Grand Prix finals: “major championship” or “who cares?”
Here’s what I think.
It takes time for a sporting event to develop the tradition, history and cache that characterizes a big deal in the sporting world. Organizing committees and international regulatory bodies cannot just declare an event to be important by fiat. There is no particular reason why the Masters is the most prestigious tournament in golf, and Wimbledon in tennis. They just are.
The Grand Prix is only 15 years old. It began as fund-raiser for the ISU in the 1995-96 season by matching up the winners of several invitational events around the world. I doubt if the Bofrost Cup (aka the Sparkassen Cup, the Nations Cup, and the Fijifilm Trophy) was any more prestigious than some of the independently produced cheesefests. (For one thing, the cheesefests offered bigger purses.)
I think it is significant that Japan is the country that pays the most attention to making the Grand Prix Final and placing well. Although Japan has been involved in skating for a long time, only recently has it risen to a place of dominance. To European counties, the Johnny-come-lately Grand Prix can’t hold a candle to the century-old European Championship.
I think the Grand Prix will live long and prosper \\//_ As it gets its feet on the ground, skaters of the future will be eager to carve their name on the trophy beneath those of the legendary giants that grandpop keeps going on and on about – Yu-na Kim, Mao Asada,…Jeremy Abbott….
she takes the audience on her journey of emotions
Good post and I also have thought the GP is taking on more importance and will continue to do so with the rise of the Asian skaters. I know they have FC - but the GP series and final seems at least to surpass that competition in importance, doesn't it? Probably because there it's a prolonged event. Correct me if I'm wrong but when Yuna and Mao faced off that the GP it was a fairly big deal in their countries, no?
Here's a Kyodo story I came across recently about Mao and it describes the GP final as "prestigious"
I think it may also be significant that NHK Trophy existed for over a decade before the Champion Series was created, only one Olympic cycle past the Sapporo games. I'd bet "their" GP event is a little bit more of a thing to them than Bofrost Cup or the other random GP events of days gone by. Trophee French Company, Skate Canada, Skate America all have a long history too, but for various reasons probably aren't quite as signifcant for skating fans in those countries. The way fans in a GP host country see "their" GP event probably has a lot to do with how they see the entire series. The whole thing does seem calculated to play a bit into nationalist fervor, the way invitations/assignments work.
Originally Posted by Mathman
If there's one thing I've learned in school, it's that traditions are invented (Hobsbawm et al.)
With more time and more promotion, I'm sure the GPF will be fine.
GPF is of course more prestigious than any of the GP events. As we all know, skaters have to place well in two events to reach the Grand Prix Final. On the other hand the GP events are different, if a skater is lucky, in some event one can place well easier than in some other event, LOL. So much depends on with whom you are competing with in that particular GP event...
Although GPF might include most of the "best skaters", I don´t see it as a major event like Europeans, Worlds and Olympics. 4CC might become a major event like Europeans, if it would include best skaters more often and not just the lesser ones mostly. Maybe it should be held in some other time?
Last edited by Jaana; 12-10-2010 at 04:10 AM.
I would say that the icenetwork ranking point system for different competitions got the order of importance of major competitions right, though not necessarily the gap between those competitions: Olympics>Worlds>GPF>Euros=4CC. True, GPF and 4CC is very young compared to other competitions listed, but we should consider the nature of the competitions.
I believe I can be bold as to say that a few would challenge the view that the Olympics followed by the Worlds are in different leagues from GPF, Euros or 4CC. Now, Euros and 4CC (and North American Championships before 1970s) are in essence "regional" competitions in that they were designed to determine the best athlete coming from geographically defined, non-universal areas. As far as politically correct logic is concerned, being the best in Europe or being the best in other four continents in itself doesn't confer any valid claim to be the best in the World. This may not necessarily correlate well with reality in certain cases that being the best in one continent effectively implies being the best in the World (e.g. European Gymnastic Champions usually have excellent chance of frying bigger fishes at the Worlds or the Olympics). Even if this implication may be conceded at a certain point in time, the situation is transitionary and may have change completely in a decade's time. Thus, one should focus upon the constant feature of the Euros (for last 60 years anyway)-that it is a regional championships. The 4CC has legally the same status as the Euros, and rightly so, despite lacklustre standard from time to time.
GPF on the other hand is open to the competitors from around the World, seeking to find the Winner among the Winners (or place-getters) of various qualifying competitions. As such, unlike "regional" Euros or 4CC, it can be considered a global competition. While it won't (and in my opinion, shouldn't) ever replace the World's, in some ways it is a better assessment of athlete's abilities, especially regarding consistency. It is much more difficult to "fluke" one's way to GPF, as providing 6 sound performances is much more difficult to fluke than providing only two required to win the Worlds. The Grand Prix Series is designed to give the best chance of making into and winning the GPF to statistically the best competitors from the previous season. While the surprise non-inclusion or withdrawal can reduce the quality of the competition, the World is not systematically protected from it either.
Now, I am aware of the arguments revolving around the fact the GPF and/or 4CC is quite young compared to the Euros. However, while the long history of the Euros witnessed the performances of many great skaters, I believe it is wrong to give excess prestige to the competition in a certain time based on august past even if the European Champions would struggle to mount the podium in a "global" competition. While the pre-WW2 Euros, at least as far as the singles competitions were concerned, had significant correlations with the outcome of the Olympics and the Worlds (and indeed, allowed participation of non-European competitors despite the name, making it sort of a "minor" World title), same cannot be said of it now-Europe is no longer the undisputed centre of the (singles) figure skating. It may recover much of its glory in future. The point is that it is unwise in my opinion to afford inherent additional prestige based on past glory no matter what the standard of the competition might be at a certain point in time. Slightly modifying what evangeline has quoted from Hobsbawm, I contend that the tradition is only worth what one would make it worth.
As an aside, think of situation in boxing. Until 1960s, the WBA World title was deemed to be the only legitimate World Boxing Championships. Since then, rival sanctioning organisations have been formed, and while WBA is still one of the four major sanctioning bodies (there are several other "non-major" sanctioning bodies), it is no longer THE title. Past prestige doesn't guarantee the standard and prestige of the present.
I would like to end by referring to the opinions of two of the elite figure skaters regarding the status of GPF. Patrick Chan was quoted saying in an interview with Universal Sports only 3 days ago that in his opinion "the (Grand Prix) final is like a mini-World Championships" (http://www.universalsports.com/news/...id=504591.html). Yu-Na Kim said in a TV appearance earlier in the year that she believed that the GPF is the third most important competition after the Olympics and the Worlds. I wouldn't speculate whether Chan and Kim being eligible for the 4CC rather than the Euros have anything to do with their opinions, but it is evident that they hold the GPF in high regard. Kim in particular named GPF ahead of the 4CC, which is legally of equal status to the Euros. One may draw a conclusion or two from those comments.
Last edited by sydneyphoenix; 12-10-2010 at 08:17 AM.
leave no stone unturned
I think in the past it used to be more glamour and the prize money was much higher, but still in one of the biggest comps!And a chance for many skaters to meet before worlds.
"Hold an edge and look sexy!"
IMO, the Grand Prix Final is only behind the Olympics and Worlds in terms of prestige. I think it holds more weight than a European or Four Continents championship because the champion is usually someone who has to maintain a certain level of consistency over 3 events with 2 phases in each event. The champion is not only having to face off against skaters from his/her own continent or nation, but from all around the world as well, which is why I place it as 3rd in level of prestige behind Olympics and Worlds. In a way, it's like a mid-season mini World championship, like figure skating's college mid-terms, if you will.
I'd agree. The GPF is one of the few really international events besides Worlds and the Olympics. 4CC is missing the fifth C, Europe, which for years meant that the top ice dancers and pairs weren't even eligible to compete. (Now with Chinese pairs and North American ice dancers, that's not as relevant.) As well, as you've all mentioned, this competition has a long lead-up with the national events.
The whole series is also a great road test not only for the skaters, but for viewers. The benefits to skaters of refining their programs in repeated competitions (three times during the season if they're lucky) are obvious. For the other side, I'm old enough to remember when the only skating competitions you could see on TV were the Nationals and Worlds most years, and you never got a sense of who was who. In the first Olympics I ever watched, I had no idea what the East German lady was like, and she ended up coming in third. With the GP series, we can all learn about skaters from countries such as Georgia and Korea who could be factors in the World Championships.
Mathman, I love your "live long and prosper" symbol! Right back at you. Wait....\\ //.
Somewhere between for me. Should be more prestigious then it is, and may be gaining. I think the schedule isn't quite right. Maybe if it was the week after the last GP there be more a sense of drama. As I've said elsewhere - I'd really like 4CC to be more meaningful.
If I recall correctly, the whole GP - GPF was started to keep skaters from turning Pro as soon as they won a few medals. I wonder if the GP series should have slightly different requirements then Worlds, etc,- if it tested and rewarded slightly different skills. It would give it it's own identity and therefore it's own prestige.
I think the limited participants (only 6 or 6 pairs in each discipline) and the neglects of the impact of its results from some countries (such as the USA's way of selecting their country's world team) undermined GPF's significance.
To me, GPF is very prestigeous. Its participation has to be earned through preliminary rounds, the participations in which has to be earned in turn. So it's a meet of the creme de la creme. equivalent to the Final Flight of a World Champeionship. As a fan, I like the condensed competitions as well, not having to sit through 20+ skaters to finally watch the contenders. However, since it's earlier in the season, its prestige is deferential to that of the World Championship. Its placements don't detate those in WC but help elite skaters better prepare for the end of season big showdown. Being elitist is of course always unfair to the underdogs, who don't get to practice as much.
I like it. It gives me more to watch and I get to follow the skaters' progress through the season. I imagine skaters like having more opportunities to compete and to prepare for the WC as well.
I say who cares! I think most skaters feel that way as well. Ask any of them, in Europe especially if they would rather have a GPF gold or a European gold, they answer would always be a European championship.
The way the GP assignments are given out aren't equal, (esp in pairs this year) I don't think you should have to skate in two of them to make the GPF if your score is high enough to have to do only one. It should go by top 6 scores in the entire GP competition, not how many competitions you have been assigned.
FCC should be just as prestigious as Euros but the best people need to be sent there.
It's up to the skater, IMHO.
But I think the problem with the Grand Prix in general is that it's no way connected to the later championship events, so the skaters may see it as a sort of "practice run" before the tone changes. If the ISU wants to increase the GPF's prestige, they need to connect it to Worlds/Euros/4CCs somehow. How about automatic qualification to worlds for the winners? Not saying it should be done, just suggesting.
leave no stone unturned
I m not sure exactly the years but I m pretty sure in the first seasons of the last decade GPF was in January or even February after Euros. I think 2-3 GPF were like this for sure, I specifically remember the one in Russia was almost in March. I dont know if anyone else remembers it that way but it was way more exciting and a great competition before worlds.