The “Kiss and Cry” Is a Real Thing at the Olympics, and It’s Not What You Think

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Nathan Chen of USA and his coach Rafael Arutyunyan celebrate the Gold medal at 'kiss and cry' following the Men Single Skating Free Skating on day six of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

For figure skating, you can see some of the most dramatic action happening rink-side at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, especially when it comes to the anxious theatrics on display at the “kiss and cry.” The kiss and cry refers to the area where skaters await their scores postperformance and is a term coined in the 1980s by Finnish skating official Jane Erkko. The phrase has since been adopted as an official term by the US Figure Skating Regulations.

The popularity of watching the rush of emotions exhibited by the figure skaters after a performance led to the kiss and cry becoming a more central element to competitions. From the 1960s until recently, these waiting areas were sparsely decorated, but today, the kiss and cry is designed with the dramatic flourishes. Watching on TV, you’ll see miniature sets adorned with everything from foliage to ice sculptures.

The reason the kiss and cry is such an exciting element of the Olympics is because it lets us see these world-class athletes in a moment of vulnerability: their guards are down, they’ve worked their entire lives for this very moment, and everything hinges on the upcoming scores. It’s exhilarating to share in their heartbreak or euphoria, making your feel like you’re right there in the moment. Will the score result in a kiss, some crying, or both? We just have to watch and find out.

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