(May 6, 2009) – In recent months, Skate Canada has come under a media light that has not portrayed the actual beliefs and messaging of Skate Canada. To some extent, we have felt a bit between a rock and a hard place as each time we seek to clarify, it seems to result in more controversy. One challenge has been that some members of the press have taken comments out of context and juxtaposed them with comments by others that do not represent our position in order to create a story.
For the past few weeks we have chosen not to participate in media stories that wanted to perpetuate this message. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts these false assumptions have continued to be portrayed in the media.
As a bit of history, there is no and never has been any ‘tough’ campaign. At the beginning of the season, we did feel that we wanted to message where possible the difficulty of the sport. This was in no way to diminish the artistry, rather simply to remind viewers of the levels of fitness, mental training and commitment required to be an elite figure skater. This messaging was NOT even intended for the men’s event. In fact, our feeling was that often the athleticism of the women was being overlooked. In an interview, Debbi Wilkes, Skate Canada Director, Marketing and Communications, used the word ‘tough’, intending it in a common meaning - difficult. What Debbi meant was that to be successful at the elite level, an athlete has to be physically and mentally strong. The interviewer then made the connection between tough and macho and made the assumption it was aimed at the men’s event which was not true and not the case. There is no interest at Skate Canada in making the sport more macho, rather simply an interest in people understanding the difficulty of the sport and not marginalizing our skaters as athletes. It is one of the few sports that puts intense physical demands on the athlete and then demands it be done with beauty, grace and ease.
From a marketing point of view, we have done extensive market research and have a good understanding of our demographics. We are also well aware that the sport’s popularity is due to the combination of artistry and athletics. We in no way want to see any reduction in the artistry. We certainly do not wish to alienate our fan base and, quite frankly, that fan base is very knowledgeable about skating. Our messaging was really intended for the more casual viewer of the sport, particularly with the Olympics here in Canada later this year.
As for a skater’s personal life, Skate Canada gives no direction. We have always and will continue to be a welcoming and inclusive sport. We are about producing great athletes that will do our sport and country proud.
For the record, while Elvis Stojko is entitled to comment on skating as he sees fit, he in no way speaks for Skate Canada and the views he recently expressed are not representative of the views of the leadership team at Skate Canada.
Figure skating has seen much advancement over the years, from the judging system to the physical demands of the sport. Canada has been privileged enough to be able to grow and adapt to the many changes. This is evident through the success of our skaters in the last several years. In 2008 and 2009 Canada won the most medals out of any country at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. We hope that this success will continue into 2010 as we look forward to being part of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
CEO, Skate Canada