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This week, we do our best to keep up with our Russian rivals as we skate (or die) to defend Canada’s honour as we talk about fans of that hot sport, figure skating! The burning question we have is… how important is Yuri!!! on Ice to the fandom? And how popular is it anyway?

Next week, we’ll be travelling to China to talk about everyone’s favourite MMORPG, World of Magic Beasts World of Warcraft!

Episode outline

Fandom Facts

Origins:
Figure skating, also known as artistic skating in many other countries, is a sport where individuals or groups of people perform on a special type of ice skate (i.e. figure skates). It was the first winter sport included in the Olympics (in 1908) and, depending on the discipline, may include spins, jumps, lifts, throw jumps, death spirals or other elements.

Size of Fandom:
Let’s take a look at the fandom funnel! By that I mean, more dedicated fans tend to put more into their expression of fandom, so we can use rough numbers to extrapolate how many fans there are. From what I was able to gather…

  • 184, 213: U.S. Figure Skating members during the 2015-16 season
  • 130, 000: Approximate readership of SKATING (a US figure skating magazine)
  • 108, 264: 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships attendance across all sessions
    U.S. Figure Skating Factsheet

Comparatively, the largest figure skating subreddit has about 1600 subscribers.

Given that data is only from the United States, its hard to estimate, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to estimate millions of fans of figure skating (in different levels of engagement).

Fan Demographics:
Using data from U.S. Figure Skating, it’s possible to get some approximation of the age and gender of figure skating fans (given its 184 200 members), which is something! Transcribed below:

Overall

Age Members Percentage
0-6 27 630 15%
7-12 64 470 35%
13-18 25 788 14%
19-25 11 052 6%
26-50 18 420 10%
51+ 9 210 5%
? 27 630 15%

Male

Age Members Percentage
0-12 34 998 19%
13-18 3 684 2%
19-49 5 526 3%
50+ 1 842 1%

Female

Age Members Percentage
0-12 73 680 40%
13-18 25 788 14%
19-49 27 630 15%
50+ 9 210 5%

Figure skaters, then, are predominately young, and predominately female.

Though the data is a bit out of data, Sports Business Journal might have more insight into the demographics of fans in general. Again, fans are predominantly female (65%), but tend to skew older — the largest groups are folks age 50-64 (27%), 30-39 (20%), and 40-49 (19%).

Changes in Fandom around the world:
Interest in figure skating is hard to plot, but its probably on a slow decline in terms of search traffic, at least. Interest is, unsurprisingly, periodic, with a lot of interest around the winter Olympics and in December when a number of championships take place (not to mention, winter in general). The International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating ends in mid-December, but starts in late October, so that might also be a factor.

Unsurprisingly, interest in figure skating tends to come from colder, northly countries. In particular, Canada, Estonia, the United States, Latvia, and Finland (but surprisingly also, the Phillipines, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia).

Despite a global downturn in search interest, organizations such as U.S. Figure Skating appear to be slowly growing, with approximately 145 000 members in the 1998 season an over 184 000 in 2017.

Some anecdotal evidence from Quora also suggests that figure skating is doing just fine in places like Japan:

…it is perhaps the most popular sport (along with baseball). Tickets to competitions in Japan are so expensive that it’s cheaper for Japanese fans to travel anywhere else to watch figure skating, and you can frequently see seas of Japanese flags waving at events in North America and Europe. Domestic events sell out immediately, and tickets on the resale market can get very expensive. I know someone who accidentally bought a ticket to a figure skating event in Tokyo thinking it was 2000 USD.
Quora - Is figure skating a dying sport?

Where does fandom live:
The fandom lives in a few places, most notably Tumblr (#fskateedit, #fskateart, #fstranslation), Twitter, and some forums like FSUniverse and GoldenSkate.

Fanfics:
There are over 2400 fanfics that refer to figure skating (some of which reference figure skating alternate universe) on Archive of our own. For comparison, There are over 21 000 Yuri!!! on Ice fanfics.

DeviantArt has about 7600 results for figure skating… and over 20 000 results for Yuri!!! on Ice.

We also also came across Figure Skating Real-Person Fiction which had this interesting quote from a fan:

Your fandom’s ok, my fandom’s ok…..[but] 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.

Last Episode’s Famous Last Words

T
How influential was Yuri on Ice in driving interest in Figure Skating?

G
Due its nature and country of origin, figure skating and ballet have very close origins.

Z
Being large countries that endure a lot of cold weather, much like hockey, there is a fierce rivalry between Russia and Canada in figure skating.

The Verdict

T is in… maybe.

G is out… except for the Olympics.

Z is out (even if he had seen Yuri!!! on Ice).

This week’s spotlight

Skate to Great
A great charity that aims to make skating a right, not a privilege, for every kid in Canada regardless of their circumstances.

Skate To Great was founded in March 2012 with the mission of providing every child in Canada the opportunity to skate; regardless of their economic or physical circumstances. In May 2013, Skate To Great received charitable status and has collected and distributed upwards of 25,000 pairs of skates to date. The organization directly supports schools, programs and charities in Canada, which enable deserving kids and at-risk youth the opportunity to skate.

Skate To Great’s main initiative is to collect new and used hockey/figure skates along with equipment such as sticks and helmets for organizations that need them. Recipients then participate in programs that provide skating opportunities in a supportive environment.

Famous Last Words

Next week, we’ll be travelling to China to talk about a very prominent fandom there: World of Warcraft!

Z
World of Warcraft is primarily popular in China because there are so many internet cafes.

G
World of Warcraft is popular in China for the same reason that they like Windows XP so much.

T
World of Warcraft is so popular because other popular MMORPGs, like Silk Road, aren’t Chinese, and there’s a racism thing going on.

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What is “Fanthropological”?

How did you read this far without asking this question?!

Fanthropological is an anthropological (ish) podcast where we bring the fan’s-eye view to you! Each week, we take a look at a different fandom, dig up interesting background, trivia, and history, and try to get to why it is that people are a fan. We also try to highlight good causes related to that fandom, and find interesting things that fans have created to share those to the world. Each episode is about an hour. Ish.

Who is “The Nickscast”?

We are the Nickscast! Three products of late-80s / early-90s pop culture who love exploring fandom and everything geek … who also happen to have been best buddies since high school, and all happen to be named Nick. Yes, we are super creative. Dare we say, the most creative.

Ahem

We are Nick Green, Nick Terwoord, and Nick Zacharewicz: We started the Nickscast as a labour of love, and as a place to entertain and to discuss our love of fans and fandom, and all that is shiny and interesting in that realm. It’s what lead us to start our first podcast, our satellite podcasts, Fanthropological, and so much more.

We want to help others learn more about different fandoms, and to create empathy with other fans: We dream of a world where other fans aren’t “those Weird-o’s”, but just folks with different tastes. A world where fandom is full of discourse and analysis, and there are plenty of tools and resources to help. Fans building communities to do good in the world. Because everyone’s a fan.

Credits

Sources

Music / Sound

  • All music and sound for this week’s episode were provided by Nick Green!

Artwork

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