Sonia Bianchetti, a former ISU judge, referee, and official of 40 years, responds to my interview with Patrick Ibens, sending me the following letter:
I read with great interest your interview with Patrick Ibens. It is a fantastic interview and most of what he says is absolutely true. Only on one point I disagree. I do not think that only 10% of the judges are honest. Unfortunately there are, and there have always been dishonest judges, but not in that proportion. At least I hope not!
It is very sad, though, that a good, honest and competent young judge such as Patrick decides to stop judging. And from some comments I have received, many other judges might follow his example.
I can easily understand the reason why. The sport is changed, the system has changed, and the judges do not get the same stimulation, the same involvement, the same input as with the old 6.0 system.
The role of a judge now is as exciting as that of a cashier in a supermarket!
Until the IJS was adopted, judging was a real challenge. The judges had to try their best to come up with the correct result, using both the marks for Technical Merit and Presentation in the proper way.
Now with the new system it's all gone. At the end of an event a judge does not even know where he placed a certain skater. It is not his business! The only concern of the judges now a days is to be sure to remain within the famous “corridor”. If a skater tries to do something special hardly any judge dares to reflect it in his marks. Never take the risk to be out of the corridor because you will not be given the chance to explain your point of view.
Some judges like this some others hate it and feel it is even humiliating in view of their competence and experience. I am one of these!
Besides, having the ISU decide that a judge is only allowed to arrive on the spot of the competition on the day before the event and has to leave the day after the event, makes the social appeal of the sport gone. I wonder how many judges will be willing to fly may be 12 or more hours, judge two days and fly back, without even being able to see the rest of the competition.
Very interesting is Patrick’s opinion on the Program Component marks.
“What I hate the most about this system is that it is made to save the “not-so-good” judges, while the really good judges who are marking the way it’s meant to be (every component separately) risk the chance of being out of the corridor of average marks, and risk getting some assessments. A judge who basically does not know anything can give all the wrong marks or completely guess and their marks fall into an average! But someone who wants to have wide margins between components might be singled out for doing so. For example, when scoring the first three groups at the World Championships, you give between 5.50 and 7.00 and you are in the safe corridor. When the last groups come on the ice, give between 7.00 and 8.50 and you’re safe again!”
I could not agree with him more!
This is exactly what we can witness in every event. The PC marks do not reflect the skating but rather the starting order and the reputation of the skaters.
As long as the marks for the program components will have to be valued on an absolute scale, there is no way they can be correct.
I fully agree with Patrick’s words: "our sport is out of the “sport”. Sport is that one is better than two, two is better than three. You can only come up with that result by comparing. If you call it speed skating, then there’s a clock but of course there are no marks for skills and artistry– they only have to be fast! Scoring only on a scale of 10 is impossible in a competition."
As I said many times, the purpose of a figure skating competition is to determine which skater gave the best performance on a given day.
In a sport like figure skating it is practically impossible to quantify objectively the quality of any element of a skater’s performance.
The only way to be consistent through the whole event is to be thinking all the time whether the marks given now make sense compared to the marks given before - and that is a comparison.
Under the IJS the judges are now asked to evaluate performances on an absolute point scale without comparison to any other performance. While this may be conceivable when evaluating individual elements of a program, for the Program Components it is not. These are entirely different ways of thinking.
Only by comparing the various programs with one another, can a judge decide which one deserves more. So "absolute" judging makes no sense, especially in program components.
Even more so when you talk of junior events. Can any ISU expert truly believe that it is possible for the judges to properly assess on an absolute scale the correct mark for each of the five program components to each of the 55 young girls who skated their short program today at the Junior Worlds in The Hague?
If there is one, I would like to meet him.
Have a nice week-end