Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Two decades after whack, figure skating struggles

Tonya and Nancy.

Mention those names to figure skating fans — or even to those with little interest in the sport — and there's immediate recognition.

"Ah, the whack on the knee.''

"Oh, yeah, the 'Why me? Why me?' cries.''

"Sure, the scandal.''

It has been 20 years since Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed after practice in Detroit before the U.S. Championships by a member of a bumbling goon squad hired by Tonya Harding's then-husband with the hope of eliminating Harding's top competition for the 1994 Olympic team.

The assault led to a soap opera that practically created tabloid television journalism and pushed what had for decades been a niche sport squarely into the media mainstream. The attention was a boon for the sport.

That surge in popularity lasted for the rest of the 1990s.

Today, skating is back in the niche realm. Attention and money have dwindled. It's a desperate time in particular for figure skating in the United States, which has its national championships — the final Olympic qualifying event — beginning today in Boston.

The United States' biggest medal hope for next month's Games at Sochi, Russia, are ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the 2010 silver medalists and reigning world champions.

No American man or pairs team is expected to challenge for a medal. Reigning American women's champion Ashley Wagner said she would have to be nearly flawless to reach the podium in Sochi. A shutout in men's and women's singles would be the first for the United States since 1936.

"I look at where the sport is now and it is too bad that it has swung so far the other way," Kerrigan said of its attention level. "It tends to reinforce some people's perception that what happened to me was good for skating, and that is just not right. Attacking an opponent for personal gain can never be seen as a good thing.''

Kerrigan said it would have been better if a well-organized pro circuit had been created during that peak in popularity.

Scott Hamilton — the 1984 gold medalist who created the Stars On Ice tour after his Olympic win in part because he would have been unemployed without it — knew the positive impact would be fleeting. A big reason was the International Skating Union opted to invest money not in tours but in keeping skaters in the Olympic-eligible competitions it controls.

"When it is all about competition, the rock star part of the sport no longer exists and the scale tips so far the wrong way, you don't have anything left to turn to," Hamilton said.

The current U.S. men's talent pool was hurt when 2010 gold medalist Evan Lysacek was sidelined by injuries. Fighting for the two available men's Olympic spots are three-time national champ Jeremy Abbott, Max Aaron, Adam Rippon and Ross Miner.

No U.S. women medaled in 2010, the first time that had happened since 1964, and none has made an Olympic or world championship podium since 2006. (The top American Olympian in 2010 was Mirai Nagasu in fourth.)

"The U.S. ladies team needs a medalist," Wagner said. "For this sport to be able to survive and keep going on, we need a medalist. We need that for interest in the sport."

Comments
D’Ernest Johnson hopes to showcase versatility at East-West Shrine Game

D’Ernest Johnson hopes to showcase versatility at East-West Shrine Game

On a cloudless, brisk St. Petersburg afternoon, D'Ernest Johnson lined up deep in the backfield, darted to the right flat and snagged a short Riley Ferguson pass.Within a matter of minutes, he snagged another. Suddenly, it was 2016 all over again for...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight    Ted Williams museum inductions

Tony Perez, Dick Allen to highlight Ted Williams museum inductions

Hall of Famer Tony Perez and longtime Phillies/White Sox star Dick Allen will be inducted into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame next month in Clearwater.Former Yankees Cy Young Award winner Ron Guidry and longtime Astros ace J.R. Richard also wi...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Warriors keep Cavaliers reeling

Warriors keep Cavaliers reeling

CLEVELAND — Kevin Durant scored 32, Stephen Curry added 23 and the Warriors won their 13th straight road game with a 118-108 Martin Luther King holiday victory Monday night over the Cavaliers, their struggling NBA Finals foes. Durant scored 16 in the...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Kerber continues to play well

Kerber continues to play well

MELBOURNE, Australia — Former champion Angelique Kerber continued her resurgent run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over fellow German Anna-Lena Friedsam to reach the second round of the Australian Open early today. Kerber raced through the first set in 17 minut...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

Gary Trent, Duke rally past Miami with 18-0 run

CORAL GABLES — Gary Trent scored a season-high 30 and No. 5 Duke needed less than three minutes to erase a 13-point second-half deficit, scoring 18 consecutive points to overtake No. 25 Miami 83-75 on Monday night. The Blue Devils scored 15 in six po...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Seguin sends Stars past Bruins in OT

Seguin sends Stars past Bruins in OT

BOSTON — Former Bruins first-round draft pick Tyler Seguin, hearing it from his old fans, scored on a delayed penalty in overtime to lead the Stars to a 3-2 victory over Boston on Monday. Boston rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and earn a...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hillsborough TE/LS Wilson Morse this year’s Bill Minahan scholarship recipient

Hillsborough TE/LS Wilson Morse this year’s Bill Minahan scholarship recipient

TAMPA — The fourth annual pick for the Bill Minahan Award was a tough choice indeed.It came down to five Hillsborough County football players — Hillsborough's Wilson Morse, Berkeley Prep's Nicholas Petit-Frere, Gaither's Camden Roth, Stei...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWisconsin at Purdue7 p.m.ESPNLouisville at Notre Dame7 p.m.ESPN2Georgia at LSU7 p.m.ESPNUVanderbilt at Mississippi State7 p.m.SECClemson at North Carolina7 p.m.Fox SunCincinnati at UCF7 p.m.CBSSNWomen: Michigan at Ohio State7 p...
Updated: 11 hours ago

MAKING NEWSMCCUTCHEN JOINS LONGO IN SAN FRANCISCOAfter acquiring 3B Evan Longoria from the Rays, the Giants deal for another franchise face, getting Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen. 6CVikings’ kneel helps Saints coverVikings fans were celebrating, but in...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Sports in brief

BASEBALLGIANTS ACQUIRE PIRATES STAR MCCUTCHENSAN FRANCISCO — The Giants found the outfielder they were looking for this winter, acquiring Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates on Monday less than a month after dealing for Rays longtime 3B Evan Longoria. ...
Updated: 11 hours ago