Is the ISU new judging system reliable?
The inherent subjectivity of figure skating judging has always been controversial. No judges of sports have ever been so discredited as figure skating. Commentators, experts, and even judges themselves all disagreed. It seems sometimes no one was satisfied with whatever the judges put up on the board.
So it’s time you had a new one: COP
This ISU’s new system called COP has changed a rear view of figure skating once and for all. With aid of instant replay, every movement of skaters is now under close scrutiny and tagged according to the ISU judging guideline. Cheated jumps, under rotated jumps, wrong edge jumps can’t go without severe penalty no matter how they look brilliant to the eyes of audience.
That would be a fine edge in the post modern figure skating.
The current ISU judging system was invented in the wake of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games figure skating scandal to ensure the scoring system more objective and corruption proof. No system is fool-proof, but this complex Code of Points (COP) of the ISU Judging System has considerably improved the judging process compared to the old 6.0 version with its micro-scaled yardstick that enables judges to easily measure each and every mandatory element with aid of technical specialists, and award skaters GOE points accordingly.
The most distinguished part of the new system is, first, technical points are awarded individually for each skating element, and each element is judged first by a technical specialist, not judges, who identifies the specific element such as the level of elements or wrong edges or even calls for downgrades. In short, the technical specialist’s decision determines the base value of the element, which means great power shift from judges to technical specialist.
Meanwhile, a panel of twelve judges then award points for grade of execution (GOE), that is an integer from -3 to +3 — reminder of 6.0 version — which will then be translated into a value according to the table of values in ISU rule 322. Nine randomly selected GOEs out of twelve judges will be averaged, discarding the highest and the lowest, to produce seven averaged GOE value, which will be then added to or subtracted from the base value to get the final value for the element.
Compartmentalization of technical and component elements also heightens adverse effects that might discourage artistic development. Some felt it would do more harm in the long run than good to what the figure skating is meant to be. But it’s no denying that this new system at least provides numerical explanations to each result in terms of points, which’s impossible under the old 6.0 system so that the public were left unattended in a state of quantum leap that defies their visual senses.
In old 6.0 judging system, jumps are the most important element to decide winner. There are difficult jumps of the day that skaters should master in order to get a nod from the judges, and if you succeed to land it, then, you are likely to be a winner. There was no downgrade those days, there was no under-rotation, no instant video checks.
Under the current ISU judging system, however, fall on jumps isn’t necessarily the worst thing that could have happened on the ice. Traditionally, falls on the ice have more damaging impact — at least to the eyes of beholders — than any other mistakes or errors under the old 6.0 system, and it’s rightfully so. But it’s not that way any more.
Make no mistake. Jumps still are the most crucial elements and important points-garner.
But under the new system, not only fall on jumps but wrong edge or under rotation or unstable revolution or even poor quality jumps can be a target of downgrade which aims at promoting quality performances in risk-and-reward basis. Cheated jumps or under-rotated jumps or poor quality jumps can be as damaging to the base value a skater lays out in his/her performances as a simple default on landing.
Despite its fine merits, the new system has problems too. Under the ISU rules, the judges’ marks are anonymous, which is a mystery to many. There seems no adequate explanation for that decision from ISU, espcially to the US figure skating federation which decided to remove the anonymity of judges which helps deter possible corruption and elevate public accountability of the judges for their marks.
Aside from criticism about the new system’s emphasis on technical elements as opposed to artistry and creativeness oppressed by the weight of athletic demand, this mathematical systems stripped the influence of judges while creating another power house called technical panel which governs the basic value of all elements. In shore there is no check and balance system.
One call from technical panel would virtually shift a skater from a champion to off the podium.