Americans were obsessed with figure skating in the ’90s. Why aren’t we as enthralled anymore?
Much has changed in the sport of figure skating since its peak in popularity in the 1990s
Gone are the days when Americans deeply cared about figure skaters. The likes of Tonya Harding, Michelle Kwan and Kristi Yamaguchi were instantly recognizable but the viewership has significantly declined now.
Part of it is how the sport changed itself.
Four years ago, American skater Mirai Nagasu was the only woman to land the difficult triple axel in the 2018 Olympics. But much is different now.
Quadruple jumps used to be unfathomable and they had never been completed by a woman in the Olympics until this year when skaters landed 11 of those jumps.
“To look at the field now compared to four years ago,” Nagasu said, per The Cut, “the expectation that the women who are winning medals will have, at a minimum, one quad, is a little bit unfathomable.”
Improvement in equipment technology that has made boots lighter and blades more defined has a lot to do with the shift.
But critics blame the complicated scoring system. Figure skating used to use a 6.0 system in the past until a judging scandal during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, when a change was made.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the new system doesn’t have a defined highest score. Instead, it uses a point system to earn hundreds of points and “personal bests.”
Former figure skater and analyst Dick Button thinks the system has complicated the sport.
“If you do a quad and fall down, you still get points for it — can you explain that to me?” Button said, per CNN.
“The old six-point system was understandable and one could hear folks in a bar cheer and argue about whether someone should have had a 5.7 or 5.8,” Button said. “Now a ‘personal best’ of 283.4 points is confusing!”