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为什么美国花样滑冰可能在走下坡路?

更新时间:2014-2-7 11:51:02 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

Why U.S. Figure Skating May Be in Decline
为什么美国花样滑冰可能在走下坡路?

This year's U.S. Olympic figure-skating team could break a long-standing record in Sochi. But they're hoping they won't.

Americans have won a medal in at least one of figure skating's marquee events-women's and men's singles-in every Winter Olympics since 1948. There was Dick Button, then Tenley Albright. A host of others followed and became household names: Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill and Michelle Kwan. Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and, in 2010, Evan Lysacek.

But the podium in Sochi is a long shot for both the women and the men competing in singles this year. The most consistent U.S. woman- Ashley Wagner -barely made the team after an error-filled performance at the national championships last month. Top men's contender Jeremy Abbott stumbled at the Vancouver Olympics.

If there was a golden era for U.S. figure skating, it was the period after the tawdry drama of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. 'It actually brought notoriety and focus to skating,' says former Olympian Lisa-Marie Allen, who now officiates and was the assistant choreographer of the 2007 film 'Blades of Glory.' 'It goes with the old saying that any publicity is good publicity.'

'Skating was in the public eye,' says 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski.

Today, observers say the sport is losing athletes to winter pursuits like snowboarding. It's struggling with a new international judging system that is tough on athletes and hard for audiences to follow. Another problem: the lack of a U.S. medal contender in singles, rather than pairs or ice dance. 'Unfortunately, it's only when we have a marquee lady that the general public pays attention,' says Jenny Kirk, a former world junior champion.

While popularity has eroded in the U.S., it has expanded in Asian countries. South Korea's Yuna Kim, the reigning Olympic singles champion, has seen Dorothy Hamill-like levels of celebrity. She's so popular in her home country that her mother's memoir became a national best-seller. Kim's broad appeal is already drawing a new generation of South Koreans to skating.

The situation is similar in Japan, whose Mao Asada, the 2010 silver medalist, will challenge Kim for gold in Sochi. Three Japanese men are considered serious medal contenders, too.

'In Asia, it's huge and exploding,' says Elvis Stojko, a Canadian Olympic silver medalist in 1994 and 1998. In the U.S., by contrast, skating is disconnected culturally, he says. Figure-skating shows featuring Olympians, which Stojko says help build a connection with fans, are not as popular as they once were.

The new judging system, designed to replace the long-standing '6.0' ranking system after a scandal at the 2002 Olympics, is tougher physically on skaters because they are graded on every element. Some skaters say it turns all but the most avid audiences off. It is 'very complicated,' says Stojko.

Heading to her seat in the stands at the national championships at TD Garden in Boston, skating fan Charlene Petrilli says she used to know every skater's name. 'Dorothy Hamill was my idol,' says the legal secretary from Malden, Mass. But in recent years, she hasn't been able to find the world championships on TV. 'I don't know half of the skaters now,' she says.

Some say the U.S. is merely in a down cycle in singles. The U.S. Figure Skating Association, which says membership is steady, has developed new youth programs, such as Icemen, a two-year-old group for young men. And the U.S. team isn't expected to come home empty-handed. 'We have high hopes,' says David Raith, executive director of the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the favorites in their event, as winners of two world championships and six national titles. The U.S. is expected to medal in team figure skating, a new event that kicks off the Games Thursday. In this event, six-person teams-a woman, a man, a pairs couple and an ice-dancing couple-compete for the highest overall points.

In women's singles, the U.S. lineup consists of Wagner, who is 22, Gracie Gold, an 18-year-old up-and-comer who won the national title in January, and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, who finished second at the U.S. championships. Abbott, a seasoned veteran at 28, and Jason Brown, 19, who wowed the crowd at the nationals, are the U.S. men to watch. It's possible Wagner or Gold could end up on the podium, officials and former skaters say, the way Sarah Hughes, a third-place finisher at nationals, did in 2002. If Abbott skates as well as he did at nationals, 'he could be on the podium,' says Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano.

在今年的索契冬奥会上,美国的奥林匹克花样滑冰队可能会打破一项长久保持的记录。但他们希望此事不会成真。

自1948年以来,在每一届冬奥会上,美国队在花样滑冰的重头项目(女子单人滑和男子单人滑)中至少有一项能够获得一枚金牌。先后涌现了迪克•巴顿(Dick Button)、田莉•奥尔布赖特(Tenley Albright)等明星。许多后起之秀成了家喻户晓的名人:佩吉•弗莱明(Peggy Fleming)、多萝西•哈米尔(Dorothy Hamill)、关颍珊(Michelle Kwan)。还有诸如斯科特•哈密尔顿(Scott Hamilton)、布莱恩•博伊塔诺(Brian Boitano)以及2010年崭露头角的伊万•莱萨切克(Evan Lysacek)。

但是对角逐男女单项的美国选手来说,今年要登上索契的领奖台希望渺茫。一向表现最为稳定的女子选手阿什利•瓦格纳(Ashley Wagner)在上个月的全国锦标赛上错误频出,差点落选国家队。顶级男选手杰里米•亚伯特(Jeremy Abott)在温哥华冬奥会上失误。

如果说美国花样滑冰有过一段黄金时期的话,那就是在托尼娅•哈丁(Tonya Harding)和南希•克里甘(Nancy Kerrigan)庸俗闹剧之后的一段时期。“那次闹剧给花样滑冰带来了坏名声,同时也让人关注这项运动。”前美国奥运选手莉莎—玛丽•阿伦(Lisa-Marie Allen)说。她现在担任裁判,在2007年拍摄的电影《冰刀双人组》(Blades of Glory)中任助理编舞。“这应了一句老话:任何宣传都是好的宣传。”

1998年金牌得主塔拉•利平斯基(Tara Lipinski)说:“花样滑冰进入了公众视线。”

观察人士说,时至今日,花样滑冰正在失血,运动员流向了单板滑雪等冬季项目。这个项目新的国际裁判系统既对运动员严苛、又让观众看不懂,使项目陷入了困境当中。另外一个问题是:美国缺乏单人项目的金牌挑战者,而不是双人项目或冰舞项目。前世界青少年冠军杰尼•科克(Jenny Kirk)说:“令人遗憾的是,只有当我们拥有大牌女星的时候,公众才会注意这个项目。”

就在花样滑冰热度在美国消退之时,它却在亚洲国家兴盛起来。韩国的奥运会单人冠军金妍儿(Yuna Kim)的人气已可与多萝西•哈米尔媲美。她在本国大受追捧,连她母亲写的回忆录都成了全国畅销书。金妍儿具有的广泛吸引力已经将新一代韩国人引向了滑冰项目。

日本的情况也与之类似。2010年银牌得主浅田真央(Mao Asada)将在索契冬奥会上向金妍儿发起挑战,争夺金牌。三名日本男选手也被视为热门的金牌争夺者。

“在亚洲,花样滑冰规模大,而且呈爆炸性增长,”先后于1994年和1998年获得奥运银牌的加拿大选手埃尔维斯•斯托伊科(Elvis Stojko)说。与之相反的是,在美国,花样滑冰与大众的文化联系正在切断。斯托伊科说,表现奥运选手的花样滑冰节目虽有助于建立与粉丝的联系,但它们不如以前那样受欢迎。

新的裁判系统是2002年冬奥会丑闻之后制定的,旨在代替长期使用的“6.0”评级系统。这套新系统对选手的动作要求更为严格,因为它对每一个因素都进行评分。一些滑冰选手说,这套系统把铁杆观众以外的几乎所有观众都赶跑了。斯托伊科说,这套系统“非常复杂”。

在波士顿TD Garden的全国锦标赛上,滑冰爱好者、在马萨诸塞州莫尔登任法务秘书的夏琳•佩特里莉(Charlene Petrilli)一边走向看台上自己的座位一边说,她曾经能说出每一位滑冰选手的名字。“多萝西•哈米尔是我的偶像。”但是近年来,她在电视上都找不到世界锦标赛的转播了。她说:“现在的滑冰选手我一半都不知道。”

有些人说,美国现在不过是在单人项目上处于下风期。美国花样滑冰联合会(The U.S. Figure Skating Association)说,它的会员数量一直保持稳定,而且它已开发了新的青年项目,比如针对年轻人的两年期项目冰人(Icemen)。它还说,预计美国队不会空手而归。该联合会执行董事戴维•雷斯(David Raith)说:“我们寄予很高期望。”

冰舞选手梅里尔•戴维斯(Meryl Davis)和查理•怀特(Charlie White)是他们参赛项目的夺冠热门,他们已夺得两次世界锦标赛和六次全国赛事桂冠。预计美国队会在团体花样滑冰中夺牌。这是本届的新项目,而且是本次冬奥会周四开幕后的开场之作。在这个项目中,一个六人团队——男女单项各一人、男女双人滑两人和男女冰舞两人——将争夺团体最高分。

在女子单项中,美国队成员有22岁的瓦格纳,18岁的后起之秀、在1月份获得全国冠军的格雷西•戈尔德(Gracie Gold),在美国锦标赛上获得亚军的15岁小将波利娜•埃德蒙茨(Pollina Edmunds)。值得关注的美国男子选手有28岁的老将亚伯特,和在全国锦标赛上技惊四座的19岁的詹森•布朗(Jason Brown)。官员和前滑冰选手说,瓦格纳和戈尔德有可能最后登上领奖台,就像全国锦标赛季军莎拉•休斯(Sarah Hughes)在2002年冬奥会上表现的那样。奥运金牌得主布莱恩•博伊塔诺说,如果亚伯特跟在全国赛事上发挥一样出色,“他可能会站上领奖台。”

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