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Thread: Herma Szabo: The judging scandal that forced the ISU to change its rules!

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    Herma Szabo: The judging scandal that forced the ISU to change its rules!

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

    There is an interesting one-page feature in the latest issue of International Figure Skating about the legendary Austrian skater Herma Szabo, the first ladies’ Olympic champion (1924).

    In 1927 Szabo was the five-time and defending World Champion. At Worlds that year she was upset by 14-year-old phenom Sonia Henie in a controversial vote of three to two. There were three Norwegian judges on the panel, all of whom voted for Henie. The other two judges were from Germany and Austria, and they voted for Szabo.

    Quite naturally this caused a big hullabaloo. Amid charges of bias and collusion among the Norwegian judges, the ISU was forced to calm the clamor by passing the “only one judge per country” rule.

    Thenceforth, collusion among judges was forced to go international.

    BTW, Szabo was also the first lady to skate in a short skirt cut above the knee (at 1923 Worlds). To add insult to injury, Henie was given credit for that fashion innovation, too.

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    Has the ISU ever changed the judging rules in the absence of a judging scandal?

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    The short program? The devaluation and elimination of figures? The Zayak rule? "Well-balanced program" "guidelines"? Making a separate Ladies division when a woman was competitive with the men? Dismantling the (3-sec max) separation rules for Ice Dancing? Pick-your-favorite costume rule?

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    Herma was an amazing skater, in addition to a 5-time World and 1-time Olympic Champion in singles, she also was a multi-World Champion in pairs, even though now she is all but forgotten now in Henjie's shadow. She retired right after these Worlds, even though it was the year before another Olympics. I wonder if she had not been jobbed by this corrupt occurence, if she would have stayed in for next year to try to defend her Olympic title and gp for a 7th World title. If she really retired due to this bitter dissapointment, it was also back luck for her pairs partner Ludwig Wrede, with whom she would have been favored for the 1928 Olympic Gold after her 2nd World title in 3 years with him at those 1927 Worlds.
    Last edited by slutskayafan21; 11-08-2007 at 12:46 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hockeyfan228 View Post
    The short program? The devaluation and elimination of figures? The Zayak rule? "Well-balanced program" "guidelines"? Making a separate Ladies division when a woman was competitive with the men? Dismantling the (3-sec max) separation rules for Ice Dancing? Pick-your-favorite costume rule?
    First, I asked about changing the judging rules in response to judging scandals -- not changing all rules.

    Second, I always heard that the introduction of the short program was part of devaluing figures -- and the devaluation and eventual elimination of figures were due to their perceived use in justifying unfair judging results. Is this true?

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    Quote Originally Posted by attyfan View Post
    Second, I always heard that the introduction of the short program was part of devaluing figures -- and the devaluation and eventual elimination of figures were due to their perceived use in justifying unfair judging results. Is this true?
    Figures were removed because they weren't telegenic, and fair judging or otherwise, it was impossible to explain to a TV audience why an off-the-air phase determined the results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by attyfan View Post
    Has the ISU ever changed the judging rules in the absence of a judging scandal?
    You know the saying "Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?" The ISU has NEVER heard that saying.

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    It was well known among the skating fans of that era. However, media hype didn't begin until Zanuck wanted Sonia in Hollywood, and that's when skating became popular in the US.

    I wonder if Herma had won that Worlds, that Zanuck would have gone after her.
    She really was the first woman to skate against men, to cut her dress to a ballet costume level.

    Maybe Papa Henie got in touch with Zanuck. I dunno.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by attyfan View Post
    Second, I always heard that the introduction of the short program was part of devaluing figures -- and the devaluation and eventual elimination of figures were due to their perceived use in justifying unfair judging results. Is this true?
    I think there was a simmering scandal in the early 70's. It wasn't just Lynn losing to Schuba. Viewers just could not understand why Lynn wasn't making the podium at Worlds sometimes. She would go out and give absolutely gorgeous performances and wind up in 5th or 6th. It was pretty obvious that something was out of whack. That was making the sport look ugly. It had to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joesitz View Post
    ...

    I wonder if Herma had won that Worlds, that Zanuck would have gone after her.
    She really was the first woman to skate against men ...
    ...

    Joe
    I thought Madge Sayers was the first woman to skate against men.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    In 1927 Szabo was the five-time and defending World Champion. At Worlds that year she was upset by 14-year-old phenom Sonia Henie in a controversial vote of three to two. There were three Norwegian judges on the panel, all of whom voted for Henie. The other two judges were from Germany and Austria, and they voted for Szabo.

    Quite naturally this caused a big hullabaloo. Amid charges of bias and collusion among the Norwegian judges, the ISU was forced to calm the clamor by passing the “only one judge per country” rule.
    Yes, that panel was odd, but if it was a habit in those days... Anyway, Henie continued to win with "only one judge per country" rule also, didn´t she?
    Last edited by Jaana; 11-09-2007 at 01:38 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaana View Post
    Yes, that panel was odd, but if it was a habit in those days... Anyway, Henie continued to win with "only one judge per country" rule also, didn´t she?
    Yes, indeed, it was the habit in those days, LOL. That was the problem.

    Szabo retired after that and never skated against Henie again, and Henie reigned supreme for the next decade.

    Here is a funny story (maybe not so funny to Ms. Hulten) about the time Henie sicced the Nazi border guards on her biggest rival as she was traveling to a skating camp.

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...wp=body_middle

    "In 1933, [Sonia Henie] told me I was not really good enough to be second to her," [Vivi-Anne] Hulten says. "She pointed a finger right at my nose and screamed at me, and said, 'You are not nearly good enough to get second next to me. I'm so much better than you are.' And the feud started. She went after me in every which way from that point on....

    Hulten remembers, for instance, a 1935 training trip to St. Moritz that required passage into Germany. She was stopped at the border, detained for seven hours and searched "from head to toe" - with no explanation from the guard, whose name she also remembers: Ulrich Schmidt.

    Later in Germany, Hulten recalls, she sought out the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels (who, along with Adolf Hitler, was a skating fan) to complain. Schmidt was summoned.

    "I'll never forget him, as long as I live," Hulten says. "Goebbels made him get down on a knee and apologize to me. (Schmidt) said, 'Well, a young lady came through before her whose name was Sonja Henie. She told me this girl here would be smuggling jewelry, so we stopped her.'"
    Hulten remembers, too, how Henie made a living as an amateur skater.
    "Papa Henie would go to these places and tell the organizers, You can have my daughter (to skate in your show); come up to my hotel room and I'll tell you how we can arrange it,'" Hulten recalls. "He played poker with them. If he won, he got an appearance fee for Sonja to skate and he got an agreement that the judges would place me no higher than third. I didn't have a chance. I know this is true because one of my best friends was the president of our club in Stockholm, and he told me about it. Back then, the judges were always with the clubs."
    Figure skating must have been great fun back then! Wouldn't it be cool if Mao Asada and Yu-na Kim went at it like that? (Instead of leaving such shenanigans up to their fans -- like the Mao fans (one speculates) who sabatoged and destroyed the Yu-na Kim web site a couple of months ago. )

    Lots of stories. Who knows what's true and what's exaggeration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by attyfan View Post
    I thought Madge Sayers was the first woman to skate against men.
    You are probably correct. IFS does some interesting one page articles on skaters from the past.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Here is a funny story (maybe not so funny to Ms. Hulten) about the time Henie sicced the Nazi border guards on her biggest rival as she was traveling to a skating camp.
    If you know your history, Adolf was quite popular in the USA escpecially by big industrialists. As Belita said, we were all told to salute Hitler in the grand march but Belita didn't. Henie and others did.

    Joe

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