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