Monday, November 19

Inflation of Grand Prix Skaters Competing at Home? May This Be Why..?!

I have seen many gripes around the internet this year about the supposed inflation, or holding up, of the athletes competing at their home-country Grand Prix events. I think we can all look at the results of the five completed competitions thus far and think to ourselves, 'Hmm.. those components scores (and maybe even grade of execution scores) look a little bit high compared to what that skater has been normally receiving.' Well, maybe you haven't. I know I have.


Let's look at the Rostelecom Cup pairs as an example to visualize a situation.

The ISU appoints the technical panels to all events. There could be a conspiracy in itself for those choices, but we are just going to look at the actual judging panel here:

Judge No.1Ms. Anne CAMMETT
Judge No.2Mr. Vladislav PETUKHOV
Judge No.3Mr. Peter LEVIN
Judge No.4Mr. Benoit LAVOIE
Judge No.5Mr. Alexei SHIRSHOV
Judge No.6Mr. Evgeni ROKHIN
Judge No.7Ms. Ingrid Charlotte WOLTER
Judge No.8Ms. Natalia PRIMACHENKO
Judge No.9Mr. Nikolai SALNIKOV

Compare that now to the entry list:

7Tiffany VISE / Don BALDWIN

Canada, Russia, and the United States were allowed one judge on this panel. I haven't gotten a definitive answer yet, but a possible reason there was no Italian judge was because the two original teams scheduled to compete were both German, and we see a German judge on this panel. The Italians were a later replacement. Maybe the judges are assigned way in advance in order to make travel arrangements? I think that is likely the case.

Anyways, looking past those four judges guaranteed a spot on the panel, we have the following countries:

Sweden, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Estonia.

Sweden had a ladies entry, and Peter Levin was on that panel. That could (or should) explain his inclusion here.

You wonder how the other four judges were picked for this competition?

No, it was not a random draw. No, they were not assigned by the ISU. They were invited by the host Federation!

Interesting choice, wouldn't you say? Why not Japan or China or use judges already on panels in other disciplines? If they are judging the singles events, they most likely would be qualified for the pairs event.

Instead, we have judges from four countries with no skaters in the entire competition.

If I was in charge of the any decision-making in the ISU, I would eliminate the option to invite judges. They would be randomly selected in a method very similar to what is done to choose panels of the ISU major internationals (Worlds, Europeans, Four Continents, World Juniors).

Just some food for thought...


Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I had NO idea.... and that explains a LOT!!

Anonymous said...

It's also because the host federation pays for the officials. Russia would likely invite officials closer to the host site than someone far away due to cost. Same applies to any other host.

Tony said...

To the last Anonymous-- yes, that absolutely makes sense in some ways.

However, I still feel that there should be a completely random draw for the judging panels. When a Federation invites a country with no skater in the competition or hardly any international skaters, I am sure that judge wants to be sure they get invited back. And you can only imagine what that might entail.

Anonymous said...

That's outrageous. Even if the concern is cutting costs, the judges should not be chosen or beholden to the host federations, in any ISU event.

I had no idea this was going on, but at this point, can anything the ISU does be considered surprising?

Speaking of dodgy judging matters - I noticed that Joe Inman was the tech controller for the men's and pairs events at TEB. He was never even reprimanded for that e-mail fiasco, was he? Again, typical ISU.

Tony said...

Inman really didn't do anything against the rules. Communication between judges happens often, actually.

This is a quote from my first Patrick Ibens interview, in 2010:

TW: And as a retiring judge, you are allowed to share your opinions freely?
PI: I spoke freely while I was judging. It is against the rules to talk about anything regarding the specific event that you are judging while it is happening, but once the event review meeting is complete, you can comment on everything you see to whoever wants to listen. We live in a free world!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why you referred to that specific quote from Patrick Ibens (excellent interviews, BTW, he must be a wonderful interview subject), as they do not back up your point about Inman. Inman wasn't just discussing an event that had concluded; he was trying to directly influence the judging at an event that had not yet occurred, and not just any event but the biggest one there is! All this, based on a quote he might have misinterpreted (he was not, after all, present at the Bratislava press conference), and without knowing what the skater(s) he was discussing would do in Vancouver. That is so completely out of line I don't even know where to start.

I am not naive enough to believe that skating judges are without bias and political maneuvering does not occur; even if I were, Mr. Ibens's comments would have disabused me of that notion. But this was so flagrant and obvious that something should have been done publicly about it. Inman showed himself to be very biased, and I don't trust his ability to remain objective as a skating official. In a judged sport, the appearance, at least, of impartiality is vital - isn't that the whole point of this post?

Then again, skating has never been the most ethical of sports, so why am I surprised?

Tony said...

While we can speculate all we want about what Inman's true intentions were, we can't say anything positively. He never said anything about what the judges should do.

What did happen was he quoted an article from a reliable skating source (I don't think Absolute Skating has ever been wrong or posted anything false before..) and asked what the judges should think when a skater himself is claiming that he doesn't have any transitions. It was Plushenko's fault that he said it (and even dragged Joubert in) more-so than anyone else coming across it and sharing it.

This is how I look at it. If Plushenko actually did have a substantial amount of transitions, one of two things would have happened:

A) The other judges would have replied with examples of where the transitions were at in his programs. NO ONE did. Doesn't that seem odd?

B) Simply and more obviously, Plushenko never would have said something as idiotic as that shortly before a huge event.

If I was a judge, you should be able to see through my own scoring that I'd have no problem marking the components as I saw them. If a top-level skater has a program worthy of a 4.00 in components, I would score it that way. I don't think many others had the courage to do it, but it's almost like he dared them to after those comments that were published.

Well, at least that's my take on it. Sounds like we aren't going to agree.

Anonymous said...

We're not going to agree, but I do want to clarify regarding the source. Absolute Skating is a fantastic resource and a credible one, I agree. My point was that something may have been lost in translation, as the Bratislava press conference was (AFAIK) not in English, and English is neither Plsuehnko's nor the reporter's first language. I don't recall such a statement appear anywhere else, even though there was some coverage of the press conference elsewhere. So Inman attributed a specific meaning to a quote that may not have been fully reflective of what Plushenko meant or said, and used it as a persuasive tool. This, to me, is problematic.

As for the rest of - it's a dead horse for sure, but FWIW, my complaint is not about the actual judging at the Olympics. Instead, it is that I think that Inman specifically has forfeited the appearance of objectivity by his actions pre-Vancouver, and this is problematic for an official in a judged sport that has had its share of scandals over the years.

BTW, the blogger captchas are especially bad today.

Tony said...

Ha! Regarding the captchas.

I understand where you are coming from, but I guess I still go back to the point of 'Well, if he actually had transitions, the judges would laugh it off like it was a joke' type of deal.

The problem with this sport is that the training doesn't seem like it is clear enough as to what a 4.00 transition program is and what a 7.50 transition program is-- all the components for that matter. We see other sports use scoring systems; take diving for example. Do we ever see scores of 3.0 7.5 4.0 6.5.. etc? No, usually most of the scores are right in line with each other because of the guidelines established.

When you have an international judge that was on panels at the top level for many years responding that 'there's not much that can be done at this point', it just goes to show that judges can give scores totally out of line (we see it in EVERY event). Since the rules aren't completely precise, they can say they interpreted or had an opinion of a program much different than the next judge, and it ends up acceptable.

Reworking the system to something completely different will again alienate a lot of long-time fans, so I guess we are just stuck dealing with the current situation.

Anonymous said...

Now I have to respond again. Poor Tony, I really do need to leave you and your captchas in peace!

I just want to reiterate that my focus is not what effect Inman had on the judging panel in Vancouver. By now, it no longer matters. My focus is whether, once his actions were exposed, Inman specifically can still be considered an objective and impartial judge/official. For me, the answer is no, he can't, and therefore, it is difficult for me to accept him in an official role, even today.