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FIGURE SKATING

Officials Consider Reforms

June 03, 2002|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

KYOTO, Japan — The International Skating Union took the first step toward reforming figure skating's judging and scoring systems by unanimously agreeing Monday to consider all 49 "urgent proposals" put forth by the ISU itself and member federations.

The extent and nature of those reforms, however, will be hotly debated as the organization's biennial Congress continues this week. The full congress is expected to decide Wednesday morning, Japan time, whether it will go forward with dramatic change. If the Congress agrees to a reform proposal, figure skating delegates would meet separately from their speedskating counterparts to discuss the nature of the changes. "If not, I say, 'OK, it is a sad moment," ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta said.

In a 14-page speech to representatives from 53 nations, Cinquanta acknowledged "there is a problem" with figure skating's current judging system. But he disputed the perception that a judging scandal at the Salt Lake City Olympics had undermined the sport's integrity.

"This, dear delegates, is not only an accusation, it is also a grave insult, since we know by far that the majority of the competitions are judged with fairness," he said. "Of course, we cannot exclude that there are mistakes, but being accused of lacking credibility is certainly not the way to say that a judge has made a mistake.

"What has become evident, and I would like to stress to you today, is that it is not possible to maintain a system of judging created decades ago ... that is no longer comparable with today's standards of skating. We cannot sacrifice the effort and dedication of skaters, coaches, clubs, federations, families by maintaining an outdated system of judging that does not reflect the merit of the on-ice performance and unfortunately, in some cases, can permit misconduct."

In the first sign some change is imminent, the Congress adopted without dissent a proposal to have judges renominated by the ISU at the end of their terms, based on a rating of their performance by the ISU technical committee. Previously, judges were renominated by their respective national federations. That created an opportunity for federations to pressure judges, because nominations and assignments are considered perks. A similar proposal was rejected two years ago.

"It's the first positive step," said Fredi Schmid, the ISU's general secretary.

Any changes must be approved by a two-thirds vote of members present. Such consensus might be difficult to achieve on major issues, such as the notion of discarding the traditional 6.0 perfect score, as advocated by the ISU.

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