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Friday, March 22, 2013

Rewarding A, Hoping for B

There is a classic management article called "On the Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping for B". For those who don't feel like looking it up (although you really should!), the argument, in a nutshell, is that reward systems are often geared to provide incentives for behavior that they might actually want to discourage, while not really encouraging the desired behavior. I recently reread this article, and began to wonder if perhaps the IJS and its development over the years reflects a process by which the ISU is rewarding A, and then C, and then D, and later on K, and maybe A again but slightly different, while hoping for some sort of vaguely defined B.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

That's Entertainment: Be Italian

With Worlds over, it's time to go back to some regularly scheduled programming, and since entertainment was woefully lacking in London (the Canadian one) for the most part, let's try to bring it back...

Did you know anything about Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz before the 2010-11 season? I didn't, either - but they were hard to miss at the 2011 Europeans. Although they were nowhere near the top ten, let alone the podium, the first ice dancers to represent Spain gave a very entertaining performance in the FD.

Hurtado and Díaz had made the switch to ice dance just three years earlier, and at the time they were still training in Spain (they have since changed coaches and relocated to Montreal). What made their program especially noteworthy was the first lift: they are not the first ice dance team to do a reverse lift, but I can't think of any others who have done it as a scoring lift under the IJS. The judges were suitably impressed, and the duo earned a level 4 and positive GOEs.

I don't know how she was able to breath with that thing around her neck.

In an interview with, Díaz said that their cool lift had been an accidental discovery, or, as Hurtado explained: "We were just playing. Suddenly I grab his legs, he goes, 'Sara, catch me!' I catch him and he goes, 'Wow, we could do that as a lift! What if you let go of your hands and we go in a straight line?' Our coach looked at it and said it would work. It took some time for Adri to get in the right place on my knees. He was scared to let himself go."

While not the best technicians (hardly a surprise, with their limited experience), Hurtado has star quality and Díaz is fun to watch, too. Their progress seems to have stalled the past couple of seasons, but they did manage a personal best at Worlds, so maybe they are getting back on track... I do hope that they can improve their skills and elements, and perhaps some day come close to the achievements of fellow Team Spain member Javier Fernandez.

The concept for the "that's entertainment" posts was explained in the first entry in the series. If you have ideas and further suggestions, please feel free to share them!  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013 Worlds and some implications for the Olympic season

Worlds are over except for the gala, and we've had some expected results, some shockers, a few head scratching moments, blatant robbing of skaters, and some bizarre scoring. Or in other words: it's business as usual in figure skating! I will never claim to know all and see all when I look into my crystal ball, but I do make the occasional correct prediction (e.g. that of the comeback skaters, only Shen and Zhao would win OGMs in Vancouver), so I will attempt to divine what the results mean for the coming year and how some skaters and federations might wish to proceed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Scoring of Tomáš Verner: The Epitome of The Failings of IJS

First, let me clarify something. I love

Worlds 2013: 3rd Day, Men LP

Did I say in a previous post that the SP was an emotional rollercoaster? Well, that was just a figure of speech then, I didn't really think it was, but I really mean it now when I say: That LP was an emotional rollercoaster and tunnel of horror ghost train combined into one nightmarish experience.

It started off pleasantly enough. Over time one has come to accept certain things, most importantly that some skaters can't escape their destiny, or their prospective scoring. There are good days, bad days. Favourites win, favourites lose, favourites get the short end of the stick, programme-choreography and performance don't necessarily matter etc. etc. You probably know what I mean, all those minuscule vanities. There comes a time, when you realise that is simply the circle of skating as an artform doing nothing more than imitating life. So far so good.

Should I bother you with the early groups? Maybe a wee bit:

Justus Strid put really some effort into his performance. The music made me immediately think of P/B's Circus but, to draw upon T.S. Eliot, it's all a great body of skating. There were 4 broken glass sound effects which was a bit too much in that regard but still, despite the falls, enjoyable, good to end on a choreo step. I encourage that. Well done I say, even if he was less than happy after the programme.

Meneer Hendrickx. He has really improved his skills and shows a certain feel for his material. Also landed his stuff throughout, which always helps. Also, well done.

Tomas Verner: I had hoped, and was pretty sure, it could only go upwards for him after his performances at the Europeans. He has the skills and can also still do it in the presentation department as he proves time and again in every Gala he participates. May the bittersweet Saffron comment further on that.

Misha Ge, natural performer, youthful refreshing attitude, blog favourite of ours, and it's always a pleasure to watch a skater put all his personality into his performances. If anything underscored in that department or others overscored?, probably both.

Peter Liebers, straight up landed everything in a very good skate. I suggest a non-brown and more flattering sp-trouser, but he ended up only one place shy of getting two spots, which is very very good considering the dense and very competitive field.

Rapidly are we approaching the top.

Takahito Mura pleasantly surprised me with a technically strong skate that also was very enjoyable in choreography and he performed it well. The music is partly difficult to skate to fittingly, and I appreciate how they put this together. Also, well done.

Fast forward to Brian Joubert. The Maximus of our hearts, the champion of The Quad! statistics. I wasn't expecting much, I was expecting a decent skate. My favourites never seem to win, anyway. Then suddenly, there he was: not having fallen on his ass even once in the whole competition, doing three Quads! over the whole event, and even doing 3 combos in the LP. Unfortunately, the system states that he should have rather fallen on a 4S than doing a clean 3S in the beginning, and, thusly, he invalidated his last combo.

Luckily, he need not feel bad about that little mishap, as the following option would have barely elevated him into 7th, at the most: Falling on a fully rotated 4S and having the Flip(E) count gives him roughly 6.5 points more at the most.

For a moment I thought he had done it. I knew he hadn't though. He doesn't pick up GOE easily normally, like he did here in the SP, much to my surprise, and a great Joubert skate does score around 160 at the maximus [sic!], which would have him in 5th now. Deep down I felt that was more than possible, more than deserved. But alas... the downgrades, the GOEs, the combo-rules... Blessings of the new system, here they shine bright like a diamond.

Ah, lest if forget, the podium skaters:

Did I say in that other post I was fine with overscoring of the clear winner as it happened in 6.0 as well? Luckily, not quite. I said the event was already decided and in 6.0 you could, no matter how much 6.0s not be further ahead than in 1st. after the SP. So, for the future, dear judges: Only overscore during the LP as that is the last segment and you have seen everything of a skater once he has finished, you can still somehow let the SP margins seep into your LP considerations. Who are we kidding. That happens anyway, subconsciously and through skating order.

Instead of commenting on the podium skaters, I'm offering you a poll, in which you can participate to make the vox populi heard. If not for me, do it for Maximus. And feel free to engage via the comment function.

Take your pick:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Worlds 2013: 1st Day

That Mens competition was really an emotional roller coaster. I had put myself into my reclining chair and was in the most chillaxing of moods. I had already followed the Pairs SP and had just returned from an evening session where I indulged into my own humble skating efforts. (To be honest, I was rather great today :D, but that's for a different column.)

Unfortunately, I can't make a case for the programmes of S/S this season, but as much as I don't fancy their stuff, they are not worse than what V/T are putting out there. What we are witnessing is the ever more gradually growing gap between V/T and the rest of the field, most importantly S/S. K/S delivered, and I was pleasantly surprised, I fancied them ever since they toned themselves down a little. Much appreciated K/S, all in all, lots of the lower pairs had better programmes and performances than the upper pairs. B/H and J/C for instance. Anyhow, on to the Men. These days, Canada is on daylight saving time, even before it hits Europe, so watching is rather convenient.

Now, there were a few "huh?"-moments during our watching of the competition. One of the first ones was after the programme of Brian Joubert. We like Brian. He can always count on a soft spot in our hearts, so he did somehow deliver, and with Quad+Double I suspected his scores to be in the high 70s, maybe 80. He got 84! At Euros he got 83 something with a 4+3. That made me say: What's going on here?

My old skating love Tomas Verner messed up all of his jump elements and managed to score 68 something, in the vein of an almost but not quite clean Misha Ge who once again put all his Panache on display. I am above reproach when it comes to bias against Tomas Verner, but I wondered, he had scored worse with better performances in the past.

Denis Ten, a skater with very good skating skills, and a previous record of 78 something in the SP, scored a whopping 91!!! While he really put it down, it made us wonder.

Then it dawned upon us. It was the love of the Canadians for huge scores. And, presumably, the setting up of a clean Chan for a record breaking international score. (Granted, it's Worlds but it's also Canada) Note that I'm not saying a messy Chan would have been propped up. But Skate Canada and the crowd just love huge scores. I remember Debbie Wilkes at Canadian Nationals a year ago or two talking up the nationals records to please the crowd, it's just the longing for new records and higher scores. Nothing wrong with that, if it keeps you interested in the sport.

Chan, thankfully, delivered and was awarded with a whopping 98. He is in 1st place, and deservedly, just for the record. (His programmes this year are better than ever, and I don't question him having a modern dance coach or whatever, it's doing him good as far as I am concerned) Everyone who has the potential to score similarly high PCS faltered today: Takahashi had too many URs, Hanyu messed up his quad and combo, etc. etc. We all know that the PCS factor for the LP is 2, which makes it harder to catch up on the tech side only. The Mens segment is, thusly,  already decided.

I wonder if that is the competition format to further embrace. Even if we set aside the problems of the IJS for a moment, we are still left with a Men's event that's virtually decided after the short programme. Under 6.0 we had the factor of the favoured skater delivering and being given 6.0s, but he could never be further ahead than his 1st place ordinal allowed him to be. Be it as it may. There is still the Ladies event. Traditionally not as over scored as the Men or Dance. As the Pairs are catching up, maybe the Ladies will too at these Worlds.

Tot later, guys :D

Monday, March 11, 2013

Memory lane: Yuzuru Hanyu

In March 2010, Yuzuru Hanyu won the junior World title, at the age of fifteen. I had spotted Hanyu at the same event a year earlier, when he was among the youngest skaters in the field but showed amazing potential, enough that I was hoping to adopt him so that he could represent us instead of Japan :) Although the judges did not show sufficient appreciation for him at the time, I concluded that Hanyu was going to go far - possibly becoming a contender following the Sochi Olympics; I had thought him too young to contend before that. Was I ever wrong!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

From the Desk of Mr. Y. Speed: Shape the future!

Dear Members,

as the season is approaching its climax and at the same time its end, I want to conduct an investigation into your satisfaction with my outstanding work. Although I am quite sure you all have only the most noteworthy praise to convey with regard to my efforts, I still like to have some valiant statistical feedback and impressive numbers to show off to other sports administers or even random people I meet on the street. There is nothing like a good promotion really.

I highly encourage you to vote in all of the following polls (especially he last one) and help shaping the future of the sport and my contributions to it.

Your reading habits of my communications:

My innovations, mark everything you like:

Regarding my future labors as dedicated official:

Friday, March 8, 2013

That's entertainment: Adrian Schultheiss's 2009-10 LP

I'm not feeling the love for most of this seasons' programs, and have been watching older ones on Youtube more than I watch the newer ones. As Saffron noted in her post about Misha Ge, neither a skater nor a program need be perfect in order to be entertaining or memorable. With that in mind, here's one such program (more to follow!): Adrian Schultheiss's wacky LP from the 2009-10 Olympic season, a combination of Massive Attack's Teardrop, Cypress Hill's Insane in the Brain, Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up, and some Super Mario Brothers thrown in for good measure.

Schultheiss skates to a top-ten finish at 2010 Worlds

Tell us about your program, Adrian: "I wanted to be even more crazy and funny for the public in a hip-hop way... People say to me, ‘This is what figure skating needs, somebody to do something new, to wake up the public a little bit.’ Because if you watch the classical [music], as I have in my short program, people get bored easy. You need variation. That’s what I’m trying to show.” 

According to Schultheiss's website, he will not be able to return to competition this season, but plans to compete next season. Here's to hoping he'll stay healthy, both for his own sake and because of the entertainment value he provides!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

If we ran the ISU

What would you change if you ran the ISU? Here at SFT, we have been pondering this question for some time. How would we improve skating? What can be done to make the sport more enjoyable and appealing - visually, athletically and artistically? The following is a list of ideas we came up with. It is by no means definitive, and we reserve the right to make it even better as time goes on...