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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3, 2002

Olympic figure skating gets low marks from bar patrons

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Wave your beer doily if you can't wait for the Olympic figure skating competition to start.



"If it's on, I'll watch," said Dave Leong. "Nancy Kwan is hot."

Leong probably means Michelle Kwan, America's top female skater, not the actress who played Suzie Wong in that awful '70s movie. Still, his error may be understandable. According to a highly unscientific survey of Honolulu bars, few in that prized demographic of local beer-sponging males have made much effort to keep abreast of the latest figure-skating news.

Leong was hanging out at Side Street Inn with Ken Murakami, who admits to having never heard of Kwan's rival, Irina Slutskaya.

"For real, that's her name?" Murakami asked. "Cool."

This is not to suggest that figure skating isn't popular. Last month's U.S. Figure Skating Championships on ABC Family drew 4 million viewers, tops among basic cable shows. However, without the lure of a transcendent skater like Katarina Witt or Kristi Yamaguchi, or the trashy intrigue of, say, Nancy vs. Tonya, there hasn't been much about the upcoming competition to engage the disinterested masses.

In fact, in the weeks before the Games, more attention has been paid to the International Skating Union's directive against "undignified" movements — "The people who run figure skating have gotten all crabby about the crotch," wrote Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly — than to any other aspect of the sport.

"I think (the ISU directive) is alright," says Magoo's Pizza patron Brian Martin. "You might not see the women do anything raunchy anymore, but you don't have to see Brian Boitano's crotch anymore, either."

Psst: Boitano hasn't been in the Olympics since 1994.

"There you go," Martin says. "He saw the writing on the wall."

Carl Munoz, another Magoo's regular, simply refuses to watch the competition.

"It's not a sport," he says. "It might be hard to do, but it's goofy. And the scoring is all subjective. What kind of competition is that if everyone scores everything differently?"

Melvin Akiona goes a step further.

"The whole Winter Games are kind of lame," he says, nursing a Budweiser at Player's Sports and Entertainment Club. "I'm not real interested. To me, the only winter game I like watch is the Packers at Lambeau (Field)."

So is figure skating a lost cause in O'ahu's bars? Del Nitta, another Side Street customer, has a solution.

"Maybe they should make it more like hockey," he says. "Get them all out on the ice at once and get some cross-checking in there. Maybe Tonya Harding could come back."