2018 Winter Olympics And Beyond: Why Figure Skating Requires Silence [Opinion]

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The individual figure skating portion of the 2018 Winter Olympics is halfway through, and if there is one thing that has been abundantly obvious, it is the need for a slight change in the way programs are being called. Whether you are an occasional or avid figure skating viewer, commentary from informed voices is always a welcome accompaniment to the viewing experience.

The problem is that commentators will often commentate during a skater’s performance. They do this to inform viewers about helpful information ranging from jumps that have not been entirely performed or to share interesting trivia about the skater(s). For figure skating fans, this commentary is incredibly valuable.

While these are all essential things to know, the issue is whether we need to hear it while we are trying to watch one of the most significant performances of a skater’s career. When viewers are trying to take in a skater’s performance, being able to hear the music without interruption is a crucial part of the process.

Albeit it is exciting to listen to commentators’ joyous reaction to remarkable feats such as Mirai Nagasu landing the triple axel. Moments like that do not disrupt the flow of a performance.

As much as a commentator’s insight is a great resource, does anyone want to be interrupted when they are trying to hear whether the skater is hitting the music? Ladies single skater Alina Zagitova times her stunning jumps and spins to precisely hit the music in her free program to “Don Quixote.” While a commentator can tell you that she accomplished her goal, wouldn’t you rather hear it for yourself?

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skate their Moulin Rouge free dance during the team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics
Featured image credit: Robert CianfloneGetty Images

The same goes for ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and their spectacular synchronized spins as “El Tango de Roxanne” roars towards a pivotal pause. Like many programs, Virtue and Moir’s entire performance requires silence to appreciate it, as it entails tremendous musicality. Similarly, the positive execution of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue’s terrific twizzle sequence relies on them correctly syncing their rotations to the music.

This season, commentators informed viewers that Maia and Alex Shibutani put in extra twizzle rotations so they could stay synchronized with their music. It is harder to appreciate the Shibutanis’ amazing feat if you cannot hear the music. If the announcer tells viewers to keep an ear out for it before the program begins, they can go into the Shibutanis’ performance ready to tune in for it, while also being able to garner the maximum enjoyment of their efforts.

Alex and Maia Shibutani perform their free dance during the team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics
Featured image credit: Robert CianfloneGetty Images

Do you want to watch a movie you have been waiting to see for more than a year and listen to people talk over it? No. The Winter Olympics are the Oscars of figure skating. It is figure skating’s biggest night, and unlike the Oscars, it only happens every four years. So what is the solution?

Wait for the Highlights

There is plenty of time to listen to the announcer’s thoughts, insights, and opinions on the skaters’ performance when the judges are crunching their numbers. While the score is calculated, there is usually a slow-motion recap of the performance’s highlights or crucial moments. That is the perfect time for the announcers’ to share their thoughts on the overall performance of the program.

Olympic ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates perform their free dance
Featured image credit: Matthew StockmanGetty Images

As for informing the audience about a jump that was not completed per the original plan, that can be relayed to the audience by putting a notification in the score box posted in the upper left-hand corner. It is equipped with small boxes that are lit green, red, and yellow, depending on whether an element is approved (green), disapproved (red), or is still being considered (yellow).

The box turning one of the colors mentioned above already gives viewers a hint as to whether a planned move was executed. The presence of a small notification informing them of how close they came, would be useful, as it gives viewers the chance to learn the information they want, without forcefully disrupting the program.

In Summation

Giving figure skating fans the best of both worlds is possible. Will networks that air figure skating do anything about it? Only time will tell, as we watch the final round of competition.

Per CBS Sports, ice dancing will begin airing Sunday, February 18 at 7 p.m. EST on NBC. The gold medal will be decided when the event concludes with the free dance the following evening. Coverage of the gold medal final starts at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.

The ladies event will begin on NBC, Tuesday, February 20 with the conclusion airing on Thursday. Both events start airing at 8 p.m. EST. That means figure skating fans will have to wait an extra day to see the final battle for gold. Here is hoping fans will get to watch and listen without being interrupted.