Figure Skating

I was a little late to the Olympics watching (I missed the opening ceremonies and first few days, including the new “team figure skating”) but I’ve been trying to catch up. I’ve seen skeleton, luge, slopestyle skiing, halfpipe snowboarding, biathlon (which you’d think Americans would have embraced more because of our evident love of guns, but I guess trying to just hit a specific target is too challenging…), and a couple of other things too. I did miss the Bob Costas pink-eye fiasco, but that’s probably for the best.

Figure skating is my favorite sport. It’s beautiful, artistic, and technically challenging all at the same time, and accompanied by instrumental music, often violin (!).

I think that playing the violin is similar to figure skating. You work for many many years to gain your technical expertise (scales, scales, and more scales!), and then when you put it all together, you don’t want the technique to be all that the audience sees. Sure, those triple and quadruple jumps are important to land, effortless (or shifts, in violin), but if that’s all you worry about, the audience isn’t moved. But, if you MISS a jump (or a shift, or a series of notes), then that’s all the audience and judges notice. And if you do mess up, then it’s all about what happens next. You have to leave it behind in your performance and just stay in the moment (or a few seconds ahead of the moment, always planning ahead, but not looking back) and continue to do your best performance.

The one thing figure skaters get that we violinists rarely do is the wide scale audience! As popular as the Olympics are, I don’t think the yearly World competitions and smaller scale competitions get nearly the coverage, so it’s similar in a way—you work so hard, for so long, and mostly people don’t appreciate what you do, or truly understand the effort and skill involved. Perhaps they even discount your hard work by constantly referring to your “talent” for the sport, rather than realizing that it is primarily the time you have put into your craft that sets you above others. (This is a major pet peeve of mine. Rarely do people say someone has a “talent” for surgery or business. Often the idea that an artist has “talent” is what keeps our pay low, rather than thinking we are driven or hard working.)

But I’m not trying to get on a soapbox here. Honestly, I just love watching the Olympics. I’ve never been much of an ice skater, and I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding, so it’s all just amazing to me to watch. And you can also tell, that despite all the hard work and training the athletes put in, they are generally having the best time of their life showing off their skills, and that’s so important. I can’t imagine flipping around in the air like so many of the athletes do, or moving so fast, but I know how it feels to really nail a challenging part of a piece for the first time, or under pressure, and it is the best feeling in the world! I also know how it feels to fail to reach your goals, no matter how hard you worked for them.

I don’t know how it feels to wear an all pink body suit though. That needs to be something I do soon, right?

What’s your favorite Olympic sport? Am I trying to make the Olympics too much about me by likening it to playing the violin? Should I step down from my fancy soap box?

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