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Thread: Interview With an Olympic Judge

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    Lightbulb Interview With an Olympic Judge

    http://tony-wheeler.blogspot.com/201...ompletely.html

    Patrick Ibens has been on the judging panel for the last two mens competitions at the Olympic Games. He decided that the Vancouver Games would be his last event. Read his opinions about the ice dancing judging, Plushenko vs. Lysacek, Joseph Inman's e-mail, the components scores, and much more. The page doesn't have a fancy layout or anything out of the ordinary, but I think it is an interesting read for any figure skating fan. Feel free to leave comments here or there. Thanks!
    Last edited by Tony Wheeler; 03-10-2010 at 11:25 AM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Most insightful skating interview I've read all season! Thank you and congratulations on an outstanding job.

    Here is a sobering point. In addition to pressure from their own federations, to national bias, and to wanting to stay in the "corridor," one reason for less than honest judging is

    trying to push a skater from a country to get invitations to act as a referee in that country...
    TW: Have you personally ever been asked to judge a certain way or hold a skater up or down by other judges or federations?

    PI: Only once, but it wasn’t at a high level competition. In fact, it happened at a national championship where a certain skater needed to win to be sent to the Europeans. Even then, I didn’t give in. As a result, I was never invited to judge there again!
    Some other interesting quotes:

    TW: Based on your own definitions and since you were on the judging panel for the mens competition, which man would you consider the strongest on each of the five?

    PI: Skating skills: Takahashi, Transitions and choreography: Chan, Performance: Lysacek, Interpretation: Abbott.
    TW: (Overall Olympic winner)... Lysacek or Plushenko?

    PI: Takahashi!


    Edited to add: Since this interview raises so many questions of general interest about judging, I think I will move it to the Edge, where it will attract more views and comments.
    Last edited by Mathman; 03-07-2010 at 08:33 PM.

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    Wow! Great interview - thanks for posting. Some of his comments sort of explain why most of the top competitors get really similar PCS scores even though they really deserve different marks, and why some of the skaters in earlier groups tend to get lowballed. But what if a judge DID get reviewed for giving PCS scores that were removed from the average? Couldn't they justify their marks and still be ok?

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    Custom Title prettykeys's Avatar
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    ...probably about the same proportion of people are "completely honest", in general.

    Quite sad, though, that even without giving into the incentives, a judge has to be worried about consequences for sticking with their conscience (i.e. not being invited to be a representative judge of a federation.)

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    I'm terribly sorry for asking what must be very apparent, but what does:

    trying to push a skater from a country to get invitations to act as a referee in that country...

    mean?

    Also, if it's their own federation that is one of the root causes of dishonest judging, then the selection of judges should not be left up to their federation only. For example, it could be done so that their own and other federations have to agree to approve a certain candidate as a judge. In this way, whoever is selected has to not only 'please' their own federation but other federations, which would force them to be unbiased.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prettykeys View Post
    ...probably about the same proportion of people are "completely honest", in general.
    I didn't want to be the first to mention it, but in addition, whenever such questions arise, the respondent is always in the ten per cent -- but those other guys!

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    Custom Title Nadia01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hurrah View Post
    I'm terribly sorry for asking what must be very apparent, but what does:

    trying to push a skater from a country to get invitations to act as a referee in that country...

    mean?
    scenario:

    Judge Bob props up Skater Joe from Inane Country at some competitions. Judge Bob hopes that propping up Skater Joe will please Inane Country, and as a result, Inane Country's Skating Federation invites Judge Bob to be a referee in Inane Country.

    Does this help?

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    Custom Title prettykeys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    I didn't want to be the first to mention it, but in addition, whenever such questions arise, the respondent is always in the ten per cent -- but those other guys!
    Yeah...I know. I'm definitely in the 90% "guilty" (although "guilty" only about 1% of the time--makes the lies very very sneaky and useful when I need them ). The implication is that I do think it's very human to want to support your own nation's skater, and to want to "fulfill your unspoken obligations to your federation", but the degree of fibbing-judgment matters, too.

    Biggest hurdle: anonymous judging! :banging:

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    Anonymous judging I think is the biggest problem. Because if you dare to be different, or go outside that corridor that keeps getting referred to in this interview, then you look like you're the one who isn't doing your "job" right, even if it is completely the exact opposite. I think it's difficult to draw the line between an honest opinion and pushing a skater either way too high or low, and that's why the powers that be want everyone to be in line with each other. The components scores really shouldn't be an "opinion" type of matter now when there's established guidelines for each level of the 10.00 scoring system, but still it seems everyone plays it safe.

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    Custom Title hurrah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nadia01 View Post
    scenario:

    Judge Bob props up Skater Joe from Inane Country at some competitions. Judge Bob hopes that propping up Skater Joe will please Inane Country, and as a result, Inane Country's Skating Federation invites Judge Bob to be a referee in Inane Country.

    Does this help?
    Thank you! So it's:

    trying to push a skater from a country other than the judge's so that this judge will get invitations to act as a referee in the skater's country...

    That's really interesting. And I finally get why some national competitions have huge scores and others not so huge compared to international competitions. If the national competition had relatively inflated scores, then that country's federation is not worried about winning the 'trust' of other federations, and vice versa.

    Wow. That really makes it mean that selection of judges even at national competitions should have to be met with the approval of other federations, if judges are to be provided with an environment where they can be honest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zizi31 View Post
    But what if a judge DID get reviewed for giving PCS scores that were removed from the average? Couldn't they justify their marks and still be ok?
    Here is the document that describes the procedure (warning -- it is written in ISU-speak )

    http://isu.sportcentric.net/db//files/serve.php?id=453

    Scroll down to paragraph E where they define, with examples, how the "corridor" is determined. It is based on actual numerical differences of a judges' scores from the mean, not on standard deviations. The corridor is actually pretty wide, so you have to be way off from the other judges to register an "anomaly" (total discrepancies outside the corridor.)

    The corridor on GOEs is one point for each scored element. So for instance, for the short program with eight required elements you can be off by a total of 8 points from the other judges.

    For PCSs you can be off by a total of 7.5 points.

    At each event, there is a representative of the ISU's "Officials Assessment Commission" in attendance. This person, within twenty-four hours, reviews each "anomaly" and decides whether or not, in his/her opinion it really represents biased or incompetent judging. If so, that judge is assigned an "assessment."

    If you get four assessments in a season, then you are subject to disciplinary action by the full Technical Committee. This punishment is typically a ban from officiating at any ISU event for a certain period of time. It is at this point that the judge has an opportunity to defend his or her marks before the ISU Technical Committee. The "accused" judge may at this time present video tapes, etc., to justify the marks.

    Last year, as I recall -- we had a thread about it at the time -- there were something like five or six such penalties handed out in singles and pairs, and about another five or six in ice dancing.

    All in all, it is a procedure that judges would prefer to avoid.

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    Dreaming and dancing Bennett's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Wheeler View Post
    Anonymous judging I think is the biggest problem. Because if you dare to be different, or go outside that corridor that keeps getting referred to in this interview, then you look like you're the one who isn't doing your "job" right, even if it is completely the exact opposite. I think it's difficult to draw the line between an honest opinion and pushing a skater either way too high or low, and that's why the powers that be want everyone to be in line with each other. The components scores really shouldn't be an "opinion" type of matter now when there's established guidelines for each level of the 10.00 scoring system, but still it seems everyone plays it safe.
    Intuitively speaking, I feel that anonymous judging would make it okay for going outside the corridor beause they cannot find out who you are.

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    Thank you, Mathman. I'll take a closer look at that link. The corridor does seem pretty wide, but at the same time, I wonder if any of the accused judges are ever able to successfully defend their marks. It seems like if you have a genuine difference of opinion, you won't be listened to if you end up being reviewed. (Even though these things aren't supposed to be opinion-based, I'm sure that opinions still come into play.) There's probably a lot of pressure to conform, and while some pressure may be necessary to discourage cheaters, too much of it can lead to excessive adherence to the status quo.

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    Custom Title Nadia01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hurrah View Post
    Thank you! So it's:

    trying to push a skater from a country other than the judge's so that this judge will get invitations to act as a referee in the skater's country...

    That's really interesting. And I finally get why some national competitions have huge scores and others not so huge compared to international competitions. If the national competition had relatively inflated scores, then that country's federation is not worried about winning the 'trust' of other federations, and vice versa.

    Wow. That really makes it mean that selection of judges even at national competitions should have to be met with the approval of other federations, if judges are to be provided with an environment where they can be honest.
    I think it can be a skater from the judge's country. It doesn't have to be a foreign skater.

    That's why I don't really care much about national competition scores b/c there's a lot of inflation, etc. due to political reasons. I only care about the final placement for national competitions, and give more weight to international competition scores. For example, Mao almost always scores very high in Japan, and she rarely scores like that at major international events (most notably GP events and Worlds). Patrick is the same -- his Canadian national scores are ridiculously high. (I imagine that Yuna would score like a million points at Kor Nat, but she's stopped competing there, so who knows?)

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    Custom Title hurrah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nadia01 View Post
    For example, Mao almost always scores very high in Japan, and she rarely scores like that at major international events (most notably GP events and Worlds). Patrick is the same -- his Canadian national scores are ridiculously high. (I imagine that Yuna would score like a million points at Kor Nat, but she's stopped competing there, so who knows?)
    Well, Mao's scores at World Trophy and Nationals were not high compared to her Olympic score, though they were lower than this year's GP and last year's Worlds. But can't that be mostly explained by the fact that she didn't have any jump mistakes at World Trophy and Nationals while her GP outing was disasterous, and she also made jump mistakes at Worlds? I don't recall that Japan Nationals had inflated scores, certainly not to the extent of Canadian or Russian Nationals. I don't know about Patrick. His score seems to be something people love to talk about. However, that Patrick's score was ridiculously high at Nationals can be explained by the fact that the Canadian Nationals had inflated scores in general (Joannie's score was very high too). But he also did do quite well at Olympics in the long program.

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