanese skaters
guest on Japanese variety, with recent examples being Alina Zagitova, Anna Shcherbakova, Alena
Kostornaia, and Sasha Trusova guesting on a show where they did lots of spinning competitions,
they did skating competitions, and there were some after the 2018 Olympics as well, where
not all Japanese skaters were featured. Maryam: I love those entertainment shows,
even the ones that have nothing to do with skating, where they just ask them to throw
things or do three-legged races or something. They’re just really, really fun to watch.
Skaters get competitive out of the skating environment, and they’re very, very entertaining. Yogeeta: I agree. And I wish we had more of
this in the Western world, because typically, there aren’t any other opportunities for figure
skaters to just show up in the media if it’s not related to figure skating. Huge in Japan
for skaters are endorsements and sponsorships, unlike in the US, where most skaters are just
sponsored by the boot and blade companies. You can see Japanese skaters have numerous
endorsements and sponsorships by household name brands. Yuzuru Hanyu is sponsored by
Kose, P&G, Lotte, and ANA. All huge brands in Japan. Shoma Uno is sponsored by Toyota
and Mizuno. Rika Kihira is sponsored by Red Bull. Wakaba Higuchi is sponsored by Puma.
And it’s just a small list of all of the skaters who have sponsorships and endorsements. Because
of this, they show up in commercials around these products, like Yuzuru Hanyu shows up
in so many ads across the Internet. And this is not just true of current skaters, it’s
true of skaters who have long since retired, like Mao Asada, Shizuka Arakawa, Nobunari
Oda. Mao Asada is still one of the most well-known faces in Japan and still stars in multiple
commercials every year. She’s still cover photos of magazines, etcetera. She is extremely
fashionable, extremely personable, and can sell products in Japan, which make her even
more famous. Maryam: I can’t remember the last time I saw
a product endorsed by US figure skaters. The thing is about boots and blades is that I’m
pretty sure if you make it to Worlds, you’re eligible to get free blades from John Wilson
or MKBlades, whichever one you use, and free boots from Edea, so it’s really easy to get
those, but it’s not enough to cover costs. There’s not that many products endorsed by
US figure skaters. Nowhere near as many as Japan. Yogeeta: We mainly see it during the Olympic
season, when Nathan Chen had his face on the Kellogg’s box, he was in United commercial,
etcetera. But the second the Olympics was over, those were all gone. Speaking of other
skaters who are huge faces in commercials, let’s move onto Korea and the Queen herself. Karly: Figure skating in Korea didn’t really
exist until Yuna Kim’s success, which we should all be aware of at this point. She is the
Queen. She and her mom currently manage All That Sports, which manages a lot of today’s
top Korean skaters, such as Eunsoo Kim, Yelim Kim, and Dabin Choi. And it also hosts All
That Skate, which sells out within seconds every year and draws some of the most prominent
skaters in the world. Some of the skaters featured in the 2019 cast were Yuna herself,
Nathan Chen, Shoma Uno, Javier Fernandez, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, and [Gabriella]
Papadakis and [Guillaume] Cizeron. Yuna has been featuring as a skater in the past few,
even four or five years after her retirement. Yogeeta: She’s the main draw of it to the
audience, as well. The fact that she hasn’t been skating is probably what makes it sell
out so quickly, because people still know who she is, and people want to witness the
greatness that is Yuna Kim on ice. Yuna herself is still huge in Korea. She is one of the
most well-known athletes in the country and she appears in so many commercials and fashion
shoots, and keeps endorsing products. I remember reading that she’s still called the queen
of commercials, because her name on a commercial or her appearing on a commercial can sell
out a product. She is one of the most well-paid people in the country, even compared to the
huge K-Pop idol culture that Korea has with their idols being the main faces of commercials
and products, etcetera. She’s right up there with all of them. Karly: She was also pretty much, in Korea,
the face of advertisement for the Pyeongchang Olympics. She appeared in a series of ads
where she would try out each sport, and as you may know, she lit the Olympic cauldron
at the opening ceremony. Maryam: I feel like even if Yuna Kim just
showed up and was stroking around, it would still be a sold-out show. Yogeeta: We’ve discussed a lot about Western
versus Asian skating cultures, but why are they so different? Obviously, there’s differences
in the recent successes of skaters in these areas. Figure skating in the US, for example,
really had its peak in the 1990s and the early 2000s, while the Japanese figure skating had
a really heavy uptick in popularity starting in the late 2000s, and that’s been going on
really strong. It’s really interesting to note that one person doesn’t really make a
trend, so despite the success of Nathan Chen – he has two World Championship gold medals,
he has won the Grand Prix Final for two years in a row – he’s really just one superstar
skater amongst the rest of Team USA. Maryam: When you’re watching other sports,
you usually have a few favorites that you pick out that if you only follow the sport
for one person, some people might not find it worth investing to keep watching the sport
just for one person. Yogeeta: In Japan, they just have more consistent
top skaters who constantly medal, so it’s not just Yuzuru Hanyu, but Shoma Uno. It was
Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi when they were competing. Now we have Rika Kihira and
Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto. All of these skaters have consistently medaled at
their events and we’ll probably see even more consistent skaters come forward from Japan
in the future years. As we say, Yuzuru Hanyu didn’t just get here by himself. He has his
numerous contemporaries that made figure skating so much more famous in Japan that he’s just
leading the current wave of the figure skating in Japan. Karly: And then pertaining to ice shows, as
we mentioned earlier, Japan has a ton of ice shows, meanwhile the main ice shows in pretty
much the only main ice show in the US – is Stars on Ice. And we know the main difference
between them is that Japan’s ice shows do include popular Japanese skaters but they
also invite foreign skaters, they invite up and coming Junior/Novice skaters, that appeal
to a greater audience and they also invite the audience to support these Juniors, and
it gets a lot of Japanese fans to support skaters while they’re younger and then they
become invested – become more long term fans. Also even with world wide audiences. I remember
last year dreams on ice seeing lots of Junior and Novice skaters that I now support, so
it just really helps you to get a more investment in the sport. Yogeeta: Meanwhile, Stars on Ice in the US
mainly just invites US Senior skaters who are well known in the international audience
which honestly leads to a lot of empty rinks. This year they also invited Alisa Liu but
that was only after she became US national champion. We have mostly big name skaters
but we don’t get to see any newcomers or like smaller national skaters – even like up and
coming Juniors like, I would also love to see more up and coming Juniors because I support
Juniors so much and they’re the future of our sport. But regular audiences who go to
Stars on Ice probably don’t even know who these Juniors are, like their day to day,
but if they did invite Juniors to these events you’d probably see a lot more recognition
and support going forward for the sport. Maryam: Yeah, and the US Stars on Ice, what
they sometimes do in some shows not all the time, what they do is they invite the club
Novice or the club competitive skaters, which ever level they are – usually up to Novice
and Junior – they invite them to do a group number at the very beginning to start up the
show but that’s only the group number. you don’t really know any of their names. It could
be 20-30 skaters on the ice and you’re just watching them do the number all spin or all
do an axel at the same time. It’s not really like you’re gonna get in touch and you don’t
even know their names. Yogeeta: Yeah. I saw Stars on Ice this past
year and I saw that like the group number and there’s a couple of skaters who I wonder
who they are. But their programs and tell me their names. There weren’t faces I could
match and I’m like “Okay, guess I’ll move on.” Maryam: And Stars on Ice today pretty much
invites currently relevant skaters, at least in the U.S and Canada Stars on Ice. The Japanese
Stars on Ice invites Shizuka Arakwa and Nobunari Oda, Akiko Suzuki, but the US ones they don’t
invite retired skaters that much. They have some, but not too many. So what happens after
a skater retires? In Japan, a lot of them do remain on the public eye so they do a lot
of talk shows, variety shows, and go on podcasts. They do so many commercials, years and years
after they retire. But in the United States, after the Olympics, the ones that were popular
during the Olympics or the ones that rose to popularity during the Olympics, a lot of
them remain after though especially if focus on school or another career – because media
doesn’t want somebody that’s currently not in the spotlight in their sport. If you want
to invite an athlete, they currently have to be at the peak of their competitive career.
They don’t want someone who’s retired and not doing this or not getting results anymore. Yogeeta: Which is really frustrating to me
because, obviously, we know so many skaters who are so beloved even within the US and
they don’t have any more support after they are done, with the exception being like Michelle
Kwan. But that just goes into like general media coverage and fan culture of comparatively
between the US and Japan. In Japan, figure skating isn’t just covered by one network
or one publication. It’s just covered by all forms of medial – digital, print, merchandising,
and everything in between. One of my favorite parts of Japanese media around figure skating
are the photo books they release. Maryam: They have ones released every single
season and feature different skaters in every single one whereas mostly in the US you need
to maybe you see one or two in pictures a sports magazine. Yogeeta: Yeah. And these photo books aren’t
just like for – you might buy because you want to see Yuzuru Hanyu or Shoma uno photos.
but they feature national skaters, lots of Junior skaters so you have a way to learn
more about these skaters and be like “Oh, I’m interested in them” and then you have
a stepping stone to learning more and following them. I think there’s like one magazine in
the US about figure skating and it’s not really sold in stores so you have to subscribe to
it. But in Japan there’s like dozens so it’s kind of incomparable. It’s also really hard
to find merchandising in the US but in Japan you can get calendars and other things with
your favorite skaters on them but most of the merchandising in the US is really focused
around them USA, so if you want to support a skater or someone or just skating in particular
it’s kind of just hard to do that one. Karly: I remember during the Olympics there
were boxes of Cheerios of Tessa and Scott on them and there were boxes of Kelloggs with
Nathan Chen on them but that was only during the Olympic year. Yogeeta: Like the Shibutanis started their
own merchandise line which have been great, so we could be able to support them directly
but other than that it’s currently hard to support other US skaters through merchandise. Karly: Basically in Japan it’s so much more
easier and so much more accessible to become long term fans. Maryam: Going on to idol culture in Japan,
it’s a lot more prevalent. Not even talking about J-Pop idols but I feel like that’s what
kickstarted — that’s what the culture comes from, but it’s not only that. It’s just makes
it easier for fans who are used to idol culture and who are used to having an idol, to start
watching skating and then get attached to a skater, and make them their favorite skater
and follow them to the very end of the career, especially so much content. There’s so much
media footage from when they’re very young. Some skaters have, or lots of skaters have
mentioned being uncomfortable being called or treated as idols so it’s not where we’re
getting out here we just think it’s worth noting how much more loyal they want to become
to their favorite skaters and how much they value them as role models. Yogeeta: Meanwhile in the US, like fans appreciation
especially for like casual fans or a lot more on a short term basis, usually they only skaters
after they’ve done a tremendous feat. Like Mirai’s triple Axel, or Nathan Chen the quad
king who landed five quads in his Free Skate in a competition. For example with people
who became fans of Mirai right after she landed a triple Axel, after that she basically retired
and she’s not competing anymore. so there is no additional content for you to follow
her for. Maryam: So one of our very first episodes
was about — actually our first episode — was about accessibility and the bare to accessibility
when it comes to figure skating especially now that it’s been becoming more prevalent
and because of NBC and whole lot of other media/big shots that have rights over figure
skating coverage are taking a lot down so many videos online and it’s so much harder,
so if you want to get an idea of what we discussed go watch our first episode. Karly: So just that the fact that NBC has
locked figure skating behind NBC Gold for such a high price per year, it’s very hard
to get into figure skating since it’s a big risk. It’s a lot of money and you don’t know
whether or not you’ll like it, so it honestly it would be a good idea to have a trial package
from NBC with competition coverage so that you can see if it’s something you would like
and then honestly there’s just a lot that can be improved upon NBC’s Gold package. Maryam: Like CBC for Canada. They don’t show
a lot of the competitions on TV, during the Olympics which can be very sad but they value
curling more so they put on curling instead of the men’s Free and I was really sad because
I was like “When is it gonna show up when is it gonna show up, maybe this group, maybe
this group.” But they didn’t. But they do have like for every single competition and
for every single grand prix and every single major competition, they have coverage on CBC
Online, it’s a bit annoying because you have to get through seconds of ads. But it’s there
and it’s high quality and you don’t have to pay anything, which I wish more countries
did that. Yogeeta: But profit, Maryam. profit. Karly: How does money? Maryam: Capitalism is such an overrated concept. Karly: Here at ITL we support the destruction
of capitalism. (Hosts laugh) Maryam: We do. We don’t need that. Yogeeta: I think ultimately the way the media
treats figure skating in the US versus Japan is very indicative of why figure skating itself
hasn’t really become extremely well known in US media. Like Nathan Chen, he didn’t
win an Olympic gold medal – but he’s a two time world medalist. And when he won [Worlds]
I never saw any news of that in regular news outside of NBC sports. And I think that’s
kind of sad because that was a real accomplishment in that he actually won and he won once beating
Yuzuru Hanyu and after he won he didn’t really go on TV shows and talk about “Oh I’m a two
time world medalist” and talk about his wins there. Which I think kind of might be his
decision, and that’s obviously his choice to go on TV shows but i feel like US media
isn’t really reaching out to skater sand talking about things like that whereas in Japan they’re
always available and they’re always with media and it’s like a lot more easier to see your
favorite skater and learn about them and get into other skaters. Maryam: Yeah, like the Japanese media travels
all the way to Canada to do a media day just to reveal Yuzuru’s programs. So you can see
how dedicated they are to it and how much demand there is, if there was more demand
the US media would probably – it’s kind of like a circle but it’s never ending because
there’s more demand the US media would provide more coverage but because you have so many
popular sports in the US, like you have hockey, you have basketball, you have baseball, football
– there’s so much content out there especially online and on TV, they kind of had to choose
and pick what they want to showcase. Yogeeta: Yeah, and figure skating is such
a niche sport here that you can’t easily access, you have to really go travel to see it, that
is really hard to make that a center of media focus whereas baseball — you can find a baseball
game in your backyard. Maryam: Yeah exactly, you can play baseball
in your backyard but you can’t necessarily skate – if you have a pond in your backyard,
maybe. (Hosts laugh) -end segment- START: Shoutout of the Week Yogeeta: So. quickly. let’s have a shoutout
of the week, competition season’s about to begin with the Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel,
France. Good luck to all the skaters competing and to everyone listening, welcome to the
start of a new season! Maryam: Yay, finally. I feel like it’s been
such an off season drought, it just feels like it’s been the longest off-season, I don’t
know whether it’s because like there hasn’t been that much off season content, but because
maybe it’s just been me personally. I’ve been swamped with work and school. I’m just so
ready. Karly: Give me all the Junior babies. Maryam: Oh my god yes. I’m so excited for
the Juniors. The Junior Grand Prix should be really really exciting this year. Karly: Juniors are superior. Maryam: Yes. I can’t wait. I love Juniors. -end segment- START: Outro Maryam: Thank you for listening, we hope you
enjoyed this episode and learned a little bit more about figure skating and pop culture,
and we hope to see you again for our next episode. Karly: So if you want to get in touch with
us, we have a lot of ways for you to contact us. you can contact us via our website, inthelopodcast.com,
and we’re also inthelopodcast on Twitter and Tumblr. Our episodes can be found on YouTube,
on iTunes, on Google Play, Stitcher and on Spotify so we’re very accessible. Wherever
you want to listen to us. Maryam: If you enjoyed the show and you want
to help support us continue making this podcast possible please consider making a donation
to us on our ko-fi page, and we’d love to give a huge thank you to all of the listeners
who’ve contributed to us so far, we really appreciate it, your help is always wanted. Maryam: So you can find the links to all our
social media pages and our ko-fi on our website, and please check out our instagram because
i feel like people keep forgetting we have an instagram, but please do check it out. Yogeeta: Please do check out our Instagram,
it’s also at @inthelopodcast and we post photos we take at competition some of which we don’t
share on twitter so if you want more competition photos please check us out there. Karly: If you’re listening on iTunes, please
consider leaving us a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show. thanks for listening.
This has been Karly, Yogeeta, and Maryam. Thank you, guys! Maryam: Bye, enjoy the season! Karly: I’m excited for the start of the season! Yogeeta: So excited.

One thought on “Episode 33 – Figure Skating and Pop Culture”

  1. Was Adam Rippon really "the first openly gay winter olympian"? Or did you mean the first competing for the USA? I'm genuinely confused – you also mention Eric Radford who competed at the same olympics, so wouldn't they be the joint first?

    To pick up on another topic you touched on, here in the UK there's a TV programme called "Dancing on Ice" which is basically Dancing With the Stars, but with ice dance instead of ballroom dancing. Torvill and Dean (probably still the only figure skaters the general British public are aware of) are 2 of the judges. It's quite popular, but as far as I'm aware, does pretty much nothing to increase public interest in the sport. It's fairly inaccessible outside of the olympics though, and ice rinks are few and far between here (ice hockey isn't a very popular sport either) so this may be more of a factor.

    And I'm so happy the JGP has begun and Ted Barton is back!!! 😄💞

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