Michelle Kwan

(P1) These are TROUBLED times for American figure skating, which was once so popular that it beat the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in TV ratings (10.1 to 8.8 in 1996).

(P2) TV ratings have PLUMMETED. Touring shows of Olympic skaters that used to stop in 80 to 90 cities have either DISBANDED or shrunk. American singles skaters, the superstars of the sport for generations, don’t win anything anymore. And more than a decade after the sport introduced a new judging system, no one has any idea what is happening on the ice.

(P3) You remember the 6.0 scoring system? The one with the numbers displayed with the flags of the judges’ countries? It was reality TV before there was reality TV. There were villains. There were heroes. You could scream at the TV.

(P4) But then the leaders of the sport decided to get rid of the 6.0 for a system that allows judges to remain ANONYMOUS and everyone else to have no idea what is going on.

(P5) Sit and watch an event at the national championships next to Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and you know you’re not alone in your confusion. “I look at the scores and kind of go, ‘huh,’ then lean over and ask (younger former competitive skaters) Michael Weiss or Ryan Bradley to explain it for me,” Boitano said with a laugh.

(P6) “The current scoring system leaves people BEWILDERED,” Dick Button, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and long-time announcer told me over the phone the other day.

(P7) Let’s remember how good it once was. Travel with me back to the glorious 1990s.

(P8) The women’s short program at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics received a 48.5 TV rating, making it the sixth-highest rated television show in history.

(P9) There was nowhere to go but down. But now we’ve hit ROCK BOTTOM.

(P10) Stars would have helped. But Michelle Kwan has been retired for almost 10 years now, and no one has taken her place. No one has broken through with an individual Olympic or world championship medal, leading to an UNPRECEDENTED nine-season DROUGHT for U.S. women at the worlds and Olympics.

(P11) Without reliable and consistent personalities, fans go elsewhere. There are too many injuries, too many falls, too many disappointments.

WORDS: 374



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Have you ever watched a figure skating competition on television?
  3. Is figure skating a popular sport in your country? Who are the most famous skaters?
  4. Several Olympic sports involve SUBJECTIVE judging – figure skating, GYMNASTICS, diving. Do you understand the scoring systems, or are they confusing to you?
  5. Why is women’s figure skating more popular than men’s figure skating? (Women’s gymnastics is also more popular than men’s gymnastics.)


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Rock bottom

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