Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Change Isn't a Perfect 6.0

New rules to combat skating's scoring flaws to get a test at Skate America

October 20, 2002|From Associated Press

With Sarah Hughes having pulled out because of injury, Alexei Yagudin gets top billing at Skate America for his shiny gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

But it's the less-pleasant memories of Salt Lake City that will be attracting all the attention. Again.

While Yagudin kicks off the season next weekend at Skate America in Spokane, Wash., the first Grand Prix event, a new judging system designed to help prevent scandals will also make its debut. Judges will be selected randomly by a computer, and no one -- not even the judges themselves -- will know whose marks are being used.

"I think people felt that something really needed to happen now," said Phyllis Howard, president of the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. "We did feel there was some urgency to it."

Judging shenanigans -- real or imagined -- were skating's dirty little secret for years. It wasn't a major competition without someone whining about being slighted, and plenty more mumbling and grumbling was done in private.

But skating and the Olympic movement were humiliated by the Salt Lake City scandal. French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted she was pressured to "vote a certain way" when she put Russian pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Both couples wound up with gold medals.

Le Gougne later recanted her accusation, but the International Skating Union suspended her and French federation president Didier Gailhaguet for three years and barred them from the 2006 Olympics.

When the ISU Congress met in June in Kyoto, Japan, it was clear changes had to be made.

The congress approved a radical reform project that would scrap the century-old 6.0 scoring scale and replace it with an X-Games-like points system.

But that system isn't ready yet, so the congress approved this new scoring formula to be used in the meantime.

"This is an interim proposal," said Howard, also a member of the ISU council, the sport's governing body. "I think the proponents of this system feel that it's a start and feel it will remove pressure on the judges from their member federations."

In years past, all judges on a panel marked every skater, and the votes were posted for the public and skaters to see. A few calculations and it was easy to figure if votes were breaking down along cultural or geopolitical lines.

Under the new system, the marks from the entire panel will be posted in ascending order, first for technical merit, then for artistry. But a computer will randomly and secretly select which scores count -- probably seven judges from a 10-judge panel at Grand Prix events, and nine judges of a 14-judge panel at the world championships.

The marks won't be read, and no one -- not the skaters, the judges, the event officials, or the fans -- will know which judges' scores were used or how a judge ranked one skater against another. The only way to tell where a skater ranks will be to look at the standings.

"It's going to be very confusing this year, frankly," Howard said. "We're just going to have to educate people to exactly what this is. [And] it is an interim system."

But ISU officials hope it will be enough to protect judges from being pressured by their federations or other judges. If no one knows whose marks will be used, the thinking is, how can deals be made?

Not everyone is so sure.

"I hope people are not buying into the new system, because I don't believe it will work," Pelletier said. "It's weird to not know whose mark that is, which judge. They can all hide behind it now even more.

"The judge should be responsible," he added. "I am responsible for what I do on the ice as soon as I step on the ice. Whatever I do is judged. They say they are doing this to protect them. Protect them? Did I miss something?"

Skaters also aren't sold on the idea of dropping scores, especially when the larger panels are used. Some of the other subjective sports drop an athlete's highest and lowest scores, but throwing away as many as five scores could skew the outcome of a competition, Yagudin said.

"What if nine vote me first, but only four of them count? And the other five who count vote for someone else. I would have nine judges on the panel and not win," Yagudin said. "Maybe not even be second."

ISU officials know this new system isn't perfect. It will probably be confusing, particularly to fans used to seeing scores lined up judge by judge. Some say, after the Salt Lake City debacle, something had to be done.

Yagudin isn't convinced.

"There will be no perfect system in our lifetime. These are humans sitting there," Yagudin said. "I think this will not work, and in a few years, they will go back to the old system and say, 'We did all we could, and it did not work.' "

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|