Ladies Results Men's Results Pairs Results Dance Results
The ISU Grand Prix opened with a whimper in Spokane, Washington. Several of the higher ranked skaters withdrew in the weeks leading up to the event and there are now few matchups of interest in the competition. The winners of all the events are pretty much a foregone conclusion before the skaters even take the ice.
In the ladies event Michelle Kwan was added at the last minute and she has little to worry about here. In the men's event Alexei Yagudin can mail in his performance if he prefers. The pairs and dance events are even weaker, with but nine competitors in each event.
The ISU is using its new interim scoring system here. Some serious weaknesses in this new system which were present in its first incarnation earlier in the year have been fixed, but the method offers no real improvement over the past in terms of addressing the concerns people have with the scoring of figure skating. In addition the near total secrecy makes it impossible to fully understand the results of a competition and the placements of the skaters.
As used here, the panels consist of ten judges for singles and pairs, and nine for dance. Seven of the judges are randomly drawn by secret ballot and it is the marks of these judges that determine the placements. The marks of all the judges are displayed in the arena in ascending order for each of the two marks. In this way it is impossible to know which marks were given by each judge or to know which first mark goes with its corresponding second mark. The marks of the seven random judges are used to determine the placements using the OBO method.
The purpose of this secretive approach is to dissuade judges from playing games with their marks by introducing the chance their marks will not be a part of the final determination of the placements. This, of course, is so much foolishness since at this competition there is a roughly 70-80% chance that a judge's marks will count and there is still no down-side to a judge manipulating the marks. Plus, there is the added incentive that the secrecy element of the scoring system makes it more likely that misbehavior of a judge will go undetected.
Another goal of scoring reform is to geographically distribute the representation on the judging panels. We were told that there would be geographic limits in use here, but that does not appear to be the case, with all of the panels dominated by judges from Eastern Europe and their friends.
Consequently, there has been no improvement in the process for scoring competitions under this new approach. In addition the heavy cloak of secrecy only adds confusion. Although the ordinal placements for the seven random judges has been released to TV they are not being made available in the arena or to any media outlets other than TV. Under these circumstances it is impossible for those of us at the competition to know if a decision was close or a slam-dunk; and without knowing how the individual judges scored the event any prospect of judges accountability is crushed. Further, in the short program it is now nearly impossible to tell what deductions were taken given the new way the marks are displayed, whereas before one could at least get an indication by comparing the first and second marks for each judge. This situation, of course, is a matter of choice on the part of the ISU, not an oversight.
Ever since the scandal at the Winter Olympics, the ISU has adopted the posture that it can/will protect itself from scandal and criticsm, not by openly cleaning house, but by wrapping its operation in an iron curtain of secrecy and placing a gag order on its athletes. After nine months of effort since Salt Lace City it seems that the ISU in general, and the ISU president in particular still just doesn't get it.
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