I'm not fond of any judged sports. It seems to me better to let competitors, within the rules of their discipline, do their thing in head to head competition and the one who could best the others on that day wins. Naturally I prefer watching events like the cross country races or the downhill skiing to judged skating. Moguls was an interesting mix of judged and straight competition -- an under-informed viewer could be a little mystified to see that the fastest competitor to arrive at the bottom of the hill still standing didn't necessarily prevail.
In the judged sports like figure skating (and gymnastics in the Summer games), the aim becomes to measure how closely a competitor can match his/her arduously honed gifts to whatever ideal image is lodged in the judges' heads. This needn't be completely arbitrary, but it is also not necessarily as athletically interesting as what these extraordinary talents might come up with if their creativity weren't so constrained by their discipline's conventions.
Elvis Stojko, a Canadian three-time world champion during the 90s, has riled some folks by insisting that skating's conventions leads to "effeminate" programs. As reported in Salon:
Okay, I could easily decide this guy just doesn't like women and doesn't want to be identified with us.
But, you see, I share his wish to see power and strength on the ice: from the women skaters! Why are they constrained to be soft, feathery, weepy? They are obviously remarkable athletes, possessed of extraordinary agility and balance -- and rock strong in order to skate these long programs. But the latter quality is something they are required to hide.
The twosome pictured didn't come close to winning the pairs; they placed 8th. But I loved their short program. Ukrainians Tatiana Andreëvna Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov skated in what looked like Star Trek uniforms (she got to wear pants!) with power and zeal. That suited this viewer fine. I'd love to see what a solo woman skater who added visible power to grace could do in the solo competition. But we all know the sport's conventions would never allow that.
As Knapp points out, the women jumpers don't actually want to jump against men; they want their own event in which to compete with each other. Knapp hopes that the Olympic Committee can correct this injustice by 2014.
I also hope so; I have a 16-year old friend who would be just about ready to make that team ... You can read about women's jumping and this aspiring athlete in this article from the Rutland Vermont Herald.