A Rant: Figure Skating, The 2014 Olympics, Stereotyping and Prejudice

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

My mother meets 6-time US ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have an excellent chance to win an Olympic gold medal

I have included a slew of hot links for you to check out in this blog! Do use them!

Sometimes I need to write a personal blog and rant a little.

One of my favorite past times is attending national and international figure skating competitions as a fan. I love both athletics and art / music, and the sport of figure skating uniquely combines both. The top skaters train for hours per day both off and on the ice, and they need to be in top physical shape to perform the difficult routines that includes jumps, spins and intricate footwork sequences. And the skaters need to perform these physically demanding tricks on ice while skating to music and looking nice.

The 2014 US Figure Skating Nationals in Boston were particularly exciting since this was the key competition to help name our 2014 Olympic team going to Sochi, Russia. The men’s competition was a thrilling showdown between 3 time (now 4-time) national champion Jeremy Abbott, last year’s champion Max Aaron and a brilliant young skater Jason Brown. Associated Press published a great article about the competition which I read on line. But very disheartening were the online comments that people posted. I was disgusted that nearly half the comments were speculating about the sexual orientation of the skaters with derogatory hateful comments about gay people, and about how figure skating is really not a sport… comments like “what is so difficult about dressing in pretty clothes and prancing around on the ice.”

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US mens silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

I got to meet a leading woman skater and Harvard student Christina Gao, and the new 2014 US men’s silver medalist Jason Brown at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last summer.

And now my two key points:

1. If I were a hiring manager and looking at candidates’ social media postings, I would never hire any of these people who posted these derogatory comments. First, anyone who is this outspoken about their irrational prejudice and stereotyping of any group would be unable to function in a diverse workplace team and would instead hinder teamwork. Second, people who make statements (like figure skating is easy and not a sport) about which they know nothing, could wreck major damage to work projects by providing faulty information and jumping to conclusions before studying data and facts, or providing customers invalid information. Those macho dudes (yeah – I know I am now myself stereotyping – see my blog on stereotyping) would probably collapse on the ice and die after 15 seconds of doing what elite figure skaters do in complex 4 minute programs.

2. The 2014 Olympics have been overshadowed by some Russian leaders’ draconian positions on gay and lesbian people and their human rights. (See my blog from last fall on this, “The Psychology of Bullying.”) I commend some very positive developments from the US in addressing this Russian issue. First, President Obama’s move (link) to include a number of very respected out gay and lesbian former athletes and Olympians to the American delegation to Sochi demonstrates to the Russians (and the world) that truly enlightened leaders value all contributions from all groups within society. And second, I commend one of our top women skaters, Ashley Wagner, for her vocal support of the LGBT community (link to article) in a most articulate and mature manner.

To close this blog, here is a special treat – a link to the phenomenal long program delivered by one of my personal favorites Jason Brown. Not only is he an outstanding skater, but a fine young man and a role model for treating all fans with respect and kindness. Congratulations to Jason, Ashley and all the other fine men and women figure skaters who will be representing the USA in the 2014 Olympics!

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