February 7, 2018

"Russia has rigorously maximized the possibilities of the points system."

In figure skating, the NYT reports in "Success of Russia’s Female Figure Skaters Takes a Toll in Injuries and Stress":
For instance, a 10 percent bonus is awarded for each jump in the second half of a routine, when skaters’ legs are tired. Zagitova does all of her jumps in the second half of her routine. Medvedeva performs several of her jumps with one arm above her head to increase the difficulty.

In Russia’s centralized training system, where a number of top skaters practice together and push each other daily, girls as young as 10, 11 or 12 are performing a number of challenging jumps requiring three revolutions. It is easier to jump before the body matures and fills out after puberty. Alexandra Trusova, who won the junior Grand Prix final in December, can land a quadruple Salchow, even if imperfectly, at age 13.

Yet, while young bodies are flexible and resilient, they are still growing and can be susceptible to injuries to the joints and soft tissue....
Child abuse?

Quite aside from Russia, how much of what we impose/encourage on children is damaging to their growing bodies (and minds) and properly recognized as abuse?

Also, I'm interested in the technicalities of the points system, which I believe was created as a remedy to the perceived abuses of judicial bias. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

64 comments:

Clyde said...

Are these the same parents who don't want their sons playing football because of the head injuries?

Curious George said...

"Quite aside from Russia, how much of what we impose/encourage on children is damaging to their growing bodies (and minds) and properly recognized as abuse?"

Does Dr. Larry Nassar ring a bell?

Sebastian said...

"Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease."

You mean, like, Russia might have gamed the reset? Or Iran might have taken the deal money and still continued its nuclear plan?

Or, like, #metoo will lead #meignoredtoo will lead to #mesad?

MayBee said...

Clyde- great point!

But yeah, ultimately this comes down to parents. Same with USA gymnastics. And acting.
Kids want to do a lot of things, but when parents are willing to put aside their normal lives for the demanding dreams of their children, all kinds of abuse are bound to happen. Bodily, mental, sexual...

Darkisland said...

If you watch it, Ann, you are complicit in the abuse.

John Henry

Bay Area Guy said...

Russia, Russia, Russia .....

Hagar said...

Olympics are professional sports and should be barred to minors.

MadisonMan said...

Whenever I read a figure skating post on Althouse, I'm reminded of hilarious "Too Much Tootie" post from 2006.

Annie C said...

This was one of my very few competitive sports growing up (I don't count swim team since that was the way my Mom got all the kids out of the house during the summer.)

It has changed so dramatically from the days I looked up to Peggy Fleming. Originally a sport more about grace than athleticism, many people don't even consider it a sport since the judging is subjective.

But as the skating world reacted to that criticism by becoming more and more athletic, the toll on young children's bodies was to be expected. Ice dancing was then introduced to give the lesser athletic skaters a place and a way to get back to skating as a graceful sport. The same thing happened with gymnastics. Olga Korbut beget serious athleticism, and those other gymnastic events with ribbons and balls came along.

Still, a quad salchow at 13? Craziness.

A jump with a backward takeoff from the backward inside edge of one skate to the backward outside edge of the other with four turns is nutso athletic.

It took a long time after skating to stretch out my foreshortened achilles tendon.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Yet, while young bodies are flexible and resilient, they are still growing and can be susceptible to injuries to the joints and soft tissue....
Child abuse?


Watch some Russian pr0n to level set yourself for what is considered abuse over there.

Quite aside from Russia, how much of what we impose/encourage on children is damaging to their growing bodies (and minds) and properly recognized as abuse?


We meaning you - so, Ms. Mather, how many kids did your g-g burn? Was that imposed or encouraged? I wonder if his informers felt encouraged, and whether they felt guilty later or all righteous forever like you.

Annie C said...

Also, years back they got rid of compulsories. Circle eights, brackets, paragraphs and some of them combined was what I spend most of my practice time on, because if you could not pass compulsories, you could not skate in freestyle short and long programs.

Those requirements that focused on concentration, footwork and grace were just not exciting enough for television audiences and they disappeared completely somewhere around 1990.

But I used to love the marks on the ice my skates left.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Faster, higher, stronger.

Levi Starks said...

Physical abuse?
What about forcing a 4th grade boy to sit in a classroom all day long, and even denying him the opportunity of recess, instead, under threat of punishment forcing him to practice handwriting because Mrs Walker didn’t think his was good enough? You think that ever happened to a girl?

mockturtle said...

It disappoints me that competitions today are all about quads and triple axels when a perfect spiral can be the most beautiful move. The only lessons I took as a child were skating lessons [my parents wanted me to take piano lessons]. It's like ballet, in that torture can be part and parcel of the whole, but the end result is beautiful.

While there should be concerns about harm done to young bodies and brains with sports we don't want to limit the quest for excellence. How committed is the youngster to the sport? Is it his/her choice or the parents' to compete?

[Obviously, the Nassar case is in a separate category and has nothing whatever to do with the usual rigors of sport].

Henry said...

And how is this different from the non-Russian approach?

Annie C wrote: "But I used to love the marks on the ice my skates left."

Great comment. I'm a barely adequate skater, but I love skating on our local frozen lake for just the sensory experience of it.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Quite aside from Russia, how much of what we impose/encourage on children is damaging to their growing bodies (and minds) and properly recognized as abuse?"

I think about this a lot. My feeling is that youth competitions of all kinds have been largely ruined at the high levels (often at the lower levels too.) Are we incentiving good or bad things?

I'm also reading Jacques Ellul on and off. It's all Technique!

Big Mike said...

I thought Russia had been barred from the Winter Olympics after being caught cheating at Sochi?

And, no, the cure is not worse than the disease. The disease was identified when Tonya Harding, clearly the most athletic skater of her generation was downgraded for "poor presentation." Figure skating at the world and olympic levels used to be thoroughly political and all movement in the direction of reducing subjectivity in scoring needs to be embraced and encouraged.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

It's troubling that Communist countries got good at Olympic events, and then the rest of us learned from them. Cruel experiments at best: take a large group of kids, subject them to military discipline and physical training that pushes them to the limit, and reject most of them after months or years in the program. That crazy Romanian gymnastics coach discovered little girls were just better than grown women, so he poured on the tough training at a young age. Nadia Comenici was a big example. The U.S. hired the Romanian guy to get the same results. And now the doctor with his creepy treatments on very young girls.

Is it better in the more capitalist sports? There are certainly some questionable practices in Canadian hockey. At least football and basketball focus to some extent on a college education; that's still not the case for baseball and hockey.

Big Mike said...

@Freeman is quite right -- youth soccer, youth hockey, Pee Wee football, even Little League to some extent (especially young pitchers) can leave a child injured for the rest of their lives. But kids want to win and sometimes coaches want so badly to win that they push their young athletes into risky behaviors.

Luke Lea said...

Is there a way to restore aesthetics as the most important criterion in awarding medals? How about crowdsourcing the winners? Let the public decide.

Curious George said...

You want to see the most beautiful, and the most athletic, skating?

Turn off Figure Skating.

Turn on the NHL.

Here's Kristi Yamaguchi teaching her NHL husband figure skiting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1ZNeDVBCkE

There won't be a Yamaguchi hockey video.

rehajm said...

Skating could bring back compulsory figures and weight them heavily...

Ballet does horrible things to young bodies.

Jim Gust said...

John Henry is right. Don't watch, it only encourages them.

I gave up on the Olympics decades ago.

Jon Burack said...

[Obviously, the Nassar case is in a separate category and has nothing whatever to do with the usual rigors of sport].

I do not agree. This guy had the power he did because the sport demanded young girls take risks that required him to be available, and ambitious sports personnel and parents were all too ready to think the risks worth taking and to value and look the other way about the signs of his perversion. Here in East Lansing, the focus is all on the upper levels of the administration, but the essentially corrupt nature of college sport and its participants get a pass.

Hari said...

Rigourously maximizing the points system. The last time we saw this complaint was when Trump rigourously maximised his electoral votes.

mockturtle said...

Anyone else read Tom Brown's School Days? Rugby football--no padding--kids taking injuries in stride. My husband was whacked with a cricket ball and knocked unconscious when he was young and had a small dent in his forehead all of his life. He nonetheless earned a PhD in biochemistry and became a noted research scientist. He did develop Lewy Body Dementia late in life and there is some evidence that concussions can cause dementia many years later. Given a choice, however, my husband would still have chosen to enjoy cricket and rugby in his school years.

rhhardin said...

The Cutting Edge (1992) hockey player takes up doubles figure skating, romcom.

mockturtle said...

[Obviously, the Nassar case is in a separate category and has nothing whatever to do with the usual rigors of sport].

I do not agree. This guy had the power he did because the sport demanded young girls take risks that required him to be available, and ambitious sports personnel and parents were all too ready to think the risks worth taking and to value and look the other way about the signs of his perversion. Here in East Lansing, the focus is all on the upper levels of the administration, but the essentially corrupt nature of college sport and its participants get a pass.


Dr. Nassar was a sexual pervert. Yes, he took advantage of the ambition of his subjects but his sexual abuse had nothing to do with sports training. Nothing.

lgv said...

"Quite aside from Russia, how much of what we impose/encourage on children is damaging to their growing bodies (and minds) and properly recognized as abuse?"

This properly frames the question outside the context of Russia and our old notions of the old communist ways. It was expected to sacrifice your body for your country back then, so quite opposite of figure skaters you had East German women hitting the drugs hard in order to bulk up for the shot put and discus. Still they were abused, but differently.

The distinguishing feature of figure skating is that peak performance is pre-puberty, so the participants are really young, just as in gymnastics. When is the "age of consent" for the risks of these sports? Who decides for the young, parents or the state?

The physical abuse to one's body with long term damage exists in many sports, it's just that the participants appear to be old enough to make an informed consent.

I remember my wresting coach telling me he needed to wrestle a match at 145 the following Saturday. It was Tuesday and I weighed 157. I had already gotten down from 167 at my first practice. I'm pretty sure losing that 12 lbs. from Tuesday to Saturday morning weigh-in wasn't good for me.

As for gaming the scoring system, this is no different than "teaching to the test". The objective reward of jumps gets you a score. The old days of skating artistry required subjective judging at the judging was very subjective and horribly political.

Events that depend totally on judging are always going to be problematic.

MadisonMan said...

Figure skating at the world and olympic levels used to be thoroughly political and all movement in the direction of reducing subjectivity in scoring needs to be embraced and encouraged.

This is why I like track and field and swimming events. You win if you're fastest. Nothing subjective about it. Skiing is like that too. Bobsledding, luge -- all the events where it's just how fast can you go.

Curious George said...

"mockturtle said...
[Obviously, the Nassar case is in a separate category and has nothing whatever to do with the usual rigors of sport]."

It's separate only in it's depravity. But it happened because parents are far to eager to allow their children to be put in the hands of adults to forward their athletic career, regardless of their best interests. My older son was a good baseball player, and got recruited for a traveling allstar team while in junior high. Four months of baseball every single day. Practice or play. I said no way. Baseball for an 11 year old shouldn't be a job.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Dr JIM FACEBOOK

Making penises great again!

Sebastian said...

The problem is that the only women's sports actual fans actually want to watch, and are therefore commercially viable, can only be performed well by girls -- figure skating and gymnastics.

Women's soccer, WNBA--not so much. Maybe beach volleyball. Skiing in ski countries perhaps.

mockturtle said...

Curious George, I agree. Parents should never let ambition come before the well being of their child.

California Snow said...

My little kids are just starting sports and it's amazing competitive sports are getting at the lower levels. My 5-yr old son played flag football but b/c coach didn't think he was good enough to play defense he didn't get to play half the game. A 5 yr old playing in his first flag football season and he's getting benched. I couldn't believe it.

High school sports, particularly basketball, is almost pointless now because of travel teams such as the AAU leagues. There are a few really interesting documentaries on Netflix about AAU et. al and it's impact on the sport. Now days, if you want to play basketball in college you MUST attend certain NBA superstar summer camps, play AAU, etc. so you can be seen by the coaches. Of course this all costs thousands upon thousands of dollars and enormous time commitments such as every weekend being on the road.

My brother is orthopedic surgeon in the Dallas, TX area and he's seeing teenagers getting all sorts of knee and joint surgery from sports injuries or just plain overuse. He tries telling them that they're going to need that knee for the rest of their lives but the parents are mainly concerned about how quickly Jr. can get back on the field. Retirement ain't gonna happen on it's own! Talk about child abuse.

Curious George said...

You want to find out how devastating specialized single sport training and participation can be on kids google "growth plate injuries." Gymnastics is a bad one, but so is soccer (what people in shithole countries call football). Kids are playing outdoors for 9 months and indoors in the winter. Crazy.

Tim in Vermont said...

This is why you are not supposed to teach Little Leaguers how to throw a curve, even though they could easily master it.

Tim in Vermont said...

They treat race horses better.

mockturtle said...

I have been living with my wife with a small penis in my marriage and this has resulted to an everyday problem with me and my wife because we had no child and we have been married for 4 years

Well, there's your problem, Jovita. Your wife has a penis.

Annie C said...

"I have been living with my wife with a small penis in my marriage and this has resulted to an everyday problem with me and my wife because we had no child and we have been married for 4 years."

Well, there's your problem, Jovita. Your wife has a penis.

2/7/18, 9:42 AM

OMG Mockturtle you owe me a keyboard!!

DeepState Cynic said...

Everything in America starts as innovation, becomes a business, and eventually a racket. (Apologies to Eric Hoffer) Figure skating is well down into the racket phase. The saddest thing is to have something you are passionate about become hip or popular.

William said...

How much of your life would be impoverished if you never saw a quadruple Salchow. I could live on double Salchows. I don't even need a triple. The game isn't worth the candle. Why cripple your kid for such an ephemeral moment? The risk reward doesn't compute......Football is a different issue. I could live with gimpy knees for a few years of football glory. It wouldn't even have to be the pros. High school or college would be sufficient. Where the bargain gets dicey, however, is early dementia. That changes the calculus. It's not worth it...... I think football is a dying sport, and its mortal pathology will spread to other sports.

William said...

They should make yoga an Olympic sport. Entrants could be judged both on the beauty of their form and their lack of competitive spirit.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I'm not going to care about crippled athletes until Professor MacKinnon writes an essay claiming that social media is accomplishing what the law could not.

reader said...

Kids don't come with instruction manuals.

Our son played tournament golf from middle school on. He was pretty good. He golfed every day. His coach would talk to us over the years to stress that our son could play in college and possibly beyond. He just needed to practice more. In high school our son made the varsity team all four years. High school coach would talk to us and tell him that our son could really do something with golf. He just needed to practice more.

On the high school team our son was the second ranked player. Both boys played every day. But the other boy would get up before school and go putt for an hour. After playing nine holes after school the other boy would hit at the driving range until it got dark. My son went out with friends or his girl friend. Both coaches just kept chirping in our ears.

At least three different times my husband and I sat down to talk about what we should do with our son. Do we leave him alone for him to possibly look back with regret at what he might have done? Do we push him to put that extra effort in for him to possibly end up resenting his father and hating golf?

My son joined us for a couple of days at the Phoenix Open. He and his dad had a blast spending time together and following Phil and Rickie.

Regarding curve balls and little league. My son pitched in little league and on a travel team. They threw curve balls and pretended they were throwing cutters.




jimbino said...

Strange to worry about muscle strains while continuing to allow mutilation of little boys' sex organs.

mockturtle said...

Many parents--especially Asians--push their kids to get high grades in school at the expense of a normal social life. Is it worth it? Some of these kids are miserable but will they thank their parents later? Who knows? Is Tiger Woods sorry his father was demanding about golf practice? It's a very fine line between developing a natural talent and forcing a child beyond his/her ability or desires.

Yancey Ward said...

The ultimate solution is to award every skater the same amount of points.

Look, whatever scoring system you put in place will be analyzed and then gamed by the participants.

Molly said...

Child abuse occurs when any parent treats his or her child differently from the way I would treat my child in similar circumstances. I don't let my children walk home from school unaccompanied; you do = child abuse. I don't require my children to practice the piano for 2 hours a day; you do = child abuse. I force my children to play on age appropriate community sports teams; you don't = child abuse. I have child protective services on speed dial.

glenn said...

Like Dad said: “First you need honest people”

mockturtle said...

Well said, Molly.

bagoh20 said...

WWVAS? What Would Visiting Aliens Say?

You do what to small children so they can spin around on ice for the entertainment of strangers? The whole idea that we would make this sport that important is deranged. I'm fine with people doing it if that's their free choice, but the importance it's given is silly. These skills practiced for obscene amounts of time have no practical use in human society, and it's not even very entertaining. It's the same thing over and over, judged subjectively and often corruptly. Personally, I would much prefer these young girls learn almost anything else with all that effort and time.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim in Vermont said...

Russia has maximized possibilities of points system. America has maximized points of possibilities system.

Annie C said...

There isn't much "pro" in skating. Or swimming, or track and field. But there's some nifty Wheaties boxes!

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Child abuse occurs when any parent treats his or her child differently from the way I would treat my child in similar circumstances. I don't let my children walk home from school unaccompanied; you do = child abuse. I don't require my children to practice the piano for 2 hours a day; you do = child abuse. I force my children to play on age appropriate community sports teams; you don't = child abuse. I have child protective services on speed dial.

Came here to say this but you said it better.

Howard said...

I quit watching figure skating when Dick Button retired.

MarkW said...

I find myself giving up on sports because they've already been refined to such a degree that the chances of seeing something new and interesting are near zero. Years ago, The Onion had an article with the title of 'Rich Guy Wins Yacht Race'. I feel the same about most sports now. 'Tiny Teen-Aged Girl Wins Olympic Skating Medal'. How is that interesting? What we need is an Olympics of newly invented sports where nobody has yet figured out all the best strategies and techniques. I'd probably watch that.

Barry Dauphin said...

Speaking of trying to score points with Russians, apparently Adam Schiff was on state sponsored Russia TV 5 years ago talking about the importance of transparency in the FISA process. You can't make this stuff up.

Static Ping said...

The Olympics are so corrupt at this point that I am not sure if the cure/disease analogy is appropriate. It is more a discussion of which sort of makeup looks better on the corpse.

That said, any Olympic sport that is reliant on judges is necessarily suspect. If there are no objective standards then results are dubious. Even sports where judging should be fairly straightforward like boxing are notorious for horrifically bad and/or obviously biased decisions. It is said that the only sport more corrupt that professional boxing is Olympic boxing.

William said...

Has Nike developed a hijab for Olympic figure skaters?

Bad Lieutenant said...


jimbino said...
Strange to worry about muscle strains while continuing to allow mutilation of little boys' sex organs.

2/7/18, 10:28 AM


Well, the infant bris forever, Jimbo, so strange or not, you can do what you like worrying about muscle strains. Don't worry, someday one of these health food places will invent bottled smegma and then you'll be all set.

mockturtle said...

To me, the best figure skating program is one where the skater does NOT fall on his/her ass. Falling on one's ass detracts from the elegance of the performance. Bigly.

Ann Althouse said...

“I quit watching figure skating when Dick Button retired.”

At first I thought you meant retired from skating.

It was so much better when he was announcing.