When you first hear the term, you might think the "kiss and cry" area in figure skating is a designated nook in the ice rink where athletes sit, break down, and proceed to kiss a ton. You might not be too far off but the "kiss and cry" area in figure skating is actually where skaters go to sit and wait while their scores are declared post-performance. You've probably seen the little area, too.
Normally, the spot is a sitting area behind the railing of the rink. And the interior decoration is actually pretty interesting; it usually has a colorful background (sometimes floral patterns or icy terrains), a bench or sitting chairs, and a monitor which displays the scores.
Here, people related the skaters — or their coach — can sit and wait, too. The "kissing" bit refers to the gesture skaters exchange with their coaches and partners at the end of oft-tense and even dangerous stunts on the ice. The partners will kiss each other on the cheek and wait patiently as the judges deliberate. Of course, there's some understandable crying in this little corner, too. No judging.
As Slate reported in 2014, in the book titled Cracked Ice: Figure Skating's Inner World, retired skating judge Sonia Bianchetti Garbato explained where the term came from. Etymologically, the term hailed from the Finnish skating official Jane Erkko who coined it during the 1983 World Figure Skating Championships as the spot where athletes sat down, exchanged kisses, and waited for their points to be announced often in sweat and tears.
Rattling as it can be to wait for the ultimate score, the "kiss and cry" area seemed cathartic for competing men and women. Moreover, it's not just limited to figure skating only; kiss and cry areas are found in gymnastics, too. And people often take photos there too. In fact, on Tuesday, American figure skaters and married couple, Chris Knierim and Alexa Scimeca Knierim, took a Valentine's Day selfie in the kiss and cry area.
You might be wondering, "Why even make a corner like this?" Back in 1960s, the little area had little to no sentimental meaning. Athletes would go there, sit down, and wait for their fate to be made or broken by the approval (or lack thereof) of the judges. But in recent history, as PopSugar also pointed out, the kiss and cry area has taken on a popular image for the masses that love watching the Olympics. It's serious business, too, as PopSugar reported, as it's an official term approved by the United States Figure Skating Regulations.
David Michaels, NBC producer for covering the Olympics, once told New York Times in 2010 that covering the kiss and cry area was critical to their reportage. "It’s such a big part of our coverage now. It’s gone from a blue curtain and a bucket of flowers on the side to plastic ice sculptures and crazy sets. It’s become a big design element that everyone works hard to figure out," he said.
The increased attention to the kiss and cry corner makes sense. This is the spot where viewers see much more humanized and even vulnerable images of the deity-like athletes in tears, nervously anticipating to hear their scores. Sometimes they sit together holding hands tightly and other times they just stare intently at the monitors in front of them, breath held in tight.
It's at this little corner that these athletes will be showered with flowers, hugs, and pecks on the cheeks. Perhaps most importantly, it is because of this spot that many audience members remember that figure skaters — no matter how superhuman they look on the ice — are human beings at the end of the day.