Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Mom with a PhD who Can't Watch her Daughter Skate in Competitions

Finally, someone understands that I am in "good company." USA Today reports that several parents of Olympic figure skaters can't bear to watch their child compete in events and that includes the mother of Evan Lysacek, who is second in the 2010 Winter Olympics after the men's short program in figure skating with the finals taking place today in Vanouver. I plan on watching him compete against Plushenko of Russia, who is in first place after the short program and against Johnny Weir, whom I have written about in an earlier post, as well as the other amazing skaters from around the world.

In the USA Today article, it is noted that even Michelle Kwan's dad used to leave the rink when she competed (and as you may know she is now a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts and is reporting on these Olympics for Good Morning America).

I may have a PhD and have given talks to hundreds in audiences in different countries around the world with maybe only a few butterflies in my stomache, but there is something so surreal and challenging about figure skating that when your own child is doing those jumps and spins in the air that I just don't have the courage to watch. Luckily, my husband is tougher so he sometimes videotapes and takes photos. Needless to say, the other skating moms get a kick of me leaving the rink at those times.

Plushenko trains in St. Petersburg, Russia, a magical city, which I had a chance to visit when I was there for a conference and gave an invited talk a few years back. Plushenko has gotten a lot of TV coverage and media press for his quad jump and his return to competitive skating after a few years "break." He managed to place first (but it's not over yet) last Tuesday after eating only a banana all day, he said, to stay fit and to be able to compete against the "younger ones."

The drama of figure skating competition will continue tonight with the men's finals in Vancouver!

I congratulate all the US gold medalists
: Lindsey Vonn in skiing (despite her shin injury which was even treated by a special cheese from Austria), Shaun White in snowboarding, and Shani Davis, an African-American speed skater, as well as all the medalists at these Olympic Games!

As for the fashion police (yes, academics sometimes need a break from their seriousness and their research, teaching, and service), they seem to be taking note of the figure skating costumes at these Olympics and noting the fashion "dos and dont's." Even one of our local newspapers in Massachusetts has been picking out some "doozies," which can't help but bring smiles. These skating outfits on a skating pair remind me of polyester Burberry lederhosen. Perhaps, it is best to just stick with "uniforms" but those just might detract from the originality, artistry, and much more of what makes figure skating so special (of course, there are those snowboarding outfits at the other extreme, as well).

For those of you who think that I am the only mother of a figure skater who is also an academic, in fact, you are mistaken. My friend, Dr. Zelda Zabinsky, a scholar in global optimization, even used to design and sew figure skating dresses for her daughter, who is now pursuing her own PhD!