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Thread: Netflix 'Losers' series features Surya Bonaly

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by layman View Post
    I just finished watching the documentary and I must say that I was deeply moved and teary eyed. For those of you who are surprised by the constant controversy and negativity aimed at Surya, I say welcome to the life of a black female athlete. The documentary does a beautiful job of laying out what that is like...in Surya's wise words.
    i was very moved by the scene with figure skating in harlem. it's so important for young black girls and girls of color to have role models who look like them during their personal development. i think surya's taken the challenges she's faced and is using them in such an inspiring way as a coach and motivational speaker.

    i don't think the problems surya encountered during her amateur career can be reduced to an either/or equation, i.e. it's either racism OR weak basic skating skills. i think it's more of a both/and situation. i think intersecting notions of race and gender definitely shaped the way she was received and judged on ice (cuz she was never going to fit the well-behaved ice princess mold) but being choppy and telegraphing also didn't help her case. i also think there could have been more exposition about how didier was playing up the supposed "mystery" of her origins to enhance her racial exoticism and otherness. the brief interlude into her mother's takeover as coach looked like it could be an "i, surya" movie, too! lol.

    that being said, i still think surya should have won 93 worlds. i love me some oksana, she oozes charisma, but there is nothing substantive going on in her programs.

  2. #62
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    I agree with IcyBear...her technique was poor, & she was notorious for telegraphing her jumps. However, while I never cared for her as amateur, I felt she improved her skills greatly as a pro & was very entertaining.

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by andromache View Post
    I haven’t watched the episode but I will eventually.

    Anyway, I hate the narrative that Surya never won because of racism. It’s true that she faced a lot of racism, coded language, etc. And this is probably still true for black skaters. But she also was pretty terrible at actual skating. Like, uniquely terrible at it.

    I hope the show acknowledges that because not doing so presents a skewed vision of the sport to general audiences.
    I won't deny that she faced some racism, but people keep forgetting that Debi Thomas, an African-American woman, was World Champion in 1986.
    As for coded language, people also seem to forget that Surya's camp herself made it seem that she came from the "exotic" Reunion island on near Africa. Surya was an extremely popular athlete that had fluff pieces galore back in the day (watch here and here).
    There is a lot of trying to change the history in order to play to the narrative going on here.

  4. #64
    Rinkside abbyblack's Avatar
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    I thought it was a great 30 min documentary, short and to the point, there was no reason to know skating to understand that race was one of the issues judges had with Surya. It amazes me that people here deny in such a blatant way that racism was not a factor in the judging at all knowing that figure skating is a subjective sport and that racism is STILL an issue today.

    I'm no expert in figure skating or race, but I do think that the scenarios that Surya encounter during her career show, as she said in the episode, that POC have to work twice as hard to get the prize. I don't want to get into the artistry versus athleticism argument but the fact that anyone (judges back then and people here) can choose to ponderate those factors based only on personal opinion, that means it can change depending on the skater they are judging.

    I believe she would've been a great free skate skater in the CoP era and that she would have won Worlds at least once under the current system.

  5. #65
    Medalist Mafke's Avatar
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    I haven't read each and every post in detail, but Bonaly was always a personal fave so I thought I'd weigh in.

    I think there was some racism involved but it really was about the image of female skaters and the unintended consequences of removing figures and mixed messages from the skating establishment.

    In terms of image she was never the demure princess that judges traditionally liked. She was by turns distant and challenging, isolated and fierce. No melting swans or batting eyes for her she was a kind of amazon warrior on the ice - going into battle (against the audience, the judges but most of all herself and her own limitations). I love that kind of feisty attitude in female skaters but it still doesn't play with figure skating's antiquated model of pwetty wittle giwls..

    In terms of skating, one perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw from the removal of figures was that judges weren't going to be looking so closely at the things that went into skating figures well (body position, edge control). Bonaly deconstructed and then reconstructed skating re-imagining skates as a kind of running shoe which did not necessarily conflict with the rules but wasn't something that the fossilized judges knew how to deal with.

    The biggest injustice she faced wasn't in 1994 but in 1993, there is no way that Baiul should have won that competition. Her footwork and edge control were not really any better than Bonaly's but she had an expressive face that she worked for the judges (much the same way that Witt did) and they gave it to her. That is still a major case of judging malpractice in my opinion.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by abbyblack View Post
    I thought it was a great 30 min documentary, short and to the point, there was no reason to know skating to understand that race was one of the issues judges had with Surya. It amazes me that people here deny in such a blatant way that racism was not a factor in the judging at all knowing that figure skating is a subjective sport and that racism is STILL an issue today.

    I'm no expert in figure skating or race, but I do think that the scenarios that Surya encounter during her career show, as she said in the episode, that POC have to work twice as hard to get the prize. I don't want to get into the artistry versus athleticism argument but the fact that anyone (judges back then and people here) can choose to ponderate those factors based only on personal opinion, that means it can change depending on the skater they are judging.

    I believe she would've been a great free skate skater in the CoP era and that she would have won Worlds at least once under the current system.
    If you meant that under CoP, Surya would have been forced to work on her lack of SS and awkward in between elements after being repeatedly hammered in the SS and TR components, then yes, I do believe she would have won. She was a prime example of the 6.0 judging nothaving sufficient granularity to inform a skater where he or she is deficient.

  7. #67
    Wakabond Forever Seren's Avatar
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    I do think Surya would have done better under the current judging system. It would have rewarded what she was good at while forcing her to work on her poor skating skills.

    Racism definitely played a part in her career but in the end what held her back were her poor skating skills. There are 12 year olds at my rink with better edges and crossovers.

  8. #68
    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    I only watched the segment on Surya. I remember her well. I always thought she was underappreciated. Although at the time, I thought she had a bad attitude about placing 2nd and refusing her Silver medal but this documentary sheds light on her feelings about the ISU in general. I didn't know that she felt racism in the FS world, but I guess it did exist. I always felt sorry for her because she had the proverbial "skating mother" you hear about. I don't know, maybe Surya would have done better without her mom's interference. She indeed was very athletic and maybe today she would be judged better under today's rules. I was glad to see her life turned out well and she is happy.

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