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Thread: Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

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    Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

    Would you identify a single quality or element without which a skater should not be considered worthy of winning a competition, in your opinion?

    I'm going to list a number of different qualities that have been casually proposed in discussions or that are implied by ISU rules. Clearly there are other qualities and elements that are valued and rewarded but that don't seem to be make-or-break deciders.

    If you choose more than one, how would you rank your choices?

    Please feel free to add other things if I leave out an option you'd want to choose.

    I'll start with singles skating; later maybe I'll make separate lists for pairs and dance.


    *Speed

    *Continuous flow on edges

    *Edge security

    *Edge depth

    *Difficulty and variety of steps, turns, and other blade-based skating moves (throughout the program and/or specifically in the official sequences)

    *Difficulty of jump content

    *Variety of jump content

    *Size and speed of the jumps

    *Correctness of jump technique including takeoff and landing edges, amount of rotation in the air, air position

    *A single important kind of jump element

    *Well-roundedness and variety of all types of skills including connecting moves as well as all categories of elements

    *Carriage, extension, body alignment

    *Relationship to the audience

    *Relationship to the music

    *Thematic coherence of the choreography

    *Originality in technical content and/or choreography

    *Full use of the ice surface including amount of ice covered (related to speed and edge depth) as well as choices of element placement and multidirectional skating and varied pathways

    *Lack of disruptive errors

    *Winning the free program

    *Average level of performance over both programs

    *(up to 1990 only) Ability to trace circles on clean edges with clean turns

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Thank you for this thread! In fact, I was just about to PM you with a queston (posed below) about this.

    To me, the sina qua non is #2, continuous flow on edges.

    It can't be difficult jumps, because there was skating before there was jumping. It can't be tracing perfect circles because skating has continued long after school figures were abandoned. You don't need music to skate. You don't need choreography to skate. You don't need an audinece to skate. You can skate slowly and you are still skating.

    But if you are not flowing across the ice, then why are you out there?

    Here is what I regardas a perfect skating performance. (This was posted recently on another thread -- OK, I posted it. ) This is Kristi Yamaguchi doing a show program near the end of her professional career. The program consists almost entirely of flowing along on the ice, while displaying a sampling of pleasing positions of the upper body and arms. This is what the angels will be doing when I march through the pearly gates.

    Now, my question is: Is this hard to do, or is it something that any accomplished skater can do?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWfOF6o5jBs

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    To me, the sina qua non is #2, continuous flow on edges.
    I'll agree with that choice (and your reasoning).

    Here is what I regardas a perfect skating performance. (This was posted recently on another thread -- OK, I posted it. ) This is Kristi Yamaguchi doing a show program near the end of her professional career. The program consists almost entirely of flowing along on the ice, while displaying a sampling of pleasing positions of the upper body and arms. This is what the angels will be doing when I march through the pearly gates.

    Now, my question is: Is this hard to do, or is it something that any accomplished skater can do?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWfOF6o5jBs
    I would say that any accomplished skater -- average novice level and up -- could perform all or almost all of those skills. But what makes this special is the effortlessness and seamlessness of the edges and body movement, which are at an extremely high level that most skaters will never achieve even if they can do lots of triple jumps.

    Mid-level difficulty but top-notch quality.

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    Custom Title spikydurian's Avatar
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    I will give it try, gkelly, ranking the skills which I as a non-skater see as what differentiates one skater from another.

    1) Speed (which tends to be most obvious) and ice coverage.
    2) Flow and deep edges and the ability to turn in all directions without stopping.
    3) Blade work - which is least obvious if watching from afar in the rink. I love love it when the t.v. zooms on the footwork of the various skaters.
    4) Jumps - technical perfection, height, distance, exit and entry.
    5) Carriage and posture- some skaters just have that 'soft lovely body movements' (I don't know why some just have it and some don't. And not all those who have 'it' are within the top ten in the Worlds nor some of the top ten in the Worlds have 'it').
    6) Spins - speed and lines

    The rest are dressings which add up to the uniqueness of figure skating as sport which are important too but I rate the above skills as something which I first look out for.
    Last edited by spikydurian; 11-26-2012 at 09:58 PM.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    ^ That is an interesting take on the question! So, we watch a top level competition. All of the skaters are pretty good. But at the end of the day, we say."This skater was the best and deserves the medal." Why?

    To me, posing the question this way brings "big jumps, no fall" to the fore, especially for the men. If a guy starts out with 4T+3T, 4T, 3A, 3A+2T, that guy has got my attention. I can forgive weak choreography and blah musicality.

  6. #6
    For me it all boils down to connection..to the music, the audience & the choreography. To me that's what makes a skater great and its what makes skating unique from other sports. Difficulty and the ability to skate cleanly are important, but if you have that connection I'm not even focused on the elements. There have been many times I've watched and program that I loved and afterwords couldn't tell you what jumps they did. A quad lutz to open would certainly get my attention...but only that connection will hold it.
    Last edited by BravesSkateFan; 12-01-2012 at 08:36 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    To me, posing the question this way brings "big jumps, no fall" to the fore, especially for the men. If a guy starts out with 4T+3T, 4T, 3A, 3A+2T, that guy has got my attention. I can forgive weak choreography and blah musicality.
    I look at the feet first. Always. If the feet are good, the edges are deep, strong, clean and quiet, speed is achieved effortlessly in a few strokes, the skater has good blade skills in the footwork, and deep strong edges, I'm a fan. I became an Arakawa fan just watching her stroke around the rink. Just the thought of her skating makes me swoon. And don't get me started on Yuka, Yags or Kurt. Of the current skaters, there's Patrick, Takahiko, Yuzuru, Nobi (softest jumping landings - like a feather), and of course, Daisuke. Irina had the most amazing speed and power over the ice. Three strokes and she was flying.

    If the feet and basic skating are strong, then I want them put to good use. I want to see them doing complete programs, with real choreography and to pay attention to the music. Nothing bores me more completely than watching skaters strong around stalking jumps. It's why I'm not a Plushenko fan, even though his feet are to die for. My husband used to watch Elvis Stojko setting up for a jump and finally yell "Jump already!" at the TV.

    If the feet aren't good, I'm not interested in the rest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    Would you identify a single quality or element without which a skater should not be considered worthy of winning a competition, in your opinion?

    *Relationship to the audience
    Speaking purely from the point of view of "a Sport"...

    This characteristic may be more related to "Fine Arts" than "Sport", depending on the intended definition of "relationship". Also not certain how to classify "Thematic coherence of the choreography", depending on the meaning of "Thematic coherence".

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    ^ Still, I think that pleasing the audience is a symptom of having given a good performance, and this is true of sports as well as other forms of entertainment.

    Interesting about "Thematic coherence of the choreography." To me, that's what Suzuki's LP has in spades this season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    ^ Still, I think that pleasing the audience is a symptom of having given a good performance, and this is true of sports as well as other forms of entertainment.

    Interesting about "Thematic coherence of the choreography." To me, that's what Suzuki's LP has in spades this season.
    Perhaps judges view competitions in a different light than the fans. As fans, we put high value on our "entertainment". Just read the many posts on these FS boards, and see how many mention or are related to the entertainment value of the programs. Perhaps the judges are primarily interested in the skating skills within the confines of the rules. Audience connection, thematic coherence, etc. may be secondary to them. Do the judges even have time to sit back and appreciate the programs from an entertainment point-of-view? If the ISU would like to protect Figure Skating as a Sport, would they want to risk elevating "entertainment value" to a point where it may rise above "skating skills"? At that point, would Figure Skating be moving down the path towards Fine Art, and away from Sport?
    Last edited by rvi5; 12-04-2012 at 11:03 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rvi5 View Post
    Perhaps judges view competitions in a different light than the fans. As fans, we put high value on our "entertainment". Just read the many posts on these FS boards, and see how many mention or are related to the entertainment value of the programs. Perhaps the judges are primarily interested in the skating skills within the confines of the rules. Audience connection, thematic coherence, etc. may be secondary to them. Do the judges even have time to sit back and appreciate the programs from an entertainment point-of-view? If the ISU would like to protect Figure Skating as a Sport, would they want to risk elevating "entertainment value" to a point where it may rise above "skating skills"? At that point, would Figure Skating be moving down the path towards Fine Art, and away from Sport?
    Its a tricky predicament. Certainly the judges have no other responsibility than to score conscientiously according to the rules. But the question is whether the rules themselves should take into account audience appeal.

    This is very much the case in other sports. Every year the baseball umpires association gets together with Major League Baseball (MLB owns Ice Network, by the way) and they decide whether the fans want to see more home runs or more pitching duals this year. Then they instruct the umpires to call the strike zone wider or more narrowly accordingly. The National Basketball Association brought in the three-point shot to make the game more exciting to the fans, and they continue to tinker with lane rules, the criteria for charging versus blocking calls, etc., in order to place the best possible product before the customers.

    All sports fall into the category of Recreation and Entertainment. (What else? It's not agriculture and mining, its not transportation and communication, its not banking and financial services. ) If you skate yourself, that's recreation. If you watch someone else skating, that's entertainment. My concern is that with the IJS the ISU is drawing an ever-narrowing circle about itself, resulting in a sport/performing art discipline that is of interest to fewer and fewer people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    ...This is very much the case in other sports. Every year the baseball umpires association gets together with Major League Baseball (MLB owns Ice Network, by the way) and they decide whether the fans want to see more home runs or more pitching duals this year. Then they instruct the umpires to call the strike zone wider or more narrowly accordingly. The National Basketball Association brought in the three-point shot to make the game more exciting to the fans, and they continue to tinker with lane rules, the criteria for charging versus blocking calls, etc., in order to place the best possible product before the customers...
    The same is true for Hockey. The "icing" rule was implemented after the New York Americans iced the puck 50 times, while the Boston Bruins iced it 87 times during a single game. Likewise, a rule was implemented against goalies who hold the puck unnecessarily. This first occurred in a Toronto Maple Leaf verses Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup final game (which tells you how long ago that was). The Toronto goalie would throw himself on the puck whenever it came anywhere near him (as if it were a grenade). The rules were implemented to keep the game flowing and more enjoyable. However, these are tweaks to the technical aspect of the game which I liken to the ISU tweaking required content, footwork, jumps, etc (for better or worse). I can't think of another sport where a "relationship to the audience" would be a scoring requirement. In most other sports, the audience entertainment is typically derived from the suspense of who will win, and the appreciation of the technical skills needed to achieve the end result (eg. baseball involves pitching, batting, running, throwing, catching, and strategy).

    I am not saying entertainment value is bad thing to have in Figure Skating (it sells tickets). However some of it may be stepping outside the realm of "Sport", and may be of secondary concern to the judges. If the ISU/judges had their way, would they structure competitions like "Figures" had been, and instead have the audience buy tickets to the Gala for the entertainment?
    Last edited by rvi5; 12-04-2012 at 02:22 PM.

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    Sine qua non: Elements and Quality

    I think Kaetlyn Osmond's Ice Palace skating club is in a unique position to promote Figure Skating. Being located in the middle of a popular mall, they can attract a crowd of miscellaneous viewers. However, I don't know what type of financial arrangement they have with mall management. If they must lease ice time, they may not be in a position to promote skating unless there was also a bigger financial goal to cover the cost, like acquiring new paying members.

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