- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY In more than a quarter-century on the job, Frank Carroll has seen a lifetime's worth of weeping and he's not a priest, a cop or even a bartender.
He's a figure skating coach.
"The thing that people don't understand about figure skating is that it's a performing sport," Carroll said. "You're supposed to show great emotion out there use your face, and suffer."
And suffer they do. From tears of joy to tears of despair, from sloppy blubbering to dignified misting, from reluctant trickling to salty-wet sobbing, figure skating is nothing if not, er, expressive a sport where crying is not only sanctioned, but encouraged.
After all, what other Olympic event can count Kleenex as both an official sponsor … and an equipment supplier?
"It's a perfect setting for us," said Kurt Simon, product manager for Kleenex. "Skaters, when they come off the ice, win or lose, ecstatic or devastated, show a lot of emotion."
That emotion warm, runny, moist figures to be in full stream during tonight's women's short program. Scads of tissues will be available in the aptly named "kiss-and-cry" area, and if last week's men's competition is any indication, they'll be put to sob-sopping good use:
Russia's Alexei Yagudin turned in a gold medal-winning free skate, then wept in the kiss-and-cry box.
Ukraine's Dmitri Dmitrenko also broke down, wiping his eyes while clutching a stuffed white rabbit.
Following his third-place short program, the United States' Timothy Goebel let loose before he even made it off the ice; in the kiss-and-cry box, he sat next to his coach, a visibly misty Carroll.
"When you perform the best you can possibly perform, and you get a reaction like that, it's awesome," explained Goebel, who later won bronze. "I think [crying is] a part of any sport."
Maybe so, but only in figure skating is crying so common and so public that it barely raises a waterlogged eyebrow. In fact, the history of the sport reads like an outsized sob story, a soggy chronicle of bloodshot eyes and smeared mascara.
And that's just the guys.
"Men are emotional, too," Carroll said.
Cry when you lose. Cry when you win. In skating, it's all salt water under the bridge, seldom mocked and hardly predictable.
In 1998, Yagudin captured the World Championship. He wept. Last year, Russia's Irina Slutskaya lost the World Championship to U.S. skater Michelle Kwan. She shrugged.
For her part, Kwan sobbed openly.
"Usually, a lot of my emotions come out on the ice," said Kwan, who skates against Slutskaya tonight. "Sometimes, that's a little dangerous, especially when you have seven triples to do."
At the 1974 World Championships in Munich, Dorothy Hamill took to ice while the crowd was still booing the marks for the previous skater. Thinking the jeers were for her, Hamill burst into tears.
Twenty years later at the Lillehammer Games, Tonya Harding turned in the Sob Heard 'Round the World, a Holy Wail of such depth and magnitude that even mighty blubberers like Okasna Baiul could only look upon it and despair.
Just 45 seconds into her long program, Harding stopped, skated to the judges and bawlingly begged for a reskate.
The reason? A too-short replacement lace on her right boot.
(Granted, the whole Nancy Kerrigan knee-clubbing incident might have had something to do with it).
"Say you don't get the promotion you want at your job," said Rosalynn Sumners, a figure skating silver medalist in 1984. "How many people don't go behind closed doors and cry a bit, or throw something? We're all human beings. Emotion is a part of that."
Not everyone is as sympathetic. At Lillehammer, Baiul cried after upsetting Kerrigan for the gold.
When the ensuing medals ceremony was delayed for nearly half an hour officials couldn't locate a copy of the Ukrainian anthem Kerrigan mistakenly assumed that wait was caused by Baiul reapplying her makeup.
"What's the difference?" Kerrigan snapped to third-place finisher Chen Lu of China. "She's going to get out here and cry again."
Why the trail of tears? Start with skating's all-or-nothing nature. According to Sumners, entire careers come down to just four and a half minutes under the Olympic klieg lights.
As such, those minutes become prime bawling fodder.
"We've put families on hold, personal life on hold, dedicated our lives to this," she said. "You hold all of that in, and when you come down to the big one, it's like holding back water with a dam. It all just builds up, and at some point, the dam is going to break."
When it does, skaters aren't given a chance to sulk or vent in private. Basketball players cry into towels. Losing pitchers retreat to the showers. Frustrated hockey teams trash their Japanese hotel rooms.
Skaters, on the other hand, are immediately escorted to the kiss-and-cry area, where they're greeted by a camera, a microphone, a final score and Scott Hamilton all of which can trigger uncontrollable weeping.
"You work all year long, you think you've done a fairly good job," Carroll said. "Then somebody throws a microphone in your face and says, well, 'that [stunk].' How do you handle that? It's hard."
Moreover, stone-faced stoicism is hardly a virtue. Not in a sport where drama is key, acting is paramount and professional smiling coaches are par for the course.
(Really silver medalist Linda Fratianne hired one prior to the 1980 Lake Placid Games).
"Figure skating is judged on drama and emotion," said U.S. skater Michael Weiss, a Fairfax resident. "People who are very artistic and emotional and throw 100 percent of that into their performance are going to get higher marks."
With waterworks inevitable, skaters come prepared. At the Salt Lake Ice Center, hair and skin care company NuSkin has set up a salon to provide competitors with free hair and makeup styling.
Rule No. 1? Waterproof mascara.
"If you saw [Canadian pairs skater] Jaime Sale crying on the stand, you noticed that she didn't have any makeup coming down," said Suzanne Barnes, a NuSkin makeup artist. "There's a misting and layering process we do that helps. You could be in the rain and keep the blush on your cheeks."
Maybe so. But according to Japanese skater Yuka Sato, even the sturdiest look can only hold up for so long.
"I wear waterproof mascara, because when you're sweating, it tends to blacken up," said Sato, a 1994 Olympian, with a laugh. "But when you're crying, you really can't help it. It still gets dark."

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