Bad Behavior And Mean Girls At the Winter Olympics

Dear Readers:

The Russian press is starting to pick up negative stories coming out of the Winter Olympics.  Mostly involving rudeness and unsportsmanlike behavior of American athletes.  Here are a couple of such stories, this one involving the snubbing of a Russian Skeleton crew, and this one involving the highly politicized sport of female figure skating, and some bratty comments made by one of the American girls.

“Americans and Canadians don’t even say hello to us…”

Skeletonist Nikita Tregubov relates that the Russian Skeleton team is having a tough time over there in Pyeongchang.  Their coach, Willi Schneider, was banned from this Olympics.  Or rather, he was banned from coaching the Russian team; I believe he is actually over there in South Korea, as we speak, but is coaching the Chinese team.  Without a coach, the orphaned waifs of the Russian Skeleton guys are making do as best they can.

A skeleton with eyebrows: Nikita Tregubov

The Americans won’t say hello to us, because they are politically inclined against us,” Tregubov reports.  “But we don’t care.  Oh, and the Brits are like that too.  Why?  Who knows?  I don’t give a rat’s ass.  If they won’t even say hello to us, then they can just go to ****”

On the other hand, Tregubov adds, the Canadian athletes are polite and say hello to their Russian counterparts.  Which makes sense, to anybody who has ever met a Canadian:  These are a scrupulously courteous people.  And that’s the way it should be, in my humble opinion.

Nikita goes on to explain how the skeleton crew make do without a coach:  “We get the bobsled coaches to stand along the track and videotape us.  Now, you understand that skeleton and bobsled are two completely different things!  So we have to tell the (bobsled) coaches where to stand and what to video.  We send the videos back to our own kind (in Russia), and they analyze our (training runs).  This type of remote training is very far from the way we usually train.  Usually after we do a training run, we do an instant post-mortem and corrective, and then off for another run.  Now we can’t do that.”

Nikita went on to say, that the Russian biathletes and sledders (who are in the same situation, competing without a coach) are being helped by friendly coaches from other nations.  However, that won’t and can’t happen in the Skeleton, due to the high level of competitiveness.

Everybody knows that Ashley Wagner is a brat

The next story concerns an American brat named Ashley Wagner.  Gossips note that this is not the first time Ashley has made unsportsmanlike comments, directed either at judges/referees, or at her fellow competitors.  In the past, some of her brattier outbursts were corrected by none other than American statesman Scotty Hamilton, who tried to explain to Ashley, in big-brotherly affectionate fashion, that criticizing figure skating judges is not the best political move in such a highly-regulated and technical sport.

But my gossip sources dish that Ashley is a 26-year-old brat who never grew up, and never listened to good advice.  As a result of which, she shot her mouth off again last month and did not win herself an Olympic berth.  So now, she cavils from the sidelines, picking apart the programs of others, but with special attention to Russian skater Alina Zagitova.

Alina Zagitova

Alina is a 15-year-old prodigy hailing from Russia’s backwoods:  Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic; her father Ilnaz being a hockey coach.  Fortunately, the diminutive Alina picked figure skating instead of hockey as her sport!  Now, there happens to be an event called “Team Figure Skating” at the Olympics, and just yesterday Alina received the highest technical score ever for an individual lady:  158.08.  This being a team sport, with the team total determining the winner, it goes without saying, that it behooves each member of the team to strategize on behalf of the entire team, how to win the most points in a single performance.  Alina’s gift to her team enabled it to garner the Silver Medal; with Canada taking the Gold, and the United States the Bronze.

Everybody is happy about the result.  Everybody except Ashley Wagner.  Who took it upon herself to criticize not only Alina’s program, but also the judges who awarded it so many points.  Here is Ashley’s catty tweet:

Ok. I respect the competitive approach. But no cannot do this set up. It’s not a program. She killed time in the beginning and then just jumped the second half. It’s not a performance. I understand that this is what the system allows but it’s not all figure skating is about.

Ashley, of course, is the expert in what figure skating is all about.  She is referring to the fact that Alina (and her coach, choreographer, and the team in general) created a strategic program for her, which maximized the number of points she could accrue in a single program.  Since jumps are worth more in the second half of the program (because the skater is presumably more tired then), Alina saved most of her jumps for the second half.  And so on.

Lycasek proved that men’s skating is a sport based on strategy.

A similar “strategizing” approach enabled American figure skater Evan Lysacek to defeat Russian rival Evgeny Plushenko in the 2010 Olympics, even though Lysacek did not have a quadruple jump.  Plushenko, at the time, was the bad sport, questioning the outcome.  I took Lysacek’s side.  The rules are the rules.  Lysacek was suffering from an injury, he did not have a quad, but he was able to design a very clever program that showcased everything else in his arsenal, while also geared to maximize points.  It worked, and he won, fair and square.

Analogously, Zagitova earned her points fair and square, and it is not for the likes an Ashley Wagner to criticize her, nor the judges either.  She should tend to her own technical training; not to mention her manners.

Judge for yourselves.  I couldn’t find Alina’s team Olympic program on youtube, it’s probably still commercially protected.  But here is a vid of her short program from a month or so ago, at the 2018 Europeans.  It appears to fit the same pattern as her long program described by Wagner, the first part filled with gorgeous footwork, spirals and twirls (what Wagner calls “killing time”) and then splendid and beautifully executed triple jumps in the second half.   This little girl is a real talent, thank goodness her papa put her into figure skates and not hockey skates!

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9 Responses to Bad Behavior And Mean Girls At the Winter Olympics

  1. Jen says:

    Ashley Wagner must have her eye on an even bigger prize: being US Ambassador to the United Nations. Best to start training early then.

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  2. Chinese American says:

    With Plushenko, there was a bigger issue at stake–within the sport of figure skating–than just the placements (which was a separate argument), and the controversy was about more than being a “good” or “bad” sport. There were also many well-known figures in skating, including a number of North Americans, who took his side. (IMHO, the controversy about placement was also far more justified in that case, due to a number of detailed reasons, including certain letter from American judges that really seemed unethical to me. In any case, it was neither the first nor the last such controversies in skating.) In my opinion, the direction of development of men’s figure skating since 2010 has vindicated Plushenko.

    Ashley Wagner was also rather self-righteous about Russia around the time of Sochi, if I recall. But to be honest, what she says about Alina’s program here doesn’t bother me: people says all sorts of things in FS circles. This probably isn’t the worst I’ve seen. There really isn’t a controversy about the result here.

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    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for your intelligent comment, Chinese American. It’s true that Ashley’s tweet was not all that egregious in the scheme of things, and nor was there an actual controversy over the result — it’s just that Ashley has a history of bratty behavior that I wanted to underscore. More against judges and referees, probably, than her fellow skaters.

      As for Plushenko, I don’t know that he had a “side” to take. He skated a great program including a quad, he racked up X number of points, and he took the silver medal at the Olympics. Not a shabby feat. I wasn’t aware that there were any allegations against the American judges for unethical behavior, could you describe that situation?

      I remember watching that particular match glued to my TV set. I was rooting for Plushenko. I usually root for the Russian side unless there is some specific reason not to, or somebody I really like better. When the results were posted, I experienced some disappointment, but also felt that Lysacek (whose name, by the way, I just noticed I have misspelled in my post — I will fix that pronto) had won fair and square. The only way that he could win without a quad was to strategize and maximize every other element. He could not make one single mistake in his technical elements — and he didn’t. He also showed a great style and beauty of form in his presentation. His footwork was also better than Plushenko’s, in my opinion. None of which detracts from Plushenko’s greatness as a skater.

      In addition, I was disappointed in Plushenko for displaying poor sportsmanship. If an athelete truly feels they were cheated, then they should take up the matter in private. In public they should show only the most professional face. I do credit Plushenko that he calmed down and was more manly on the podium, courteously shaking Evan’s hand, etc.

      Well, there are obviously differences in philosophy about men’s figure skating, what it really means, and what the future entails. If the “quad” is the future of men’s skating, then what about all the other elements? Or will the first man who lands the first “quint” automatically win the Olympics?
      🙂

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      • Chinese American says:

        Thanks so much for your reply! I am sorry that I didn’t get a chance to see it earlier. I am by no means an expert on skating, and I will be the first to say that I’m not exactly “objective” when it comes to Plushenko. 😉 I guess, I wouldn’t say the quad was the “future” of men’s skating. It was an established component that has been considered essential since the 90’s. I think during most of the period, most skating followers would agree that a quadless program would simply be considered as of a lower level overall. It is even more so now. During the period of 2006-2010, fewer male singles skaters were able to do quads consistently. It could be argued that the scoring system did not properly reward its successful completion (quads are far, far more difficult than triples). To someone like Plushenko, and to many others, to have a quadless Olympic gold performance really is a sign of a decline in the level of men’s skating. This was one of the reasons why the Vancouver 2010 result was so controversial. For example, the Canadian world champion Elvis Stojko immediately wrote a (well-publicized) Yahoo article, calling it “the night they killed figure skating”, words that are far stronger than Plushenko’s:
        https://www.yahoo.com/news/night-killed-figure-skating-070000273–oly.html

        There were many arguments similar to Stojko’s, and of course many others who argued against it. did seem to me that outside of North America, there were probably more who were pro-quad and pro-Plushenko. (Stojko himself is usually fairly pro-North American; he must’ve been really angry about this.) The base score for quad jumps were raised that same year, and the very public controversy was a big part of the reason. Male singles skaters started to jump quads again, and by now, what Plushenko said–that the quad is essential in men’s skating–is no longer in any way controversial. It’s not that the other components of skating are’t important, but nowadays, I think the consensus is that jumps really are, by far, the most important, and it would have to take a lot to overcome the lack of quad jumps in men’s skating. Without Plushenko being so publicly “unsportsmanlike”, things might have been quite different. If one is to be “professional” as a skater, and one has strong beliefs about the future of the sport being at stake, shouldn’t that come before being outwardly “nice”? There were many incidences when athletes disagreed or complained about scores and placements, but this is the only incidence I can think of where the “ungracious” words–men’s skating must have quads–were actually repeated by many fans, and taken up as an inspirational slogan.

        (Who should have gotten the gold at Vancouver–under the rules that were in place at that time–was a separate controversy. I don’t remember all the arguments on both sides, and one gets into a large number of details involving both short and long programs, but there were things that were supposed to be objectively scored that were issues, such as Lysacek’s prerotation on his 3A’s, etc. The scores were close, so a half point here and another 0.3 there addded up. There were also various happenings before the competition, such as an American judge emailing the panel of judges for the Vancouver men’s skating arguing for scoring Plushenko lower. I am fine with athletes, coaches, general commentators saying whatever they think, but people in authority in the sport trying to influence results ahead of time is something else.)

        I have to say that personally, I am not always a big fan of “sportsmanship” in the sense of always accepting the results graciously, especially in figure skating, since there is definitely plenty of room for subjectivity and politics, and the judges are definitely often open to influences outside of the competition itself. I remember reading an American fan saying that she thought Plushenko should have gotten the gold at Vancouver, but he was still a jerk for saying what he said, even though he was right. Maybe it’s cultural, but that’s something I just don’t understand.

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      • Chinese American says:

        I apologize for going on about this…I tend to when it comes to Vancouver, I have to confess! With Ashley Wagner, I don’t know the circumstances in which she criticized the judges, but that in and of itself is fine with me (maybe even increases my opinion of her a bit).

        On the merits of her comments this time, I just think they are manifestly ridiculous and easily refuted. She seems to be saying that it’s “not a program” unless the jumps are evenly distributed. Aside from the wild exaggeration, the only possible justification for a “balanced” program is aesthetic. (The justification for putting jumps toward the second half is that they’re physically harder.) In Alina’s case, they clearly put a lot of thought into her program, e. g. with her music, to make it work, and what I saw everywhere the last few days are people saying “Wow, who’s that girl? She’s amazing! Exciting! Beautiful!” So there is really no aesthetic issue here. Wagner’s comment just comes across as a narrow-minded view of figure skating.

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        • yalensis says:

          Thanks again for your comments, Chinese American. These are well-thought out arguments and express a consistent point of view. I would say this is a good summary of the “philosophical differences” about men’s figure skating.
          As to Elvis Stojko’s comments, Elvis is obviously a person to be listened to, but he has a dog in the fight, so to speak. In that his greatest glory as a skater was his quads, and he obviously believes very strongly that a man’s program is not a man’s program without a quad. I would say that he is mostly right, but that there are certain exceptions. Once again, Evan would have never been able to win without a quad, unless the rest of his program was of the absolute perfection. I wasn’t aware there was any controversy about Evan’s pre-rotated axels. For the referees, there is a certain amount of wiggle room there, like maybe a 45-degree pre-rote is okay.

          I don’t deny that skating judges and referees can be devious and plotting. American judges are notorious for this, and they are fiercely nationalistic. But in figure skating it is a fact that judges have a lot of leeway, and what might be considered unethical in a different sport, is considered okay here. For example, judges routinely watch and analyze the skaters practicing their programs. It gives them a “heads-up”, and many of them practically make up their minds in advance, how they are going to score. There is also a culture of “collusion”, where judges consult with each other and even bargain over scores. There is a grey line which they are not supposed to cross. Hence, I don’t deny that the American judges may have already had their minds made up that Evan’s program was good enough to squeak through, and that they may have communicated such to judges from other countries. In the end, though, Evan still had to perform perfectly, for it all to work. One single bobble, or fall, and he would have been taking the Silver instead of the Gold.

          In summary,
          I would contend that skaters should litigate to their hearts content off the ice, but I still feel that skaters should suck it up in public. Again, this is just a philosophical difference. Americans are known for being public boasters when they win, and bratty poor sports when they lose. Until recently, Russians were considered more “oriental” in their public politeness and discipline. In recent decades, though, under capitalism, Russian athletes are becoming more like Americans in their public personas, and I personally don’t think this is a good development. Again, that’s just me.

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  3. Cortes says:

    Talking about bad girls, I saw something just now which might explain about a couple of your old pals…from Wikipedia on the Dowager Empress:

    The Tongzhi Emperor’s marriage to the Jiashun Empress Edit

    Portrait of Empress Xiaozheyi, also known as the Jiashun Empress and “Lady Alute”, who had the approval of Empress Dowager Ci’an but never Cixi’s. It is widely speculated that the Empress was pregnant with the Tongzhi Emperor’s child and that Cixi orchestrated the empress’s demise.

    Ceremonial headdress likely worn by Cixi. The small phoenixes emerging from the surface represent the empress.[13] The Walters Art Museum
    In 1872, the Tongzhi Emperor turned 17. Under the guidance of the Empress Dowager Ci’an, he was married to the Jiashun Empress. The empress’s grandfather, Prince Zheng, was one of the eight regents ousted from power in the Xinyou Coup of 1861. He had been Cixi’s rival during the coup and was ordered to commit suicide after Cixi’s victory. As a consequence, there were tensions between Cixi and the empress, and this was often a source of irritation for Cixi. Moreover, the empress’s zodiac symbol of tiger was perceived as life-threatening by the superstitious Cixi, whose own zodiac symbol was a goat. According to Cixi’s belief, it was a warning from the gods that she would eventually fall prey to the empress.

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    • yalensis says:

      In her youth, Cixi was known as the first Chinese Empress who ever landed a Triple Axel in competition. At the Royal Ice Princess Festival, she was to be pitted against Ci’an. Ci’an did not have a triple axel, but she had a dazzling spiral sequence known as the “Dowager Mother”. Fearful of losing, Cixi sneaked into Ci’an dressing room and clubbed her on the knee with an iron rod. Ci’an screamed in pain: “Why me? Why me?”

      “Why indeed?” Cixi gloated. “Now you will to perform your Dowager Mother with a broken knee!”
      And so she did, and this was how the so-called “Attitude Spiral” was invented.

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