Arts & Entertainment, Reviews

Figure skating TV shows need help

I am a figure skater. I compete in big and bright arenas, not in dark rinks with one jarring spotlight. I practice in rundown leggings, not in tiny sparkly dresses. And I have never skated on a pond.

Figure skating television shows and movies have and will continue to misrepresent the sport. As a competitive figure skater, I cringe and mock every skating show in the book. I laugh off the inappropriate use of spotlights or skaters attempting difficult jumps on a frozen-over pond. But the new Netflix show, “Zero Chill,” takes it to a whole new level.

The series follows competitive figure skater Kayla through her skating journey as she moves across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom because of her twin brother’s blossoming hockey career. Kayla, a pairs skater, has to end her current partnership because of the move. As a pairs skater myself, I felt for Kayla. It is one of the most difficult processes to find the perfect match, and most skaters never do. But that is where the similarities end.

“Zero Chill” is not the first figure skating TV show or movie to misrepresent the sport. It was, however, the first show I’ve seen to misrepresent pairs skating, which sent me over the edge. Pairs skating is one of the most difficult disciplines in the sport. Girls get thrown and lifted across the ice by their partners — trust, therefore, is the most important aspect of the discipline.

zero chill title screen on netflix
Netflix’s “Zero Chill.” The show is just the latest movie or TV series to misrepresent the sport of ice skating and the preparation required to partake in it. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Before I spin and jump into all of my grievances, I want to describe a typical day when I trained as a Team USA figure skater, because “Zero Chill” failed to represent the rigorous schedule that is necessary to be one.

I started my day at 8 a.m. and would be on and off the ice at the rink training until 4 p.m.. We would practice our programs that you see in competitions, we would train all of our jumps, lifts and spins and we would end our day with workout and dance classes.

Outside of our typical training day, we would attend training camps just like Kayla does in the show. But I think the accuracy of the pairs training camp in the show begins and ends with its name. This situation serves as an example for all the problems in “Zero Chill,” so I am going to break it down.

Right off the bat, Kayla just waltzes into the arena where an “international” pairs camp was taking place. When we would head to our annual pairs camp in Colorado, we were all signed up and paid for several weeks in advance. A methodical schedule would be sent out, and groups were strategically planned. There is no world where a skater off the street, especially without a partner, would just glide onto the ice.

Once Kayla stepped foot onto the ice — that she shouldn’t have been on in the first place — she greeted her former partner, and moments later, they started skating their old program together. This is wrong in so many ways. Pairs skating involves lots of preparation, even when you skate with your partner every day. No matter who my partner was, we would start each day off of the ice going through our lifts. Pairs skating is dangerous, and someone can get hurt from one slightly wrong move. You will never see a pair team walk into the rink, tie up their skates and immediately run their program.

My last grievance is their practice attire. Kayla wore a tiny, sparkly skating dress more than half of the times she was practicing on the ice. The only time I would wear a dress would be in a competition or when I was five because I thought they were fun. Imagine training eight hours a day in a cold ice rink wearing a short skating dress. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

At this point, I might create my own skating TV show just to show the world what it really takes to be a figure skater. I would show the not-so-pretty side of the sport, with the long training days, and I would never have a skater tie up their skates and train in their neighborhood pond like so many skating shows portray. 

“Zero Chill” is just one more cheesy and flawed skating TV show. If there is a second season in the works, I’m petitioning to become a writer so that I can accurately portray what the figure skating life is really about.

4 Comments

  1. B. Stevens

    Well written and very informative article. Thank you for sharing part of the real figure skating story.

  2. Marge Bennett

    Very well written I would love to see an articl
    you would write about your sport. It looks so graceful and effortless

  3. Susan Austin

    Thank you Grace for your informed and thoughtful article on the terrible misrepresentation of figure skating. I taught dance and choreography to the highest level of figure skaters for more than 30 years. It is painful to see what these representations portray. I have not viewed this recent one, “Spinning Out” was enough. Totally over the top, could not have been more negative not to mention inappropriate for young teens who it was targeted for.

    I hope you get the opportunity to set the record straight and be a part of a skating production. I just finished viewing “Dance Academy”, an Australian three season series and then a movie. It is an awesome production and very similar to a skater’s experience. Sure there is the jealousy a and some negative aspects to anything competitive, but it is also about the amazing bonds and friendship that are forged in the process. I hope that a positive portrayal of figure skating will emerge as it deserves!

  4. Anita LeClaire Conron

    Grace,
    I have always admired the truth and you related your skating story as it should be told to those of us on the fringe just watching what is going on before us on the ice…live or on television.
    Thank you for your comments and setting us all straight. It is never too late to learn….something I discover every day.
    Anita LeClaire Conron, Buffalo, NY

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