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Thread: 10 Things I Learned from this Grand Prix Season

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    10 Things I Learned from this Grand Prix Season

    Move this to another thread if more appropriate

    1. The judges hate the pairs narrative of this quadrennial as much as we do
    Whether you believe that it's COP's fault or not, the general consensus as near as I can see is that pairs has been disappointing. So many people have shifted from calling it their favourite event to their least favourite event, and it's not hard to see why. Flashing back to 2008 Worlds on this site, the most intriguing thing was how little everyone thought of everyone. No one deserved to win, it seemed. S/S had that flawed long (but received a huge score). D/D were very pretty and well skated, but weren't as difficult as the top teams. Z/Z didn't have the artistry people hoped to see in world champions. But then Shen/Zhao came back.

    There's only one reason for them to come back and that is to get Olympic Gold. Yes, silver would be their best Olympic result ever, but for most of us, that would be crushing. 2002 saw their deserving bronze overshadowed by controversy. 2006 saw their amazing comeback overshadowed by their teammates. If S/Z are overshadowed by members of this field.... well, that would be disappointing.

    But more than that, it seems like the field has responded, or at the very least upped their game for this Olympic season. M/T having two clean longs on the GP circuit? P/T improving their UR that often push them away from the podium? S/S responding to the disappointing TEB LP with a newly choreographed beauty at SC? S/Z are looking to cruise their way to a victory, but if the short at the GP is any indication, the other teams look to be fighting for a medal, and that's quite awesome.

    2. Mental Attitude is 90% of the Game
    It never really occurred to me before, so I guess I just paid it lip service and nothing more. Sure, in extreme cases, I saw it more than that (Verner is the obvious example), but generally I figured that talent will out. But time and time again, we've seen skaters with strong mental attitudes surprise the field (Preaubert's bronze over Contesti/Chan/Ten etc). I've been disappointed with Moir's comments about how they were the best etc, but since they've actually posted the scores to make a case for that, I'm beginning to be okay with it (ditto Plushenko). If that kind of attitude actually helps you, then fine. Lysacek's steadiness is proving an asset (and how many of us assumed it was really unlikely that he repeat as a medalist, let alone champion).

    And the flipside, we're seeing people crack (Rochette, Kostner), strain (Asada) and waver (Kim). The Olympics are clearly coming as the pressure seems to be attacking skaters across the board.

    3. ISU Wants HIGH Scores
    On the one hand, I like that scoring in the 9.00's isn't a mere pipe dream. On the other hand, juking the stats like that doesn't help the SPORT, which is what ISU should be concentrating on. Will it help excitement? Maybe. And yes, that's a good thing (the best thing for the ISU/COP right now is a well skated Olympics, I think).

    4. The USFSA has a tough decision
    Before this GP season, I thought, okay Flatt and Cohen will be on the team. Flatt because she's relatively consistent and will likely do the best out of all the skaters, Cohen because her record and reputation gives the sport a bit of glamour in the USA, and yeah, I do want the sport to be more popular there without having to sacrifice much about what makes it so exciting to watch now. But then Wagner went and medalled at CoR, Flatt missed out on a medal and Cohen withdrew from both her events (I wish she had skated at SA at least. Hometown crowd, weaker field - if Emily Hughes got the response she did, can you imagine what it would've been like for reigning Olympic silver medalist Cohen?). And just maybe, just maybe, people would start realizing that US Figure Skating is more than just ladies. Two/three gold medal contenders could be sidelined this season (in terms of media response) if people's interest in the sport of figure skating isn't improved.

    But it's more than that. I think the international judges have signaled who they want as the number ones, and it's not Belbin/Agosto in ice dance. But the USFSA has always marched to it's own tune. I don't think it does B/A any credit to miss Nationals (as someone supposed) and keep their (hopefully improved levels/GOE) program away from judges until the Olympics, and I can see them still winning Nationals. But then what happens? B/A are not the best free dance skaters. D/W excel there. And do we think that ice dance politicking is as necessary now as in the past?

    5. O Canada?
    So, Canada has gone from having four potential medalists (D/D were a huge darkhorse at best, admittedly) to having several hugely disappointing performances. Chan's injured, D/D had the underwhelming SC LP (though they seem to be enjoying skating more this year than last), and Rochette... well, I thought the Japan Open would be a harbinger of things to come. 7 clean triples, four in the back half of her program, two of them in sequence with another sequence. A complicated program that was well skated but had room for improvement. I thought she'd be trying for gold, frankly (whereas in 08/09, I think she was aiming for a medal). Only Virtue/Moir are on target for Vancouver. Now, the Grand Prix season only means so much. None of the gold medalists at the GPF last year medalled at Worlds. Less than half of the medalists medalled at Worlds (Kim, S/S, Z/Z, DomShabs). And the ice dancing field was the easiest, with the withdrawals of two world champions (and the reigning silver medalists from the finals), so it's not gonna be as simple as it was here. Some people peak later than others (it's worth mentioning that Joannie's placements here, 4 and 6, are a virtual mirror of her results last year - 6 and 3).

    6. Scandal lurks
    Thinking about it, COP got a huge gift in Torino. Three of the four winners were predictable and all four were deserving. The questionable calls didn't raise a scandal because they happened to the "right' people (Z/Z avoiding deductions would've changed the podium, but not at the expense of another country) or they didn't change anything really (Plushenko's transition grades). But for many, this GP season doesn't instill confidence. It doesn't help that largely, this GP season has been disappointing for so many skaters. I can't deny being nervous. Anonymous judging promotes the appearance of scandal (which I think would be enough).

    7. Comparing Scores is Difficult
    As Mathman stated elsewhere, it's easy to gauge precision. But accuracy is a whole 'nother beast. The contradiction therein seems to make skating fans nervous. We were promised objectivity when none is possible (thanks Speedy) and given a system that needs a far greater degree of objectivity. But it's impossible, so of course we get antsy. On the other hand, the ISU DOES treat scores objectively. They use them as tiebreakers in the GP standings, for example. They record them on the website as "highest scores" etc. Personal/Season's bests are recorded and promoted. So how can you blame fan(atics?) from comparing scores between events? How can you not want to (well, except for the fact that it'll lead to confusion, misery and possible heartbreak).

    8. Injuries Suck
    Okay, so I already knew that, but it still sucks. Chan went from likely gold medal contender to a question for the final flight. We lost two chances to see Faiella/Scalia's glorious FD improve this season (at least we have Europeans). Who knows about the state of Megan Duhamel's leg? And even this hater felt a twinge of sadness hearing that Joubert needed surgery.

    9. No One knows anything
    The memes we heard this year? Queen Yu-Na was invulnerable (Ando and Flatt have something to say about that... sorry for the rhyme); S/S vs S/Z all the way (not if P/T or even M/T have anything to do with it); this will be Plushenko's for the taking (not if Oda nails everything like he did in TEB); the comeback kids would reign supreme (Lambiel's still a question mark, as is Cohen). Weir was out of it as the UFSFA doesn't like him (he's certainly not making it easy for them to kick him to the curb).

    10. The pre- and post- emptive strikes will come fast and thick

    If <insert figure skater(s)> <insert outcome> it'll be because <insert conspiracy theory related dismissal> and not <insert reason only naive children believe>

    Some examples

    If Caroline Zhang misses out on the Olympic team it'll be because the whole figure skating community is racist and not because her poor technique makes her open to huge drops in GOE, which leads to poor results which leads to less than enthusiastic Zhang which is in turn reflected in her performances.

    If Joannie Rochette medals in Vancouver it'll be because she's a hometown contender with the judges in her back pocket and not because she's a skilled skater who works the COP like nobody else

    If Domnina and Shabalin medals in Vancouver it'll be because the evil Russian Federation will not be denied and not because they could actually deserve it.

    Anyone want to help compile them all
    Last edited by ImaginaryPogue; 12-05-2009 at 12:47 PM. Reason: Coding error; typos

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    I have nothing to add except

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    I agree with 4, 6, and 9.

    I'd like to comment on 4 though:

    Before this GP season, I thought, okay Flatt and Cohen will be on the team. Flatt because she's relatively consistent and will likely do the best out of all the skaters, Cohen because her record and reputation gives the sport a bit of glamour in the USA, and yeah, I do want the sport to be more popular there without having to sacrifice much about what makes it so exciting to watch now. But then Wagner went and medalled at CoR, Flatt missed out on a medal and Cohen withdrew from both her events (I wish she had skated at SA at least. Hometown crowd, weaker field - if Emily Hughes got the response she did, can you imagine what it would've been like for reigning Olympic silver medalist Cohen?).
    I think China was an aberration for Flatt, and she did much better at SA. She handles pressure best of the American ladies and I think she's the best candidate for an Oly spot. In fact, I'd consider Flatt NOT getting an Oly spot a shocker. The one thing I'd be concerned about if I was a Flatt fan is the potential party-crashing that would be Cohen's return. Flatt was solid in both 2008 and 2009 and ended up finishing 2nd to more talented skaters who really had SOHLs (particularly in the SP). If that happens again AND Cohen comes back strong, I can see a situation where Flatt might be 3rd and potentially left off the team.

    But we can revisit this topic in mid-January after Cohen announces her WD from Nats as well as her retirement

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    2. Mental Attitude is 90% of the Game

    It never really occurred to me before, so I guess I just paid it lip service and nothing more. Sure, in extreme cases, I saw it more than that (Verner is the obvious example), but generally I figured that talent will out. But time and time again, we've seen skaters with strong mental attitudes surprise the field (Preaubert's bronze over Contesti/Chan/Ten etc). I've been disappointed with Moir's comments about how they were the best etc, but since they've actually posted the scores to make a case for that, I'm beginning to be okay with it (ditto Plushenko). If that kind of attitude actually helps you, then fine. Lysacek's steadiness is proving an asset (and how many of us assumed it was really unlikely that he repeat as a medalist, let alone champion).

    And the flipside, we're seeing people crack (Rochette, Kostner), strain (Asada) and waver (Kim). The Olympics are clearly coming as the pressure seems to be attacking skaters across the board.
    First of all, a great post!
    I would like to put my two senses and hopefully elaborate on #2 though. 90% of the game is mental attitude is about right. It means to reverse general expectations upside-down: skating clean program is not a norm but an exception. The more pressure filled the situation, the more this is the case. The olys being the most pressure cooked situation, that's why we may see more splat-fests.

    And I have reasons to believe that the clean programs becoming rarer:

    1. The CoP demands higher technical accuracies/proficiencies than in the past, which puts more pressure on each skater;

    2. Living in the 24hrs news cycle means you tend to be more exposed, meaning both your accomplishments and failures could be magnified. Hence, more pressure;
    3. An Olympic medal can make commercial success with millions of dollars at stake - more pressure;

    4. Additionally, technical difficulties are constantly upgraded if you want to be a medal contender. Remember, Dick Button was a multiple-gold-medalist with double jumps; he won an OGM in 1952 with the first ever triple loop jump. More than half a century later, a junior female skater can't even win her "regional" with a multiple double jumps and a triple loop!
    It is exciting to see all those technically difficult jumps for us fans; however, higher difficulty content means more pressure to athletes as well as the increased potential for "splat-fest."

    5. Finally, there is a subtle consequence of upping technical difficulties. Just like gymnastics, all those jumps come easier to youngsters, which tend to push skaters to peak earlier in age, as well as to shorten the athlete's career life-span. It has become simply too physically strenuous for longevity. Flipping side of this state of skating affair means mental immaturity due to young age and luck of experiences. Hence, more chances of less than clean programs.

    6. I think if we accept the notion that a clean program is an exception rather than a norm, we might be less critical/stressed out about this sport. I'll be the first one to admit that this notion goes against my emotional expectations for watching figure skating events.

    But isn't this precisely the reason why great champions are so rare - ones with technical and artistic mastery, and be able to deliver great programs at pressure cooked situations? And we cherish great champions because implicitly and explicitly we know how rare the combination of skills and mental toughness are.
    Last edited by CARA; 12-05-2009 at 04:19 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    Move this to another thread if more appropriate


    10. The pre- and post- emptive strikes will come fast and thick

    If <insert figure skater(s)> <insert outcome> it'll be because <insert conspiracy theory related dismissal> and not <insert reason only naive children believe>

    Some examples

    If Caroline Zhang misses out on the Olympic team it'll be because the whole figure skating community is racist and not because her poor technique makes her open to huge drops in GOE, which leads to poor results which leads to less than enthusiastic Zhang which is in turn reflected in her performances.

    If Joannie Rochette medals in Vancouver it'll be because she's a hometown contender with the judges in her back pocket and not because she's a skilled skater who works the COP like nobody else

    If Domnina and Shabalin medals in Vancouver it'll be because the evil Russian Federation will not be denied and not because they could actually deserve it.

    Anyone want to help compile them all
    hahahaha, I guess this part is almost inevitable. Some obsessed fans think that they are doing figure skating world a favour by bringing justice to their favorite skater if he/she doesn't win. However, what they are really doing is driving casual fans away from watching figure skating. The reason why figure skating is not that popular around the world is partly due to lack of media coverage, previous scandals, etc,etc, but it also has to do with some fans saying stuff like that. I really hope they don't after the olympic.

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    But we can revisit this topic in mid-January after Cohen announces her WD from Nats as well as her retirement
    I tend to agree for the mental toughness reason.

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    Thanks for your excellent analysis and such interesting and entertaining thoughts ImaginaryPogue.

    I could not have said it better and would have needed three times as many words to say half as much

    Of course I appreciate you saving the best thought for last

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    Great!!!


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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    10. The pre- and post- emptive strikes will come fast and thick

    If <insert figure skater(s)> <insert outcome> it'll be because <insert conspiracy theory related dismissal> and not <insert reason only naive children believe>

    Some examples

    If Caroline Zhang misses out on the Olympic team it'll be because the whole figure skating community is racist and not because her poor technique makes her open to huge drops in GOE, which leads to poor results which leads to less than enthusiastic Zhang which is in turn reflected in her performances.

    If Joannie Rochette medals in Vancouver it'll be because she's a hometown contender with the judges in her back pocket and not because she's a skilled skater who works the COP like nobody else

    If Domnina and Shabalin medals in Vancouver it'll be because the evil Russian Federation will not be denied and not because they could actually deserve it.

    Anyone want to help compile them all
    Thank you! (and some of them are becoming memes) It's becoming ridiculous with these if a, then b statements.

    You might want to add: If X European lady makes podium, it's because of her looks, not because some of them actually have decent skating skills.

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    Quote from CARA: Finally, there is a subtle consequence of upping technical difficulties. Just like gymnastics, all those jumps come easier to youngsters, which tend to push skaters to peak earlier in age, as well as to shorten the athlete's career life-span. It has become simply too physically strenuous for longevity. Flipping side of this state of skating affair means mental immaturity due to young age and luck of experiences. Hence, more chances of less than clean programs.

    This is one that bothers me hugely, and has for years (even before CoP). One reason is that it tends to affect ladies skating more than men's. We've examined the issue from various angles in different threads and have never really figured out a solution--not that we'd have a say in the matter. I guess we'll just have to continue watching with our hearts in our mouths, or devote ourselves to curling.

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    Dedicated follower of the black line Wicked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkestMoon View Post
    You might want to add: If X European lady makes podium, it's because of her looks, not because some of them actually have decent skating skills.
    I thought that only applied to the ladies from Finland?

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    ImaginaryPogue, Great observations!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wicked View Post
    I thought that only applied to the ladies from Finland?
    Finnish Ladies: Finnish Beauty Bonus.
    Italian Lady: Speedy Brownnosing Bonus.
    Russian Lady: Russian Politiking Bonus.


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    Off the ice Buttercup's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigsisjiejie View Post
    Finnish Ladies: Finnish Beauty Bonus.
    Italian Lady: Speedy Brownnosing Bonus.
    Russian Lady: Russian Politiking Bonus.
    How astute!

    Of course, looking at disciplines in which skaters from other European countries are competitive:
    If they're French, it's that corrupt Didier Gailhaguet buying judges.
    If they're German, the judges were probably afraid of Ingo Steuer.
    And if it's Stephane Lambiel, it's quite likely that nobody will complain .

    ImaginaryPogue, great post . I didn't agree with all of it, but interesting observations and you brought up some really good points.

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    Yes, how could I forget the Finn Beauty bonus. My mistake. This is why I needed help to compile them

    Thanks for the kind words everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    ImaginaryPogue, great post . I didn't agree with all of it, but interesting observations and you brought up some really good points.
    Out of curiousity (and I desire to debate someone), which points did you disagree with?

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