Sports

Figure Skaters Must Be Very Lonely

What is the most naked, isolated feeling in sports? The moment that, more than any other, leaves you thinking you’re the only person in the world?

Is it being on the mound with runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth? Or maybe lining up to kick a field goal to win the Super Bowl? Or maybe standing over a 6-foot putt to win the Masters?

I would argue that it’s competing in figure skating in the Olympics. Think about it. If you miss a field goal — or fail in any team sport — you still have your teammates to console you; you still have any number of people who can look at something they should have done better; you still have the sense that it is a communal effort, win or lose.

Even if you miss a putt to win the Masters, you can step back and talk to your caddy and then make the next one to get into a playoff.

But in figure skating, if you fall down, you are expected to get back up and continue as though nothing happened. And you’re expected to smile. And perform triple toe loops. And wear sequins. (As an aside, here’s a great zinger from Shaun White about figure skating.)

In skating, you don’t get to consult with your coach or catch your breath or call a timeout. You screwed up in front of a worldwide audience, and you don’t receive an extra second to process that or gather your thoughts. There are no timeouts in figure skating, unless you’re Tonya Harding.

All of which lends itself to remarkable drama. And a lot of feelings of isolation.