Up until 2020, I had never been interested in any kind of sport. Apart from the feminist urge to see all women’s sports thrive, I did not know what it felt like to be invested in a team, an athlete or a sport in general. But somehow, in the past two years, I’ve turned into an avid follower of figure skating.
The sport first caught my attention in 2018, when a video of the Olympic gold-winning performance by Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot popped into my timeline and took my breath away. There were dizzying spins, synchronised jumps, dangerous stunts and dance sequences, all performed gracefully on ice while balancing on a pair of metal blades barely five millimetres wide. It was mesmerising.
YouTube algorithms gradually led me to some of the greatest hits from recent years: Yulia Lipnitskaya’s beautiful skate to Schindler’s List, Yuna Kim’s elegance, Evgenia Medvedeva’s theatrics and of course, the “world’s greatest skater”, Yuzuru Hanyu.
Figure skating has a way of drawing you into its world of glamour, beauty, intrigue and controversy. I moved from “Wow, how do they do it?” to asking more technical questions: What makes one jump more difficult from another? How do they spin at that speed without toppling over? Why does everyone love to hate that grim-faced Russian women’s coach? And why does it rain Winnie-the-Poohs every time Yuzuru Hanyu finishes a skate?
Now, after two years of following all the major elite competitions, I’m like every other figure skating fan around the world: on edge about the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. Most of the drama has been coming out of Russia, where four teenaged jumping stars and one veteran skating “empress” are battling for just three Olympic qualification spots. And then there’s Hanyu, already a winner of two Olympic golds, who has us all holding our breaths: will he land the impossibly difficult quadruple Axel jump?
I leave you with this video of 15-year-old Kamila Valieva – almost definitely the next women’s Olympic champion – setting a new world record in the Rostelecom Cup 2021.
Read all the articles in the Comfort zone series here.