IJS makes me sad. The PCS rules need to change.

After piecing together pieces of Worlds from YouTube in several different languages (including an Italian feed with a biscotti advertisement in the lower-left corner), I am left with such a feeling of sadness. Once again, the IJS has resulted in suspect results. I have to admit, I was one of the people who had been saying that the Performance/Execution component of the Patrick Chan System, er, the Program Component Scores should be docked for a skater who has a hot mess of a program like Patrick Chan did in his long at this year’s Worlds after the quads. Well, here is what the rules say the judges should take into account when judging Performance/Execution:

Performance is the involvement of the skater/couple/teams physically, emotionally and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and choreography. Execution is the quality of movement and precision in delivery. This includes harmony of movement in pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating.

  • Physical, emotional and intellectual involvement
  • Carriage (and body alignment – synchronized)
  • Style and individuality/personality
  • Clarity of movement
  • Variety and contrast
  • Projection
  • Unison and “oneness” (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Balance in performance (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)
  • Spatial awareness between partners – management of the distance between partners and management of changes of hold (pairs, ice dancing and synchronized skating)”

Basically, there is nothing concrete there that states that a judge should penalize a mistake-ridden program. Essentially, the five parts of the PCS (the other four are Skating Skills, Transitions, Choreography, and Interpretation) are not going to change that much from competition to competition, unless (a) a skater chucks his/her program and goes with a different one or (b) a skater is like Surya Bonaly or Christopher Bowman and does choreography on the fly.

I think the PCS rules need to change. Yes, I understand that falls, step-outs, stumbles, etc. are already assessed lower marks in the TES (Technical Element Scores), but I don’t have to tell any of you who are reading this that multiple mistakes effect the flow and emotion of a program. That’s just the way it is. The PCS rules as written now theoretically provide a given skater with a relatively fixed mark from performance to performance, which I think is a mistake. (We won’t talk about the US National judges giving Max Aaron vastly different PCS’s at Nationals than at any other competition he skated this season).

On the technical side, I am no math guru like Tony Wheeler, but I agree with his contention about rewarding/penalizing wrong-edge jumps.¬†(It’s rather math-heavy, but his contention is that skaters who flutz or flitz essentially are rewarded for doing the same jump too many times. I agree.):

http://www.flutzingaround.com/2013/03/edge-calls-and-points-skaters-earn.html

Also, as long as we’re talking math, why not have some kind of score standardization between disciplines? One of the audience-killing aspects of the IJS is that the score a skater receives has no context for the spectators. ¬†Everyone knew under the old system that the closer you got to a 6.0, the better. Now the numbers are different from discipline to discipline. Why not have benchmark scores for the short program/short dance and free skate/free dance? Either take the average of every skater in a given discipline at Worlds since the IJS came into effect, or take the highest score, and make that, say, a 50 in the short program/short dance and a 100 in the free skate/free dance. That way, when the score is posted, everyone would quickly know if that performance was great, good, or poor, regardless of whether it’s men’s, ladies, pairs, or ice dancing. I don’t think we should go back to having a “perfect score” like 6.0, because that to my mind was one of the most egregious flaws of the old system, resulting in judges getting boxed in, scores having to be reserved for later skaters, etc. (Ordinals were the other egregious flaw in the old system, in my opinion. I think it’s much better now that a skater can be rewarded for skating a much better short than his/her competitors vs. being virtually tied going into the long if the short programs were close).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this whole thing. Jennifer Kirk and David Lease said in their Worlds Men’s review podcast that they hoped that skating has now hit bottom. I unfortunately fear that is not the case.

PS> The version of Bolero that Savchenko/Szolkowy used for their free skate was hideous and should be banned. What was that vocal caterwauling about midway through the program????

The US team heading to Worlds, and a US TV coverage rant…

The World Figure Skating Championships are underway this week in London, Ontario, and I am a bit concerned about how the US team will fare there. Of course, our ice dance team is world-class and the envy of any country, but it is hard for me to remember another World Team that has as many question marks as this year’s team aside from ice dance.

Both of our pairs, Castelli/Shnapir and Scimeca/Knierim, are making their very first Worlds appearances. Castelli/Shnapir have a fair amount of international experience, but going into your first Worlds as a first-time national champion is a lot of pressure. Scimeca/Knierim do not have much international experience at all, and have been together less than a year.

New national champion Max Aaron has the quads to compete technically with the world contenders, but the judges overinflating his component scores at Nationals did not do him any favors. His PCSs at Four Continents were more in line with where his skating is at the present time, and he will have to land everything and hope for some mistakes by the more artistic skaters to finish highly. I don’t think that Ross Miner has the technical arsenal to compete with the top guys. It’s not totally impossible that we could regain three men’s spots, but unfortunately it’s probably not going to happen. And let’s not forget what happened to Alissa Czisny last year; hopefully none of our skaters will finish so low that there is a chance of losing the second spot in pairs, men’s, or ladies.

Ashley Wagner had a great fall season, but mounted a less-than-stellar defense of her national title in Omaha. She also does not consistently compete or land a triple-triple–with Queen Yu-Na back, and a resurgent Mao Asada, you’ve got to have it. Gracie Gold is already getting a reputation for inconsistency in the skating world, which I think is a bit premature; after all, she just moved up to seniors this year. Let’s give her a chance. Again, I think our chances are slim to get back three spots, although I would love nothing more than being proven wrong on this point.

Silly me. I thought that since NBC broadcast some of the Grand Prix, and US Nationals, that they surely would broadcast Worlds less than a year out from Sochi. How naive. (I don’t consider a recap show broadcasting the event). Yes, I know, I should have just ponied up for IceNetwork in the fall, but I’m one of the last three people in the United States who does not like watching things that should be on TV on my computer. And our cable system has not had Universal Sports for over a year now. I am grumpy that Worlds are in Canada and (a) I’m not there and (b) I can’t really watch them on TV. As my daughter would say, first-world problems….