At ice dancing on Sunday night, the Russian team of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin performed an original dance that was tacky, offensive, and bordered on vulgar. Later that evening, Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto performed a dance that was light, airy, and fun.
Domnina and Shabalin are in third place headed into Monday night's free dance, the last segment of the ice dancing competition. Belbin and Agosto are in fourth.
Of course, it's just my opinion that Belbin and Agosto were better than Domnina and Shabalin – and that is the crux of the problem with ice dancing. Its subjectivity takes it out of the realm of sports, and as such, should be taken out of the Olympics.
Generally, I'm a fan and the first one to defend judged sports. When my partner-in-blogging starts talking about the "real" medal count, I'll point out all of the objective marks that can be hit in gymnastics, figure skating, diving, snowboarding, and the like. The triple axel, the full twisting double back tuck, or the Double McTwist 1260 are moves that judges can hang their hats on. Evan Lysacek performed more high-level moves, and performed them later in his routine, than Evgeni Plushenko did, so Lysacek was awarded gold.
With ice dancing, there is no recourse.
Sure, there are required elements, like swizzles (quick turns on one leg) and lifts. But every elite skating pair does swizzles and lifts, so the judges are stuck picking who did their swizzles and lifts better. Subjectivity takes over.
Not only that, a crucial part of ice dancing is making a connection with the crowd. How is that a fair element of judging unless competitions take place on Mars? No matter where the ice dancing happens, the home team will have the crowd behind them. As our own Martin Rogers pointed out, the Canadian pair in first place, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, could have gone out on the ice in garbage bags to perform jumping jacks and the loyal Canadian crowd would have cheered them on.
There is no denying that ice dancing is athletic and difficult, but the same can be said about ballet and many circus acts. That doesn't mean it has a place in the Olympics.