The 2013 World Championships in London, Ontario serve not only as the biggest event of the figure skating season, but also it is the competition that will determine around 80% of the spots earned, by country, for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Newer fan to figure skating or you were never quite sure how rosters were finalized for the Olympics? Let me explain.
Much like the process of determining how many spots a country has earned for the next World or European Championship, the total placement system is first used to give countries with high-placing skaters or teams the chance to send more than one entry.
In order for a country to earn three entries in one discipline to the Olympics, the following must happen:
A) If one skater/team is sent in 2013, they must finish in the top 2 of the World Championships.
B) If two or three skaters/teams are sent in 2013, the placements of the two highest finishers must total no more than 13 points. (Example, Skater A finishes 3rd and Skater B finishes 10th. 3+10 = 13 and they have earned they three spots).
In order for a country to earn two entries in one discipline to the Olympics, the following must happen:
A) If one skater/team is sent in 2013, they must finish in the top 10 of the World Championships.
B) If two or three skaters/teams are sent in 2013, the placements of the two highest finishers must total no more than 28 points, using the same method as above (skaters qualifying to the final round of competition but finishing lower than 16th place still earn 16 points. Skaters qualifying to the short program/short dance but not advancing earn 18 points. Skaters not qualifying from the preliminary rounds earn 20 points.)*
*- With the new ISU technical minimums coming into play this year, I am not sure if the 18 and 20 points rules will stand, as all disciplines will not, as of now, even have a need for preliminary rounds.
Now, after all of that is said and done, 24 spots for the men and ladies, 19 spots for ice dance, and 16 spots for pairs will be determined, by country, based on the 2013 World Championship final results. It starts with the top-ranked countries and works its way down the list until the maximum spots have been filled. Only countries that have qualified at least one entry to the free skate/dance have the option to earn an Olympic spot here.
6 more spots for the men and ladies, 5 spots for ice dance, and 4 spots for pairs will be earned in an early-2013/2014 season ISU event that will be pre-designated as the 'Olympic Qualifying Competition'. More on that in a bit.
Let's use the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships ladies results as an example of how the 24 spots are filled up.
|24||Ana Cecilia CANTU|
Going down the list:
Korea, with 1st and 17th placements, earned the first two spots. (2 of 24)
Canada, with 2nd and 15th placements, earned two spots. (4 of 24)
Japan, with 3rd and 4th placements, earned three spots. (7 of 24)
The USA, with 5th and 11th placements, earned two spots. (9 of 24)
Finland, with 6th and 13th placements, earned two spots. (11 of 24)
Russia, with a 7th placement, earned two spots. (13 of 24)
Switzerland, with a 9th placement, earned two spots (15 of 24) but would eventually only use one.
Georgia, with a 10th placement, earned two spots (17 of 24) but would eventually only use one.
Italy, with a 12th placement, earned one spot. (18 of 24)
Slovakia, with a 14th placement, earned one spot. (19 of 24)
Estonia, with a 16th placement, earned one spot. (20 of 24)
Germany, with an 18th placement, earned one spot. (21 of 24)
Poland, with a 19th placement, earned one spot. (22 of 24)
Great Britain, with a 20th placement, earned one spot. (23 of 24)
Turkey, with a 21st placement, earned the final spot. (24 of 24)
Even though France, Austria, and Mexico qualified skaters into the final free skate, countries ahead of them gained spots (Russia, Switzerland, and Georgia) and therefore the 24 qualifiers were reached and those countries would have to earn a spot at the Olympic Qualifying Competition the next fall, which was the Nebelhorn Trophy.
Let's look at the final results from that event now:
Alissa Czisny (1st), Kiira Korpi (2nd), Sarah Hecken (7th), Elena Glebova (9th), and Katharina Hacker (10th) all skated for countries that had finalized their entry amounts at the World Championships and had no effect on the additional qualifiers here.
China, with a 3rd placement here, earned the first qualifying spot. Yan Liu also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 42nd place.
Hungary, with a 4th placement, earned the second qualifying spot. The Hungarian skater at 2009 Worlds (Bianka Padar) finished in 39th place.
Slovenia, with a 5th placement, earned the third qualifying spot. Teodora Postic also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 35th place.
Austria, with a 6th placement, earned the fourth qualifying spot. If you remember from the chart above, Kerstin Frank finished in 23rd place at the 2009 Worlds, and was one of the three unlucky skaters who qualified for the free skate without earning an Olympic spot for her country.
Spain, with an 8th placement, earned the fifth qualifying spot. Sonia Lafuente also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 26th place.
Belgium, with an 11th placement, earned the sixth qualifying spot. Isabelle Pieman also competed at the 2009 Worlds, finishing in 40th place.
That's it, right? Technically, it would be. But remember my notes above about two countries not sending their maximum amount of entries? We keep going..
Israel would have been the next in line, but their Olympic Committee decided against sending Tamar Katz.
Same thing with next in line Czech Republic. No lady was sent to the Games, although they had now earned a spot.
Uzbekistan did take the spot given up by Switzerland after they chose to only send one lady. Anastasia Gimazetdinova finished 31st at the 2009 Worlds.
Australia took the final spot, which was given up by Georgia after they chose to only send one lady. Cheltzie Lee was 33rd at the 2009 Worlds.
Interesting note here. France was one spot away from directly qualifying a lady to the Olympics after Candice Didier finished 22nd at the World Championships. They again missed out by one spot after Gwendoline Didier (not related) finished 16th here after a disastrous free skate.
To make matters worse (and this is a bit of trivia), Candice Didier injured herself in the middle of her Worlds free skate, came back on the ice after a few minutes, and did two double Axel-double Axel sequences. Since only three double Axels were allowed in the free skate, the entire second sequence was voided. If you take a look at the final point totals, that made the difference between earning an Olympic spot and just missing out.
Depending on what the ISU ends up doing with the technical minimum scores for the 2014 season (and/or the Olympics specifically) we could see the potential of several countries earning more spots than skaters eligible.
In addition, several countries' Olympic committees hold strict criteria for allowing skaters to compete. I remember in 2002, Sarah Meier of Switzerland was questionable for the Olympics after she didn't finish in the top 8 at the European Championships. She had to skate in front of national judges and land a certain number of triples in her free skate in order to go to the Olympics. She succeeded, and ended up in 9th place following the short program in Salt Lake City.