Former Canadian and Olympic skating star Elvis Stojko says he does not hate gays and blamed this perception on what he said was bad editing in a TV piece on efforts by Skate Canada to butch up the sport. Stojko made his case in a Toronto Star column.
"There's been such a backlash," a stunned Stojko complained to the Star yesterday. "Hey, I'm the guy who used to get hammered for being a strongman-type skater. Now people are saying I hate gays. It's just become so ridiculous."
Skate Canada's campaign, "Tough," is designed to stress the athleticism in men's figure skating, while deemphasizing the costumes and other glitter than often surround it. However, the way it was promoted was seen by many (including our readers) as code for "no gays welcome." Stojko's comments on an ABC News segment this month added fuel to the fire.
Stojko is annoyed that a 15-minute interview for ABC was chopped down to sound as if he was knocking figure skating as effete. "What I was talking about was the masculinity and power which I think is being lost with so much emphasis put on artistry, because that's what's being showcased now. I do think the sport is getting soft. But I wasn't talking about gays or the sport being effeminate. ...
"All that artistry is important. But the meat and potatoes of figure skating is still the jumps, taking those risks. And yes, I do think if you concentrate too much on the feminine side of skating, then you will lose the male crowd. And sometimes it does look as if the skaters are trying to outduel each other with their costumes."
I don't know much about Stojoko beyond the fact that he once skated for Canada in the Olympics and is now 37 and living in Mexico. I don't know anything about his views on gay people, but he does seem very strident in emphasizing what he sees as the masculine parts of the sport.
"It has nothing to do with your sexual preference," Stojko [told the Toronto Sun in February]. "It's all about what men's skating is -- power and strength. Whether he's gay or straight, it doesn't matter. It's what you're showcasing on the ice. If you're very lyrical and you're really feminine and soft, well, that's not men's skating. THAT IS NOT MEN'S SKATING, OK? Men's skating is power, strength, masculinity, focus, clarity of movement, interpretation of music."
"Sexual preference"? Cringe. I ask skating fans reading this-- do you take Stojko's comments at face value or do you see an anti-gay subtext in them?