Sunday, July 7

Happy Birthday, Michelle Kwan

Today, Michelle Kwan celebrates her 33rd birthday! To pay tribute, I have picked some of my favorite performances over the years.

1998 World Professional Championship, Artistic Program
This is my absolute favorite. Skating to 'East of Eden' , it doesn't get any better. I watch this and still get the same chills I had 15 years ago.


2003 World Championships, Free Skate
The audience, the reaction of Dick Button after the final triple Lutz, the footwork sequence. Amazing.


1998 US National Championships, Free Skate
Probably the most famous Michelle Kwan performance. Look at how confident and relaxed she looks at the very beginning of this video. 8 6.0's for presentation!


1995 Skate America, Free Skate
Surprising choice possibly, considering she won Worlds with this program later in the season. However, I still remember the opening clip to this competition and Terry Gannon saying something to the extent of 'I had to ask who this skater was' because of the transformation she had undergone in the off-season. I only saw that clip once. 18 years later, I still remember.


1998 Keri Lotion Classic, Interpretive Free Skate
My favorite exhibition/interpretive free skate from Michelle, to Loreena McKennitt's 'Dante's Prayer'. Simple skating, beautiful choreography, and such haunting music.


Some other favorites (there are so many!):

2001 World Championships, Free Skate
2002 Olympic Games, Exhibition
1996 World Championships, Short Program
2009 Ice All-Stars. Exhibition
1995 World Championships, Free Skate

Which performances were your favorites?

Monday, June 17

Ukrainian Judge Handed Two-Year Suspension-- But There's a Bigger Issue, ISU

Earlier this week, the ISU published a detailed communication describing the actions of Ms. Natalia Kruglova of Ukraine at the 2012 Cup of Nice competition. In short, it is reported that Kruglova approached another judge on the Senior Pairs panel and asked her to give higher Grades of Execution for the technical elements (ie. a +1 instead of a 0). This was likely due to the fact that the ISU had established minimum technical scores needed for each skater or team that needed to be reached in order to participate in the 'Championship' events (Europeans, Four Continents, World Juniors, Worlds). A slight boost on each of the elements, and the team had a much better chance to hit the benchmark needed.

The 2013 World Championships took on extra importance because 80% of the qualifying spots for the Sochi Olympic Games were determined by the skaters' final placements. Had the Ukrainian team (Julia Lavrentieva and Yuri Rudyk) qualified to compete in London, Ontario, they could have been among the 16 'spots' earning an automatic entry for their country had they placed high enough in the final results. In the end, the team did not reach the minimum technical score and will be vying for one of the four remaining Olympic entries at the Nebelhorn Trophy in September.

First and foremost, credit should be given both to the judge who reported the incident and to the referee of the event, Jeroen Prins of the Netherlands, who proceeded with the necessary steps to have action taken against the offending judge. While this can be seen as revolutionary and a stepping stone to getting dishonesty and cheating out of the International Skating Union, I have my reservations.

Remember when I wrote about Italian judge Walter Toigo copying the marks of the judges around him during a Junior Grand Prix competition in 2010? His incident was caught on video and looked into by the ISU. In turn, they issued him a two-year ban. The date of this ban was on or near February 18, 2011.

Sound good so far?

At the 2013 World Championships, less than one month after coming out of his ban, Walter Toigo was on the judging panel for the mens free skating competition. I was assured by those 'in-the-know' prior to writing this article that Toigo definitely received no additional training after coming out of his suspension, and he did not have to take any kind of competency test with the ISU to verify that he understood the system. Instead, it was more of a situation where once the ban was lifted, he retained the credential to judge the 'Championship' events. Italy named him as their judge, and essentially no questions were asked.

If I see a judge copying every single grade of execution from another judge, this tells me that the judge either A) doesn't care and doesn't want to be there or B) doesn't know what he is doing.

If it leans more towards A, problem solved: don't assign him another event and tell him to volunteer in something he actually enjoys.

If it's B, don't you think the ISU should make sure he receives adequate training on the IJS so that he does not feel the need to copy off of other judges? Also, is it really the best idea to assign him to the WORLD Championship as his very first event back after serving a suspension?

This is where the powers that be need to step it up. Do you think that judges who are caught cheating should be banned for life? If not, is the two-year suspension fair? If you lean towards the latter, do you believe that both the national federation and ISU should take much more interest in re-training from the bottom up in hopes that cheating does not happen again? In my opinion, Toigo should have been put through courses re-training him as a judge, and then he should have been judging some regional or national-level competitions for a long while before he even had the option of being appointed to another ISU event.

As far as we all know, Toigo might have taken a two-year vacation and come back with no better understanding of the way the sport is scored.

Come on, ISU.

Saturday, June 15

Skate for Hope 10th Anniversary Show


My lovely town of Columbus, Ohio plays host to Skate for Hope, one of the premiere figure skating exhibitions each off-season. Over the past ten years, an amazing $500,000 has been raised for the Stefanie Spielman Fund at the Ohio State University James Cancer Center and The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. I had the opportunity to attend the show on Saturday night, and it featured an amazing cast including both of the current US National singles Champions, a former Olympic Champion, several other Olympic and World competitors, and over 130 young skaters and adults!

The nice thing about exhibition skating is that the quarter-turn cheats, the changes of edge at the last minute, the number of revolutions in spins, and all of that other nit-picking is thrown out the window. Falls here aren't going to get you a mandatory one-point deduction on top of the -3 grade of execution; instead, the skaters get up with smiles on their faces.

With that said, every single skater in the show really delivered amazing performances. Alexe Gilles, an Canadian ladies competitor, started off the headliners with a graceful, beautiful performance complete with a double Axel and triple toe. Adam Rippon was next, and he continues to improve the quality of his overall skating tremendously. He now has a great combination of power behind his skating to go with the softer elegance. Naturally, he included the Rippon triple Lutz here!

One of the most consistent American ladies over the last year has been Christina Gao. She is an Ohio native, and this is her first time at Skate for Hope. She landed two triple toe loops in an exquisite program, skating to 'You Raise Me Up'. Rachael Flatt skated a fun number to 'Catch My Breath' performed live by Columbus resident Jenny Alu. Even though she has decided to focus on college, Rachael still easily managed a double Axel and triple loop here and there is always such freedom and happiness in her skating.

Emily Hughes has been a long-time performer in the show, and she and sister Sarah dedicate each of their performances to their mother Amy, a breast cancer survivor. There was a nice video montage of the family leading into her gorgeous performance to 'Hallelujah'. Another touching performance was from Emily Samuelson and Lee Harris. Samuelson competed in the 2010 Olympics as an ice dancer, and Harris is a former US Junior Pairs Champion. Lee dedicated the performance to his mother who was in attendance, and the program was beautifully constructed. At one point, Harris skated over to his mother and drew a heart with his hands.

Dan Hollander competed at the World Championships in the mid-90's, and has been a staple in exhibition skating for many years. He was a late addition to this show, and he brought the house down with a performance that included the Nutcracker Suite in a tutu and Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' in, yes-- a leotard. Jeremy Abbott skated to 'Bring Him Home' from Les Miserables and landed a perfect triple Axel. Jeremy's skating skills are remarkable, and he listens to every single note of the music with his entire body.

Current US Mens Champion Max Aaron skated to a medley of popular songs and had the audience in the palm of his hand, complete with a kiss for a lady in the front row. That same fearless attack he shows in competition was also evident here, and it adds to the excitement of his skating. Ashley Wagner, two time and reigning US Ladies Champion, skated to the haunting 'Young and Beautiful' by Lana del Ray and the program had a great tension that commanded the audience. 2002 Olympic Champion Sarah Hughes, who was originally not scheduled to perform, closed the night as a surprise skating beautifully to 'What I Did for Love'. She still has a perfect spiral and I witnessed a sweet moment after the show where a young skater in the crowd was visibly awe-struck and told Sarah that she was such an inspiration.

The local and visiting skaters were part of group performances that included an energetic synchronized skating program to 'Scream & Shout', and a fun Justin Bieber medley. Every single one of the skaters looked so happy to be on the ice in front of the large crowd and with some of the biggest stars in the sport.

Special thanks to Doug Mattis for spending much of his free time around the arena with me and to Carolyn Bongirno, President of Skate for Hope, Kristen Izzie, Mel Shilling, and everyone else involved in the show that were so kind to me the last few days!

Next year, Skate for Hope will feature two shows! It will remain in Columbus, and will also be held in Estero, Florida. If you are near either of these areas, I highly recommend attending and seeing some great skating during the quiet months of the year.

Until then.. :-)

Monday, June 3

Mahbanoozadeh Retirement

American skater Armin Mahbanoozadeh announced today via Twitter that he will not be competing in the upcoming season or in the foreseeable future. Here is his full set of Tweets:
Hello Twitters! I am announcing that I will not be competing this coming season or for the foreseeable future. I am a full time CompSci student and I have many amazing plans for my future. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me throughout the years and for some of the most amazing friends and fan a person could hope for. I wish everyone the best of luck this Olympic season and into the future.
So he plays piano and he's a computer science student AND he posted about being excited about Arrested Development coming back last week? We could be the best of friends.

While he's had a disappointing string of events throughout the last few seasons, I have to say that one of the absolute highlights of this Olympic cycle was his free skate from the 2010 Skate America, where he won the bronze medal.



I even named my event review for the competition Thank You, Armin

Best of luck, Armin Hammer.

2013/2014 Grand Prix Assignments Announced

Links to the full rosters: Men || Ladies || Pairs || Dance

This has to be one of the biggest days in the off-season for the hardcore fans: the ISU has released the initial rosters for the six Grand Prix competitions in the upcoming Olympic season. Doesn't it seem like Vancouver just happened?

Lack of Diversity
First things first-- a few seasons ago, in an effort for the ISU to save an additional few dollars, they decided to drop the fields down from 12 in singles to 10, and down to 8 in pairs and ice dance. Since the spots are mostly based upon World Standing and Season Rankings, we see the issue in the mens fields. Aside from world silver medalist Denis Ten (KAZ), Alexander Majorov (SWE), Michal Brezina (CZE), Peter Liebers (GER), and world bronze medalist Javier Fernandez (ESP), all other entries come from one of the six Grand Prix stops (USA, Canada, China, Japan, France, and Russia). That's 51 of 60 possible spots going to the 'powerhouses'. While I agree that many of the skaters from those six countries are indeed the best in the world, I wish the ISU would return to the 12 entries in each event, so decent skaters such as Misha Ge, Viktor Pfeifer, and Jorik Hendrickx, although not top 12 in the World Championships, could still have a chance at an event.

At the same time, I would have liked to see skaters such as Americans Hannah Miller and Angela Wang get a chance at a senior Grand Prix.. But there's just so much depth!

Comebacks and New Teams
Evan Lysacek is on the roster once again for Skate America. We'll see about that. I like the guy but how many times have we heard excuses or last-minute injuries in the last few seasons?

On the other hand, I fully expect Evgeny Plushenko to compete at Rostelecom to start his season.

Yretha Silete (FRA) is back from injury and will be at Eric Bompard.

Davis and Brubaker (USA) are assigned to Skate Canada, Purich/Tran (CAN) have Eric Bompard, and Takahashi/Kihara (JPN) are on the Rostelcom Cup roster; they are likely to also get the TBA for NHK Trophy, since there is no other Japanese pairs team.

Depths of the Fields
Men
Sticking with the men, all I can say is wow. I am planning on attending Skate America, and just look at the roster (and believing that Lysacek will actually be there), here are the accomplishments of the nine confirmed men:
  • Olympic Champion (Lysacek)
  • Three World Champions (Joubert, Lysacek, Takahashi)
  • Six World Medalists (add Kozuka, Ten, Gachinksi)
  • 2012/2013 Grand Prix Final qualifier Machida (along with Takahashi and Kozuka)
  • 7th-place World Championship finisher and US National Champion Aaron
  • 6th-place finisher at Europeans Majorov
All of the mens fields are strong, especially considering the unpredictability of a large group of top men today, but Skate Canada (Chan, Brezina, three Japanese, and three Americans) also is particularly stacked. And then you look at NHK and think the same.. and France.. and Russia.. and China :-)

Somewhat surprised that Adam Rippon only has one event, but he did not have an ideal 2013 season. Jason Brown also grabbed an event, scheduled to compete at Bompard. I am really excited to see the rise of Joshua Farris, who has Chan-comparable skating skills and flow. Watch for him!

Tomas Verner (CZE) is missing from the Grand Prix this year, and he was in the Final just a few short years ago. I really hope he finds some confidence in what is likely to be his final season.

Ladies
Elena Radionova (RUS) is making the move to the senior Grand Prix, coming in as reigning World Junior Champion. She's not old enough for the Olympics, but remember Mao Asada took the same route in 2005/2006 and ended up winning the entire thing in the Final!

Even though she had a disastrous Worlds (to the point that she has to qualify a spot to the Olympics at Nebelhorn), I have to say that I'm surprised Sonia Lafuente of Spain was not given an event after her great performance at Europeans. All ladies in the top 14 at Worlds have two events, as does Valentina Marchei who finished in 18th. Even Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO), who failed to qualify to the free skate, earned two spots based on her high World Standing.

Caroline Zhang (USA) surprisingly? earned an initial spot at Skate America. I am fine with that decision, as I think she was hosed at Nationals after great efforts.

Strongest field in my opinion? Probably Canada, with NHK and Bompard behind. 

Pairs
No big surprises here, although I don't know if we should hold our breath about the Chinese team of Pang/Tong showing up to their events. They looked like they were running on empty at the World Championships after going through the Grand Prix series last season, and the Olympics are clearly their target.

The German team of Hausch/Wende took last season off due to family-related incidents and, I believe, injury. Does anyone know if they plan on coming back and attempting to earn the second German spot for the Olympics? They did not receive any events.

Ice Dance
Again, no major surprises. Nice to see Papadakis/Cizeron get an initial event, with a second likely using the TBA at Eric Bompard. 

The TBAs
Will someone like Alissa Czisny be able to grab the open spot at Skate America after missing last season, or will the USFS decide to go for someone new such as Samantha Cesario? Or even someone else?

Is Johnny Weir done for after his abysmal showing in the short program at Rostelecom last season, or has he been working seriously on improving his skating in the last several months? Although highly unlikely for the Skate America spot, will we see him next season?


Sunday, March 24

Playing With Numbers - The Total Scores for Chan/Ten from Each Judge


Above are the total scores for Denis Ten and Patrick Chan in the free skate from each of the nine judges at the World Championships. Remember, there can be no direct comparison between the judges since the ISU has decided to randomize the order in which the marks appear for each new skater.

Denis Ten had a maximum of 189.23 points and a minimum of 168.43 points, a 20.80 point spread. If you average all nine of the marks, his total segment score comes out to 175.46 points-- 0.54 higher than when two marks were dropped. His median score was 172.93 points.

Patrick Chan had a maximum of 177.28 points and a minimum of 160.88 points, a 16.40 point spread. If you average all nine of the marks, his total segment score comes out to 169.71 points-- 0.30 higher than when two marks were dropped. His median score was 169.28 points.

The average TES score for Ten was 87.96 points, and 82.05 points for Chan. If you take into account that Chan received 2.00 in deductions for his falls (on elements), he's basically earned 80.05 points here.
The average PCS score was 87.50 points for Ten, and 89.67 points for Chan.

Friday, March 22

Edge Calls and the Points Skaters Earn..

As I mentioned in one of my first posts following the 2013 World Championship, I think the whole 'e' call for Lutzes and flips done on the opposite edges should be done away with, and skaters shouldn't receive any points for jumps they are likely doing for a third or even fourth time within one program.

Let's look at the ladies at the World Championship and see how many points they earned from jumps called 'e' in the free skate:

Mao Asada completed two triple flips and a Lutz (e) --- essentially three triple flips. The flutz earned her 5.30 additional points-- the same value as a base-value triple flip!

Zijun Li did the same as Asada: two flips, and a Lutz (e). Her flutz earned 5.70 points.

Gracie Gold did the opposite. Two triple Lutzes and a triple flip on the outside edge. She did the flip in combination with two double toes in the second half, and ended up with an average of -1 GOE, for 7.99 points overall.

Ashley Wagner completed two triple flips and a Lutz (e) in the second half of the program. It garnered GOE's just under base-value, and she came away with 6.30 points for the jump. Her clean triple flip at the end of the program earned 6.53 points, as a comparison. So you're telling me that when she actually does the same jump the *correct* way, it only earns 0.23 points more?!

Kanako Murakami did two flips and a Lutz (e), which earned her 5.80 points.

And we'll stop there. This is just for the top seven skaters in the free skate-- at the World Championship. Five of them can't do one of the two jumps right, yet are still averaging over 5.50 points for the jump they do completely incorrect (and for the third time). Ridiculous!

If I was competing at the highest level and had a flutz, I would surely put two of them later in my program (one in combination, of course) and hopefully only get -1 or so on the GOE. That's around 5.9 points for each attempt or 11.8 extra points for a jump that has essentially been done four times now.

A clean triple flip with +1 GOE scores just above that at a 6.0 before the half-way point and a 6.53 after.

A clean triple toe with +1 GOE, though, scores just 4.8 before the bonus and 5.21 after. The skater would likely have to get +2 GOE across the board for the 3T in the second half for it to earn .01 points more than the -1 GOE flutz in the second half.

What if I loved doing the loop or Salchow? If I attempt that jump a third time, I'm going to get 0 points. But it's fine to do a flip or Lutz for a third and fourth time and still earn nearly all of the base value.

I think this is insane. So many aspects of the IJS are about the skater planning wisely: whether to do most of the jumps in the second half, how many difficult jumps to attempt in the second half, how to get the maximum score out of seven jumping passes, how to get the highest levels and GOE's on spins and footwork, etc.

Why don't we just disallow flutzes and lips all together? Base the jump solely on the take-off edge. The technical panel has replays. If a skater thinks they are going to get around it and still get credit for a third jump on the same edge, then the jump receives 0 points just as repeating a toe loop, Salchow, or loop more than once would garner. 

A lot of discussions over the last few years is to reward the skater who has a complete set of (clean) triples within a program with bonus points. Looking at the top 10 ladies at the World Championship, aside from the five I highlighted above, Kim doesn't attempt a loop and got called (e) for her flip in the short program; Kostner didn't have a successful loop in her free skate, Sotnikova gets Lutz (e) calls, and Osmond gets Lutz (e) calls. Only Elizaveta Tuktamysheva completed the five triples (not including Axel) successfully in her free skate, and she was only 8th in the portion. 

These are the top 10 free skates at the World Championships we are talking about, and we can only find one lady who would earn the bonus!

I say scratch the idea of a bonus and again-- just don't allow a flip or Lutz jump to be done on the same edge more than twice. 

I guarantee you that the skaters would either really work to correct the technique issues, or they would have to plan their programs based on what they actually can do. 

Thursday, March 21

Another Thought to Consider RE: PCS vs. TES

I absolutely love the discussions and sharing of opinions taking place in the comments sections of my last few posts. It seems that many people are still fixated on the Performance/Execution mark specifically, and how they believe that it should be changed to reflect the falls and general messiness of poor skates.

I understand why that argument continues to be presented-- don't get me wrong. But I also think that a lot of people are looking for that 'extra point or two' that, in this case, would have given Denis Ten the win over Patrick Chan at the World Championships.

I think what is happening here is the P/E mark, or any of the components for that matter, are the easiest to single out because they are presented separately on score sheets while the total element score is just one combined total. If you read the protocols, you can go in-depth and see just where the skaters were adding up their points technically, but with components, it's easy to compare across the columns between skater A and skater B.

All things considered, true-- Chan received an 8.61 in the free skate for his performance and execution.  Drop that down to a 7.96 and the two skaters would have tied overall, with Ten winning based on the higher free skate score.

I don't see many (if any) arguments except for myself that the 5.63 point difference technically between the two skaters seems a little 'off'. True, Chan did two great quads while Ten only did one, but Ten also had positive GOE's on every single jump element he completed, and only doubled the flip while Chan was making several other major errors, as we all clearly know.

My argument to those people bent out of shape about one or two of the PCS marks is that if the rules do start to reflect the falls and major errors, Chan might lose a point here or there off of his total score, but in the end it will be nothing major. If you are one of those people that thinks he should drop down into the 5.00's or 6.00's for any component, then that is a whole different discussion that I won't ever understand.

However, if we go back to the technical mark, Chan would lose points by having a greater reduction in elements with falls and/or major errors. Also, if the panels get separated and the GOE is reduced from -2 to +2, we may not see instances where he is still receiving +2 and +3's for his final double Axel in the program, which I thought was clearly a 0 (average in every way) element.

With all of these things considered, his technical score will be at a level that actually reflects the type of content he completed, and then we may not have to pull up one of the PCS scores to explain why the results didn't come out right.

Maybe both sides of the system need tweaking. But if you are one of those people who think the entire problem lies within the scoring of one single component, I advise you to really think about the points I presented above.

As always, share your opinions with me!

Brushing Up on the Criteria Behind the Program Components

http://www.isu.org/vsite/vfile/page/fileurl/0,11040,4844-152086-169302-64121-0-file,00.pdf

Check out the resource linked above, which is an explanation of each program component from the ISU. I just keep seeing so many comments about how this or what technical mistake should contribute to the significant dropping of one of the areas of PCS, but I really believe these assumptions come from people creating their own definitions of what the criteria mean.

For example, the skating skill mark does not have some formula that states that you take the total amount of time a skater remains on his/her feet in the program, divided by the total length of the program, and then you assign that percentage as the skating skill for that skater. Sound funny? Read some of the comments across the internet!

Wednesday, March 20

The New IJS Set of Points to End All Others

.. well, wouldn't that be nice if we all came to an agreement about how a program should be scored? :-)


I have played around with the concepts in the above point system for a while now (I actually believe I first starting posting similar proposals following Patrick Chan's win at the 2010 Skate Canada). But again and again, I find myself coming back to this idea.

People say that the skaters will no longer try the difficult elements if such harsh penalties are incurred, but I'm going to show you an example of why there isn't nearly as much of a difference as some people think.

Since I am always picking on Patrick Chan in this system, let's actually pick on the World Silver Medalist, Denis Ten. In the 2010 Skate America competition, he fell five times in his free skate. Yep. Five times. He was able to score 111.61 points for the segment, including 54.69 points technically. Out of all eight jumping passes, only two had above a 0 GOE.

Let's use my system above on his program (which is unfortunately not on YouTube but I certainly can understand why).

3A (fall) 2.13
3A+SEQ (fall) 1.70 [here, since the second Axel would have needed to be in combination or sequence, it receives 80% of the base value]
3Lz+3T (fall) 4.03 [3.00 for the -2 on the Lutz because of the fall in the entire jumping pass, and the set value for the toe loop added together]
FSSp2 2.59
CiSt3 3.80
3F* (fall) 1.46
3Lo* 6.01
3Lz* 5.80
3S* 4.92
2A* (fall) 0.91
FCCoSp3 3.00
CCoSp2 3.00
ChSt1 2.21

His total element score under my system drops to 41.56, compared to the 54.69 he had originally. But it doesn't quite stop there. Remember the additional -1.00 point for each fall? Ten essentially had earned a 49.69 after the -5.00.

Now, 8.13 points is still a big difference-- I give you that. But this was in one of the most severe cases of error-filled programs. It was just used to show that all of the arguments about skaters losing so many points aren't really quite valid if the system was changed to reflect the TES mistakes.

By the way, he'd have 103.48 points total for the segment.

Fair? Not fair? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 19

Even More Analyzing Chan and the IJS

I'm on a writing spree lately, and I like playing with numbers.

Imagine that each of the eight jumping slots in Chan's free skate were marred by errors with the severity of a -2 GOE (think a big step out or fall out on everything). Here is what his score looks like if you consider all of the jumps to be fully rotated and keeping the exact same GOE as he received on all of the non-jump elements in his Worlds free skate.

4T+3T 12.40
4T 8.30
3Lz 4.60
StSq4 5.60
CCSp3 3.73
3A* 7.35
3Lo* 4.21
3F+1Lo+3S* 9.60
FSSp3 3.24
3Lz+2T* 6.74
ChSq1 3.40
2A* 2.63
CCoSp4 4.29

Total Value of Eight Jumping Slots = 55.83 Points
(Total Value of Non-Jump Elements = 20.26 Points)

New Technical Total with Straight -2 GOE for Jump Elements = 76.09
(Program Components Total = 89.28)

Segment Total = 165.37

Chan received an actual segment score of 169.41 at Worlds, which included falls on two jumps (one that was called under-rotated), a double of third jump, and a major fall-out of a fourth. The difference between making a severe error (non-fall) on *every* jumping pass and the combination of mistakes he made is just 4.04 points.

Now, people have been writing to me and sharing their opinions on social media about how increasing the penalty for mistakes on the bigger jumps would result in the skaters not even trying the jumps (in other words, we'd go back to non-quad attempts circa pre-Vancouver).

Let's say a skater has every intention of completing a quadruple toe loop, but he actually doubles the jump. Go back up to the element listing for Chan's free skate and we will say that he doubled his second quad but then received a 0 GOE on every other element. Look at his score now:

4T+3T 14.40
2T 1.30
3Lz 6.00
StSq4 5.60
CCSp3 3.73
3A* 9.35
3Lo* 5.61
3F+1Lo+3S* 11.00
FSSp3 3.24
3Lz+2T* 8.14
ChSq1 3.40
2A* 3.63
CCoSp4 4.29

Total Value of Eight Jumping Slots = 59.43 Points
(Non-Jump Elements Total remains at 20.26 Points)

New Technical Total with Straight 0 GOE for Jump Elements and Doubled Quad = 79.69
(Program Components Total = 89.28)

Segment Total = 168.97

The above demonstrates to me why I don't really buy the whole argument that going for a tough jump, such as a quadruple toe loop, and missing it results in the skaters being penalized oh-so harshly. Actually, I think completing wiping out on the jump because you are dedicated to getting those four rotations in actually gives you a real benefit of the doubt compared to doubling the jump.

-2 GOE on every single jump in a very sloppy program results in just a 3.60 point difference from the skater who completes every jump at a base (average) quality aside from a doubled toe loop- which is still a clean jump.

A double toe loop is worth 1.30 points. Once again, under my proposal that a fall on any jump results in 25% of the base value, a fall on the quad would be 2.58 points. Almost double the amount you'd receive for popping the jump. That's enough credit for taking the 'risk' in my opinion.

Anyways, going back to that 3.60 difference in points between the two hypothetical programs. Now, we have to remember once again that even with all of these errors, there is no criteria for lowering program component scores because of the jumping mistakes-- all eight of them.

Some people are going read this and write to me saying something to the extent of, "Well if he's making eight mistakes in a program, he doesn't have any skating skills!" I know this is coming. But in reality, Chan still does have the skating skills, the transitions, the choreography that goes beautifully with the music, and he probably is still interpreting the music pretty well, too.

I think oftentimes people let audience reactions get in the way of the 'interpretation' component mark. Just because the audience is going wild, it doesn't mean that they fell in love with the way the skater interpreted their music (see Rogozine). Just because the audience is disappointed that the skater didn't hold it together technically doesn't mean that they skated right through the music.

My first article discussed the possibility of reducing the performance and execution component score by 5% or so each time the skater fell. But what about this situation where a skater gets -2 for every single element? No falls-- does that mean the skater should still get a 9.00 for performance and execution?

As I write this and think about my post the other day, I actually think that it would be better to still keep the components scores, for the most part, separate. Scratch the automatic lowering of the performance and execution mark after falls. Of course, if there is a direct correlation between all of the mistakes and the performance, then mark it down. Ideally, as I mentioned, I'd like to see different judging panels for the elements and the components, anyways.

After the above experiment, though, I do think that the severity of mistakes in general needs to be more greatly reflected in the technical mark.

Denis Ten received 56.85 points for his jumps in the Worlds free skate. This included a quadruple toe loop with over a +2 GOE, a triple Axel-triple toe with nearly a +2 average, another triple Axel that received +2, and five of his eight jumping passes in the second half. The only mistake was a doubled flip, which cost him 3.85 points off of the base mark and the world title-- but that's a story for a different time.

See the problem? 56.85 for seven jumping passes being fully-rotated and receiving a majority of +1 and +2 GOE's-- meaning they were good and very good jumps. Go back to Chan's jump layout with all -2's across the board. 55.83 points would have been earned.

1.02 points difference. Sure, Chan would have hypothetically been going for two quads and a triple-single-triple sequence which puts his *planned* content higher than Ten's, but the difference in the quality of these jumps would have been drastic! The marks and system say to fans and anyone else reading the protocols that the jumps only had a 1.02 point difference between the two skaters. That's the problem. Who cares about planned difficulty when everything becomes a train wreck technically?

After this little experiment, I strongly believe there needs to be a harsher penalty for mistakes on the GOE and technical side of the sport.

Monday, March 18

Following Up on the Current State of Skating

I am going to continue where I left off with my previous post and just add a few comments and observations based on the feedback I have received.

The problem seems to remain that everyone is fired up about the result of the mens competition at the World Championships, but no one seems to have any ideas on what to do to fix the apparent problem.

Dave Lease of The Skating Lesson videocast seems to have this belief in his head that I want to add more math to the already complicated point system. In a way, I guess. But I don't know what anyone else wants to do about it. I honestly think that reverting the system entirely (again) is just going to confuse people even more.

Maybe we should just count up the number of triples completed and then decide the winner from that. In the case of ties, it could come down to the preference of the viewer to decide which program they liked better.

Seriously. It sounds like some people think that is the answer. I'm not one of them.

A CLOSER LOOK AT FALLING ON ELEMENTS AND MY PROPOSAL

My major proposals first included having a set point value for a fall-- regardless of the severity. Like the example I used in my previous article, this means a fully-rotated quadruple toe loop that results in a fall earns 2.58 points. No questions asked. No battle over whether the jump should have been a -1, -2, or -3. A fall is a fall. As I discussed previously, in the current system, a fall on a fully-rotated quadruple toe loop is worth 7.3 points at a -3 GOE. There is also a 1-point deduction automatically incurred for the fall, meaning the skater has essentially earned 6.3 points.

3.72 points difference between these two methods. People are acting like this is completely going to take someone out of contention for taking a risk. I beg to differ. 3.72 points can be made up by scoring  .50 higher than another skater on each of the components in the free skate (as each of the averaged components scores for the men are multiplied by 2), and it leaves over a point to spare.

You take a risk but you have a really strong program versus someone just throwing the big jumps out there? In a perfect world of PCS scoring, this isn't as make or break as everyone seems to think, but it is enough that I believe it shows the failure of the element.

I received a question about how this would apply to combination jumps. I am actually in favor of changing a few things when it pertains to the elements we see that have two or three jumps. Dave Lease's head might spin at this point for more math.

While reviewing Chan's free skate protocol, one of the things that stuck out to me the most was the fact that he was able to still score 9.70 points on his triple flip-half loop-triple Salchow sequence, which by newer ISU rules, is considered to be a triple-single-triple combination. Chan had a bad fall-out of the second jump, and received -2 across the board aside from one judge who deemed it to be -1 and one judge that should be fired for giving it a 0.

If I remember correctly, an earlier edition of IJS (probably before 2006) had it to where the grade of execution on combination jumps was applied to all three jumps.

I'll explain. Say a skater does a 4T+3T combination, and it has a +1 GOE as marked by the judges. Under current rules, only 1 point is added to this combination, because the GOE of the higher-base value element (here, the 4T) uses a -3.0, -2.0, -1.0, 0, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 decrement/increment. 17.2 points base value, plus the 1.0, and the skater has earned 18.2 points.

What I would like to see is the +1 that has been deemed for the entire jump also applied to the 3T, which uses -2.1, -1.4, -0.7, 0, 0.7, 1.4, 2.1. The skater would earn an additional 0.7 points here, and the combination is now worth 18.9 points. Succeed, and you are really rewarded type of deal.

However, the same also applies to the opposite situation. Let's use the previously mentioned Chan combination: 3F+1Lo+3S. Since this combination was done after the half-way point of the program, Patrick started with a base value of 11.00 points (5.83 + 0.55 + 4.62). The nearly -2 GOE would be applied across the board for these jumps-- here, we will just say it was actually an even -2 final result. The flip loses 1.4 points, the loop loses 0.2 points, and the Salchow loses 1.4 points. He now receives 8.00 points for the combination rather than 9.70.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Chan's quad toe-triple toe combination in the beginning would earn around 2.0 points more than it actually received, because of the near +3 GOE he received for the judges. He's actually earning slightly more points here after the GOE for each jump scenario is applied, but I prefer this system better.

Now.. what do you do with combination jumps where the second or third jump is a fall? Take Carolina Kostner's short program 3T+3T combination, where she indeed fell on the second jump. She was able to receive 6.50 points on the element. A 1.00-point deduction for the fall essentially drops it down to a 5.50.

I would do the following: the entire jump series garners a -2 GOE from the judges. The second jump automatically gets 1.03 points for the fall-- nothing is subtracted. That value is solid. The first jump still has the -2 applied, which would be -1.40 points. She now earns 2.7 + 1.03 points for the jump, or 3.73 points overall.

So far, nothing I have done has been that drastic of a difference compared to what we see right now. However, there is enough of a difference that I believe we would start to see more accurate results.

Still skeptical? Think about this. A +1 3Lz+3T combination is only going to get an additional 0.70 points-- we will say it was applied to the Lutz; the toe loop stays neutral in a way because it doesn't have a GOE added. Now if a skater does a 3T by itself with a +1 GOE, the 0.70 remains. Don't you think +1.40 for the combination would make more sense? It is, after all, one of the highest-risk elements for most skaters.

TO FLUTZ OR NOT TO FLUTZ

Aside from playing on words for my blog title, I have never really understand how flutzes and lips could still earn so many points when they are, in fact, truly Lutzes or flips. Skaters of the past like Elena Liashenko were doing four triple Lutzes in their programs if you use the severe outside take-off edge as the only indicator. How is that fair that the Lutz came so easy to her that she could just keep doing it, but someone who finds the loop the easiest is limited to doing it twice? A third attempt receives absolutely no points.

We live in a generation of skating where hardly any skaters have both a true Lutz and flip. All this talk about rewarding skaters that have a 'full set of triples' can almost be thrown out the window after the improper edge calls, save about five or maybe ten of them. Seriously.

What really drew my attention to the issue is how Brian Joubert, who has been competing on the senior level for over ten seasons now, showed up to the European Championships and did a 'triple Lutz' from the exact same set-up that he's done a triple flip for so many years. And what do you know? Because he decided to list the planned element as a 3Lz, it got called as one.

This is going to create quite a stir real quick in my opinion, and the only way to fix it would be to call the jump solely on the basis of the take-off edge. It's either an outside edge or an inside edge. You want less math and less nit-picks? Get rid of the 'e' calls that we see in protocols. Can only do a Lutz? Then you're limited to two Lutzes in the free skate. Try a triple flip and it's on the outside edge, you get no points, just like if you do any other triple more than two times.

This will not only make the skaters have quite a serious reason to fix their technique at a younger age, and it also doesn't put those at an advantage who may prefer the flip or Lutz over the other triples and can just do the same of one up to four times, while only losing minimal points for the two with the incorrect edge.

THE COMPONENTS ARE A LOSING BATTLE IN A WAY

Let's face it, they are. This is where everyone will have the most differing opinions. Former US Champion Ryan Bradley was exclaiming on Twitter that he believed Brian Joubert should have won the World Championship the other night. Yes, really. I had him outside the *top TEN* in the free skate because of the lack of strong choreography, and as always with Joubert-- no transitions in sight.

But that just shows the potential for a major difference of opinion. What might be a great interpretation to music to one person might be a total snooze to someone else. What one person might see as a great interpretation because of audience involvement and excitement might be seen by another as a way to mask the true lack of anything really going, which I find often to be the case.

Speaking of major difference of opinion, I can tell you that Michal Brezina skated right through his short program without a hint of choreography or transitions. He could have been skating to any music. Six of the nine judges thought he was at the 8.00-level or above for interpretation. Seven of them had his transition mark at 7.50 or higher, and the other two were just behind. In a fair world, Brezina's transition mark belonged in the 3.00 or 4.00 range. Re-watch the program. It's really that bad.

Instead of worrying about how Chan was still able to score in the 8.00's when he actually did listen to the music, people should be more concerned about scores like that of Brezina which are clearly way off the mark-- fan or not.

PROTOCOL JUDGING ON THE FIRST MARK

One needs to look no further than Chan's grades of execution on his double Axel at the end of his free skate to see how the judges seemed to try to work some more points back into his program. The element was a 0 for me, but he got some +2's and even a +3. I guarantee you that if a skater in the first or second group did a double Axel with ten times the quality of Chan's particular jump the other night, they would be getting a 0 or maybe +1.. at best.

Again, instead of going all crazy because you believe Patrick Chan's skating skills dropped from a 9.00 to a 6.00 or something in the course of four and a half minutes (which I promise you, they did not), you should be looking at these instances as another huge problem.

Until next time..

Saturday, March 16

What a Great Mens Championship at 2013 Worlds

... said no one ever.

Figure skating fans were already worked up over the scoring of four-time World Pair Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy earlier in the day, when major errors on both individual jumping passes still earned them 2nd place in the free skate and the silver medal overall.

And just when we thought the 'controversy of the competition' was out of the way, Patrick Chan fell all over the ice in his free skate yet still won the overall World title by two points over Denis Ten, who had the skates of his life in both programs. Chan's program was only deemed 5.51 points worse than Ten, and he held a substantial lead following his amazing world-record setting short program.

Current skaters, former skaters, and fans alike heated up Twitter last night. American skater Christina Gao created the hash tag #BSWorlds13, a play on the actual tag being used for Worlds with the F being replaced by the B and the S having just a slightly different meaning.. you get it.

So why are so many people that dedicate time to the sport so fired up? In the end, Chan did land two quadruple toe loops in the free skate and had wonderfully choreographed programs full of intricate in-betweens that he made appear seamless. Shouldn't that be rewarded? Yes, what he did *successfully* absolutely should be rewarded.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL GAME

Figure skating, whether we want to admit it or not, is a psychological game of scoring for both fans and judges.

How many times have we been totally bored by skaters one year, and then all of a sudden they come up with an interesting or unique piece of music and we decide to love them and their 'program', even if the quality of the skating has not improved at all?

How many times has someone skated to Turandot or any other warhorse music and people exclaimed what a beautiful program it was, when it really was a horrible interpretation to a great piece of music?

How many times have former Champion skaters delivered poor performances or watered down programs in both the technical and program component senses but still received marks that put them right near the top?

How many times has a quadruple toe loop or triple Axel caused an electricity in the building, which, in turn, seems to make the judges go way up with their program component scores versus skaters with lighter jumping content but may be much, much stronger skaters?

Let's stop there. Andrei Rogozine skated in the second group of four last night in the mens Championship. He was skating on home ice, and produced a brilliant effort as far as the jumps were concerned: a quad toe loop and two triple Axels-- one as a three-jump combination. He received 68.22 as his final components score, or a 6.82 average between each of the five sections that are marked.

Earlier in the night, both Peter Liebers and Jorik Hendrickx skated strong, quality programs with much more choreography and transitions than Rogozine, but they were scored at 66.72 and 60.06 points, respectively, on their program component sections. Liebers skated two slots before Rogozine, and Hendrickx was in the first starting group.

There are several phenomena happening here: in addition to the other points I listed above, we all know that there seems to be a strong correlation between start order and the raising of program components throughout a competition. Since the top skaters according to the 'ISU World Standings' compete late in the short program, the general assumption should be that those skaters do indeed deserve the highest components, right?

Well, the judges sure seem to think so. Or is it really that they truly *think* that?

I think there is a mix of situations happening. While the IJS was ideally created to score the skater versus a point system (as opposed to skaters versus each other), the influence of the big tricks technically, the crowd response, and the reputation of the skater all seem to go into the final marking of the program components.

For example, Liebers was great technically, had a very, very strong program choreographically, but was reserved in his interpretation to the music. This meant that the crowd reaction was pretty 'normal'. Rogozine, skating at home, lit up the crowd but had even less going on in terms of the interpretation to the music.

The judges have about a minute or so after a skater ends their program to check any questionable elements or change any scores AND enter their program component scores. I was also judging this in real time, calling my own levels for each element, assigning a grade of execution, and issuing program component scores all in the time that the judges just have to do two of the three.

When a judge has to be so fixated on the 13 elements a man has to perform within four and a half minutes, the components can become much of an afterthought. And this is why I believe we see so many instances of 'components by starting order' or by the technical effort. The crowd was fired up for Rogozine in that one minute the judges have to enter their marks. Psychology game-- for some of them.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN WITH COMPONENTS

There have been so many different instances of IJS in its near-ten year existence. At one point, the panel was split into two: one that assigns the GOE of the elements while levels are still called by a three-person technical panel, and one that assigns scores for the five program components. That practice lasted one competition, and, if I remember correctly, the amount of judges was deemed to cost too much for the ISU to send to each event.

The ISU holds workshops and the technical committee publishes criteria for the scoring of components-- for example, what a 5.00-level skating skill would look like versus an 8.00 skating skill. Yet we still see the panel of 9 judges fluctuate their components marks greatly after marking the exact same performance. Too much to do at once, and/or marking by start order or reputation.

Here's a task. Watch a program and ignore counting the rotations of jumps, the actual jumps themselves, the spin rotations, etc. Don't have a battle in your head whether jump X should have been a -1 or -2. Just watch the skating quality, what the skater is doing between the elements and how they are linked together, how much the skating matches the music, and things like that. You might see a totally different program-- for better or for worse.

Whether 'experts' of the sport or not, I think the same thing would happen for the judges, and that is why I recommend, once again, that the panels be split up. Five judges for components, and five judges for the GOE marking (which doesn't seem to differ as much as the components do). One judge more than there is now, and actually three less when you consider that 13 total are chosen and then rotated between segments of the competition. The ISU should produce some type of test for the judges that would like to score components where they have to name, for example, all of the criteria of skating skills from score 1.00 to 10.00. Performance/execution and interpretation is always going to be subjective, but not to the point that a skater completely ignoring the music is receiving a 7.00 or higher for the way they 'interpreted' it.

Here's something else you can try. Watch a competition. When it comes to the highest-ranked skaters, use the following formula for your own program component scoring:

Final Group: Start your Skating Skill mark anywhere from 7.50 to 9.00. Your decision.

From there, -0.75 for transitions, -0.25 for performance execution, +0.25 for choreography, and +0.25 for interpretation from that original score. Odds are you will be right in line with the judges!

The 'predictability formula' of the program components needs to go. We need to see transition marks that are higher than the other four-- which is rare. We need to see interpretation marks much lower than choreography marks if that is what the case actually is, and so on. Giving the judges ONLY these five areas to focus on, and we might see a greater fluctuation that is more indicative of what the skater is putting out there.

WHERE DO FALLS FIT IN?

A comment I see frequently on Facebook and Twitter between fans discussing figure skating is that they cannot understand how a skater still had very high components scores with a fall. As it stands, there is no specific criteria for reducing components after major errors such as falling.

In the early days of IJS (it was called COP), any fall made the skater lose 0.50 points off whatever the value of their performance and execution mark would have been. The problem is that only the most elite skaters were kept in mind. What if you are judging a novice or even junior-level competition and the skater would only be worth of a 3.50 or so to begin with, and then they fall 4 times? Is it really a 1.50 performance now? Obviously, this isn't going to work.

A comment made to me when I suggested a few ideas to fix the system was that, "I don't think being reduced to Algebra 2 is the answer." But really-- isn't skating already a numbers game? So, my idea for performance and execution would be the following:

For any fall (major or minor), 5% is reduced from the P/E score that was to be given.
If a judge enters a 9.00 for Patrick Chan but he fell once, he would now receive an 8.50 at best. (Round to the nearest 0.25 increment).
If Chan were to fall twice, 10% would be reduced from the initial P/E score. He's now at an 8.00 maximum.

Many fans seem to want performance/execution scores to drop into the 5.00 range for someone like Chan if he's falling all over the place-- but if he falls twice and does eleven other elements beautifully in the free skate, does he really deserve something like a 5.00? I'd be fine with an 8.00 after two falls if the judge deemed his level to start at a 9.00. This section would need some tweaking, but the general concept is presented.

Falls can also affect, for example the interpretation-- but that is up for the PCS judge to decide rather than having a 'required' reduction.

THE BASE VALUE AND GRADES OF EXECUTION

Another phenomenon I see often in the scoring of programs is that top-name skaters seem to be given much more generous grades of execution for their elements versus a skater that has not 'paid their dues'.

I got into a discussion with a Twitter follower over the scoring of Yuna Kim's triple Lutz-triple toe short program combination the other day versus Kaetlyn Osmond's triple toe-triple toe combination. Kim entered the jump with no transitions, had nice distance on the Lutz, and had good rotation on the flip. All-in-all, a *good* jumping pass that carries 1.9 more points base value than Osmond's.

Osmond, on the other hand, did footwork down half of the rink, including turning in the opposite direction directly preceding the jump, carried great speed, and had big distance on both of her jumps. She also did edge-work and a kick to show her balance right after landing the combination. However, her final grade of execution was less than that of Kim's.

Why?

Reputation judging. It's basically telling skates like Osmond that no matter how much more difficult she actually makes the element for herself, good luck earning those top points. Because trust me-- the fact that she's doing any kind of footwork into her *combination*, let alone the fact that it goes in both directions, is insanely difficult. I'd even argue her combination is worth a +3 while Yuna would be at a +1 for me. In the end, Kim would score a 10.8 for the element and Osmond a 10.3. I could totally live with that.

That Twitter follower, by the way, replied to me with something about how Osmond scored really well considering it was her 'first time' [at the World Championships]. Last time I checked, you mark what you see on the ice, not how long the skater has been around or what titles they have earned previously.

Reputation judging in the GOE needs to go, too. Those points really add up more than you think.

MY OWN JUDGING AND THE SERIOUS PROBLEM

Those of you who follow me know that I have been scoring many of the programs myself throughout the week of the World Championships. In some cases, there has been as little as .05 or .10 points separation between myself and the judges on the *final* segment score. Great, right?

It would be great if my own scores and following the rules actually made sense to me. Even with Patrick Chan's disastrous skate last night, I had him at 164.28 points for the segment; Denis Ten earned 166.61 points from me. 2.33 points-- that's it. You've got to be kidding me.

The funny thing is that while I was scoring the first half of Ten's program (in which he was completely on fire), I was thinking to myself, "Wow, this score is going to blow away Chan's on my score card." But then when I saw what my final marks produced, it was definitely a WTF moment.

So we already know the judging can be suspect when it comes to program components and the grades of execution, but now we have a flawed system itself, too? Double whammy.

A few years ago, the grades of execution for poorly-completed elements (negative GOE's) was reduced so that trying a difficult element wouldn't be as much as a risk. This likely happened after Mao Asada was getting hammered for her under-rotated triple Axels as well as male skaters taking themselves out of contention when their quads failed. We hardly saw quadruple jump attempts for a few years.

Then the ISU decided that a fully-rotated quadruple toe loop, for example, with a fall, should earn 7.3 total points for the element. If you also consider the mandatory -1.00 point deduction for the fall, the skater essentially has earned 6.3 points. A base value triple Lutz, on the other hand, garners 6.0 points. Yes, a quadruple toe loop is much, much more difficult than a triple Lutz. But in what other sport does a complete *failure* of an element still earn the athlete most of the points they were attempting?

I'm not saying that a 0 is necessary for the element. What I would suggest is that there is another column added to the GOE scale where elements that are fully rotated, but fallen on, only receive X percent of the initial base value. Last night I suggested 25%, which makes the value of the jump 2.58 points.

I would do away with the 1.00 deduction for falls but rather it would be applied to the performance/execution score as described above.

Harsh to get a 2.58 for the quad failure, isn't it? The skater is still getting nearly double what they would receive if they'd double the jump, and I think that is absolutely fair. There still has to be some risk involved.

CHAN WITH ALL OF THIS APPLIED

Re-Scoring Patrick Chan's program with all of the aforementioned changes, you get this:

4T+3T 16.97
4T 13.16
3Lz 1.50 (FALL)
StSq4 5.60
CCsp3 3.73
3A< 1.65 (FALL)
3Lo 6.61
3F+1Lo+3S 9.70
FSSp3 3.24
2Lz+2T 3.87
ChSq1 3.40
2A 4.06
CCoSp4 4.29

77.78 total for TES now. He had 82.13. By the way-- reputation judging on that final 2A and a lot of other elements here. +3, really? Even +2-- really?!

SS 9.11
TR 8.96
PE 8.61 (-10% because of falls) now becomes 7.75.
CH 9.00
IN 8.96

87.56 for PCS now, while he had 89.28.

Total score isn't that much different, as there is no more 1.00 deduction for falls in my proposal. 165.34 versus the 169.41 he actually got.

Of course, the reputation judging for some of his elements seemed suspect, so in reality he probably should have been even lower.

However, since Denis Ten did not fall, all of his scores would stay the same and he'd wind up with 174.92 points in the program still, and this would be enough to win the title. Albeit, not by much, but enough.

People want to complain that my proposal is too much of a penalty for skaters trying the hard elements. I argue that it's just enough of a penalty that results actually make sense.

WHAT THE SKATERS NEED TO DO

I have never seen anywhere near the amount of skaters voicing their opinions at the result as I did last night. The skaters need to work together to come up with modifications to the system that they think would best reflect the performances that are being put out there, and then present them to the ISU. Everyone seems to have an opinion about why things aren't fair, but unless you get to the root of *why* it isn't fair, then all we have are endless amounts of angry Twitter posts.

Saturday, March 9

2013 World Championship Prediction - Ladies

A brief synopsis of the season so far and then my prediction for the ladies at the 2013 World Championships.


Medal Contenders

Ten ladies with a chance at the podium? I think so. The depth right now is really remarkable, and a far cry from the last several seasons.

Mao Asada (JPN) - Mao has revitalized her career this season, winning every competition she has entered, including the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championship. She plans a triple Axel in both programs as well as a triple-triple combination in her short program. Like Takahashi in the men, she's going to likely need to fully rotate the triple Axel to have a chance at gold.

Gracie Gold (USA) - Total outside shot to be near the top, but if she can get both of her programs to be consistent in one competition, who knows what could happen. Her free skate at the US National Championship was a total jump clinic.

Yuna Kim (KOR) - Coming back after missing the 2012 season, Kim proved that she again will be a threat after delivering a great free skate at an early-season international.

Carolina Kostner (ITA) - Carolina has re-added the triple Lutz to her free skate this season and is also attempting the triple flip-triple toe combination. She looks good for a medal, but she's going to have to put it all together once again to reign once more as champion.

Kanako Murakami (JPN) - A mistake with counting jumps cost Murakami a shot at the Grand Prix Final earlier in the season, but she delivered a solid competition at the Four Continents Championship. Remember, she was in 2nd place in the short program at Worlds last season.

Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) - After taking the skating world by storm earlier this season, Osmond faltered in the Four Continents Championship. Will she be able to rebound in front of a home-country audience in her first trip to Worlds?

Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) - Sotnitkova won the short program at the European Championships and narrowly lost the gold to Carolina Kostner overall. She's looking more and more solid as the season progresses.

Akiko Suzuki (JPN) - After a dip in the middle of the season that included a 4th-place finish at her own National Championship, Suzuki rebounded to win the silver medal with a great performance at the Four Continents Championship. She also won bronze at the Grand Prix Final and many people believe she out-skated Asada at NHK Trophy, where she was second.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) - Like Sotnikova, Tuktamysheva is building as the season goes. She qualified for the Grand Prix Final and won the free skate at Europeans, as well as earning gold at Russian Nationals. A strong short program is important for Elizaveta here, as it may be difficult to rebound from outside the final group in the free skate on her quest for a medal.

Ashley Wagner (USA) - Strong showings earlier in the season, but Wagner fell twice in the free skate at her two most recent competitions, the Grand Prix Final and US Nationals. Without a triple-triple combination in the short program, Ashley may have to dig herself out of a deficit as many of the other ladies are planning one.


Wildcards

Alena Leonova (RUS) - Simply put, who knows where she will end up. She's had a disastrous season to say the least and is lucky to even be here, even though she's the reigning silver medalist.

Zijun Li (CHN) - Tremendous potential and had a great showing at the Four Continents Championship. Has a solid shot at the top 10 here.


My Prediction

1. Yuna Kim
2. Carolina Kostner
3. Mao Asada
4. Akiko Suzuki
5. Adelina Sotnikova
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
7. Ashley Wagner
8. Kanako Murakami
9. Kaetlyn Osmond
10. Gracie Gold
11. Zijun Li
12. Alena Leonova
13. Valentina Marchei
14. Kexin Zhang
15. Viktoria Helgesson

Most Memorable Moments of the 2003 World Championships

Ten years ago already. Crazy talk. Here are some of my most memorable moments from the event, which was one of the first competitions that I attempted to watch via a live-stream on the internet. I believe this was the first season the streams were available, and I was watching from a 56k dial-up modem. Times have surely changed!


The Men

Michael Weiss and his pre-competition talk of winning. Does everyone remember that? And he had an amazing short program going (clean quad and triple Axel), but then missed his Lutz. Unfortunately there's no trace of the fall on YouTube.

Ryan Jahnke and Stephane Lambiel both had amazing performances in the qualifying round, only to fall apart in later segments. Here is Lambiel's qualifying free skate, which put him third in his group.



Jeffrey Buttle, who had been turning heads for the prior season and a half, fell from the top 10 to 19th in a disastrous free skate.

Sergei Davydov of Belarus found himself in the final free skate group and ended in 7th place overall. His long program was cut into by breaking news in the United States about the war.

Kevin Van der Perren was landing triple-triple-triples even back then. He fell on a spin of all things in his short program but had a really solid free skate technically (front-loaded as usual). Listen to the commentators reaction to the combination ;-)




The Ladies

Michelle Kwan's free skate. Enough said. I remember watching with my mother and exclaiming, "that was her last triple!" Dick Button echoed me a split second later :-)



Elena Sokolova was making waves with triple-triples all over the place and she did get three first-place ordinals over Kwan in the short program. I think this was one of her best skates ever.



Sasha Cohen decided to fall on a spin in her free skate. She was third in the segment, but finished 4th behind Fumie Suguri overall. Shizuka Arakawa also wiped out on a spin in her short program and finished in 8th place.

Sarah Hughes returned and gave a decent effort here, finishing in 6th.

Carolina Kostner, in her first Worlds, was 4th place in the short program! (Check out her technical content vs. the content that won her Worlds last season!)



Julia Lautowa decided to fall on her finishing pose in the free skate and had the entire audience laughing along with her.



Joannie Rochette skated in her first senior Worlds and delivered a solid short program. I knew there were much greater things to come! She was 17th overall.




The Pairs

Shen and Zhao's free skate. Just watch.




Dance

Denkova/Staviyski's original dance was such a masterpiece in my opinion in an otherwise boring year of dance. They won the bronze medal.

Watch here


What were your favorite memories?

2013 World Championship Prediction - Men

A brief synopsis of the season so far and then my prediction for the men at the 2013 World Championships.

Top Medal Contenders

Patrick Chan (CAN) - Chan is skating in his home country as the two-time defending World Champion. He has had a subpar season at best, only finishing 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. Will he get it together for London?

Javier Fernandez (ESP) - Fernandez upset Chan on his home ice early in the season at Skate Canada and also won the European Championship in January. However, a lackluster short program at the Grand Prix Final kept him off the podium, even with a three-quadruple jump free skate.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) - Hanyu started the season with a bang, twice setting the record for the highest score ever in a short program. However, he has had troubles with his free skate in the last few competitions, most recently dropping behind Kevin Reynolds overall to win silver at Four Continents.

Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) - Mixed bag of a season for the former World Champion. He won the Grand Prix Final over all three of the former men, but then completely unraveled at Four Continents to finish in 7th place overall. Daisuke has trouble fully-rotating his quadruple jump attempts, and he will be in serious trouble if the trend continues in London.

Others to Watch

Max Aaron (USA) - The surprise winner of the US National Championship followed it up with a second-best free skate at Four Continents, finishing in fourth place overall after a fall in the short program. The quadruple Salchow seems so effortless for him.

Florent Amodio (FRA) - A bit of an outside shot for Amodio, but he has been getting stronger and stronger as the season has progressed. Florent bested Fernandez in the short program at the European Championship.

Michal Brezina (CZE) - 'Mr. Fourth Place', as he would describe himself, finally moved onto the podium at the European Championships with a second-place free skate.

Brian Joubert (FRA) - The elder statesman of the group continues to show he isn't done just yet. He finished fourth at the World Championships last year and repeated the placement at Europeans this season. While a medal is unlikely, Brian has shown tremendous consistency in placement at the World Championships over the last ten (yes- ten!) seasons and could have an outside chance at a medal.

Ross Miner (USA) - One of the more consistent skaters lately for the United States, Ross had his (overdue?) 'off' performance at Four Continents. However, his scores at NHK Trophy earlier in the season give him the eighth-best competition score of the season of the men competing in London.

Takahito Mura (JPN) - A skater with gorgeous quality, Mura boosted himself into the top levels of Japanese skating by winning the Trophee Eric Bompard earlier this season and was able to get onto the podium at the National Championship to earn a ticket here.

Kevin Reynolds (CAN) - Biggest upset of the year when he won Four Continents with an amazing performance in the free skate. Reynolds, like Takahashi, sometimes has trouble getting the full rotation in his jumps, but he managed just fine in his last competition.

Wildcards

Some will either end up fifth or eighteenth. Some are fresh faces and unpredictable. These are the guys that really make predictions a headache sometimes.

Maksim Kovtun (RUS)
Nan Song (CHN)
Denis Ten (KAZ)
Tomas Verner (CZE)

MY PREDICTION

Enough talk. You know you're here for this part.

1. Yuzuru Hanyu- I think he'll be able to hold it together and grab the title here.
2. Patrick Chan- Finally shows greater consistency but just not enough for gold.
3. Javier Fernandez- Very high expectations from many people, solid skating for a medal but mistakes keep him from gold.
4. Florent Amodio- On an upwards trend.
5. Daisuke Takahashi- Really concerned about underrotation potential. It could bury him here.
6. Michal Brezina
7. Kevin Reynolds
8. Max Aaron
9. Brian Joubert
10. Ross Miner
11. Nan Song
12. Takahito Mura
13. Maksim Kovtun

Sunday, March 3

Worlds Pairs Predictions and Hypothetical Situation RE: USA Pairs

I was thinking about my prediction for the pairs event at the World Championships, and it got me thinking about a potential situation.

First, here are my fearless predictions:

1. Volosozhar/Trankov RUS
2. Savchenko/Szolkowy GER
3. Duhamel/Radford CAN
4. Bazarova/Larionov RUS
5. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch CAN
6. Pang/Tong CHN
7. Kavaguti/Smirnov RUS
8. Berton/Hotarek ITA
9. Sui/Han CHN
10. James/Cipres FRA
11. Castelli/Shnapir USA
12. Peng/Zhang CHN
13. Scimeca/Knierim USA
14. Vartmann/Van Cleave GER
15. Della Monica/Guarise ITA
16. Kemp/King GBR
[And we get rid of a whopping two pairs, likely to be the teams from Poland and Bulgaria, after the short]

This World Championship is important because it determines the first 16 qualifying spots for the Sochi Olympics, while the remaining 4 are earned at the Nebelhorn Trophy early next season.

Here is an interesting situation, though. Say that one of the following things happens:
A) Germany decides to only send Savchenko/Szolkowy. A top two finish earns three spots for the Olympics. With Vartmann/Van Cleave as the second team at this event, the two teams' combined placements would have to be 13 or less, which extremely unlikely.
B) Both Pang/Tong and Cong/Han (CHN) place one spot higher than I predicted, giving them the magic number 13 and three spots for the Olympics.

Going down the list of results, this is how the Sochi spots would work out if just plan B from above were to happen:
Russia, 3 spots
Germany, 2 spots
Canada, 3 spots
China, 3 spots
Italy, 2 spots
France, 2 spots
That's already 15 spots! Even with an 11th and 13th place showing from the Americans (which would maintain two spots), technically only one spot could be filled for the Olympics in order to reach the 16 entries.

What happens in this odd situation? Does a 17th spot automatically qualify at Worlds and then only three spots would be available at the Nebelhorn Trophy?

What if situations A and B both happen and the USA still qualifies two teams to the Olympics with the same placements as I predicted above? Would a 17th and 18th spot automatically qualify at Worlds, leaving only two spots available at Nebelhorn?

Saturday, February 23

Things I Will Never Comprehend..

Alright, I am in one of those snarky moods again. Here comes another 'I will never comprehend..' post.

One of my all-time favorite performances has to be Matt Savoie's 2005 US National short program to Adagio for Strings. Talk about a quick 2 minutes and 50 seconds. I was totally blown away the first time I saw it, and I am still just as in love. The choreography was done by Tom Dickson, who earned a lot of attention during Nationals this season for creating Alexander Johnson's masterpiece of a free skate.



Time for a good laugh. This performance only earned him 4th place in the short program. Want another laugh? Almost every single judge gave presentation scores to Matt below their scores for Tim Goebel (1st in the short), Johnny Weir (2nd), and Evan Lysacek (3rd). 5.6's... really? The 5.4 judge should have been removed from the panel at that very moment.

Lysacek, on the other hand, was busy scoring a 6.0 for his short program... in its third season of use and still looking as World Junior silver medalist material as ever (he won silver three different times).



By the way, Evan loved this Espana Cani program so much, apparently, that he dumped both of his early-season 2006 programs and showed up with the warhorse at the latter events, including the Olympics.

Who could ever forget his attempt at Grease early that same year? :)



Savoie, for whatever reason, was never truly respected by National judges and was always essentially branded the 'third-ranked' skater when he did get to compete internationally. Shame on you, USFS!

Friday, February 22

Good One, Spanish Ice Sports Federation

One thing I can't understand sometimes in figure skating is how, after spending approximately two minutes of my day, I found the rule that explains the amount of points each skater will receive based on their final placement at the World Championships. In turn, this is the method used to determine how many spots will be available for the following World Championship, and this year-- the Sochi Olympics.

[Read the rule here, #378.2.b]

Let's backtrack:

Javier Fernandez finished in the top 10 at the 2012 World Championships. Javier Raya finished in 24th place, making the final free skate and earning 16 points for his final placement. Combine Fernandez's 9 points and Raya's 16 points, and you have 25 points.

Here is the system briefly explained for those unfamiliar:

If a country has two OR three skaters/teams at a Championship, they need:
13 or less points from the top two finishers to retain three in the next season's Championship
28 points or less from the top two finishers to retain two in the next season's Championship

If a country has one skater/team at a Championship, they need:
2 points or less to earn three in the next season's Championship
10 points or less to earn two in the next season's Championship

Prior to this season, the point system worked out in the following way:
-A skater/team who does not make it out of the preliminary round would earn 20 points, regardless of placement.
-A skater/team who competes in the short program/dance but does not qualify for the free skate/dance would earn 18 points, regardless of placement.
-A skater/team who competes in the free skate/dance but does not finish in the top 16 earns 16 points, regardless of placement.
-All other skaters/teams earn the amount of points that coincide with their final placement (ie. 4th place gets 4 points, 9th place gets 9 points, and so on).

Going back to the Spain situation in 2012, the men earned two spots for the 2013 World Championships. Up until two weeks ago, Fernandez was the only man who had reached the newly-established technical minimum scores set by the ISU to determine eligibility for Worlds. Raya, however, was also able to earn the minimum scores at a last-minute international.

Then comes February 22. The official entry lists for the World Championship are published by the ISU, and Raya is not listed as an entry. Rather, he is listed as a substitute for Fernandez and is only permitted to compete if Fernandez is withdrawn by the Spanish Ice Sports Federation prior to the event.

Chatter around the Internet is that the federation chose not to enter Raya because of injuries he had being dealing with in the last few weeks, and they didn't want to hinder the chance at two spots for 2014 if Fernandez again disappointed (he came in expecting much higher than the 9th place he earned in 2012).

Here's the thing, though.

There is no more preliminary round at the World Championships. All skaters competing in the short program/dance but not qualifying to the free skate earn 18 points.

Let's do some quick math. Raya finishes last in the field of 34, or whatever it ends up being. He earns 18 points. Fernandez needs top 10 to retain two entries for 2014 in that case.

Fernandez is sent by himself. Where does he need to place?

Oh. That's right. Top 10.

In short, Raya's placement in this World Championship has absolutely no hinderance on earning two spots for 2014. Fernandez needs to be in the top 10 without him. And let's say Raya finishes in the top 24. Then Fernandez only needs to be in the top 12 based on the 16 points Raya would accumulate.

I'm sorry, Spanish Ice Sports Federation. You are idiots.

Sunday, February 10

Doldrums or Unpredictable? Why Four Continents Isn't the End of the World for Americans

If you want the reference to 'doldrums', read Phil Hersh's article, re-iterating for the 200th time how he feels about the state of US figure skating.

The Four Continents Championship has come and gone. In the end, American skaters earned three medals: a bronze by Castelli/Shnapir in the pairs event, a gold by Davis/White and a bronze by Chock/Bates in ice dancing. Three of the four members of the ladies and mens World teams were here, finishing 4th, 6th, and 9th respectively.

The old saying goes 'the ice is slippery', does it not? If Kevin Reynolds winning the mens title in a field that included two of the three World Championship medalists from 2012 isn't enough of an indicator of that, please tell me what is. The beauty of the state of skating in the last three or four years is that there are many skaters capable of reaching the top levels.

I am disgusted by Phil Hersh. Do you think that the Japanese media is reporting that Daisuke Takahashi should just give it up after finishing 7th in this field (behind two of the three Americans) or that the state of Japanese mens skating is just awful because Yuzuru Hanyu had an off day and was only able to finish 2nd behind a skater that has never made the top ten at Worlds?

No, I don't think so.

The hilarious thing about the Hersh articles is that he always seems to mention 'in case you need a reminder' or 'just like I said...' as if he knows American skaters are always going to be oh-so horrible. I am pretty sure all of the focus on a certain National silver medalist, even following her troubles in the short program at this very event, point 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Christina Gao has been one of the most consistent US ladies skaters-- if not the most-- this season. She finished fourth behind the strong Japanese contingency here and she gets one line in the aforementioned article:
The two U.S. women, Christina Gao and Gracie Gold, fourth and sixth - which seems promising but is not for a number of reasons.
Yeah, just like her solid Grand Prix showing, which earned her first alternate to the Grand Prix Final and eventually a trip to the event, as well as her Nationals showing where many people think she received no favors is not promising AT ALL.

I know Gao isn't going to Worlds and the focus is on Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner to get that magic number 13 or lower in their combined placements so that three US ladies can be sent to the Sochi Olympics. However, I am willing to bet that if Gold was able to finish in 4th place behind the three Japanese, Hersh would have seen it as a great accomplishment for Gracie, and remind everyone that this is her first major senior international competition. After all, one is an Olympic silver medalist and World Champion, another is the current World bronze medalist, and the third was in the top 5 at the World Championships last season.

Here's the thing, Phil. You cannot hype someone to no end and then write an article a few days or weeks later talking about how miserable everything is and how, apparently, the fourth wall has just crumbled in front of you. I am pretty sure that wall has been crumbled for about five years now in your eyes, and I don't know why you keep trying to put it back up, honestly.

Richard Dornbush finished just under a point off the podium in the mens event, in 5th place overall. He didn't even get a mention by Hersh, because he isn't going to Worlds and therefore he also has no importance to the doom and gloom.

And then comes Ross Miner. This kid cannot get a break. Phil Hersh found his results to simply be "So what?" a few months ago. All the while, he has the eighth-highest seasons best score this year when you factor in the men competing at the World Championships.

Once again, the ice is slippery.

[Edited to Add]

How could I forget to address the glorious final two paragraphs of Hersh's article? So, when the American skaters actually are delivering, he is already screaming out that they are robbed a month before the event happens. Does anything make Phil Hersh happy?