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Jamie Miller: Politics and the Olympics: Figure skating isn’t a sport

Like most red-blooded Americans, I love the Olympics!  I remember my dad picking me up from a youth group in 1980; he wouldn’t tell me the score of the U.S.A. vs. U.S.S.R. hockey game. The game had been played in the afternoon but via tape delay it was to be broadcast during primetime TV. All he said was, “Let’s go home and watch it together.” We did, and that game remains one of the best sports moments in my life.

I do grow tired, however, when nearly every time I turn on the TV this week during primetime, the “sport” that was being played was either figure skating, ice dancing, or team figure skating, whatever that is.

There is no question that these competitors are athletic, that their event deserves to be part of the pageantry of the Olympics, but it is far-fetched to call something a sport when politics has historically determined the outcome.

This year is no different.  Coaches of the teams from Russia and the U.S.A. were accused of colluding to help each other win gold medals.  According to the allegations, the U.S.A. was going to help Russia win gold in the new team figure skating competition, which they did, and Russia is going to help the U.S.A. win in ice dancing.

This is after the 2002 scandal in the figure-skating pairs competition that led to two gold medals being awarded at the Salt Lake City games.

Of course, saying that figure skating isn’t a sport is quite controversial.  One person warned me, “Don’t mistake sports with games.”  Well, I’m not.  Bass fishing is more of a sport than figure skating.  The person who catches the fish that weighs the most wins.  NASCAR is more of a sport.  The person who drives the fastest, has the best strategy and has the best pit crew wins.  Curling is definitely a sport.  If you score the most, you win.

It is not a sport if someone is standing around waiting for judges to determine if his or her form was good enough to beat the other team.

One supporter of calling figure skating a sport said to me, “The term sport derives from the French disport, which means to divert, amuse or play.”  The actual definition of sport is, “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.”

To me, a sport is an athletic activity where you go faster, jump higher, or score more points.  The winner is defined by the athlete on the field of play, not the political players behind the scenes.  Thank goodness a true American sport is beginning this week.  Welcome back baseball!

Jamie Miller is a political consultant. He lives in Sarasota, Fla.

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