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Thread: Scoring the short program

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Scoring the short program

    Is it good or bad that under the current judging system a skater can be so far ahead after the short program that the long program is irrelevant? Was it good or bad under 6.0 judging that “you can’t win in the short program, but you can lose?”

    No matter which side we take, there will always be particular competitions where the final outcome is unsatisfactory for one reason or another.

    There is also the question, what do the fans think who see one skater thoroughly outskate another, yet the better performance loses because of something that happened a couple of nights ago (the short program, school figures, etc.) Or do we not care what the fans think?

    Here is my solution. Let the short program be a separate competition by itself. This is a competition of, by, and for the skater’s. Fan can come and watch (for free) if they want. The reward for winning would be a big trophy, the respect and admiration of your fellow skaters, the beaming pride of your parents, advancement in cred and rep from the skating establishment, etc. If you think about it, this is all skaters get from winning a big competition anyway. Maybe a cash prize could be offered if the whole event is sufficiently in the black.

    Rankings in the short program could still be used for seeding the long, or as a qualifying event in the case where not everyone makes the free skate.

    Then two days later comes the big whoop. The free skate, winner take all. This is the event that is televised and promoted. The audience sees the best performance rewarded with a gold medal and the title of champion of that event. The runner-up gets the satisfaction of saying to the winner, ”Oh yeah? If you’re so great why did I clean your clock in the short program?”

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Mathman; 01-28-2013 at 04:06 PM.

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    Eh...It's probably not good to have the casual fans tune into watch some one loose the long and still win the comp. It is pretty to understand intellectually that you've started watching a third of the way through the competition, but it's harder to understand emotionally.

    I'd be fine if the sp scores didn't carry over and maybe you got a separate medal for that portion. Though then I'd want it to be more distinct then the LP. How about you must perform 1 of each kind of jump. If you can't do a triple, do a double, no repeats. More clear requirements on spins and footwork. Overall more technical content required and PCS less emphasised. GoE becomes more important.

    After the 'tech competition' top 12 or 18 move onto 'free program' with no score carry over

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    The SP seems rather unnecessary now that it is essentially a shorter LP. With transitions being judged, jumps preceded by steps are common in the LP. There is no specific deduction (that I'm aware of) for an omission in the SP; if you single the 2A, you would get the same number of points for that jump in both the SP and the LP.

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    What are the purposes of having more than one phase of competition determine results?

    1. To measure different sets of skills in each phase

    2. To cut the field to a manageable size

    3. To reward consistency across more than one performance

    Under the current rules, the differences in skill sets between the short and long programs are minimal -- there are very few skills that are required in the short program that aren't also required, de facto if not de jure, in the free skate. So from that point of view, it would be logically defensible to use only the free skate.

    Some competitions are large enough to need 2). But it can also be served by use of qualifying rounds using the same program as the final round. Although I suppose it would be easier to get audiences to watch an earlier round that's different from the final at least in costumes and music if not in function.

    So ultimately the best argument for keeping two phases of competition as they currently exist would be 3). Is it enough of a reason?

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    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I think the same "you can't win but you can lose" idea still applies. At least now someone who comes in 9th has a chance to win, before if you weren't top 4 you might as well forget it.

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Here is my solution. Let the short program be a separate competition by itself. This is a competition of, by, and for the skater’s. Fan can come and watch (for free) if they want. The reward for winning would be a big trophy, the respect and admiration of your fellow skaters, the beaming pride of your parents, advancement in cred and rep from the skating establishment, etc. If you think about it, this is all skaters get from winning a big competition anyway. Maybe a cash prize could be offered if the whole event is sufficiently in the black.

    Rankings in the short program could still be used for seeding the long, or as a qualifying event in the case where not everyone makes the free skate.

    Then two days later comes the big whoop. The free skate, winner take all. This is the event that is televised and promoted. The audience sees the best performance rewarded with a gold medal and the title of champion of that event. The runner-up gets the satisfaction of saying to the winner, ”Oh yeah? If you’re so great why did I clean your clock in the short program?”

    What do you think?
    Since it'd be free for fans, how about making the skaters use the same music and choreo? Okay, okay, that would drive everyone in the building insane. I'd be dorky enough to watch it though.

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    I like pie. Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan View Post
    Since it'd be free for fans, how about making the skaters use the same music and choreo? Okay, okay, that would drive everyone in the building insane. I'd be dorky enough to watch it though.
    I miss the compulsary dances

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    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    I miss the compulsary dances
    Oh yeah! I forgot. I was thinking about the old compulsories in gymnastics.

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    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    I like having multiple segments of the competition, usually on different days, because a greater degree of consistency is required to win and the final placements are less random. This way, a competitor or team can have a bad day and still not completely blow all their training, prep and the aspirations of themselves and their fans. I'd even be fine if they had two FS on different days, except that...

    The fact that the SP and FS are built from the same elements doesn't mean they're the same, for the obvious reason that the SP allows quite a few less elements. In the SP, the skater or team has to do some of the most difficult stuff well to do well. In the FS, with more elements allowed, skaters are forced to diversify. Being able to do a few difficult elements well will not cut it. And that's not all...

    Now I'm not a skater. But I'd imagine for elite skaters, having a program where you just do 3 jumping passes vs. one where you do 7 or 8 is a massive difference in the stamina and focus required. One's a sprint and the other a marathon. A skater built for one may not be equipped for the other. This, again, requires a more well rounded skater/team to handle.

    So in conclusion, the SP/FS format, for all its faults (I'm not very happy with how unfree the free skate is nowadays), is comprehensive, gestalt test of a skater/team's overall abilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman View Post
    Is it good or bad that under the current judging system a skater can be so far ahead after the short program that the long program is irrelevant? Was it good or bad under 6.0 judging that “you can’t win in the short program, but you can lose?”

    No matter which side we take, there will always be particular competitions where the final outcome is unsatisfactory for one reason or another.

    There is also the question, what do the fans think who see one skater thoroughly outskate another, yet the better performance loses because of something that happened a couple of nights ago (the short program, school figures, etc.) Or do we not care what the fans think?

    Here is my solution. Let the short program be a separate competition by itself. This is a competition of, by, and for the skater’s. Fan can come and watch (for free) if they want. The reward for winning would be a big trophy, the respect and admiration of your fellow skaters, the beaming pride of your parents, advancement in cred and rep from the skating establishment, etc. If you think about it, this is all skaters get from winning a big competition anyway. Maybe a cash prize could be offered if the whole event is sufficiently in the black.

    Rankings in the short program could still be used for seeding the long, or as a qualifying event in the case where not everyone makes the free skate.

    Then two days later comes the big whoop. The free skate, winner take all. This is the event that is televised and promoted. The audience sees the best performance rewarded with a gold medal and the title of champion of that event. The runner-up gets the satisfaction of saying to the winner, ”Oh yeah? If you’re so great why did I clean your clock in the short program?”

    What do you think?
    I've got two issues with this idea.

    1) Let me preface by saying that I am not arguing that the current format is the bestest, most ideal ever. I will focus the question more narrowly: all other things being the same, would the deletion of the SP for competitive purposes result in a fairer outcome, one that more accurately reflects the package of talent/abilities/hard-work-put-in?

    My gut feeling is that it would not. My reasoning is simple: in almost any fairly well-defined competitive endeavor, the greater the number of the testing elements, the lesser the likelihood that the outcomes are the result of "luck" or "chance". Let's use the simpler example of a free-throw shooting contest in basketball. In order to determine who is the better free-throw shooter, we can all instinctively understand that having contestants shoot 10 free-throws significantly reduces the result's margin of error compared to, say, shooting 1 free-throw.

    In this case, the SP represents roughly one third of the elements/score, and therefore decreases the margin of error in proportion (assuming, of course, that the judging is accurate, but let's say it is for simplicity sake ).

    In a sport where "ice is slippery" is both cliche and mantra, I would have thought that increasing the chance that fortune plays in the outcome would be highly undesirable. If anything, I can understand arguments for increasing elements more readily than I can for decreasing them from the current level.

    2) The risk-reward equation of this idea just wouldn't work, I think. If the SP is prior to the FS, then it becomes nothing more than a dress-rehearsal, a glorified warm-up for the real thing. If I were a top contender with an ambitious program, I would not be putting out anywhere near the effort in the SP as for the real thing (the FS), if only because of the risk of injury and the desire to conserve energy.

    Is there any difference between the SP, in this new regime, and a gala performance, except the fact that it precedes the real competition?

  11. #11
    Skating is art, if you let it be. Blades of Passion's Avatar
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    Figure skating needs more medals, so I would definitely score the SP and the LP as separate events. Bring back the 2nd footwork/spiral sequence to the SP to make it more demanding, since it would be an event on its own.

    Get rid of that damn leveled step sequence in the "Free Skate" and just have two "choreography sequences". Actually, the FREE SKATE needs even more flexibility allowed, but that's a good place to start.

  12. #12
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    What I was thinking is that from a sporting point of view, one free throw, do or die, win or go home, sudden death, thrill of victory agony of defeat -- that one moment is what the sports experience is all about.

    The best (U.S.) football game is not the one where one team exhibits its superiority by building a lead through solid play throughout the game. It is the one that comes down to a fifty yard field goal attempt or a hail Mary with one second on the clock.

    By the way, that is exactly what figure skating lacks nowadays. In the Men's U.S. Championship just completed, Jeremy Abbott flubbed his very last jump. This allowed Ross Minor to barely edge him out for second place and a spot on the world team. This should be high sports drama. But no one, not the skater, judges, or audience, knew that Abbott just shanked his fifty yard filed goal attempt in the last second and lost the game. The moment was a sports whimper, not a bang.

    Under *ahem* 6.0 judging there was some little opportunity for winning moments. Michelle Kwan hits her first six triples. Here come her last one, do or die, win or lose, it's the championship right here, right now. Yes!!!!! A triumphant footwork celebration, a final spin, and Bob's your uncle.

    I did think of the problem that if the short program doesn't count the skaters might elect to skip it altogether. Well, OK, it's a free country. The skaters who wanted to contest the short program trophy dash, winning bragging rights and maybe a cash prize, could do so. The others could sleep in that day and prepare for the long program. There would also be the incentive that if you want to be on TV you probably have to be seeded in the last two flights in the LP, so you better do the short to get seeded.

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    So essentially you're proposing that the short program and the long program be two separate events with their own medals -- and perhaps different sets of participants -- and that the long program would carry more prestige?

    In that case, would it make sense for the skill sets measured in each program to be more different than they are? And maybe to have more than one lesser event to award more lesser medals to more different kinds of skill sets?

    Inspired by this thread (and also by a previous one several months ago with a different focus), I started a thread about potential different kinds of (single-skater) competition formats. If there are going to be two (or more) phases of competition, how would it be best to distinguish them? What would be a good format for a one-phase competition?

    Should I move that post back to this thread?

    I'd like to step back and take a bigger-picture look at how competitions are structured, not just rely on "This is the way we've been doing it for the last 20/40/50 years" or "Hey, as a spectator it would be more exciting for me to have the results revolve around do-or-die moment."

    What serves the needs of spectators, who may not all have the same interests? But more important, what best serve the needs of the athletes and of the sport as a whole to reward the skills it values most in as fair and comprehensible manner as possible?
    Are multiple formats and multiple medals preferable?

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robeye View Post
    in almost any fairly well-defined competitive endeavor, the greater the number of the testing elements, the lesser the likelihood that the outcomes are the result of "luck" or "chance". Let's use the simpler example of a free-throw shooting contest in basketball. In order to determine who is the better free-throw shooter, we can all instinctively understand that having contestants shoot 10 free-throws significantly reduces the result's margin of error compared to, say, shooting 1 free-throw.
    I don't think athletes look at it that way. If a basketball player misses a free throw he never says that he had bad luck.If he shoots it right the ball will go in. If he doesn't shoot it right the ball will not go in. This is true whether he shoots one free throw or 1000.

    Same with skating. Well, you might have bad luck if you hit a rut on the ice or something like that. But let's say you land 80% of your triple Axel attempts. Here comes the big championship and you miss. This is not "bad luck," like flipping a coin and it happened to come up wrong side. The reason you missed the triple Axel is that you didn't do it right.

    I think the concept of "margin of error" comes in only if we think that the purpose of an athletic contest is to see who is the best overall, day in and day out, on the average. But I don't think that's the right way to look at it. The purpose of an athletic contest is to see who wins on that day. Overall Jeremy Abbott might be a better skater than Max Aaron, and if the championship had 100 phases Jeremy might win 99 of them. But on Sunday he lost. That's sports.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    So essentially you're proposing that the short program and the long program be two separate events with their own medals -- and perhaps different sets of participants -- and that the long program would carry more prestige?

    In that case, would it make sense for the skill sets measured in each program to be more different than they are? And maybe to have more than one lesser event to award more lesser medals to more different kinds of skill sets?

    Inspired by this thread (and also by a previous one several months ago with a different focus), I started a thread about potential different kinds of (single-skater) competition formats. If there are going to be two (or more) phases of competition, how would it be best to distinguish them? What would be a good format for a one-phase competition?

    Should I move that post back to this thread?

    I'd like to step back and take a bigger-picture look at how competitions are structured, not just rely on "This is the way we've been doing it for the last 20/40/50 years" or "Hey, as a spectator it would be more exciting for me to have the results revolve around do-or-die moment."

    What serves the needs of spectators, who may not all have the same interests? But more important, what best serve the needs of the athletes and of the sport as a whole to reward the skills it values most in as fair and comprehensible manner as possible?

    Are multiple formats and multiple medals preferable?
    I am still digesting what you wrote on the more comprehensive thread about different competition formats. It is a lot to take in all at once. If you want to move that discussion here and change the thread title (to yours ), that would be OK with me since topics like this do not attract much attention anyway. :(

    In this thread I was thinking more about skating on television than anything else. Casual audiences have a short attention span. if an event like U.S. Nationals could be wrapped up in one big slam bam thank you maam, say four hours in Saturday prime time, I think it would be easier to promote the heck out of it. The cheesefests had such a one-skate format, and I think they were just about right, television-wise, even though for those events nothing much was at stake.

    If we look at it instead from the point of view of the skaters, what do they really get out of competing in, and maybe winning, a competition anyway? Well, they get to test themselves against the other competitors, they get to perform in front of an audience the routines that they have been practicing, they get to say "I'm the best at this!" (or at least "I'm pretty good at this.") They might win an expense-paid trip to an exotic foreign country.

    The goal would be to come up with a competition format that maximizes opportunities of this kind for the skaters while still providing the best possible show for the paying spectators.

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