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Maggie Hendricks

Looking back: five lessons learned in figure skating

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All the medals in figure skating have been decided; the jumps landed, spins spun, lifts lifted. With it all over, what have we learned?

To win, skaters must work the scoresheet: Evgeni Plushenko's loss to Evan Lysacek in men's figure skating came down to one simple fact. Lysacek loaded up his skate with difficulty throughout the routine; Plushenko banked everything on one jump. If the scoring system sticks, coaches, choreographers and skaters need to learn from Lysacek and work the scoresheet to squeeze every point into each program.

American women are doing just fine: Yes, it's the first time the U.S. women have not taken home a medal since the Johnson administration. With only two skaters having qualified and neither skater was a star, fans were worried that the U.S. was slipping in women's figure skating.

Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu showed that fans have nothing to fret about. They skated into the international elite with their performances in Vancouver. Nagasu landed in fourth after a dazzling free skate, and Flatt took seventh after two consistent and solid routines.

The powerbase of skating has changed: Europe and the United States used to be the exclusive homes for the world's best skating. Russia and before that the Soviet Union long owned skating, particularly in pairs, a discipline in which they had won every gold medal since 1964.

That's not true any longer. For this Olympics, five medals went to skaters from Asia, four from North America, and just three went to European skaters. No gold medalists came from Europe, and all four gold medalists represent different countries (China, U.S., Canada, South Korea.) A global footprint can only be good news for the health and growth of the sport.

The International Skating Union has to do a better job educating fans. Most casual skating fans only check in on the sport every four years, so when they checked in this year, they were confused to see how the sport had changed. Of course there were scoring controversies; most fans had no idea what they were seeing.

Skaters need to try some new music. We heard "Firebird,""Scheherezade," and "Carmen" way too many times. Please, skaters, take a cue from gold medalist Yu-Na Kim, who had a mesmerizing short program to music from the James Bond movies, or Japan's Takahiko Kozuka, who skated to Jimi Hendrix.

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