I've been watching Figure Skating these past couple of days and I am perplexed by the number of falls. Now, I have all the athletic ability of a one-legged, 22 year old, blind dog, so perhaps I'm not one to talk. And I fully realize there is now way I could even think about accomplishing what these Olympians do.
But the falls and mistakes surprise me. Here's why.
The routines they do in competition are the same ones they have done for weeks or months. The exact same moves are supposed to happen every time. They are supposed to happen at the exact point in the music at the same time. There are no outside elements to interfere with that.
As such, these moves are things that can be practiced over and over for days or weeks on end. All they need to do is duplicate that exact performance for the judges.
Easier said, than done, I know. But should that be the case? When this is your full-time job, or for many athletes, their full time life, is that expecting too much of them?
Part of being an Olympian is being prepared both physically and mentally for the realities of competition on the world stage. Maybe we should cut the teenagers in their first appearance some slack. But for everyone else, why isn't near perfection in their routines something we should expect?
And yet there are still the slips and falls on routines that should be as reflexive as breathing.
Are competitors trying too hard? Is the Olympics the time to try out new things they haven't mastered yet? Or are these routines unmasterable? In other words, are the Olympian cutting corners with practice, or have we finally reached the maximum the human body is capable of performing?
Unlike the events where players compete directly with someone, like Speed Skating, hockey, or Curling, there really should be nothing unexpected in a Figure Skating performance. The Olympians know their equipment, they know their partners, they know about ice, they know how much space they have, they know the moves they are going to do, the know the scoring system. They don't have to watch for tackle or interceptions.
So why do so many performers fall?
More specifically why do so many medalists medal in performances in which they fell? These people are the best in the world. It seems like executing their routines better is something we should expect.
I don't intend this as a slam of the Olympians. The skill, talent, and dedication they demonstrate is utterly amazing. But the whole thing kind of hurts my head.