ST. PAUL, Minn. --The ladies competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships was billed as a "battle of the ages," but the so-called battle turned into a rout. The kids blew the oldsters away, and the 13,000 fans in St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center couldn't have been happier to witness the evolution.
Second place went to another Californian, 15-year-old
What happened to last year's medalists? Age and infirmity. Such is the state of figure skating in 2008, where female competitors seem to grow older by dog years. The defending U.S. champion,
So the torch has been passed. All the torches. A new generation has stepped to the fore and, skating fans and officials are hoping that Nagasu, Wagner, Flatt and Zhang will scratch and claw away at one another through the next Olympic cycle or two, creating rivalries to match the great rivalries of the past:
But I have another scenario, and it's not nearly so rosy. Because skating's new scoring system rewards and encourages outlandish spin positions that put incredible strain on the spine, because junior skaters are now doing all the same jumps as seniors and because of the wear and tear each year of jumping imparts on their young, growing bodies, I fear that the girls who so charmed us in St. Paul in 2008 will, by 2010, be replaced by a fresh new crop of faces.
Women's figure skating has become gymnastics on ice, where the supple young bodies of 14 and 15 year olds simply can do more tricks at higher speeds than the body of a woman who's gone through puberty. And those supple young bodies break down. Under the old 6.0 system, judges could use the second mark -- the presentation mark -- to reward the elegance and style of a Michelle Kwan, a
Three-time U.S. men's champion
Let us enjoy watching these young ladies while we can. Because, if history is any guide, they have the shelf life of beautiful mayflies.