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Thread: Thoughts on the format of the GP Series

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Thoughts on the format of the GP Series

    I have been coming under a lot of criticism recently for saying that I do not think that the Grand Prix series is at the same level as what I have termed the “Major Competitions” i.e. the European Championships, the 4 Continents, and the World Championships.

    So, I thought I would start a thread to explain what I do not like about the GP Series, and some ideas on how it could be improved.

    But, before that, I would like to make clear that I do actually like the GP Series! In fact, I think it is a brilliant concept. It is just that there are some areas that I feel need improved to bring back some of the gloss it has lost in recent years.

    Firstly, I would like to see an increase in the number of GP events from the current 6 to 8. Specifically, I would like to see:

    2 in North America: USA and Canada
    2 in Western Europe: France and Germany
    2 in Eastern Europe: Russia and somewhere else
    2 in the Far East: Japan and China

    I haven’t made a decision on where I think the 2nd Eastern European GP should be. But, perhaps some of the existing competitions (e.g. the Ondrej Nepela Memorial, Tirnavia, Crystal Skate, Golden Spin, Pavel Roman Memorial) could take it in turns to be run to GP rules one year, and then run to their normal rules in the intervening years.

    For that matter, given what Kin Yu-Na has done, how about adding Korea into the mix? We could have China and Japan one year; Japan and Korea the next; Korea and China the third; and so on. We could even do the something similar in Western Europe by adding Italy into the mix with France and Germany.

    More importantly, though, there needs to be an increase in the number of competitors at each event.

    I can understand why the number of competitors was decreased last season. It is much easier for TV companies to fit competitions that are 1hr-1hr15m (for the SP) or 1hr30m (for the FS) into their schedules than if they were longer. And, hence, more sponsors, advertising revenue, etc.

    But, what about the spectators rinkside who have actually paid to watch? I feel they are getting really short-changed. Especially when there are so many withdrawals…

    Put it like this: is it any wonder that there are often masses of empty seats during the Short Programmes when there are at most 10 competitors and the competitions only last an hour?

    I would like to see the GP competitions return to having 12 competitors in EVERY category, be it singles, pairs or ice dance. (So, 3 groups of 4 competitors).

    Also, I would like it to be a requirement that the organisers of each event have to have up to 4 local “wildcards” on standby to step in if there are last-minute withdrawals, so that you are assured of getting 12 competitors in each category.

    I do like the way that this season the ISU got rid of the option for skaters to do a third GP. It just made things too complicated, with some competitors relying on their results from 2 GP’s, and others taking their best 2 results from 3 GP’s.

    Another thing that I feel that the ISU needs to write into the rules is that skaters are banned from competing in consecutive GP’s. I know it does not happen too often that skaters compete on consecutive weekends, but when it does, you can see the affect it has on them. They might be able to get through the Short Programme the second week, but they really struggle with the Free Skate.

    But, I do think that it should become compulsory that everybody who enters the GP Series as a regular competitor (as opposed to a wildcard) does 2 GP’s. That way, we would avoid the scenario we had with Kaetlyn Osmond this year, where she won Skate Canada but didn’t have another GP appearance, and so couldn’t get enough points to get into the Finals.

    Speaking of the Finals, I think the spectators are getting seriously short-changed with only the top 6 competitors getting into the Finals! Like, that is not even an hour to get through all the Short Programmes!

    So, if we had 12 competitors in each of the events, with each of them competing at 2 of the 8 events, that would be (12x8)/2 = 96/2 = 48 competitors in total.

    To be honest, I am dithering between having the top 10 go through to the Finals, or having the top 8 go through. 8 would be a better number for keeping to the “4 competitors on the ice during each warm-up” guideline, as well as keeping the length of the competitions down for the TV scheduling. But, 10 would be more value-for-money for the spectators rinkside.

    As for letting skaters that are too young for Senior competitions compete, I am of two minds about this. It is nice to see the up-and-coming talent (like Julia Lipnitskaya this year, or Adelina and Liza last year). But at the same time, is it really fair having 14 year-olds competing against 30 year-olds (as sometimes happens)?

    Put it like this, I would definitely not agree with having anybody younger than 14 appearing, either as a competitor or as a featured performer in the gala. I’ve nothing against the skills of this age of skaters (just look at what Elena Radionova is doing!), but there is a danger that having such young skaters might attract the wrong sort of people to watch our sport…

    But, more of that in my other thread ( http://www.goldenskate.com/forum/showthread.php?39696 )

    So, what do other members think of my ideas? Do you disagree with my ideas? Or, do you have other ideas that you think would be good that I have not thought of?

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Great post!

    I think the main problem with your suggestions is that the ISU cannot afford them. In fact, due to lack of funds the trend has been in the other direction -- fewer competitors and scrimping on money wherever possible. I think the ISU loses money on every event it puts on outside Japan.

    Fifteen years ago the ISU had something like a 15 million dollar contract with ABC television to broadcast skating events in the United States. (The USFSA paid Michelle Kwan upwards of $US 900,000 a year for her participation.) This money is long gone. The USFSA has to scramble each year to find a city/local club to put on Skate America, because it is a losing proposition financially.

    My suggestion would be to go back the the original idea of the "Championship series" (before it was called the Grand Prix). Each country that wants to can put on its own show. Then the ISU stages a big whoop at the end featuring the winners.

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    I don't think increasing the number of competitors would add excitement because, to me, there already isn't much depth in skating. Each discipline has at most 5 competitors capable of winning a world title, and each GP event features 1 or 2 of these skaters who are marked in a way to win (i.e. Mao's not getting UR calls and +GOE on doubles). The scoring system, as well as the judges, prevent depth from occurring because they protect the top skaters even when they are off. Maybe if someone who skates well and delivers a clean program, like Liza or Akiko, could actually win an event we might have an exciting sport in which anything can happen. So I think the biggest improvement to the GP series would be to score programs in a way that a good performance from a marginal skater could beat a marginal performance from a good skater.

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    Keeper of the Kweens OGM. MK's Winter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Great post!

    I think the main problem with your suggestions is that the ISU cannot afford them. In fact, due to lack of funds the trend has been in the other direction -- fewer competitors and scrimping on money wherever possible. I think the ISU loses money on every event it puts on outside Japan.

    Fifteen years ago the ISU had something like a 15 million dollar contract with ABC television to broadcast skating events in the United States. (The USFSA paid Michelle Kwan upwards of $US 900,000 a year for her participation.) This money is long gone. The USFSA has to scramble each year to find a city/local club to put on Skate America, because it is a losing proposition financially.

    My suggestion would be to go back the the original idea of the "Championship series" (before it was called the Grand Prix). Each country that wants to can put on its own show. Then the ISU stages a big whoop at the end featuring the winners.
    I miss that format! The Tv coverage used to be insane! The competition itself was broadcasted along with exhibitions. If I remember correctly it used to be 8 skaters in the final. I also loved the fluff coverage!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MK's Winter View Post
    If I remember correctly it used to be 8 skaters in the final.
    There were never more than six entries per discipline. In the early years of the Champions Series Final there were only four pairs and five dance teams (i.e., one warmup group).

    Around the turn of the century, after the name changed, they expanded the fields in those disciplines to six, and for a couple years some or all of the competitors needed to skate two free programs, so there were more programs for networks to televise if they so chose, and for viewers who had access to those networks to watch.

    Until recently, there were eight competitors per discipline in the Junior Grand Prix Final.

    As for CaroLiza_fan's ideas about the format, I'd love to see expanded fields and more events, so more skaters could participate. As always, cost is the obstacle.

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    Conveniences for TV is not the reason. As for GP events, the ISU and host federations pay participating skaters' transport and hotel costs. Before cutting the number of participants, 2-3 skaters (teams) at the bottom rarely skated well enough to make the hosts feel that it was not waste of money to invite them. I think the qualities of competitions have improved by removing low level skaters. The spectators are not cheated. They don't need to waste time with low level performances.
    Last edited by NMURA; 01-15-2013 at 08:05 PM.

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    My thoughts have more to do with the structure

    a) Go back to EIGHT JGPF finalists - it allows for more surprises.
    b) Hold the GPF/JGPF outside of the big six, except if being used as an Olympic test venue - it gives nations that aren't skating powerhouses the chance to see the top teams, without the heavy volunteer/infrastructure a worlds/euros/4CC requires.
    c) Go to 12 single skaters, ten pairs/dance teams per event.
    d) Skaters that aren't age eligible by one year or less may compete in ONE event (not two) - I like giving younger skaters a chance to compete at these events and giving them a taste of this level of competition, but I rather prefer if senior skaters and not borderlines are compete.

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    Keeper of the Kweens OGM. MK's Winter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post

    There were never more than six entries per discipline. In the early years of the Champions Series Final there were only four pairs and five dance teams (i.e., one warmup group).

    Around the turn of the century, after the name changed, they expanded the fields in those disciplines to six, and for a couple years some or all of the competitors needed to skate two free programs, so there were more programs for networks to televise if they so chose, and for viewers who had access to those networks to watch.

    Until recently, there were eight competitors per discipline in the Junior Grand Prix Final.

    As for CaroLiza_fan's ideas about the format, I'd love to see expanded fields and more events, so more skaters could participate. As always, cost is the obstacle.
    For some reason I had 8 on the brain. I think a final would be exciting with 8. It would be great if they had 8 events plus a final. I would still keep it 2 events per skater but this could open it up and get exposure to lesser known skaters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    a) Go back to EIGHT JGPF finalists - it allows for more surprises.
    I see this myth a lot. Let's break down this year's men's JGPF qualifiers:

    1. USA
    2. Russia
    3. USA
    4. China
    5. Japan
    6. Japan

    7. Russia
    8. China.


    That's "more suprises"?

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    Quote Originally Posted by karne View Post
    I see this myth a lot. Let's break down this year's men's JGPF qualifiers:

    1. USA
    2. Russia
    3. USA
    4. China
    5. Japan
    6. Japan

    7. Russia
    8. China.


    That's "more suprises"?
    Deep nations will always have strong successes. But last season, two German entrants and a South Korean would've made it at their been eight slots. But looking over it, you're right. Surprises aren't that big. I still think it would be beneficial to have eight slots, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImaginaryPogue View Post
    b) Hold the GPF/JGPF outside of the big six, except if being used as an Olympic test venue - it gives nations that aren't skating powerhouses the chance to see the top teams, without the heavy volunteer/infrastructure a worlds/euros/4CC requires.
    Loved your idea, ImaginaryPogue, especially b)! But maybe except the Olympic season's senior GPF, please, I would say. Because it always does heat up with both of ultra excitements and clammy sweats, as the preliminary round of going 'head-to-head' by top skaters/Olympic medal contenders. Should be held in one of these big six venues for sure. Why can't we miss such a precious opportunity to see, say, Mens GPF in 2001 where Yagudin jumping up and down with joy in the backstage after beating Plushenko?

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    Quote Originally Posted by deedee1 View Post
    Loved your idea, ImaginaryPogue, especially b)! But maybe except the Olympic season's senior GPF, please, I would say. Because it always does heat up with both of ultra excitements and clammy sweats, as the preliminary round of going 'head-to-head' by top skaters/Olympic medal contenders. Should be held in one of these big six venues for sure. Why can't we miss such a precious opportunity to see, say, Mens GPF in 2001 where Yagudin jumping up and down with joy in the backstage after beating Plushenko?
    Actually, maybe having the Olympic-year GPF OUTSIDE of the big six would be a great idea, to prevent bias?

    *prepares Australia's bid*

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    Custom Title FSGMT's Avatar
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    Since the 2014-2015 season, the skater must be at least 15 to compete in the GP, too, so we won't see skaters competing the the GP and then at Junior Worlds (like Sotnikova, Liza, Lipnitskaya and 90% Radionova next season), there will be 100% Junior seasons and 100% Senior seasons, since the skaters aren't allowed the compete in both the Senior and the Junior GP anymore...
    But I like the idea of having all the skaters entered in at least one event competing in two events!

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    Quote Originally Posted by karne View Post
    Actually, maybe having the Olympic-year GPF OUTSIDE of the big six would be a great idea, to prevent bias?

    *prepares Australia's bid*
    Go for it. If the finances can work out through TV contracts and travel for everyone involved.

    2007 GPF was in Torino, Italy.

    Quote Originally Posted by deedee1 View Post
    Loved your idea, ImaginaryPogue, especially b)! But maybe except the Olympic season's senior GPF, please, I would say. Because it always does heat up with both of ultra excitements and clammy sweats, as the preliminary round of going 'head-to-head' by top skaters/Olympic medal contenders. Should be held in one of these big six venues for sure. Why can't we miss such a precious opportunity to see, say, Mens GPF in 2001 where Yagudin jumping up and down with joy in the backstage after beating Plushenko?
    Why would the location of the final have any effect on that kind of excitement?

    Quote Originally Posted by FSGMT View Post
    Since the 2014-2015 season, the skater must be at least 15 to compete in the GP, too, so we won't see skaters competing the the GP and then at Junior Worlds (like Sotnikova, Liza, Lipnitskaya and 90% Radionova next season), there will be 100% Junior seasons and 100% Senior seasons, since the skaters aren't allowed the compete in both the Senior and the Junior GP anymore...
    Those rules alone wouldn't prevent a 15- to 18-year-old (i.e., age eligible for both junior and senior internationals) from competing in a senior Grand Prix event and Junior Worlds. That has actually be fairly common. And the restriction between competing on junior and senior GPs in the same year is not new at all.

    If I remember correctly (I haven't combed through the proposed rules lately), what will be new in addition to the raised age limit for the senior GP is that skaters will still be able to do one senior international but after a second senior event they won't be allowed to compete as juniors again. So it would be perfectly possible for a skater to compete in one senior GP event in the fall and then decide (or have their federation decide for them) to stay junior for the winter championships (i.e., Junior Worlds instead of Worlds or continental championships). They could even end up on the JGP the following year if it was decided they still weren't ready for seniors.

    But I like the idea of having all the skaters entered in at least one event competing in two events!
    You can require all the selections before the series starts to give every skater entered two events. But you can't enforce all skaters actually to skate in two events. Sometimes it will be absolutely necessary for them to withdraw from the second one they're scheduled for.

    But other considerations to take into account:
    A skater travels to the first event but their skates don't make it time -- or with extreme travel delays, maybe the skater doesn't make it in time -- or s/he has to withdraw because of some acute and temporary health crisis like food poisoning; no reason that should preclude competing in the second scheduled event a few weeks later

    Also, what about the host picks? The way eligibility for GP selections currently works, the skater must have achieved a certain level of previous international results to be considered for GP invitations from other countries. But if the skater is from a host country, their own federation can invite them to the home event. For someone who had one or more breakout performances at the last year's Nationals, summer or fall domestic competitions (official qualifying or nonqualifying), or non-GP internationals junior or senior, they may not qualify for the GP by the initial rules. This will be especially true for brand new pair and dance teams, perhaps where one member had previous impressive results. In countries with deep fields, which tend to be the GP host federations, allowing this exception is a good way to get breakout stars onto the elite circuit the same year when they first become hot.

    Also, for skaters lower on the list of being eligible for GP selections, choosing several for only one event meant that more individuals got to experience the GP. Giving two events to the first choice will mean fewer slots for the second choice. If the total number of slots available is going to be expanded, that's not a big problem -- the skaters who get left out would also have been left out of the smaller fields. BUT what happens when someone withdraws a week before an event and can be replaced by an alternate? There's no way to guarantee that the alternate selected for this event will also get a second event -- especially alternates for the last event.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karne View Post
    Actually, maybe having the Olympic-year GPF OUTSIDE of the big six would be a great idea, to prevent bias?

    *prepares Australia's bid*
    So true! And please do so, karne! I am perfectly fine with GPF in Australia, since it means less time difference for me, compared to GPF either in Europe or N America.

    btw, I am looking forward to seeing Australian skaters at 4CC next month, karne! It's such a wonderful opportunity for skating fans like me to see skaters from smaller federations/countries other than US Canada Japan, etc. to compete at 4CC and to witness these skaters improve step by step, isn't it? I always love/enjoy it so much every year. From your country, I especially love the ice dance couple Danielle OBRIEN/Gregory MERRIMAN. They have improved so much over the years! Good luck to them in Osaka next month!
    Last edited by deedee1; 01-16-2013 at 09:13 AM.

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