7 Life Lessons We’ve Learned from Olympic Figure Skating

Watching the Olympics on NBC has been interesting. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the morning coverage along with the highly-edited evening edition, so I’ve gotten to see some sports and competitors that many haven’t. While watching the women’s figure skating short and long programs, with coverage of many more competitors and countries than the evening edition, I’ve been struck by a couple of things.

1. If you fall, get back up and keep going. So many of the competitors, especially in the early groups, give up after a fall. They continue to skate, but look like limp noodles. They’ve beaten themselves by looking like they don’t want to continue. This is similar to #2, but separate for a reason – perseverance in the face of all odds against you is critical to surviving and succeeding in life. Don’t let the ____ get you down.

2. How you approach a fall is as important as a perfect skate. Continuing on after a failure as if nothing has happened leads to success eventually, sometimes immediately. Pressure is an equalizer – some people are way better at performing under it, some collapse. But we all have to learn to manage our performance under pressure. A perfect performance, conference, meeting, or career rarely happens. Falls happen, how you deal with them makes the difference between a winner and a loser.

3. Your choreography should speak to your music. If your steps are technically correct, but don’t match the music, you’re going to look funny and fail to meet the audience’s expectations. Connecting with the underlying emotion of the music in your actions is essential. If you’re just following the technical steps of your career but it’s not what you really want or should be doing, then you’re not going to be happy and will not do a great job. Find your own personal music and dance like a maniac to it – it may mean a change of career, but you’ll be happier and more successful in the long run. Steve Jobs was right.

4. Chronological age doesn’t matter as much as maturity. Several 15 year olds are competing in the women’s figure skating competition. Yulia Lipnitskaya, the 15-year-old Russian, is clearly emotionally connected to her Schindler’s List program and skates with depth and technical skills. Tara Lipinski won the Olympic medal at 15. But there are other 15 year olds, 16 year olds, and 17 year olds who are not ready yet. They’re the ones you’re not seeing in the edited versions of NBC’s evening presentations. But I’m seeing them in the morning and will see if they’ve matured in South Korea in 4 years. You’re only as old as you think you are. And once you’re past 40, acting your age is overrated.

5. Flexibility is a plus no matter who you are. Stretching into pretzel shapes is a new requirement in the women’s skating programs and most of the young ones are able to do moves that skaters 20 years ago would never have considered. But it does make a point, both types of stretching, physical and creative, results in a program that is interesting to those watching and is personally pleasing to perform.

6. It’s important to balance strength and artistry for the best success. We’ve all known the bulldog manager who claims ‘his way or the highway.’ We’ve also endured the milquetoast managers. I’ve watched skaters who have all the powerful jumps in the world but look uncomfortable in an artistic spin. I’ve also watched the elegant skater who falls on every jump she tries. It’s important to balance both sides for a great experience in any endeavor.

7. Everybody needs a hug sometimes. No, really…

My Personal Desert

 

My view of February...

My view of February…

 

Masha

February is traditionally a huge sports desert for me. I don’t enjoy basketball, I don’t watch hockey on T.V. and it’s early enough in the golf calendar that the tournaments are more about the pro-am than the final round. So usually I stare across the wasteland stretching between the Super Bowl and March Madness thinking I’ll improve my XBox skills or catch up on Netflix shows.

But this year has been different. My oasis this year has been the Sochi Winter Olympics. For those of you who are traditionalists, the XXII Olympic Winter Games. The Olympics are always full of wonderful stories of athletic sacrifice, family support through thick and thin, and comebacks from training accidents/surgeries. Stories like Nate Holland, who has tried and failed to make the podium in three different Olympics, after a tremendously successful X Games career in snowboarding. Nate’s quote after falling in the Snowboard Cross semifinals told the story for a number of athletes: “The Olympic rings, these five rings, they don’t agree with me exactly, apparently,” he said. “Every Olympics has ended in a fall and I felt great in all of them. They give me a lot of drive, a lot of joy while I’m here, but also a lot of heartbreak at the end of the race.” Oh, Nate.

But this year’s Olympics have added an additional layer of exciting stories. Stray dogs wandering the city and the Olympic venues; heartwarming alert – US Hockey player, David Backes’ organization in St. Louis is rescuing as many of the strays as they can and transporting them to the US for adoption. Twitter photos of brown water, broken doors, stuck elevators, and complaints about the Olympic village food. Warm temperatures and rain during winter sports. Vladimir Putin glaring during visits to other country houses and at every event he’s attended. And of course the infamous snowflake that stayed an ugly snowflake instead of maturing into a beautiful Olympic ring (sorry Hans…).

Oh, I know, there are always negative stories about the city, the food, the venues; it’s a part of the Olympics. In fact, if I went by just the reporting I’ve seen on T.V. instead of the additional social media layers of Twitter and Facebook, then I wouldn’t know about any of these miscues, except the dysfuntional snowflake. I would see the beauty of Russia, the fabulous new venues on the Black Sea, and two weeks full of good natured, competitive sports with exciting split-100’s-of-a-second endings. So I’m choosing to put on my rose-colored glasses (red for Russia) and looking at the XXII Olympic Winter Games as a huge success. Because, after all, it’s rescued me from a dry, hot desert bereft of sports.

Pat

I agree this time of year is bad for sports watching for us.  The winter olympics does help.  The sports are diverse enough to find something compelling enough to enjoy.  But I must say that I find it totally appalling that I am sitting here with my wife watching and discussing the strategies of curling.  That’s hard up!

Hope Springs Eternal

Masha

Every year at this time I have the same internal debate. I don’t want to be a Cub fan. No, I just can’t take it anymore. I hate the off season drama about the roof-top seats. I hate the team stats. I hate our overall record in the World Series. I want to be proud of my team’s accomplishments in September. I want to be a fan of a winning organization; a team that makes good solid trade decisions, one that has a history of winning (or at least winning once every 100 years or so…), one that has an established farm system. Yes, that’s it. I’m going to change my allegiance to a team that’s closer to where I live now. One that wins every once in a while. One that doesn’t choke in the clutch. I’ve had it with the struggles, the jokes, the disappointment. I’m done. Yup, happens every February, around the time that the catchers and pitchers are reporting and Pat is making his standard joke about everyone having a chance at the pennant this year. So far in my life, I’ve attempted to become a fan of the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Colorado Rockies; all dependent on which team was closest to where I was living at the time.

And yet, after all the debate, on Opening Day, I’m there in my Ryne Sandberg jersey, wishing I had a dog and an Old Style. I cheer for the Cubs. I can’t deny it. I want to change, really I do. But then the 8-year old takes over during the first game and old allegiances will not be denied, despite the ongoing pain of living with a vocal St. Louis Cardinal fan. I’m sure you’ll hear more about that…

So hope springs eternal. We have an exceptional management team now (c’mon Teddy…), a new manager, an owner that is willing to spend money, and everyone has a chance at the pennant now, right?

Pat

My first inclination was to give my wife a hard time about the Cubs. But I just can’t do it on the eve of Valentine’s day. Plus, I know I am lucky to have been raised in St. Louis. In my first MLB game in 1960, Stan Musial hit a tenth inning walk off home run. I was a Cardinal fan for life and for over fifty years they have been a very sound organization. But I was also raised with the St. Louis Football Cardinals. That hasn’t been that wonderful. The Seventies were not bad. They have had some good years, but all and all there were many years where it seemed they did everything wrong. Like Masha, I toyed with changing teams, like the Broncos since we live in Denver. But we are both loyal fans and we just can’t do it. We are stuck with our teams and we will be rewarded for it. The Arizona Caardinals are looking pretty strong and for sticking with the Cubs, Masha will one day get her World Series championship.  That’s just how being a sports fan works.