I’m in a cranky mood today; I happened upon yet another tirade about why the IJS (International Judging System) is death to figure skating… by someone whom I consider to be a Very Smart Figure Skating Person, Sonia Bianchetti. Ms. Bianchetti is an international figure skating judge and I’m sure she could skate circles around me when it comes to her knowledge and experience, but I (humbly) disagree with everything she says in this article. I’m not picking on her specifically, since there have been others that hold similar view-points, such as: Janet Lynn and to a lesser extent, journalist Phil Hersh, but this article just more or less fell into my lap.
Mme Bianchetti, I’ll let you start.
“The new system, implemented to assure more impartial scoring, actually vivisected the sport’s history and personality”
Ewww… sounds nasty… go on.
“Based on “absolute judging”, it moved scoring to awarding points to specific elements, regardless of their quality.”
What?? I thought the GOE was supposed to reward the quality (or lack thereof) in an element! What about the downgrades?
“By emphasizing difficulty for the sake of difficulty, the new system diminished the emphasis on quality and artistry.”
But if it’s a sports competition, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that the athletes who did the most difficult elements better than the other competitors should be rewarded for it?
“What now matters to the skaters is the number of revolutions in jumps and in spins on each foot and in each position!”
Let’s be fair here, Ms B., from the get-go, the number of revolutions in a jump has always mattered, spins were more of an afterthought and were considered rest breaks. We know that ultimately the winner used to be the ice skater who could pull off the most revolutions in the air and not fall on the landing – everything else in the program was really just filler.
“To give the technical panel clear guidance to assign levels to the various elements, more and more details have been added, year after year. The initial simple idea, which had some merit, was turned into an incomprehensible and very complicated system.”
Uh-huh…. You mean introducing some standard of objectivity… “Had some merit”? At least now we can compare apples with apples. Yes, every year there are modifications to the system; it’s nitpicky, but not rocket science. It’s also not as complicated as you seem to think. It’s a lot easier to understand than say, exchange traded funds or quantum chromodynamics, that’s for sure.
“The “level” in spins, lifts, death spirals and step sequences is what has killed the creativity and the artistry of the sport.”
Yes, I know, all the pundits complain that everyone is doing the same programs to max out their points. But, when I look back at videos from skaters in the pre-IJS era, they were all pretty much doing the same spins too. A combo spin was basically anything that had an upright spin tacked onto it. The ladies would do a very lovely layback spin and the gents would do a cross foot spin. The guys all went to the same costume designer too. And really, except for creative giants like Toller Cranston, John Curry and Christopher Dean, the figure skating world is not the hot-bed for artistic expression and creativity that are to be found in the performing arts.
Except… have a look at American ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s short dance from 2013. Look me right in the eye, and tell me there’s no artistry happening here! Balletomanes will notice that they reference the actual choreography from Act 1 of the ballet “Giselle” around the 2:30 mark.
What do you think? Does Ms. Bianchetti have valid gripes? Here`s a link to her article. Is there more to the story? Watch next week’s post for details!