Episode 4: Judging Systems - Past, Present, and Future - Transcript

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Dani: You’re In The Loop!  We’re here to discuss the ups, downs and sideways of the sport of figure skating and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. This week’s hosts are:

Karly: Karly,

Lo: Lo,

Dani: Dani,

Sam: and Sam.

Karly: Alright so we’re gonna start of with introducing ourselves, so you can get used to listening to our voices. So my name’s Karly, I’m @discojunhwan on Twitter, and I’m a newer fan who is constantly yelling about figure skating - but I’m always here to learn and here to help others.

Lo: Hi, I’m Lo, I’m @letsgocrazysp on twitter, and watching skating for 20 years has made me very bitter.

Dani: Hey everyone, my name is Dani. You can find me on twitter @DanielleSkating, and I am a National Showcase skater myself.

Sam: Hi, I’m Sam - your classic childhood Michelle Kwan fan turned figure skating fan. You can follow me on twitter at @quadlutze, with an e for an edge call.

Karly: Alright so, as usual, we’re gonna start off with a piece of news and possibly our biggest news this past two weeks has been the cancellation or movement of all of the ISU events in China. So, Shanghai Open has been cancelled, China’s Junior Grand Prix event has been moved to Vancouver, and Cup of China is up in the air right now.

Lo: Yeah, there have been rumors that it was going to Europe in the past few days, but initially it was going to be offered to Korea, which may or may not take it, so I guess we’ll have to see. I would prefer it for it to be in Korea or somewhere in Asia but… if they don’t want it then… I’d be fine with it in Milan or - Barcelona would be cool too.

Sam: I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave it to Finland either.

Lo: That would be kinda cool.

Karly: I didn’t even see the Finland rumor.

Sam: There’s not really a rumor, it’s just that Finland’s been really upping their game in trying to host as many figure skating events as possible, especially after Worlds. And they did an okay job, it wasn’t perfect especially with camera angles and stuff, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got it either.

Karly: Yeah. But when are camera angles perfect?

Lo: I complain about camera angles at every event to be honest, so, it’s not unique.

Dani: Sky cam.

Sam: Everybody’s favorite.

Karly: The official reason is that their venues need to be upgraded or prepared for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and it kinda seems suspicious to me, especially like there might be issues in the CSA.

Lo: I feel like in the past week or so it’s become pretty clear that the suspension of two Chinese judges for corruption has been playing a pretty big role with the decision. I don’t think this would be happening if it weren’t for that.

Sam: Yeah, it definitely didn’t take much critical thinking to realize that there are more figure skating rinks in China than just in Beijing.

Lo: Yeah.

Kar: Exactly. And, like, they’re not running out of space.

Sam: Yeah.

Karly: And then with the issue of the two Chinese judges, they finally received their punishments from the ISU for their scores at the Olympics, right?

Dani: Yes.

Lo: Yes, they did. They were pretty harsh, although I’m fine with harshness for corruption, but I do think that it should be… I feel like all judges should be investigated.

Sam: Equally distributed in their punishment.

Lo: Exactly, yeah. I don’t like cracking down on smaller feds and ignoring the big ones, and I think you guys all know what I’m referring to.

Karly: Yeah, not naming any names but there are some bigger feds that exhibited similar behaviour.

Lo: Yeah, no need to name names, but… we all know.

Karly: Honestly, I think it would be really neat if it moved to Korea, because Korea’s kinda been on the rise.

Dani: For sure, after the Olympics especially too.

Sam: And then it keeps the structure of how the Grand Prix works with two North American, two European, and two Asian Grand Prixs.

Lo: Definitely would be the ideal choice. Definitely. And it would be good for the rising program.

Karly: We could just, like, move it to Australia.

Lo: That’d be cool. That’d be pretty cool. I would like that.

Karly: Honestly I’m all for moving it to somewhere smaller, because I like supporting smaller feds.

Lo: I do too.

Sam: Hopefully the chaos doesn’t follow.

Karly: Yeah. I just remember waking up one day and someone was like ‘where’s Cup of China?’ It was just gone from the ISU website and I was just like… Oh.

Lo: It’s just gone.

Karly: Exactly. To be announced.

Lo: Our next piece of news is Rika Kihira moving up to seniors. I’m personally super excited for her. I think that moving up to seniors might actually give her better results than juniors, just because juniors is so stacked right now. And I think that she offers something new with her triple axel that pretty much no other senior lady is really doing other than Mirai [Nagasu], but hers isn’t really consistent and we don’t even know if she’s competing next year, so… I’m really excited for Rika. Her new long program looks pretty awesome, it’s really unique music.

Karly: Oh yeah, I loved watching it.

Lo: Yeah, I think I’m really looking forward to her. She can be kind of inconsistent, but she’s, like, 15, so I think she’ll -

Dani: She has room to grow, for sure.

Lo: I believe that she’ll figure it out.

Karly: My only worry is that, like you said, the juniors field is stacked - it’s almost like so is the seniors field, there’s so many Japanese ladies that I support, they can’t all have spots.

Lo: Japanese Nationals is gonna be a bloodbath once again, even with the extra spot. I mean, it was worse last year because there were only two spots, but -

Karly: It just makes me nervous. But I’m really excited for her and her new program seems great. And then also speaking of Team Japan, we also have Daisuke Murakami’s retirement, which we tweeted about on our Twitter, but it’s still just something to talk about. You know, he brought a lot and we’re sad to see him go.

Sam: I was happy he was able to make it to Japanese Nationals last year, because he did not have a great fall season leading into it. It was nice to see him go out on a better note than that.     

Lo: I’ll miss his vlogs and his competition vlogs, so…

Karly: Yeah, same.

Lo: And he had some really great moments.

Karly: We’ll have to rely on the Shibs’ vlogs from now on.

Lo: …when it comes out a year later.

Karly: (Laughs). Exactly.

Lo: So step it up Alex. You can do it.

Karly: Evgenia calling them out in their vlog was funny.

Lo: Yeah, good for her. She was speaking for us all at that moment.

Karly: It’s kind of not really news but she’s been in Toronto for the past week and I’m really excited to see her development. She’s got her new skates, her new -

Lo: Her beautiful skates.

Karly: Yeah, her new 24K rose gold blades.

Lo: Blinged out boots.

Karly: Yeah, exactly. Swarovski crystals. I’m really excited to see her - just excited to see what she can do now that she’s in Toronto.

Dani: Personally, I’m excited to see her work with Brian and how much she’s gonna grow.

Sam: I’m most excited to see what she decides - what she wants to do with her program, because obviously at Eteri’s camp they aren’t exactly known for giving their skaters their own choices in programs, so it’ll be interesting to see what she picks herself.

Lo: Definitely. It’s gonna be cool. She came out pretty recently saying that she was not a big fan of her “Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close” program, which to be honest I’m not either, so I was kinda glad to hear that. So now that we know that that’s not really her style I’m kind of hopeful  to see what her actual style might be, because now I know that she has good taste, so… or at least better taste. That sounds mean, but you know what -

Karly: It wasn’t a good program.

Lo: I’m not gonna pretend that I like her 9/11 program, so, whatever.

Karly: Yeah, same.

Lo: Deal with it.

Karly: I kinda hope she’s also not a fan of pantomiming.

Lo: Uhh, I think that she might be.

Sam: Well, she did admit that Ilia Averbukh did help her with her show program from this summer, so she’s still in contact with the pantomiming.

Lo: Oh, no. Get away from her. Get away from her, Averbukh.

Karly: Okay, so we’re also talking about - still on the subject of Team Japan, we have another retirement coming up. Tatsuki Machida is retiring from pro skating soon.

Lo: I’m so sad.

Karly: And that’s just something I’m really upset about, honestly.

Sam: At least he announced it in advance this time.

Lo: Yeah, it’s not as bad as his first retirement.

Sam: No Christmas heartbreak for us.

Lo: Yeah. That was - it was way worse. It was way worse in 2014.

Sam: No one, no one saw that coming.

Lo: No. He just went out there and he was done, he wants to go be a professor, which is probably what he wants to do now.

Sam: He took all of our hearts and just stepped on them with his blade.

Karly: I know but the fact that we’re not gonna get any more - who’s gonna give us our ten-minute long symbolic programs?

Sam: Wakaba’s Michael Jackson program was pretty long and she does love Tatsuki a lot, so maybe she will.

Karly: I need her to give me a ten-minute Swan Lake right now. But honestly, he brought a lot - it’s incredible how much he brought even after his initial retirement. I will go off a lot about Tatsuki and how he took warhorses and he made them interesting and fun and new.

Lo: And they were long! It’s hard to make a ten-minute Bolero interesting but he did it.

Sam: It’s hard to make Bolero interesting at all. The fact that I like that is a testament to how amazing he is.

Karly: Exactly.

Lo: I feel like he improved every single year that he competed, like, his best season was 2013-2014 and he was still good the season after that, but since he’s retired he’s just expanded so much artistically and I’m gonna miss him a lot at shows.

Sam: Hopefully we’ll still get his commentary.

Lo: Yeah, we get his amazing, brilliant, weird mind, and his just bizarre comments. (Laughs).

Karly: I know he is retiring to focus on his studies, so at least he’s improving his wonderful mind.

– end segment – 9:13

START: History of Judging Segment

Karly: Now we’re going to move on to segment one, where we’re going to teach you about the history of judging.

Lo: Oh, fun!

Karly: That means the 6.0 system. Aren’t you excited? (Laughs).

Sam: Everybody loves ordinals, guys.

Karly: If you’re like me - I figured even if you’re not as new a fan as me, as I have established that I’m a new fan in the first episode - you might not know a lot about the 6.0 system and we had to do a lot of research going into this episode, so we’re going to give a little rundown of the 6.0 system, just to get everyone familiar with what we’re talking about and they can have a basic idea of what’s going on. So whoever wants to start, I think Lo and Sam, you guys know better.

Lo: Yeah, kinda. (Laughs).

Sam: Does anybody ever really know what’s going on in the 6.0 [system] though? Do they really?

Lo: No, not really. We all kind of know. Well, Dani does.

Karly: Dani does. Yeah, we have the experience of Dani - Dani skated under it.

Dani: Yay. Unfortunately, for many years.

Lo: So, programs were judged in two basic segments, the Technical and the Presentation segments, and before 1991, compulsory figures were also scored but we’re not going to get into that, that’s a whole different thing and I don’t know anything about it. I only know the basics of compulsory figures, so… Yeah, we’ll move on from that. Yeah, it’s old. (Laughs). The short program comprised of ⅓ of the score, the long program comprised of the other ⅔. The ordinals - which were the placement, the judges were asked to rank the performances in first, second and third - also played a large role in determining the winners. I believe it was - you had to… I don’t know, they were very confusing. A mess.

Dani: It was very much biased and it still is for 6.0.

Karly: So what I gathered for my research of the 6.0 system, you were given a score out of 6.0 - 6.0 itself was a very rare score, usually people got up to 5.9 -, to me it kind of seemed like you started off at 6.0 and then got deductions that brought you down.

Dani: Yes.

Karly: And then if you watch old performances from the 6.0 system, which you can find on our Tumblr from our iconic performances episode, if you watch that, you can see the scores being given for technical merit and presentation, and then you can also see the ordinals given. So the ordinals were, like, how a judge ranked you out of all the competing skaters. I believe there were seven judges in most competitions and to establish a majority in ordinals, like, you had the most first placements, you had to get four out of seven.

Sam and Lo: Pretty much.

Sam: Yeah, for me, when I think about 6.0, funnily enough I think of the last Olympics scored under 6.0 (Salt Lake City 2002). It kind of comprises everything that it was. You have a scandal in Pairs, you have a Men’s event where you have a commentator who’s going into the last performance by Alexei Yagudin saying ‘oh, I don’t know if he got all of the technical marks to be able to win the free skate, he might not even win!’ and then he pulls off -

Lo: Ugh. Don’t remind me. Okay, sorry -

Karly: (Laughs).

Sam: Of course, the judges don’t disagree with that, despite what you’re hearing, and he goes out and he wins the free skate. Um, did he win in the free skate? He might have gotten second, he might have lost to Evgeni, I can’t remember off the top of my head -

Lo: No, I don’t think he did.

Sam: He won overall but I don’t know if he won the free skate.

Lo: I think he did win the free skate. I think he was - I’m pretty sure he won the free skate.

Sam: He definitely did much better than Scott (Hamilton) would have led you on to believe.

Lo: Yeah, if you listen to Scott, it’s as if he did horribly and lost to Timothy Goebel, which was not even remotely the case.

Sam: Not even close to the truth. And then, of course, Ladies’, where Sarah Hughes was fifth in the short program and on the strengths of her iconic free skate -

Lo: Iconic.

Sam: She went out and she won. So, like, all these classic 6.0 tropes are just there waiting for you to see when you go back and watch them. I didn’t remember, because the only thing I ever remember is the fact that I was crying after Michelle fell, but -

Lo: Mood. Me too. (Hosts laugh). Yeah, same.

Sam: It just all comes together to be this perfect competition - ‘perfect’ being a bad qualifier, but - yeah. Fun times.

Karly: Also, to me it seemed it was much more difficult to find out what you were getting deductions for and it just wasn’t as strict of a judging system, I guess, possibly because you had the lack of a layout and maybe since I’m more used to everything having a certain value and that’s where points come from, it doesn’t make as much sense to me.

Dani: Right and in the 6.0 system you can’t really see where you got deductions, you just see the final score, and that was a big problem as well.

Karly: So I think that was a good improvement. I tried to look up - I found a list of deductions but I tried to look up, like, ‘hey, are there protocols?’ and I couldn’t find anything. I don’t know if that was because it was so old or if they just didn’t exist.

Dani: Probably a little bit of both.

Karly: I don’t think they existed. (Laughs).

Lo: A little bit of both, yeah.

Sam: Yeah, I’m pretty sure 6.0 scoresheets basically just showed you how the judges marked a skater and the placement that they gave them. I don’t think they ever laid out technical content, because, like, it was all arbitrary, it was just what the judges decided the technical content was, as if they themselves looked at a skater and what they were doing and said ‘oh, hey, I think what you’re doing is hard and I think you’re doing it with quality, here, I’ll give you a 5.8’. It wasn’t, like - there was no set format for ‘this is what good is’ and ‘this is what not great is’.

Lo: There’s no base values for jumps, there’s no - there wasn’t really technology to check for underrotations or wrong edges, it was basically just - if you landed it and there were no obvious errors, they were probably going to give a decent technical score.

Dani: For sure.

Lo: That’s basically - or, you know, if you did a certain amount of triple jumps -

Sam: And it’s like, the amount of triple jumps that the judges are used to seeing you do.

Karly: Dani, as a skater who skated under the 6.0 system, do you have anything to add to the basic rundown of it?

Dani: Well, while you were previously talking, it came back to me, like, how I would get my results when I competed 6.0. Basically, you skated and you don’t get your results right away. You have to wait until your group finishes and you have to wait until the other groups finish at your level, and then there’s pieces of paper that are actually posted within the competition building, and it shows how many judges there were and they basically give you a number. So if I competed in a group of, let’s say, seven people, the judges would give me a number going from 1 to 7. Let’s say I got an average of 5, then that would end me up in fifth place. But if I got an average of 7, if I just did absolutely horrible, then I would obviously be in seventh place. And that’s how the 6.0 system works now, for levels No Test through Pre-Juvenile, I believe.

Karly: Yeah, so it’s still being used. And what’s funny is you mentioned the pieces of paper and I was like ‘hey, I think I saw that in the Ice Princess movie’, so I looked up the movie and it was released in 2005, so it would have been made under this system.

Lo: It sure was, it sure was.

Karly: Not saying to go and watch that for examples of the 6.0 system, which ended in 2005.

Lo: Or maybe you should. Or do, because it’s a good movie, or maybe it’s not - I don’t know. (Laughs).

Karly: It is a good movie. I love that movie. Okay, so there’s your basic rundown of 6.0, and so the theme of this episode is kind of judging systems: past, present, and future, and so, recently with the ISU congress there hasn’t been, you know, as big of a rule change as there was from 6.0 to IJS but there was still some. So we’ll kinda compare 6.0 and IJS and then look into the future, kind of see what changes we expect. So we kind of want to start with the pros and cons of 6.0 versus IJS and we can start with 6.0, going into the future.

Lo: For me, the biggest pro of IJS is, you know, definitely that everything is given a set value now, it’s clear what every skater needs to do in their program, it gives them more feedback, which I think is a really good thing to improve things in the future, it’ll tell a skater ‘you need to work on this, this, and this, this jump is your strength and this jump isn’t’, it allows them to know if they have a wrong edge on their flip or whatever, and I think overall it’s raised the difficulty and the quality in general of skating as a whole. Like, if you watch old competitions from the 90s, when 6.0 was bad, it was REALLY bad. It’s hard to watch. People like to only remember their favorites from that time, but the rest of it was not very good. So I think the overall quality has improved quite a bit.

Sam: Yeah, especially when you consider that, like, people who are super nostalgic for 6.0 always love to say things like ‘oh, the programs had more content’, ‘oh, the programs were better’, when in actuality, during the time, not to bring Scott back into this, but I think it was during Elvis Stojko’s 1998 short program, he made a comment: “oh, he actually takes the step sequence seriously”. So clearly, this whole mythos that everyone had packed transitions, everyone had packed content is just like - oh, we remember Michelle.

Lo: Yeah, we remember Michelle. We remember Alexei Yagudin. We remember the good stuff - the bad stuff was still very bad. The fact that they were given so much freedom means that people were free to not put very much content in at all. And you would see that. Go watch an old Olympics and you’ll see what I mean. So the idea that 6.0 was just universally artistic and beautiful is just absolute nonsense from someone who probably hasn’t been watching skating very closely in the past decade. Like if you don’t think that Mao Asada brings artistry, I don’t know what to tell you. Like, what are you talking about?

Dani: And also the IJS system as it is now is a lot more fair, because if you’re not that strong of a skater and you do move up to the IJS system, that’s gonna hit you a lot harder than someone who is a strong skater. And I see that a lot, especially when I see girls who are moving up to Juvenile or girls who are moving up to Intermediate, just to move up - if they don’t have strong programs, if they don’t have a good step sequence, spins, jumps - they’re gonna get penalized a lot harder than girls who have been in the system a little bit longer and know how it works.

Sam: Yeah, IJS has definitely made skating overall technically stronger. But what I do think it does is it defines who is a technical skater kind of wrong. For me, somebody who is a pure, brilliant technical skater doesn’t mean that they’re the person who does the hardest jump consistently more than everybody else. It’s the person who’s still doing hard things but they’re doing them effortlessly. Personally, I don’t care if you’re doing a rippon quad lutz if you’re underrotating it. Cool, it’s not as hard now and it’s not as impressive to me. Same thing with - you have a quad flip? Alright, well, your edge is wrong and you’re landing with your chest in your knees. That versus a quad toe done to perfection? That should be the person that’s called the technical skater and I think, the way sometimes IJS is scored, we like to look at ‘oh hey, this is the list with the hardest jumps, this is the list with the supposed harder content’, but when you’re not using the GOE correctly and emphasizing the quality over the perceived difficulty, it’s kind of meaningless.

Dani: Oh, for sure. Those who know my skating know that I am not at all a strong spinner, and for example, last September, I competed against a girl and although I may have had harder jumps, her spins looked absolutely effortless compared to mine, even though we were doing the same jumps, and she ended up beating me. So that just goes to show how it’s helped a little bit over the years.

Lo: I think that as the years go by the judges are getting a bit more used to the system, but there are definitely still some prejudices from the 6.0 era that remain. Like, skaters who skate later in the group are still generally scored somewhat higher than the ones who skated earlier and that’s directly a remnant from the 6.0 era. That would change competitions in 6.0. Like, people will still blame Michelle skating before Tara for not winning in 1998. I don’t know who would say that, definitely not me, but some other people might say that. (Laughs). No, it’s me. I will say that.

Dani: I also noticed watching these past Olympics, just watching the Ladies’ groups, how the ladies who were skating earlier were getting scores that maybe could have been a little bit higher, but as soon as you got into the last group with Evgenia and Alina, their scores were obviously high because they were backloaded, but they were high because they were also in the last group.

Karly: Yeah. I noticed that - as a new fan, you know, I went into the Olympics knowing nothing, but even then I was able to tell, I was like ‘wait, these girls in the first few groups seem to be getting lower scores’, and the scores just seemed to be in a slope.

Dani: For sure, and they skated beautifully too.

Karly: Exactly.

Sam: And that goes back to what’s remaining from 6.0 and its reputation judging. Not just the ladies in earlier groups but in each discipline, when you are all judged based - not only on reputation but where they are slotted, seeded-wise, whatever, because they have their corridors, they have to meet their standards, and when they do that, they sometimes don’t accurately judge PCS, they just kind of lump everybody. Like ‘okay, this is a skater who gets an 8, so they’re gonna get an 8 everywhere’. And even if you see improvements in that area, because they might be from a smaller fed or they’re in earlier groups, they’re never going to see the rise and say, a Misha [Ge] should be getting 9’s in Performance every time, no problem. It never happens.

Karly: Yeah, and I think - when I took notes on 6.0 versus IJS, I made a lot of points where I thought IJS would be better than 6.0, but I made a little asterisk to myself - if it were judged correctly. Like, with the addition of the PCS versus TES categories, I thought that even if you’re not as good technically, if you’re stronger in the PCS category you realistically should be able to make up for some of those lost technical points, but PCS are so misjudged and misgiven that I was like, I just have no hope anymore.

Dani: Going back to the 6.0 system, those are almost given out like the 6.0 system, are they not?

Karly: Yeah, I didn’t really get the Presentation part of 6.0.

Sam: Well, the thing about Presentation is, it goes back to how nondescript 6.0 was, because there wasn’t really any guidelines to go by at all. It was just like ‘oh, hey, I liked this’. (Lo: Pretty much) ‘I’m gonna give this a high mark’. And sometimes that happens with IJS, a judge will find a program that they like and they might decide that that program becomes a vehicle for a skater. That happens especially in Ice Dance. The biggest one that comes to mind is that the Shibs [Maia Shibutani / Alex Shibutani] should be getting higher scores to begin with, but like - when they got that Fix You program, it became a vehicle because it made - it changed the script for them. And that’s really the only way - outside, in Singles it might be because of technical content, but for the most part it really takes a high class, career changing moment for PCS to rise for certain skaters.

Karly: Yeah, I agree.

Lo: PCS corridor is a huge problem and I don’t think it’s been even attempted to have been fixed at all with the rule changes. It’s going to still be a thing.

Sam: I don’t think they want it to. A huge part of why they want the PCS corridor is because of their supposed, like, ‘we’re looking for outliers’ to see who’s judging incorrectly. Part of the reason the Chinese judges got caught is because they were so out of line with everybody else.

Lo: Yeah, it’s unfortunate.

Karly: Yeah, but there’s still - when the ISU Congress turned down the proposal for splitting the TES and PCS judges, I thought that would have been a great step forward.

Sam: Well, yeah. In some respects, I feel like the biggest problem with IJS is that there’s too much they have to pay attention to. Like, we talk about ‘oh, this seems super vague’, but when you actually go down to the list of what all of these judges’ responsibilities are, it’s a lot, and it’s part of the reason - I think that’s another reason why skaters get lumped into reputation when it comes to PCS - how much are they supposed to look into the details of what’s going on? Like, how much can they?

Dani: There’s a lot of pressure on the judges, like, if they miss something, yes, they have computers to go back and see, but…

Sam: And even then, when tech panels go back to look at jump issues, they - they’re still not getting everything. Prerotation is something that’s never correctly administered - it’s kind of an epidemic in Ladies’ and no one gets called for it.

Dani: And most of the computers are actually angled at the feet and not the upper body, so you can’t always see the full extent of a take off or a landing.

Sam: I kind of feel like we need to go to that for 6.0 just a little bit. What I will say is that because things weren’t itemized to hit a bullet point for, like, ‘we need to do this here, we need to do this there’ - the freedom to be able to put together a program and have a moment is something that I kind of miss for - again, talking about Michelle, but Michelle’s Salome - the moment halfway through the program where she does her double axel and she holds her edge and curves around to look at the judges as the music is transitioning and just reaches out towards them and turns back around and reaches back out again - is something that we don’t really get in programs anymore and you think about, what could these skaters do if they had a moment to just breathe and make a moment in their programs to just let the music speak and let their bodies speak with it? That’s something that gets lost, even though we have choreographic/step sequences - the problem with that is skaters just reuse theirs year after year. Like, I love Shoma to death. I do not want to see Shoma doing a cantilever into the short side of the rink to go do his final combo spin to end his long program this year. I love it, but I feel like we shouldn’t be repeating these moments every single time, (Karly: Yeah, exactly. Predictable) we should be creating - we should be making movements to fit the music, instead I feel like we’re choosing music and cutting it to fit a predetermined layout.

Lo: Definitely, I feel like that’s definitely a thing.

Karly: Yep. And I think Lo, I think you pointed this out to me once, but a pro of the 6.0 system was that you got to take time for each element, and there was a lot more room for creativity, and I personally thought, if done right, the addition of a layout, the importance of the layout to the IJS system - it could be nice, but you end up with a lot of similar layouts and a lot of repetitive things, like the cantilever.

Sam: I feel like that goes back - I don’t wanna blame the bonus system, because I think it’s fair to have a bonus system, because it is harder to do jumps in the second half, in the free program, especially, maybe not so much in a short program, I don’t know if I agree with that, but that in itself creates the ‘okay, we’re gonna have this many jumps in the first half, this many jumps in the second half or we’re just gonna put them all in the second half’, you know what I mean? It doesn’t really give the opportunity for a skater to say ‘oh, hey, this is where the music is telling me that I have to have this certain jump with this pattern leading into it’. And I feel like another part - outside of repeating choreographic sequences - because we’re repeating layouts - not to call out Yuzuru, but like for some reason, if we were still doing the +/- 3 GOE, they didn’t chop off a jump or take off 30 seconds from the Men’s free skates, if his music got released today and I heard it, I could tell you where every single one of his elements would be, you know what I mean? And there isn’t much opportunity for skaters to say ‘I’m gonna change it up this time’, because there’s no reason to. There’s no advantage to them saying ‘I’m gonna take a different route this year than I did last year’, so we’re getting similar programs where the only thing that’s changed really is the step sequences.

Dani: It’s gonna be even harder this year, because with the Congress and the rule changes is - program times are gonna be shorter, so it’s gonna be that much harder to take a moment of music and make it yours, because you’re trying to get so many elements in still.

Karly: Mhm. It’s a very ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ type of system and it’s just like - with the choreo sequences and the step sequences, technically you could see more variety there, because there are different elements you can do in those, but a lot of times, you know, you get similar things, like, you get a spread eagle or a cantilever.

Lo: Yeah, for the choreo sequence, for sure. I’ve felt for a while that step sequences shouldn’t be leveled, I think it would allow for some more creativity, for example, Alexei Yagudin’s Winter step sequence would be considered very low-level in today’s system, and it’s so good! I think there should be room for step sequences that use toe-picks, there should be more diversity there that should be allowed.

Sam: Yeah, instead of come-one-come-all, pay it by numbers.

Karly: Yeah, that’s what I kind of like about the choreo sequence. The choreo sequence is always one of my favorite parts, and there’s just a lot of creativity to do with that, if you take the creative freedom.

Sam: If you would like to.

Karly: Yeah, exactly. Which I would like you to.

Lo: People definitely do half-ass the choreo sequence, that’s definitely a thing, but some also make it beautiful and wonderful.

Karly: Exactly. I love a good choreo sequence.

Sam: As long as we’re not making it the moment every year, you know what I mean?  Going back to the Shoma example, it loses its emotional impact when it’s the thing you saw the past two seasons.

Karly: Exactly. When that certain part of the music hits and you’re like ‘he’s probably gonna start the cantilever here’, not to call him out because he’s not the only one who does this.

Sam: I’ve already called out Yuzuru, let’s call him out again. He did a hydroblade into Ina Bauer two years, two programs in a row.

Karly: Exactly, I can always predict that too.

Sam: Shoma’s not the only one.

Dani: Even talking about the step sequence, for me, in my free program this year, the step sequence is my absolute favorite part of the program, because I get to be so creative, I get to show the judges - okay, well, you’re looking at my jumps, my spins, everything else, look how I can actually skate. And I feel like, because the time is going to be a little bit shorter, I just - I don’t want skaters to rush that.

Karly: Yeah.

Lo: For me, one of the biggest issues, just in the IJS, is not holding movements, not holding positions.

Sam: And it goes against the spirit of what IJS is supposed to be. We’re following the letter of the law when we’re saying ‘okay, you can do a program jam-packed with transitions messily, and we’re gonna give you the bonus for it’. What IJS should be doing is saying ‘okay, that’s not quality, we’re not going to reward you for it’, and that’s not what happens.

Lo: Transitions for the sake of transitions should not be encouraged but they are, and they’re scored well.

Sam: Or a tano that has your arm all the way over your head in a sickle.

Lo: Yeah. That’s considered good air position by IJS, which - it’s not. I don’t care what the rules say, it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

Sam: If you’re not lifting your arm up straight so that your center of gravity is going up on your chest, you’re losing the difficulty of it. It makes it so much easier to just keep your arm there, then you’re not really distributing anything differently.

Dani: That’s true, it’s so difficult. I speak from experience.

Karly: So, what I kind of, you know, was hoping, when I was researching the change from 6.0 to IJS is the addition of GOE and levels on… you know, maybe levels shouldn’t be on the step sequence but on the spins, and just the GOE in general, it kind of made it look more about the quality of the jumps, whereas like, in the 6.0 system, it was like you said, ‘did you land it? Okay, cool’.  So I kind of like the addition of looking more into the quality of different aspects of the jump, because maybe you had a good takeoff, maybe you lose a little bit on the end. You know, those things can be looked at separately, I guess.  

Sam: Yeah, you didn’t just land it so we’re not gonna, like… no handclaps for you landing on one foot, congratulations.  

Karly: You did it.

Sam: Yeah. My other thing is, just to really quickly get away from Singles, I will say that I think IJs has not served Pairs well at all.

Lo: I agree.

Sam: The death spirals and lift positions are just not great anymore. And there’s no real benefit for coming up with aesthetically pleasing lift positions that have the ability -

Karly: Yeah, I noticed that.

Sam: Their big, grand, like, ‘this is it, we’re doing it!’ moment.

Karly: ‘This is a cool lift, watch us’.

Sam: Yeah, because there’s so much twisting around to make sure you get the level you’re supposed to get. And it’s the same thing with the death spiral, they’re supposed to be these grand, sweeping moments, and they’re just - duds.

Lo: Catch foot death spirals are my enemy. I don’t care for them.

Sam: But on the flip side, I think Ice Dance is the one that has benefitted the most. To be fair, the only Ice Dance program I ever liked before IJS was Shae-Lynn’s Riverdance, Shae-Lynn [Bourne] and Victor’s [Kraatz] Riverdance. That was not properly rewarded at all and I feel like it would’ve been now. That would have been like the Shibutanis’ Fix You moment. You know what I mean?

Karly: Yeah, and the technicality of Ice Dance - which I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about - it’s just like, the way 6.0 was - it just seems so hard to judge Ice Dance under it.

Sam: Exactly, or even really to understand it as a viewer, like, your average 6.0 viewer who transitioned over to IJS probably had no idea what the requirements were for Ice Dance back then. I certainly don’t. Now - things are still confusing, but there’s still a guideline to follow. You know what I mean? You know the pattern that each couple is going to do during a short dance.  You know that there’s two separate sequences at a free dance. You know what I mean?

Karly: Yeah, so this is about the 2002 Pairs scandal, which more or less brought about the change.

Lo: So basically with the 2002 Salt Lake City scandal, before the competition, supposedly there was some kind of fixing going on between the Russian fed… or there’s never been actual proof of the Russian fed having direct involvement - but we can probably assume that there was -, pressured the French judge to place the Russian pair first no matter what, in order for the French Ice Dance team to win Ice Dance. And it should be noted that one of the major players - the man who supposedly pressured the French judge into ranking the Russian pair first, regardless of what happened on the ice - was Didier, who’s the current French federation head.  So, that’s a thing: he is still very much involved in skating and is very powerful.

Karly: My enemy.

Lo: Yeah.

Sam: He’s the French skaters’ enemy too.

Lo: Yeah. He’s, I feel… Rhere’s all these scandals from the Pairs thing that eventually lead the ISU to switch to IJS, to have a more transparent and less arbitrary form of judging that would hopefully avoid this kind of scandal in the future and - I mean, I guess we hadn’t had that level of open corruption but I wouldn’t say that things are perfect now.

Karly: Exactly, which we just saw.

Lo: No, corruption still very much exists. If the same judges are going to be sticking around, then you’re going to get similar types of things, they’ll just find a new way to do it.

Sam: Exactly, which is why so much of the classic 6.0 ideas, like ‘oh, your short program can’t win for you but can’t hurt you’ or ‘going in earlier groups might lead you to a lower score than you probably would have gotten’ still exist, because there’s no way for them to completely overhaul judging as they also overhauled the system.

Karly: Yeah and I think the move from arbitrary judging was a good move, because then you can see more details of the scores, but you’re right it definitely didn’t solve the problem as a whole.

Lo: Yeah, if the goal was to end corruption in skating then they fail, so it’s still here, it’s still around.

Kar: Yeah, it’s very much still here.

Sam: Politics are very much a part of the sport - it may not be as overt but you can see it.

Lo: Yeah, if we ever want truly unbiased judging we have to replace them with computers or something like that, because as long as there is a human element there is going to be bias, there’s gonna be wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, there’s gonna be all kinds of nonsense, so.

Karly: So now we wanna look a little bit into the recent rule changes, which were discussed in the last episode of the podcast, and kind of what we want to see form the rule changes and what we think will happen. So I think, you know, I noted that I liked the addition of GOE to judge the quality of the jump in different aspects and not just “did you land it?”, and I’m really hoping - I’m not a huge fan of the extended range, but maybe it’ll give more room to judge for quality.  But like I said all of this is if it’s done right, which I don’t have high expectations for.

Lo: Yeah, in theory, I like the expanded GOE, I think it gives more incentive to have good jumps, not just hard jumps, and that’s a good thing. And I think that skaters with good technique are the ones that should be rewarded in any system, so that’s -

Kar: Yeah, I agree.

Lo: That’s something that should be good, but I guess I don’t really trust the judges to score it correctly, I mean.

Sam: I will say I think adding more variants to how high and how low you can go, I don’t think there’s really any way they could screw it up that badly, because again, there is a bigger birth for which they can say, ‘oh, hey, there’s a huge difference between a 1…’ - and there wasn’t a great way to say there was a huge difference between a 1 and a 3 in GOE, you know what I mean? So elongating that out and giving them more room to say, ‘hey, there’s more variants to quality’, there isn’t really any way they could legitimately make it worse than it already was. Like, I think it can either stay the same or get a little bit better. And I’m hoping - there’s a trend in gymnastics where they change the way things are scored in some way at the beginning of every quad since they’ve gone over to the open-ended system. And at the beginning of each quad, things are always tighter - so I’m hoping that’s a consistent trend with figure skating, when they’re learning something new it stays a little bit tighter… they’re judging more correctly now than they probably will be in the future.      

Dani: Right and quality of element should always be rewarded.

Sam: And even then the difference in… I think somebody went and re-judged the Men’s free     skate from the Olympics using the +5/-5 system and it actually seemed to work out - looked pretty well.

Lo: Yeah and I think that to be honest, that it will benefit Yuzuru more than most, just because he’s so well-rounded.

Sam: But I also think it’s a good balance because of the quad rule, where you can only repeat the one… like, depending on what quads he brings back for next season, since he is rehabbing, there’s a good opportunity for a technical skater to still - for it to remain the same. Like, it kind of helps both him and the top guys who have both the flip and the lutz.

Lo: If you had a quad lutz you’re very much benefitted by this rule change, for sure. Vincent must be very happy right now.

Sam: Well, Vincent still has to rotate his jumps, (Karly: Exactly) because that is going to be judged much more harshly this quad.

Karly and Lo: I hope so.

Sam: They actually did change the threshold for what an underrotated jump is and it’s much more strict now.

Lo: Wow. That’s pretty good - I like that actually.

Karly: Yeah, I like improvements.

Lo: Although rest in peace to Satoko.

Karly: (Laughs). Please be nice to her!

Sam: And Karen. And the rest of the American ladies.

Dani: Poor girl.

– end segment – 43:51

START: Outro

Karly: Our next official episode will be hosted by Evie, Lae, Nina, and Gina, and they will be discussing gender and gender stereotypes in figure skating. However, Grand Prix assignments are expected to be released this week, so stay tuned on our Twitter @InTheLoPodcast for updates about a bonus episode discussing the assignments.

Lo: If you’d like to get in touch with us, then please feel free to contact us via Twitter @InTheLoPodcast or on Tumblr at inthelopodcast.tumblr.com.

Dani: We’re on YouTube as well. Just search for In The Loop Podcast and you’ll find our episodes there as well.

Sam: If you’re listening on iTunes, please consider leaving a rating or a review if you enjoyed this episode. Thanks for listening, this has been:

Karly: Karly,

Lo: Lo,

Dani: Dani,

Sam: And Sam.

Karly: Bye guys!

Hosts: (Chorus of bye).