Some Suggestions for Figure Skating

Here are some suggestions I have for changes in figures skating, changes that I think will  improve the sport and keep it evolving in a credible and competitive direction. Many of these things have already been discussed by figure skating insiders and fans, but I wanted to add my own thoughts, just in case there is a hand count. However, I have an idea or two of mine which I would like to put out there. (Also read my posting on the team event.)

(1) Back loaded programs – There has been a lot of discussion of back loaded programs, particularly in terms of the women’s competition, where Alina Zagitova back loaded like a trooper and walked away with the gold. There have been many complaints that it leads to unbalanced and (potentially) boring programs. And of course, there is the question of the quality of the jumps. Are these good jumps? How do they compare with jumps by other skaters? Do they really deserve to be earning so much more in base value? I think another concern is the ability of a back loaded program to completely outstrip program components. The bonuses accumulated with dictated the winner. May I make two suggestions?

Short program: no bonuses in the short program. It is a short program. There shouldn’t be a bonus for placing jumps in the second half of the program. Why should a jump placed a minute and thirty seconds deserve a ten per cent bonus? It doesn’t merit. Also, the short program is about completing and comparing designated technical components. The short dance has the pattern; the singles must do axels; the pairs cannot do quads. Bonuses don’t have a place in the short program. It’s about who technically does the jump (spin, etc.) better.

Free program: introduce limits. I don’t have a problem with a bonus for jumps in the second half of the program. A jump in the second half clearly is demanding and at least with the incentive in place we don’t see the front loading now that we used to. However, I don’t think that how the bonuses are used now reflect the original intention and like any nice loop hole are being manipulated. And so, along with the other reasons I stated above, I think there needs to be either clear limits or clear expectations set out about what constitutes an ideal free program. This could be done in a couple ways without being excessively prescriptive. There could be a simple rule that only X number of jumping passes in the second may receive a bonus. The other approach would be to clearly include program balance as part of the program components for composition and programs without balance take a hit in the PCs. The only problem with this last approach is that I don’t entirely trust the judges to mark accordingly…

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Suggestion to the ISU for the Team Event

I haven’t been making outright suggestions so far. Basically, I’ve just been doing whatever I feel like, but now I have one and I think it’s a good one.

This is my proposal: for the ISU should run a team even just like the Olympics, prior to and in conjunction to the individual skating disciplines at the World Championships. And, this should also happen every four years, but 2 years out from the Olympics, nicely staggered like the Winter and Summer Olympics.

It is a little odd that with Olympic medals on the line, skaters only experience this kind of competition once every four years, like an after thought. (I’m sure I’m not the first person to think this.) It makes the team even just seem a bit like a medal grab but I think the team event can really be good for the sport and should be treated a bit more seriously.

It has certainly demonstrated that it can be benefit for skaters competing in the individual event to first compete in the team. It raises the quality of skating and helps to put out a better event and it is exciting in itself. It has a dynamic all its own, from different teams’ strategies to the skaters’ perseverance when they are skating for their team and not just for themselves. And, I think, it is already paying dividends in encouraging countries to improve their skating programs across the board. Look at China’s dance team, and the improvement in Japan’s  dance and pairs. We see Israel and South Korea becoming more competitive. True, the top three teams have remained the same from 2014 to 2018, but who thought Italy could get so close, only one point back from third after the short? Maybe in another four years and with a bit more attention, the competition for the medals will become tighter and more intense.

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