The world might be focused on the athletes in Pyeonchang, South Korea right now, but I’m still obsessed with a fictional competition that took place over 25 years ago during the Winter Games in Albertville, France. That’s when former hockey player Doug Dorsey shocked the sports world by winning gold with Kate Moseley in pairs figure skating. But as much as I love The Cutting Edge, one of the greatest sports movie/romcom hybrids ever, one thing has always bothered me about it: is it possible? Is there any way you could really turn a hockey player with no prior figure skating experience into a gold-medal winning pairs champion?To finally get an answer I consulted real figure skating champions: 2011 and 2012 U.S. national pairs champion John Coughlin; 1992 Olympic women’s gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi;Â and Yamaguchi’s husband Bret Hedican, a 17-year NHL veteran, Stanley Cup winner, and former Olympian.Based on their responses let’s just say things do not look good for Doug Dorsey-truthers.
Could A Hockey Player Make The Transition?
Doug doesn’t just learn how to figure skate; he is good enough to compete at the highest level and win. Considering Kristi Yamaguchi was standing on that same podium in Albertville herself, does she think that transformation is really possible?”I wouldn’t say it absolutely couldn’t be done,” she says. But don’t rush out to buy your first pair of skates, because she also said that if you took a world class individual figure skater with no pairs experience and tried to convert them into a top pairs team it “would probably take a few years, because you really have to gel with your partner, trust the relationship, and grow together as a team.” So even for someone who was already an elite figure skater trying to transition to pairs for the first time, getting to the world-class level would take longer than Doug Dorsey had to learn everything from scratch.Yamaguchi says to have any hope of actually pulling the movie off, you’d need to start with a hockey player who was already a strong skater. But there would still be a steep learning curve because of weight distribution on the skates.”The weight distribution on the blade where a hockey player skates versus where a figure skater skates is very different. Figure skaters who count on the toe pick are trained and it becomes second nature. We’re more on the middle to the back of the blade when we’re skating forward and obviously learn how to use the toe pick for the jumps and spins, and some of the other tricks,” she explains. “The hockey player will use the front of their blade to push off and even glide on.”
How Would You Train?
So clearly Dorsey’s transformation couldn’t happen in two years, but what would it take to make a hockey player into a world class, gold-medal figure skater? Coughlin and Yamaghuci both agree they’d want to start with a younger hockey player who was already an upper echelon skater.”I’d want to handpick someone off Team USA’s junior team, and it would be immediate immersion into figure skating,” Coughlin says. In addition to elite skating skills, it would require someone flexible, but also strong enough to handle throwing and lifting. Coughlin says the first year would be purely about basic skating, working on proper figure skating posture, and alignment, which is very different from hockey players who are “pitched over” on their sticks. During year two, he would “introduce some basic partnering movements.”
How Long Would It Take?
That’s why Coughlin says the most realistic scenario, which would require a young, already great skater who is strong but flexible and also a fast learner, would still be four to six years, which he says “would be an incredible achievement.” And even then, the chances of that person being part of an Olympic gold medal team is still unlikely, because it’s really hard to win even for the best skaters who have done it all their lives.”Skating is such a unique animal, because itâ€™s not just who gets across the ‘finish line’ first, itâ€™s also who makes it look the best/easiest as they do it. Thatâ€™s hard for some people to wrap their minds around. Think about it: essentially you need to be the best athlete, make it look effortless, and be the most entertaining in the process. Itâ€™s a brutal test of athleticism and performance.”
So no, The Cutting Edge isn’t realistic. No one will ever be the real-life Doug Dorsey. It’s not possible to make a hockey player a gold medal pairs figure skater in only two years, and it would be remarkable to do it in any amount of years.But after two-and-a-half decades of obsessing about this question, I’m not bummed out by this at all. This just means he’s the greatest fictional Olympic athlete of all-time. Pretty sure Kristi Yamaguchi would agree.What do you think? Could any athlete have the cutting edge? Tell us why in the comments below.
Featured Image: MGM