Ancora su Second Mark di Joy Goodwin

Ho già scritto in un paio di occasioni del libro di Joy Goodwin The Second Mark. Il libro è dedicato allo scandalo dei Giochi olimpici del 2002, qualcosa di cui bene o male hanno sentito parlare tutti coloro che seguono il pattinaggio. Marie Reine Le Gougne ha confessato di aver falsificato il risultato, a Jamie Salé e David Pelletier è stato assegnato un secondo oro, fatto senza precedenti nel pattinaggio, e l’episodio è stato ufficialmente chiuso lì. Fine del problema? Quello che sappiamo tutti è che è cambiato il modo in cui vengono giudicate le gare, purtroppo non sono cambiati i giudici, e alcuni dovrebbero davvero essere mandati in pensione, né il fatto che dietro le gare ci siano un bel po’ di interessi che hanno poco a che vedere con la qualità di quanto fatto in pista dai pattinatori.

Con Goodwin mi allontano un po’ da Le Gougne per allargare lo sguardo sul pattinaggio, con considerazioni che magari sono legate a una singola gara ma che hanno rilevanza anche ora. La prima riguarda ancora cosa ha fatto la differenza fra Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze e Salé/Pelletier. con la considerazione che a livello tecnico le due coppie erano molto simili, il che significa che il risultato

came down to the second mark, and the second mark is about culture. (pag. 251)

Ora non c’è più il punteggio per l’interpretazione artistica, o comunque la vogliamo chiamare (negli anni sono stati usati diversi nomi), però abbiamo i components, e anche se l’ISU elenca specifici criteri da valutare, l’uso dei fili, la morbidezza delle ginocchia, la verietà e via dicendo, di fatto le valutazioni sono approssimative e andiamo a finire sempre lì, nella cultura. E nel pattinaggio artistico la cultura dominante è quella occidentale.

Un pattinatore asiatico che pattina su una musica occidentale è normale. Il libero con cui Midori Ito ha vinto il Campionato del mondo nel 1989 era su musiche del pianista canadese Frank Mills. Quando ha vinto l’argento olimpico, nel 1992, Ito ha usato un tango per il programma corto e un brano di Rachmaninoff per il libero. Se andiamo a vedere le musiche usate da Mao Asada troviamo Chopin, Cajkovski, Rossini, Bizet, Debussy, Liszt, Gershwin… i nomi sono parecchi, nessuno giapponese. Il programma corto di Miki Ando nella stagione 2005-2006 era su un brano di Ryuichi Sakamoto, ma per il resto ancora Chopin, Stravinsky, Ennio Morricone, Mendelsshon e un bel po’ di altri nomi che con l’Asia non c’entrano nulla. Se mi sposto sugli uomini la situazione cambia poco, Daisuke Takahashi ha interpretato Nino Rota, Astor Piazzolla, Beethoven, i Beatles… vero, nella stagione 2013-2014 il suo programma corto era firmato da Mamoru Samuragochi, ma anche nel suo caso è stato un’eccezione, e di nuovo nel programma corto, che assegna meno punti. I programmi che ha presentato alle ultime due edizioni del campionato nazionale nell’individuale non contano, in quel momento era un ex pattinatore. Non discuto la voglia di tornare sul ghiaccio, fino a quando si diverte a farlo è giusto che lo faccia, ma certo sapeva che non sarebbe andato a fare gare internazionali, quindi non erano programmi che avrebbe portato all’estero per rappresentare il suo paese. Se cambiamo nazione, solo nella stagione 2010-2011, dopo aver vinto l’oro olimpico, Yuna Kim ha deciso di pattinare un libero su musiche coreane. Prima no, era un rischio, infatti a Vancouver è andata con le musiche della colonna sonora di James Bond e di Gerswin, e dopo è tornata a cose più usuali nel pattinaggio. E Shen/Zhao hanno iniziato con musiche cinesi, ma per vincere sono passati a musiche occidentali. Sì, sono anche cresciuti tecnicamente e artisticamente, ma hanno capito che la crescita, da sola, non sarebbe stata sufficiente, e si sono adattati a una realtà in cui a dominare sono le musiche occidentali. Non di una sola nazione, non devono per forza essere tedesche, o austriache, o americane, vanno benissimo anche musiche argentine, italiane, russe… le nazioni fra cui scegliere sono tante. Un occidentale che pattina su una musica asiatica è esotico e affascinante, anche innovativo, un asiatico che pattina su una musica asiatica è incomprensibile, e i components ne risentono. Ma se questa è una nota a margine, la richiesta che i giudici siano capaci di ampliare i loro orizzonti, il libro di Goodwin racconta una situazione preoccupante nella sua normalità.

A Salt Lake City Le Gougne non era certo l’unico giudice. Il referee era Ronald Pfenning, che in seguito sarebbe stato squalificato dall’ISU perché voleva delle riforme volte ad avere giudizi più chiari. La motivazione ufficiale è che ha provato a fondare un’associazione concorrente all’ISU, ma questo è successo solo dopo che i suoi tentativi di riforma interna sono falliti e nonostante il fatto che l’associazione non sia mai uscita dallo stadio di conversazioni fra alcuni addetti ai lavori. L’assistant referee era Alexander Lakernik, che ora è vicepresidente dell’ISU e che, come prima mossa quando qualche mese dopo Salt Lake City è diventato presidente della Commissione tecnica dell’ISU (il ruolo ricoperto ora da Fabio Bianchetti) ha richiesto un’ammonizione per Pfenning, che non rispettava le regole dell’ISU. Quali regole? Quelle che gli dicevano di piantarla di chiedere giustizia. Sì, nere su bianco non erano proprio così, ma il concetto era questo. E poi nove giudici, fra cui uno canadese che, non sorprendentemente, ha assegnato il primo posto a Salé/Pelletier.

Benoît Lavoie may be Canada’s judge, but to Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, he’s also a trusted adviser and a good friend. (pagg. 252-253)

Tralascio un paio di episodi e noto che

It was Lavoie who suggested to the Canadian federation that Salé and Pelletier deserved a shot at going to Grand Prix competitions in their first year as a pair. […]

Three years later, after Lavoie got the call from the Canadian federation to judge the Olympics pairs, he told Salé and Pelletier, “If you want someone other than me, I understand.” But they didn’t want anyone else. (pag. 253)

Davvero? Davvero la federazione può chiedere ai pattinatori quale giudice preferiscono avere? Forse sarebbe davvero ora che i giudici venissero scelti dall’ISU, e non dalle singole federazioni nazionali, e dal CIO per i giochi olimpici. Qualche tempo fa una persona che mi ha dimostrato di conoscere molto bene il pattinaggio – non ho idea di chi sia, ma i suoi commenti sono sempre molto graditi – sotto uno dei miei post ha scritto questo:

One issue with the draws is that the way they are organised they favour Feds with countries in the event. For instance, the Olympic draw is first done among Federations who qualified spots at 2021 Worlds. So for example for Men, they will pick 13 countries for the judging panel. So they will draw 13 out of 18 (I think).
In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be nationally biased judges. However, when they exit, the system is designed (especially for Olympics and GPs) to have more chances to have them in the panel.

La cosa non mi sembra né logica né confortante. Sulla logica faccio un esempio con l’Italia. In campo maschile per Pechino abbiamo due posti, conquistati da Matteo Rizzo e Daniel Grassl. Forse ci sarà un giudice italiano nella gara maschile dei Giochi olimpici, ma questo è ancora da vedere. Lara Naki Gutmann però non è riuscita a qualificarsi per il libero, perciò al momento l’Italia non sa se potrà avere una pattinatrice, lo scopriremo al Nebelhorn Trophy. Quindi niente giudice italiano. Ora, com’è possibile che un giudice qualificato per giudicare la gara maschile non lo è per giudicare la gara femminile? Quanto al confortante, riprendo un passaggio da Crepe nel giaccio di Sonia Bianchetti Garbato. Lei si riferisce a gare di molti anni fa, ma credo che le sue parole siano valide anche ora. Lei parla di nazioni partecipanti alla gara, all’epoca le nazioni più forti praticamente si conquistavano in pista il diritto di avere un giudice, secondo me dovremmo guardare quali giudici, indipendentemente dalla loro nazionalità, sono abilitati a giudicare una gara di un determinato livello:

con un’estrazione libera fra tutte le nazioni partecipanti avremmo avuto giurie più imparziali. Le federazioni forti asserivano invece che soltanto le nazioni nelle quali il livello del pattinaggio era elevato potevano garantire giudici competenti.

Questa teoria però era smentita dai fatti: in tutte le nazioni vi erano giudici buoni e giudici meno buoni ma, dai risultati delle gare, appariva evidente che i giudici delle nazioni senza atleti di punta in lizza per le medaglie erano più corretti e non subivano pressioni da parte delle loro federazioni, problema questo, tuttora, fra i più delicati del nostro sistema di giudizio! (pagg. 40-41)

Quindi, far designare i giudici dall’ISU (o dal CIO) senza nessuna predilezione per le nazioni che hanno atleti in gara, sospendere, o magari anche squalificare, quelli che sono chiaramente di parte, e sospendere l’intera federazione se i giudici di parte sono troppi pare brutto? E vietare ai prossimi giochi olimpici la presenza di qualsiasi giudice di una nazione i cui giudici hanno chiaramente dato voti assurdi in questa.

Torniamo a Goodwin e a Lavoie.

And this kind of special relationship is common in the judges’ world. The Canadian federation encourages Lavoie to monitor Salé and Pelletier’s progress, to drop in on their practices and give them his advice before they put a new program out in front of International judges. Communication between judges and their skaters is taken for granted. […]

Lavoie’s relationship to his pair is far from unique. The Chinese judge mentors Shen ad Zhao, and the Russian judge monitors Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze; moreover, the Ukrainian judge really lives in Moscow and could be assumed to favor the Russians, and so on and so on. If one interrogates the various connections of the judges on the panel for even ten minute it becomes clear that all the judges—East or West, honest or crooked—have their favorites. (pagg. 253-254).

Goodwin scrive che anche chi è onesto ha i suoi favoriti. È normale, è umano… e quando si tratta di giudicare le gare è un disastro. Per questo l’ISU dovrebbe implementare il più possibile le tecnologie, in modo da ridurre al massimo l’arbitrarietà di giudizio. Se l’uso di tre telecamere può aiutare a capire se il filo di un flip o di un Lutz è corretto, allora vanno usate tre telecamere e non una. Se l’uso del rallentatore può aiutare a vedere la prerotazione, allora va usato il rallentatore. Se telecamere dalla definizione migliore, o un controllo delle tracce lasciate dal pattino sul ghiaccio, possono aiutarea capire se un salto è sottoruotato oppure no, allora questi strumenti vanno usati, altrimenti la gara è una farsa. Idem per le posizioni basse delle trottole. Idem per tutto. Dove può essere usata una tecnologia obiettiva, va usata una tecnologia obiettiva. Nella scherma si usano i sensori per capire se il colpo è andato a segno in una zona valida o no. Nel tennis si usa l’Hawk-Eye per capire se un colpo è dentro o fuori. Forse è il caso che anche il pattinaggio inizi a usare sul serio la tecnologia.

Tanto per cambiare ho scritto tanto, troppo, e il capitolo è ancora lungo. Andrò avanti un’altra volta.

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Un si long silence

Start by talking about a spiral notebook, Sarah Abitbol. A notebook in which she would have liked to record her trainings. We have known her for years as a champion, but what did we know about her? Abitbol won a world bronze in Pairs in 2000 together with Stéphane Bernadis, and always with him she won two silver and five European bronzes between 1996 and 2006. Eleven seasons at the highest level, with ten French titles and numerous other medals. The story she tells, however, is not a success story, because in that notebook she did not record her trainings, but some initials. She was a girl in 1990. Abitbol was born on June 8, 1975, it’s easy to know her age. What she wanted to do was play a sport that she liked. Those who were close to her should have helped her to grow, not only at a sporting level, to protect her, and instead…

The notebook remained closed in a drawer for thirty years, without anyone reading it. P, T, S, C. Even if someone had looked at it, what could they have understood from these letters and a handful of dates? P+T, 21 and 29 July. S+C, 1, 2 and 3 August, from 2h30 to 5.00. And then five days simply marked with C. Pelotée, palpate. Touchée, touch. Suchée, to suck. Coucher, go to bed.

No one has ever read this notebook. […] It took thirty years for these coded initials, hidden inside a spiral notebook, to dare to appear in a book. For my hidden anger to eventually turn into a public cry. You destroyed my life, Mr. O., as you quietly led your life. Today I want to destroy my shame, move it to another place. But I also want to denounce the sports world that protected you, and still protects you while I’m writing these lines. When I wanted to speak, on several occasions, I couldn’t do it. Today, with this book, I come out of this murderous silence. And I ask all victims to do the same.

I hope I haven’t made any mistakes. In recent years I have read very little in French, and I don’t trust my ability to write in English too much. These words come from one of the first pages of Sarah Abitbol’s Un si long silence, a memoir published a year and a half ago that caused a huge scandal within the French federation. And we need it, because the victims continue to be too many, they continue to be intimidated, blackmailed, crushed in the most diverse ways, and too often those who take advantage of them get away with it. And sometimes the messages that the world gives us, in this case the sports one, but it happens in all areas, is that it doesn’t matter if you abuse someone, if you have other skills, all is forgiven.

No, is not forgiven.

Generally when a sportsman for some reason catches my attention and I find myself cheering for him, I cheer for him forever. I am still a fan of Daniela Silivas, who thrilled me at the 1988 Olympic Games and retired in 1989. I am still a fan of Stefan Edberg, who retired in 1996, or of Jana Novotna, who retired in 1999 and died in 2017, and I’m still crying for.

There is only one thing that can make me stop cheering for an athlete, the discovery that morality is optional for him, that the only thing that matters to him is to do what he wants, even if it means hurting someone, or join someone who does. I cheered for Vanessa James/Morgan Ciprès, now I can’t watch their videos anymore. I cheered for Aljona Savchenko, first with Robin Szolkowy and then with Bruno Massot. I was excited about her best performances, and I admired her determination. Not anymore. You can retire as a champion or an atlete among many, it’s your choice that I don’t discuss. You can continue compete as long as you want, if you have the strength. But moral principles are not optional. Whenever there is someone who thinks he can do what he like … no, thanks. I don’t know anything about TJ Nyman’s victims, but I’m on their side, not his side. And even though I know he’ll hurt me, I’ll be reading Sarah Abitbol’s book shortly, because there are things that cannot be passed over in silence, nor forgiven.

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Salome Chigogidze

When the ISU released the list of judges who would be on the panel of judges for the men’s competition at the latest World Championship, I wrote some quick comments based on what I remembered about the judges. I wrote about Salome Chigogidze that she is one of the judges with the highest bias, then due to lack of time I have not studied her way of judging competitions.

Now I am doing a rather long check, which I don’t know if it will lead to interesting results – the problem with my investigation system is that only in the end, after spending a lot of time, do I know if what I have done is of any use – and the name of Mrs. Chigogidze has returned to attract my attention, so I stop for a moment on her.

If you don’t know how I calculate the national bias of judges, I have explained it here. And this is Salome Chigogidze’s national bias updated at the end of the 2020-2021 season. Keep in mind that before the 2016-2017 season we did not know which marks each judge had assigned, but Chigogidze is a very experienced judge, who judges important competitions at least since the 2006-2007 season.

Twenty-four competitions, almost always with a very high bias, and in reality these numbers don’t really say how high her bias is, because the values ​​given by SkatingScores do a check on all skaters, but no skater really competes against everyone else.

I give a concrete example with the last competition judged by Chigogidze, the 2021 World Championship. Morisi Kvitelashvili was one of the 33 skaters. But Kvitelashvili did not competed against 32 skaters. We all knew, even before the competition started, that Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu were much stronger than him and that, barring really surprising events, Kvitelashvili would not be competitive with them. And, in the same way, we knew that Kvitelashvili was much stronger than Valtter Virtanen or Mikhail Shaidorov. Although they all competed in the same competitions, some are rivals, others not, because the level is too different. For this a general check with all the other skaters is useful but incomplete. To make a real check we have to look at the individual skaters in every single competition, considering only the potential rivals, and this is a long and complicated job.

The competition that caught my attention is the 2020 European Championship. Chigogidze’s bias, not surprisingly, is very high. I put together the summary chart on the national bias of SkatingScores and then the rankings according to Chigogidze.

Nice. According to Chigogidze, Kvitelashvili made the best short program and the second best free skate, and if she had been the only judge Kvitelashvili would have won the silver medal, not the bronze one. Her bias is very high. Of course, what she did was partly mitigated by the marks of the other judges. Nine judges sit on a panel of judges precisely to prevent a single judge, too fond of his homeland, from assigning medals to whoever he likes. But does the presence of nine judges really prevent even a single judge from distorting the results of a competition?

There were no an Italian judge in that panel of judges, so we can assume that no one helped Daniel Grassl. I only watch the free skate, but Chigogidze has judged both programs, so her influence on the final result of the competition is greater than what I calculated. For seven of the nine judges Grassl did the second best free skate. He was awarded the highest marks by the German judge Carmen Laun, but since Laun was also generous to Kvitelashvili, we cannot say that she helped Grassl. With Kvitelashvili the judgment was much less uniform, however Chigogidze was the only one to think that his free skate was the second after that of Dmitri Aliev, on the occasion clearly the best.

Okay, Chigogidze helped Kvitelashvili. Did her marks influence the result of the competition? To find out, I removed her marks from the protocol. We are used to competitions where the number of judges is odd, but it is not mandatory that this is the case, the Finlandia Trophy is judged regularly by eight judges.

So what would have happened if the panel of judges had been made of just eight judges, without Salome Chigogidze? After the exclusion of the highest and lowest marks, the average would have been linked to the marks of six judges. With this hypothesis I calculated the final score of Morisi Kvitelashvili.

I have left visible what I have deleted, so that anyone can check which marks go off the score. I did the same kind of calculation with Daniel Grassl’s protocol.

Putting all the data together, this is the final result of the competition compared to what it would have been if we excluded Chigogidze’s marks (only for the free skate) from the final result.

The bronze medal was kindly given to Morisi Kvitelashvili by Salome Chigogidze, with all due respect for Daniel Grassl.

Chigogidze continues to judge very important international competitions. Why?

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Complaints about incorrect refereeing

The Ukrainian skating federation website reported that there were “numerous complaints from coaches, parents of athletes about incorrect refereeing during the All-Ukrainian competitions“. Unfortunately I am not surprised that someone is not satisfied with how a competition was judged, what surprises me is that someone has found the courage to complain. For the news, with the decision to investigate the issue taken by the federation, I refer you to the site of which I posted the link, the automatic translation into English allows you to understand both the problem and the reaction of the federation. The competition in question is this:

Cup of Ukraine

On the site there is some information about the competition, and it is also possible to consult the protocols. But without knowing what really happened, this information says little.

That the federation declares it wants to investigate is a good thing, what worries me is how the investigations will be done. I’m not there, I have no idea what happened and I don’t know any of the people involved, but reading some of the names I’m not at all comfortable. I came across another article last year, and I wonder what kind of investigation these people can do. And if athletes and coaches are reluctant to talk … we can imagine why.

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Program Components

Bilingue/Bilingual.

Oggi non intendo scrivere tanto, sono impegnata in altro e non ne ho il tempo. Però ieri, guardando alcuni protocolli, mi è venuta un’idea, e devo fare qualche screenshot per togliermela dalla testa, altrimenti non riesco ad andare avanti con il resto. Nel tempo l’ISU ha apportato qualche piccola variazione, ma più o meno la tabella relativa ai components è sempre stata questa:

Today I don’t intend to write a lot, I’m busy with something else and I don’t have the time. But yesterday, looking at some protocols, I got an idea, and I have to take some screenshots to get it out of my head, otherwise I can’t go on with the rest. Over time the ISU did some small variation, but more or less the components table was always this:

Sono un po’ perplessa sul tetto massimo, specialmente in alcune voci. Cosa ha a che fare una caduta su un salto con, per esempio, le transitions? Posso capire una caduta nei passi, ma una caduta su un salto? Comunque lasciamo stare. Per ciascuna voce sono elencati dei criteri che devono essere soddisfatti. I voti non possono essere assegnati a caso ma in base a quanto ciascun pattinatore è riuscito a fare di ciò che viene indicato dal regolamento. Con queste premesse, posto alcuni voti nei components presi dai protocolli ufficiali. Prima metto i voti, senza dire a chi appartengono, dal pattinatore più scarso al migliore, i nomi li metto dopo. Ero stata tentata di mescolare uomini e donne, e se non avessero avuto una fattorizzazione diversa lo avrei fatto, ma se voglio conservare il voto finale e non limitarmi a pubblicare i singoli voti non è possibile. Inizio con il programma libero femminile.

I am a little perplexed about the roof, especially in some items. What does a fall on a jump have to do with transitions? I can understand a fall in the steps, but a fall on a jump? However let it be. For each item, are listed criteria that must be met. Marks cannot be assigned at random but on the basis of how much each skater has managed to do what is required by the rules. With these premises, I placed some marks in the components taken from the official protocols. First I put the marks, without saying who they belong to, from the poorest skater to the best, I put the names later. I was tempted to mix Men and Ladies, and if they hadn’t had a different factorization I would have done it, but if I want to keep the final marks and not just publish the single marks it’s not possible. I start with the Ladies’ free skate.

Fra la pattinatrice più scarsa e la migliore ci sono poco più di otto punti, una differenza notevole. Otto punti in meno, per quella pattinatrice che ha incantato la giuria al punto di meritarsi i components più alti della competizione, avrebbero significato la differenza fra una medaglia d’argento e il sesto posto. Per l’altra, quella bravina ma non poi così tanto, otto punti in più non avrebbero comportato nessuna differenza. Ciò che ha fatto, con quei 65,72 punti nei components, è stato comunque più che sufficiente per consentire a Carolina Kostner di vincere il Campionato del mondo 2012. Queste sono le pattinatrici di cui ho inserito il protocollo, per ciascuna ho inserito il link alla gara. In grassetto ho evidenziato quando la pattinatrice in questione ha fatto il record del mondo.

Between the poorest and the best there are just over eight points, a notable difference. Eight points less, for that skater who enchanted the jury to the point of deserving the highest components of the competition, would have meant the difference between a silver medal and the sixth place. For the other, the good-but-not-so-much, eight points more would not have made any difference. What she did, with those 65.72 points in the components, was still more than enough to allow Carolina Kostner to win the 2012 World Championship. These are the skaters whose protocol I posted, for each I put the link to the competition. In bold I highlighted when the skater in question made the world record.

WC2012Kostner65,72
WC2021Trusova66,34
IdF2009Kim66,40
OG2010Asada67,04
WC2021Tennell67,42
WC2021Tuktamysheva69,08
OG2010Kim71,76
WC2016Wagner73,78

Ashley Wagner meglio di Yuna Kim nei Giochi olimpici del 2010. Certo, ce ne siamo accorti tutti. Questo invece è il programma corto maschile.

Ashley Wabgner better than Yuna Kim in the 2010 Olimpic Games. Sure, we all agree. Instead this is the Men’s short program.

La differenza fra i primi due pattinatori è davvero minima, però… Adesso chi lo va a spiegare a Jeffrey Buttle che nel programma corto che ha eseguito al Campionato del mondo 2008 – che ha vinto – ha pattinato peggio di Alexander Samarin, che nel 2019 ha presentato il peggior programma corto della prova maschile al World Team Trophy? Quanto a Vincent Zhou, il cui programma corto disastroso non gli è valso la qualificazione al libero dell’ultimo Campionato del mondo, il suo 40.47 dista solo poco più di un punto dal 41.54 che ha aiutato Patrick Chan a stabilire il record del mondo e a vincere il suo primo Campionato del mondo nel 2011. Sarò distratta io che non ho notato le doti di Zhou, il suo programma corto al World Team Trophy del 2019 ha ottenuto un punteggio più alto rispetto a quello ottenuto da Yuzuru Hanyu all’NHK Trophy del 2012 – secondo record del mondo per lui nell’occasione – e si è fermato a poco più di un punto dal record del mondo di Takahashi nel World Team Trophy del 2012.

Noto anche che nel programma corto dell’ultimo Campionato del mondo Nathan Chen, nonostante una caduta, è riuscito a ottenere un 46.43 che è superiore al 46.18 di Patrick Chan all’Internationaux de France del 2013, un programma che all’epoca gli era valso il record del mondo.

The difference between the first two skaters is really minimal, however… Now who goes to explain to Jeffrey Buttle that in the short program of the 2008 World Championship – which he won – he skated worse than Alexander Samarin, who in the 2019 skated the worst short program of the Men’s competition at the World Team Trophy? As for Vincent Zhou, whose disastrous short program did not earn him qualification for the free program of the last World Championship, his 40.47 is only just over a point from the 41.54 that aided Patrich Chan establish a world record and win his first World Championship in 2011. I will be distracted who did not notice Zhou’s skills, his short program at the 2019 World Team Trophy scored higher than the short program of Yuzuru Hanyu at the 2012 NHK Trophy – second world record for him on the competition – and was just over a point from Takahashi’s world record in the 2012 World Team Trophy.

I see also that in the short program of the last World Championship Nathan Chen, despite a fall, managed to get a 46.43, which is higher than Patrick Chan’s 46.18 at the Internationaux de France in 2013, a program that at the time earned him the world record.

WC2008Buttle38,03
WTT2019Samarin38,11
WC2021Grassl39,68
WC2021Zhou40,47
WC2011Chan41,54
WC2010Takahashi41,90
NHK2012Hanyu42,29
CoR2019Samarin42,61
WTT2019Zhou43,21
WTT2012Takahashi44,29
IdF2013Chan46,18
WC2021Chen46,43
WTT2021Chen47,70

Di fatto con l’aumento del punteggio tecnico i giudici hanno aumentato anche il punteggio nei components, per contenere la differenza fra il primo e il secondo punteggio, ma così facendo non rispettano il regolamento. E visto che c’è un tetto massimo nei components, i punteggi si stanno avvicinando e le differenze fra i pattinatori stanno sparendo. Oltre a introdurre tecnologie in grado di semplificare il lavoro dei giudici, e di sospendere i giudici scorretti, l’ISU dovrebbe fare una formazione migliore, perché voti di questo tipo non possono essere accettati, non se le competizioni di pattinaggio artistico vogliono conservare la loro credibilità.

In fact, with the increase in the technical score, the judges have also increased the score in the components, in order to contain the difference between the first and second score, but in doing so they do not respect the rules. And since there is a ceiling in components, the scores are getting closer and the differences between the skaters are disappearing. In addition to introducing technologies that can simplify the work of judges, and suspend incorrect judges, the ISU should train them better, because marks as these cannot be accepted, not if the figure skating competitions want to keep their credibility.

Un’ultima cosa / A last thing:

Il programma è lo stesso, la Ballade N.1 di Chopin interpretata da Yuzuru Hanyu, e questi sono due record del mondo. Quello in alto è il Four Continents Championship 2020, quello in basso la finale di Grand Prix 2015. I punteggi nei components si sono alzati per tutti tranne che per Hanyu, e io vorrei davvero che i giudici mi spiegassero in cosa è peggiorato Hanyu in questi anni, perché da sola non riesco a capirlo.

The program is the same, Chopin’s Ballade N.1 skated by Yuzuru Hanyu, and these are two world records. The first is the 2020 Four Continents Championship, the second the 2015 Grand Prix Final. The component scores have gone up for everyone but Hanyu, and I really want the judges to explain to me what Hanyu got worse at in these years, because I can’t figure it out on my own.

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Autumn Classic International: Hanyu’s protocols

La pagina Wikipedia dedicata a Yuzuru Hanyu (quella in inglese, non quella in italiano, in cui ho fatto qualche sporadica aggiunta anch’io ma che meriterebbe di essere seguita meglio e da qualcuno che sa usare il sistema di Wikipedia meglio di come lo sappia usare io) è stata certificata ufficialmente come good article, una certificazione ottenuta più o meno da un articolo su 186. Su Twitter ne abbiamo parlato un po’, ragionando anche su come potesse essere migliorata. Un’aggiunta secondo me utilissima è il link diretto ai protocolli di gara. Peccato che alcuni non siano più disponibili. Non ho idea del perché certi protocolli vengano cancellati, secondo me sono documenti – così come le modifiche al regolamento, ma anche le sospensioni dei giudici – che dovrebbero essere sempre consultabili liberamente. I protocolli sono stati ripubblicati su SkatingScores, sito utilissimo che consulto continuamente. Però, anche se è bello avere le informazioni aggiuntive fornite dal sito, non si tratta dei protocolli ufficiali.

I protocolli ufficiali delle gare di Grand Prix e dei campionati ISU io li ho scaricati tutti, quelli dell’Autumn Classic International no perché non ho trovato il modo per farlo. Però ho fatto gli screenshot di quella parte dei protocolli dedicata ai programmi eseguiti da Hanyu nelle sue cinque partecipazioni alla gara. Eccoli.

Autumn Classic 2015

I programmi sono Ballade N.1 e SEIMEI. Primo nel programma corto, primo nel programma libero, vittoria nella gara.

Autumn Classic 2016

I programmi sono Let’s Go Crazy e Hope and Legacy. Il corto comprende il primo quadruplo loop mai eseguito in una competizione. Primo nel programma corto, primo nel libero, primo nella gara.

Autumn Classic 2017

I programmi sono Ballade N.1 e SEIMEI. Nel programma corto ha stabilito il suo dodicesimo record del mondo, l’ultimo con il vecchio codice di punteggi. Quel record è ormai fissato per sempre come record del mondo storico. Primo nel programma corto, quinto nel libero, secondo nella gara.

Autumn Classic 2018

I programmi sono Otonal e Origin. Primo nel programma corto, secondo nel libero, primo nel totale.

Autumn Classic 2019

I programmi sono Otonal e Origin. Primo nel programma corto, primo nel libero, primo nel totale.

Ho trovato i protocolli di quasi tutte le gare disputate da Hanyu, comprese alcune competizioni regionali novice. Se dovessero interessare, posso pubblicare anche quelli.

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The American skaters at the Olympic Winter Games

I start with some historical data. All information is known, or easily available to those who do not know it. I summarize them to remind you that the number of medals awarded at the Games has not always been the same and that there have been several important changes for the sport.

The modern Olympic Games began in 1896. Figure skating became an Olympic sport in 1908, at the Summer Olympic Games. There were four disciplines: Men, Ladies, Pairs and Special Figures. The latter was a men’s competition that was part of the Games only in 1908. No ice skating competitions were held in the 1912 edition. The next edition was that of 1920, the disciplines Men, Ladies and Pairs. In 1924 the Winter Olympics were born, separating the winter disciplines from the summer ones. The last edition before the Second World War was that of 1936, the first after, that of 1948. Ice Dance became an Olympic sport in 1976.

For decades, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games took place the same year, then the Olympic committee decided to separate the two events. For this reason, after the 1992 Games there was an interval of only two years, with the next edition of the Winter Games being held in 1994. In 2014 the Team Event was held for the first time. As for the nations, there are strange situations with nations that have merged or separated, or even that for an edition they have not used their flag. Some situations skew the medal tally a bit, but looking at every single situation would take a long time.

Who has won the most medals?

If we add up the number of medals from Russia and the Soviet Union, and maybe even Unified Team – but Vikor Petrenko, who previously won a bronze for the Soviet Union, was Ukrainian – and Olympic Athletes From Russia, Russia would be leading. With the official denominations, the United States won the most.

The history of the Olympic Games is long, with 25 editions, and in my opinion it is interesting to look at what has happened over time, which nations were strong in the past and which nations are strong now. If for the first screenshot I took the image from Wikipedia and did not modify it, this time I added an information. When a nation has won one or more medals, I colored the boxes with three different colors, to highlight which was the most important medal that every nation won in that year.

The only ones who have almost always won at least one gold, at least since the postwar period, have been the United States and Russia, in its many incarnations. But for the United States the latest edition was particularly disappointing, with only two bronze medals. In the last 19 editions of the Olympic Games, only in three editions has they not won at least one silver, which they had succeeded in the previous eleven editions. I don’t think they liked it. And looking a little closer at the competitions, these are the results achieved by the American skaters. I look first at the couple disciplines and the Team Event.

I checked all the placings, highlighting the medals with colors. For many nations (including Italy) results of this type would be extraordinary. For the United States … They have been competitive in Pairs for a while, but this has not been true for years, and they have never won gold. In Ice Dance they have become competitive in the last editions and have won a gold medal, even if long speeches could be made about that competition. M.G. Piety wrote about this competition here and here. Next year they will be fully fighting for a medal, although in the role of main favorites will be the French and the Russian. And then there are the two team bronzes, with the prospect of improving in the next edition, given that at the moment Canada seems less strong than in the recent past. But these are not the medals that interest them the most. For them the ideal is to have a princess to adore, or alternatively a man to praise for his extraordinary athletic skills.

A note before the next table. Until the 1980s – I don’t remember the year exactly, I should look for it but I don’t even remember in which books I read the information, so I leave it so – any nation could send how many skaters they wanted to the World Championships (and I suppose to the Olympic Games too), then the increase in the number of nations prompted the ISU to set the maximum number at three, with precise qualification criteria.

Zero medals for the United States among Ladies in the last three editions, zero medals among Men in the last two editions, and they weren’t used to it. I don’t think they liked it. The American federation will not have liked it, the American public will not have liked it, and consequently the sponsors, and consequently the television. Let’s see the future prospects.

We have no idea who will be the three Russian skaters who will go to Beijing, but whoever they are, they could monopolize the podium. It is not said that it will surely happen, it could happen. It could happen even if to Beijing went not the first three classified in the Russian national championship, but the fourth, fifth and sixth. We all know that this is possible. Credible alternatives? The most important is Rika Kihira, Japanese. She has to be healthy and not injured, as she has been too often lately, and she has to skate well, but she certainly needs to be taken seriously. Other Japanese I doubt it, despite Kaori Sakamoto’s World Team Trophy. Elizabet Tursynbaeva, if she recovers from her injury, but she is Kazakh. The Americans? Bradie Tennell, Amber Glenn, Karen Chen, Alysa Liu, Mariah Bell? If Sakamoto skates well, she is ahead of all of them, and I already don’t think Sakamoto can win a medal. Liu is actually very young, she could grow up quite a lot, but what we have seen in the last season is not encouraging. The chances of an American getting on the podium in the Ladies’ competition are less than that of an American dance team winning a medal other than bronze.

Remains the Men’s competition.

Some things I write here I already wrote months ago in Italian, even if I recently made some additions to that old post. Whenever I find something interesting that can make an old text more complete, I have no problem modifying what I had already written. The only thing I don’t do is change the meaning of what I’ve written.

I start with 1994. The women’s gold was won by Ukrainian Oksana Baiul ahead of the American Nancy Kerrigan. This is the competition that has been discussed a lot because Tonya Harding’s ex-husband – Harding finished eighth, but had won a world silver three years earlier, so she had to be taken seriously as a possible medallist – organized an assault on Kerrigan. Fortunately, the attacker turned out to be incapable and Kerrigan managed to recover to win the Olympic silver, but the media attention on the event was very high.

In the United States, when an American woman wins the Olympic, there is a huge spike in young athletes entering the sport for the first time. For example, after three Olympics in six years and the Harding-Kerrigan affair in 1994, figure skating became the second-most popular televised sport in the U.S., following only football.

Interested faded and leveled off with excessive and repeated TV esposure, and with teenage champions Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes peaking and departing before they became well-known. And as the 21st century began to produce more singles champions from Asia (women) and Europe (men), skating lost some reasonance in the U.S., where the wider public cares mostly about American athletes. (Steve Milton, Figure Skating’s Greatest Stars, pag. 119).

The book from which this quote comes is from 2009. The Asian Ladies had already begun to steal the show from the Americans, the Men still not. Takeshi Honda had won two world bronzes in 2002 and 2003, but no Olympic medals, and he had already retired. Daisuke Takahashi had won his first world silver in 2007, but the most important results, Olympic bronze and world gold, would only arrive in 2010. The others, Takahiko Kozuka, Yuzuru Hanyu, Tatsuki Machida, Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama, and also Denis Ten and Boyang Jin, the only non-Japanese, would arrive later, so for Milton (a Canadian journalist) the Asian invasion had only occurred in the Ladies’ competition.

Sometimes even a non-American skater can be enough for the American purposes. Who were the favorites in the 1994 Men’s competition? In its presentation of the event, CBS focused on the three skaters who, altogether, had won the last six World Championships and the last two Olympic golds, the American Brian Boitano, the Canadian Kurt Browning and the Ukrainian Viktor Petrenko (who, after the Olympic gold, had moved to Las Vegas and had participated in the exhibition tour in the United States), and on two young skaters, Canadian Elvis Stojko, World silver medallist in 1993, and American Scott Davis, reigning national champion and sixth at the previous World Championship. Mentions for the Russian Alexei Urmanov, world bronze medal the year before and, unlike Davis, able to perform the quadruple toe loop, or for the French Philippe Candeloro, European silver medal the year before? None.

With the three old champions making mistakes, gold went to Urmanov ahead of Stojko and Candeloro. Davis finished eighth behind Petrenlo (4th), Browning, (5th), Boitano (6th) and French Eric Millot (7th).

with Urmanov winning both programs in contested victories over Stojko and Candeloro taking home the bronze medal, the media narrative became instead one of the proper direction that men’s figure skating should  take to capitalize on skating’s burgeoning popularity in the North American market.

In a post-prime time interview with Stojko, Pat O’Brien (CBS’s general sports anchor) remarked that “perhaps… figure skating is sending the wrong message, period. Because, here you are-you’re a great guy, outspoken, your name is Elvis, and you’re marketable and all that sort of thing. And Urmanov is a nice guy, I suppose, but he’s going to go back to Russia and we wont’see him until maybee the Nationals. You’re here and you could promote figure skating… (Ellyn Kestnbaum, Culture on Ice. Figure Skating & Cultural Meaning pag. 198).

For CBS that the winner was not American, or at least North American, was a wrong message, because the most important thing is that the skater remains in the United States for promoting figure skating. Promote it where? In the United States, of course, how important is what happens elsewhere?

In 1998 Tara Lipinski won the Olympic gold at 15 years and 255 days, to date she is the youngest individual gold winner. In 2002 Sarah Hughes won the Olympic gold at 16 years and 295 days. Only four Ladies (other than Lipinski they are Alina Zagitova in 2018, Sonja Henie in 1928 and Oksana Baiul in 1994) were younger than her. According to Milton, Lipinski and Hughes peaked and departed before they became well-known. The last American skater had a long career full of wins was Michelle Kwan. But Kwan has never won an Olympic gold. This is their career:

Kwan has won the hearts of Americans, as can be seen from the gifts that have been throw on the ice at the end of the free program in what would have been her penultimate national championship.

In 2002 Michelle Kwan, reigning world champion, was the favorite for the Olympic gold. And, a few days after the scandal caused by the confession of Marie-Reine Le Gougne that she preferred the Russian Pairs to the Canadian one because the president of her federation, Didier Gailhaguet, had pressed her in this sense, Rudi Galindo, world bronze medal in 1996, therefore someone that knew figure skating, answering the question of who, according to him, would win, was able to say

I don’t know. But I’m just going to go with Michelle [Kwan]. I’ll say that. Just because she might have the spirit of being in North America, in Utah, and I think it’s time for her to win. I think the ISU [International Skating Union], too, they understand that we need an American woman to win the Olympic gold, to help out with the ticket sales and the popularity of skating.

A minute of silence on these words. I was rooting for Kwan too, but Galindo’s words go far beyond just cheering. I think the ISU [International Skating Union], too, they understand that we need an American woman to win the Olympic gold, to help out with the ticket sales and the popularity of skating.

What does the sale of tickets, or the need for a federation that wins a certain skater, have to do with a sporting result?

Kwan made a few mistakes and had to settle for bronze, not that it reduced her popularity. The Americans loved her and continued to love her. However, the gold was won (by a very narrow measure) by an American figure skater. Unfortunately for the US federation, Hughes did not become a star, and the ratings of American television suffered.

In 2005 ESPN broadcast the Grand Prix competitions. The quotes are from Kelli Lawrence’s Skating on Air, a book I bought as an ebook, so I can’t indicate the page number. The

network executives were stunned by the abysmal ratings. Though the numbers had been sliding for years, the 5.2 and 5.4 earned by ABC back in 2003 and 2004 looked downright magnificent compared to the 1.24 ESPN got for the same event in 2005. Though they knew better than to think they’d ever come close to what ABC got with an “over-the-air” telecast, they’d hoped for about twice what they did get.

This is for the international competitions. And the national ones? Do you remember that the American press has extensively praised Nathan Chen’s fifth consecutive national title, even going so far as to compare him to Dick Button? True, no man has won five US national championships in a row since Dick Button, but how strong were Chen’s rivals? Chen is strong, ok, but I talked about the real value of his national titles here and here. Later I also checked the nationality of the skaters who, from the 2010-2011 season, have won at least one medal in the most important competitions: Olympic Games, World Championship or Grand Prix Final. Why Grand Prix Final and not European Championship or Four Continents Championship? Because everyone can participate in the first, regardless of their nationality. They just needs to be really strong. The other two competitions are entered according to nationality, and often their level is lower than that of a Grand Prix Final.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that in only one country there have been so many strong skaters that the victory is difficult and therefore significant. Comparing Chen to Button… before 2026 seems a bit premature to me. But, regardless of the difficulty of the competition, for the Americans the national championship is an important event, which has always had high ratings.

Wait a moment. Always?

Meanwhile, ratings for U.S. Nationals—which continued to air on both ESPN and ABC through 2007—had been on a downhill slide for a decade. The numbers tell the story: what was a 7.2 rating in 1997 was a 4.9 by 2005. And even the luster of an Olympic year didn’t seem to carry the same weight of yesteryear: in 1998, prime time Nationals got an 11.5 rating; in 2006, it was just a 4.7. (Lawrence, Skating on Air)

For American television this is a huge problem.

people must’ve had a terrible time trying to sell ads for it; execs must’ve been looking at the contract wondering How do we get out of this … it’s a disaster!

No spectators? No sponsors. No sponsors? No money. No money? I suspect a lot of people don’t like this, so let’s get back to basics. They need spectators. And how do they find spectators? Remember Galindo’s speech? In America they need an American woman to win the Olympic gold.

While America looks for a champion, the competitions continue to be held. The 2006 Olympic Games were won by the Russian Evgeni Plushenko and the Japanese Shizuka Arakawa, the Europeans (men) and the Asians (women) mentioned by Milton. The Americans had to settle for Sasha Cohen’s silver and Evan Lysacek’s fourth place.

Cohen, if nothing else, won major medals for an entire four-year period collecting an Olympic silver, two silver and a bronze at the World Championship, and a gold and a silver at the Grand Prix final, so she was not exactly unknown. At both the Olympic Games and the subsequent World Championship she was the best in the short program, but imprecise free skate allowed her to win only one silver and one bronze.

Let’s imagine a little. An American – not the much loved one, Kwan, who withdrew from the competition due to an injury, but still a well-known figure skater, not an unknown one – is first after the short program. What do the spectators do?

on February 23, 2006, when the Ladies’ Final went up against the perennial ratings-topper American Idol and lost by a wide margin (23.5 million for Idol; 17.7 million for the Olympics). It had been a similar story about a week earlier—when the Men’s Final competed with Idol for viewers and was pummeled in the ratings, 27 million to 16.1 million—but since the Ladies’ Final often serves as the highest-rated event of the Games, the Idol loss was particularly shocking. (Lawrence)

A singing contest got better ratings than the Ladies’ competition at the Olympic Games. Not so encouraging, and not the best way to attract sponsors.

Cohen stopped competing at the end of the Olympic season, Kimmie Meissner, 2006 world champion, tried to go on but was tormented by injuries, the American champions with a long career and able to win started to run out. Especially the able to win part has started to fail. Mirai Nagasu, 2008 American champion when she was still a junior skater, participated in two editions of the Olympic Games, with a fourth place as her best, and in only three World Championships, with a seventh place as her best. Rachel Flatt, national champion in 2010, achieved a seventh place at the Olympic Games, and in three World Championships at most she finished fifth. As for Alissa Czisny, national champion in 2009 and 2011, she only made the fourteenth short program at the 2009 World Championship

Consequently, NBC opted to leave her free skate out of its broadcast altogether. It was the first time a reigning, present U.S. ladies gold medalist was not seen at Worlds by the TV audience. (Lawrence)

Over time, things have only gotten worse. In Push Dick’s Button, the American champion wrote

I don’t like that I couldn’t see the 2013 World Championship live on network television. That’s probably because the ratings in the U.S. have dropped into the cellar where the doggies are sent when they are bad. The 2014 World Skating Championship are held in March right after the big hoopla of the Olympic Winter Games and won’t be seen live, except as a two-week delayed summary show in April. (pagg. 224-225)

The problem is all here, the ratings that attract sponsors who bring money. Is it a purely American problem? No, not exactly. As Stephen Wade explained in this thread,

The International Olympic Committee is a sports business. Like NFL, NBA, it lives off selling broadcast rights. This is source of almost 75% of income

and

About 40% of all IOC income is from US network NBC. IOC and NBC in reality operate as partners.

If American viewers drop, it’s a problem for both the ISU and the IOC. Therefore, when a CBS executive wonders about the proper direction that men’s figure skating should take to capitalize on skating’s burgeoning popularity in the North American market, or Galindo says the ISU understand that we need an American woman to win the Olympic gold, to help out with the ticket sales and the popularity of skating, maybe we need to worry. In 2010

Flatt and Nagasu were considered to have skated exceptionally well at the Vancouver Winter Olympics (Lawrence)

and, despite this, they finished in seventh and fourth place. If there is no hope of winning a medal in the women’s competition, the Men’s can do it too, and in Vancouver the American hopes were on Evan Lysacek.

Returning to the comparison between skating and American Idol, according to producer and director Rob Dustin

American Idol does what we used to do with figure skating: tell stories about ‘nobodies’ that become ‘somebodies’ because of their talent, and create a storyline around that person

Tell stories about ‘nobodies’ that become ‘somebodies. Ah, this is something television can do, if they put themselves into it.

Skating commentators started playing up Lysacek’s marketing potential after he won his first national title in 2007. As an American skating blogger put it, ‘some in the media and U.S. Figure Skating feel very comfortable touting Evan Lysacek as the “meat and potatoes” man our sport, apparently, so desperately needs.’ Tall and conventionally good looking, Lysacek’s timing could not have been better in terms of marketing opportunities. As the reigning world champion in an Olympic year, he was a good bet for an Olympic gold medal. Also important to his ability to attract endorsement contracts was the fact that 2010 was the first time in decades that American women, who are generally among the most hyped athletes of the winter games, headed into the Olympics with no big names among them. Someone needed to fill the media void. The handsome Lysacek, who, as world champion, had already become a feature of celebrity gossip columns, was a promising candidate. (from Mary Louise Adams, Artistic Impressions, another ebook)

Lysacek won Olympic gold, although how he won it could be debated at length. I suggest to you to read also this article. After Lysacek, who retired just after the Olympig gold skipping also the World Championship a month later, the American men’s skating began to go through the same crisis as the women’s one. The crisis lasted less, and the American press did its best to attract public interest with what it had at its disposal.

I’ve read enough annoying articles, someone published before PyeongChang calling the strongest skater ever someone who hadn’t won anything at the time, or someone published later explaining how a skater who had won bronze in the Team Event was more famous of the skater who had just won his second individual gold. I could look for them if I felt like it. Along with the articles and serious analyzes, I also retain a certain amount of propaganda, you never know when it will be useful to remember that a part of the press has a very specific agenda and does not put the search for truth at the center of its interests. At the moment, however, I don’t want to dig into the mud, so I’ll stop here, with many worries about the fairness of the competitions that have taken place in recent years and that will take place in the near future. After all, we all know what American television needs.

One last thing, added a few hours after the publication of this post. Click on the links to Piety’s two articles and read them. I see the number of people who have clicked on the links, so I know if you have. The choice is up to you, but in this case not reading those articles makes you miss some really interesting considerations. Sure, Piety talks about the Ice Dance competition, and what she focuses on is the confrontation among Davis/White and Virtue/Moir. But… Here is just a passage from one of the two articles:

Davis and White didn’t need any help to win the gold was the constant refrain of most members of the group. They’ve been winning everything in the last few years. That is sadly true, but it begs the question of whether Davis and White needed help by tacitly assuming that they had not had help with these other wins.

Does it seem somehow familiar? I put again the links here: Yet Another Olympic Figure Skating Judging Scandal and Can Olympic Ice Skating Sink Any Lower?

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The names of the judges and the integrity of the event – ISU_Figure

Hi ISU

I am really happy that you are concerned about the fairness of the competitions. If we want sport to be more and more popular and appreciated, fair competition is essential, so it is right to work in this direction. A great help could be the introduction of better technologies, in order to help the judges to correctly evaluate what is being done on the ice. If you are not sure which technology is the best, you can always take advantage of the knowledge of some expert such as Dr. George S. Rossano.

I have seen that your concern for the fairness of the competitions is so wide that it also extends to the identity of the judges and the competition protocol.

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a tennis match. I’ve seen some of them, and I noticed a curious detail. The chair umpire loudly announces the score after each single point. Really, watch a game too if you don’t believe me. After each point has finished, he says the score, which in any case is always visible to everyone on the boards displayed next to the playing court. The chair umpire also says things like “double foul”, or announces when the player goes to take the second serve or when, after hitting the net with the first serve, he repeats it. He says it all, so there may be doubts as to whether a ball has landed on or off the court, but the decisions are clear. And also for the point of impact of the balls, technology is used in certain cases, so that the judgments are as fair as possible. And we know the chair umpire’s name. Do you know what? I haven’t always liked his decisions, but I’ve never doubted his honesty.

So I really don’t understand how anyone could think that not publishing the protocol, or publishing it late, or not saying the names of the judges, could ensure the integrity of the event. Here are som example, from when we we did not know which judge had assigned each vote, and I have some doubts. This is the Pairs’ short program at the 2016 World Championship.

I don’t post the official protocol but the SkatingScore version, because it gives me the sums. I only looked at the best pairs, and I noticed a big difference in the scores given by the different judges. The biggest difference, 12.60 points, is in Savchenko/Massot’s score. Did all the judges see the same program? There are a couple of particularly low ratings in components. To understand how strict Judge 2 was, I looked to see if other top pairs had received such low marks.

We must keep in mind that the order in which the votes are published is random, so what for someone is judge 2 for someone else can be judge 1, or 3, or another. I did a little cut and paste job, so we don’t have a huge screen and can easily compare the sums in the component marks.

With the components alone, Judge 2 remained below the average by 5.04 points. Did the same happen to everyone? Because if a judge has been particularly strict to everyone, we can think that it is he who assigns low marks but that, maintaining the same severe judgment criteria, the final result is correct. For Sui/Han the biggest difference is 3.37 points, for Duhamel/Radford 1.85 points, for Volosozhar/Trankov 2.16 points, for Stolbova/Klimov 3.00 points, for Tarasova/Morozov 4.51 points. Comparing with other couples, the difference is really high.

I did another check. I looked at what marks each pair received. How many 10.00, how many 9.75, how many 9.50 and so on.

In the first six pairs only Savchenko/Massot and Tarasova/Morozov received marks below 8.00, but the German pair also received marks above 9.00, the Russian one did not. Are we sure those low marks aren’t too harsh? And if by checking Ashley Wagner’s marks in the free skate at the 2016 World Championship I showed how even one judge can be decisive in awarding the medals, with Savchenko/Massot the judges who have assigned low marks are two, therefore the marks of one of the two entered the score and had an even greater weight than Judge 6 did with Wagner.

I also highlighted the overall score given by each judge in purple, and of course the difference is even greater. The judges of that program were

Mr. Philippe MERIGUET, FRA
Ms. Nadezhda FIODOROVA, BLR
Ms. Jung-Sue LEE, KOR
Mr. Benoit LAVOIE, CAN
Ms. Jia YAO, CHN
Mr. Volker WALDECK, GER
Ms. Vanessa RILEY, GBR
Ms. Joanna MILLER, AUS
Ms. Lorrie PARKER, USA

It would be nice to be able to ask them the reason for those marks. Not being able to do this, we suspect that some judge, the Canadian, or the Chinese, or the Belarusian one, since judges from the former Soviet Union often feel a considerable attachment to Russia, may have lowered the German pair’s score to help his pair. But they are suspects that cannot be confirmed and that, at the same time, cannot be denied. ISU, do you know that suspicions aren’t a good thing? Everything should be clear and understandable, at least if you want to be taken seriously.

Do you know why I post screenshots with all the data I get my averages from, even if taking screenshots is a long and tedious job? Because so anyone who wants to can check the work I have done, and possibly challenge it to me. I do my best, but I’m just a person and I can make mistakes. If someone points out a mistake to me, I correct it. But I’m not hiding anything. You may not like what I do, not say that I cheat. What you do is a little bit more important than what I do, so transparency should be even more important to you. And it is not transparency that prevents the judges from assessing the competitions with serenity.

For example, when the identity of the judges was secret, at the 2013 World Championship, a judge assigned a +1 to the Axel performed by Javier Fernandez in the short program.

Before anyone could think wrong, there was no Spanish judge on that panel, so unless someone can prove it was a swap vote, the only thing we can assume is that that judge made a mistake. It would have been nice to be able to ask the judge why he gave that mark, we can’t do that. I hope that at least the referee, Mona Jonsson, has pointed to him his mistake.

The fact that the judges, protected by anonymity, have given strange marks, is not something recent. For the short program of the 2005 World Championships I limited myself to taking the totals given by SkatingScore, with the protocols of the skaters whose score had the greatest fluctuations from one judge to another. Are we sure that all the judges have seen the same competition?

The identity of the judges is not a problem if they vote fairly, what is important is the fairness of their evaluations. Better technology can help them judge more serenely, so this must be a priority, starting next season. And it is important that everything is checked, otherwise absurd things can happen, thing like the 0.75 assigned by Jerome Poulin to Yuma Kagiyama in Skating Skills at the 2020 World Junior Championship.

I am not accusing Poulin of unfairness, I am sure that he simply made a mistake in pressing the button with which he assigned the vote. But why did referee Robert Rosembluth not notice? Wasn’t it his job to make sure the judges’ votes were correct? And is it possible that no automatic system has been created capable of identifying major anomalies as this? This is not the first time such a mistake was done.

This is the Ladies’ free skate of Skate America 2003, the first competition in which the ISU Judging System was used.

The mistake was made in the first competition, almost twenty years ago. It seems to me more than enough time to identify a type of mistake and find a way to prevent it from happening again.

While I’ve got this protocol, I’ve highlighted a couple more details. The sums are shown in green. In the first competition you published those sums that I now only find on SkatingScore or that I have to calculate personally. Why? Transparency is essential for the fairness of every competition. And in blue I indicated the list of possible deductions. In that program no skater deserved one, but your system contemplate clarity, even with the anonymity of the judges. You have rightly removed anonymity, now it is important not to take a step back.

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World Championship 2016 – Free Skate Ladies – @ISU_Figure

Hi ISU

maybe it’s best if you ask your judges why they award certain marks. In the 2015-2016 season, we still didn’t know who assigned a particular mark, and when you don’t know something, you can think badly. I have some doubts about the Ladies’ free skate at the 2016 World Championships. I haven’t watched the whole competition, only the ten best free skate, but maybe in the future I’ll watch something else.

Why was a judge so severe with Satoko Miyahara? Beyond the layback spin, for all meritorious of a +3, one judge did not assign any +2, while all the others felt that she deserved some, and assigned her many +1 and four 0s. No other was so severe. As for the components, for Miyahara as for other skaters I highlighted when a judge assigned an overall score higher (in green) or lower (in red) than five points compared to the final score. Five points, plus the very strict GOEs, are a lot. Why was this judge so severe with Miyahara?

Why was a judge so generous to Anna Pogorilaya? Her GOEs are almost only +3 and +2, no judge has been so generous. She also gave her a +2 on a flat edge flip. Since the deduction for the edge of the flip goes from -1 to -2, for that judge the flip was otherwise perfect. I watched the jump, and despite not being a judge I would have something to say about the landing. Not enough for a deduction, but +2? Really? As for the components, that judge was really generous.

A judge awarded Elena Radionova four marks that were not awarded to her by anyone else, and she was very generous in the compnents as well. Why?

A judge awarded the combination of Rika Hongo 2A + 3T + 2T a -1. Where does that deduction come from? Looking at the combination I couldn’t figure it out. Another judge was very strict in the components. Why?

A judge awarded Gabrielle Daleman very high marks in components. Why? A judge was really strict in the components with Elizabet Tursynbaeva. Why? Components are not numbers that judges can write freely, depending on the inspiration of the moment. You have provided precise indications, and they should be respected.

In the protocols I have posted here there are these oscillations from the highest and the lowest mark:

MaxMinDiff.
MiyaharaTR8,757,751,00
PE9,007,501,50
CO9,007,751,25
IN9,007,751,25
PogorilayaTR9,257,501,75
PE9,008,001,00
CO9,257,751,50
IN9,508,001,50
RadionovaSS9,008,001,00
TR9,258,001,25
PE9,008,001,00
CO9,258,001,25
IN9,258,001,25
HongoSS8,507,251,25
TR8,257,001,25
PE8,756,752,00
CO8,757,001,75
IN8,757,751,00
DalemanSS8,507,501,00
TR8,006,751,25
PE8,507,501,00
CO8,757,501,25
IN9,007,501,50
TursynbaevaSS7,506,501,00
TR7,255,751,50
PE7,506,001,50
CO7,506,501,00
IN7,506,251,25

I did not report all the fluctuations, only those from 1.00 points upwards. Seems like a huge difference to me. I remind you of the final classification of the competition.

ResultDiff.
1Medvedeva223,86
2Wagner215,39-8,47
3Pogorilaya213,69-1,70
4Gold211,29-2,40
5Miyahara210,61-0,68
6Radionova209,81-0,80
7Asada200,30-9,51
8Hongo199,15-1,15
9Daleman195,68-3,47
10Nagasu186,65-9,03
11Li184,52-2,13
12Tursynbaeva183,62-0,90
13Rajicova173,05-10,57
14Choi159,92-13,13
15Kuchvalska158,99-0,93
16Rodeghiero158,41-0,58
17Chartrand157,82-0,59
18Park154,24-3,58
19Khnychenkova154,02-0,22
20Lindfors152,93-1,09
21Lin 146,55-6,38
22Wories140,87-5,68
23Zhao139,67-1,20
24Galutsyan136,07-3,60

The points of difference I have indicated are those that separate each skater from the skater who precedes her. I haven’t looked at the skaters who didn’t qualify for the free skate, but their scores should also be watched carefully, for some skater qualifying, or failing to qualify, for the free skate can have a huge impact on his career. Some differences are very small, and in some cases there are more than two skaters separated by a minimal difference. Between Gracie Gold’s fifth place and Elena Radionova’s seventh place there are only 1.48 points, so it is important that all judges give their marks correctly.

Are the highest and lowest grades not counted precisely to reduce the risk that a single judge could influence the result by assigning absurd marks? True, but, in case you haven’t noticed, if the scores are very close, even a single judge can influence the score in a decisive way. To confirm this, I looked at Ashley Wagner’s score. I chose her for a very simple reason: she won a medal, in this case silver, with a small advantage over the skater who finished behind her. This is her protocol:

The first thing I noticed were those two 10.00 in the components assigned in a less than perfect program. Three jumps were performed in an imprecise way, even if they were problems whose impact is related more to the base value or to the GOE than to the components. These two were the only 10.00 awarded in the whole women’s competition. There was no American judge, so we have no obvious suspicion to point the finger at when talking about national bias. The reasons that led Judge 6 to assign those marks are mysterious, and will remain so.

Did Judge 6’s marks affect the final result? To understand this, I transcribed each vote on a file excel, then I deleted all the votes assigned by the judge 6. Only at this point did I delete the highest and the lowest marks assigned by the other judges. The AF-AG columns indicate the scores actually received by Wagner. In the AI-AJ columns I have indicated the score Wagner would have received in each item if the jury panel had been made up of eight judges and not nine.

And … surprise. The biggest difference does not come from the components, but from the GOEs. Had Judge 6 not been present on the jury panel, the silver would have gone to Anna Pogorilaya and not Ashley Wagner.

All of this is to say that even one judge can significantly influence the results, and that if we don’t know who assigned the marks we can’t ask the judges why they had given a certain mark, but the odd marks remain. Not publishing all the information relating to the results of the competitions, or publishing them late, perhaps it will prevent some scandal from breaking out because the press will be distracted, but it certainly will not help to have more fair competitions.

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Again on the ISU proposals for the 58th Ordinary Congress 2021 – @ISU_Figure

I don’t know when I’ll be able to find time for everything. I decided to publish this text on the blog and also to send it by email to info@isu.ch and to Philippe Maitrot from the tech. committee, mtphilou@free.fr. The two addresses were reported to me on Twitter by a person who found them on the ISU website. Yesterday I wrote a lot about the identity of the judges and the protocol, this time I will be brief, but I could write of other points in the future.

Again, hi ISU. I write directly to you.

According to this new rule, the same base value will be assigned to combinations and jump sequences. Your text says clearly

With the new definition of the Jump Sequence introduced in 2018 there is no reason to have a lesser value for Jump Sequences than for Jump Combinations.

The definition of the sequences dates back to 2018, it took you three years to realize that with a precise definition there is no need to assign a lower base value to the sequences. I could make jokes, I just say “better late than never”. After all, you write that yourself

This allows more variety in the execution of the jumps

Great. We are all happy when the sport gets better. But now comes the difficult question. Your text also says

The change is planed only beginning from the season 2022/23 after the OWG.

Why? If I realize that I have made a mistake, I try to fix it as soon as possible. You realize a mistake… and pretend nothing has happened for another year? It is not that prolonging the mistake makes you appear heroic because you remain firm in your positions. Rather, it raises the question of whether you are unable to lead the sport properly, or that you don’t want to.

And, while we mentioned the base value of the jumps, are we sure that all the base values are correct? A year ago Mr. Bianchetti had talked about equating the values of the quadruple loop, the quadruple flip and the quadruple Lutz, then nothing was done. If you have lost the statistics made by Mr. Bianchetti, I have made others myself. You can find them here. And if you feel the need for other statistics, you just have to ask for them, I will do them more than willingly. You already knew a year ago that it was a mistake that you need to correct. Why not do it as soon as possible? Why not now? As you said yourself, it is important to have more variety in the execution of the jumps, and with a higher base value at both the quadruple loop and the quadruple Axel, there will be more skaters encouraged to learn them.

I promised I’d be short, so I’ll just touch one more point. This:

Are you kidding? Tell me that’s a joke, please. You can’t be serious, not about this. Sport must focus on athletes, not on those who make the rules. They are the athletes who make the sport, without athletes who makes the rules has no reason to exist. And you say that establishing a number in the summer and not changing it during the winter is too demanding for those who have to decide that number? But do you have any idea what challenging means? Do you have any idea what pressure is? Do you have any idea what thinking only about what is most comfortable for you does for athletes?

We had proof of this in early 2020. Try reading Dasa Grm’s story if you haven’t already, and then come and talk to me about pressure on the technical committee if you dare. We are talking about the one who is the best Slovenian figure skater since the 2013-2014 season. If you want to increase the popularity of figure skating, skaters from countries like Slovenia need to be helped, not put in trouble. It’s okay to set the Minimum Total Elements Scores, and if a skater don’t reach it, this just means that that skater isn’t good enough to participate in the competition. But skaters have the right to know the minimums in time and to plan their season accordingly.

For now I have read little of your documents, but the points I have talked about are important. If you really want sport to be better, you need to make the right decision for the sport, not the one that is most comfortable for some people.

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