Fig­ure skat­ing’s Code of Points prac­ti­cally takes a statis­ti­cian to de­ci­pher

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY LORI EWING

move is ex­e­cuted.

Take the triple Axel for ex­am­ple. The three-and-a-half ro­ta­tion jump has a base value of 8.2 points. Judges then de­cide how well the jump has been ex­e­cuted, award­ing a grade of ex­e­cu­tion or GOE rang­ing from a plus-3 to a mi­nus-3, which takes into ac­count ev­ery­thing from height and speed, to the dif­fi­culty of the steps lead­ing into the jump.

“ You can see a jump that goes up and the speed lead­ing in is amaz­ing, and the po­si­tion in the air is beau­ti­fully straight and the land­ing flows out with amaz­ing ex­ten­sion of the free leg,” ex­plains Norm Proft, of­fi­cials pro­grams man­ager for Skate Canada. GOE: A plus-3. “ You have an­other skater, maybe they’re a lit­tle slower go­ing in, maybe they lean in the air, maybe their free leg is up in the air in­stead of nice and tight, maybe the land­ing a lit­tle scratchy. They’re both triple Ax­els, but they’re dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent in the qual­ity of the jump,” Proft says.

There’s an­other set of scores — “pro­gram com­po­nents” — that re­place the for­mer “pre­sen­ta­tion” marks. The five com­po­nents are skat­ing skills, tran­si­tion, per­for­mance/ex­e­cu­tion , chore­og­ra­phy/com­po­si­tion, and in­ter­pre­ta­tion, with a scale of 1 to 10.

Cana­di­ans Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir earned the first per­fect 10 awarded in ice dance at HomeSense Skate Canada In­ter­na­tional in De­cem­ber.

Up un­til the 2002 Olympics, pro­grams were scored with pen and pa­per. Scor­ing is now com­put­er­ized and judges use in­stant re­play to re­view any ques­tion­able el­e­ments be­fore de­ter­min­ing scores.

There is a three-per­son tech­ni­cal panel that iden­ti­fies each el­e­ment, and then nine judges who tab­u­late the GOEs. Only five scores are cal­cu­lated how­ever — two judges are ex­cluded by a ran­dom com­puter draw­ing, and the low­est and high­est score on each el­e­ment are dropped.

Ev­ery pro­gram has a spe­cific num­ber of re­quired jumps, spins, step se­quences and lifts (in pairs and dance). If a skater does an ex­tra jump, it’s graded as 0, pre­vent­ing skaters from load­ing their pro­gram with cer­tain el­e­ments.

The new judg­ing sys­tem has re­ceived mostly high marks among fans and ath­letes for de­vel­op­ing more well-rounded skaters. With vir­tu­ally ev­ery step of a pro­gram marked, gone are the days of: skate-skate-skate-jump, skateskate-skate-spin.

“ Where it’s more dif­fi­cult may not be in the tech­ni­cal el­e­ments them­selves, but it’s what they’re re­quired to do in be­tween those el­e­ments,” Proft says. “Th­ese guys are ath­letes, they’re hard bodies out there.”

Brian Orser, who won sil­ver for Canada at the 1988 Olympics, be­lieves he would have found even more suc­cess un­der the new sys­tem.

“I would have loved the new judg­ing sys­tem,” Orser told The Cana­dian Press. “I think it would have been a lot eas­ier for the judges to go my way. I did all the tran­si­tions, I had more in­ter­pre­ta­tion, skat­ing skills were very im­por­tant for me, my glide, I cared about spins, I did all the dif­fer­ent things that they’re all do­ing now.

“I didn’t have to do it, but I kind of liked to show my ver­sa­til­ity. All those things now, the me­ter goes up.”

Cana­dian star Pa­trick Chan, who’s grown up on the new sys­tem, says it’s a tough sell to peo­ple still pin­ing for the per­fect 6.0.

“It’s di­min­ished the pop­u­lar­ity of skat­ing … 250 points, that’s like, ‘ Yeah, but what’s 250 points?”’says the reign­ing world sil­ver medal­list. “A 6.0, every­one can say ‘ That means it’s good, it’s a per­fect pro­gram,’ whereas a 250, 240, a reg­u­lar Joe on the street doesm’t know what that is.

“I wish they would put up the equiv­a­lent of your mark, that would be cool.” Chan never re­ceived a 6.0. “I was in novice,” he laughs. “They don’t give 6s in novice.”

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