Figure Skating: No Holiday on Ice

Dreams of gold and glory in figure skating are very elusive. To become a champion, start with talent, money, monomania and a top-ranked coach.

Once upon a time — only a few years ago, really — a skating rink at dawn bore a certain resemblance to a monastery. The assembled acolytes performed their early devotions, except in this case, they were tracing meticulous patterns on the ice with profound concentration.

That lyrical tableau is no longer to be seen. Four years ago, the lords of figure skating eliminated school figures — the art of laying down perfect circles and then retracing the etching exactly — from competitions. The decision changed the nature of the sport — and brought whoops of joy from would-be champions. Now...

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