For USOC, silence wrong road to follow after Coulter slur of Muslim Olympian

For USOC, silence wrong road to follow after Coulter slur of Muslim Olympian

The United States Olympic Committee is deservedly proud for having been named last week as one of this year’s business diversity leaders by Profiles in Diversity Journal, honoring the USOC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion as “a means to achieve business success.”

For the USOC, that commitment can refer to both the athletes who represent the United States at the Olympics, their coaches and the organizational staff hired to support them - in the case of this award, specifically Jason Thompson,  the USOC director for diversity and inclusion.  Athletes, coaches and staff combine to help create the success measured in medals and other noteworthy performances at the Olympics and Paralympics.

That’s why I wish the USOC had done itself even prouder by calling out Ann Coulter for her hateful, racist tweet related to Ibtihaj Muhammad, a black, Muslim woman emblematic of the rich diversity on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

Read More

U.S., Canada figure skate federation presidents should step away from judging

U.S., Canada figure skate federation presidents should step away from judging

The late Sydney J. Harris, an esteemed syndicated columnist, would frequently write stories under the rubric, “Things I Learned On My Way To Looking Up Other Things.”

I’m borrowing Mr. Harris’ catchphrase for this column, which grew out of things I was reminded of while reporting a story about the ethical questions surrounding Skate Canada’s welcome gift to skaters, judges and officials at the Canadian leg of the figure skating Grand Prix series last month in Regina, Saskatchewan.

What I learned is no secret, but it raises more ethical questions about the governance and judging of figure skating.

This case involves the indefensible decision to allow presidents of national figure skating federations to be international judges, in apparent contradiction of the conflict-of-interest language in the International Skating Union’s code of ethics.

The president of U.S. Figure Skating, Samuel Auxier, and of Skate Canada, Leanna Caron, each is an active international judge.  It makes them unique among current leaders of the national federations that consistently have medal-contending athletes.

That is akin to having the general manager of a football or baseball team act as a game official.

Read More

Hanyu's strong competitive spirit could hurt his chances to top Olympus

Hanyu's strong competitive spirit could hurt his chances to top Olympus

Yuzuru Hanyu has prided himself on trying to keep up with the recent quadruple jump outburst in men’s figure skating, an explosion in numbers and types of quads since 2015 for which the Japanese star credits China’s Jin Boyang as having been the spark.

When Hanyu won a second world title last year, he alluded to the quad exploits of Jin, Nathan Chen of the United States and Shoma Uno of Japan – all of whom have pushed the jump revolution - when he said, “I am trying to keep up with many of the strengths of the other skaters.”

The question now is whether pride literally came before the fall that has cast some doubt on Hanyu’s chances to win a second straight Olympic title – an achievement that, added to the rest of his career record, I feel would make him inarguably the greatest men’s skater in history.

Read More

Did Skate Canada lose virtue with gift pushing star skater's brand?

Did Skate Canada lose virtue with gift pushing star skater's brand?

It is customary for skaters, judges and other officials to receive a welcome gift from the organizers of Grand Prix figure skating competitions.

But a gift provided at Skate Canada, the International Skating Union Grand Prix series event last month in Regina, Saskatchewan, has raised ethical questions.

The gift, presented by the Canadian figure skating federation, was a pair of crystal earrings from the Regina-based company that manufactures and markets a jewelry line created by ice dancer Tessa Virtue, who, with partner Scott Moir, is reigning world champion and a favorite to win the Olympic gold medal next February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Read More

While waiting for Hanyu and Chen in Grand Prix opener, a look at stumbles, struggles and success

While waiting for Hanyu and Chen in Grand Prix opener, a look at stumbles, struggles and success

After a hectic first month of the Olympic figure skating season, there finally is a weekend to catch our collective breath, with just two low-level international events before the senior Grand Prix series begins with a bang:  Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Nathan Chen of the United States at the Rostelecom Cup Oct. 20-22 in Moscow.

Chen established himself among the world's top skaters when he topped Hanyu in the free skate at last season's Grand Prix Final (Hanyu won the event for a record fourth straight time) and then beat Hanyu  for the Four Continents Championship title on the 2018 Olympic rink in South Korea.  Hanyu had the last (and definitive) word at the World Championships, rebounding from a subpar short program with a brilliant free skate to win worlds for the second time, while Chen stumbled to sixth overall.

The six Challenger Series events so far this season (and last weekend’s free-skate-only Japan Open) have produced some noteworthy performances, good and bad.

Ten random observations:

Read More