Sunday, June 13, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want

or Lessons Learned from the North Shore Open Competition

I had to withdraw from this competition after months of practicing my program. I was proud of it. I love my music and I love the costume I am making for it. Of course, everything got put on hold when I got ill. Every time I skated I felt like I got the flu the next day. Life does tend to throw us curve balls.

Of course, I went to the competition anyway. My friend was skating in the adult silver group along with another woman I practice with regularly but don't know well. I set up an area in the stands with blankets and snacks so me, my coach, my very pregnant skating friend and my competing friend could all hang out together. It was great seeing everyone again. We caught up on all sorts of news and club gossip. Then the adults took to the ice.

The first group to compete was the prebronze freestyle which is the section I had to withdraw from. I felt that if I could have skated I would have had a chance at gold. I had one judge rank me first place in the last competition I was in and I got a bronze medal at my very first competition. I know I'm not supposed to want to get a medal, particularly a gold one, but I felt like I had a shot and was bummed that I wouldn't be able to go for it.

The first two competitors took the ice and they skated very well. The were both strong skaters who had poise and presentation even if their jumps and spins weren't spectacular. Then the last competitor took the ice. She was the youngest and this was only her second competition. She wasn't very strong and her arms were all over the place. I figured that she would come in last and I would have done well if I had been able to skate.

Later I found out that she got first place. What? Why? I started emailing my coach but we couldn't really have this conversation via email. Between my faulty memory and us talking through the competition itself I couldn't put my finger on why this seemingly weak skater had won.

After a bit of poking around on Facebook (one of the hazards of social networking) and finding the video of her skate on YouTube I figured it out. She basically sandbagged the competition. This is the practice of not taking tests that you are qualified to take in order to compete at a lower level so that you will win against less advanced skaters. While this is legal it is questionable ethically. I have no idea why she did this: nerves? coach? personal? But the day after the competition she passed her bronze freestyle test. So now I am FURIOUS!! This is SO not fair!! You see this happening with the younger skaters but the adults usually have more integrity than this. Now I not only have to compete with kids half my age but I have to compete with this girl that has no trouble sandbagging a competition. ARGH!! This sport is hard enough as it is without having to deal with these issues. This 20 something kid has all of her single jumps, a backspin and back three turns. Of course she won a gold medal she was competing with older adults that can barely do a sit spin and have maybe two or three full revolution jumps tops. She did a flip jump in a prebronze competition!! WTF!?!

Okay rant over, onto the lesson part of this blog entry: you can't always get what you want. Unlike tests, competitions are a one shot deal. There are no do overs if you trip and fall. Even if it is over a sequin a prior skater left on the ice. You can't do the competition over a month later because you didn't feel good that day. At best it is a crap shoot. It is not just a matter of one's skating ability. It is a matter of nerves; if your body can skate that day; if you are in pain that day; if you trip over your toe rake; the judges; the other skaters (I have also had to skate against men in the same flight as myself: my coach claims my bronze medal is really a silver since the gold medal winner was a guy so it didn't count). You never know what is going to happen. I skated perfectly at Colonial and got bronze and skated poorly at Worcester and one of the judges put me first. You just don't know. As the experts say you have to go into the competition with a goal in mind that doesn't involve earning hardware. I think my main lesson from this competition season is that the hardware awards are somewhat random. All you can do is prepare the best you can and then hope for a good skating day for the day of the actual competition. Sometimes the skating gods will smile down on you and other days they take a colossal dump on you. You have to learn to take it all in stride. To not let it rattle you. To get back up and do it all over again the next day, month, year. All in all I am pretty happy with my first competitive season. I won my medals honestly and I achieved my goals of getting over my nerves and skating my best under pressure. Well, the nerve thing still needs some work but I am doing much better than when I started. After all it is all about progress. Getting hardware is nice but it shouldn't be the be all and end all of skating. I'll just have to wait until next year to get my gold medal :-)

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