GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Even after all this time the most iconic pair in figure skating history is still ... Will Ferrell and Jon Heder in Blades of Glory.
That’s written in jest of course, but why is it that in 2018 the thought of two men performing together like the 2007 movie duo still seems light years away?
Tolerance and understanding of the LGBT community still has some way to travel, but isn’t there enough of it for there to at least be a conversation about new Olympic events allowing two men and two women to skate in tandem?
WATCH: Gold medal Pairs free skate
“Why not?” smiled former ice dancer and NBC analyst Tanith White, when asked about the idea before explaining she was late for a meeting but would like more time to formulate an answer.
The International Olympic Committee likes new events and particularly likes those that break down traditional gender barriers. Mixed doubles has been introduced into the curling competition and there have been discussions about mixed relays in both the summer and winter Games.
Adding a men’s doubles and women’s doubles to the figure skating program would give extra air time tor the most-watched Winter Olympic discipline and send a powerful message of equality, not just in terms of sexual orientation but also gender issues.
“The only thing I have in my head is the movie,” pairs skater Julianne Seguin of Canada said, while stood alongside her partner, Charlie Blondeau. “But for sure I would be the first one to watch it if it got introduced.”
“Wow, the man who would lift the other man would be as strong as hell,” Blondeau added. “But it would be cool.”
Ferrell and Heder’s performance was a giant caper, but there is no reason routines in men’s pairs or women’s pairs would need to be comical, or indeed have any of the romantic dynamic that is prevalent in both regular pairs and ice dance.
“I wouldn’t be in the event because I skate with my wife,” Chris Knierim of the United States told USA TODAY Sports. “I have seen a lot in Cirque de Soleil where the guys do lifts and things like that and balancing stuff and it is impressive. Who knows, a bunch of side by side quads maybe?”
It is easy to hear of same sex pairs skating and assume it must directly be about homosexuality, but that’s nonsense. It would work best if it was about teamwork and synchronicity.
Would a performance where Nathan Chen and his U.S. teammate Vincent Zhou teamed up and executed their famed quad jumps at the exact same time be worth a look?
Or the offsetting contrasts of the fiery Mirai Nagasu and the ice cool Bradie Tennell leaping and twisting beside each other?
Well, if it is going to happen, it won’t be yet. The International Skating Union is a rather decrepit old body and such a thing would need a stark shift in attitudes.
Rule 302.5 of the ISU’s long and painful rulebook states that “the composition of a pair must be one Lady and one Man.”
According to outsports.com, back in 1998 athletes were threatened with expulsion by the ISU if they competed in the Gay Games, which contained a number of events unsanctioned by the federation, most notably the same sex pairs.
That was then and this is now. It is time for a change but change is slow to arrive.
As Ferrell’s Chazz Michael Michaels famously said: “Mind-bottling, isn’t it?”