Timothy Goebel responds to Elvis Stojko’s Rant

I was interested in what Timothy Goebel, 2002 Olympic Bronze medalist, thought of the scathing article Elvis Stojko wrote about the Men’s results, called “The Night they Killed Figure Skating”. (To read it, click here.) Tim sent me this rebuttal:

“In my last season of competitive skating my coach, Audrey Weisiger, had a great quote: “Adapt, or die!”. Referring to the new judging system, she was noting the importance of being able to make changes to a program mid-season, in order to maximize points.

Evan, and many of his peers, have done just that. They have adapted. While I do agree with Elvis that the current system fails to appropriately encourage and reward risk, there are improvements the new regime has brought to the sport, as well. The most important, perhaps, is the importance placed on quality. Evan did not do a quad. Elvis is correct in saying that Evan’s jumps weren’t close to the techinical ability of Evgeny- they far exceeded his. Plushenko gave a gritty performance, and is a phenomenal competitor, but the jump quality was lacking. He barely hung on to his solo triple axel, and although Evan had a slight break in his axel combo, it was better. Lysacek did a beautiful triple lutz-triple toe, Plu barely squeaked by on his solo lutz, and did a scratchy triple lutz-double toe. Grade of execution counts for a lot, as it well should, and in every case Evan’s execution was stronger.

Another positive step the new system makes, is rewarding a well balanced program by giving bonus to difficult elements late in the program. Plushenko has one of the best triple axels in the business. He could easily do it in the bonus, but he elected not to. He front-loaded his program, and Evan spread his difficulty throughout. I appreciate how difficult that is- in the Salt Lake City Olympics, the second quad sal in my long was around the 3 minute mark. It requires a lot of training to make the big tricks happen late in a program, and Evan did so with ease.

I do not like to see the quad being such a rarity in the sport these days, and I do think that the system needs a major overhaul to encourage athletes to take risk. However, athletes must adapt to the system that they are competing under. With the help of Lori Nichol and Frank Carroll, Evan constructed a program that uses his strengths to maximize his points. He did what he needed to do to be successful within the constructs of the current system, and delivered two of the strongest programs he could possibly skate under a great deal of pressure. And that is the sign of a true champion.

In order to help the sport move forward, I would like to see a dialogue open between the ISU and former athletes who have performed multiple quads in competition. Elvis, myself, and many of our peers have invaluble competition experience for understanding the difficulty in executing these jumps. I agree that the system needs some major adjustments. Working together with the ISU, I am confident that we could come up with a point spread that would encourage and reward athletes to attempt more difficult elements, and do so without turning the sport into a jump contest.”

Thank you, Tim. Well put.

This week, on Slate.com I think I have officially outdone myself, as far as self-deprecation and sarcasm: Click down here:

To read a riff proposing some, ehem…other Olympic Sports, Click down here:

Happy Olympics!



  1. Pbf · February 21, 2010

    Well put Tim! I did of course go read Elvis’ piece before reading this so I was aware of as much of the situation as possible. After reading this response I wanted nothing more than to cry. I agree with Tim completely. I guess I haven’t been around the sport long enough to see how it is okay to degrade the sport with all of this controversy in the first place. There will always be flaws in the sport. Simply, it is a judged sport and thus there will be opinions involved and some human factor. But hey, we’re human too and we have to accept these imperfections and work with them. It truly brings tears to my eyes that we can’t simply be happy for the amazing job that Evan did and congratulate Evgeny on his great job too. They both succeeded at different things. Evan skated a close to technically perfect program while Evgeny tried something more challenging by including a quad. Clearly one prevailed that night over the other. If this competition was simply who could rotate the most times before hitting the ice, then hell we could all go out there and try it. The most technically unsound, artistically inept person might be able to go around four and a half times. They might not land it, but apparently that doesn’t really matter huh? Well, writing this little tidbit is definitely a better use of my time than my homework and a better outlet for my frustration than tears, Thanks Jocelyn!

  2. Tiffany · February 21, 2010

    I loved Elvis Stojko’s passion in his article. His points can be argued, but he just wants the sport to progress and evolve into higher athletics. Timothy responds well with rationality. We all saw Evan deliver the cleaner program, but we also saw Plushenko take the risks in athleticism. At the end of the day, technology helps push human evolution into higher levels of athleticism,. When you see the likes of Michael Phelps, Shaun White, and Apollo Anton Ohno pushing the excellence level of their sport, the fans and spectators in and outside figure skating want the athlete pushing the sport into higher levels of performance.

  3. Lillian · February 21, 2010

    I think the fundamental problem with Elvis Stojko’s argument is that Evgeni did NOT push the technical envelope. If you compare his jump content with what he performed in the SLC long program… it doesn’t compare. Had he pushed the boundaries of sport with two quads, one in combination, maybe one a quad sal, and matched Evan in the other jumping passes, then it would have been shocking for him to lose. Instead, the only way in which he “pushed the envelope” was one jumping pass, executed OK, and a mostly mediocre jumping passes following in a very front-loaded program. Even if you exclude the “is this a joke??” choreography (and I am NOT AT ALL an Evan Lysacek fan) and poor sit spin positions and speed, Stojko really doesn’t have an argument that Evgeni should have won.
    He can only lament that the best man this Olympics doesn’t have a quad. You know what, Elvis? I have no doubt that in four years the top three skaters will have quads in both programs AND more intricate spins, choreography, and footwork. Have you seen the young guns?

  4. Camelspin · February 21, 2010

    I have two words for Stojko and Plushenko:

    Sore Losers.

    Geobel makes good points here.

  5. Helen J · February 21, 2010

    The craziest part of Stojko’s article was the end where he said he was going to watch hockey, “a real sport”. Nice way to insult your sport and your entire life’s work.

    The other part that was crazy was where he said Takahashi should have beat Lysacek just for trying the Quad. I love Takahashi, but I don’t agree with this. It’s not just about trying this stuff, it’s about landing it.

    Plushenko did not have a “great” skate. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t gold medal material. And I thought the hip gyrations in the middle were ridiculous – and everyone gives Weir so much flack!

  6. Charlotte · February 22, 2010

    You know, the day Plushenko can complete level 4 footwork is the day I’ll say he maybe has an edge on Evan, but the handful of men who have completely level-4 footwork is a significantly smaller number than the number who have ever completed a quad. Evan’s done level-4 footwork several times. What is REALLY the hardest element in figure skating?

  7. Sally · February 22, 2010

    As a Canadian, I am ashamed of Elvis Stoijko’s stupid remarks. While he and Evgeny were great in their time, times have changed and their programs would not/do not stand up today. Although I am not a big Lysacek fan, Evan won fair and square. I feel for the Mexican skater whom Elvis is coaching. I hope Elvis is not doing his choreography!

  8. lisa · March 3, 2010

    The girls make theirs footworks and spins even better then Lysacek, so why hi is the olympic champion in MEN’s figure skating??? Americans, you can try to say anythings for justify this wrong judge decision but for THE REST OF THE WORLD Plushenko is the real gold olympic champion 2010 in MEN’s competition. End of story.

    • Jen · May 13, 2010

      Evan’s spins are waaay better than Plushenko’s so that point is silly. Naturally, women are going to have better spins than the men. They’re more flexible, duh.

      I must disagree with the footwork comment you made. Most ladies can’t compare with Evan’s footwork, but that is because most women don’t compare with the men in footwork to begin with. You expect men to have faster footwork, faster taps, and so forth. In the end all Plushenko did for footwork was belly dance and make faces at the judges and audience. It was ridiculous really.

      Evan is the champion to A LOT of people from what I see in comments and all these articles bashing Plushenko, lol.

      Evan had the better skate, had better choreography (which is why I am baffled that they tied artistically), had better execution, and was just OVERALL BETTER. It is already explained here where Plushenko had his faults and if you can’t understand why Timothy pointed them out, then well you are clueless in skating.

      And by the way, in the end, it is Evan who has the gold medal, not Plushenko. You can pretend in your little Plushy fantasy world that it’s indeed the other way around all you want, but in reality it isn’t. 😦

      Move on. 😀

  9. Isiac · October 15, 2010

    It’s pretty interesting to see how opinions we disagree with are called “rants” nowadays.

    I am very glad that Plushenko upon his return to a very different sport than the one he left chose NOT to adapt to the system but to challenge it. If you love the sport like Plushenko does and are heartbroken over what they’ve turned men’s skating into, the right thing would be to stay true to yourself for the love and sake of the sport. You think Plushenko can’t place triples in the second half to accumulate the points?
    If you love figure skating Tim, you should be talking about what they did to Plushenko in the short program to make sure something like that never happens again to another athlete. You should hate when judges collude together. That’s the real issue here because that’s why Plushenko lost. I suppose you have no clue what I am talking about here…

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