Senior Men Senior
Pairs Senior Dance
Junior Ladies Junior Men Junior Pairs Junior Dance
Novice Ladies Novice Men Novice Pairs Novice Dance
Normally, we would not cover the a sectional championships, but sectional championships this year are the first qualifying competitions in the U.S. to be judged under the new system, and we wanted to see first hand the last dress rehearsal before the Nationals Championships. To support competition at the two arenas at Nationals, two complete hardware systems were purchased by U.S. Figure Skating. With additional spare components, this hardware was split into three smaller system that were distributed among the three sectional championships. These systems included instant replay for the technical panels, but not for the judges.
Other than the practical issues related to use of the new system and hardware, Coast was a well run competition that was well organized by the host club and the chief referee, Jessica Gaynor. As a dress rehearsal for Nationals the glass was half full. There were numerous glitches that one would have hoped would not have occurred in the last major test before Nationals, but nothing so major, to indicate National will not be conducted successfully.
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing use of the new system demonstrated at Coast was controlling the time it takes to conduct a competition. The competition was scheduled to allow nearly three minutes between skaters, and yet the schedule could not be maintained. The Novice events proved the most troublesome, with the competition falling behind up to one hour on most days, but generally catching up during the Junior and Senior events.
Competition delays were invariably due to lengthy element reviews, which in some cases extended in excess of five minutes. Should this experience be repeated at Nationals, there are going to be a lot of awfully bored people in the arenas. Further, Coast (as did the other sectionals) made clear cost effective competitions cannot be held if as much time is spent on element reviews as on the skating itself.
The next major issue that potentially could wreak havoc on competition under the new system is the handling of protests. ISU Communication 1350, issued in October 2005, opened the door to the correction of calls, and revision of results up to 24 hours after the award ceremony for and event. The handling of protest and correction of results at Coast was handled on an ad hoc basis. According to Charlie Cyr, Pacific Coast vice president, an explicit policy governing protests and correction of calls and results will be in place for the National Championships in St. Louis.
There were several cases at Coast were changes to results changed results. In Senior pairs, changes to a lift and spin level in the short program switched the results of fourth and fifth place in the Short Program and required a complete redrawing of the Free Skating start order the next day. In Junior Ladies Short Program, the identification of a combination spin after the segment added 4.3 points to the score of Caroline Zhang, moving her up from seventh place to third, clearly illustrating the importance of getting the calls correct, and the potential consequences of getting them wrong. The final results of the Junior Dance event also were changed for first and second place. In that case, the skaters had the medals around their necks only to be told by the awards photographer of the change in results.
In a minor software glitch, the results of the Novice Men's event had to be taken down after being posted, and the results for both the Novice Men and Ladies had to be recalculated, a glitch that left the results of the Novice events in limbo for over two hours after the events. This problem was caused by incorrect values in the software event database for the Novice events.
Another significant issue that affected several skaters, was the handling of the final windup and exit of spins in the upright positions. ISU rules call for the final upright position in a spin to be counted as a position if more than three rotations are executed. In several cases, skaters who were slow in exiting their spins had the final upright rotations counted as positions, which changed the intended spin types to combinations spins. Since the spin types are specified in the sort programs, these skaters found one or more of their spin types discounted as illegal elements due to this error. This is the latest example of how simple errors in programs result in extremely harsh penalties in the skater's scores. Although this affected the results of some skaters, fortunately it did not affect any medal placements or selection to advance to Nationals.
It will be interesting to see, if the dress rehearsals at sectionals have the intended effect of producing a smooth running Nationals, or prove to be precursors of time bombs waiting to explode.
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Copyright 2006 by George S. Rossnao