February 13, 2006

Michelle Kwan and the need for a "new" injury.

Harvey Araton has an interesting column about Michelle Kwan's withdrawal from the Olympics. (You'll need TimesSelect to read the whole thing.) Did you know that the Emily Hughes is only allowed to replace Kwan on the team because Kwan's injury is considered new?
...Kwan's withdrawing and the International Olympic Committee's acceptance of Hughes as the replacement was the standard figure skating study in emotional untidiness. To begin with: In what other sport does a routine medical diagnosis — albeit one that persuaded Kwan to surrender her gold-medal dream — occur in the middle of the night?

Even Bode Miller was asleep at 2:15 a.m. when Dr. Jim Moeller said Kwan had a "new" groin injury (as Olympic rules demand to replace an existing team member), not an aggravation of the one that kept her out of the United States trials last month, in which Hughes finished third behind Sasha Cohen and Kimmie Meissner....

Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating? Did Kwan come here only to generate commercial face time to appease her sponsors?

The second theory seems unlikely, given the risk of scorn that could have befallen Kwan and her carefully shaped image as the Chinese-American Girl Next Door had she skated miserably, leaving critics to cry that she gave Hughes — and by extension her country — the shaft.
The "second theory"? What's the first theory? Presumably, the first theory is that Kwan came to the Olympics because, despite her injury, she really was ready to skate, but then she fell down in practice, causing a new injury, which demanded that she withdraw. Is a fall that aggravates an old injury a new injury? Falls are common in skating. But the question is how the I.O.C. interprets "new." I haven't seen the precedents. But I would think that the desire to replace a team member happens quite often, and perhaps it's not supposed to be easy to claim new injury.

Araton's prose is carefully crafted so that you can't say he said anything unkind about Kwan, but you read the column and find the suggestions have been planted that she took advantage and received special treatment.

I SHOULD ADD: Most of the column is fluffy stuff about Emily Hughes. The ominous but sweetened material about Kwan is buffered by feel-good material about the nice and happy teenager who's gotten the call to replace her.

23 comments:

Goesh said...

She did fall during a practice session. It looked like a hard fall to me, but then I am not a doctor and have not been on skates in about 30 years.

TidalPoet said...

She had to skate in front of a review board that would attest to her 'fitness' to participate in the Olympics. Would that mean she is considered "healthy" and without injury? If so, the groin injury in Italy would then mean it was "new".

Just my guess on it. I really doubt it's some nefarious KwanPlot.

TWM said...

I wish I could be as optimistic as tidalpoet, but my thinking is she wanted very much to skate, thought she would skate despite the injury, and once she realized she was not going to be able to (i.e. be embarrassed during the competition), she "renewed" her injury so she could drop out honorably and let the other gal skate.

Can't say I blame her though. Most people would have done the same thing.

Abraham said...

The article refences "more allegations of America hating." Does anyone know what "other" allegations this refers to?

TidalPoet said...

I agree twm, I don't believe it was 'new' in the regard that it wasn't just an aggravated older wound. Just 'new' in the semantics needed to allow a replacement.

Joan said...

My reading of the quoted paragraphs suggests this as the first theory:

Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating?

The second theory being that she only went to Torino for the face-time for her sponsors, which is a pretty nasty assumption. I'd always assumed she went to Torino because she really, really wanted an Olympic gold medal.

I've barely watched any skating, and already I'm sick of all the "drama" and "controversy" surrounding the sport. If I see one more shot of the Russian and Canadian pairs from the last Olympics, I think I'll give up altogether. I'm more interested to know specifics about how the rules were changed following that scandal, but that's not what the focus of those stories are.

Henry said...

The reference to Bode Miller is nicely done.

No winter olympics coverage is complete without a Bode Miller reference.

AJD said...

After your massive and incoherent "typos" in The Odds post yesterday, it's a bit unseemly, don't you think, to spend so much time on a single letter mistake?

I guess it's all you got.

But on The Odds, I agree with you entirely: it is silly to say that you are bound by base ten. There are probably lots of eligible septuagenarians out there!

PatCA said...

"Carefully shaped...play along..." By jove, it was Rove!

The NYT always has to gin up a conspiracy to criticize something that we rubes like.

I would imagine that once you're released as healed, anything further is a new injury. And, yes, at the Olympics I would imagine round the clock decisions are made.

Michael Farris said...

My best bet is that the doctors (and probably Kwan too) were being too optimistic before. That is, if she skated really well and carefully she was able to convince herself she was able to compete (Kwan lives for high profile competitions) but a bad fall revealed that that wasn't realistic.

Of the various types of injuries skaters are prone to, groin injuries are the worst because they take long to heal and are prone to re-injury or new injury (few skaters who suffer them ever get 100% of their pre-injury abilities back).

Kwan is more or less the Madonna of skating (she's been written numerous times before and come back) so she might be back next season if she rests and gets full rehabilitation.

PatCA said...

BTW what is a groin injury, anyway?

amn said...

A groin injury is an injury to the muscle that runs down the inside of the top part of the thigh. It's a problem for skaters because it is important for pushing off when jumping and raising/extending their legs.

mom3ksons said...

Dr Moeller is one of the best in the business, he at all times puts his athletes first. He has integrity, honesty and cannot and would not be bullied by the IOC or anyone to give a fluff diagnosis. As an athlete Kwan has been a class act. I am not a toe pick skating fan but she has never been 'wasted' before a competition and deserves respect for her dedication.

Ann Althouse said...

Joan said..."My reading of the quoted paragraphs suggests this as the first theory: 'Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating?'"

But there's a lack of parallelism. That question doesn't address why she went to Torino, so it's not a rival theory for the statement that she went just to "appease her sponsors"? If the IOC played along, that implies that she was in fact too injured to compete from the start, but then what's the theory for why she went?

lindsey said...

I believe I read somewhere that she actually had to do a special performance for the chance to go to the Olympics. She had to prove she could actually do the routine. If she could do the performance then, and now she can't, then she clearly reinjured it or had a new injury.

vbspurs said...

My opinion is half-way from the trusting optimism of Tidalpoet, to the practical realism of TWM.

I think the IOC did everything it could to get her to participate in these Olympics, since she's the biggest known name-draw in the US.

Sure, there's newly-minted hero, charming Shaun White (The Flying Tomato), and there's the continued hungover antics of Bode Miller, but let's face it -- who amongst us could name one Winter Olympian by name, as readily as we could Michelle Kwan.

She skated in private for the review board, and I've no doubt she did her best -- they wouldn't have risked her health, and their pride to get her a spot if she wasn't able to do well.

But I also think maybe the skate was a little rough, and had she not been the great Michelle Kwan (I mean this uncynically -- I like and respect her achievements), she probably wouldn't have made the team.

Perhaps the answer lies partly in self-delusion, and mass encouragement.

No one who saw Michelle at the Opening Ceremonies can forget that smile -- which was different from her usual, cute toothy grin.

It was the feeling of, I made it, and whatever else, they can't take this feeling away from me, right now.

Then the practise skate came. She just couldn't cope with it.

That hard fall she took might have something to do with her previous groin injury, but it also is quite possible that she truly did suffer other injuries, which gave everyone concerned the excuse to send for Miss Hughes.

Okay, so Emily Hughes didn't get to participate in the Opening Ceremonies.

But unlike Tonya Harding, at least Michelle Kwan (who was her alternate in the famous Lillehammer Olympics) called it quits honourably, without taking aways someone else's dream away before it was too late.

Me, I'm one of the few women I know who don't like figure-skating.

(I love curling though)

But if it's on once every four years, sure, I'll watch.

Maybe on the vague hope that someone as exciting as Torville and Dean will dance the Bolero again.

Cheers,
Victoria

mrbungle2103 said...

Scott Hamilton's comment on tv yesterday about her being "the most significant athlete" at the games is a bit of a stretch too. No-one I know back home in Britain or friends around Europe has any idea who she is. Nor for that matter do they give a toss about Bode Miller simply because he has an attitude.

Watching the Olympics here is very strange. The attitude seems to very much be Gold or Bust. If you finish say 5th (in the world!!) you barely get a mention, except to say how you choked/couldn't quite do it/ were outclassed. 5th in the world!

Joseph Buck said...

Althouse:
Joan said..."My reading of the quoted paragraphs suggests this as the first theory: 'Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating?'"

But there's a lack of parallelism. That question doesn't address why she went to Torino, so it's not a rival theory for the statement that she went just to "appease her sponsors"? If the IOC played along, that implies that she was in fact too injured to compete from the start, but then what's the theory for why she went?


You're assuming that Araton composed his article logically. Are you sure that's true? Let's look at his text once more:

Araton:
Did the I.O.C. play along with the semantics of the "new injury" claim because it was sensitive to more allegations of America hating? Did Kwan come here only to generate commercial face time to appease her sponsors?

The second theory seems unlikely . . . .


It looks like he presents, in question form, two theories about the situation in general. Araton's former paragraph above seems to be about conjectural theories that might or might not be true in his opinion. He is throwing stuff out there, basically communicating, "Here are some guesses as to what might be going on here." The first theory is about the IOC's motives; the second is about Kwan's. So Araton's former paragraph above is about possible motives for some of the actors involved in the situation.

Two theories. Araton thinks the "second theory seems unlikely."

Araton probably could have composed his article better and avoided ambiguity on this point -- but he didn't.

Big Dick Cheney said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pat said...

I thought her injury was announced at 2:15 AM Eastern time, isn't like like 8 AM in Rome?

Big Dick Cheney said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vbspurs said...

Watching the Olympics here is very strange. The attitude seems to very much be Gold or Bust. If you finish say 5th (in the world!!) you barely get a mention, except to say how you choked/couldn't quite do it/ were outclassed. 5th in the world!

But that's because Americans have inherited our cultural emphasis on sport, whilst adding their more Germanic sense of all, or nothing at all.

This is, without a doubt whatsoever, the reason they are the number one overall country in Olympic Games, ever -- which started in 1896, with an American getting the very first modern Olympic Gold.

See, that's the thing.

Everyone around the world thinks Americans lack "history" or tradition.

Not a bit of it. They have plenty. And they take it very seriously.

That's what happens when you're the best -- you expect ONLY the best, and ignore the second-best.

Or do you think, in related terms, that Brazilians would ever be happy with a second-place position, at the World Cup?

They skewer you in Brazil if you come back with the World Cup silver.

Cheers,
Victoria

j w majors said...

Nobody is addressing the question of why Michelle would try the triple without her coach being present or while her groin area was stiff? I don't get it. She should not have tried that jump. She should have left and put heat on that area until it was flexible. Maybe even have called a doctor to help monitor her. Certainly she should have waited for her coach. She probably would still be training if she had. How sad and careless.