Trolling the chat rooms a few days ago we came across a link to a blog by Tony Wheeler pointing out that in the Pairs event at Junior Worlds in The Hague this week, there were three Chinese pairs competing when that country had earned only two berths at the 2009 Championships.
There are strict guidelines for entry to the ISU Championships. One entry is permitted for every member nation for each discipline. A country gets a second allowance if that country’s competitor placed high enough the year before. The maximum of three entries is allowed if that country’s representative placed in the top two, or if two competitors placed high enough so that their places, when added, do not exceed 13.
At the 2009 World Junior Championships in Sofia Bulgaria, the Chinese pair teams earned two berths for their country having cumulative results of 19 points (8th plus 11th place). This entitled them to two teams at the 2010 Championships, and is documented in ISU Communication 1565, where China is listed as having an allocation of two pairs. Yet three were allowed to compete this year.
Rule 378 covers the number of entries permitted in ISU Championships, and no provision for a "fill-up" rule is given for Championships. Rule 108 covers age eligibility and the answer is not to be found there.
It appears that the third Chinese team was allowed to compete in error. Attempts by our correspondent at the competition to get an official explanation from the ISU how this came to be have thus far failed.
Rather than hide from this issue, which is the standard ISU response to every problem, the ISU must clearly address why this has happened, and if the team was allowed to compete in error, their results should be disqualified from the official results and all lower placed teams moved up one place accordingly. Mistakes happen. But hiding one's head in the sand when they are discovered as the ISU often does is shameful. The Sport Director Figure Skating has the responsibility under Rule 378 to see that entries are handled correctly.
Peter Krick, give us an explanation!
Follow up comments, 13 March 2010. -- According to off-the-record sources, and the buzz in the international judging community, the ISU internally accepts that this was an error and a violation of the rules. Oddly, and remarkably, senior ISU management was not aware of this situation until we saw to it that it was privately brought to their attention. The buzz has it that the world rankings will be adjusted by voiding the placement of the third Chinese team and that perhaps the official order of finish will also be changed. We have been privately told that this will likely happen quietly with no public announcement, in keeping with the ISU's approach of hiding or sweeping all problems under the rug.
The ISU just doesn't get it. This error does not affect the number of places earned by any federation for next year, but the 'no harm, no problem' position is short sighted. Anything that calls into question the ISU's competency, honesty and commitment to fair play harms public confidence in the organization, in the results, and in the sport in general. An organization that was sensitive to the importance of "good will" in their business would be all over this, explaining why it happened and showing through action a commitment to see that it can't happen again. Another black eye for the ISU, not because a mistake was made, but because of the way they respond to mistakes.
Follow up comments, 19 March 2010. -- As predicted, the official results have been revised, deleting the results from the third Chinese pair team and moving up the subsequent team one place. The ISU attributes this situation to a clerical error but has not said who, when, where, or why the error was made and not caught by either the ISU, the Chinese federation, or at the competition itself.
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Copyright 2010 by George S. Rossano