Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Op-Ed: Don't Blow Off the Grand Prix Final

I get really irked when skaters withdraw from the Grand Prix Final!

If there is a legitimate reason to do so (such as Joubert)...I get it. But it seems, at least to me, for the past several years, the number of skaters taking a pass on the Grand Prix Final for....cough cough...injury has increased quite a bit.

After we had a list of competitors set for the Grand Prix Final, people began tweeting me...who do you think is gonna withdraw first? It's become expected. I remember way back when they created the Grand Prix Final (then the Champion Series Final) this was a BIG event. If you made didn't withdraw.

When did the Grand Prix Final become so dispensable to competitors?

I'm not a competitive skater so I don't know how their brain thinks and works when it comes to competition; but as a well-informed spectator, I'd think that the Grand Prix Final is an invaluable opportunity. Even more valuable, I think, in an Olympic year. The Grand Prix Final will be the deepest field you'll have the opportunity to compete in prior to the Olympics. Even without all the top competitors, it still affords skaters their best "Olympic Dry Run." Four Continents Cup and Europeans offer a second shot but those are regionally constrained and, unlike the Grand Prix Final, find themselves inconveniently jammed between National Championships (for many competitors) and the Olympics.

And what if a skater goes despite the fact they may feel ill prepared? Can't as much be learned from the failure? If you go to a competition and lose...the judges have available for you a beautiful road map, called a scoring sheet, that tells you exactly what you need to do to turn that frown upside down. If I was a competitor and there was someone I wanted to beat, you better believe I would compete against them every possible chance I could. In the end, it's bound to pay dividends.

I get that skaters are always weighing the pros vs cons for going to these fall competitions. Is it smarter to expend the energy here as opposed to there. I get that in an Olympic year especially, it's a marathon, not a sprint. But from my perspective, what a competitor can gain from this particular competition is too valuable to pass up.

But that's just me.


Anonymous said...

I think that many U.S skaters who choose to forgo the Grand Prix final do so because they want more time to prepare for the U.S Nationals in January. I feel that it is good for them to get feed back from the international judges by participating in the Grand Prix Final but you have to remember what happened to Johnny Weir last year. He was sick going into the Grand Prix Final. He placed well at the Grand Prix but when he went to U.S Nationals he had not fully recovered from his illness at the Grand Prix and this affected his performance at U.S. Nationals. He skated so bad that he did not qualify for the World Championships. He was hoping that the USFSA would take pity on him and let him represent the U.S anyway but they sent the skaters who placed well in competition instead. As a former skater and parent of a competitive skater. I would chose to skate healthy and well at U.S Nationals to qualify for Worlds and the Olympics over the Grand Prix Final.

Anonymous said...

It's at least a 14 hour trip from the US to Japan. Add in jet lag, aches from being cramped in a plane, and being off your training schedule for at least a week to go, compete, return- I can sure see why some skaters find excuses to avoid it.

I'm very surprised Evan is going. He has nothing to prove, and just reputation to lose, if either Johnny or Jeremy beats him here. (and personally, I hope they BOTH do) Johnny and Jeremy will help their case for an Olympic berth by doing well here.

Takahashi needs the GPF to continue wiping off the rust he acquired being out a year. Oda probably doesn't need it- he's doing quite well- but hey-it's in Japan.

Verner doesn't need the GPF, but I'm glad to have him in the mix, he's a fun competitor.

I'll miss Joubert.

I'm also missing Kozuka already.

As a fan, I enjoy the GPF. I get to see top level competitors in a more controlled setting than the Olys or Worlds. The judges also seem more inclined to judge by performance instead of reputation. (case in point, Abbott last year)

Anonymous said...

A true competitor would want to compete with the best to see where they stand among their peers and work on the part they need to work on before Olympic. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top at Grand Prix final. What's the correlation between Grand Prix Final during the Olympic year and the Olympic medals?

Anonymous said...

The skaters spend roughly 6-8 months of the year not competing in anything but maybe some summer competitions. Then, they spend two months working their asses off to win a spot in the GPF. No true competitor would want to skip the GPF on purpose. The ice dancers may withdraw for bizarre and strange reasons, but I see no consistent evidence in the other 3 disciplines that skaters want to intentionally withdraw from the GPF. It's a prestigious event, an honor to qualify, and a great experience. There's plenty of time between this event and Nationals.

Sharon said...

Why do skaters bother to skate in the GP if they have no intention of skating in the final for which they must qualify? When did it become unimportant? And I'm sorry, I don't buy the "need more time" excuse. Or not wanting to face a competitor "too soon". If you need to tweak a program then do it. Get the feedback from the judges. Illness (true illness) or injury is the only reasons I see are legit. I don't think competitive skaters should have the option to withdraw just because they want to. As far as I know that's the way the ISU sees it, too. But the excuses are easy to come by, as we have seen. If someone says they are ill, can't really argue that.

Anonymous said...

Or what they can do is ISU send their own doctors to see what's wrong with the skater and determine who's truly ill and who's lying. The lying one gets ban from the Olympic and the Worlds for four years. I'm sure it'll straighten out those "ill" skaters faster than one say I'm sick.

Anonymous said...

With your wisdom tooth/teeth removed, you need several days to recover from anesthesia/surgery = you will actually stay in bed for at least 2 days after; you also can't eat anything other then pureed soups for a while. Belbin will not be able to skate for at least a week (even without doctor's orders) and will also return on the ice much weaker then before surgery. Does it really make sense for her to still compete in GP?
(On top of that, please remember that even top skaters are not machines. Wisdom tooth infection/ surgery is freaking painful!)