GPF 2013: Figure Skating Politics

Aliona and Robin GPF 2013 LP

When I was watching the Grand Prix Final, this article from Figure Skating Lessons kept popping up on my mind as the competitions played themselves out. More precisely, point no. 1 really hit home as some really surprising results came  in. Like Haymitch’s sponsor gifts from the widely popular Hunger Games series, scores and placements in figure skating can send a message to skaters and there were a few messages that were pretty clear at this competition.

Before I elaborate, I’ll just underscore the importance of the GPF as a competition. Many of the world’s finest skaters have competed at the final and it will likely be the biggest international showdown before the Olympics. This competition gives a rough idea of what the standings may look like in Sochi and there isn’t going to be a competition where a lot of the big names meet until then. A lot of A-list skaters tend to skip the European Championships or Four Continents in order to be at their peak and ready for the Olympics.

In any case, here were some “messages” I feel like were being expounded by the judges at the GPF.

1. Bad skates cannot be rewarded.

Patrick Chan. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev. The former two skater/teams were supposed to be a lock on gold while the last team was supposed to be a lock on bronze. I made my predictions for the GPF with full confidence that their PCS would be able to buoy their scores in case anything went wrong but that wasn’t the case.

 

Chan two-footed his 3A really awkwardly and doubled his lutz in the short.

Tatiana fell in two jumping passes in the LP.

Soloviev fell in the FD.

Normally, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these transgressions were forgiven, especially for Chan and V/T, and their grasp for the gold medal maintained by their PCS. (I mean, we still remember Chan being booed at the 2012 World Championships in Nice for a reason.) However, that forgiveness from the PCS didn’t happen and those with locks on certain medals ended up a tad lower than I expected. Wow. I seriously didn’t think that would happen.

But then again, this is the Olympic year and it’s nearly been 12 years since the Salt Lake City figure skating scandal. Despite being a decade-old scandal, the empty or emptier arenas and the end of the golden age of figure skating keeps the scandal fresh in the minds of fans. This is an interesting message to send to skaters and fans alike that bad skating will be duly noted in the scores but whether or not PCS inflation for specific skaters will happen at the Olympics is another matter. We’ll just have to wait and see.

2. Meryl Davis & Charlie White will likely get the ice dance crown in Sochi.

Tessa & Scott and Meryl & Charlie faced off against each other for the first time this season at the GPF and wow, am I impressed. Both teams delivered two great performances and this is what I’ve been looking for from all skaters this season.  Bravo!

In any case, I think we know who the judges prefer this season and overall, I’m not surprised. Meryl & Charlie won both the SD and FD by very small increments. In the SD, V/M scored higher on the TES but only trailed their rivals by 0.7 overall. In the FD, a level 3 diagonal step sequence proved to be costly for V/M and with a slightly lower PCS, D/W won that portion of the competition as well. In the past few seasons, Tessa & Scott have been having trouble beating their rivals and training mates but I think V/M have finally gotten on track and are giving their rivals a run for their money.

However, the lower PCS for V/M should be a point of concern if they want to win the Olympics. Now that they’re back at where they need to be technically, I fear that politics have come into play. This season, Canada has the ability to win two gold medals in figure skating in the men’s and ice dance competition. The only difference is that Canada has already won the ice dance Olympic gold in Vancouver but they’ve never managed the men’s gold even with brilliant stars like Kurt Browning and Jeffrey Buttle. It will be difficult to back two gold medal contenders at the Olympics and I think Chan is the household name that Skate Canada wants to sell this season, which may not bode well with V/M. The PCS score allows judges to diversify the figure skating podium along nationality, lowballing skaters who may not be ranked #1 in their country or lowballing certain skaters in one discipline to allow another to triumph in another discipline.

I think I’ve reached a zen state about politicking and I know that it will always be a part of this sport which I love dearly. Judging art will always be affected by the political or social climate of the time and is therefore, subjective – I find Bach a little dull at times but I love the elegance and “shiny” quality of Mozart but for one of my best friends, she shares the opposite opinion. Right now, I’m really tired of the negativity and hate from both sides of the V/M and D/W fanbase. What I see here is the triumph of ice dance where two teams have been pushed to create and skate in ways that are far superior to what we’ve seen before. Personally, I don’t really care what medals they win, they both deserve gold for what they’ve done to the sport and they both triumph if they’ve delivered a beautiful program.

What were your thoughts on the politics of the GPF? Let me know in the comments!

Also, thank you all so much for the support I’ve been given during the GPF. Your comments and views motivate me to write and I’m so happy that you enjoy my random ramblings!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teresa (@tepinnc)
    Dec 13, 2013 @ 05:47:14

    I completely agree with you about D/W and V/M. Both teams are amazing in their own ways. They are pretty evenly matched technically (although each has a unique style within the way they do technical elements), therefore it’s going to come down to judging the “art part, ” as you say. I honestly feel for the judges when it comes to these 2 teams! Both have an incredible impact on this sport. Personally I prefer D/W and consider myself a HUGE fan, but I can’t deny the talent of V/M and appreciate them so much as well for what they do on the ice.

    Reply

  2. Craig
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 22:31:30

    This is still a judged sport so the opportunity for bias still exists. However, I believe that the ISU scoring system prevents the complete skewing of marks in favour of a certain competitor; even through a very liberal scoring of PCS. In order to do so, all judges would have to be in on it. There are safeguards in the system to prevent this.

    Skaters like Chan, VT etc win because they simply skated better overall and/or attempted a more demanding program. That is what the new system is supposed to promote.

    Reply

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