Figure Skating RPF

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RPF Fandom
Name(s): Figure Skating RPF
Scope/Focus: Olympic, international, and national level figure skating
Date(s): early 1990s to present, major growth in 2010, 2018
See also: Subpages for Figure Skating RPF:
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Figure Skating RPF is a medium-sized sports RPF fandom that has been around since at least the 1990s. Like the sport itself, its popularity is cyclical, with an influx of new fanfiction and activity coinciding with the Winter Olympics every four years.

Figure skating RPF tends to focus on famous, competitively successful skaters who have developed a large following and appear often in the media. RPF authors mine skaters' relationships for material, particularly their rivalries. Pairs and ice dance partners are also commonly shipped together.

History

1990s

The most popular skaters in 1990s figure skating fanfiction were 2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin and his chief rivals Evgeni Plushenko and Timothy Goebel. The fandom was relatively small and initially lurked on the outskirts of Western media fandom:

A private poster tells me that figure skating slash exists, and is circulated privately...[1]

When the fandom was discussed, it was often in disparaging tones, as in this 1993 comment on the Virgule-L mailing list:

I was relieved to hear the writers are keeping it amongst themselves, because the other night I had this dream... [that] I was at Zebracon in '95, and the hottest-selling item in the dealer's room was a zine called "Double Axle", bidding was fierce at the art auction over a depiction of a nude Brian Boitano, and the songvid contest was won by a deeply moving work called "Too Long A Skater"...

I always thought I was extremely tolerant. This concept of "my fandom's ok, your fandom's ok" is one I can handle 95% of the time. But I think I just hit a big, fat Reject Node in my Tolerance Area.

An anonymous but informed source told me that at Friscon there was a group of women watching and ogling male figure skaters. Not only that, but apparently they had developed an entire slash fandom based on these guys. I need confirmation: is this really true? Do these women really generate slash fantasies about *figure skaters*???

Frankly, I'm kind of appalled.

I mean, I can occasionally enjoy a bit of minor (and private!) actor slash fantasizing, but this...this is bizarre even in my book. What other mini-fandoms are lurking out there that no one's told me about yet? Baseball players? Professional bowlers? It's kind of frightening.

Still in shock.[2]

The same fan added a follow-up comment two days later:

While I've been enjoying the revival of the actor slash topic, I feel I should have been clearer in my initial post about the figure skating fans, in which I said I was "appalled".

I didn't mean "appalled" as in "they shouldn't be doing this--this is wrong!" I meant "appalled" as in "this is incredibly stupid". But, of course, it's Politically Incorrect to call someone else's fandom stupid.

Nevertheless, while I believe these fans have every right to ogle (and write about) as many figure skating bums as they wish to, I still think it's the most idiotic fandom I have encountered.

So far.[2]
Another fan in 1993 was intrigued:
... while I worry about actor slash, I agree with M.Fae that there is little reality between the actual people and the slash written using their attractive facades. Many of my friends are totally hooked on skater stories, which means that somebody is writing some pretty good fiction. If I had the time I'd probably enjoy reading it.[3]

In that way, figure skating RPF was viewed no differently from other forms of RPF. Nevertheless, it had cultivated a small presence in the Sports section of FanFiction.Net by the late 90s.

2000s

In 2001, FanFiction.Net banned RPF. Figure skating fanfiction survived on fan-run collections like Private Ice,[4] personal sites, and forums. For example, The Michelle Kwan Forum was home to a busy fanfiction forum featuring stories about the skater, many of which are still archived.[5]

As fandom began its migration to LiveJournal, figure skating RPF began to spring up on the service. Both English-language and Russian-language figure skating communities thrived on LiveJournal (which was particularly popular in Russia and eventually purchased by a Russian media company), but there was little overlap between them. Notable communities include ice_slash (English) and ice_fiction (Russian), which both focused on slash.

2006 Olympic Champion Evgeni Plushenko and Johnny Weir were the dominant skaters in this era of RPF. Plushenko was most often paired with his rival Alexei Yagudin, and Weir with fellow skater Stéphane Lambiel or his domestic rival Evan Lysacek. The Weir and Lysacek pairing was often referred to as Swangoose, a portmanteau based on an anecdote about nicknames they called each other.[6] Several RPF communities dedicated exclusively to Weir-centric fanfiction and pairings sprang up, such as weirsjohnny, russianzebra (Johnny Weir/Stéphane Lambiel), and swan_goose (Johnny Weir/Evan Lysacek).

2010 Vancouver Olympics

By the time the 2010 Winter Olympics torch was lit in Vancouver, fans had perfected the use of LiveJournal as a platform for fandom. Figure skating fandom had already gained a foothold on LJ, but it expanded extensively during the games and their aftermath. ontd_skating, a spinoff community of the popular Oh No They Didn't celebrity gossip community, was created in response to the overwhelming interest in figure skating in ONTD's Olympic watch posts. An active kink meme called wintergameskink was established for posting and requesting fanfiction about the athletes. Figure skating prompts were so popular that they were eventually moved to their own post to prevent them from drowning out the other Olympic sports.[7] Links to filled prompts were tagged and archived on delicious, creating a de facto archive (offline, not archived directly, but ladyrandomness created an index of the figure skating fills on ice_slash.

Johnny Weir, who had become even more popular and famous thanks in part to his reality show Be Good Johnny Weir, remained at the forefront of figure skating RPF in English-language fandom. Following the Vancouver games, he was by far the most written-about athlete. Evgeni Plushenko was still a favorite, particularly in Russian-language fandom. The on-ice chemistry between Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Vancouver's ice dancing champions, inspired an influx of het RPF. Some fans found their chemistry so convincing that they believed they were an off-ice couple as well, despite the fact that Moir was actually dating a Canadian pairs skater. These speculations and assertions grew in scope and included allegations that Virtue gave birth to their child during the 2010-11 season, most of which they sat out due to injury. The dubemoir blog, which was the source of the majority of these conspiracy theories, is pejoratively referred to as "the secret baby blog" by the rest of ice dance fandom.[8][9][10]

2014 Sochi Olympics

The Archive of Our Own (AO3) opened in late 2009, creating a centralized, multi-fandom fanfiction website that allowed users to share RPF. The migration of Western media fandom from LiveJournal to tumblr, a platform much less ideal for publishing fanfiction, made AO3 the place of choice for fans to post their Sochi-inspired RPF. (Although a significant amount of RPF is still posted to the relevant pairing tags on tumblr.) As of July 2015, there were nearly 800 fanfics publicly archived in the Figure Skating RPF tag.[11] Over 15% were written in Chinese.[12]

Post-Sochi, figure skating RPF shifted to focus on different skaters and pairings. Fanfic about new Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu outpaced fanfic about Johnny Weir. Hanyu's friendship with his training partner Javier Fernandez became the most-written pairing in AO3's figure skating RPF section.[13] Fanfiction about new ice dance champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White was also very popular. After Sochi, Davis and White signed onto Season 18 of Dancing With the Stars. Meryl Davis went on to win the show with her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and a fandom for their relationship sprang up on the outskirts of figure skating RPF fandom, with a substantial amount of overlap between skating and DWTS fans. Meryl/Maks (Maksyl) fanfiction slightly outpaced Meryl/Charlie fanfiction on AO3, for a time.[14][15] As with Virtue and Moir, Meryl and Maks' partnership became the focal point of an aggressive real life shipping faction despite the fact that both of them were dating other people.[16] Around the same time, a contentious partner swap in Russian ice dance inspired shipping and fanfic about Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin (Ruslena).[17][18] In the Russian-language branch of fandom, Olympic pairs champions and real-life couple Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov were a favorite subject.

The onslaught of post-Sochi and DWTS fanfiction faded as the 2015-2016 season began, but the Yuzuru/Javier ship (Yuzuvier) fanfic continued to be popular, especially in light of Fernandez and Hanyu's gracious and friendly behavior despite the tight competition between them during the 2014-15 season.[19][20] Brian Orser, Yuzuru's and Javi's head coach, increasingly appeared in fics in the wake of Sochi, usually as a minor character. Orser is a two-time Olympic sliver medalist (1984, 1988) who inspired a few fanworks before he began coaching, but slmost all of the works in his tag in AO3 depict him in his role as coach at the famed Toronto Cricket Club.

2018 PyeongChang Olympics

As Olympic athletes and fans endured one of the coldest Winter Olympics of recent memory, Archive of Our Own (AO3) cemented its position as the primary place for the English-language community to archive its fanfic. The number of works had begun to gradually increase as early as the 2016-2017 season, but the main explosion occurred after the games' completion. Nearly 3,400 new works appeared on the archive between the start of the Olympics (Feb 9, 2018) and the early days of the 2019-2020 Senior Grand Prix series (October 2019). The primary cause of the surge in fics is the enduring popularity of four skaters: Virtue and Moir, who won their second gold in ice dance; Hanyu, the first skater to win two back-to-back Olympic gold medals in men's singles in 66 years; and Fernandez, who won the first Olympic medal in figure skating for Spain. As well, the continued presence of Chinese-language fanfic contributed to this deluge, leading to Yuzuru Hanyu/Boyang Jin fic overtaking Yuzuru Hanyu/Shoma Uno as the second-most popular romantic/sexual ship tag associated with Hanyu.[21]

Unsurprisingly, both Virtue/Moir and Yuzuvier remain far and away the most popular ships in the fandom.[22][23] The platonic tag for Virtue and Moir, Yuzuru/Boyang, and Yuzuru/Shoma round out the top five ship tags in the fandom. The two non-Yuzuvier ships that include Hanyu are the newest of the major ships.

Although skaters who perform well in multiple quadrennials can inspire long-term popularity as RPF characters, each Olympic cycle highlights up-and-coming stars. Among the younger male skaters whose tags took off after PyeongChang are Shoma Uno, Boyang Jin, Nathan Chen, and Jun-hwan Cha. Female single skaters, although traditionally a huge draw in the sport and of intense interest on general figure skating forums, are usually much less written about than the men and ice dance teams. Evgenia Medvedeva, the silver medalist at PyeongChang, is by far the most popular and is most often shipped with Yuzuru Hanyu because of their friendly encounters before PyeongChang and her moving to the Toronto Cricket Club in 2018. In addition, Medvedeva's warm relationships with Wakaba Higuchi and Alina Zagitova have inspired much of the fandom's femslash.

Although the Olympics are usually the primary driving force behind growth in this fandom, the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdowns fostered a new surge of fics and even spawned a new ship during the late winter and spring of 2020, Jason Brown/Yuzuru Hanyu.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Fanfiction

  • The (Un)Banquet by fieryrondo - A humorous crackfic commentary on the debacle of a Grand Prix Final at Marseille in December 2017. Featuring men singles skaters Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN), Javier Fernández (ESP), Patrick Chan (CAN), Nathan Chen (USA), Shoma Uno (JPN), and Adam Rippon (USA). Complete.
  • El cisne (The Swan) by fieryrondo - A magical realism AU fic chronicling Spanish skater Javier Fernández's skating journey and his developing relationship with his training partner, Yuzuru Hanyu. Stated by the author to be loosely based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Ongoing.
  • SHOMA DOS THE FEMME FATALE by Skateanddie - A collaborative project authored by Skate and Die, a Discord based figure skating fan community. A Shoma Uno centric crackfic with gratuitous helpings of figure skating memes and inside jokes. Includes a playlist that is objectively lit. Complete.
  • Virtue/Moir Comment Ficathon hosted on Livejournal in 2012

Fanart

The beauty and creativity of figure skating has inspired many fanartists, both inside and outside of the RPF community. Much of their art involves portraits of a skater in one of their competitive or exhibition costumes, but there are also images of skaters in training gear. Artists may also refer to inside jokes, on- or off-ice situations well known to a particular skater's or team's fandom. Less commonly, artists dream up new costumes for a skater, or imagine skaters in AU settings, including placing them within existing media fandoms. Shippy art is somewhat more common in ice dance and pairs fandoms, because the heteronormative nature of these sports leads to many programs that are romantic or sexy. For singles skaters such art tends to be more controversial, which is sometimes remarked on in artists' notes.

Below you will see examples of all of these types of fanart, arranged by the era in which they were created.

1990s Fanart

Vancouver Era

Sochi Era

PyeongChang Era

Fanvids

Fanmixes

Fan Graphics

Macros

Memes

Moodboards

Archives, Communities, and Other External Links

Mailing lists

Archives

Dreamwidth

Livejournal

References

  1. post by alexfandra to the Virgule-L mailing list in 1993, quoted with permission.
  2. 2.0 2.1 post by alexfandra to the Virgule-L mailing list, quoted with permission (November 3, 1993)
  3. comment by Ruth Kurz on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (November 5, 1993)
  4. Fan Focus SkateWeb (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  5. There is an earlier URL, used by the same forum, that is now dead. Archived version of that link is here.
  6. Johnny on Evan The Quotable Johnny Weir. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  7. wintergameskink. Alright folks, this is what's up. 2010 Olympic Winter Games Kink Meme. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  8. posts by Growsonwalls and Lilac2000 at PreviouslyTV's figure skating forum. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  9. post by canbelto at Figure Skating Universe. (Accessed 03 July 2015.) (offline, archived) Archived version
  10. The dubemoir blog is located here/
  11. 782 works in the Figure Skating RPF tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  12. 121 Chinese works in the Mandarin Chinese filter of the Figure Skating RPF tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  13. 168 works in the Javier Fernandez/Yuzuru Hanyu relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  14. 135 works in the Maksim Chmerkovskiy/Meryl Davis relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  15. 130 works in the Meryl Davis/Charlie White relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  16. meryledavis. "It seems ridiculous to create drama and negativity online when none exists in real life." Instagram. June 2015. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  17. Elena Ilinykh/Ruslan Zhiganshin relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  18. Ruslena Search. Tumblr. (Accessed 03 July 2015.) Archived version
  19. gifset by ohmyroyalty. "With Yuzu, we are everything." Tumblr. (Accessed 03 July 2015.)
  20. Online article. "Yuzuvier Or The Unofficial Guide To The Figure Skating Ship Of Yuzuru Hanyu And Javier Fernandez" KPopStarz by Tara Edwards: February 03, 2016 (Accessed 05 February 2016.)
  21. There are 574 works in the Yuzuru Hanyu/Boyang Jin relationship tag, compared to 267 in the Yuzuru Hanyu/Shoma Uno tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 16 June 2020.)
  22. 1,658 works in the Scott Moir/Tessa Virtue relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 16 June 2020.)
  23. 1,552 works in the Javier Fernandez/Yuzuru Hanyu relationship tag. Archive of Our Own. (Accessed 16 June 2020.)