Grand Prix Final 2003

Colorado Springs, CO


Ladies Report     Men's Report    Pairs Report    Dance Report


Sunday, 14 December

About 2200 restless spectators were on hand for the closing Exhibition of Champions.  It was the most oddly scheduled exhibition ever seen.  Nearly three hours in length, it included three off-ice musical interludes, a lengthy demonstration and promotion for short track speed skating, video highlights, four award ceremonies and two intermissions.

The award ceremonies were not held following the competitive events on Saturday due to the lateness of the schedule.  They were held instead at the start of the second intermission, with the skaters basically given the "bum's rush."  With only ten minutes scheduled for all four ceremonies, it was get on the podium, play the anthem and get off the ice.  No time for a victory lap, no time for congratulations from the fans, no time for autographs.

Even having seen many of the routines at least once before, many hold up and were skated with enthusiasm, while others should be retired and quickly.  Most notably of the latter are the "Austin Powers" routine of Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov and Emanuel Sandhu's routine, which are just plain annoying to watch.

Anabelle Langlois & Patrice Archetto skated with energy and enthusiasm as did Michael Weiss.  Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviyski's drunken woman routine, though old, holds up as does the dramatic routine from Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov.  Sasha Cohen skated nicely, but among the ladies it is always the greatest joy to watch Fumie Suguri skate.

During practice, Sasha's routine got a little "help" from Staviyski that it could have used during the Exhibition.  During her practice run-through the dancers were also on the ice, and as she skated Staviyski shadow skated her routine from beginning to ending bow.  When she went over to her coach for comment so did he.  He was advised that to be a successful woman skater he would have to add a Charlotte to his routine!

Overall the event was well run.  The staff at the World Arena always does a good job on skating events as does the local skating community in Colorado Springs.  The attempts over the three days of activities to "enhance" the event and increase spectator interest, however, seemed mostly to miss the mark.

Saturday, 13 December

Attendance was somewhat better than Friday night, with about 2600 spectators on hand for the completion of competitive events.  About a quarter of those, however, did not make it to the end, leaving prior to the Free Dance which began at about 11 PM and did not finish until nearly midnight.  Due to the late schedule, the awards ceremonies were not held after the events, but will instead take place at the start of the Exhibition on Sunday.  Many of the skaters looked as weary on the ice as did the hearty souls in the audience who were able to last through the entire five hour schedule.

After the conclusion of the dance event, yet another "glitch" in the scoring system software was discovered.  In this case an element from the French team was scored with zero value, and when corrected they moved up from last place to fifth place in the standings.  Earlier in the day, ISU president Cinquanta described how pleased he was with the new system and how extensive the testing of the system had been both before being put into use, and since.  The error discovered tonight, however, was due to such a simple coding error that even the most cursory of testing would have revealed it.

This situation again demonstrates that the development of the software has been, and remains, a shoddy process that is a fundamental defect in the system that needs correction, since several ISU officials today reiterated that the system and its software are expected to evolve on a continuous basis.  The reason this error was discovered is that after the event was completed someone noticed an element from the French team had been scored as a zero -- a situation that stands out like a sore thumb.  It begs the question, however, of how many lesser errors are still present that remain undiscovered because the impact they have on the numbers is less obvious, though they still might affect the results.

Early in the development of this scoring system it was pointed out that the integrity of the system demanded that a thorough,  rigorous testing and validation process be used.  The many software errors that have been discovered during the Grand Prix this season has demonstrated that such a process has not existed, and still does not exist for the CoP software, and leaves one with the concern that other software errors still remain.  This fundamental problem is easily correctable if the ISU would only take a more professional and responsible approach to the development of the system.  Unfortunately, the ISU still appears to be more concerned about appearances than about getting it right.

Friday, 12 December

Six entries are allowed in each of the four divisions. Points are earned based on places in the six grand prix events. The world’s top skaters are permitted to enter three of these events. One which must be designated beforehand is non-scoring although they do get the prize money.

There are no draws in the final. For the short or original, the skater/couples compete in reverse order to their number of qualifying points in the initial section. In the long they skate in reverse order to their short/original finish.

Many of the terms that follow may be unfamiliar with readers because the Code of Points (CoP) is so very different. There is quite a lot of learning to do. In the pairs report a detailed and perhaps incomprehensible breakdown of the Code of Points score is given only for the first pair.

The first day of competition was modestly attended, not nearly as well as when Skate America was held here in years past.  Perhaps that is due to the small number of American skaters competing here, limited to Sasha Cohen in the Ladies event, Michael Weiss in the Men's event and Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto in Dance.

The nights activities began with opening comments by USFSA president Charles Foster, followed by ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta who was soundly booed upon his introduction.  The introduction itself was a bit strange, with a lengthy commentary whose purpose seemed to be image manipulation for PR purposes.  Sadly, much of what goes on in skating in recent times seems to be more about PR, spin and marketing than about what is really in the best interest of the skaters and the sport itself.

The Final is structured with all three short programs and the original dance presented on the first night, and all three free skating programs and the free dance on the second night.  On Sunday there will be an exhibition of the champions.  And in a related odd bit of scheduling, the awards ceremonies will not take place after the conclusion of the events, but instead will be held prior to the start of the Exhibition on Sunday.

The first night of competition proceeded at an even slower pace than normal for a skating competition.  Nearly four and one half hours were spent to present 60 minutes of skating, with various gimmicks used to try and energize the audience, though none succeeded.  If the ISU want to revive flagging public interest in skating the answer is not marketing gimmicks.  It is skating, skating and more skating, of the best quality, presented without extensive delays.  Perhaps one reason TV no longer broadcasts much live skating anymore is that with so much dead time it is impossible to hold the attention of the average viewer in real-time.

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