Oleg Vasiliev: “The current system becomes obsolete. Judges have learned to manipulate the results within this system.”
Oleg Vasiliev about judging system, manipulations with the second mark, development of pair skating and possible outcome at the Olympics in this discipline.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 22d January 2021 by Andrei Simonenko
In figure skating, judging constantly gives rise to conversations, and sometimes scandals. What do you think is the reason?
Oleg Vasiliev: Any judging system becomes obsolete over time. The 6.0 system has existed for a very long time, but the scandal at the 2002 Olympics forced the leadership of the International Skating Union (ISU) to change it. The current system has been in place for about 20 years. And in my opinion, it also becomes obsolete. Judges have learned to manipulate the results within this system. And manipulation of the results is the negative that burdens all figure skating. We still do not have kilometers, kilograms, seconds, but a human opinion, which determines the outcome of the competitions.
Now the judging is 40% predictable – these are the numbers behind each element. And 60% – manipulative. These are the GOE coefficients, which evaluate the performance of the elements, and the second mark for the components of the program, which, no matter how the rules are formulated, is extremely vague. In women’s single skating, in pair skating, and for a long time in ice dance, the second mark does not reflect what we see at all. The only discipline that still remains, let’s say, correct in terms of the second mark, is men’s single skating. If a person does quadruple jumps there, but skates badly, the second mark does not go beyond 9. And in pairs and women’s skating, the second mark is completely out of touch with reality and has no connection with the skating that the athlete shows.
What can be done? Change something or change it completely?
Oleg Vasiliev: I would consider another change in the judging system. Perhaps I would have developed a new concept, a new way. I myself made a proposal, quite simple and not too radical, but it could have changed the judgment and the attitude towards the judges.
I proposed to create a certain pool of professional judges that the ISU would hire. These people would receive a salary from the ISU, doing only judging and no other business. There could be about 30-40 such judges, they would judge the main competitions – Grand Prix, World Championships, European Championships, Four Continents and the Olympic Games. They would not be engaged by the federations, would not seek to please certain athletes, coaches or anyone else. They would do their job professionally and get paid for it. There would be less bias, more professionalism, and federations would have no influence on the final result. In my opinion this should work.
But for some reason, the ISU did not seriously consider my proposal. Apparently, they believe that this is not the way to develop judging in figure skating. But we will try push into this direction, because, in my opinion, making the judges not politically-motivated is the only way out of this situation.
In your discipline – pair skating – how many participants of the biggest competitions are interesting for you to watch?
Oleg Vasiliev: Both in pair skating, and in other disciplines – the first 6-10 athletes. At the European Championships a little less, at the World Championships a little more. All the rest are young people or those who, let’s say, are finishing. But that’s the personalities who move figure skating forward are interesting.
But at the same time, there’s such a feeling that it becomes less and less creativity in pair skating. Programs are standardized, athletes get high scores, no matter what music, roughly speaking, they skate to. The main thing is to complete the elements.
Oleg Vasiliev: Not all. Leading pairs fit the elements into the program so that they are not visible. But this is really one or two pairs. The same applies to both men’s and women’s single skating. Only leaders are able to fit complex elements into the program. And the majority really either runs or even walks from element to element. Yes, the elements are difficult, they require tremendous concentration, this is all understandable, but someone creates real artistic images in the four minutes that the program lasts.
Yes, but it turns out that this is not a mandatory requirement in order to win.
Oleg Vasiliev: It is not, and that’s why I’m talking about the crisis of the judging system. The second mark should reflect the interpretation of the music, choreography, gliding, presentation. But it doesn’t reflect that. In reality, you make your elements – and 9s in PCS points are guaranteed to you. It is not right. Therefore, it is necessary to somehow refresh this judging system. Its possibilities are almost exhausted.
The Olympics are ahead. In pair skating, everyone is looking forward to the fight of three Russian pairs – Anastasiia Mishina / Aleksandr Galliamov, Evgenia Tarasova / Vladimir Morozov and Alexandra Boikova / Dmitri Kozlovskii – with the Chinese pair Sui Wenjing / Han Cong. What is your prediction for the outcome of this fight?
Oleg Vasiliev: As we have already stated, when the second mark is the same for everyone, it is how the athletes perform the elements that decides. Unfortunately, neither the program, nor the composition that the pairs represent, but simply a set of elements. And this, in my opinion, is not what the viewer wants to see and what we professionals want to see. We want to see in the results the reflection of both the complexity of the programs and the composition that the athletes are trying to present.
Judging by the real two marks, for technique and for artistry, the alignment in pair skating at the Olympic Games is very ambiguous. The Chinese pair is unique, and they have been going to this uniqueness for many years. They started as a completely ordinary-looking pair, but at the moment they are the pair that you want to watch, regardless of what elements they do. They know how to skate, they know how to express music and they know how to keep the audience spellbound throughout the program.
Russian pairs have technically more difficult programs. But there are questions about the second mark. How will the judges react to the opposition of pure technique and the combination of difficult skating and artistry? This is the main intrigue of the Olympics in pair skating.
By pure technique, do you mean all three Russian pairs? Or are Tarasova and Morozov still falling out of the top three?
Oleg Vasiliev: Tarasova and Morozova have experience and their own style, they are the last representatives of the Soviet pair skating school and also know how to delight the audience with skating. Mishina/Galliamov and Boikova/Kozlovskii are different, when they make the elements clean, they are also capable to spellbound the audience. But of course, the performance will decide everything. How the athletes will get together, how they will be able to realize what they have been working on for many months.
What, in your opinion, is the reason for Tarasova and Morozov’s inconsistency compared to Moskvina’s pairs?
Oleg Vasiliev: Psychology. When an athlete is confident in himself, in his elements, in his skating, in his health, the consistency indicator approaches one hundred percent. If there are any concerns, then the athlete begins to feel uptight a little and starts to be careful. This is what causes breakdowns. He fails the jump, not because he doesn’t know how to do it, but because when he enters it at competitions, in a stressful situation, the psychological component does not work quite the same as in training.
The Chinese pair brought back the quadruple twist. Is this a gesture of desperation? After all, a triple twist, performed on the pluses, will give more points than a mediocre quadruple.
Oleg Vasiliev: Of course, the difference will be small, but this is not a gesture of desperation. The Chinese are not stupid at all, they count as well as we do. The fight will go for every point. And if they can get for a quadruple twist, even of the second level, two or three tenths point more than for a triple twist of the fourth level, then they will do a quadruple. Because these two or three tenths can be decisive in the fight for medals.
With the current low cost of quadruple elements, pair skating has become stagnant, while even girls have more and more quadruple jumps. How do you feel about the idea to increase the cost of ultra-c elements in pairs again?
Oleg Vasiliev: In single skating, the value of quadruple jumps was also lowered so that skaters were not carried away, but this did not stop progress. But this progress has not increased the number of injuries. In pair skating the situation is different. A quad throw is not quite a quad jump. In single skating, the athlete himself pushes off to the height his body can throw him to. He himself prepares to land from this height. And in pair skating, the push offs efforts of the partners are summed up. The girl flies much higher and farther than if she had pushed off herself. And her body is not always ready for a fall from such a height. The higher the reach, the more serious the loads, even if the landing is perfect. And if a fall follows, it can lead to very serious injury.
The situation is the same with the twists. The girl makes one more rotation, but she spends almost the same time in the air from take off to catching by her partner. This suggests that until the last moment she keeps the air position, and at the moment of catching her elbows can fall on any part of the partner’s head. This is dangerous, it has also led to injuries. And if the partner, God forbid, does not catch her and she falls from a height of two meters, this is even more dangerous. Therefore, it is not quite right to force the work on quadruple twists and throws in pair skating.
But if there is a girl with quadruple jumps who comes to pair skating and is ready to do a quadruple throw with a minimum of traumatic falls, then this may be a way out of the situation and a step forward in the development of complexity. But a girl who didn’t know how to quad jumps will fall a thousand times before she learns to do quadruple throws more or less consistently.
But in the end, there is interest in women’s and men’s single skating, there is even interest in ice dance thanks to periodically arising scandals, and pair skating, roughly speaking, is in the media “swamp”. What to do with it?
Oleg Vasiliev: Pair skating can be interesting in terms of composition. After all, two people are skating. You can create more interesting programs compared to when one athlete skates. In my understanding, the development of pair skating can go both in terms of complicating the elements – jumps, lifts, twists, throws – and in working on the composition. So that the compositions are interesting and do not just represent a set of 11 elements in four minutes.
But motivation to make these compositions is needed.
Oleg Vasiliev: And we again return to the second mark, which today does not work at all.
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