2006 Olympic Winter Games

Torino, Italy

10 - 26 February, 2006

Event Reports

Senior Ladies
Senior Men
Senior Pairs
Senior Dance

Daily Notes and Idle Musings

For individual event reports follow the links at the left.

For this event we are trying something different.  Event reports will start out as notes on each performance taken during the event.  These will be posted during each ice cut (or more frequently, if possible).  They will be short and to the point.  Expect only a vague approximation of complete sentences and proper grammar.  Event report will cleaned up (and photos added) the day after each event.

Abbreviations used in the event reports.

Sunday, February 26

Closing ceremony was a blast.  Packing up now for the 28 hour trip home.  Should have new event pictures to post by them.

On to Calgary!

Saturday, February 25

Audio from Ladies Final press conference -- Edited to remove dead time and extraneous non-skater comments.
MP3,  Approx. 2.9 MB (25 minutes)

Friday, February 24

Exhibition Commentary  after the exhibition we will post our commentary.  This won't be a play by play, just a free association of whatever happens.

Ladies Free Skate:

You have to admire Arakawa's dedication and persistence fore the past 2 years, since she considered retirement in 2004.  She soldiered on after a poor season and poor finish after Worlds last year.  She came here with most expecting her to be amongst the top ladies, but few expecting her to win.

In practice she worked hard, and exuded a confidence lacking in many of the other ladies.   She "won" all three practices I saw at Palavela, and an elite coach (who would probably prefer not to be named) said the same thing.  Cohen on the other hand missed several practices and did not seem to really press herself in the ones where I saw her.  Perhaps she had the need to conserve her leg, which is not 100%, and so I guess she deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Slutskaya appeared to me in practice to display an almost fool hearty confidence.  I did not see her do one complete one through; not even to mark her program with all steps and connecting moves.  Mostly she listened to her music, wandered around the ice, and worked a few elements individually.

Of all three ladies Arakawa presented herself as the one with her head screwed on the tightest, working the hardest without a hint of doubt showing.

For me the final result reflects the actual skating.  When Arakawa did not perform her triple-triples, it appeared as though she had decided (after Cohen had skated) to go for a clean and beautiful program as a strategic decisions, and a wise one at that.  In the press conference, however, she said that the decision had nothing to do with Cohen's performance, and that she had planned to do one, but did not feel secure on the landing of the first jump, and so did not risk the triple-triple.

For Cohen, things began to fall apart in the warmup for her group.  She did a light workout during the morning practice, but in the evening, her flip and Lutz deserted her.  She started of with a fall and then two hands down on her first two elements; but after that she composed herself and finished the remainder (majority) of the program securely and well skated.  Slutskaya, who skated last,  had her share of problems too.  She doubled a triple flip and fell on triple loop.

Based on the numbers alone, Cohen and Slutskaya were statistically tied (see below), but in the official scoring Cohen edged out Slutskaya for the silver medal.  It can be argued that it should have been even closer, since the two hands she put down in the flip seemed to be supporting all her weight and thus met the definition of a fall, requiring a second 1.0 deduction.  But the technical panel did not see it that way.

While it is questionable whether the marks truly reflect the appropriate point difference between them, the marks for Cohen and Slutskaya reasonable illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of these two program.  Cohen had a higher base value for elements, and landed five triple vs. Slutskaya's four.  In Program Components they were very close.  Perhaps even too close some feel, with the emphasis there that Slutskaya is generally over marked in Program Components.  Finally, another difference between them was the level of the spins and sequences, with Cohen getting the advantage of one level (cumulatively) for those elements.  For Slutskaya, spins in the past have been a strength for her, but in the Free Skate she scores 4 points below Cohen in spins.

So, as far as I am concerned, this one turned out exactly as it was skated and no one "wuzrobbed."

Morning Notes:

Today is half a goof off day.  We will be posting a commentary on the Exhibition after it ends this evening.  More on the ladies event and some photos too.  Eventually we will edit and post the ladies press conference audio also.

Here, for now, is our calculation of the top three places when all 12 judges are used.  In this calculation, Cohen still wins the silver, with a margin of 0.63 points over Slutskaya.  The difference in the scores for Cohen and Slutskaya, however, is not statistically significant.  Within the statistical uncertainty of the values of the programs they are tied.

If you are of the mind that Cohen got a gift in not receiving a second deduction for the jump where she put two hands down, then with the added deduction and using all 12 sets of marks, Slutskaya wins the silver by 0.37 points.  Which mostly shows that some of the decisions of the technical panel are subjective, and they can have a critical impact on the results.

Partial results for the Ladies Event when all 12 judges' marks are used.


































191.94 +/- 0.86
































183.01 +/- 0.85
































182.38 +/- 0.89








Thursday, February 23

Back to work today for me, and so much catching up to do.  Things will get posted in dribs and drabs as we get closer to show time.

In the practice this morning, the top three ladies did light workouts, and did not run through complete program.  Nevertheless, they were all business.  None of the other ladies impressed to the point one would expect anyone to break into the top three in the Free Skating.  For Arakawa, Cohen and Slutskaya, any order of finish for these three is possible.  Slutskaya has reputation, and sentimentality going for her, to wrap her career with an Olympic medal.  Against her is the sentiment that a Russian sweep of the medals is not desirable.  Kimmie Meissner has a good shot at moving up to fourth, and if she lands two triple triples and one of the top ladies falls down, she event has a slim chance for the bronze.  But it is only slim, since she is currently over 7 points behind the leaders.  Emily Hughes should also remaining the top ten (she currently sits 7th, nearly 10 points back).

In the Free Skate, Cohen skates first of the top three ladies, so she will have to base her decision to attempt a triple-triple without the benefit of knowing what the others have done.  Arakawa skates after Cohen and Slutskaya skates last.  If it is a close competition, Slutskaya has the benefit of knowing whether she needs to pull out all the stops and go for the triple-triples to win.

Partial results for the Ladies Short Program when all 12 judges' marks are used.

Place Skater Jumps Spins Sequences Skating Presentation Total
1. Irina Slutskaya






66.90+/- 0.84








2. Sasha Cohen






66.81+/- 0.77








3. Shizuka Arakawa






66.00+/- 0.79








In this calculation, Irina has a 0.09 lead instead of trailing by 0.03 points.  The separation of the skaters remains less than 1 point.

When we calculate the scores from each judge we find, Cohen has 1st through 3rd place ordinals, Slutskaya 1st through 4th, and Arakawa, 1st through 3rd.  Cohen and Slutskaya each have five first place ordinals, and one judge has them tied for first.  Arakawa has one first place ordinal.

Wednesday, February 22

Some brief comments on the ladies event follows, and then I am playing hooky for the rest of the day.  Ladies event finishes tomorrow evening.

Coming into the competition, we all have our expectations where each of the top ladies might place.  For the top ladies, however, their expectations are the same.  To skate to win, and that is what they did in the Short Program.

After the Short, Cohen, Slutskaya and Arakawa find themselves in a virtual tie for first place, with 0.71 points between them.  This is no different from the 6.0 system, however, where the first three skaters after the Short Program were always in a virtual tie for first place, and if any of those three won the Free Skate they would win the event.

The difference now is that the top three after the Short Program only sometimes may be in a virtual tie (as is the case in this event); and more importantly, one could lose the Free Skate and still win the event.  But don't expect these three ladies to do anything but skate to win tomorrow.

Fumie Sugurie is mathematically in range for a medal, but her chances are extremely slim.  Caroliina Kostner, another favorite coming into the games, took herself out of the running with a mediocre skate in the Short Program.  The 2005 bronze medalist has not had a good season, and looked overwhelmed in practice here.

In the Short Program, my take on it was that Slutskaya and Arakawa both were superior to Cohen in the technical aspects of the skating, while Cohen and Arakawa were superior to Slutskaya in presentation and artistic appeal.  The judges saw it more or less the same way and the result is near equivalent points the skaters now have going into the Free Skate.

Another reason for the virtual tie is the way the judges use the marks, and the difficulty the system has in separating the skaters among the top group (or middle and bottom groups for that matter).  In the Short Program, all three ladies are doing essentially the same elements.  The judges play it close to the vest on GoEs, sticking mainly to -1 through +1, and then for the program components, the judges tend to mark consecutive skaters only 0.25 points apart in Program Components.  The latter practice, limits the difference in PC points to just 1.0 per skater total in the Short Program.  The result of all this is that the design of the system and the marking practices of the judges conspire to insure three good skaters will always tend to be within a point or two of each other.

In any event, the Free Skate will tell the tale.  Cohens will have to rack up the points big time in Program Components to win, if the other two ladies skate clean and land one or two triple-triple jumps.  Both Slutskaya and Arawawa are capable of landing two of these potent weapons.  Cohen potentially can overcome a deficit of one triple-triple by pulling ahead of the other two ladies by 0.5 points in each PC -- a tall order but not impossible.  To overcome a deficit of two triple-triples she will need a full point in each PC over her rivals, and that is extremely unlikely to happen.

Tuesday, February 21

So far this has not been a good day:

After getting 2 1/2 hours sleep I dragged myself to ladies practice (6:30 start time) only to find the busses to the arena were not running.  Then limped a mile on foot from the main press center to the arena, only to find that even though the press center there was open, the security screening checkpoint was not.  Found another way into the arena and arrived in time to see Kimmie leaving the ice at the end of her practice.  Then remembered I left my keys back at the security checkpoint at the main press center.  So I schlepped back there and returned in time for the third ladies practice.

Emily Hughes skater her practice and had a respectable, morning.  Irinia showed up too, but as in the previous practices, didn't do much, and did not run through her program.  Basically she has been just listening to her music when it is played.  Sasha did not show up for practice.

Arakawa had a good practice, but Kostner did not.  Carolina wiped up the ice working her jump combination, though she landed it (barely) during her run through.

Only three ladies look ready to rumble.  I stick with my prediction of yesterday, though I have to say, Arakawa has an unmistakable I-am-here-to-win attitude.  Irina looks confident, while Sasha remains inscrutable.

And then there is Voktoria Volchkova. who withdrew before she arrived here, due to an infected blister on her hand.  Now that sounds like a really dedicated athlete, dropping out of the Olympics due to a blister on her hand.


Audio from Dance Final press conference -- Edited to remove dead time and extraneous non-skater comments.
MP3,  Approx. 3.2 MB (28 minutes)

Belbin & Agosto placed only fourth in the Free Dance, but it was enough to barely hold on to the silver medal.  It was the first U.S. Olympic medal in Ice Dance in 30 years.  Navka & Ksotomarov keep the Russian sweep on track.  Now the ball is in Slutskaya's court.  At the post-event press conference, Navka said they most likely will not do Worlds.  So this is probably it for this couple in ISU competition.

The spread of the marks, and the close scores have hinted that some of the dance results would be determined by the random selection of the judges.  We have been tracking this by calculating the results from the official marks, using all the judges.  In the overall results, there were four pairs of couples within a few tenths of a point of each other.; razor thin margins for a mathematically unstable system such at the current judging system.

When the Dance Results Using All Judges is calculated it is found two couples swap places, the couples in 16th and 17th place.  Since it doesn't affect the medals, no one is likely to care, but it illustrates that a ticking time bomb exits in the system waiting to go off for some poor medalists at some time in the future, as it must.  The only unknown is when.

In the Free Dance alone, the top five couples all received at least one first place mark from the jjudges.  The spread in ordinals was also unusually large for a championships event, with a spread of up to seven places for the top couples.  No couple received a majority of first place marks.  From beginning to end, for all three dances the judges could not agree on anything more than who were the best couples and who were the worst.

Who's watching:

Based on visits to this site, the greatest interest so far has been in the Dance event.  Then the pairs, and last the men.  That marches up with the attendance in the arena.  Around 6100 were on hand for the three dances (nearly a full house), while the men's event drew the smallest audience, with less than 5000 present.  SO far we have been getting visits from the three corners of the world.  Apparently noon in South America is interested in figure skating.

Where have the pictures gone:

Keeping up proves more and more difficult as time goes on.  The point has been reached where I WANT TO GO HOME, is a common feeling in the trenches.  When we fall behind, the first thing to go is the pictures.

Then there are the press handlers (a.k.a. the press Nazis)  to deal with.  At most venues and for most sports it is actually fairly easy going, but not this event at this venue.

When speed skating is going at this arena it is one big party.  When figure skating is on, the press Nazis are out in full force with their rules, rules rules, that no other sport/venue cares about.  In the press area, only photographers can take photos.  No shooting practice, no shooting awards ceremonies, no shootingpress conferences if you are not a photographer.  No cell phone cameras, no point and shoot cameras, no tourist pictures. Nothing!.  Go anywhere else it is ok, but not where the writers sit.  And no candy or snacks, either.  Only water is permitted.

At least prisoners get bread to go with their water.

Monday, February 20

Free dance starts in 45 minutes.  No word on Dubreuil & Lauzon.  It appears they will try and skate the warmup and decide then if they can continue with the competition.


The practice for the top group of dancers went well this morning for all of them.  It should be a good final.  The ladies practice followed later in the morning and afternoon.  We haven't attended the practices religiously, but based on what has been seen so far it looks like Slutskaya and Cohen competing for first and second, and Arakawa and Kostner for third and fourth.  Right now our prediction is Slutskaya, Cohen, Arakawa.


We have written recently on the question of what is an interruption.  Know we know a little better.  In the OD Faiella & Scalli fell in the middle of a step sequence.  They gave up on the element and skated hand in hand to then end of the ice and resumed the program.  For this they received a deduction for an interruption.  That would tend to confirm what many believe, that the time Zhang & Zhang spent meandering around the ice after the fall in the free skate should have been subject to a deduction for an interruption.


The dance event was unfolding exactly according to plan.  Denkova & Satviski and Dorbiazko & Vanagas, who did not receive any first place marks in the CD, seemed poised to drop in the OD, and did.  The remaining top teams were expected to remain tightly clustered, and were.  And then Marie-France Dubreuil went flying off Patrice Lauzon's arm in a rotational lift, and Maurizio Margaglio dropped Barbara Fusar Poli, who then looked like she was ready to drop him.  Both these teams, have effectively taken themselves out of the running for a medal.

Five teams remain in the hunt for a medal, with the Russians and American battling it out for the gold and silver, and the Ukrainians, French and Bulgarians fighting for the bronze.

Being a little behind today, it may take a while to post the calculation of the results when all judges are used, but here is the answer.  In the OD, seven of twenty-four places change (about a third) when marks from all judges are used.

Patrice Lauzon practiced alone, this morning, while his partner, Marie-France Dubreuil deals with the injury to her right hip/leg whish she sustained in the OD.  Dubreuil hit the ice hard after she went flying off his arm in the closing rotational lift of their program..  It is unknown if they will be able to perform tonight.  As of this morning she cannot support weight on her right leg. 

Sunday, February 19

Snowing in the city for the first time since we got here!  Some events in the mountains have been cancelled.  Strange and bizarre sounds and shrieks are coming from the TV monitors in the press center.  A sure sign that curling is on!

Ladies practice:

So far Emily Hughes has won the practice.  She did a complete run through and landed everything.  She was working hard and looking decent.  She was the only U.S. lady on the ice.  The Russians have yet to go.  Kostner struggled with her jumps.  Arakawa had an ok practice with some jump issues.  Ando and Sugurie were inconsistent.  Mrs. Zimmermann appeared fabulous as usual but has developed a killer wrap since last I saw her skate.

Last warmup:  Cupcake marked her program, but no jumps.  Not much to gauge her situation by.  Irina hardly even marked her program -- even less to gauge her condition by.

Original Dance:

Original Dance is tonight ad we will see if our prediction holds true.  Which of our many predictions you ask?  The one where the top dance teams are kept close and the final decision is made in the Free Dance.  For the ordinals for the individual judges, though, it looks like Drobizko & Vanagas are out of it.  None of the judges had them as a top five pick.  Further, Denkova & Staviski did not have any first place marks, and when all judges are used they are in fourth place, so we expect them to drop also in the last two dances.

At this point it looks like the Italians and the Russians for the top two spots, then the rest to fight for the bronze.  Mauritzio Margaglio is a dance technical specialist, so of all the teams, the Italians are in the best position to present a COP-friendly program, giving them an edge over Navka & Kostomarov.  In the press conference after the CD, Navka was outgoing, but Kostomarov was very low key, and clearly unhappy about the turn of events in the CD.  I guess he has realized, they are not going to hand them the gold on a platter.  Add to that the persistent rumors, that the ISU does not want a Russian sweep of the gold medals, and I would start betting on Fusar Poli & Margaglio.

Post time is 20:00, local.

Compulsory Dance:

Dance CD calculated using all 12 judge (revised)  -  Random selection of the judges was a significant factor in the results of the Compulsory Dance.  Six places are different when all marks are used.  Four of these are places 3 through 6.    Belbin & Agosto place fifth when all marks are used using a single trimmed mean, and are tied for fourth when a straight average is used.  One other, bizarre statistical property of the Compulsory dance is that not one of the twenty-four placements was statistically significant; that is, for any two consecutive placements, the spread of the judges marks was in all cases much larger than the point difference between the skaters.  Another way to put it, is that though the results identify the top skaters, the bottom skaters and the middle skaters, the specific placement of any skater is open to question for every skater in the event. 

At this rate, there is a good chance at least one of the dance medals will be decided by the random choice of the judges, and not the skating!  Something we predicted could happen in 2004 when we first wrote about this subject in the New York Times.

Saturday, February 18

Today is an off day for skating.  I am spending the day in town.  Come back tomorrow (Sunday) for the latest skating news from Torino.

Men's Results calculated using all 12 judges - When using all judges, places 12 through 19 are significantly different from the official results!  Of the 24 final places one-half of the places are statistically tied!

In the Dance event, the scores are so close, the chance that an Ice Dance medal will be selected by the random choice of the judges is extremely high.  Look out for potential fireworks here.

Friday, February 17

First Dance report goes up around 20:00 local time.  Then at 21:20 and 22:10.  My knowledge of Compulsory dance is limited.  Keep your expectations low!

Evgeni Plushenko:

Several hours after the Men's Free Skating, where he won the gold medal, a car taking Evgeni Plushenko to the Milan airport was involved in an accident in dense fog early Friday morning.  No one was hurt in the chain-reaction collision, said Ari Zakarian, Plushenko's agent. There were no further details about the accident.

Ice Dancing: 

Tonight the dance competition begins with the Compulsory Dance (Ravensburger Waltz).  There is a crowded field looking for places on the podium.  Teams to watch are (in alphabetical order):

  • Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto

  • Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder

  • Albena Denkova & Maxim Staviski

  • Margarita Dorbiazko & Povilas Vanagas

  • Barbara Fusar Poli & Maurizio Margaglio

  • Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov

  • Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov

We expect the competition to remain tight through the Original Dance, and then the medal to be decided in the Free Dance.

Emily Hughes:

Emily Hughes is now in town.  She attended the Men's final, and at noon gave a press conference.  She is the center of attention, largely because she has replaced Michelle Kwan, and expectations placed on her as the sister of 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes.  The harsh reality is, where it not for these two factors, no one would much care.  Although strange things can happen in the Olympics, the odds are the best she can hope for is to break into the top 10.

Emily Hughes press conference audio -- Edited to remove dead time and extraneous non-skater comments.
MP3,  Approx. 1.6 MB (14 minutes)

Men's Final:

The dust has settled on the Men's event, and Russia is now 2 for 2 on the road to sweep the figure skating medals.  Final attendance figure for the Men's final was 6,095.

Evgeni Plushenko certainly deserved his gold medal last night.  He skated the cleanest and with the most confidence of any of the men.  He is far and way the best technician among the men.  Of all the men with quads, he has held on to them the longest and with most consistency.  So many of the other men, once they land a quad, seem only able to hold on to it for about 18-24 months, then they seem to go away, and only visit the skaters occasionally.

But what about those pesky Program Components.  All 8s for the winner???  Skating skills, yes.  The boy can skate!  But 8s for transitions?  One judge had it near right going down to 6.25.  Plushenko's program starts with SIX jump elements in a row.  All stroking and crossovers between.  That alone limits Transitions to the upper 6s or a 7, and only if the rest of the program was 100% transitions and only of  those transitions were all difficult and of good quality -- which was not the case.

Plushenko, of course, was not unique in having his Transitions mark questionably connected to reality.  Many of the men spend the first 1/3 of their program on jump elements, with no transitions (other than the opening posing).  None of these guys should get a transition mark above the 6s.

Then there was Van Der Perrin, who skates with speed and energy and gets the crowd going, but for Transitions - nothing.  His Transitions mark should be in the toilet most the time.  But no.  Like everyone else his marks track the element scores and the other Program Component scores whether he deserves it or not.

On the other hand, you had Shawn Sawyer and Matthew Savoie who had transitions form begging to end, nicely done.  There Transitions marks don't reflect that strength at all.

Getting back to Plushenko.  Performance.  Yes, well done, good marks deserved here for sure.

Choreography, however, a joke.  I don't know why this is judges at all.  It's like deciding the score of a football game by judging the teams play book.  But it is judges, and Plushenko's choreography?   Where it not for his technical skill, his programs would put me into a coma they are so boring and so unrelated to the music, with wilds gestures that contribute nothing to the "story" (purpose of the program).

Which leads us to interpretation.  What the heck did his Short Program have to do with Tosca;  either the story or the mood of the music?  And was their any shred of a connection of the free skate to The Godfather?  Not for me.  It was just so much background music to which he flails his arms in ways that offer nothing other than the demonstration he can keep his balance while convulsing down the ice.

Poor Johnny Weir.  He didn't skate to win, and so he didn't.  It usually turns out that way with that approach.  The difference for him, was the miss on triple Axel (that was called a double), the missing jump element and just one jump combination.  He would have gotten the bronze if he had just skated his program; no quad required.  Weir and his coach, Priscilla Hill, also missed their bus getting to the arena, but afterwards he said it was not a factor in the results.  Bottom line, he just had a lousy skate.

Evan Lysacek had a strong Free Skate and ended up fourth overall.  While Weir missed the podium by freaking in the long, Lysacek missed the podium by freaking in short.  Jeffrey Buttle, who also under performed in the Short Program, was able to move up for the bronze medal by attacking in the Free Skate.  In opposite ways, Buttle and Weir were testaments to the cliché, "no guts, no glory."  U.S. medal hopes in figure skating are now reduced to two.

Consistency in both programs (third in the short, fourth in the long) got Stephane Lambiel onto the podium where he wept like baby through the medal ceremony.  He was 27 points back behind Plushenko, which illustrates how crushing a victory Plushenko delivered.

Thursday, February 16

Tourist Photo from the Cathedral.

Men's event starts in a few hours.  Johnny Weir had a good practice today, while Evan Lysacek looked totally dispirited.  Did not get to see Matt Savoie.

The media rumor mill has it, that Dan Zhang only suffered a bruised knee in the free skate, and will be able to appear in the exhibition next week.  Who'd have thunk it!

In the Pairs event, the margin of victory for the bronze medal was just a few tenths of a point.  Whenever that is the case, there is a chance the result is determined by the random selection of the judges and not the actual skating.  In this competition there were 12 judges, 9 of whom where randomly selected for calculating the results.  Mathematically the best, most reliable, results is the result calculated using all the judges.  Results calculated using only a subset of the judges will be of lesser quality and lesser reliability; and when the judges are split in their opinion of the skating, different combinations of judges can produce different results.  This is a defect in the construction of the system we have commented upon since use of the system was first proposed.

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article in which a statistician for Yale determined that for all the possible combinations of nine of the twelve judges, 12% of the choices result in Pang & Tong winning the bronze medal instead of Shen & Zhao.  This illustrates the risky nature of using random selection of the judges.  In this case, the ISU dodged a bullet, since the official result from the nine judges selected actually agrees with the result determined by using all twelve judges.  But it is just a matter of time, before statistically the ISU gets bitten in the butt by this risky and unfair approach to calculating results.

To investigate the difference in the official results and the results using the all the judges we recalculated the results from the published protocols.  In the calculation, results were determined using all twelve sets of marks in both the Short Program and Free Skating.  The ISU standard scoring algorithm using a single trimmed mean on the twelve judges was used.  When results are calculated in this way Shen & Zhao win the bronze medal with a higher margin of victory than the official results.  This says that the three judges eliminated in the random selection where mainly "Shen & Zhao" judges which reduced their margin victory, though not enough to deprive them of the bronze medal.

The basic reason why different subsets of the judges can give very different results is because the spread in the judges opinions is very large in the new system.  More even than was in the old system.  If we break out the points from each judges, and the points in each of the five major skill categories this is clearly seen.  Tables of results for the Short Program show this nicely.

The method of using the Program Component marks to place the skaters is illustrated by graphing the PC marks against the order of finish of the skaters in the Short Program and Free Skating.  In both event segments all but two of the teams are more or less evenly spaced by 0.25 in the PC marks.  These graphs also illustrate how the judges use the five PC marks as a group to place the skaters.  Also, notice in the graphs how all five PCs marks track together for all the skaters!  These graphs clearly illustrate how the judges misuse the PC marks.

Wednesday, February 15

Today is an off day for skating competition.  The men's final will take place tomorrow evening, starting at 7PM local time.  Emily Hughes has finally arranged travel to Torino and is on the way, to replace Michelle Kwan who withdrew on Sunday.

The Men's Short Program press conference was a bit of a bum's rush, with the skaters in and out with just brief comments, and the microphones not working.  Evgeni Plushenko was prevailed upon to linger for a few moments longer, though he said little.  It was a rather odd scene, with Plushenko sitting at the microphones that did not work, and his coach, Alexei Mishin, sitting in the front row.  To every question Mishin answered he (Plushenko) didn't understand; then, while Plushenko replied in English, Mishin was talking to him the whole time in Russian.  I don't understand Russian, but it looked like Mishin was trying to tell Plushenko what to say and Plushenko was ignoring him, and then Mishin was getting annoyed.

Attendance in the Men's Short Program was a little sparse, with many seats in the second of three seating levels empty.  Official attendance was put at 4,862; well below the Pairs final, the day before, where a little over 6,000 attended.

Johhny Weir sits in second place, about 10 points behind Plushenko.  The chances of any of the other men catching Plushenko seems pretty slim.  Plushenko will have to wipe up the ice pretty badly to give up the Gold medal.  Weir said he was considering adding a quad toe loop, depending on whether or not he woke up looking "like Nick Nolte's mug shot".  If he can get all the way around on the quad, he doesn't have much to lose in the trying, and if he lands it, it will help secure his chances for a medal.  If Lambiel or Joubert have their quads going in the final and skate clean, however, they are likely to pass Weir by.  So at this, point Weir is as well positioned as one could hope for after the Short Program, but the point spread between second through fourth place is sufficiently narrow he could just as well drop out of the medals as hold his position.

Evan Lysacek let his nerves get to him and he now looks out of the running for a medal.  He said, "I think I just got over-excited.  I rushed a few things.  I wanted to do well. I think I just wanted it too much."  We couldn't agree more.

Matt Savioe, had a good skate except for the error on the landing of the triple Lutz.  Even if he had landed it cleanly, however, he still would have been out of medal range.  Savoie is a good example of the way the judges do not distinguish very well between the marks for elements an the marks for program components.  His program, I thought, was one of the better programs in terms of performance and artistic expression, yet as is almost always the case, the Program Components marks track the element scores, even though his presentation was clearly better than his technical merit.

One final observation, from the protocols for the Pairs Free Skate and the Men's Short program.

It has long been commented by many, that the judges appear to be using the PC marks to place the skaters.  Looking at the scores they give, this really stands out.  Basically, the marks are used so that there is typically 0.25 from one place to the next.  That is, if the first place skater is given an 8.00, the second place is given 7.75. third place 7.5, and so on down the line.  This is the same approach under the 6.0 system where first place get 5.9, second place 5.8 third place 5.7, and so on.

If the judges were actually marking to an absolute standard, taking into account the absolute amount by which one skater is better or worse than another, the marks should be bunched up together in places, and should be well separated in other case.  But that is not the what one finds.  In the Pairs final there was an almost perfect trend from first to last, placing the skaters in 0.25 point increments.

Tuesday, February 14

Pairs Free Skating Press Conference, Totmianina & Marinin -- Edited to remove dead time and extraneous non-skater comments.  (Sound quality improves after first 2 minutes.)
MP3,  Approx. 1.9 MB (13 minutes)

The performance of Zhang & Zhang in the Pairs Free Skate was one of the most courageous performances we have seen in a long time and is a testament to the Olympic spirit.  The situation, however, was questionably handled by the Referee.  Should a deduction for an interruption been taken?   (One was not.)  Should the team have been disqualified?  (They were not.)

This situation is the second example in less than a month of the ambiguity and uncertainty in the handling of the interruption deduction; the first being the Oda Free Skate at Four Continents.  The time from the fall until the music was stopped (we assume by the Referee) surely must be considered an interruption.  Was it 11 seconds or more?  Did anyone time it?  Zhang & Zhang's margin of victory for the silver was nearly 3 points, so even if a deduction was appropriate it would not have changed the results.  Nevertheless, does anyone in the ISU know what the definition of an interruption is?  Is anyone timing this, or even paying attention to what is going on?  It appears not.

Then there is the handling of the restart.  After the referee stops the clock and talks to the skaters, the skaters have 2 minutes to restart their program from the point of interruption.  The referee is supposed to blow a whistle.  The Referee is supposed to call the skaters over and talk to them about what will happen next.  Someone is supposed to time the 2 minutes.  The announcer usually is told to announce what it the decision on the restart.  None of this happened.  The music stopped.  There was a delay.  Then after a while the music started again.  If the time from the stopping of the music to the restart exceeded 2 minutes the team should have been disqualified. The exact official timing of the stoppage is unknown at this point, but the time stamp on photos taken during the event show at least 2 1/2 minutes from the time Hao helped Dan up off the ice to the time they left the boards to resume the program.  The full time, was probably much more than that.  No matter how you slice up the time, it looks like either there should have been an interruption deduction or a disqualification.  Pick one.

For all the money spent on technology, a successful competition still comes down to the officials doing their jobs correctly.  There is ample reason to question whether that was the case here.  If the third and fourth place teams were not also from China, one might expect that a protest would have been forthcoming in this case.

Monday, February 13

Irina Nechkina (AZE) was removed from the judging panel for the Ice Dance event due to poor judging performance in previous competitions.  She will be replaced by the alternate judge, Rolf Pipoh (GER).  Nechkina most recently served as a judge for the Ice Dance event at the 2006 European Championships, where she judged all three dance segments.  Assessments are give for serious judging errors and/or bias.  It is odd this decision was made after the start of the games and more than two weeks after the end of the European Championships.  Surely it could not have taken over two weeks to complete the assessment.

Phyo & Hyok have withdrawn from the pairs event.  Phyo fell on a throw jump in practice yesterday an suffered a contusion (location of bruise not know).  This morning they withdrew from the competition.

The Pairs final is tonight.

In looking over the Short Program protocol I offer a few observations.

1.  -1 for Inoue & Baldwin's throw triple Axel?  Give me a break.  Two judges had it at +2.  -1 to +2 is a ridiculous spread of opinion.  And that's just what it is.  For all the talk of objectivity, it is still just opinion.  Only two judges gave Program Component scores in the 7s.  Apparently the judges are in the same mindset as many of the skaters.  This is a Russia/China party, and everyone else can sit at the children's table.

2.  Shen & Zhao ended up with a level 1 on their death spiral.  Zhao did not hold the pivot position for one revolution, in which case most of the level features do not come into play.  The death spiral level features are:

  • Difficult variation of entry and/or exit. (Both counts twice.)
  • Change of lady’s arm hold (1 revolution in each hold.)
  • Opposite arm hold of the man (1 revolution in this holdIn SP, only after 1 revolution in regular hold.)
  • Change of Lady’s body position. (1 revolution in each position.) (Not for SP.)
  • Each full revolution after the first revolution. (Multiple credit for each full rotation.)
  • Performed in both directions. (One after the other.)
  • Change of man’s pivot position. (1 revolution in each position.) (Not for SP.)

Only the features in blue could potentially be earned in a death spiral with less than one revolution on the first foot.  So if the element is short, not only does the team get a negative GoE for the element, they also lose on the levels too.

3.  There were several cases where a skater put one or both hands down.  Hard.  At other competitions this has received a deduction for a fall.  But not here.  Why is it so hard for the ISU to enforce a uniform policy on the decisions of the Technical Panel?  What is being done to rectify this?  Not much it would appear.

4.  The second through eighth place teams scored within 4.5 points of each other; only 7% of the scores.  Did these teams really differ by just 7%.  Zhang & Zhang seemed significantly better than Obertas & Slavnov; by a lot more than just 7%.  Why is the system incapable of separating the competitors by an amount that truly reflects their relative ability.  Why are the judges still so stingy with +2s and +3s?  Out of 160 elements in the Short programs and only 4 had a majority of 2s or better.  If the best skaters in the world can't get 2s and 3s, one might ask if the standard has anything to do with reality.

Sunday, February 12

Michelle Kwan withdrew from the Ladies event, citing her groin injury.  She will be replaced by Emily Hughes, who must now arrange transportation to Torino.  Hughes received the word late Saturday night in the U.S. -- early in the morning Sunday in Torino.  Kwan reinjured her groin yesterday during practice.  At the time she described her body as being stiff and said she planned to get physio during the day.  Later in the day the seriousness of the problem became more obvious.  Medical advice was that she withdraw from the competition, which she accepted.  She said that she could have delayed withdrawing, given that the competition is more than a week away, but that she respected the sport and the U.S. team to much to stand in the way of having the three best ladies compete.  Although she did not say so explicitly, it was clear from her comments she accepted that even a week from now, she would not be healthy enough to be considered one of the three best, and so decided to step aside in the best interests of the team.  Yesterday she said she would withdraw if she was unable to skate, and has decided that is in fact the case.

Today is a practice day.  Tomorrow night the Pairs Free Skate completes the Pairs event.

Kwan Press Conference Quotes

More Kwan Press Conference Quotes

Emily Hughes Teleconference Quotes

Sasha Cohen Press Conference Quotes

Saturday, February 11

This afternoon, Michel Kwan gave a press conference.  Beyond the fluff questions from the entertainment reporters who were present, the main subject of interest was the difficulties observed during her first open practice.  Kwan struggled in the practice, falling several times.  A despondent looking Kwan had a conversation with team leader Roger Glenn and eventually left the practice 15 minutes early.  She said that after participating in the Opening Ceremony last night her body was stiff and that she planned to get physiotherapy during the day.  She was asked about if she was considering withdrawing, and said that if she was "unable to skate" she would do so.

The Pairs short program look place in the evening.  About 5500 where on hand for the event. Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin hold the lead, with Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang second and Maria Petrova & Alexei Tikhonov.  Rena Inoue & Jon Baldwin are in sixth.  Inoue & Baldwin landed throw triple Axel in the program, a first for Olympic (and international) competition.  Only 4 points separate second through eighth place, so there could potentially be a lot of movement in the Free Skate.

Short program press conference audio -- Edited to remove dead time and extraneous non-skater comments.
MP3,  Approx. 1.5 MB (10 minutes)

Friday, February 10

Opening Ceremony kicked off the Games this evening.  Competition begins tomorrow.  The skating events start with the Pairs Short Program.  Twenty teams will be competing for Olympic Gold.

Opening Ceremony Slideshow

Wed. - Thurs., February 8 - 9

Oh what fun, traveling over a third way round the world, from Los Angeles to Torino, only twenty-seven hours door to door.  Passing through the airport in Rome, security was remarkably light and blasé.  No one asked me for an ID on check-in or going through security.  Guards?  Few and far between.  I guess they are not as concerned about being a target for terrorist as they gave the impression leading up to the games.  In Torino itself, the security presence is more obvious, but not nearly as tight as in Salt Lake in 2002 or Athens in 2004.

Torino is located in a broad valley well below the mountains where the alpine events are being held.  The weather this week looks to be mild to cool with clear sunny skies.  It seems more like spring is just around the corner, rather than the start of a winter festival of sport.

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