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Thread: Russian article on Euro judging

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Post Russian article on Euro judging

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    Beneath the Turin Shroud

    Artur VERNER

    The capital of Italian Piedmont province, famous for its delicious cherries, chose to decorate itself in 2006 with the title of the center of Twentieth Olympic Winter Games. As a dress rehearsal a year before the Olympics, in January 2005 Turin hosted European Figure Skating championships. Today, we'll discuss the latter.

    Serious passions got ignited from the first to the last days, since the positioning of placements in Turin was projected onto the first in the history of figure skating world championship in Moscow.

    Ever since the scientists started doubting the authenticity of Turin shroud, the city has been slowly but surely loosing its image. There came a need for a new miracle. And the Miracle happened! Though hardly godly, more like demonly.

    I'd like to warn any potential reader that this essay won't talk of programs, jumps, or figure skating elements. A whole week after the championships that would be ridiculous. Besides, my countless colleagues, from Boris Khodorovsky to Igor Poroshin, have already written about it.

    Perhaps, I wouldn't have played catch-up at all, but recently Russian TV pompously read the letter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, pompously congratulating Russian team in Turin for winning all four gold medals. I got sick of that sugary message enough to turn of the TV, and turn on my computer. The skating of most new champions was too far from champion quality, and they got their golden rewards purely because of the new judging system, allowing the not-too-kosher arbiters to pull up the necessary athletes through high marks for components despite the obviously low technical points.

    Obviously, I too congratulate all winners, and believe that each of them showed in Turin the maximum they could in those difficult days. At the same time, I full share the opinion of my old friend and compatriot, the renown coach Edward Pliner that in Turin there were five receivers for gold medals - Tatiana Totmianina, Maxim Marinin, Tatiana Navka, Roman Kostomarov, and Irina Slutskaya; only one, Evgeny Plushenko, was the true European champion. Only his skating was worthy of the prize of such a prestigious competition. Despite being out-Jouberted in the short program and having to whine "Help! I'm tired!" at the press conference, Zhenya managed to pull himself together for the free skate to plushen out all his opponents. Had our dear federation not destroyed Alexander Abt, and had it not driven Ilya Klimkin to needing the surgery, perhaps it would have gotten even more medals. As it is, the German pocket-size Stephan Lindenmann from Erfurt got the bronze.

    As I feared, Irina Slutskaya didn't have enough strength after the full Grand Prix series, and skated in Turin, as they say in one old song, "on the promise and one wing". It's possible that, not having full recovered from her grave illness, she won't gain full strength for the World Championships. She got this medal for past achievements. Susanna Pojkio is still young, and will probably become European Champion sometime after the Olympics when both Slutskaya and Liashenko will retire. As to the cutie Elena Sokolova, she, finishing out the top five, chose to prove not her coach's hopes for her, but my predictions about her unpredictability.

    As all other Russians, Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin got their gold medals honestly (no athlete could give himself the first place), but had they skated like that at Four Continents, their medals would probably have a different shade of yellow. Though, to be fair, everyone else in Turin was worse. Both Julia Obertas with Sergei Slavnov and Maria Petrova with Alexei Tikhonov came down on the ice more than once. The latter, by the way, gave a real chance for the bronze to the German team Aliona Savchenko/ Robin Sholkov, but the team couldn't handle their nerves, and made several mistakes that sent them to the fourth place.

    I really liked the "Tosca" music for the free skte of our Golden Dance team Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov. "ToscA" meaning "longing" in Russian, I almost added "Longing for the Olympic Gold". One of my conference readers found a Belorussian Olympic committee site, where Tanya is said to be 22 in 1994; that would make her year of birth 1972. That memorable date is three years away from Tatiana's passport. But, as they say, the longer the road, the sweater the reward. Especially since, in contrast to pairs, Russia has no adequate spare dance team of the highest caliber to step in for the veterans, so "all the king's men" will stop at nothing for victory.

    According to specialists, the level and execution of the free dance of the French Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder were much higher, despite the lower marks. Clearly, it's the mark from above. Simple Muslims say in those cases "Incsh Allah", which translated by muslims-skaters sounds as following: "Be it according to the will of Alla Viktorovna!"(1) Perhaps, four top honors is one of VNP's (2) ways to, if not double VVP, then at least please him (3). He needs it badly. Since his little putsch attempt, Koloskov has been rooted out of soccer; in gymnastics, czar Leonid (4) has been overthrown. Perhaps, figure skating will follow suit unless Valentin throws some "gold" dust into the bosses' eyes.

    In looking at the Ukrainian and Israeli teams, I found myself resembling a picky bride: Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov certainly have better technique, but Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovsky appear to have a more fun program. In general, Ukranians seem to wilting beneath the weight of long unfulfilled expectations; the Israelis are spinning like little dreidels turned on by Tarasova and Platova. Had I been Ottavio Chinquanta, I'd probably order each team to get a bronze medal. Barring that, give one medal to each team so no one is left out.

    I certainly feel sorry for the Bulgarian dancers. They have problems with health, and if rumors are to believed, with coach as well. At training and Original Dance, poor Albena was coughing like a smoker of many years. Thank G-d she doesn't have pneumonia as many feared; rather, it's something like bronchitis, so by Worlds she and Maxim will be back in shape to fight for the title of World Champions. I, however, recall the last line from an old joke, where a zoo worker says of his elephant, "Sure he can eat it, but who'll let him!"

    I don't think it's necessary to talk about my predictions for Moscow - I've written about those already. Of course, I'd like to see Russian skaters occupy all top steps of the pedestals. However, only those who deserve the first places for technique and artistry, not because they speak the same language as Putin. I suspect the Federation President doesn't need such victory either. I mean the Russian Federation, not the Figure Skating Federation of Russia. Those are very different federations, and I hope the presidents differ as well. To Piseev, a full set of medals is his insurance policy. Valentin Nikolaevich stopped caring about the future of figure skating back in the Soviet times, whereas it matters to him that after retirement he'd be financing his own future as opposed to the RF judiciary.

    As to any discussion of the weaknesses of the new judging system, I think it's important to understand that no improvements can force judges to give fair marks as long as they're fulfilling the wishes of their federations' presidents, or simply lining their own pockets. This is finally becoming clear to Ottavio Chinquanta, who said at the Turin press conference that the new system needs new judges. However, Mr. Chinquanta failed to explain where he is going to find them. As long as the National Federations choose whom to send in for judge exams and for international competitions, it's pointless to expect any independence from the judges. Even the technical and other committees of the ISU are full of people whose conscience needs a long and thorough cleaning. Let me give you one example. A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail that talked about big figure skating specialist "A" using his authority to make his "B" a judge.

    Having joined ISU, and using her body as an instrument of pressure, the relatively young "B" immediately demanded the old ISU member to make her a controller. It's possible that "A"'s conscience was screaming bloody murder, but his lust was stronger, and the hero of this bad anecdote started pressuring the president of the "B"'s national federation to promote her. Federation of the developing country that has its honest experienced judges was forced to play reverse checkers with the powerful "A". Apparently, though, this attempt for under-the-blanket scheme did not go unnoticed, since I got the e-mail from ISU officials asking for my opinion about his affair.

    Excuse me, but what fairness can anyone expect from this functionary and his "panel judge"? I think the only way to make judging fair is to make qualified judges answer directly to the ISU, where its own judging committee will decide who will judge each competition.

    ------------------------------------------------
    NOTES:
    (1) Alla Viktorovna Shekhovtseva, wife of Russian Federation President Piseev, technical controller at Europeans.
    (2) VNP - Valentin Nikolaevich Piseev
    (3) Play on words: VVP is both Gross Domestic Product, and the initials of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
    (4) Leonid Arkayev, long time the head of Russian gymnastics.

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    re: Article

    Wow - thanks for the translation. Interesting article with some very strong options. I also can't believe Speedy said the ISU needs "new judges." Maybe it's finally sinking in. :sheesh:

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Ptichka - Thanks for the article. I always enjoy reading the Russian views on the competitions and their own skaters - not always in favor of Russian skaters and very often tongue in cheek. Keep them coming.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by MKbeauty
    Wow - thanks for the translation. Interesting article with some very strong options. I also can't believe Speedy said the ISU needs "new judges." Maybe it's finally sinking in. :sheesh:
    Cinquanta has always wanted the judges to be out of the Federation's hands and under his control. Of course, to be re-elected, he needs the support of many, which can lead to other pressures.

    Many thanks, Ptichka, for the translation!

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    Thanks for the translation. Very interesting reading.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ptichka
    Obviously, I too congratulate all winners, and believe that each of them showed in Turin the maximum they could in those difficult days. At the same time, I full share the opinion of my old friend and compatriot, the renown coach Edward Pliner that in Turin there were five receivers for gold medals - Tatiana Totmianina, Maxim Marinin, Tatiana Navka, Roman Kostomarov, and Irina Slutskaya; only one, Evgeny Plushenko, was the true European champion. Only his skating was worthy of the prize of such a prestigious competition.
    ....
    This is a bit too harsh. I felt T/M skated a winning performance as well.

    I don't think it's necessary to talk about my predictions for Moscow - I've written about those already. Of course, I'd like to see Russian skaters occupy all top steps of the pedestals. However, only those who deserve the first places for technique and artistry, not because they speak the same language as Putin. I suspect the Federation President doesn't need such victory either. I mean the Russian Federation, not the Figure Skating Federation of Russia. Those are very different federations, and I hope the presidents differ as well. To Piseev, a full set of medals is his insurance policy. Valentin Nikolaevich stopped caring about the future of figure skating back in the Soviet times, whereas it matters to him that after retirement he'd be financing his own future as opposed to the RF judiciary.
    Very funny.

    So not all Rusian can't be objective. I've been reading quite a few translated Rusian article with toughn in check. Thanks for the translation.

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    This is a very biased article. How can this writer claim that T&M did not deserve their gold medal? Nobody was even close. From what was written, I am not even sure this writer watched the competition, or he/she would have noticed how other ladies skated. What is the point of saying someone would not have won another competition with this performance? Every competition is separate. You can only compare skates within a competition. The only somewhat questionable win was N&K's because of their mistakes on twizzles, but even that could be justified with their speed and their competitors' mistakes.

    Vash

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    If I'm not mistake this is Artur Werner's article and well he's known to have some pretty biased opinions at time..But no way T&M's medal would have a different shade of yellow Mr Werner!!
    Anyway he's always very critical towards russian skaters, I also think he doesn't live in Russia, don't know If I'm right on this I think he lives in Germany..
    He's always very critical about N&K and Navka's age, and other stuff..And always a bit pro chinese in pairs as well..oh well..His opinion is his

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    Actually, this is a fairly mild article. The writer is modtly saying that it's too bad we didn't see more stellar performances at Euros this year. The criticisms of Cinquata and the ISU seem pretty perfunctory.

    Thanks again, Ptichka. I always like to see the Russian colloquialisms. "A promise and one wing." We would have said "a wing and a prayer," LOL.

    Hi Alithia. Welcome to Golden Skate, and thanks for posting.

    Mathman

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    The talk of the other shade of gold was a reference to 4Continents, which Verner mentioned. The 3 top Chinese pairs are skating at 4CC, and he was implying that if T/M skated there, they would be receiving bronze, not gold.

    This article reads almost like a gossip column, with lots of sly digs at both Putin and Piseev. Piseev, the president of the Russian figure skating federation, is one of the most hated people in figure skating. He often makes deliberately cruel and vicious remarks about Russian skaters to the media in Russia. Verner just about came out and said that Piseev was ruining figure skating in Russia with his heavy-handed attempts to influence judges.

    I rather enjoyed Verner's remarks about Abt and Klimkin, both of whom haven't been treated well by the RFSF. He suggested that either of them been at Euros, Lindemann would be minus his bronze medal.

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    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
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    Yes, Werner lives in Germany, and yes, his stuff tends to be on gossipy side. However, he did see the competition, live.

    I would hardly call him anti-Russian. If anything, he is upset by the Chinese dominance in pair skating; his belif is that Vasiliev is unable to get the most out of T&M's potential. He has said repeatedly that he belives that if T&M stayed with Pavlova, they would have been able to beat S&Z. His idols in pair skating are the Protopopovs, and he tends to pay much more attention to in-betweens, spirals, etc. then to jumps.

    As to Slutskaya - if anything, she's been his perennial favorite. He really like her personally, and he has never said anything negative about her. Even in this article, he is careful to blame her troubles on her illness, never mentioning that she's been incosistent throughout her career.

    As for dance - this is the one area of FS where he is quite knowledgeable. He is of very high opinion of Navka's ability; he has called her the last queen of Russian skating due to her stroking. However, he's been critical of her teaming is Kostomarov, as their styles are very different. Also, Denkova & Stavijski are probably his favorite skaters today. Finally, this season he's proven, I think, that he can be objective. Before, he's been overly critical of Chait & Sakhnovsky; in 2002 Worlds he believed they should not have even been in top 5. However, as they've improved, he has recognized this.

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    Custom Title 76olympics's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for the stellar translation, Ptichka! I wish that I had 1/1000 of the fluency you have in English in Russian. I am regretting more and more my young decision to take French!

    It was a very interesting article. I did not read it as anti-Russian-just as an article principally addressed to Russians versus the world at large. I have read American articles published here with the same tone regarding American skaters. I don't always agree with the opinions, but it is great to hear the other side without the international filter.

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    I thought he was saying that with the exception of Plushenko, the performances weren't worthy of a title. Of course, in an athletic competition, someone has to win, even if they were the least bad. T/M, form-wise looked gorgeous to me, but I keep reading "slow" and "cautious" as well, which isn't something I can pick up on TV, because they are so smooth anyway. Even so, Pet/Tik and O/S weren't in their league, and S/S weren't shown.

    His assessment is more like one given by the judge in a piano jury: in that situation, the judges could refuse to give a gold medal, on the basis that no one deserved it.

    Strange, though, that he thought T/M would have placed behind Pang/Tong at 4C's. At Worlds in 2003, I thought Pang/Tong were smooth and better in person, but all last year, they looked frenetic to me, and at Dortmund, how little of the rink they actually use became clear, in person, and they looked better on TV. They really cut the rink short at the ends and often shallow around the long end of the boards. I was really disappointed, because I thought they were severely undermarked in their 2003 LP, and overmarked in both their SP and LP in Dortmund. But their basic skating doesn't compare to T/M's.
    Last edited by hockeyfan228; 02-09-2005 at 01:53 PM.

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    I did NOT mean to imply that I found the article anti-Russian. I think it was pretty obvious that he admires many of the Russian skaters, but doesn't like the way they are treated by the Russian federation, especially by Piseev (there are many Russians who dislike Piseev as well).

    I think he's looking ahead to Worlds and sees that the performances of the Russians (except Plushenko) at Euros won't cut the mustard at Worlds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chuckm
    I
    I think he's looking ahead to Worlds and sees that the performances of the Russians (except Plushenko) at Euros won't cut the mustard at Worlds.
    Or, to extend that thought, only Plushenko met most of his most formidable competition and beat them at Euros. Even if they might be considered favorites, T/M didn't face S/Z, Slutskaya didn't face any of the Japanese or NA women, and N/K didn't face Den/Sta or B/A, although none of that may make a difference in Moscow.

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    Ptchika, thanks for translating the article.

    Just curious-do you know what Werner thought about Navka's partnerships with Grezolin or Morozov? Did he think that those partnerships worked better than N&K? Or did he also think that Navka very much dominated those partnerships as well?

    IIRC, and correct me if I'm wrong, Kostomarov was a Linichuk student and Navka was trained by Natalia Dubova. Is Navka the last Russian skater from the Dubova school? I know Dubova now coaches G-R&M in the US.

    Interestingly, Navka at one point auditioned with Oleg Ovsiannikov, Evgeny Platov and Peter Tchernechev. It would have been interesting to see how those partnerships would have panned out.

    In an old book about figure skating, written circa 1996; there is quite a big mention of Navka & Grezolin. And the fact, that even though she was younger, she was definently the "star" of the couple and someone to look for in the future.

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