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Thread: Sonia Bianchetti's Article on Worlds

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    Sonia Bianchetti's Article on Worlds

    Moscow: An Unforgettable Championship
    By
    Sonia Bianchetti Garbato



    The 2005 World Figure Skating Championships will be remembered as a unique mixture of all that no one would ever expect to see in a skating event.
    Nothing was missing:
    • A new judging scandal in the ladies’ event;
    • The worst men’s final in memory; and
    • The new judging system leaking from all sides.

    I will not go through placements or details on who has done what. I believe that anyone reading this brief document has seen the competitions and is aware of what happened in Moscow. I will only make general remarks on the events and draw some conclusions.

    The pair skating event was totally uninteresting to me. The top pairs presented excellent lifts and triple throws, as well as difficult and complicated spins, but pair skating seems to be losing its flavour, its beauty, its appeal, its art.

    In the endeavour to achieve very high technical scores, the couples are putting everything they can into their programs. One lift or throw jump after the other, sometimes of mediocre quality, but with the most unbelievable positions and dismounts, not always aesthetically good, just to increase their level of difficulty.

    But no skating anymore. A few pairs, such as the U.S. team Inoue/Baldwin or the German team Savchenko/Szolkowy, skated well, with excellent programs, good interpretation, and real pair skating, but did not get the marks. To get the marks, in all disciplines, the competitors must include in their programs high-level jumps, lifts, spins or step sequences. It does not matter whether the quality is good or not. Very seldom are the judges’ GOE higher than 0. So to get high marks the skaters must rely only on the difficulty levels. This is a real problem for the sport. In my opinion it would be much better to have less difficult and complicated elements but of a high quality, receiving +2 or +3 from the judges, rather than very high-level difficulties of a mediocre quality.

    What will be the future of figure skating if this system is not changed? What I feared since the beginning, for the future development of our sport, is already happening after only one year. The skaters are using every trick to get more marks, to the detriment of the overall performance.

    As reported by Salvatore Zanca of the Associated Press, commenting on the New Judging System, U.S. skater Evan Lysacek said the system "is pushing the skaters to try for more difficulty, especially in the second part of the program. The thing is you don’t need to necessarily skate a perfect program to have the results come out in the order they should.”

    This is just frightening! And it brings me to the next event: the men’s final.

    The men’s event has always been my favourite. Usually at least the last two groups to skate are exciting, breathtaking, fantastic. But this time in Moscow I could have cried. I wanted to turn the television off!



    Truly, it was the worst men’s final at a World Championship that I have ever seen. A real disaster. The choice of the medal winners was not among the competitors who skated the best programs, but among those who skated the least badly! With a couple of exceptions, it was an unbelievably low performance from practically all the competitors who did skate. This is of great concern. What might be the reasons for this disaster? Are the skaters too tired at the end of the season? Are the programs that comply with the new system too demanding? Now the skaters have to give more and more and they need a lot more training. Can this be the reason behind the surprisingly high number of injuries suffered by the top skaters this year? The list is long: Evgeny Plushenko, Johnny Weir, Timothy Goebel, Takeshi Honda, Carolina Kostner, Sasha Cohen, Shizuka Arakava, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, not to mention the horrible accident that occurred to Tatiana Totmianina at Skate America.

    The ladies’ event, from a skating point of view, was better, except that the judging was disgusting.

    Once again the podium of the ladies’ event was wrong. The first place to Irina Slutskaya of Russia in the short program was an absolute outrage, another real scandal, and a total fiasco of the new judging system. The correct place for her should have been no higher than fourth.

    It was snowing in Moscow and it was very cold. The judges must have thought it was Christmas, not Easter! And, as happened only two months ago in Torino at the European Championships, Slutskaya, the host, received gifts from all the judges. Or perhaps, as Slutskaya said after her victory in Torino, once again God wanted to give her a medal for her illness.

    The component marks given to her, in both the short and the free program, were much too high compared to those given to the other competitors, such as Cohen, Kwan, Rochette, and Suguri. Maybe Slutskaya excels in the “Utilization of personal and public space”, or in the “Use of finesse to reflect the nuances of the music”, which, I am afraid, I am not subtle enough to appreciate!

    No matter what Cinquanta says and may try to sell to the media, judging is still subjective, is still human judging. And if one looks at the scoring sheets, the sport is being judged largely the same way as before, with the skaters still receiving marks based on reputation, whichever system is used.

    As we have repeated hundred of times, the problem is the judges, not the scoring system. What we saw in Moscow in the ladies' event looked like a “fixed" competition.

    The New Judging System in Moscow showed all its weaknesses; it is leaking from all sides.

    First, and most disturbingly: it is destroying our beautiful sport.

    Second: it failed in its main purpose. It does not guarantee any objectivity at all in the judging. On the contrary! Besides having the judges still judging in subjective ways, using the components marks to push up a favoured skater, we have the callers who decide the level of far too many elements according to their personal views or interpretation of the rules. They have proven to be inconsistent. The levels of the same elements vary from competition to competition. They can really have a say in the determination of the order of the podium! The same applies to the Referee who, totally on his own, decides the penalties to be applied to falls, if a fall was a fall, how long it lasted, the duration of separations, the timing of the programs, etc.


    Third: the so-called “human errors” in entering the marks or the elements into the computer are becoming more and more common. A scoring mistake on the first day of the World Championships was just what the ISU needed!

    After the men’s qualifying event was over, and the draw of the starting order for the short program had been held, a member of the Chinese delegation informed the ISU that there had been a “human error” in the score of the Chinese skater, Chengjiang Li. One element, a spin, had been forgotten by the Technical Specialists!

    Although not allowed by the ISU’s own rules, this “human error” was corrected. Apparently the rules are not applied in the same way for everybody.

    As a result, Johnny Weir, the U.S. champion, was dropped from fifth to sixth, which meant that a new draw of the starting order for the short program was needed. When informed, Johnny commented, “This is the only system in the world where you can drop a place overnight”.

    It is troubling to see this severe error, plus the dozens of erroneous marks entered in the computers by the judges during the last two seasons, 15 in this season alone during the Grand Prix series: four at Skate America, three more at Skate Canada, two at the NHK Trophy, two at the Cup of China and one each at the Grand Prix in France and Russia, culminating with the error affecting Kimberly Meissner of the U.S. at the Junior World Championships. And who can guarantee that there have not been many more? And what if it happens at the Olympics next year?

    The ISU is constantly minimizing the importance of these errors, claiming that they do not affect the final result. But this is nonsense and shows total lack of respect for the competitors, besides being wrong.

    What happened to Weir could cost a medal if nobody catches the error in time. At the Olympics next year the officials will not have the luxury of several hours to find errors that occurred during the final free skating, for instance. Will Ottavio Cinquanta award two gold medals again, perhaps?

    With skaters executing so many elements in their long programs, including very quickly rotated triple or quadruple jumps, it is very easy to miscall a jump or push a wrong button. And errors are hard to catch in a large field of skaters.

    And what to say of the fact that the free skating results that appeared on the scoreboard in the arena, on television and distributed by internet, with Lysacek in second place, Buttle in third and Sandhu in fourth, were changed after the medal award ceremony, dropping Lysacek from second to fourth place?

    Is our sport becoming a joke?

    Somebody commented that, unless something is done, the system should be thrown in the garbage.
    Perhaps this would be the best solution

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the posting....Nice to hear some expert's opinion regards the worlds.

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    http://www.tsn.ca/figure%5Fskating/n...figure_skating

    Another view from someone who has the job of being required to really know the buzz of COP. Her view is quite the opposite.

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    I think this kind of dissent is good for the sport. I guess I agree on one of Mrs. Bianchetti's points and disagree on the other two. I agree that pairs skating is becoming less interesting as couples try to manipulate the CoP rather than skating beautiful programs.

    I disagree that Slutskaya was help up, or was the pre-determined winner. She just skated everyone else under the table, that's all. OK, maybe her component scores in the short were not as thoughtfully given as they might have been. But considering how much information the judges have to digest and evaluate in such a short period of time, I cannot blame them if they just say, OK, Irina was the best, give her 8.0s, Sasha was second, give her 7.5s. Yes, this is pretty much just ordinal judging all over again. But as Mrs. Bianchetti herself says, this is a judged sport. You cannot prevent the judges from judging.

    I toally disagree with Mrs. Bianchetti about the quality of the men's competition. I thought it was great. Various competitors made errors, of course. That is to be expected when everyone is straining against the very limit of what the human body is capable of. Still, it was by no means a splat-fest, and we saw quite a number of very fine and eminently entertaining performances.

    Just my untutored two cents worth.

    Mathman
    Last edited by Mathman; 03-23-2005 at 07:51 PM.

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    Figure Skating Fan Hikaru's Avatar
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    thanks for posting it! It's good to read another point of view, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing in some areas, but I respect the opinions.

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    Wilkes? Is she the same one served the caller in ISU?

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    About the Debbi Wilkes article, how could I have guessed that she would come out gushing about the wonderfulness of everything CoP? Not to mention the wonderfulness of Jeff Buttle, and how dare those ignorant meanies say he wasn't all that and a bag of chips?

    I think that both of these articles suffer from too much heat and too little light.

    Mathman

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mzheng
    Wilkes? Is she the same one served the caller in ISU?
    Yes, she is the very ISU caller who said that she thought MK should be banned from worlds because of not doing the CoP, but of course she would never allow such personal animosities color her performance as a technical specialist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman
    About the Debbi Wilkes article, how could I have guessed that she would come out gushing about the wonderfulness of everything CoP? Not to mention the wonderfulness of Jeff Buttle, and how dare those ignorant meanies say he wasn't all that and a bag of chips?

    I think that both of these articles suffer from too much heat and too little light.

    Mathman
    MM, here is another responding article from Sonia Bianchetti to Debbi Wilkes:
    http://www.figure-skating-judging-scandal.com/

    "
    It's not that the theory of CoP is necessarily broken. But the implementation so far has shown fundamental problems that the ISU has ignored over the past two years of (rushed) development. The ISU's record of responding to problems has not been good—I'm not holding my breath.
    "
    Last edited by mzheng; 03-23-2005 at 08:03 PM.

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    Bianchetti,

    I think I would be able to read her articles with an open mind if her articles did not sound biased in favor of some skaters. Dissing Irina's skating, and music does not paint her as an articulate and know it all journalist, rather she sounds very bitter whenever Irina wins competition. Its very hard for people(other then those who feel their favorite is being slaughtered by the ISU)to take her serious. Euro's was Irina's title by far, even if her LP was crap, Bianchetti forgot to mention that Irina was superior to all the ladies in the SP and even if she lost the LP by couple of points, her SP would've carried her all the way to the top.
    Frankly, i'm disgusted with her because its people like her that ruin the sport by claiming this and that was a scandal, if there was a scandle why didn't the media go after it?(isn't that the big fish they've been searching for). Why didn't the USFSA file a complaint? or for that matter all the federations? There was non, I did not read a article which was arguing the ladies SP placement, but you can always count on Bianchetti and her group to come out and scream SCANDAL.

    Lastly, i've come to realize that its really easy for people to cry 'wuz-robbed' but it is so hard for them to back up their claims with facts.

    Edited to add: I'm quoting Bianchetti "Poor Debbi. All those hours studying CoP have definitely made marshmallow out of her brain" I question Bianchetti's maturity and age at this point. I feel very sorry for her right now, because she's acting like a chicken with its head cut-off and running around.
    Last edited by Excidra2001; 03-23-2005 at 08:38 PM.

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    Figure Skating Fan Hikaru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman

    I think that both of these articles suffer from too much heat and too little light.

    Mathman

    I agree with you there MM. I'm not going to deny that I love the CoP compared to the 6.0. I love seeing that each element has a value and that skaters get recognition for each element they perform. I also agree that sometimes the PCS seem, shall I say, "strange", and I believe that the PCS should reflect in some way what the skater did on the rink. I'm no skating expert, I've never skated in my life, so it's hard for me to give an opinion on what excellent skating skills are. What I dare to opinion more would be in performance, choreography, interpretation, which I think are 3 categories that are very well related to each other, but that is another different topic.

    Every system will find people that will support them, or detractors, and I don't expect it to be perfect as it is created by humans. However humans have to be responsible for the errors, and if someone makes an error in a mark, it has to be changed! I don't like the policy of not fixing the errors, and I fear that the only reason they fix the error with Li's mark was because it did affected his overall score, and the ISU didn't want to have a problem on the first day using the system. This situation should be a lesson to them, not to allow this types of mistakes, and if they do happen, then take the responsibility to fix them.

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    I think Bianchetti is a hoot and a half. I don't think you have to dance to her tune but you have to admit, she opens your eyes to things you never thought about. I like her very much for that reason. I do not believe she is biased because she has the love of the sport, and points out what she sees as detriments to that sport. She is very knowledgeable as a former official, a judge and I presume a skater. Above all now, she is a critic and she is doing what critics do. It's her take on the establishment, and why not? One doesn't have to join the campaign.

    Debbie Wilkes, imo, is somewhat biased and she is still an official. I don't find her all that interesting to read.

    Deep Edge is really where it is at. Let us read what the critics are saying. Why hide their remarks? Again, you don't haved to agree and if you are upset because others have opinions (and sometimes, facts) then you should join the blog.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by Excidra2001
    Edited to add: I'm quoting Bianchetti "Poor Debbi. All those hours studying CoP have definitely made marshmallow out of her brain" I question Bianchetti's maturity and age at this point. I feel very sorry for her right now, because she's acting like a chicken with its head cut-off and running around.
    The article from which you took a quote is not written by Sonia Bianchetti. The reply to Debi Wilkes is signed by a person named Renee Rico, member of SkateFAIR.

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    Ms. Bianchetti's comments regarding the judging of pairs (rewards for singles elements, none for actual "pairs skating") is not a new problem and hardly has anything to do with COP, tho that might highlight the problem. This has been going on for years, and it has to do with a decision that the ISU made many years ago (when Ms. Bianchetti was still involved in it). There was a serious lack of international judges certified to judge pairs, so the ISU simply said that anyone qualified to judge singles, could judge pairs. Since then, this type of judging (rewarding singles elements over pairs elements) has been going on.

    I do agree with her, though, in regards to the scoring errors. This is the perfect setup for a Paul Hamm type situation, and on top of SLC, do we really need to go through that? Though perhaps at very least it would call attention to the IOC that Speedy hasn't fixed one single thing.

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    Resident Kristi Fan purplecat's Avatar
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    Wow, she doesn't hold back does she?! I'm glad she liked Inoue and Baldwin!

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