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Thread: Q&A with Phil Hersh

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    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    New York City

    Default Q&A with Phil Hersh

    Here it is!

    The questions and his answers follow. I am going to post the questions he answered directly. Some questions were similar, so he gave one answer for the similar questions. Hence, only one of the questions appear.

    Questions appear in normal font. Answers are italicized.

    Q&A with Phil Hersh

    What is your opinion on the plan by ISU head Cinquanta to argue that since so much of the ISU's revenue comes from figure skating, the entire organization should have a say in its reform?

    Specifically, do you feel that is a valid point? Or that it's a case of Cinquanta's desire to use his speed skating cronies to help force an anonymous judging system on the sport of figure skating that will enable corruption?

    Nicole Moore
    Conover, Ohio

    It appears now that Mr. Cinquanta has backed off his idea to lobby for the entire organization to vote on the new judging system because figure skating’s revenue is the key to the ISU’s financial health. ISU spokesman Rowland Jack sent me an e-mail recently saying it would be only a figure skating matter.

    If you could, would you reinstate figures as part of the competition?

    Thanks so much,
    Boston, Mass.

    I was there (Halifax, 1990) the day the last figure was skated at a world meet. Someone threw a rose on the ice to mark the occasion, but most of us did not mourn their passing. Of course, the reason they disappeared had nothing to do with what impact it might have \on the future quality of skating and everything to do with TV—the Olympic broadcasters no longer could abide having results so dramatically affected by something that translates to watching grass grow for a TV audience. Even Ben Wright, longtime judge and figure skating historian, agreed: ``Would the public pay to hear Horowitz play scales?’’ he told me.

    I certainly do not miss figures, even though they provided me with several hours of diversion at my first Olympics (1980). When Vladimir Kovalev of Russia (reigning world champion) mysteriously withdrew, I spent seven hours of figures competition listening to stories of Kovalev’s free-spirited exploits off ice (wine, women & song), which most insiders thought accounted for his withdrawal.

    What would you like the ISU to do to prevent additional judging scandals?

    Thank you.
    Ventura, CA

    Let’s give the ISU some credit for tying to prevent future scandals by making the judging system more objective with the Code of Points. While the interim system is a disaster and the COP needs refinining, the idea is good.

    Human nature being what it is, however, one will never prevent totally the chance for corrupting results, although the COP makes such deals harder to carry out.

    By the way: no matter the reasons for Mme. LeGougne’s vote, I think she was right. I have replayed the pairs free skate a dozen times, fast & slow motion, and each time the Russians look better for the 50-to-67 percent of the program that does not involve executing elements. I would have scored it 5.9-5.8 (Can) and 5.8-5.9 (Rus) in Salt Lake. After the replays, I would make it 5.8-5.8 and 5.7-5.9.

    Sale & Pelletier were skating to rehashed shlock.

    What do you think the United States needs to do to improve its' pairs skating?


    This is not only a US but world question, now that the Eastern Bloc no longer exists, and skaters have a choice of discipline rather than being paired. (You will notice China, with complete control of its athletes, is the pairs leader now).

    In the old Soviet system, Irina Rodnina once told me, a pair would spend a year just getting to know each other before trying to work together.

    Pairs is dangerous and underappreciated. Only after a U.S. kid fails in singles is he or she likely to try pairs, and there are far more female than male candidates. Frictions between partners (or parents) often cause breakups.

    Pairs takes patience, which is in short supply in our do-it-now world. The USFSA might try taking two or three very promising young pairs and giving them complete financial support for three years and see what comes of it.

    With falling ratings and tickets sales, figure skating is clearly in decline. Do you think skating can re-capture the audience share it enjoyed during the 90's or is the lack of audience a permanent condition?

    Antoinette Aubert

    Beginning with the Battle of the Brians and Battle of the Carmens at the 1988 Olympics, figure skating was growing consistently until it exploded after the Harding-Kerrigan affair. Everyone was out to make a quick buck (and did), with no consideration given to logic, what with every promoter out for himself and no one in control; the sport was overexposed by competitions (?) that had no rhyme or reason and which were impossible to distinguish because people saw the same skaters doing the same programs.

    Skating now is back to where it always was: a big deal at the Olympics, a lesser deal the rest of the time. Even Katarina Witt showing a nipple ring on worldwide TV won’t change it.

    If Michelle Kwan were to retire today, where do you see her place in skating history?

    Richmond, VA

    If Michelle were to retire today, I would call her one of the top four skaters in history—but is it even difficult to make that assessment because of the difference in eras.

    Let’s take Sonja Henie, who is number one. Not only three Olympic titles, but 10 straight world titles. Beyond that, she was first to do real jumps; the inspiration for the modern ice show; the inspiration for widespread use of the Zamboni; and the woman whose wildly popular ice shows and movies generated the post World War II generation of US champions, beginning with Tenley Albright. However, Henie had very limited competition (15 entries at the 1932 Olympics, for instance) and had the advantage of being propped up by compulsory figures.

    Who else would I rank above Kwan? Witt and Heiss. I know this won’t please the Kwan fans, but an Olympic gold medal still is the career achievement for a figure skater. Witt won two (and four world titles), Heiss one (plus silver) and five world titles. Kwan is great without one; she would be greater with it.

    With an Olympic gold medal, a case could be made for Kwan over Henie as the greatest of all time. Kwan has been at the world elite level 10 seasons (4th at 95 worlds), has won two Olympic medals, five world titles – in an era with formidable national and international competition and no compulsory figures. But it is also an era where longevity is easier to achieve because of wider financial opportunities.

    She cannot have the influence on her sport Henie did, because the Zamboni and ice show don’t need to be re-invented. Were Kwan to win in Turin, she and Henie would be the two greatest ever, and breaking that tie might be impossible, because it is unfair to judge Henie by today’s standards.

    Domination of an era marks greatness, and Henie utterly dominated hers. Kwan has been the best skater of her era, but not Olympic champ.

    From your experience of observing human nature in the sports arena, which do you think would have more influence in bringing honesty to figure skating judging:
    1. All judges and their marks identified to the skaters, audience, etc.,
    2. Random selection of anonymous judges
    3. Another suggestion from you.

    Thank you,
    Rose Mary

    I answered some of this in earlier questions.

    I like the COP and the random selection of judges (as awful as that has proved in the interim system, where ordinals still are used, it should work with the averaging in the COP).

    However, I would like, at the end of the competition, to see which judges scores were used and what they were, just for the interest of it.

    Those who rail against anonymity conveniently forget the 80 years of often questionable judging when all the judges were publicly tied to their marks. Using Salt Lake as an example of the effects of accountability is silly; what about all those years when identifiable judges gave ridiculous marks that unfairly rewarded or punished skaters?

    - Given the current field of skaters (including the up-and-comers who may be more refined by 2006) and the current judging system, how do you think Michelle would fair in the Torino Olympics?
    - In your opinion, what are Michelle's strengths and weaknesses compared to the rest of the field?
    - What are your predictions for the upcoming 5 years in figure skating?


    Kwan would have to be a slight favorite right now. The X factor is not a skater suddenly emerging, as Lipinski did in 1997, or suddenly doing the performance of her life, as Hughes did in 2002, because there appears to be no one on the horizon with the technical (jump) advantage each had over Kwan and enough presentation skills to capitalize on that advantage.

    The X factor clearly is Sasha Cohen. If she finally (ever?) puts it together, she has the only chance of the current group of women to beat Kwan when Kwan skates well. If both were perfect, doing the programs each did at nationals, Cohen would have won. Kwan still needs to bulk up her program, as she told me in December she was trying to do.

    What you saw of Kwan at nationals was a very good performance made outstanding by a fierce competitive will. If she has that fire in Turin and a little more content in the free skate, Cohen would need exceptional skating to beat her.

    In the next five years, I expect to see a major drop in the number of talented Russian singles skaters, as their system appears to be going dry.

    Mr. Hersh,

    Why is skating so rarely appreciated as a serious athletic endeavor?
    Your thoughts, please.

    Thank you for considering our questions.

    Esther Pierce

    People watching skating for the first time see men in poofy-sleeved costumes and immediately consider it less than athletic. While I appreciate costuming that goes with programs, so much goes over the top that it makes me yearn for men to compete either in turtlenecks and dark pants or speedskaters suits (as Scott Hamilton did). Because most skaters pay little regard to the content and theme of their music, the outlandish costumes are even more inexcusable.

    Are you in favor of putting jump limits on quads for men and triple-triple for ladies to avoid lifetime injuries on aspiring young talents?

    Manila, Philippines

    I never thought the day would come when I would say this, but I do think there should be jump limits, not only to reduce injuries but to add something more to programs than crossovers setting up jumps. The first couple minutes of most men’s programs have become tedious repetitions of jumps.

    I think 7 TOTAL jumps would be plenty for men and 6 for women.

    I don’t favor limiting the revolutions on the jumps a skater can do within that total, but, as it is now, a skater should not be able to repeat a jump except in combination.

    How do you think a "typical" Michelle program will rank in the new judging system?


    That, of course, is the $64,000 question. She clearly will have to do more intricate movements leading into jumps and perhaps improve the speed of spins. But excellence is excellence by any standard, and I think Michelle probably needs only to tweak things, not reinvent herself.

    - Have you visited the website and learned of its goals to help bring transparent judging to Figure Skating?
    - What are your thoughts on the currently being organized "The Ice Channel" and what kind of impact will it have on Figure Skating, if successful like the Golf Channel?

    Visalia, CA

    I have never visited the SkateFAIR website.

    Given the decline in TV ratings, I will be pleasantly surprised if The Ice Channel gets off the ground.

    The USFSA has proposed using a reverse skating order at US Nationals. I understand the reasoning behind it is to help keep viewers and hopefully increase ratings by having the better competitors skate last. Do you think this will have the desired effects they are hoping for, or is this a case of the USFSA focusing on the wrong thing?


    I am completely in favor of the reverse skating order. It is silly to have, for instance, the short program leader go third, the runnerup 6th and the third placer, first. This should have been done years ago to end the absurdity of ``saving’’ marks.

    The fear, of course, is that the judges may be less inclined to go ``out of order’’ in judging the free skate. But the way things are now, the 6th placer from the short program doesn’t benefit any by drawing last.

    It is ridiculous to have an event decided after the first two skaters of the final group. No one paying millions for broadcast rights should have to put up with such a situation.

    While I respect the opinions of most of the commentators, I have to wonder sometimes if they're biases and whatever else they bring to the table doesn't hurt skating's perception in the eyes of the general public {example- So and so got the crowd behind her/him that should help in the presentation mark - even though this is not one of the criteria for judging the presentation skills of a skater}. So, why haven't there been, as in other sports, journalists doing some of the commentating? Odds are some could be impartial and explain the sport a little better to the general public.

    Thank You,

    The trouble with skating commentators is they are disinclined to be harshly critical when it is deserved. They simply are too nice toward awful skating. I guarantee if you let some knowledgeable print journalists add their opinions, the result would be a lot more interesting. But some oversensitive skaters would have their egos bruised. The sport never has faced up to the idea that its athletes deserve both criticism and praise, not the generally relentless fluff doled out today.

    - What is your take on the new COP? Do you think that it had a hand in the recent 4CC's men’s results which was actually judged using the old system?
    - What is your opinion of the Russian Federation clipping the rules to get Yulia Soldotova back on the Russian World team after skating for another country less then 2 years prior?

    Thanks in advance.

    Chicago, IL

    Eligibility rules throughout Olympic sports are made a mockery of. (sorry about that preposition at the end of the sentence.) A Kenyan with no connection to Qatar was made an instant citizen, given an Arab name-- and he won a world track and field championship for Qatar. Unless the rules are tightened, they will be flouted. The only area where they are tough is the Olympics. If you compete for one country in the Olympics, worlds or area championships, you must wait three years after acquiring new citizenship to compete for the new country.

    It is my understanding that the mess at 4 Continents had more to do with the random judge selection in the interim system than the COP.

    The interim system is a joke. Something like diving’s system should have been used temporarily. Add the scores, subtract the high and low, and compute the marks that way. Using ordinals in a system where the random draw can eliminate all the judges who favor one skater is patently ridiculous.

    Thank you for the time you devote to discussing figure skating in your work.

    We are all human and can make mistakes. Many articles about figure skating (the vast majority) contain one or more basic factual errors, regarding titles won, results/placements of a skater, elements completed, names misspelled, etc.

    As an example, in your own recent article Phelps eyeing Spitz's record BY PHILIP HERSH Chicago Tribune as printed in The Mercury News, you state:

    "…A clone of (Alexei) Yagudin." Yagudin, the Olympic and three-time world champion, has helped coach Joubert, 19, this season.

    Yagudin is in fact, 4 time world champ.

    Skating fans are confounded by the regularity with which such errors appear in the press. Why do journalists or their publications allow these errors to appear when some simple fact-checking would catch most of them? What are current journalistic standards for fact-checking?

    Thank you for taking time to consider our questions.
    ~ iloveskating

    The problem is three-fold:

    We all are human.

    Sometimes we trust our memory (I did that in this case, conveniently forgetting Yagudin won in 98 as well as 99-00-02) instead of double-checking everything.

    Because almost no copy editors are familiar with skating, they are unlikely to catch such an error. Because newspapers are short-staffed due to profit-driven management, the copy editors don’t have time to fact check.

    No excuses, though. I generally don’t rely on my memory and fact check everything. (As the old saw goes in journalism, ``If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’’). I just screwed up on this one.

    There will be more, but hopefully not too many!

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask questions of you.

    - Did you choose to cover figure skating and if yes, what attracted you to the sport?
    - What are some of your favorite performances?


    I guess I sort of stumbled into figure skating at the 1980 Olympics, liked it and have chosen to cover it ever since.

    My favorites (in no particular order):

    Scott Hamilton at the 84 Olympic trials (especially his footwork).
    Alexei Yagudin’s ``clown’’ short program, and his magnificent free skate at 99 worlds.
    Michelle’s Salome at 96 worlds, short program at 2001 nationals, free skate in Nice worlds (2000) and Rachmaninoff short at 98 nationals.
    Katarina Witt’s scintillating free skate to beat Debi in 87 worlds.
    Paul Wylie’s Henry V at 1992 Olympics.
    G&G at 88 Olympics and their flawed but wonderful Moonlight Sonata at 94 Olympics.
    Tiffany Chin at the 84 nationals.
    Brian Boitano’s Les Patineurs (ah, the wondrous arrogance of his flipping the ice shavings) and his stunning Napoleon to win Oly gold.
    Tara Lipinski’s Olympic free skate. Such unfettered joy.
    Tonya Harding’s 3AX in Minneapolis.
    Midori Ito falling out of the rink at Munich in 91 worlds, then apologizing to the camerman when it was over.
    The Duchesnays’ ``Missing’’ at 90 worlds.
    Rudi Galindo’s free skate at 96 nationals.
    Michelle’s Salome (Have I said that already?)
    Kurt Browning’s ``Bogey’’ at 93 Worlds.
    Oksana’s Black Swan SP at the 94 Olympics,
    Torvill & Dean in Sarajevo.

    So many.

    Thank you for your continued support and coverage of the sport.

    - Do you think the results were correct for the ladies at the 2002 SLC Olympics? I can see why there was a split between Irina and Michelle in the short program and Cohen’s position, but what I don’t understand is how Sarah was placed 4th in the short with deductions that should have been all the way up to a full point. Sandra Bezic, the NBC commentator, said she saw up to eight tenths in deductions for Sarah’s program, yet there was no mention of this by anyone. If this had been someone else with a higher status like Michelle Kwan for example, it without question would have been criticized greatly. Remarks like setting the sport back 20 years probably would appear. It seems that the judges did not take all of the deductions especially Joe Inman from USA. It is quite a disparity looking at her 2003 Worlds Short performance and marks and placement compared to the Olympic short with the exact problems and very similar performing. Why do you think this occurred? Where would you have placed the ladies in the short? Where would you have placed the ladies in the long? Of course take in consideration all of the requirements that are outlined for judging.
    - What is your favorite program and/or performance from all disciplines ever in each portion such as short and long programs for the singles and pairs and each of the dances for ice dancing?

    Thank you,

    Since I never heard Bezic’s commentary, I don’t know what 8/10ths she was talking about. As I recall, I thought Sarah was underscored by a couple judges in the SP. I think the SP results were accurate. I might have given Michelle second and Sasha third in the LP. I thought Irina was absolutely wooden out there, so wooden her performance was worse than the flawed LP efforts of Sasha and Michelle.

    Do you agree with the decision not to send Cynthia Phaneuf to Worlds? Do you think that she earned her World team spot with 2 good performances at Canadian Nationals and at Four Continents??

    Thank you for your time.

    New York, NY

    I cannot answer that question since I paid no attention to Canada this winter. No one else would have, either, were it not for Sandhu’s fluke victory in the GP Final. Canada’s skating program is a disgrace – how can the nation where the sport is most popular fail to produce any medal contenders in singles after Manley-Chouinard (women) and Orser-Browning-Stojko (men) generation ended?

    What is your take on the quad jump? Do you think it leads the sport in the right direction technically, but takes away from the presentation side of the sport, or that it leads to too many injuries?

    Thanks for your time!


    In response to an earlier question, I think all jumps should be limited.

    I like pushing the technical envelope (it’s a sport, right?) but not at the expense of everything else. If I were a judge, I would reward high-difficulty jumps but also penalize greatly abject failure to land them. The idea would be: don’t bring that stuff out here unless you can do it. Save experiments for practice.

    - In a recent article before the U.S. Championships, you claimed that Michelle Kwan had taken out "resting spots" in her program under the guidance of Rafael Arutunian. However, at nationals, there were no apparent changes to the program. I was wondering if you could go into more detail about certain changes you noticed during practice that seemingly never made it to competition ice.
    - What do you think about the TV coverage of figure skating in the United States? Most events are broadcast weeks or even months after they happen, only a small select group of skaters are shown, and we see the same old "fluff" pieces aired so many times that we can almost recite them by memory. What can a figure skating fan do in hopes of getting better coverage in the future?

    Thanks for your time!


    The one thing I saw at Lake Arrowhead was shortening of the spiral. The other fill-ins were still to come, although she already was getting from element to element with much more intensity—which we all saw in the second half of her program at nationals.

    Your only hope for better coverage would be the Ice Channel. During the post-94 madness, when a slight variation of the same event was on every weekend, this truth emerged: Because skaters use the same competitive programs for a season, familiarity breeds repetitiveness. As far as the same skaters being shown—the networks are in the business of getting ratings, not promoting the sport, and they know which names attract viewers.

    - Do you think that U.S. Figure Skating is doing enough to try and fight corruption within the ISU? Do you think it's a losing battle?
    - What do you think of Michelle's new coach, Raphael? Do you think the partnership is a good one?
    - What are your thoughts on our new men's champion, Johnny Weir? Are there any other up and coming stars that we should be on the look out for?


    As a local alderman said early in the 20th Century, ``Chicago ain’t ready for reform.’’ The internal politics—and I mean politics more than corruption—of the ISU, USFSA and other national and international sports bodies are so Byzantine as almost to defy reform. I think that for all the whining about the SLC pairs event (and the constant whining about dance, which should be eliminated because it is impossible to judge; you can review it, like an arts critic, but not judge it) there have been comparatively few big judging controversies at major events. And before the USFSA starts throwing stones, it should wipe the mud off its own glass house. A 6.0 for Sasha at nationals? Please.

    It is too early to judge how the Rafael-Michelle partnership will work. So far, so good, right?

    For more on Johnny Weir, check out the profile of him that will appear in the Tribune March 21. One teaser: I like his defiance of convention.

    I wish there were more up-and-comers to get excited about. Liang, McDonough, Mok et. al have yet to fulfill promise shown earlier.

    Thanks for your time.

    Ok, just between us, who in the history of figure skating is your favorite skater, and how have they influenced your coverage of the sport?


    I may be begging the question, but the person who most influenced my coverage of the sport was the late Carlo Fassi. He was kind enough to spend a lot of time with me, explaining the nuances of the sport, debating its future direction, etc. The knowledge I gained from Carlo has infused my coverage since.

    I have a soft spot for Tiffany Chin. I was so dazzled by her in 1984, both as an artist and creative technician, that I always have felt she may have been one of the greatest in history were it not for injuries. And I liked Artur Dmitriev’s passion on the ice.

    I wouldn’t call either my favorite, but I wanted to mention them.

    In your opinion, is Michelle Kwan the greatest figure skater ever to lace up a pair of skates? Keep in mind that Michelle is the most decorated skater in U.S. history and has won the most U.S. Championships of any lady ever to do a triple jump. I would greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts, and also your outlook for how ladies’ skating is shaping up for the future years. (predictions, etc.).

    Thank you!!!!!

    I answered the first part of this in an earlier question.

    The way things look now, women’s skating could regrettably be turning into a tale of two countries—the US and Japan. Russia’s program is hitting an ebb; Canada’s is a mess; and few good skaters are coming from Western Europe. The ISU’s greatest problem is not judging but development of skaters.

    Welcome to MKF. Thank you for allowing us to chat with you. If you wouldn't mind answering the following...

    - What do you think about the current state of Professional skating?
    - Who would you have picked to have won? Nancy or Oksana?
    - Do you prefer a superbly jump-loaded program (complete with 7 triples, 3/3s, or even a 3 axel) but lacking any superb ness in spins, spirals, MITF over a superbly well-choreographed artistic program with beautiful lines, spins, body carriage, wonderful use of moves in the fields but only 6 triples and no 3/3s?
    - Who would you have chosen in 1996 as world champ? Chen Lu or MK?
    - What do you think about the pair skating scandal in Salt Lake City? Who would you have chosen as gold medalist?
    - What do you think of the Michelle Kwan Forum?
    - What do you think of vocals in ice dance? I personally don't like it...

    ~ Kwancierto de Aranjuez

    Is there still professional skating, other than the two ice shows, one of which is reduced to playing mainly smaller markets? Pro skating has returned to about where it was prior to 94. The notable missing element is the World Pro.

    I would have picked Oksana in the LP. But had there been replay in ’94, the judges might have seen Oksana’s 2-footed lutz landing in the short program and placed her 4th instead of third, making her eventual victory unlikely.

    I prefer the more artistically complete program, but a women’s program with a 3AX AND a 3/3 combo or two 3/3 combos would still be hard to beat. For me, Sarah’s Olympic program beats Michelle’s winning program at this year’s nationals.

    As I think I have mentioned earlier, the pairs incident was widely overblown by Blatherin’ Bezic and Hollerin’ Hamilton. The Russians were better.

    I enjoy skimming MKF from time to time.

    I don’t like ice dance, period, except as entertainment—not as a medal event.

    For what will Michelle Kwan be best remembered?


    For her dignity and grace in both victory and defeat. Her record speaks for itself. Her actions speak even more eloquently.

    Many of the female skaters take off from the inside edge on the Lutz jump, instead of the outside edge. Do you agree that the judges should take larger technical deductions in order to force the ladies to improve their technique?


    The truth is that almost all women do flutz. The problem is what constitutes a flutz. Some skaters flop over to the inside edge at the last instant before takeoff, some much earlier. Perhaps insistence on the outside edge will remedy the problem, but only with replay can a judge make a 99 percent accurate call. Try sitting at the end of a judges’ row and looking across eight other judges to see a lutz performed at the farthest point of the corner on the same side of the rink. It is very hard to see what takes place.

    How would you clean up the judging in Ice Skating? It seems COP is not a lot better then the old system in terms of the ability to cheat. What can the media and fans do to pressure Chinquanta to stop running rod shod over the skating world to keep the judges secret and not accountable for how they mark the skaters.


    No judging system that involves subjectivity will eliminate the possibility for one judge to cheat, but the COP makes it almost impossible to cut deals.

    Cinquanta stepped into a sport with a power vacuum and total madness (he took over after the 1994 Olympics); a sport where a company that sells sponsorships for the ISU also runs competing events and represents skaters who no longer are governed by the ISU; in short, the Wild West. Did he come to like his position? Undoubtedly. But give the man some credit: from my first long conversation with him, in November, 1994, he already was talking about trying to make judging more comprehensible to both avid skating fans and occasional skating fans. He also rewarded skaters with substantial prize money after the post-94 boom in TV revenue gave the ISU much greater income.

    Do you believe that reporters and commentators have had an impact on the sport during the last 20 years and if so, what has the impact been?

    Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and answer some of our questions.


    When I first began covering figure skating in 1980, no newspaper had reporters following the sport on even an irregular basis. Now most major US papers have reporters covering regularly or semi-regularly, which helps to prove that skating deserves a place in the sports pages.

    One problem is that the sport itself was not ready to be covered seriously, with warts as well as beauty marks exposed. If you want to be treated seriously, that means taking good with bad, as athletes in other pro sports do. It means fans should not overreact when their favorite skater’s (pick one or more ) performance/costume/music/attitude are FAIRLY criticized. Skating officials wanted the coverage, but they at first wanted it all to be saccharine, like the stuff delivered by TV broadcasts. Slowly, they have learned to take the good with the bad, as long as the reporting or columnizing is fair.

    Let’s give Peggy and Dick the credit they deserve, though. They are to skating’s TV audiences what Walter Cronkite was for those of us old enough to remember the days when the evening national news was must-see. Peggy and Dick are respected voices of authority who have explained the sport and made viewers feel their passion for it. I wish they would be more critical—and that skaters and viewers who hear their criticisms would not have the ``How dare they?’’ attitude that accompanies anything negative Dick and Peggy do say.

    - What do you think of Sasha Cohen's sudden, recent coaching change. Do you think there's more behind the Cohen/Tarasova split than we've been led to believe? Do you think Robin Wagner is the right coach for Sasha? I have mixed feelings about this pairing and would like to hear your thoughts on it.
    - In a recent article, Rosalyn Sumners talked about the state of professional skating and made some pointed, negative comments about both Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes, implying that, as Olympic gold medalists, they haven't done their "duty" to help maintain interest in the sport. In the past, other professional skaters have expressed that they feel Michelle Kwan is somehow contributing to the demise of professional skating by choosing to stay eligible for so long. What do you think about comments such as these? Do you think that skaters "owe" anything to skating?
    - In your opinion, what does Michelle Kwan need to do, overall (technically and artistically) to stand on the top step of the podium in 2006.

    Thank you so much for answering our questions! It is an unexpected honor!


    I was surprised by both of Sasha's coaching changes, I know there were valid reasons expressed for both (crowded rink in California, Tarasova’s health), but I don’t think those reasons explain everything. Why, after rather rapid progress in California, would one uproot a family to have Sasha work with a coach (Tarasova) whose strength already was Sasha’s strength? (Only the Cohen family knows that answer). And why, other than Sasha’s poor performances all fall, would one jump coaches so close to nationals?

    Sasha is a wondrous talent, and it would be nice if Robin can give her the consistency to make the most of it. Sarah’s record (other than in 2003, when her heart wasn’t in it) was one of great consistency, especially in major events, so that bodes well. But Sarah may simply have been mentally tougher.

    It would be better for the sport (and for Michelle) for Michelle to have a real rival.

    I did not hear or see the statements you attribute to Rosalyn, but I will comment in general:

    Neither Tara nor Sarah owes anything to anyone, other than to give credit to those who helped them win a gold medal. These very young Olympic champions had every right to make the choices they did. My only argument with Tara’s decision to leave eligible slating is that it was made precipitously; however, Tara said all along that she had goals, and once she achieved them, she wanted to move on. Knowing what we do now about the beating her body took to win the gold, it is obvious that was the healthiest move, as well.

    Sarah has the opportunity to broaden her horizons with an education at a special place (having graduated from Yale myself, I know how special it is). Like Tara, she skated the performance of a lifetime in the Olympics. Unlike Tara, she tried to go on, delivered a gritty performance at nationals and then simply ran out of will to keep doing what she had been. Perhaps she misses skating and will return; perhaps not. Whatever, she is a gold medalist forever—and a deserving one, to boot.

    Supposing Sasha does a perfect program in Turin, Michelle will need to ramp up the quality of many things, especially spins, to win the gold. She will need to find a thrilling piece of music for the free skate—by thrilling, I mean as much to her as to the audience and judges. She will, most of all, need to go to Turin not like Ahab in a monomaniacal quest but like someone who really believes the skating mantra of just trying to do her best. If Michelle can go to Turin feeling that she does not need gold to validate herself, she will have an excellent chance at winning it.

    End of Q&A.

  2. #2


    I want to thank everyone for the Questions. This was a great read.

  3. #3
    lilahupa2 Guest


    Very interesting read! The only thing I disagreed with was that he thought Oksana did win the lp over Nancy.

  4. Default

    That was very interesting to read. Thanks to Mr. Hersh & everyone that submitted questions! :SP

  5. Default

    I enjoyed reading this very much.

    Thanks to everyone for submitting questions and thanks to Mr. Hersh for taking the time to respond.

  6. #6


    very interesting, thanks for this....lots of stuff to chew on...i do (of course!) agree with him about placements in slc....a wooden irina....etc....and michelle's place in history....and his thoughts about michelle in turn....great music and passion...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    California, U.S.A.
    Blog Entries


    Thank you Mr. Hersh, for taking the time and energy to answer all the questions. It must have taken a lot of time and effort! Your answers were very interesting!


  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    Fetalized since 1998


    A wonderful read...I am thrilled that Mr. Hersh mentioned Tiffany Chin...His picks for outstanding performances were terrific. It made my heart a tad warmer to say that he may have placed MK second in the lp in SLC and Sasha, third...It changes nothing, but validates my beating of another dead horse...

    Thanks to Mr. Hersh and the moderators who arranged this.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 1999


    Yes, thank you Mr. Hersh for your time and answers. You really took the time to read everyone's question and gave some pretty interesting insight on your thoughts about Michelle.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2001


    Thanks to Mr. Hersh and everyone else who made this such an interesting Q&A.

  11. #11


    Thanks to all from MKF who submitted some great questions, and to Mr. Hersh for taking time to answer them.
    Thought he said some interesting things..

  12. #12


    Unfortunately in terms of the Olympics, Hersh completely missed the short and yeah it's beating a dead horse, but Sarah cheated both her flip and lutz badly and the technique in terms of speed and picking in also was very bad. I don't know. ..The fact that he doesn't see it which I think is clear as day and some of the judges really raises eyebrows and questions their intelligence or I guess eyesight at least. I guess I should have come right out and stated what she clearly did. I again disagree with Oksana in the long. I just thought Nancy was clearly superior in pretty much everything.

    It was a great read though. I think MK is the best overall skater ever in terms of just skating. I think she needs to keep winning (esp gold in Turino) and improving to confirm she's the greatest ever.

  13. Default

    Thanks so much to Mr. Hersh for taking the time to answer our questions! He had some very interesting and informative things to say, and I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks also to all the MKFers who submitted such great, thought provoking questions. I still can't believe we got to do this!

    *Edited for grammar.*

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2001

    Default Sarahs Oly LP beat Michelle's National?

    hahahahahahahaha :rollin Please.....:TOS

  15. #15

    Default Re: Sarahs Oly LP beat Michelle's National?

    I agree DMBchic, especially seeing her Olympic performance already stole 3 ordinals from her.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Atlanta, GA


    that was very interesting to read. I enjoyed it.

    Y'all had some great questions. I totally forgot about it :o

  17. #17
    Kwans Apprentice Guest


    I had a wonderful time procrastinating my studying for college finals with this Q&A and had a had a blast reading the questions and answers.

    Big thanks to all that submitted questions and thanks to Mr. Hersh for taking the time out to talk with the Forum!

  18. #18


    Thank you so much Mr. Hersh for for answering our questions!! It was quite an interesting Q&A, and I really enjoyed reading what everyone had to say and how Mr. Hersh answered the questions...I'd love to have another one again!

  19. #19
    Timmyjon Guest


    His ranking of the ladies slc lps are completely different than what he said after the Olympics...I think back then he thought it should have been Sarah, Sasha, Irina, Michelle.

  20. #20


    That was so interesting! Thanks to Mr.Hersh for taking the time to answer so many questions. I thought that he would just answer a few.

    "Blatherin' Bezic and Hollerin' Hamilton"!

  21. #21


    LOL! I loved the comment about Sandra and Scott's commentary.
    I also found it interesting what he said about the Pairs LP in SLC...okay, I found it more than interesting. I liked it!
    I know that sometimes Hersh doesn't get it right in our eyes, but it was very thoughtful for him to take the time to answer questions. This was an honor for MKF.

    VIVA KWAN!!! :SS

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Aug 2000


    Happy that my question was selected :-)

    With LP standings...he gives michelle the gold :-)

    Interesting comparison...he preferred Sasha's Oly LP than Mk's 2004 Nats LP

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    In a pretty place


    Great Q&A, and many thanks to Mr. Hersh for taking the time to do this for MKF.

  24. #24


    I"m very grateful to Mr. Hersh for doing this.

    I was delighted that he answered my question - and I congratulate my fellow Forum members for contributing to such a stimulating discussion.

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Apr 1999
    Fetalized since 1998


    Toly, He said Sarah's OLY lp, not Sasha's.


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