Olympic Ladies Event – A Few New Problems Come to Light

One of biggest problems with the Olympics is that videos get removed from youtube faster than you can say, “Olympics” because of copyright issues. However, the IOC seems to have established their own youtube channel and have uploaded the Olympic performances. After re-watching Sotnikova’s programs, I continue to stand by my opinion that her PCS were inflated.

Firstly, here is a link to an overview of the PCS and its criteria. When we think of the scores, let’s keep in mind the definitions of each number when we say that the PCS is marked from 0 to 10:

9-10 – Outstanding
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – Above average
5- Average
4 – Fair
3 – Weak
2 – Poor
1 – Very poor
<1 – Extremely poor

Adelina received scores mostly in the 8s in her SP and 9s in her LP. Yes, the scores themselves are subjective but each PCS has its own criteria to limit how we define “average.” The following are the criteria of the PCS and my take on it.

So let’s look at the criteria for Skating Skills (SS):

– Balance and rhythmic knee action and precision of foot placement
– Flow and effortless glide
– Cleanness and sureness of deep edges, steps and turns
– Power/energy and acceleration
– Mastery of multi directional skating
– Mastery of one foot skating
My problem with Sotnikova’s performances is that even though she did have power and energy, I felt that her performance lacked in all of the other categories. For a comparison, take a look at any program by Patrick Chan or Mao Asada. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the former, I have to admire how he manages to go deep into the knee to get speed and power from out of nowhere and how deep he holds his edges in various transitions and step sequences. For a singles skater, Mao Asada has very clean steps and turns in her step sequences and even manages to do twizzles just as well as some ice dancers. Furthermore, if you notice, despite all the random spirals and ina bauers strewn in her program, Sotnikova skates on two feet quite a bit in both programs. She doesn’t have the glide you see in Asada or Chan or that command of edges and steps you see in more complete and mature skaters. I’d probably give Adelina a score around 6.5 to 7 in this category.

Onto Transitions (TR) in which the criteria are:

– Variety
– Difficulty
– Intricacy
– Quality (including unison in Pair Skating and Ice Dancing)

Watching Adelina’s LP, you’re going to notice quite a few transitions: a step sequence into a 3Lp, a spiral, spread eagle, footwork, two-foot skating into a 2A. Yes, she had quite a few but the way they’re put in the program lowers the difficulty of the entire program. If you look at her LP, she rarely transitions directly into jumps but she sandwiches her transitions between bouts of two-foot skating before entering into an element. Again, for a comparison note, try looking at any programs by Takahiko Kozuka choreographed by Marina Zueva or any of Jeremy Abbott’s programs choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne. If you want to watch a ladies program with some decent transitions, Yuna Kim’s Danse Macabre SP from 2008/2009 has a few good examples of how skaters tie transitions into elements like jumps. Here, I’d probably give Sotnikova a 7.5.

As for Performance and Execution (PE)… well, let me just say that her scores in the 9s or even 8s is mind-boggling.

– Physical, emotion, and intellectual involvement
– Carriage
– Style and individuality/personality
– Clarity of movement
– Variety and contrast
– Projection

I’ll give Sotnikova the argument that she was enthusiastic and energetic during her performance but I’m not sure how involved she was with her music. Did her personality shine through in her performances? I’m not really sure. She skated with enthusiasm but a lot of the time, it felt as if the music happened to be on while she was skating. Both performances were, at least to me, forgettable. When I think of all these criteria for PE and an ideal example of them, I’d bring up Carolina Kostner’s Bolero LP from the Olympics, Yuna Kim’s Scheherazade LP from 2009 Worlds, Mao Asada’s Clair de Lune SP from the 2009 WTT and just to throw a man into the mix, Daisuke Takahashi’s 2010 Worlds performance of his La Strada LP. Each of these programs are very different in their own right but each skater displayed their musicality, personality and skating ability. For her enthusiasm, I’d probably give Sotnikova 6.75, maybe 7 at most.

Choreography, choreography, choreography (CH). One of the most important PCS categories in my opinion since it links to pretty much all the other categories very tightly. Here are its basic criteria:

– Purpose (idea, concept, vision)
– Proportion (equal weight of parts)
– Unity (purposeful threading)
– Utilization of personal and public space
– Pattern and ice coverage
– Phrasing and form (movements and parts structured to match the phrasing of the music)
– Originality of purpose, movement and design
So um… I’m not sure about you, but I was pretty confused at how any of Sotnikova’s choreography for her SP was reflective of the seductive mood of the habanera in Carmen. I was even more confused at what she was trying to express in her LP. I understand, sometimes, programs don’t necessarily have a story but they evoke a certain mood or a picture that you can’t quite describe. Unfortunately, Sotnikova’s programs looked to me like a victim of the IJS – a combination of huge jumps and randomly strewn transitions and elements designed to tick the boxes and garner points. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to how that wave during the spiral sequence and pulling on a rope or those right angled arms while standing on two feet has anything to do with each other or some sort of artistic vision. If someone knows what sort of story, message, dream-like hallucination this program is supposed to represent, please enlighten me in the comments. I would dearly love to know. I’d like to give her LP a 5 because that’s what it was – an average IJS cookie-cutter program.  I’ll be a bit kinder to her LP, and give it around a 6.75 to 7.25, mostly because she does have a few decent poses at the beginning and because that step sequence does have a few highlights that go well with the music. A huge chunk in the middle, however is “all business” as Kurt Browning would say and is all about completing difficult elements and less about the music.
Again, if you want examples for contrast, Valentina Marchei’s Nyah LP from this season is a good comparison point for the Habanera SP. In terms of choreography, both of Carolina Kostner’s programs this season were outstanding (in a descriptive and the PCS sense).

And finally, we get to the Interpretation and Timing (IT). Here are the criteria:

– Effortless movement in time to the music (timing)
– Expression of the music’s style, character and rhythm
– Use of finesse to reflect the nuances of the music

I think in terms of this category, she did a little better in the SP but in the LP, there was just a severe disconnect between the music and the movement. I’m not sure if there was any sort of way she captured the “nuances of the music” and even though her enthusiasm helped her bring out the tension and excitement in the music, I’m not sure if either of the performances deserved an 8 or 9 in this category, I’d probably give her a 7.25 to 7.5 in the SP and a score in the 6s in the LP. If I were to think of other programs that reflect these criteria outstandingly, I’d name Yuna Kim’s Tango de Roxanne SP from 2007 Worlds, Kanako Murakami’s Prayer for Taylor SP from 2013 Worlds and even though it’s an exhibition, Mao Asada’s Por Una Cabeza program. And again, just to throw in a male skater, Yuzuru Hanyu’s Parisienne Walkways SP.

I wish I could say that this is all I had to say but another video seems to have brought a few more technical issues into light.

Admittedly, after looking at the footage and Adelina’s LP on the Olympics youtube channel, I can’t say for sure if Adelina flutzed. The camera angle is not in the most ideal position though it looks as if she did pull her outside edge inward as she picked into the ice for her 3Lz. She may have pulled it to a straight edge, which, I believe is acceptable though someone correct me if I’m wrong. HOWEVER, just because Sotnikova flutzed in previous competitions does not necessarily mean that she did in Sochi. I’d like to see the jump again, perhaps at a different angle before I cast judgment on the matter.

The 3T at the end of the 3Lz-3T looked as if it was underrotated by 1/4 of a revolution. Technically, this should receive an under-rotation call and the overall combination would have have received such high grades of execution.

Overall though, I would have to agree with the video, the most suspicious bit about Adelina Sotnikova’s scores were her PCS, as I’ve elaborated above. To further this point, I’ll quote reader Sueqeez:

“During her bad skate in Cup of China, her PCS was a full 15 points below what she got in Sochi. FIFTEEN points. Unless you’re saying that she totally revamped her free skate, changed every facial expression and all the hand motions and steps and everything, I don’t see how there could POSSIBLY be a FIFTEEN point difference. Average of 7.5s everywhere at COC.”

As I’ve said to a few of my readers, my issue with the results of this competition is less about Sotnikova’s skating aka doing what she’s supposed to do but with the judging. I think the competitors deserve better by being awarded scores that are transparent and clear as to how they got them and skating fans deserve better than to be constantly outraged by the fact that the judging was suspicious. Here, I quote reader, zmk: “How is this sport supposed to be ever popular again if half of the story (PCS) is a total black box that spits out scores that nobody can understand?!”

Any new thoughts or opinions out there? I’d love to hear them.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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