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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Random thoughts about the IJS and its future

The IJS is now in its 10th season (9th full); following the Olympic season, it will have been in place for an entire decade. I have written here before about some of the effects I feel it has had on skating, both positive and negative. I view the off-season after the Olympics as a good point in time for the relevant people at the ISU to take a step back and look at what it’s accomplishing and what it isn't, and make a more serious effort to put together a system that can reward great skating without overly constraining it. The current approach of minor off-season tinkering and making changes as new problems arise has resulted in a system that’s too complex, and is reactive rather than proactive when it comes to promoting good skating. In my opinion, the core should be retained – element values, the idea of GOEs and PCS, rewarding rather than punishing – but there’s a lot that can be improved. Below are some of the questions I think should be considered; note that I’m not necessarily advocating any specific solutions.

Preface: I think skating is both a sport and an art, and much of this has to do with how to best combine and balance these two aspects, which can be contradictory at times.



1. How do we best differentiate the short program from the free skate?
2. Is there a better way to balance between difficulty and execution when scoring elements?
I think having fewer level-based elements and more leeway with the GOEs (provided they are properly marked) would be a step in the right direction. This seems to be working with the choreographic step sequences.

3. Is difficulty the most important criterion in judging an element? What role should the quality and the aesthetic side of it play?
4. Are difficulty and quantity the most important considerations when evaluating linking movements and program construction (beyond the actual elements)?
There is so much focus on transitions, who has more of them, etc., and sometimes I miss seeing skaters doing simpler linking movements/moves in the field, or doing fewer of them but holding positions and showing beautiful lines and gliding. This does not have to make a program “empty” – we need to look at quality and not just quantity (and difficulty, or even intricacy).

I am not about to count how many transitions Janet Lynn did.

5. How do we ensure good distribution of various elements in the program without constraining program construction?
Maybe a sliding bonus scale rather than a two-half split would help?

6. In scoring step sequences, should the emphasis be on footwork or on upper body movement?
This is figure skating, not tai chi. The edge work should matter the most.

7. How do we encourage more variety of jumps and more difficult combinations and sequences?
Perhaps a good approach would be to consider combinations as a single element worth a certain base value, rather than a combination of parts. A 4-3 and solo triple in the SP are worth as much as a 3-3 and solo quad, even though the former layout is clearly more difficult; actually, it can be worth less, because it's harder to take advantage of the second half bonus for the combination when it's a 4-3. How is this reflective of actual difficulty? And while we're at it, why are skaters not penalized for doing their solo SP quads out of no steps whatsoever?

8. Are the five existing components the best way to reward the non-element aspects of the program?
I’d like to see three or four components, and have them switched around so that maybe they won’t be so clustered around the skating skills mark. Do away with the corridor and encourage variation between the component scores if warranted. And stop tying them to the technical difficulty. Jonathan Cassar may not have had a 3A or a quad, but he shouldn't have been out-PCS'd by so many skaters.

9. Skating performances can be more than the sum of their parts; is there any way the scoring can reflect that?
Or maybe the first component scored should be P&E, which is the closest thing to “more than the sum of its parts”.

More than the sum of its parts.

10. Why are there variations in PCS marking between the disciplines? Shouldn't the 10-point scale be used in a similar way across disciplines?
In other words – why are ice dancers getting high 9s and 10s while the ladies can’t really get out of the 8s? How can anyone have looked at Carolina Kostner's programs last season and not broken out the 9s and high 8s?
11. Is the short dance a necessary evil?
No, it is not. Bring back the CDs and/or OSPs!

Bring it back, I say!

Where do you stand when it comes to the current scoring system? Does it need tinkering, an overhaul, or absolutely no changes? Have I missed any important points that should be considered in evaluating the system and the programs it rewards?

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