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. More

Sochi 2014: Worst Judging I’ve Ever Seen – Ladies Event

You know, I can accept that Russia won the team event. As someone who prefers Tessa and Scott, I can also accept and celebrate Meryl & Charlie’s win at the Olympics. Adelina Sotnikova’s Olympic gold, however, is the one accolade I refuse to accept and this ridiculousness in judging is an insult to anyone who holds the title of “Olympic Champion.” I am so disgusted with this result that I refuse to cover or watch any more competitions in Russia until this bullshit judging has stopped because if this is how things are going to be judged in Russia, then may no figure skating competition be ever held there ever again. So, if you’re wondering why I haven’t made predictions for the Cup of Russia for the next few seasons, here’s why.

sotnikova and judge

I think all commentators were shocked when Sotnikova won. Kurt Browning said that she was not a complete skater, as did Dick Button. Katarina Witt, former Olympic Champion, has also told the media that she thought Yuna Kim should’ve won and she is joined by a whole host of knowledgeable people in the figure skating world.To also put this whole debacle into perspective, consider this: Sotnikova’s season’s best score before the Olympics was 20 points below her Olympic score. Of course, somehow we have the media trying to rationalize what happened by saying that Adelina had a higher Technical Elements Scores (TES) and while that is true, we have to consider that the TES is only half of the story. In fact, what didn’t make sense in Sotnikova’s scores were her Program Components Scores (PCS). So for those who are still scratching their heads at the result, here are my two cents as well as a general recap of the ladies event in Sochi. More

The Best Two Ice Dance Teams to Have Ever Graced the Ice

vm dw 2014 owg

For once, my Olympic predictions were not so far off but that is the nature of this discipline. In ice dance, it is the subtleties that matter and sometimes mistakes are imperceptible to the average viewer. Here is a recap of sorts of the ice dance event at the Olympics and my two cents. Hopefully this post will help balance things out amid the news reports and angry rants by sportscasters who fully admit to knowing nothing about the sport. More

Re: Yuzuru’s Gold – Paradigm Shift or the End of an Era?

So as you may know, I wrote a post with something of a recap of the men’s event along with a lot of commentary about the Chan vs. Hanyu race for gold and how the International Judging System (IJS) came into play. Other than the limits of the PCS and whatnot, I think the IJS may also have something to do with what come commentators think is a shift in the world of figure skating.

plushy and yuzu

With Yuzuru’s historic victory as not only the first Japanese but Asian man to win figure skating gold, some articles (here and here) have noted that Yuzuru’s win represent a paradigm shift from East Asian countries learning from the traditional (and Western) figure skating powers of Russia, Canada and the U.S. to the other way around. In one of the articles, Udo Doensdorf, a German sports director, talks about money and how Japanese skaters are well-supported financially, given the interest in the sport in the country. While this is true, I think that we also need to consider is a small coincidence in timing with the one event that changed figure skating forever. That one event, of course, is the 2002 Salt Lake City figure skating scandal. (For a summary of what happened, refer to my Skating 101 post here.)

For Japan (or even other East Asian countries), figure skating medalists at Worlds or the Olympics like Chen Lu and Midori Ito were rare but their very existence and their achievements point to some degree of interest in figure skating back when the Canada, Russia and the U.S. were still dominating the sport. However, around the 2000s, we start seeing quite a few East Asian skaters on the podium with Japan taking medals in singles skating and China for pairs, followed by the one-woman South Korean dynasty that is Yuna Kim. I don’t know the precise details of the history of figure skating in each country but we do know this:

  • Bin Yao, pairs coach extraordinaire, skated in the 1980s and was one of the first pairs teams in China. Despite his own personal failures as a competitive figure skater, he began to develop an excellent pairs training program which budded near the turn of the millennium and really bloomed in Vancouver of 2010.
  • As for Japan, this country is usually touted as a success story and proof of modernization theory – in other words, Japan developed a capitalist economy, modernized and westernized a lot earlier than its other East Asian neighbours, which may explain why Emi Watanabi and Minoru Sano won medals in the ladies and men’s events at the World Championships as early as the 1970s. Japan had a medal drought until the 1980s/90s with Midori Ito and Yuka Sato but then Japanese skaters really took off near the 2000s.
  • Yuna Kim is a bit of an outlier in this argument seeing that she basically started the interest in figure skating in her country single-handedly in the 2000s.

In any case, what we see with China and Japan are two nations who had some interest in figure skating relatively late in the game compared to the Big Three (U.S., Russia and Canada). Interest in figure skating began to gain some momentum in the late 80s/90s and then took off in the 2000s. This could be an indication that the development of figure skating training programs in these countries began in 80s/90s and began to really make a name of itself near the turn of the millennium. While this may seem like a fun fact, it also means that these countries had less experience at the elite level under the 6.0 judging system.

For China and Japan, this late-comer status may have given them a small advantage which they have capitalized on in the past two and present Olympic cycle, which is that they probably had less attachment to the 6.0 judging system which allowed them to adapt to the IJS much faster than the Big Three. As a result, we have coaches from Japan and China train young skaters in a way that would help them succeed under the new system, resulting in a generation that are slightly better prepared for the idiosyncrasies and challenges of skating under the IJS. If you look at the success stories coming from Asia, many of them are teenagers or in their early 20s, meaning that they most likely entered their junior competitive career skating – where things start getting a little serious – solely under the IJS. Many of these skaters moved to North America or Europe to train eventually but their careers began in their home country.

For the Big Three, the transition may not have been as smooth as we see older skaters trying to adapt to this new system. For a while, it seems as if their transition was successful. The young teenagers still had to wait a little bit to dethrone the big names but by the beginning of the Olympic cycle going into Vancouver in 2006, we start seeing these teenagers come into the scene with their youth and their experience under the IJS and taking the skating world by storm.

With 2014 comes the 10 year anniversary of the implementation of the IJS in international figure skating. When this Olympic cycle ends, we will likely see the complete end of an era with the last of the 6.0 skaters retiring. Skaters like Brian Joubert and Evgeni Plushenko are probably the last of the 6.0 skaters in the field and by the next Olympic cycle, we will likely see only youngin’s who have grown up with the new judging system. That is not to say that 6.0 skaters weren’t successful in the new system but with their age and an older skating style (heavy focus on jumps, less transitions and sometimes very personality-based), 6.0 skaters either had to adapt quickly or lose relevance and momentum in their career.

So perhaps we will see the Big Three look towards Japan for best practices in figure skating but this might just be part of an overall process of getting over the growing pains of getting rid of the influence of a skating style from a bygone era to adopting a new one. Although Canada is a bit of an exception to the decline of the big three under the IJS, we are starting to see skaters from these countries flourish again but with younger skaters who have never been touched by the 6.0 judging system.

Do you think that Yuzuru’s win marks a shift in the way countries are improving their figure skating programs or are we just seeing the vestiges of the 6.0 system finally cast off? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

The Future is Here! All Hail Yuzuru Hanyu – Olympic Champion!

Yuzuru Hanyu 2014 OWG LP

The men’s competition in Sochi was packed full of surprises for better and worse. The result is still a little bit of a shock but somewhere deep down, I think I was expecting it. Or maybe, a lot of us just managed to see what a talent this guy was back at the beginning of the Olympic cycle and he certainly proved us right. Thanks, Yuzuru!

Also, the men’s figure skating Olympic curse seems to be in full effect after taking a small break in Vancouver. (For those of you who don’t know, the “curse” is that the man who was World Champion from the previous year/season will not win Olympic gold. All the figure skating “curses” were broken in Vancouver but so far, they seems to be in full effect.) Anyway, let’s start this brief recap of the men’s figure skating competition with one of the biggest game changers… More

Lil’ Love for the Underdogs: Michael Christian Martinez

I had to wake up early to watch the men’s SP from start to finish and the annoying thing was, I usually don’t watch the first two flights at Worlds or the Olympics. I was only half-awake to see what Plushenko had to offer. Although I was tempted to go back to bed, I decided to sit through the first two flights since my computer was already on as was my kettle for tea. For me, the only two highlights of the first few groups was the drama of Plushenko’s withdrawal… and this skater: Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines. Not a traditional figure skating nation and so I did not expect to see this.

(For now, I can only offer a sketchy filmed off the TV video off the youtube due to copyright limitations.)

I have to admit, I was impressed. This guy has potential – his rotations in the air are very fast, he has good lines and extension and his flexibility rivals that of some of the top ladies (his Biellmann is definitely better extended than some ladies in the field). Martinez needs to improve the flow coming out of his jumps and have a quad to be at the top echelons and I would honestly love to see this guy succeed. For some reason, the name Frank Carroll is floating in my head right now.

This guy also seems to have tons of fans. Many lower ranked skaters don’t have videos of their skates on youtube but there were tons of videos of his Olympic skate. Keep on supporting your skaters, Filipino fans!

What did you think of Michael Christian Martinez? Do you think he has what it takes to be at the top? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

Mother Russia Gets Her Pairs Gold Back

The individual pairs competition was a grand victory for Russia as she reclaimed the gold after Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao abruptly stopped the 50 years of Russian pairs domination in Vancouver. The picture below says it all as we go through the stories of those on the podium.

2014 Pairs Olympic Podium

Volosozhar & Trankov win Olympic Gold

To skating fans who have followed this team in the last Olympic cycle, none of us were really surprised that Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov won the pairs gold and perhaps, starting another era of Russian pairs domination. V & T had a 5 point lead after the short program and even as their main rivals, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy took the ice in the LP, it was hard to imagine that there was anything they could do to get the gold. V & T have been mostly solid technically all season and the choreography of their programs is well… palatable compared to anything else they’ve skated to in the past. (For the love of god, they skated to Evanescence a few years ago.) They were a little stiff in the LP but all in all, it was a well deserved gold medal.

Stolbova & Klimov – Spoilers for Silver

I think the most sensational story of the pairs event goes to Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov. For the past Olympic cycle, this team has only occupied the lower rungs of the Grand Prix podium if not at all and they have also yet to compete at the World Championships. Before the Olympics, I vaguely remembered this team as one that has often let me down when I peg them for the bronze medal position in Grand Prix events. Somehow, this team has magically blossomed overnight and has demonstrated that they have the technical skills and consistency to be at the top. Even though the figure skating events haven’t finished yet, I would say that their silver medal is probably one of the most unexpected of the sport this season. Kudos, guys.

A Disappointing End for Savchenko & Szolkowy

Things weren’t looking good for Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy after the SP when they were trailed V&T by 5 points after the SP. S&S brought back and shortened their acclaimed Pink Panther long program but unfortunately, even as a fan of theirs, I have to admit that there were too many pauses in the middle of the program and the choreography didn’t bring out the fun characters as much. According to the commentators at CBC, S&S’ motto was “Gold or nothing,” and I really wish that they had thought about it a little more when they went into their long program. Robin missed a jump and after a perfect and strong skates from both Russian teams, mistakes were extremely costly. S&S could have either executed a throw triple axel or an easier throw triple salchow for their last element and went with the former in hopes of gaining huge points. Unfortunately, Aliona fell on the attempt and the team got a bronze medal. I can’t help but think that they could’ve maybe squeaked by with a silver if they had done a clean salchow but what has happened has happened. What makes me sad is that these two are going down in history as a team with 2 Olympic bronzes despite having 4 World titles. These two are better than that but they couldn’t prove it in Sochi.

What did you think of the pairs event at the Olympics? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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