Brainstorming ways to increase diversity/opportunity in skating | Page 3 | Golden Skate

Brainstorming ways to increase diversity/opportunity in skating

el henry

Fangirl of men’s spirals and split jumps
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 3, 2014
Country
United-States
I think it means a lot to Donovan not just to be a Mexican skater at Worlds, but a good Mexican skater who earned his spot fair and square. Would those 97 people in Zahra Lahri's position (not 97 Zahras, because there is only one of her) be happy with a spot given out of charity? And (because people who say they're ok with Nathan not being there might just not like his style) skaters like Jason Brown have next to no chance of making Worlds if national diversity quotas limited the dominant federations to 1 spot.

I know the other poster was exaggerating for rhetorical purposes, and I'm not against quotas, but they have to be sensible. I like watching Worlds and JGP because of its diversity compared to JGP/Nationals. But if a quota policy is extremely skewed to favour national diversity, it not only reduces the chance for good (but not top) athletes from bigger federations to shine, but also devalues the merits of athletes from smaller feds who have worked hard to be objectively better than other small fed skaters. As things stand, a range of 1-3 spots per nation plus a minimum TES score is fairly reasonable (even if the means of qualifying spots sometimes isn't). It even favours smaller feds to the point that US/CA/RU-born skaters switch nationalities to get in more easily.

As for the judge quota idea, I just think we should be wary of oversimplifying people's behaviour purely on our own inferences regarding nationality/politics. Are Estonian judges pro- or anti- Russian, given the fact that historical occupation resulted in Russians making up 25% of the population? Do Chinese judges have a bias against Japanese skaters because of historical grievances/current political tensions, or for them due to and cultural/visual commonality? Is a mestizo Mexican judge more likely to favour white skaters depending on the judge's own percentage of Spanish ancestry? I don't dispute that bloc voting can happen, but the world is not black-and-white (pun not intended).

I think that the proposal is interesting precisely because it does not simplify what diverse set of officials could bring to the table. I agree that no one should presume how some would feel, but we’ll never know as long as everyone comes from the same places🤷‍♀️

I would love to see a few spaces set aside, not many, at worlds or the Olys for skaters who have overcome enormous odds just to set blade on ice. For me, they are “qualified”. And I think my idea has just as much merit as sending the ten “best” (whatever that is) skaters even if they all come from the same country. But that is just an idea, and of course different people will feel different ways. :)
 

Flying Feijoa

On the Ice
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
Country
New-Zealand
I would love to see a few spaces set aside, not many, at worlds or the Olys for skaters who have overcome enormous odds just to set blade on ice. For me, they are “qualified”. And I think my idea has just as much merit as sending the ten “best” (whatever that is) skaters even if they all come from the same country. But that is just an idea, and of course different people will feel different ways.
That sounds like a good idea - something like the refugee Olympic team.
Targeting disadvantaged skaters is truer to the spirit of diversity and inclusion than simply applying quotas to have more skaters from visible ethnic minorities*/small feds etc. Harshita Rawtani faces more challenges than Pooja Kalyan (both ethnically South Asian); Donovan Carrillo more so than Moris Kvitelashvili (both small fed). It's important to factor in access to resources.

*in relation to the pool of international skaters, not necessarily their home country.

For the 'best' skaters we already have the Grand Prix Final, so I'm personally not too concerned about that...
 

Andrea82

Medalist
Joined
Feb 16, 2014
I wasn't talking about quotas for skaters, but about quotas for officials. The sport has a problem with long-entrenched patterns and relationships that show up in both the composition of judging panels and tech panels the results they put out - unintentionally or otherwise - and that means that they impact the results of competitions. Ensuring that at least 50% of the tech panel and judging panel at every high-level competition comes from a non-traditional skating country seems to me to be a way to break up those patterns and start to unskew the results, creating a more level playing field for all skaters. Is there another mechanism you can think of that would have a similar impact?

The system used to select the composition of the judging panels favour countries with skaters. The effect in terms of traditional/non traditional/big/small countries depends on the type of competitions.

In ISU Championships, the 13 countries given a judge are drawn from the countries which had a skater in the previous year. The countries need to have a judge in the "ISU" category. There are 42 countries with an ISU judge in Single & Pair.
So in the end, it is more likely to have half of the panel from medium/small Feds.

On the other hand, in GPs and Junior GPs, countries with a skater entered in an event are asked to nominate a judge. If they are not enough to cover the whole panel, organising member will add the remaining judges.
Moreover, in GPs also judges from "international" category can judge. So there is a pool of 54 countries with such judges for Single and Pair. So the pool is bigger.
The outcome is that in Senior GPs panels of judges tend to be filled more often by judges from big Feds because they tend to have skaters in all GPs. However, in Junior GPs panels are more varied because more skaters are entered and so more countries are present in each of them.

All in all, the countries with a judge are a lot. However, some of them have only 1-2 judges. So it depends on their availability as it is not a full time role for them. Also, with countries with fewer judges, picking it for more panels means having the same few individuals many times.


The number of current qualified judges for Single & Pairs are the follows

countryISUInternationalTotal
Germany
17​
15​
32​
Canada
17​
11​
28​
USA
17​
9​
26​
Japan
9​
15​
24​
Russia
11​
11​
22​
Australia
12​
8​
20​
France
7​
11​
18​
China
10​
7​
17​
Italy
10​
7​
17​
Austria
9​
8​
17​
Switzerland
9​
5​
14​
Czech Republic
6​
8​
14​
Great Britain
10​
3​
13​
Poland
5​
8​
13​
Finland
9​
3​
12​
South Korea
6​
6​
12​
Turkey
3​
9​
12​
Netherlands
6​
4​
10​
Sweden
6​
4​
10​
Slovenia
7​
2​
9​
Slovakia
5​
4​
9​
Hungary
5​
4​
9​
Norway
4​
4​
8​
Croatia
4​
3​
7​
Denmark
3​
4​
7​
Bulgaria
4​
2​
6​
Ukraine
4​
2​
6​
Spain
3​
3​
6​
Serbia
4​
1​
5​
Romania
3​
2​
5​
Estonia
3​
2​
5​
Israel
3​
1​
4​
Belarus
2​
2​
4​
South Africa
1​
3​
4​
Taipei
3​
0​
3​
Kazakhstan
2​
1​
3​
Hong Kong
2​
1​
3​
Mexico
2​
1​
3​
Lithuania
1​
2​
3​
Belgium
1​
2​
3​
New Zealand
2​
0​
2​
Greece
2​
0​
2​
Uzbekistan
1​
1​
2​
Latvia
1​
1​
2​
Georgia
1​
1​
2​
Ireland
0​
2​
2​
Iceland
0​
2​
2​
Bosnia Herzegovina
1​
0​
1​
Azerbaijan
1​
0​
1​
Luxembourg
0​
1​
1​
Malaysia
0​
1​
1​
Andorra
0​
1​
1​
Thailand
0​
1​
1​
North Korea
0​
1​
1​
Total 254 210
464​
 
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gold12345

Medalist
Joined
Dec 14, 2007
I wasn't talking about quotas for skaters, but about quotas for officials. The sport has a problem with long-entrenched patterns and relationships that show up in both the composition of judging panels and tech panels the results they put out - unintentionally or otherwise - and that means that they impact the results of competitions. Ensuring that at least 50% of the tech panel and judging panel at every high-level competition comes from a non-traditional skating country seems to me to be a way to break up those patterns and start to unskew the results, creating a more level playing field for all skaters. Is there another mechanism you can think of that would have a similar impact?

I already sense a struggle to find enough qualified judges who truly know what they're doing and desire to do their jobs well without forcing the ISU to insert judges from obscure federations just for the sake of diversity. Would things really get better if they're required to plop a Trininad and Tobago or Mongolian judge onto the panel? I'd be fine with it if those judges are qualified.... but are they?

I've always been curious about the fact that judges don't work independently for the ISU and instead are selected by their respective federations. Would it be better if judges were truly representing the ISU instead of their own Feds? Would judges feel less pressured and could they receive better training if they belonged to a separate independent judging organization?

It might feel more neutral if a GP event was judged mostly by a panel who didn't have a home skater in the event. But is that realistic? And would the Uzbekistan judge really be from Uzbekistan, or would she be from Russia? And is a judge from Timbuktu really qualified to judge a GP event?

As for skater quotas, I'm the wrong person to ask, I'm afraid. I'd rather watch ninety-seven Zahra Laris struggle to land one jump in the SP at Worlds than one Nathan Chen land seven flawless quads in the FS.

Worlds is for the best of the best, and that's what people pay to see. I'm much more bothered by the fact that 25th place Vincent Zhou wasn't allowed to skate a free skate and fight for a higher placement than I am by the fact that some obscure country wasn't allowed to enter their lone Juvenile level skater who can't land a double axel into Worlds. I enjoy watching skaters of all abilities and from all walks of life, but there's a time and a place for everything. It would be great for more skaters to be able to skate at Worlds, but to me that starts with allowing every competitor there to skate a LP. That's more important than letting Botswana enter a non-qualified skater just for the sake of diversity. A 4th Russian lady belongs at Worlds more than a novice skater from Peru. It's about talent and ability.

It seems like many, if not most, parts of the world don't have easy access to skating rinks. Look at a country like China--- 1 billion+ people, yet so few of them actually live near a rink and are exposed to the sport, hence why their number of elite skaters is so small. I remember watching an Indian pair on the JGP and it was said they could only skate a couple times a week because they lived hours from the rink. So many elite skaters relocate to find better training conditions. And it costs them about $10,000 a year just for ice time, never mind paying for coaching and everything else. Many other sports can be practiced much more cheaply. Gymnastics is also very expensive, but many kids get exposed to the sport and can teach themselves how to do a cartwheel on any random patch of grass.

Unfortunately I don't see any good answers for increasing diversity in skating and in turn, judging (how many people become judges if they've never made it to a decent level of skating themselves?) You have to live near a good rink (especially at the higher levels), and you have to be willing to spend a lot of money, there's really no way around it. It might help if there was more group instruction instead of so many private lessons at the beginner levels. It would also help if skaters could paid one tuition to their rink (who would then pay their staff) instead of having to pay both the rink + the coach, but that's not happening any time soon.
 
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RobinA

On the Ice
Joined
Nov 4, 2010
I would be very against quotas, but I would like to see wealth or lack of wealth stop being a barrier to the sport. The US needs to begin a more robust program to get interested skaters who show promise into the program if that is the skater's wish. Elite skating is not for everyone, but skaters and parents who are willing to go down the road and show the ability should have assistance.
 

BlissfulSynergy

Final Flight
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Mars
I've been thinking about this for a while and coming to the conclusion that whatever the ISU is doing to expand access and increase the diversity of both skaters and officials...doesn't, shall we say, appear to be having a ton of impact as yet. What are some additional strategies that you think might help given the situation as it stands right now?

One thing I thought of was applying quotas, particularly for officials. Quotas are a strategy known to work in improving diversity of participation and representation in many areas, including business and politics. What if the ISU implemented a quota requirement that at least 50% of tech panel members and judges at all major events (basically, Grand Prix events on up) must be drawn from non-traditional skating countries, or must be under the age of 40, or must be of colour? How would that impact the patterns we tend to see of bias, unofficial bloc judging and reputation-based calling/judging? This could be backed up with financial support to national federations that actively work at recruiting and retaining skaters from low SES backgrounds, skaters and officials of colour, new officials from outside the sport, etc..

Another thing was opening mainstream competitions to same-sex dance and pairs teams, and developing new element options of equivalent value to allow for variations based on partners' upper/lower body strength combinations etc. This would enable more partnerships from more countries to form and open up additional possibilities in terms of elements and choreography. Imagine a dance program where the lead and the follow had the option of switching roles between elements in the way same-sex dancesport couples sometimes do, or a pairs program in which each partner could be both a thrower/lifter and a throwee/liftee at different points, and where lead/follow/thrower/lifter/throwee/liftee roles were explicitly delinked from the gender of the skaters...

Another was creating, and financially supporting, a category of 'skaters/officials without federations' to enable people from countries where it's not financially or environmentally sustainable to build an Olympic-sized rink that's available all year round to compete under their preferred flag if they want to. This would open a route for people from much smaller countries, people with unclear citizenship such as the children of refugees, and people from ethnicities not stereotypically associated with skating to access resources and training, and potentially even advance to Olympic level following the model of the Refugee Olympic Team for stateless athletes.

Any other ideas spring to your mind?

Without even reading your entire post yet, I have to say that I am pessimistic generally regarding actual genuine willingness by entrenched powers-that-be to enact meaningful change that would empower true diversity in figure skating. But I'm probably older than you and therefore I've seen a lot. As time passes, it's fascinating how much remains the same in terms of biased attitudes, which can be subtle, casual, sometimes unconscious or unwitting, but nevertheless, entrenched. Which means it's very difficult to change the status quo. Progress will always be slow. But kudos to you for broaching a brainstorming discussion. Real change happens from bottom up and top down, or it doesn't truly happen. Chiefly, attitudes are what NEED to change.

A lot of good things in terms of diversity are happening incrementally in various fields, particularly in entertainment. Lin Manuel Miranda's brilliant Hamilton has contributed tremendously to changing thinking about diverse casting. And now, what Shonda Rhimes (and her Shondaland Productions) are doing with Bridgerton, and formerly with the very successful, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, has been instrumental in shifting attitudes and furthering diverse change. I think figure skating has a long way to go, in part because there is a lot of denial by people in skating and by some fans that they actually have biased attitudes. In other words, a lot of people are overly defensive and more reactionary and/or afraid of being called or pointed out as harboring racist attitudes, than they are of acknowledging the need to examine their attitudes and to change their thinking and their perspectives.

On the hopeful side, I am glad that diverse skaters have organized, to at the very least, begin speaking out more openly. In doing so, they are raising awareness and reaching diverse youngsters, who then begin to see the possibilities of someone like themselves being able to pursue a career in skating, against all odds. OTOH, there's the casually biased folk like Dave Lease who makes snide remarks about the newly organized FSDIA. I'll never forget one random TSL episode during which Lease made a clueless gaffe remark that Savchenko and her former partner, Robin Szolkowy (being similar to Massot!), also skated for Germany without having any original affiliation with Germany. Duh! Lease did say that, but why? Dumb? Or just the biased assumption that Robin being melanated couldn't possibly be a native of Germany? In fact, Robin was born in Germany of a German mother and from what I've heard, an African father.

There's a melanated skater from Austria too, whose name escapes me. He's skated in shows, and he competed some years ago in Audrey Weisiger's Young Artist's Showcase.

I'm hopeful, as I said, about the FSDIA, and the collaborative work they are doing to, at the very least, come together to share, to speak out, and to raise awareness. Climbing a mountain always requires taking one small fearless step at a time, and staying determined and focused with eyes firmly on the prize, despite all the impossible obstacles and pitfalls that abound. I am enjoying this Conversations in Color series of episodes, 'Don't Touch Our Black Boy Joy':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOhkzxUt-l4 Pt 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gphq7RdX9LE Pt 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acHbCi5_D4k Pt 3

I'd never heard of any of Asher's and Acacia's guests in the above episodes! They probably didn't progress past lower levels in the competitive ranks in the U.S. Apparently, all three are or were involved in show skating, as well as holding down a variety of off-ice jobs/ careers. Joey Millet said that he has been a competitor and is now a coach.

Previous episodes of the interview show, Conversations in Color, were posted in the Elladj Balde thread. The first & second episodes, 'Skating While Black,' included Vanessa James, Elladj Balde, and Mae Berenice Meite.

Here is the third episode of the 'Skating While Black,' conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4N3JIZgphw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QII3mhSQrpA 'Skating While Black,' Pt 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2ZCh8xyVOw 'Skating While Black,' Pt 2

Progress is always slow, but together with everyone getting involved and being committed to change, good things can happen.

ETA:
Regarding quotas, I don't think that's the road to go down. Opportunities and awareness and changing attitudes has to happen first. Plus, the sport of figure skating is tough for everybody, just tougher for melanated athletes due to ingrained bias. Getting into the nuts and bolts of fixing the competitive structure of the sport altogether should go hand-in-hand with opening up opportunities for everyone who has talent and the desire to compete. Plus grassroots programs that are inclusive of skaters from all backgrounds are extremely important. And then, workshops to raise awareness in order to help change casually biased attitudes which often lead to judges automatically holding back scores for melanated competitors. That's a harder thing to circumvent, just as the politics involved in judging is very hard to eliminate.
 
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BlissfulSynergy

Final Flight
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Country
Mars
Now, having read your full post, @Harriet, I do think that a quota system for officials might be a good step. I don't think I've ever seen any judges of African descent on panels. There are Asian, East Indian and Hispanic judges, but not enough diversity overall among officials.

Quotas are not the answer for skaters, IMO. The first step as I said earlier is awareness, changing attitudes, and opening up opportunities and training in diverse communities. Also, in this respect the work of the FSDIA in collaboration with federations and the ISU would seem to be crucial.

I think recognizing the importance of gender diversity is a good thing, so I like the ideas you mentioned. Plus, the sport needs to totally rethink everything about the competitive structure, and take chances with new ways of doing things.
 

gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
Interesting questions.

I think the best way to get more diversity on the judging panels as well as among the skaters at the international level is to continue and expand efforts to develop skating programs in countries around the world that do not yet have figure skating federations or that do not yet have senior-level competitors.

Look at the difference in diversity of federations represented at Worlds in 2021 vs. 30 or 40 years ago, for example.

We do see more diversity among skaters on the JGP, but not all of those skaters will ever reach the skill level to compete at Junior Worlds or senior championships/GP. It may take several skating generations for a new federation to be able to go from JGP participation to Worlds. And maybe some of those original international pioneers for the new federation can become international officials a decade or two or three after their own competitive careers. If they so choose and if they can afford the training and travel to become an international official.

Aside from the amount of financial investment it takes to get any one skater to a high technical level, and developing active federations in warm-weather nations with no history of winter sports, there are also expenses involved in developing officials. In many cases, geography is one of the biggest obstacles. As we know, it's relatively easy for skaters and officials in European countries to travel to other parts of Europe for international experience. Not so easy for skaters from parts of the world where there is no major skating country they can travel to within just a few hours.

And of course officials are volunteers, so taking time off from their day jobs to travel to seminars and competitions, at their own personal or even at their federations' expense, may not always be their priority.

For the past few decades the ISU has been putting efforts and resources into developing new federations around the world. Finding some large sources of funding to support these efforts on a larger scale would go along way to increasing representation.


As for same-sex couples disciplines...

I think that free dancing could easily be competed among teams of two men or two women alongside each other and mix-sex teams, if the emphasis on dance lift difficulty were diminished and/or new rewards were built in for partners switching roles between lifter and liftee during the dance.
The rhythm dance requirements would probably have to be modified significantly because of the traditions of heterosexuality implicit in the off-ice dance traditions used for most of the rhythm themes and pattern dances.

Pair skating as started out in the early 20th century and as it has developed since has always emphasized feats of strength that allow for spectacular tricks performed by teams of big strong men and small athletic women. Even mixed-sex teams who are close in size cannot achieve the same kinds of athletic feats as elite teams with significant size difference.

I think it could be possible to develop separate competition tracks for male-male and female-female teams executing side-by-side freestyle skills along with athletic pair moves, with requirements and restrictions appropriate to teams of those makeups.

In practice, I would expect male-male teams to have some athletic feats that rival the mixed=teams', although sometimes with different emphases.

In female-female teams, I would expect feats of strength including overhead lifts and twists to be either rare or forbidden, with more emphasis on other types of partnered moves. Fans who love pair skating for the big tricks might be less interested in the kinds of moves emphasized in this discipline.

However, on a participatory level I think a competition track for female-female teams, if accompanied by the rewards of international competition, would probably attract more participants than either male-male or mixed events.
 
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