Alexander Lakernik: “I’m concerned that if judges exclude elements from their field of vision when judging PCS and focus only on the PCS, we risk having champions who excel in artistry but lack jumps.”

Posted on 2024-02-05 • 1 comment


Alexander Lakernik about new technologies in figure skating, idea to divide the judging panel into two and flip/lutz jumps.

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photo Alexander Vilf / RIA Novosti

The Honorary Vice President of the International Skating Union (ISU) shared his opinion on the application of new technologies in figure skating. Alexander Lakernik commented on the determination of under-rotation on figure skaters’ jumps.

Q: What do you think about the innovations that were showed nearly five years ago by the Japanese TV company Fuji TV at the World Championships in Saitama? (IceScope technology calculated in real time flight length, jump height, landing speed and rotation speed – ed.)

Alexander Lakernik: On one hand, this data is interesting, but on the other hand, what do we do with it? Why, as a judge, do I need to know the speed of the athlete at the moment of takeoff from the ice? How does this speed affect the score? Does the judge need to know the length and height of the jump? A bit, because among the many other criteria for assessing the jump, its height and length are crucial.

This data could be interesting for judges, but only if it were linked to the skater’s body parameters: weight, height, length of levers. What is considered high for a little girl may be very low for an adult man. Obviously, data on the height and length of the jump cannot be absolute, so what Japanese television showed at the World Championships in Saitama is more of a gimmick for spectators than a contribution to the objectivity of judging.

Q: Perhaps, this is just the first step towards some telemetry of the future, but if some measuring technologies appear, how could they be used?

Alexander Lakernik: Today, in case of doubts, the technical panel can review the element in slow motion or at normal speed, analyze it frame by frame. But, unfortunately, even video replay does not always help. There are cases when the shooting angle does not allow to unambiguously determine the angle of under-rotation upon landing from a jump.

In my view, new technologies would be useful to us when measuring the number of rotations in jumps, i.e., what we all call under-rotations, as this parameter is critical for scoring.

Q: How can this under-rotation be measured?

Alexander Lakernik: It is certainly not very simple because it is necessary to capture not only the moment of the skate landing on the ice but also the moment of the skate’s takeoff from the ice, which is even more difficult to capture than landing. Today, the main method of measurement is video, i.e., video recording of what athletes perform on the ice.

Currently, the technical panel pays little attention to the takeoff, but always looks at the landing. Specialists only pay attention to the takeoff when it is noticeable – for example, when a jump from backward movement turns into forward movement. But I am afraid this moment will be indifferent to the camera and computer because they will only capture the moment of takeoff and the number of rotations in the air.

So, we move on to the next problem: we initially need to determine how many rotations need to be made in the air, say, for a triple jump, to count it. If someone thinks it should be three times 360 degrees, i.e., 1080, he is mistaken.

The point is that a figure skater enters a jump not in a straight line but in an arc and exits in an arc. No jump in figure skating can be executed from a straight movement and land in the same straight line – this will lead to the non-execution of the jump or a fall. Because of this, even in an ideal jump, the skater rotates in the air not three times by 360 but less.

Consequently, in each jump, under-rotation is inherent in its design – if you will, by the nature of that jump – some under-rotation. For some jumps, it will be more, for some less. For edge jumps, it will be more than for toe jumps, and among edge jumps, it will be the most on the loop because the athlete go significantly inside on the entering arc of the jump. On a well-executed lutz, under-rotation will be less than on a Flip, and so on.

Thus, before we start judging under-rotations, we need to figure out for ourselves what kind of jump can be considered good, and only then will we measure how much the athlete did not fully rotate before that good jump,” said Lakernik.”

Alexander Lakernik also commented on determining the takeoff edges for the lutz and flip jumps.

Q: How critical is the parameter of determining the takeoff edge for the flip and lutz in scoring? Does this issue need the search for any technologies for its objective resolution?

Alexander Lakernik: Yes, this issue is as critical as the fully rotated or under-rotated jump, as it affects the score. If the technical panel marks ‘attention’ with an exclamation mark, the GOE score immediately drops.

Determining the takeoff edge for the technical panel is also a debatable issue, although it seems clear: lutz is a jump from an outside edge, and flip is from an inside edge. However, in practice, it’s not that simple. The lutz jump, for example, requires executing a twist or a visible arc outward during the entry and taking off purely from the outside edge, which implies a certain body tilt, correct shoulder rotation, and so on.

I fondly remember the first execution of a triple lutz by Canadian skater Donald Jackson in 1962, who performed it in a classic manner, and the jump height was impressive.

But today, we see that there are athletes who skate an arc on the inside edge and slightly or significantly tilt the boot at the last moment to transition to the outside edge. There are those who do everything correctly but, at the last moment, shift to the inside edge and jump.

Suppose the equipment determines from which edge the athlete took off during the jump. But how correct will that be from a classical point of view? I think in this matter, we also need to figure out for ourselves what is good and what is bad and within what limits.

I have just judged a competition, and the three of us in the technical panel understood this issue differently. However, if in pair skating, the takeoff edge in twists and throws is not fundamentally important for athletes because the value of the flip and lutz is the same, and no one in the technical panel meticulously checks which edge the takeoff was made on a twist or throw, then in single skating, where the value of the lutz is higher, this issue matters.

At one time, I tried to find out from the 12 leading coaches in the world what they thought about the idea of combining these two jumps into one with a conditional name ‘flutz’ and forget about the edges. We received their responses, which directly correlated with the problems that athletes training with them had with these jumps at that time. For example, one famous American coach was in favor of combining flip and lutz into one jump because his leading athlete had issues with them,” said the Honorary Vice President of ISU, Alexander Lakernik.”

Lakerin spoke about the division of judging panels into technical and component.

Q: Does ISU have any other ideas that could enhance the objectivity of figure skating judging?

Alexander Lakernik: There is now a thought to divide the judging panel into those who judge the quality of element execution and those who only judge program components. At the 58th ISU Congress, a decision was made only to test the system of dividing the judging panel, and the approval of the new judging system was decided to be revisited at the next ISU Congress.

The division of the judging panel into “technical” and “component” will reduce the level of responsibility imposed on the judge when scoring these two components of the program. Thus, the assessment of program presentation will not affect the GOE of technical elements and vice versa.

The essence of the idea is to conduct a draw among judges before the competition to determine who will judge the components and who will judge the elements. If this change occurs, we will need to train our judges differently: it will be the same judging body that will simply undergo retraining.

I am, however, concerned that if, during the judging of program components, these judges exclude elements from their field of vision and focus only on the components, we risk having champions who excel in artistry but lack jumps and other athletic elements. I am not against beautiful skating, but I am for sports.

Currently, when judging program components, judges are influenced, which is also not good, by the elements: if the athlete performs them, the judge will not give him low component scores. But when these parameters become independent, I am afraid that the component scores will significantly decrease.

The same Nathan Chen in the early years of his career performed the most complex jumps, but his program looked like a sequence of jumps. I think if he had been judged by separate judging panels, he would have received minimal scores for components and maximum scores for elements. I don’t know how accurate such an approach is, especially considering that experiments in this regard have not been conducted.

Another undesirable aspect of this division is its inapplicability to “small” competitions, where there is inherently a small number of judges in the panel. Consequently, we will encounter different judging methods at different competitions, which is unacceptable.

Perhaps then we will have to officially stipulate in the rules from which level or category this judging form should be applied, but the double standard will still be present,” said the Honorary Vice President of ISU, Alexander Lakernik.”


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One response to “Alexander Lakernik: “I’m concerned that if judges exclude elements from their field of vision when judging PCS and focus only on the PCS, we risk having champions who excel in artistry but lack jumps.””

  1. Leslie Seinfeld says:

    How about NOT allowing 1/2 cheats to qualify as fully rotated? As stated they probably cheat the take off 1/4 or more as well.

    Defeats the purpose to allow anything other than a FULLY rotated jump to count. I was trained that 1/2 cheat is a CHEAT, not FULL. Old school skater with figures in background

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