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Justice Served
February 15, 2002 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Justice Served Canadian figureskating team gets their gold after all.
posted by neilkod (74 comments total)

 
i still don't see why the Russians deserve a gold too, it's been proven that their scores weren't given to them on merit.
posted by tsarfan at 10:12 AM on February 15, 2002


I feel the same way; seems like the IOC and the ISU are really wussing out on this.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:15 AM on February 15, 2002


This is unprecedented. I don't recall two gold medals being awarded in ANY event be it summer or winter. This is screwed up.

Now the russian's program was more complex, granted. However they still weren't as flawless as the canadian pair. If I flew up to Utah and attempted two hundred quintuple spins in four minutes on the ice and broke both my legs in the process, would they give me a gold medal? I mean I tried hard enough to get a gold medal. I'd deserve it at least as much as the russians did.

This whole thing just kills what little dignity the skating portion of the winter olympics still had. I'm happy for the canadians because in a way justice has been served, but this just gives the people who think skating is stupid, enough rope to hang the whole lot of them.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2002


"It is clear that Marie-Reine was approached by certain people who had an interest to see their couple win _ coaches, left and right. It is a classic thing in figure skating," said Didier Gailhaguet, head of the French Olympic committee and skating federation.

Reason 304 why I don't like the Olympics. I hear somewhere behind all corruption, marketing, and fanfare there's some kind of sport going on.
posted by skallas at 10:18 AM on February 15, 2002


This is unprecedented. I don't recall two gold medals being awarded in ANY event be it summer or winter.

Read the end of the article. This is not unprecedented at all.
posted by iceberg273 at 10:24 AM on February 15, 2002


I think the reason the Russians weren't stripped of their medals is that doing so is (almost?) always a punitive measure (failing a drug test, f'rex). And, as the article (and iceberg273 on preview) states, awarding a second medal isn't unprecedented. It wasn't their fault the judges were a bunch of corrupt people who couldn't care less about their sport, and it would hardly be fair to take their medals away from them.

That being said, the cynical side of me says that the only reason they did this so quickly is to make it go away as fast as possible to avoid having it taint the rest of the games. But I certainly hope this action doesn't mean that the ISU thinks they can skulk quietly into the shadows and avoid cleaning up their act.
posted by biscotti at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2002


Its unfortunate that the gold has to be 'shared'; we all know who won the competition on the ice.
posted by neilkod at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2002


It's pretty clear now that figure skating has more in common with professional wrestling than with (for example) speed skating. That doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed on its own merits, but it's definitely a notch below true sport.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:28 AM on February 15, 2002


I don't think they're wussing out, per se. If you take away the French judge's score (as tainted) that leaves both teams tied for gold. I would imagine that's what they've done, since the presentation score is pretty much subjective and there's no way to quantify what somebody likes/dislikes. Since the French judge has been suspended, that's probably how they've resolved this situation.
posted by headspace at 10:29 AM on February 15, 2002


Justice was not served. Only one of the judges was suspended. What about the other judge involved? (And were any other judges involved?) Anyone involved should be banned from further judging, not suspended.
posted by fleener at 10:32 AM on February 15, 2002


well figure skating is just pro wrestling for women
posted by deftone at 10:33 AM on February 15, 2002


Skallas just proved my point. This just confirms in the minds of anyone who might be on the fence about the Olympics, that they're all stupid.

Figure skating is rather subjective. I could see beauty and stupidity in both the russian and the canadian performances. If they were being scored on whether or not they achieved their goals, then the canadians win hands down, but there's also speed as a factor. The canadian performance was slower and it didn't have quite as many fancy tricks in it. So if you score on what the athletes tried to achieve, comparing the canadian performance to the russian performance is like comparing apples and oranges. The canadians weren't even in the same league.

It's not that it's fixed. It's way too speculative. That's what screws up Olympic figure skating. It's like trying to gauge whether Monet was better than Van Gough. It can't be done. You can have your opinion, but that and three bucks'll git ya a cup o coffee at Starbucks.

Now skiing stuff is cool, cuz the judging is pretty cut n dried. It's on a stop clock. There's certain things you can and can't do. When the judges put down a verdict for the skiier's performance, it's difficult to find anything to argue over. I'm sure it's possible to argue, but it's more difficult.

However, some of the skiing is pretty boring. The long jumps for example. The guy jumps. He stands motionless in the air for a few seconds. You wonder when he's gonna sprout wings. He gets a few fractions of an inch more or less than the previous guy. Unless he breaks a leg on landing, that's pretty much it. It's kinda like NASCAR. Only when there's a twelve car pile up does things get interesting, and if I wanted to watch twelve car pile ups I'd park on Central Expressway and pull out my popcorn.

The luge is the worst. They're beating each other by hundredths of a second. The most excitement you see outta these guys is how well they move their toes. And people are cheering them on? I see more excitement at a water park. But even then the judging is straightforward.

Now hockey! THAT's a competition! I don't like hockey much myself, but I can respect the stamina and raw animal carnage that goes on. And it's a goal point system. Real cut n dried. Maybe the figure skaters need sticks & pucks. It would have made the animosity between the male russian skaters last night a little more fun to watch. Instead the two guys just avoided looking at each other. [sarcasm] Ooh. That was exciting. [/sarcasm]

I like what Denis Leary said awhile back on Letterman. They got the biathalon where there's skiing and then there's shooting. Leary thinks the skiiers should shoot at each other while they're skiing. That'd be cool.

If you put paint pellets in the guns you could have all the figure skating Olympic hopefuls skating AND shooting at the same time! Now THAT would kick ass! And whoever came out of it with the least amount of paint on their fancy costumes would get the gold medal. Simple. There'd have to be some rules about kicking each other with the skates, but other than that it could be a real free for all!

Maybe they should give paint guns to the people in the audience at the skating rink. The skaters could go out there and spin and jump and try to avoid all the projectiles thrown their way. I'd pay to see that.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:41 AM on February 15, 2002


Back in the original thread:

litlnemo said: It was close, though. I think you could justify either team winning this. We saw two amazing programs here. We should be happy to see that level of skating.

I agree with her. Even before the medals were orginally announced, my fiancee and I agreed that the Canadians were better technically, but the Russians were better artistically. Whilst we are not skaters nor are we familiar with the rules of skating, I still think litlnemo's judgement was sound, and that both pairs deserved gold, regardless of blame.
posted by Avogadro at 10:42 AM on February 15, 2002


And one more thing about the french judge: If in fact the french judge admitted to being pressured into voting for the russians, but wasn't able to implicate the people responsible, this just reinforces WHY this kinda stuff happens and no one talks about it. Cuz if you do, YOU'RE the one who gets penalized. If she was pressured into it, the people who did the pressing are getting away scott free.

This is the same reason kids don't often report on bullies on the playground in grammar school. The person who finks on the bully gets accused of lying when the bully pretends before the teachers to be a nice kid. Then when they're alone in the playground the bully just terrorizes the kid more. Some solution.

The french judge may have tried to come clean, and we'll never know cuz both the Olympics organization and the media botched the whole thing up. I am happy for Sale and Pelletier, but the whole thing still stinks to high heaven, and awarding two gold medals doesn't remove the tarnish from the games themselves.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:48 AM on February 15, 2002


headspace: "If you take away the French judge's score (as tainted) that leaves both teams tied for gold. I would imagine that's what they've done"

You win a cigar! From cbc.ca: "He said Marie-Reine Le Gougne, the French judge at the centre of the controversy, had been suspended. Her results were thrown out, creating a tie between the Canadians and the Russians."
posted by pardonyou? at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2002


Giving them the medal is window-dressing, a sop to public opinion, unless the ISU does something about judges fixing the results. I would have preferred that this result came as a result of a proper hearing rather than a deal between the IOC and ISU.

This problem is systemic, and I think it quite unjust that the judge who confessed to it is being scapegoated. I suspect, or at least worry, that there is an attempt being made to preserve the status quo by blaming the whistleblower and limiting the extent of the problem. Had Le Gougne not reported what had happened, this scandal would not have had the legs it has, and we would have been arguing over the relative merits of each program, blissfully unaware of the rot within this, um, sport. (Continuing to argue over the relative merits of each program, while valid in a way, misses the point. Just because it was close, and could have gone either way, doesn't mean the fix wasn't in.)

I am anticipating the ice dance competition — ground zero of judging scandals in figure skating for years — with considerable trepidation.

If the ISU cannot get its act together — and for real, not just when public opinion is outraged and everybody is watching — then (1) the national skating associations whose athletes (or, if you prefer, "athletes") have been regularly fucked over by the system as it stands should pull out of the ISU and form their own, parallel, international skating organization with professional judging, and (2) the IOC should boot the ISU and recognize that parallel association. Cynical commentators have noted that figure skating is too much of a money maker to be booted out of the Olympics. Fine; don't boot them out, but replace the corrupt infrastructure that is currently in place.

End of rant.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2002


So if you score on what the athletes tried to achieve,
comparing the canadian performance to the russian performance is like comparing apples and oranges. The canadians weren't even in the same league.


CBC's figure skating commentator said that the routine that Sale and Pelletier skated has never been beaten in any of the competitions they've skated it in (not even by the same routine that the Russian team "beat" them with this time), the commentators on every network I watched all said that they'd won the gold hands-down...the Russians' routine may have been more technically difficult, but they hadn't beaten the Canadians' routine with it before, and they made errors while the Canadians were flawless. Attempting something difficult is great and will give you high marks, but if you can't actually pull it off, you get deductions.

I like the paint pellets idea, though.
posted by biscotti at 11:00 AM on February 15, 2002


A few points (I don't support the decision, altho' I thought the Canadians had won):

1. The Gold Medal for the Canadians doesn't undo what happened .. the disppointment at the time is not changed.

2. 5 judges had the Russians win. So 1 of the judges gets suspended. What about the other 4 ?

3. Skating is subjective. We see a range of 4 or 5 points between judges on the same routine. Maybe there are just problems with judges, period ?

4. It was the artistic impression, no the technical merit that won it for the Russian pair.

5. The Russian pair just skated, there is no reason to punish them.

6. What was confusing about the scoring, is that this same routine has scored higher at the World Championships, when not done as well in the opinion of the skaters. They nailed it, and expected to see the scores reflect this. I heard one skater in another event say something to the effect that the program he skated was a 5.8 if he skates it perfectly. I think this is where the Canadian pair were surprised, they thought their routine was a 5.9 routine if skated perfectly They skated perfectly ?!?
posted by Mondo at 11:12 AM on February 15, 2002


If you take away the French judge's score (as tainted) that leaves both teams tied for gold

It's not that easy. The judges don't just pick a winner, they give scores based on artistic merit and technical skill, and the final scores are calculated based on the judges' marks. They should recalculate the scores after taking away the French judge's marks.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:20 AM on February 15, 2002


Put each country's curling team around the boards, give each curler four stones for the long routine, and cut 'em loose. Curlers could attempt to snipe the oppositions skaters, and curlers could attempt to defend their own country's skaters from incipient impact from a 42 lb. stone sliding toward their path.

And the curlers also get to have beer during the skating competition.

Biggest pay-per-view ever, guaranteed.
posted by dglynn at 11:21 AM on February 15, 2002


Good to see the Candians get their deserved medal. Bad to see the Russians not get the Silver?

This whole spectacle is most satisfying because it cuts down figure skating, which I feel gets way too much media attention at the expense of real sports. For my money, the closer skating gets to seeming like pro wresting, the better.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:35 AM on February 15, 2002


Also amusing: Mike and the Mad Dog needing to talk about all this. Not sure why.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:36 AM on February 15, 2002


If the long program had really been a tie (which is difficult, but not impossible: four judges could have gone each way, and the ninth judge could have given both pairs the same score), the Russian pair would still have won on overall placements because they won the short program.

I think giving the Canadian pair a gold while leaving the Russian pair with theirs is the best possible decision given the admittedly bad circumstances.

I do, however, think that a competition where the people watching can't tell who won without referring to an expert panel is too subjective.
posted by anapestic at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2002


dglynn: "Put each country's curling team around the boards..."

I got it! We could combine figure skating with the UK's Robot Wars! Instead of using curling stones, sic Matilda and Sir Killalot after their butts!

"Maybe there are just problems with judges, period ?"

There's a problem with the judging and has been for decades. Maybe one or more of the other judges are guilty of fixing. We may never know. However, it's painfully clear that the entire judging system needs to be renovated, starting with the dropping of the 6.0 system for something that makes more sense - something that a layman can understand which is more difficult to fix.

"It was the artistic impression, no the technical merit that won it for the Russian pair."

Though I'm a stupid American and don't know good figure skating from good salsa, I understood the artistic expression from the canadians. There was a distinct pantomime story told there that was quite heartfelt and rewarding to experience. I especially liked how they didn't end it in an embrace, but instead Pelletier was crouched down and Salle lightly pushed herself away from him. That spoke volumes both from the standpoint of the story they were trying to convey, and it also verified that they weren't doing what everyone before them had done. They were trying something new. They weren't cookie-cutter, like most skating appears to be to me.

The russian pair however ..I have no idea what they were trying to convey artistically. It just appeared to be a routine routine with no creativity whatsoever. They were just spitting out what thousands of skaters have done before them, and attempted a few things that were more complicated than I'd seen before, but not really succeeding, so from my perspective the canadians won both on perfomance and technical achievement.

Biscotti: "the commentators on every network I watched all said that they'd won the gold hands-down.."

I have ..issues.. with my implicitly trusting media commentators. I come from a paranoid generation. I even have difficulty trusting my own eyes, knowing that the performance, though live, was being edited and filtered in a control room as we went along.

The looks I saw on the russians' faces that night were not of certainty, but bewilderment. Everyone in the crowd seemed to respond more favorably to the canadians than the russians, and then there was a booming "boo" heard when the judges' placements were reported. Yes all the commentators seem to agree that the canadians won it hands down. To quote David Letterman: "everyone seems to be watching the Olympics, except of course the figure skating judges." Still, who's supposed to really know what's right and impartial?

The judges should know, and if the french judge had sound, impartial reasons for choosing russia over canada, I wish we'd had an opportunity to find out directly from her. Maybe I woulda been able to believe it coming from la bouche du cheval.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:42 AM on February 15, 2002


You can have your opinion, but that and three bucks'll git ya a cup o coffee at Starbucks.

So you're trying to say an opinion's worth about fifty cents? I guess that's better than nothing.
posted by chrisege at 11:48 AM on February 15, 2002


Dude, a cup of coffee at Starbucks costs at least three dollars!

And, back on topic... if I recall from the commentary the night of the finals, they required a tiebreaker score, because the Russian and Canadian teams were mathematically tied without it. So, if you take away the French score, they'd be mathematically tied again for gold, yes? (I looked for the scores by judge, but couldn't find them so this is all vaguely recalled and speculative.)
posted by headspace at 11:57 AM on February 15, 2002


It's not that easy. The judges don't just pick a winner, they give scores based on artistic merit and technical skill, and the final scores are calculated based on the judges' marks. They should recalculate the scores after taking away the French judge's marks.

Actually, they do just pick a winner. Or they just pick placements. The actual scores don't matter except insofar as they determine placements. If five judges rank a pair first, that pair wins, no matter how low the other judges score that pair. So if four judges picked the Russians by a tenth of a point, and the other four picked the Canadians, by four thenths of a point, it'd still be a tie.

So, if you take away the French score, they'd be mathematically tied again for gold, yes?

No. They'd be tied for the long program. The Russians would still win because they came first in the short program.
posted by anapestic at 11:59 AM on February 15, 2002


I have ..issues.. with my implicitly trusting media commentators.

Just for your information ZachsMind, Sandra Belzic was a former Canadian pairs skater, and both she and Hamilton run Stars on Ice, which would greatly benefit from signing Sale & Pelletier, a bigger draw than the Russians. (thanks to litlnemo for the info). Plus they're terrible commentators, leaving huge gaps in their descriptions of the event, and seem biased towards any skater that's form North America in their commentary. I miss Dick Button.

Meanwhile, right now I'm missing curling, luge, slolem, cross country skiing and hockey. I love the winter olympics, I've attended them in the past, and I look forward to them. I love figure skating, but will the network please get back to covering the sports? At this point I'm more disgusted with the American media's appetite for sensationalism than any judge scandal.
posted by kittyloop at 12:04 PM on February 15, 2002


Dude, a cup of coffee at Starbucks costs at least three dollars!

I think chrisege was trying to say it would cost about $3.50 - $3 plus that 50¢ opinion.
posted by mdn at 12:05 PM on February 15, 2002


Would this belated awarding of the second gold have happened if the pair were not Canadian, but American? I don't know the is.

I guess my question is largely an adverse reaction to the way the pairs controversy has taken on a life of its own (in addition to wiping out part of a really exciting Russia-Belarus men's ice hockey match).

Glad they weren't Americans. On with the Games!
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:06 PM on February 15, 2002


"I don't know what the answer is."

Gads. These flippers are hell on my typing.
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2002


I have a proposal for judging figure skating. Each skater is judged by a DIFFERENT GROUP of judges, and NO RESULTS are shown until all skaters have finished their programs. No one knows what any scores are until the very end of the competition. I know there are flaws with this proposal, but I think it would be more fair.
posted by culberjo at 12:12 PM on February 15, 2002


I think two gold medals is a better solution than humiliating the Russian skaters further by asking for the medals back. (They already had the taint of winning in such a questionable way.) The Canadians get to stand on the podium and hear their anthem, presumably with a huge crowd and full coverage on NBC. That's a pretty nice make-good, and they'll probably get endorsement deals out of this scandal.
posted by rcade at 12:33 PM on February 15, 2002


<aside>I hate Dick Button. With a passion. He's gotten a hell of a lot meaner in his commentary this season, with his constant harping on ugly layback spin positions (with no side-by-side comparisons to prove his point, either) and his obvious favoritism for the American skaters during ABC's broadcast of the European Nationals last month--a competition in which there were no North Americans competing, for obvious reasons.</aside>

As for Sandra Belzic & Scott Hamilton being involved in Stars on Ice--any person who even remotely follows figure skating knows that, and they would be looking to sign Sale and Pelletier anyhow, even if they had skated on their asses through their entire long program--they are the current world champions, after all. That does still mean something.

My opinion on the whole awarding a second gold is, that based upon the facts that have come out, it is probably the most equitable solution for everyone involved. The Russian pair are beautiful skaters and immensely talented, as are the Canadians. Both their programs were fantastic (I happen to think that the Canadians were a skoosh more fantastic, but that's just me) and if the judging had been non-biased, and if both pairs had skated cleanly, it could have gone either way.

I just hope that the ISU doesn't shut the book on the issue, but that there is continued scrutiny on judging in the sport (but after the Olympics--I'd like to see some other sports, too), and that there are some real changes made to how judging is done.
posted by eilatan at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2002


anapestic: "a competition where the people watching can't tell who won without referring to an expert panel is too subjective."

Many times, crowd-pleasing routines are much less technically challenging than cutting-edge routines. Any subjectively judged sport needs expert (and unbiased) judges to tell the difference between moves just look good versus challenging, gold medal moves.

On Monday night, the technical differences between Canada and Russia were very small. Both were cutting edge routines, and it was even more important for the judges to make those key distinctions between the performances. From the information coming out, it sounds like at least one of the judges was not doing her job.

The danger of picking a winner based on who had the best vibe is that lowest-common-denominator play will win out over the best athletic performance. In my sport I have cringed when supposedly knowledgable judges gave high difficulty marks to easy routines just because the routine was entertaining. If the competition is about sport, the athletic performance should be a bigger factor than pizzazz.
posted by neuroshred at 12:49 PM on February 15, 2002


Starbucks is $3.50 now? Geez. I haven't been to one in awhile.

Kittyloop: "Just for your information ZachsMind..." I know all that, which is why I said I have issues with implicitly trusting their commentary. Sure they're qualified, but they're also biased.

In fact I had written three or four paragraphs explaining in detail why I had issues with commentators, but I deleted them cuz ah'm a longwinded sumbitch. I edited it down to "...issues" and hoped that would be enough to convey my concerns. I didn't think to add the part about Stars On Ice. That woulda been another three or four paragraphs.

I also agree that Hamilton (though I personally do enjoy his excitement about the sport) needs some college courses on public speaking. It would also help if he could forge complete sentences under pressure. I love the guy though. Don't misunderstand me. I'm glad they picked him to help on the call, but I agree that he... well the boy needs help.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:51 PM on February 15, 2002


Valentina Matviyenko, the most senior woman in the Russian government, blamed American media for the controversy's outcome. (from The Globe and Mail):

"It's a disgraceful fuss," Ms. Matviyenko said before Friday's development. "The International Olympic Committee should get to the root of it and not allow American mass media and amateurs to give marks to our skaters," Ms. Matviyenko told a news conference, the Interfax news agency reported.
posted by sacre_bleu at 12:58 PM on February 15, 2002


I vastly prefer Hamilton to that other guy, whatever his name is. The only thing he knows to say about Todd Eldridge is "his hometown of Chatham, Mass. pitched in to pay for his expenses..." - that story is years old and we don't need to hear about it EVERY time Eldridge skates. He's got similar comments for every skater - same thing over and over.
posted by dnash at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2002


neuroshed: The danger of picking a winner based on who had the best vibe is that lowest-common-denominator play will win out over the best athletic performance.

Dinner roll, anyone?
posted by pzarquon at 1:36 PM on February 15, 2002


"I don't think they're wussing out, per se. If you take away the French judge's score (as tainted) that leaves both teams tied for gold. I would imagine that's what they've done, since the presentation score is pretty much subjective and there's no way to quantify what somebody likes/dislikes. Since the French judge has been suspended, that's probably how they've resolved this situation."

I don't have an online source for this, but during the CBC interview with Sale/Pelletier, someone mentioned that the protocol is to remove the French judge and replace her marks with the marks of the judge from the back-up judge from the Czech Republic. Using that process, Sale/ Pelletier would have won.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:54 PM on February 15, 2002


Sale and Pelletier have made it very clear they didn't want to see their russian counterparts lose their gold. Maybe they were just talking PC, but it seemed unusually sincere.

Even if the numbers show that without the french judge the canadians did win, I don't think Jamie Sale would have tolerated it. It looks to me like she's doing everything she can already to keep from gutchecking the nearest cameraman. And some of the questions she's being asked just cause those eyes of hers to smoulder. If looks could kill she'd singlehandedly wipe out NBC.

Jamie & David couldn't face Elena & Anton on the ice again if this fracas caused the russians to get stripped of their gold. And they're probably gonna have to compete against each other again some time in the future. It'd turn into a grudge match. When all this is over and the fickle media forgets about it, there's still gonna be four people who'll have to pick up the pieces. Honestly! Sometimes it looks like the media purposefully pushes the world's buttons for the sole reason of trying to instigate a catfight while the cameras are still running. Hopefully someday the four of them can laugh about all this stupidity over a beer, but not if the media gets their way.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:25 PM on February 15, 2002


The reason that they immediately zeroed in on the French judge as being problematic is because everyone assumes the Eastern (former Soviet) judges to always favor those skaters. The Soviet style is very ballet-oriented (think Oksana, whose dying-swan skating I detest) and judges who favor that style just don't see the merit in something that breaks that mold. Which is why Torvill and Dean got robbed a couple Olympics ago. Anyway, but the French aren't supposed to favor that style, so that's why their vote was such a surprise. And why it got challenged.

I like the judging of the skiing and snowboarding events better. Break the performance up into its elements and have each judge give points on one component. So for skating you'd have a spins judge, a jump judge, a speed judge maybe, a difficulty judge, and a performance judge. And a couple more. I think it's much more fair and would help distinguish between performances for people who can't tell a triple axel from a Boitano Lutz.
posted by dness2 at 3:18 PM on February 15, 2002


Blame Canada!
posted by aeiou at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2002


I especially liked how they didn't end it in an embrace, but instead Pelletier was crouched down and Salle lightly pushed herself away from him. That spoke volumes both from the standpoint of the story they were trying to convey, and it also verified that they weren't doing what everyone before them had done.

You're joking right? (Typical MeFi opening line for a counter argument.) The skaters are judged by what they did during their program and not what they did after! [S&P's] Emotions exhibited after completing a routine has to be one of the things judges are explicitly told not to take into consideration for the final mark.

Maybe I misuderstood the point you were trying to make.
posted by Why at 5:58 PM on February 15, 2002


Another proof that the French have no scruples.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:01 PM on February 15, 2002


Any subjectively judged sport needs expert (and unbiased) judges[...]

NO, any subjectively judged sport should not be part of the Olympic Games.

But then nor should the disgustingly corrupt IOC - do we remember why these games are being held in Salt Lake City ?
posted by godidog at 7:27 PM on February 15, 2002


Blame Canada!

Because they aren't a real country anyway!
posted by adampsyche at 7:43 PM on February 15, 2002


Best quote from the press conference after the announcement that they [the Canadians] would also be awarded gold medals...

Pelletier: "We hope to get the bronze too so we can collect the whole set."
posted by johnnyace at 10:25 PM on February 15, 2002


Do they get to keep the Silver, too?
posted by ParisParamus at 10:27 PM on February 15, 2002


Blame Canada!
With all this skating hullabaloo, And that bitch Anne Murray too!
posted by owillis at 10:38 PM on February 15, 2002


I don't think they get to keep the silver. Pelletier was just kidding. According to the NBC report, on the 21st there'll have a separate award ceremony just for Sale & Pelletier, and they'll return the silver during the ceremony before receiving the gold.

Why: "The skaters are judged by what they did during their program and not what they did after... Maybe I misuderstood the point you were trying to make."

I was not referring to the stuff they did after their performance. At the end of their performance, they do embrace briefly, but then Pelletier turns away from Sale and crouches down, and she lightly pushes away from him. They're still in the performance when they do that. It's part of the presentation. The song is Love Story, and their entire presentation tells a tale based loosely on the film. You can see the moment when they discover that she's "dying," and their pantomime takes a darker turn a little over halfway through their performance. It's actually one of the most artistic and beautiful figure skating performances I've ever seen.

Of course I'm not saying the judges should judge them on what they do after they've finished, like kissing the ice or waving to the crowd. I thought it was poignant that inside the performance itself, they chose to end their piece with something other than the classic frozen embrace tableau which practically all other pairs use.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:24 PM on February 15, 2002


As of 7:30am local time (in France, not here in Brooklyn), no mention of the scandal on the web sites of Le Monde, Liberation or France2. Now you know why I question whether there was a French Resistance....
posted by ParisParamus at 11:27 PM on February 15, 2002


ParisParamus, it was discussed yesterday morning on France Culture with general support for their judge and admission that events which require subjective evaluation are more difficult than measurable ones.

On last night's news (after the announcement), I expected to hear something when they announced, "a great scandal at the Olympics", then proceeded to rehash the IOC members being influenced by Salt Lake City officials last year. Old news, but I wondered why they were bringing it up...
posted by Geo at 1:19 AM on February 16, 2002


As a skater, this whole scandal has left me mentally and emotionally exhausted. I am sad for the sport and the people involved. I didn't participate in this thread sooner because I wanted to stay away from the whole topic for a while.

So some people are going to get away with some pretty outrageous misstatements about skating, here, because I'm just not up to spending a couple of hours writing responses. ;)

Just a couple of comments:

There is no "artistic impression" score, even though sometimes the commentators get it confused. It is the "presentation" score, which includes a lot of things that one would not normally think of as "artistic impression", such as speed and unison. Please remember this. The ending pose of the program is pretty much meaningless. There is no skating involved in that. It's just for the audience, really.

"CBC's figure skating commentator said that the routine that Sale and Pelletier skated has never been beaten in any of the competitions they've skated it in "

Well, I'm not sure, but I thought that they recycled the "Love Story" program from the year 2000. If so, they certainly were defeated with it that year. They came in 4th at Worlds. (Maybe they won the Free Skate portion of the event, though, and that's what the commentator meant. The resource I'm looking at doesn't say, and I'm not up for a google groups search right now.)

Whether they had always won with it before or not is irrelevant, though. The only thing that matters, officially, is what is put on the ice that night. Just because a program always won in the past doesn't mean someone can't come up with a better one. (I bet Dick Button was never beaten with many of his programs, but they wouldn't score too well now. ;)

In reality, since judges are human, past reputation might come into play. But despite what we've seen this week, I still believe that most judges try very hard to be impartial. The ones I have known are honest and serious about their job. They don't deserve the flak they are probably getting right now.

Perhaps to get to the highest level, you have to be corrupt -- like some politicians, maybe. I really hope the ISU takes this seriously and really addresses the problems, because if corruption is endemic within the sport, it will kill it.

Despite it all, though, I still think a Russian win is justifiable by the rules and standards of figure skating. And that may be the saddest irony of all. This scandal may kill Berezhnaia and Sikharulidze's career.

Oh, someone suggested above that all scores be kept secret and each skater should have a separate judging panel. In almost all levels of skating, scores are kept secret until the event is over. It's just the big events that have so-called "open" scoring. Realize, though, that "closed" scoring means that judges can revise their scores until the end of the competition, to make them turn out "right". I prefer open scoring.

And each skater having a separate judge would not work at all, because judging panels have to, sort of, calibrate their scoring. Remember, skating scores are relative to other skaters' scores. There is no chart of absolute values for skating scores. While a skater may say "I think this is a 5.9 program if I skate it clean," he's just guessing. You really don't know. It could be a 5.9 today, a 6.0 tomorrow, a 5.8 the day after that -- because it depends on the competition, the skate order, etc.

Here's an example. Skater Ivan skates first of 5 and skates an amazing program -- but there are 4 skaters coming up who are capable of skating better. The judges aren't going to give him a 6 unless his program is something really beyond belief (like, say, the first quintuple jump ever :), because that doesn't leave room for the other skaters to do better. So they may give him a 5.7 for a program that might have gotten a 5.9 or 6.0 if he was the final skater of the group.

"That's not fair!" you say. Ah, but it is. You see, if his program does turn out to be better than the rest, then the other skaters will also be marked lower than usual, to keep their scores below Ivan's. So Ivan can win with a 5.7, while on another day at another event, 5.7 might not even get on the podium.

If you had different judges for each skater, they wouldn't know that the first panel gave Ivan a 5.7, and they might give the second skater, Philippe, a 5.8 -- even though they think Philippe's not as good as Ivan. It would be all messed up.

I do think they should change judging panels between the short and long programs, and they could, perhaps, not include any judges from countries with highly ranked skaters, though that could get messy, too. I don't know.

Now, I said I wasn't going to make a long post here, and look at me! I didn't even start to address the other confusion about skating rules/competition in this thread.

One more thing.

Zachsmind, I think you should come skating with me sometime (at least, once my bad knee is fixed. I've been off skates all season, but I should be able to try skating again this coming week) and we will have a nice big argument about whether it's a sport or not. :)
posted by litlnemo at 4:14 AM on February 16, 2002


Ah, synchronicity! The day that Canadian skaters were promised their gold medals was the 37th anniversary of the unfurling of the maple leaf flag.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:48 AM on February 16, 2002


A very good article on skating judges that discusses how they become judges and what it is like to be a judge. (NY Times, stupid membership required.)
posted by litlnemo at 6:48 AM on February 16, 2002


> Maybe there are just problems with judges, period ?

The core idiocy is to imagine that figure-skating (or ice dancing or synchronized swimming or gymnastics or any of those sports that have to be judged) is a competitive sport.

Certainly they're sports, just on the basis of the skill and practice and hard training that goes into them. But they're inherently non-competitive sports, and you can't make them into true competitions (like a speed race or a distance jump) just by adding an inherently subjective and corruptable judging system.

The whole point of a noncompetitive sport is not to beat other participants but to make everybody go Ooooo! Ahhhh! Wow! And that's the only point. Figure skating competitions do to skating what "beauty pageants" do to beauty.

The only reason to make these non-competitive sports conform to the competitive-sport model is so they can be added as olympic events and participate in all the UNsporting olympic hoo-ha (rampant jingoism, national-medal-totals, prime-time ratings, yadda yadda, blecch.)
posted by jfuller at 7:25 AM on February 16, 2002


Oh, I strongly disagree. If you think that figure skating is a non-competitive sport, you've never talked to a skater. The point is to beat the other participants. Show is secondary to that. I don't go to competitions to make the audience go "ooh." I go to beat the other skaters, or if that's not possible, to beat my own previous performances. It is a strong competitive urge. I think most other skaters would agree.

Bah. I'm tired of the "it isn't a sport/it is a sport" argument. Figure skating competition predates the modern Olympic movement, so your last paragraph doesn't make sense, anyway.
posted by litlnemo at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2002


If I sound a little harsh, I apologize. I haven't had enough sleep all week and I've been up all night.

I could turn this into a more positive response and ask: what exactly you would do to change figure skating competition and scoring structures to make them more objective? I don't believe that it is inherently non-competitive. How could it be reformed?

I have plenty of ideas, but I need to sleep first.
posted by litlnemo at 7:59 AM on February 16, 2002


ParisParamus, it was discussed yesterday morning on France Culture...

Still nothing in the press. Though there is a piece on American "hyperunilateralisme"

They have no shame.


By the way, my comment supra about professional wrestling was not a dig at skaters so much as the media culture that's latched onto them. I would just rather see other sports for hours and hours than skating.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:13 AM on February 16, 2002


litlnemo - Thanks for your informative post, but I've got to point out something about this part:

Realize, though, that "closed" scoring means that judges can revise their scores until the end of the competition, to make them turn out "right".

That's one way to do closed voting, but certainly not the only way. Nothing prevents the establishment of a system in which scores are submitted after each performance but not revealed until all performances are complete.

And for people saying subjectively judged sports aren't competitive, what about boxing? That looks pretty fucking competitive to me.
posted by NortonDC at 9:14 AM on February 16, 2002


Using boxing as anything of an example in real sports is flawed. Possibly the most dirty sport ever.

Wrestling's predetermined but at least the audience knows, and gets a show.
posted by owillis at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2002


> It is a strong competitive urge. I think most other
> skaters would agree.

Remembering the Tonya 'n' Nancy show, I wouldn't dream of arguing with this.

But. Just feeling competitive isn't enough to give you a competitive sport, where "competitive" means something as measurable as finishing the race first or throwing the javelin farthest or scoring more goals than the other team. Beauty pageant contestants notoriously feel competitive as cats, and so (I'm told) do real beauties out in real life. But there's still infinite room for argument about who's the fairest of them all. There just isn't any way to get a clear, inarguable winner in this sort of competition, no matter how strong the feelings of competitiveness and rivalry may be.

The best you can do is set up some contraption (e.g. a panel of judges) to generate a pretend clear answer. And because the answer is so explicitly arbitrary and machine-generated, the contraption that generates it is going -- frequently! -- to break down or be subverted, and the inherent falsity will be made obvious to all.


> And for people saying subjectively judged sports aren't
> competitive, what about boxing? That looks pretty
> fucking competitive to me.

I wrestled in high school and college (but not in the WWF, heh) and I can tell you that a match won or lost on points is infinitely less satisfying and more inconclusive-feeling than one that ends with a clear pin. Likewise in boxing -- nobody ever yelled "we wuz robbed!" after a match that ended in a knockout. Remember, the paragdigmatic example of competitive sport (the "perfectly clear case," as the philosophers like to say) is ancient-world events like boxing, wrestling, or spear-throwing, which were practice for military combat, i.e. practice for occasions where the penalty for losing was death. You just aren't going to warp sports like skating enough to match this long-established paradigm of what people mean by "competitive sport" and, short of inventing death'n'injury skating as some have suggested, I think it's basically misguided to try. Find another paradigm.
posted by jfuller at 9:41 AM on February 16, 2002


By george, a new extreme sport: boxing on skates.
posted by Charmian at 10:20 AM on February 16, 2002


It's called hockey.
posted by NortonDC at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2002


Actually, while watching Yagudin's "Man in the Iron Mask" routine the other night, we were all thinking somebody should make a sport out of "ice fencing".

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:08 AM on February 16, 2002


jfuller - You just aren't going to warp sports like skating enough to match this long-established paradigm of what people mean by "competitive sport"

Change "people" to "I" and your statement will be correct be correct. The disagreement in here indicates that its current wording has already been disproved.
posted by NortonDC at 11:11 AM on February 16, 2002


You'll be pleased to know that, after all the controversy, skating's making some changes in time for the ice dance competition. (I hope I hope the link still works.)
posted by JanetLand at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2002


what exactly you would do to change figure skating competition and scoring structures to make them more objective?

Wire the skaters and their skates with the stuff used by 3-D videogame programmers to digitize motion. Teach computers how to tell a good jump from a bad one, and make the figure skaters compete to please the computers instead of judges.

The only flaw to my plan -- finding a place on Jamie Sale for a wireless hub.
posted by rcade at 3:02 PM on February 16, 2002


Heh.

Well, I would start by throwing out the whole "short program/long program" thing. I'm not saying that it wouldn't turn out to be the best way to organize a competition, but that we should throw it out as the default and try to brainstorm something better. (Perhaps after all the thought it would still turn out to be the best.)

What if there was a compulsories event, in which skaters compete in doing specific elements, out of context of a program? That is less difficult than doing elements in a program (oh, by far) but it is also something that in theory can be more objective. "This season, the compulsories are the loop jump, the flying camel, and circular footwork." The compulsory elements can be judged based on specific requirements.

An example: For the loop, there is a defined base mark for a single, a double, a triple, and a quad. So if you do a triple loop, you automatically have, say, a 5.2. Then that mark is affected by specific, defined deductions for two-footing, under-rotation, cheated take-off, poor posture, going splat on the landing, etc. You have two chances to do the planned element.

After the compulsories, you go on from there to programs or maybe some other type of competition.

Another event -- and I wouldn't want this to be the be all and end all of skating at all, because it would just lead to skaters who can jump and not do much else (Timothy Goebel, I'm talking to you): a jump off. Skaters start with, say, a triple toe. In round robin, they all do their triple toe. If anyone falls, they are eliminated. Then they move up to the triple sal, slightly harder for most people. Everyone tries the triple sal. More are eliminated. Then the flip. then the lutz. You keep eliminating people as they fall. There is no judging form, just whether the jump is landed (but good form makes it easier, of course). If you reach a jump that everyone splats on, there would have to be some tiebreaker... I'm not sure what. I think it would be a fun event, though.

Some people have suggested a great way to clean up judging for the traditional events. Have a really large judging panel -- maybe even twice as large as the current one. Everyone judges each skater, but for each skater, only 9 judges' scores are randomly picked by computer to be used. No judge knows whether his scores will be used at all, so collusion wouldn't work. However, I am thinking this would have the same calibration problems I mentioned in my previous post. If one judge scores lower than the others, but his ordinals are in line with the other judges, currently that is not a problem. In this type of system, it might unfairly penalize a particular skater.

You could maybe just do the random judge selection per event, but then when the scores were shown, judges would figure out quickly whether their scores were being used or not, which would be a problem. Perhaps they could just show ordinals. "All nine judges put this program in first place." Well, I suppose then the 8 who put it in second would immediately know their scores weren't counting, so that would be a problem, too...

This needs more thought, but maybe there's a way it would work.

One more thing is that the ISU and the networks really need to make it clear what the standards are for the sport. The current commentators, even gold medalists like Scott Hamilton, are apparently incapable of doing this. There are specific required standards -- it is not as subjective as people think. (I think it was the NY Times story I linked to above that pointed out that most people in the sport think judging is usually fair. That's because we learn the requirements and start to be able to see them clearly.) If it was made more clear to the public why things are scored high and low it would be a Good Thing.

One more thing:

Sandra Bezic, not Sandra Belzic. (Oh, I hope she doesn't come back to do commentary for the women's event. Oh please oh please oh please.)
posted by litlnemo at 5:29 PM on February 16, 2002


Once upon a time, there used to be a compulsory program- if you watch old Olympics (1984 and before) you'll see a program that is a lot like what you're describing; they had to demonstrate precision with figure eights- judges would get on the ice to see that they didn't leave the original path cut by their skates; spinning ability- they had to stay perfectly in place, points were deducted for drifting, etc..

I can't remember all the elements of the compulsories, but it did tend to make for much more balanced skaters. This is why you see older skaters like Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning whose spins are very, very tight and fast, and who incorporate a lot of footwork into their performances along with the jumps, as opposed to the younger skaters who never had to do compulsories, and can rise to the top on sheer jumping ability.
posted by headspace at 6:30 PM on February 16, 2002


headspace, I know about the school figures, as I'm a skater myself. (I compete in school figures on roller skates at the moment, and I've tested in school figures on ice.) I love doing school figures, actually. They are very calming. Sort of Zen.

I don't know what you're referring to with spinning ability, though -- there have never been compulsories in olympic-eligible skating that included spinning competition. Just the school figures. Prior to 1973, it was figures and free skate, then in '73 the short program was added. In 1990 or 91 figures were eliminated from international competition, but they stayed around a few years more at the national level.

A spinning compulsory would be good, though. Todd Eldredge would rule that event. ;) It would be nice to see more emphasis put on good spinning.

I totally agree with your second paragraph!
posted by litlnemo at 7:02 PM on February 16, 2002


Just curious:

Is anyone else as certain as I am that the "Western" judges were colluding even more than the "Eastern" ones? I was generally under the impression that Germany and America were more likely to jump in bed with each other than, say, China and Russia.

Also:

Figure skating is a sport, because you guessed it, we say it's a sport. Marching Band, while competitively judged and requiring great physical skill and mental ability, is not a sport, because we say it isn't. The same goes for all sports and non-sports (and no, I don't give a damn what Sports Illustrated says).
posted by Ptrin at 7:18 PM on February 16, 2002


Ptrin, I have wondered myself if the dirty dealing going on with the Russian/French federations isn't the only thing. Alexander Zhulin (former Olympic medalist himself) said in an interview this week that the Americans are just as good at this sort of thing as the Russians and French. He's coaching in the US now, and he was a Russian ice dancer, so he may be in a position to know.

(At least, I think it was Zhulin who said this. I hope I'm not misremembering. I read it last night.)
posted by litlnemo at 5:46 AM on February 17, 2002


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