I watch the women figure skaters with hawk eyes, but rarely stay interested or involved with a skater's full performance.
The basis by which skaters are judged is "tricks" that take years, and much practicing to perfect. I remember when it was the double lutz-double toe loop. Now it's the triple lutz-triple toe loop. And there are men who do can do a quadruple axel though it hasn't been done yet in a competition.
What gets my attention is what I call "real dancing" -- movement that flows, just happens, and I'm not aware of technique -- I feel as if I'm dancing as I watch. Most of the time, my neck tenses as I'm watching an ice skater make the usual, accelerating half- circle, before taking off into the air for a triple.
I watched Kim Yu-Na at the Korean Skating Championships -- saw most of her program while I was cooking, and saw flashes of energy that made me want to see more. I saw some of Mao Asada's program. She was also interesting -- I wanted to see more. They seemed to be similar looking. Kim Yu-Na was more beautiful, but Mao Asada's legs were better trained balletically.
Today, I studied their films as if I were one of the judges. I went from one film to the other; boring myself, annoying myself for having to work so hard in order to decide which one would get Em's "Gold."
Mao has effortless elevation -- the line of her arabesque, her front extension are exceptionally good -- her flexibility is lovely. She does the triple flip-triple toe loop lightly, and perfectly. And wow -- Mao Asada has moments of "real dancing."
Kim Yu-Na -- her triple lutz-triple toe loop is effortless and brilliant and ... well, the line of her arabesque isn't as high or as perfect as Mao Asada's. Kim Yu-Na has a coltish, too-slender look, but her commitment to each second of movement is ... what? She's exciting, flashier -- non stop, amazingly full out.
Kim Yu-Na, 18, is from South Korea and got the highest score for the short program I saw. Mao Asada, 19 is the pride of Japan, and the first woman to perform two triple axels in one program.
(I'm not an expert in the subtle differences between triple lutz, triple flips, or axels, but real judges are.)
Here's Kim Yu-Na dancing:
Here's Mao Asada dancing:
I would give Mao my award. Who would you pick?
Who will win the finals in Vancouver on February 27th?