Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who Won the Rivalry?

Part of what makes figure skating great are some of the amazing rivalries that have existed. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the rivalries fresh in our mind and decide...who won?!?!

Also, click on the links in this post for some fun YouTube trips down memory lane!

Alexei Yagudin vs Evgeny Plushenko: Yags v Plush. It seemed for a while these two where winning everything...and when one didn't win, the other got second place. It was ridiculous. It was even like their coaches would have snide little remarks about the other skater. I remember at one point Alexei Mishin (who in Yagudin's early days actually coached him) saying how Yagudin's best days where back in the junior ranks and Tatiana Tarasova called Evgeny Plushenko "plastic" at one point (what did that mean?). It all came to a head at the 2002 Olympics and fortunately for Yagudin, Plushenko decided to crash and burn on his quad combo in the short program leaving a free and clear gold medal path for Yagudin. But who wins this rivalry? I think if you look strictly at the competition between them, Yagudin's World Championship 3-peat wins over Plushenko (1998, 1999, 2000) combined with that Olympic Gold and I think Yagudin is the clear winner. If you take a look at their careers as a whole, Plushenko has certainly been more successful having medaled in three consecutive Olympics. I think rivalries are more than simply competition against one another but careers as a whole and what you are able to achieve above and beyond your chief competitor. WINNER: Evgeny Plushenko

Michelle Kwan vs Tara Lipinski: When Tara hit the stage in 1996 with that quick program set to music from the "Speed" soundtrack and finished 3rd at U.S. Nationals, I was sure we were looking at a contender for Olympic Gold in 2002. Not to be, she quickly rose to the level of Michelle Kwan (who won her first national title in 1996) and a rivalry was born. Michelle owned the 1996 season, winning the 1996 World Title as well...Lipinski finished 15th. But 1997 was an entirely different story. Things looked like they would continue as they had the year prior...Kwan had easy wins on the Grand Prix while Tara just had okay performances. The tides turned for Tara at U.S. Nationals where Michelle Kwan suffered a major meltdown and finished 2nd (the meltdown wasn't so much in the placement but in the terrible performance) allowing Lipinski...at 14 years old...to take the title. Michellle's storm cloud above her head stuck with her as she lost to Lipinski at the Champion Series Final (now Grand Prix Final) and at the World Championships. All of this set up an Olympic year showdown and both skaters where hungry! Michelle Kwan looked good on the Grand Prix but then suffered an injury causing her to withdraw from the Champion Series Final where Tara easily clinched a victory. At Nationals, Michelle Kwan turned in one of the most memorable performances in U.S. Nationals history to take that title. The short program at the Olympics couldn't have been any more suspenseful with both ladies skating flawlessly. But the much decried triple loop-triple loop from Tara Lipinski sealed the deal in the free and she took Olympic Gold. Ultimately, however, its about a career as a whole. WINNER: Michelle Kwan

Johnny Weir vs Evan Lysacek: The recent Twitter drama has me about sick of this rivalry. I wouldn't even call it a rivalry really if the media didn't make it so. Maybe it became a rivalry at the 2006 Olympics when Lysacek got ahead of Johnny for the first time (he finished 4th to Weir's 5th)? I don't even feel like it was a real rivalry until 2008 when they tied at U.S. Nationals but Evan won the tie-breaker to take the title. Then it was like, "Oh it's on bitch!" Johnny still seemed to be getting the better end of it during the Grand Prix in 2008. Evan failed to make the Grand Prix Final while Johnny took the Bronze. At Nationals they both lost out as Jeremy Abbott won the title, Evan only finishing 3rd and Johnny, well, not even on the podium. But that's when Evan kicked it up a notch, narrowly missing the Four Continents title in 2009 but then running away with the World Title. Johnny made a good run at Evan in the Olympic Season but didn't have the chops to keep up. Evan won the Grand Prix Final, Johnny third. While Evan again lost the National Title to Abbott, he was second to Johnny's third. And of course Evan scooted out of Vancouver with Olympic Gold...Johnny was 6th. I'm somewhat certain we are done seeing these two compete against each other in the competitive arena but their rivalry or what I would actually call a bitch-fest continues. They just keep trying to media-up one another and it's getting old. The last stunt Evan pulled about not being sure if Johnny was a girl was in poor taste...but Johnny's has pulled some zingers of his own. WINNER: Evan Lysacek on the condition he stops the bitch-fest.

Kim Yu-Na vs Mao Asada: This is the hottest rivalry in skating currently. This rivalry is so intense their fans are often ridiculous about it. I mean, computer servers have been shut down over these two. They are both so magnificently matched in talents and abilities. It's just crazy. They've been trading titles back and forth for the past three years and you never know which one will win if they are in a competition together. Mao has two World Titles to Kim's one but Kim has the Olympic Gold to Mao's Silver. I guess we can give Kim another point for having the World Record score, but then Mao is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Triple Axels completed by a woman in a competition. In the end, its ridiculously close between these two! WINNER: Undecided...I don't think we can call this one yet but Kim Yu-Na is ahead by just a smidge.

Brian Boitano vs Brian Orser: The storied Battle of the Brian's between American Brian Boitano and Canadian Brian Orser is one of the biggest rivalries in skating history. Both equally matched in skill and ability, their rivalry came to a head at the 1998 Olympics in Orser's home country of Canada. Brian Orser also had won the previous season's World Championship ahead of Boitano and entered the competition as the slight favorite. After the short program, both were nearly tied but a bobble on a triple flip in the free skate allowed Brian Boitano to slip through and win the title...and the Battle of the Brian's. But picking a winner of the overall rivalry between these two is tough. While Boitano has the Olympic Gold, Orser has two Silver's. You do have to give points to Boitano because he competed in a third Olympics (Lillehammer) while Orser only competed in two. Does Orser get points for coaching Kim Yu-Na? Boitano for having a show on Food Network? WINNER: It's a tie! Disagree...well it's my blog!

Tonya Harding vs Nancy Kerrigan: The knee whack heard round the world got everyone to tune in to what was going on between these two prior to the 1994 Olympics. But these two in fact did have a history prior to the 1994 U.S. Nationals. Both had a National Title under their belts prior to 1994. Both had a smattering of medals from various international events including the World Championships (that includes the 1991 U.S. sweep of Yamaguchi/Kerrigan/Harding). Tonya had something Nancy didn't have though...a triple axel. After the attack on Nancy at the 1994 U.S. Nationals, Tonya went on to win the title but at the Olympics it was a sad story for Tonya. Her entire career seemed to crumble in front of her and finished 8th while Nancy soared to Silver, narrowly missing the Gold in a 5-4 judging decision. Details of the attack had come out prior to the Olympics, Connie Chung was following her everywhere, she couldn't get her shoe-lace on her boot tied, it was a press nightmare everywhere she went, and she couldn't keep it together. On March 16th 1994, Tonya avoided jail time by pleading guilty to conspiring to hinder an investigation, was stripped of her National title, and banned from all future eligible competitions. WINNER: Nancy Kerrigan...as if it could go any other way?

Did I call it right? Would you call it differently? Weigh-in!

31 comments:

Ice Mom said...

Aaron, you make me laugh!

WINNER: It's a tie! Disagree...well it's my blog!

Anonymous said...

The concept of Yuna vs Mao rivalry was so obscure for me the moment Yuna took the final pose at the end of her Olympic free program. Now that Yuna has nothing much left to prove and her motivation for competing wholeheartedly is questionable, competition between the two will never be the same.

Gigi said...

"The concept of Yuna vs Mao rivalry was so obscure for me the moment Yuna took the final pose at the end of her Olympic free program."

I felt the same, too! While I think Yu-Na wants to keep skating, I feel like Mao really has the drive to take herself all the way to Sochi now.

Anonymous said...

All the better then. I would be relieved if the tension that the Mao/Yuna rivalry creates among fans die down a bit. It will be interesting to see if any upcoming skaters will step up to challenge them in the future. Aaron, is your criteria for judging these rivalries based on actual achievements in their careers or who's a better skater overall?

Aaron said...

I just kind of looked at careers as a whole and thought...who is seemed to be on their A-game the longest?

Ash said...

I have to disagree with you on the winner between Evan and Johnny. In my opinion, at least Johnny has shown remorse and has acknowledged his mistakes when he has made them. Evan has a history of doing the complete opposite. And frankly speaking, he is no role model.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Kim&Asada are rival, NOW. Well.. Kim is better than Asada in terms of jumps, spins, skills and artistry. Asada's career is just great but IMO, she won world title cuz Kim had lots mistakes at 2010 worlds. When Kim skate perfectly, Asada doesn't beat her even Kim had one mistake. So.. I really hope Asada improves next season. ;)

Tonichelle said...

pretty much agree with all of it, but I think the day both Weir and Lysacek shut up the fans will come out ahead. They're more drama than the girls locker room in a high school. So done with it all.

Anonymous said...

The Olympics provided Yuna and Mao a perfect stage to show the world who is the top dog among them. The two were in the same group, one taking the ice immediately after the other, in both short and long. Even the order was reversed; for short Mao performed first, and for long Yuna went for it first. You could not plan for this kind of set up, and it was at the Olympics. Talk about the odds of this happening. And we now all know the result of that showdown of a lifetime, and the margin of the result.

Anonymous said...

Mao and Yuna had a great rivalry before the latter's scores starting becoming super inflated.
Scores don't show the whole thing. They are quite evenly matched technically and artistically.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, are you begging attention for this whole entry? Is's no better than US media!

Aaron said...

Well I can't say I mind when people visit my blog but "begging for attention" seems a bit off the mark. How am I begging? Just curious...

Anonymous said...

Yuna's score surpassed Mao's because her talent, skills and presentation are superior. It's not even before scores are discussed. Even the most casual figure skating viewers can see the difference. People have eyes and they recognize when a better thing is presented to them. Simple as that.

Japanese media is the only source in the world from which you will hear that Mao has an upperhand in technicality.

Anonymous said...

"Yuna's score surpassed Mao's because her talent, skills and presentation are superior"
Isn't that only an opinion? Of course that's an opinion held by a lot of her fans and some even to extreme degrees.

"Japanese media is the only source in the world from which you will hear that Mao has an upperhand in technicality."
Not true. Before the Olympics, I read many US articles where they kept on talking about Mao as the more technical one.

"People have eyes and they recognize when a better thing is presented to them. Simple as that."

People also have brains and they also know when scores are inflated. :)

Just because her fans keep on repeating this opinion doesn't mean it's a true fact. Yuna was the deserved winner at the Olympics, but that doesn't mean she's the better skater on all accounts. As a longtime skating fan who also have friends who are both serious and casual skating fans, I know this opinion isn't felt by everyone.

Amy said...

Uhuh, of course. Yuna Kim is a scam, the whole world was bought out with her bazillion dollars, and Mao Asada is TRUFAX the most beautiful, elegant, most technically brilliant skater (BETTER THAN MOST MEN!!!) of all time. REAL fans of skating know the truth!!!

These aren't even serious SKATING rivalries except for the Brians and Yagudin vs Plushenko. Johnny and Evan's public catfight has no bearing on their respective figure skating careers.

Most of the casual skating fans I know do not even know who Mao Asada is. And thanks to the Olympics, Plushenko is known as that d******** Russian guy.

People also have brains and they know when your rabble is seriously pathetic, desperate, and rabidly delusional. You better be thankful that someone can be called a "rival" just for picking up the leftovers only when the ace isn't in top form :) Kind of like the Real Madrid game I went to last week, when they allowed two goals in the first half with their C-list lineup, and came back in the second with the top dogs to show them who was boss. There was never a doubt, you see. It was the deceptive margin of hope in the first half that was cruel and misleading ;)

Anonymous said...

Some Mao fans just don't know when to stop and let it go... and putting smiley face wouldn't hide how desperate they sound. US media might have said Mao did her 3As but I never read any article that Mao is technically superior - understandable considering Mao's programs were missing 3-3, a single 3lz or any real transitions. Besides, I wouldn't even go how many non-Japanese media (I know at least two) questioned whether Mao's 3A was fully rotated at the Olys.

What some Mao fans wouldn't admit is that no matter how Mao and her fans are fired up for another chance to prove she is better than Yuna, there won't be any more such chances. Mao had the chance of her lifetime to do so and she blew it. In Yuna's words, Yuna accomplished everything she wanted as an athlete and is content with her career. Now She may probably retire after this season, at this point she doesn't give a rat's rear about proving who is better because she already showed the world. She might choose to compete at Worlds this March or even might choose to compete in Sochi, but it will never be the same.

By the way, to Mao and her fans, good luck next season with her 3 Axels or quads :) (I gotta put a smiley face here, pardon me)

Anonymous said...

Give me a half hour and I can find 20 news articles saying how Yuna solidified her position as a skater in the league of her own at the Olympics through her historic performances.

Where Aaron even got the idea that Yuna and Mao are still the "hottest rivalry" is a mystery to me.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, please. Putting two skaters photos side by side and saying they are 'the hottest rivals' doesn't make them rivals. It's borderline embarrassing.

Who gives a crap about Kim-Asada competition any more, other than some bitter Mao fans? It's over folks. Yuna won at the Olys, and people in the world saw what they saw. Move on.

I wish Yuna does more ice shows from now on and showcases more gala programs.

jamie said...

regarding Yuna vs Mao, it really boils down to this question:

who's career would you rather have?

my answer: Yuna without a doubt.
she's got the talent, the looks, the records, the medals, the money and that unexplainable x factor.

Mao has all of the above minus the x factor and the ogm.

suteneko said...

Aaron, you used to say like "Stop a feud, both KIM and ASADA are beautiful skaters". Towards coming figure skating season, KIM-fan and Asada-fan are quite happy with fresh programs of their queens. And now, why you write something to compare those beautiful talented skaters, something which will fire fan's rivalry? You could have seen the reaction of KIM-fan and ASADA-fan against this post.

Anonymous said...

Aaron might have secretly enjoyed the feuds between Yuna fans and Mao fans all along...:)

clarice said...

regarding the so-called Yuna vs Mao rivalry.

my take is that--

Yuna may be Mao's rival, but Yuna's rival is herself.

as for Tara and MK.. lol!
tara has NOTHING on MK... geez!

Val said...

This was entertaining to read! I think there's something to be said about Abbott since he was, in a sense, able to break up the "Evan and Johnny show" 2 straight years at Nationals. Jeremy's been very smart for trying to stay out of the media and for not becoming involved in the "bitch fest."

Speaking of Evan & Johnny's rivalry, you might get a kick out of this video. My friend & I did a skating routine where we did a remake of the 2008 Nationals. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XA6fNkkW8ho

Caroline said...

I don't think that Brian Boitano gets ANY points for the 1994 Olympics. :)

Aaron said...

Having to delete comments is always the highlight of my day.

Czar said...

I love this poll, especially for the Mao VS Yu Na votes. Totally agree with the 'undecided' verdict because these two have such great futures ahead of them, though one Olympic gold may possibly deter Yu Na from trying again at Sochi. Either way, I am all for team Asada!!!

Anonymous said...

^ tried to be sneaky but failed... (laugh)

Anonymous said...

Vote as much as you wish. :)

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is where are all the people who said Plushy should have won over Evan b/c he did a quad? By that logic, Asada should have won over Kim because she did 3A.

And yes, Aaron likes the controversy. So what? It's his blog and that's what bloggers are supposed to do: Make thought provoking statements that people will respond to.

walover165 said...

*shakes head in confusion*

I don't understand - you're prepared to call the Brians a tie, but not Yagudin/Plushenko? For mine, you can't split them. Both incredible, amazing skaters who did so much for the sport and took it to new heights.

It's all very well to say, "What if Plushenko hadn't fallen in SLC?". But then you have to say, "What if Yagudin's hips weren't rubbish from the time he was eighteen?". THEN you have to say, "Well what if Plushenko wasn't bashed daily as a kid?". "Well what if Yagudin's dad had never walked out on them?"

It gets a bit ridiculous, TBH.

tl;dr If you're going to tie the Brians, then you have to tie Plushenko/Yagudin. Neither won. They were both supremely gifted skaters who simply thrashed everyone else.

Anonymous said...

You can't compare Alexei's career with Plush - Alexei was cut down in his prime by a hip injury...the guy was only 21 when he won the Olympics and 23 when he retired for christ sake!