#2 Athlete numbers, eating disorders, expression and technique
Pressing matters of the figure skating world
ーThe glamour of figure skating has attracted significant attention from the media. Amid this attention, what kind of problems does the figure skating world face?
Machida: One is a very serious problem concerning skating rinks. In the 80s there were approximately 750 rinks in the country; now, in 2018, there are only 130.
ーThe number has decreased by that much?
Machida: Not only that, many of these rinks are used as swimming pools in the summer. There are only fifteen rinks in the country which can be used throughout the year (according to information from the Japan Skating Federation website). Also, there are regional imbalances because these rinks are only located in major metropolitan areas. Many skaters, myself included, became competitors because there was a rink near their home. However, because the number of rinks has decreased so significantly, there are very few, if any, such homes with a nearby rink. No matter how much attention figure skating receives from the media, this won’t stop the number of skaters from dwindling. This is the figure skating world’s most pressing issue.
ーThe practice areas needed for the next generation of skaters are disappearing…
Machida: Exactly. Another issue is one that affects a great number of female skaters: eating disorders. To my knowledge, many female skaters are struggling with eating disorders. Meanwhile, male skaters are seriously injuring themselves practicing demanding quadruple jumps.
There is also the integral “expressive” aspect of figure skating. Skaters refine their expressive abilities as they get older, but once they enter their twenties their bodies change, and this creates a dilemma because it becomes increasingly difficult to perform technical jumps and spins.
This means many of the Olympic and World Figure Skating Championship medalists tend to be teenagers. As an athlete, this stands out as a pressing issue of figure skating within and outside Japan. Of course, I am not a medical specialist researching eating disorder treatments or injury treatments, but as an experienced athlete in his late 20s I think I can contribute to studies of artistic sports’ competitive structure through the lens of management.
I’ve become aware of various other issues such as the question of athletes’ post-retirement careers, an issue that extends beyond figure skating, as well as the relationship between sports and the media.
ーSport management is an academic discipline in which sports is researched as a business. However, it seems you don’t regard sport management as simply a discipline for research, but also as a way to solve problems.
Machida: Over the past three years, I’ve come to feel that the essence of sport management as an academic discipline is the investigation of two questions: “Why are people drawn to certain sports?”and “What should be done so that these sports can continue to exist in this world as treasures?”
By investigating these questions we focus on the future of these sports 50 or 100 years from now and make informed suggestions. Although I am still merely a graduate student I hope I can make informed suggestions which resolve at least a portion of these problems.