Changing Moves, Moving Forward

I imagine a large amount of people may take some offense at my next statement, but I pose it as nothing less than the truth.  The current senior moves in the field, soon to be obsolete come September, could be passed by a well trained chimpanzee. I mean no offense to those who have already passed the moves and absolutely nothing against the chimps.  My point is merely that the current moves require so little edge control that they can be passed by skaters who have skating skills little better than pre-juvenile freeskating.  What do I mean? At pre-juvenile they don’t ask skaters to do anything more than singles jumps, no axel.  Well, the senior moves have the same requirement.  They ask skaters to do a whole series of turns, no edges.

Many find the sustained edge step the hardest in the current senior repertoire.  Indeed, the move is the only one that comes close to requiring edge control.  Even so, all it requires is the most basic change of edge transition, the swing change.  Technically, I feel that a swing change should not actually count as a change of edge skill because the whole body moves to create the end effect and little control is actually needed.  The spirals have nice edges when skaters take risks and really lean into the curve, but the emphasis is on extension.  The power pulls are a nice mix of edge and power when done correctly, but often an overemphasis on either aspect ruins the effect.  Either toe scratching or molasses turns dominate.

The quickstep is the most heinous of them all.  It can be skated beautifully. I grew up watching senior level skaters who competed at the sectional and national level pass the quickstep with a grace and beauty I envied and aspired to have.  They floated through the turns and seemed to dance upon the surface of the ice.  No toepick noises or skids filled the quiet rink, but rather the silence of perfected edges.  These were girls who had taken figures as children.  They understood that edge control trumps speed and power alone.  Going ninety miles an hour across the ice is great, if you are using your edges for acceleration.  If you are not, racing across the ice like a hot poker is on your tail is nothing more than wannnabe speed skating.  Quite frankly speed skates do not have edges, at least not in the traditional sense that involves sharpening and a hollow.  Nor do they have a rocker, the source of all turns in figure skating.  Speed skating is certainly the most efficient way to go forward, but the most disastrous way to figure skate.  Current tests of the quickstep that pass in numerous locations across the country are nothing but glorified speed skating tryouts.  Harsh, maybe.  True, very much so.

So what’s missing?  Why am I so disappointed with the skating skills I see supposed senior level skaters demonstrating? You’ve probably already guessed the answer.  Those all important edges aren’t there to be skidded on, ladies and gentlemen.  No, they are there to be used in every way possible.  A skater must push the limits of his or her edges and see how deep he or she can go while maintaining absolute control.  An ice dance coach of mine once told me she had her boot company shave off the sides of her sole since her edges were so deep they wore away at the leather as she skated.  She’s a world class ice dancer, but the underlying reason for her request should be imitated by all skaters.  If you have deep edge control, sometimes referred to as hydro-blading, you can skate circles around the current senior moves.  Ice dancers have been forced to figure this out quickly due to the challenging nature of their footwork and dance patterns, but until now freestyle skaters have been left out of the loop.

So the new moves fix everything? I have no idea.  They come into play next month and I am excited to see the first intermediate through senior tests.  While I assume standards will be still evolving, I want to see how skaters and coaches deal with increased edge control requirements.  The current senior moves allow a skater to pass without being able to do: twizzles, loops, proper choctaws, change of edge without power pulls and deep edge turns.  I know this is true because when I passed senior moves I could barely do a double twizzle and a backward inside loop seemed impossible. Now, of course, I’ve had a great deal of training in figures and ice dance and those previous shortcomings are my strengths.  The new moves do not fix all these issues, but they are a vast improvement.  Now skaters have to do loops and twizzles in the context of a serpentine footwork sequence.

So here’s to hoping only seasoned figure skaters can pass senior moves and that perhaps all of us will one day ask for our soles to be trimmed pre-purchase.  Until then, let’s head to the rink for some figures training and twizzle our way to skating success.