Extra! Korea

February 24, 2010

Are figure skating judges not rewarding difficulty sufficiently?

Filed under: sports — extrakorea @ 1:41 am

When Evan Lysacek defeated Evgeni Plushenko for the gold medal, there was controversy. Vladimir Putin sent Plushenko a telegram stating that his “silver was as good as gold” and that he had “performed the most accomplished program on the Vancouver ice.” Two-time Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko said that he was in shock and wrote a column called “The night they killed figure skating.” (You can also see a video here.) In it, he describes the reasons that he feels that Plushenko should have won the gold, including the fact he did a quadruple jump and Lysacek did not.

Because of it, the sport took a step backward. Brian Boitano did the same thing, technically, in 1988. There are junior skaters who can skate that same program.

[ snip ]

With that type of scoring, you don’t have to risk it. You can play it safe and win gold.

In what other sports do you have to hold back in order to win?

[ snip ]

Figure skating gets no respect because of outcomes like this. More feathers, head-flinging and so-called step sequences done at walking speed – that’s what the system wants.

I am going to watch hockey, where athletes are allowed to push the envelope. A real sport.

Figure skating has always suffered from an identity crisis. It’s a sport that sometimes looks like a dance recital. How do you judge artistry? And should it allow you to defeat someone who has shown more athleticism?

However, in some subsequent columns by other writers, the reasons for Lysacek’s victory have been explained:

* Skaters receive a score for artistry, technical difficulty, and execution. The two skaters received the same score for artisty. Plushenko got a higher score for technical difficulty, but a lower score for execution, since some of his landing were a little wobbly.

* Skaters receive more points if they put their jumps in the latter part of their program (“backloading”), since that requires more cardiovascular conditioning. Lysacek did so, and so received the bonus.

So, will this affect Kim Yu-na? No. Plushenko came out of retirement to compete at the Olympics. When he and his Russian handlers noticed things like backloading in the points system, they chose to complain about it rather than change his program. Kim, on the other hand, obviously knows how to work with the system for maximum results, since it’s the same one that she’s being winning one competition after another with.

1 Comment »

  1. […] a smart move because the Russian coaches have shown that they either lack the ability or desire to use the current point system to the best advantage. “At the start of the season I had to continue to challenge and push myself to do the triple […]

    Pingback by Kim Yu-na wins silver, Mao Asada gold at Turin 2010 figure skating world championships « Extra! Korea — March 27, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

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