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Florence in Words

Ice-skating Number Two

I’ve waited a bit to write about the final women’s ice-skating competition, to let it all sink in, perhaps. And I was rewarded by another glimpse of the Russian youngster, Adelina Sotnikova, who won gold, this time more relaxed, more beautiful to watch as she danced gracefully with a yellow banner. This performance seemed very different from the one scored for her winning gold. That night my impression was of her energy, her bursting into jumps endlessly, and though I was not counting, she did jump more than she needed to, as I learned from the newspaper accounts, which reported that she had deliberately—and with forethought—racked up more points than her competitor, the regal Uma Kim from South Korea, who had seemed unbeatable to me.

And so I have read carefully—and tried to ingest—the information about how such competitions are scored, and how a clever skater, energetic and without falling, can in a sense manipulate the scoring professionally, even honorably, by squeezing into her choreography several more than the required jumps, especially difficult jumps in a series. Perhaps it is better to have the details of scoring schemes rather than “impressions.” Still, it’s never going to be “clear,” is it?

Uma Kim, who is a mature woman, and a “lady,” said she was satisfied with second place, and that she would skate in competitions no more. Adelina, we may be sure, will be back next time, perhaps along with her compatriot, Yulia Lipnitskaya, whose performance was exquisite the first time I saw her, and similarly strong in the finals, except for her fall. She seemed artistically perfect, and her blurring spins unmatchable even by Adelina.

And the others. I thought Caroline Kostner from Italy, who took the bronze, skated beautifully to “Bolero.” Similarly, the two Americans, who wound up in 4th and 5th places, skated well, though they could not match the scores of those who had gone before them. Even Mao Asada from Japan could not beat the opening scores of the three winners.

Here’s a postscript that has nothing and everything to do with the Olympic ice-skating I have been enjoying. I went last night to the movies for the first time since the surgery in mid-November. I went with Louise Meriwether to see one of the Academic Award nominated films, “American Hustle.” I disliked it from its opening scenes and continued to regard in amazement its status as worthy of a nomination. I thought it lacked anything that one could point to as worthy of remembering. Actually, I had a feeling rare for me in any performance: I wanted to leave at once, and would have, were it not for Louise. And her story is emblematic of what I am trying to say. She had seen it, but didn’t remember it until the opening scene of a man pasting on his toupee, and then she gasped and said she had seen it. I would have left with her, but she insisted on staying so that I might see the film.

So we stayed and I continued to feel that I was watching some of the ugliest aspects of our American culture, and to no point: nothing but lying and cheating, even when intentions are allegedly to catch liars and cheaters. And all revealed as ugly, so ugly as to be hopeless for a viewer like me, who can only turn away and say, why, why, why must we make heroes out of villains? And I have not mentioned the twenty minutes of ads for newer films, all violent, if not brazenly murderous, seemingly even more unredeemable than “American Hustle.”

So I went home and turned on “The Red Shoes,” an old film that happened to be a Saturday night special choice of Turner’s Classic Movies, and it was redemptive, cleansing for me. To recognize meaning, to see beauty, to hear music, to marvel at dance: all immensely pleasurable, enduring in memory, never tiring to see again and again.

Moira Shearer’s dancing reminded me of the ice skating, and I went from there to watch Adelina and others skate with pleasure.
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