Tuesday, August 4, 2015


     The beautiful sport of figure skating is mainly known for its solo or individual competition, especially the breathtaking athletic artistry of such celebrated heroines as Korea's Yuna Kim, America's Peggy Fleming, and Japan's Mao Asada.  But real connoisseurs of the sport understand that the pairs figure skating competition is not only equally spectacular and athletic, but includes an element of serious physical risk that requires a remarkable degree of raw courage -- especially for the female partner.  Indeed, one of the standard elements in elite pairs competition is ominously known as the "death spiral."

     The death spirals, as well as many of the soaring lifts and gasp-inducing throws, place the female partner within a hair's breath of high-speed ice crashes that can result in concussions, broken bones, or worse.  The lithe, bantam-weight female skaters are inescapably dependent upon the strength, focus, and stability of their male partners in executing these harrowing maneuvers.

    At the highest level of the sport, it is the unique, complementary interplay between the muscular male lifter and the lissome female floater that gives paired figure skating its peculiar appeal and compelling aesthetic.


The chemistry of Tai and Randy would not be the same if it were Randy and Roger                                                              [Tony Duffy/Getty Images]

    As one might expect, International Skating Union (ISU) regulations specify that pair teams must consist of "one lady and one man" (does this sound vaguely familiar?).  The sport places special emphasis on the harmonious and unified movement of the mandatory male and female partners. "Two skating as one" is the hallmark of the greatest ice skating pairs.

    In many ways, the best paired figure skating bears a striking similarity to a good marriage.  It demands cooperation, harmony, and the subordination of selfish impulses.  Unsurprisingly, some of the most illustrious pair teams have been married couples, including the incomparable Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, who twice won Olympic gold medals and are regarded by many as the greatest skating pair ever.  

     Splashing Rocks would normally be reluctant to drag something so exquisitely beautiful as paired figure skating into a discussion of something that is as awkward and ungainly (especially in its putative "consummation") as the oxymoronic concept of same-sex marriage (SSM). But the collective mentality in today's America has increasingly come to accept the notion that a "marriage" between two males or two females is not only possible, and not only acceptable, but even somehow desirable from a social standpoint. 

      Because SR stands firmly among those who staunchly reject this ill-conceived tendency, we recognize the importance of demonstrating, and not merely declaring, the fundamentally unnatural character of SSM.   In that regard, the essential nature and qualities of paired figure skating offer a compelling analogy to the reasons why the notion of same-sex marriage -- however many politicians, judges, and utterly confused people succumb to a contrary canard -- is a logical impossibility.

      The arguments that have succeeded in imposing SSM upon American society generally focus upon the contrived misnomer of "marriage equality."  The essential point behind this glib slogan is that it is somehow discriminatory, and a form of "unequal" treatment, to limit the institution of marriage to unions between a man and a woman.  

     Indeed, during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the disastrous SSM case of  Obergefell v. Hodges, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested that the case could possibly be disposed of as a simple matter of sex discrimination.  As Roberts stated during the oral argument: “I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

       In the very same vein, then, one might then ask:  If a skilled male skater named Johnny wanted to compete in the Olympic paired figure skating event with a male partner (say, Alexander), but the ISU refused the request based on the male/female requirement, why isn't that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?  If a lass named Irina is eligible to skate as a pair with this same Alexander, why can't Johnny?  They are both talented skaters; the only difference is their sex.
       The answer of course is the same that logically applies in the case of limiting marriage to a male and a female, and for the same reasons.  The very essence of both marriage and paired figure skating inheres in the complementary relationship and interplay between "one lady and one man."  If all-male and all-female pairs began participating, pairs figure skating would simply no longer be the same sport.  It would be something fundamentally different.


   The interplay between Gordeeva and Grinkov would not work with two males

      Excluding same-sex couples from both of these institutions is simply necessary to maintain their essential integrity.  It is no more "discriminatory" than the unwavering requirement of atomic physics that a hydrogen atom contains a single positively charged proton and a single negatively charged electron bound to the nucleus.  In marriage, paired figure skating, and the physics of hydrogen atoms, or even car batteries, complementary polarity is the essence of the thing.  Remove it, and the thing no longer works.

        The ISU regulations tersely but firmly define pairs skating as the complementary interplay between "one lady and one man." Allowing two males to compete as a pair would alter the very nature and essence of the competition.  The yin-yang aesthetic of the event would be obliterated. 

     It is unclear what the interplay between two males skating as a pair would be, but one thing is certain:  it would be jarringly different from the graceful interaction between Gordeeva and Grinkov or between Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.  It is painfully awkward to contemplate two male skaters engaging in some of the more intimate cradling and embraces, not to mention the ballet-like lifts, that are commonplace with male-female pairs. It is not difficult to predict the appalled and uncomfortable reaction that this "new look" would induce in most skating spectators.

      Whatever paired figure skating with two male partners might hypothetically entail, it would be fundamentally and glaringly different from the graceful, complementary aesthetics of the male/female pairs event that its fans know and love.  And a moment's honest reflection on these considerations leads to the inescapable conclusion that, whatever a SSM might be called by society, it is simply not the same thing as the male-female pairings that constitute genuine marriage.