March 27, 2023

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There is no politics in Chen’s victory over Shcherbakova. Nathan is the main figure skater of our time

“You can’t pump up the soul, but the lips – well, what they are.” Women’s conversation with Vika Slivko – the leader of our biathlon

“You can’t pump up the soul, but the lips – well, what they are.” Women’s conversation with Vika Slivko – the leader of our biathlon

Anna Shcherbakova, as expected, lost to Nathan Chen the award of the most valuable skater of the year.

Perhaps the ISU did everything to make it look like politics. Our athletes were canceled in all competitions under the auspices of the organization, Grand Prix stages were taken from Russia, and even on the day of the death of Alexander Gorshkov, the world famous figure skater and long-term head of the federation, ISU did not squeeze out a couple of phrases.

That is why the very fact of the nomination for Anya is already a sensation. The ISU suddenly decided not to pretend that one of the main tournaments of the Olympics – women’s skating – no one won.

But rewarding Chen has nothing to do with canceling Russia. If we live in a normal world now, it would be impossible to imagine that Nathan did not receive the award for the most important season in his career, a turning point in the history of men’s skating.

Chen is unique. No, wait, I’m not going to broadcast about quad volleys in his programs. To reduce the uniqueness of a skater to the ability to twist a certain number of rotations in skates is not to love and not understand figure skating.

Why is Nathan preferable to the same Shcherbakova? A special transformation on the path that he overcame in 6-7 years to the status of a superstar. Perhaps already the only one in figure skating.

It seems that we have not noticed how the era of superstars has passed. Hanyu, Fernandez, Patrick Chan, Virtue and Moir, Savchenko no longer compete. Modern figure skating is surprisingly poor in superstars, there are only three of them left: in fact, Chen, and also Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron. In women’s skating, talented beginners with a couple of successful seasons (skating) have been considered superstars for the last 8 years, and couples have completely become an underground, a haven for figured pensioners and a benefit performance for Mishina and Gallyamov.

And yet, why is Chen the main figure skater of our time?

I’ll be a cynic, but it seems that Papadakis and Sizeron will never get rid of the status of losers. The losers are probably the biggest tournament in the history of ice dancing. At the moment when dances reached the highest point of development and tension. And in the most beautiful battle, the French lost to the irresistible, great passion of Tessa and Scott (however, everything was said about this 5 years ago ). The day of Gabriela and Guillaume still came in 2022, but this is the Olympic gold medal of those who waited for the strongest to leave. Sometimes you can win, but still lose.

A completely different story is Nathan Chen. He overthrew the king himself – Yuzuru Hanyu. We don’t seem to fully understand what Chen did.

Yuzuru began his exploits with outright theft of bronze from Joubert at the 2012 World Cup – even Tatyana Tarasova  was indignant .

From that spring until the 2022 Olympics, figure skating was Hanyu’s era. Undisputed and ambiguous. In the sense that there was no dominance of Khan – he often lost, and sometimes won thanks to a bizarre coincidence of circumstances. But isn’t the path of the samurai the meaning of the path itself?

Yuzuru fought with comparable talents – Chan, Fernandez. You can love them from the point of view of some abstract aesthetics, but there is no escape from the fact that both Patrick and Javier have conceded. Patrick, who embodied a new ideology through a new grading system , and Javier, a brilliant Spanish artist and interpreter who crushed the very world order of figure skating .

After Javier doubled the quad Salchow in the 2018 Olympics free skate and gave Hanyu the gold, Yuzuru could safely end up undefeated at the Games.

And then Chen – with his weird hair and grin that never left his face, stories about classes with Rafael Harutyunyan by video link, students at Yale, and even with eight quads in two programs – could be something like Gabriela and Guillaume. A cuteness that stands out against the background of mediocrity, but cannot be compared with the giants of the past.

But Khanya was not born a girl, fate did not give him a Russian passport and did not bring him into women’s figure skating, did not introduce him to Eteri Tutberidze. Yuzuru is not one of those who dream of one victory, giving the right to say “fuck off” to everyone, and the subsequent sweet existence somewhere between Ostankino and the spotlights of the New Year’s shows.

And therefore, after the 2018 Olympics, the Japanese made, perhaps, a historical mistake – he entered the third Olympic cycle. Where it was brutally beaten. In this cycle, Hanyu had only one chance to defeat the technically more gifted Nathan – win symbolically, win by meaning.

If Papadakis and Sizeron showed how you can win, but still lose, then Carolina Costner is an example of how you can lose, but still win.

In the later stages of her career, she lost all the major starts, but those defeats did not make her a loser. Because the very existence of this type of skating, the symbolism itself, is already a victory. This is a symbol of sublime, adult, aesthetic skating, as opposed to immature, junior, cheating twist skating, which is more effective for scoring.

In this sense, early Chen, that first version of Chen that came out to fight Hanyu and the whole world, is figure skating as it should not be. Figure skating turned into a runner, where a man runs under given circumstances and seems to be eating coins: figure skating in which Super Mario could also win.

However, the whole cycle that foreshadowed Chen’s victory in Beijing was not entirely clear to the human mind and the “people do not change” mindset. The cycle of Chen’s reincarnation from a jumping boy, from a more pumped version of Boyan Jin and Alexander Samarin into one of the best roller skaters of our time.

Explain it how you want.

Maybe in the studio is the genius of Rafael Harutyunyan, who created such amazing performers as Ashley Wagner and Adam Rippon. Maybe it’s the choreography by Shae-Lynn Bourne and Marie-France Dubreuil. Maybe it was Nathan’s talent behind a flurry of multi-turn jumps.

Maybe everyone’s abilities are revealed at different stages of a career – after all, Javier Fernandez once left the quads on foot.

However, reducing the confrontation between Hanyu and Chen to the confrontation of sublime figure skating with artistic gymnastics, even after Nathan’s Rocketman program, did not make sense. At some point, the judges also understood this – and Chen began to beat Hanya with components.

For the 2018-2022 cycle, Nathan took the Grand Prix Final twice, became the world champion twice and won the Olympics. Chen’s advantage in two programs of the 2022 Olympics in the second assessment over Hanyu was more than 7 points. In terms of technique, Yuzuru lost almost 50 points to Chen. This is the removal of the king. This is the formation of a new figure skating paradigm.