New Downgrade Rule to Go Into Effect

Following the 2009 Word Championships, the ISU Council decided to adopt a new downgrade rule for jumps in Singles and Pairs programs.  The new rule is described within ISU Communication 1557 which goes into effect on June 1, 2009.

For an under-rotated jump the rule to this point has been, if a jump was under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation, the Technical Panel would "downgrade" the jump giving the jump a base value equal to that of a jump with one less rotation.  The downgrade would be communicated to the judges who would then be expected to reduce the GoE of the jump by one to three GoEs.  In addition the GoE for the jump was required to be negative.  If a jump was under-rotated by up to 1/4 rotation, the jump would not be downgraded, and the judges were required to reduce the GoE by one or two, but the GoE for the jump was not required to be negative.

In practical application, when judges see a jump under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation they generally go to a GoE of -2.  If they do not notice the jump was under-rotated by more than 1/4 turn, they might give a non-negative GoE, but when the downgrade is announced they nearly uniformly change their GoE to -2.

A common criticism of this rule has been that it represents a double penalty if the jump is downgraded -- first the Technical Panel penalizes the jump in the base value, and then the judges penalize the jump again in the GoE.  A related criticism is that after the double whammy is done, the total penalty for the element is too harsh.

For most of this (2008/09) season, the ISU has taken the position that changes to the scoring system should be deferred until after the 2010 Winter Olympics.  For this issue, however, the ISU decided immediate action was necessary.

New Downgrade Rule

Under the new rule, the Technical Panel will continue to call jumps downgraded or not, but the decision will NOT be communicated to the judges.  The judges will independently  decide for themselves how much the jump is under-rotated and take a reduction in GoE.  In ISU 1557  the reduction for under-rotation is 1 to 3, and the GoE for the element in no longer required to be negative.  Thus, under the new rule, jumps under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation still receive a double penalty; once from the Technical Panel downgrading the jump and again from the judges who reduce the GoE.

The relief the skater gets under the new rule comes when some judges do not agree with the Technical Panel and take a lesser reduction in GoE.  In addition, since the GoE is no longer required to be negative, and there are also an increased number of positive aspects the judges can reward, the new rules allow a judge to give any mark from -3 to +2 for any under-rotated jump.

To what extent the new rule impacts the value of under-rotated jumps will depend on how the judges respond to the rule.

Consider, first, the following jumps under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation, where 2/3 of the panel score the GoE as in the past (GoE of -2) and the remainder give a GoE of 0.  We have included a few double jumps to see how this rule affects lower divisions in U.S. Figure Skating events.

Jump Full Base Value Downgraded Base Value -2 GoE Reduction Jump Value Old Rule (1) Old Downgrade Penalty (1) Jump Value New Rule (2) Relief to Skater
2T 1.3 0.4 -0.2 0.2 1.1 0.27 0.07
2Lz 1.9 0.6 -0.2 0.4 1.5 0.47 0.07
2A 3.5 0.8 -0.4 0.4 3.1 0.53 0.13
3T 4.0 1.3 -0.6 0.7 3.3 0.90 0.20
3Lz 6.0 1.9 -0.6 1.3 4.7 1.50 0.20
3A 8.2 3.5 -1.6 1.9 6.3 2.43 0.53
4T 9.8 4.0 -2.0 2.0 7.8 2.67 0.67

(1)  Assuming the judges all go to a GoE of -2.
(2)  Assuming 2/3 of the judges go to GoE of -2 and 1/3 go to a GoE of 0.

Note that roughly two-thirds or more of the downgrade penalty is the reduced base value taken by the Technical Panel under both the old rule and the new rule.  Under-rotated jumps will continue to lose the lion's share of their value under the new rule.  The relief the rule offers the skater in these examples comes from the panel not concluding, not noticing, or not caring the jump is under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation.  Through triple Lutz, the relief to the skater ranges from 0.07 to 0.20 points.  It is greater than 0.50 points for 3A and above.

The following table shows the range of possible value for jumps under-rotated by more than 1/4 turn, for GoEs in the permitted range -3 to +2.

Jump Values and Downgrade Penalties for Jumps Under-Rotated by More Than 1/4 Rotation
Jump Full Base Value Downgraded Base Value -3 to +2 GoE Jump Value
New Rule (1)
Downgrade Penalty (2)
2T 1.3 0.4 -0.3 to 0.6 0.1 to 1.0 1.0 to 1.2
2Lz 1.9 0.6 -0.3 to 0.6 0.3 to 1.2 1.4 to 1.6
2A 3.5 0.8 -0.5 to 1.0 0.3 to 1.8 2.9 to 3.2
3T 4.0 1.3 -1.0 to 1.0 0.3 to 2.3 3.0 to 3.7
3Lz 6.0 1.9 -1.0 to 1.0 0.9 to 2.9 4.4 to 5.1
3A 8.2 3.5 -2.5 to +2.0 1.0 to 4.5 5.5 to 7.2
4T 9.8 4.0 -3.0 to +2.0 1.0 to 6.0 6.8 to 8.8

(1)  Average panel GoE range of -3 to +2.
(2)  Reduced base value and GoE reduction of -1 to -3

To put these examples in context, jumps under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation potentially retain from 8% to 77% of their base value.

For the highest value jumps, an attempt under-rotated by 1/2 rotation can retain 50-60% of its base value.  A quad toe loop under-rotated by 1/2 rotation could receive more that 60% of its base value and 150% of the base value of a correctly executed triple toe loop, or the same value as a correctly executed triple Lutz.

Since the Technical Panel will continue to downgrade jumps, there remains a discontinuity in the under-rotation penalty for  jumps under-rotated by slightly more than 1/4 rotation compared to jumps under-rotated by only 1/4 rotation.  The penalty for under-rotation takes a step up when the under-rotation exceeds 1/4 rotation by an amount equal to the decrease in base value taken by the Technical Panel (0.4 to 4.0 points in the examples shown).


For jumps under-rotated by up to 1/4 rotation the new rule makes no changes to the scoring of such jumps.

For jumps under-rotated by more that 1/4 rotation, the jumps will continue to be downgraded, but the judges now have latitude to give any GoE between and -3 and +2.  The Technical Panel's penalty for the under-rotation remains the same.  The penalty from the judges can be as harsh or mild as they choose at the moment.  It will be interesting to see next season if the judges show consistency of judgment in scoring under-rotations now that they are free to give any mark they want, other than a +3.

The new rule does not change the step-up increase in under-rotation penalty for a jump under-rotated by more than 1/4 rotation compared to a jump under-rotated up to 1/4 rotation.

Eliminating the Double Penalty

The only way to truly eliminate the double penalty is to set the downgrade rule so that either the Technical Panel takes the downgrade penalty or the judges take the downgrade penalty, but not both.

For example, the Technical Panel could call the downgrade, communicate the call to the judges, and take the reduction in a lesser base value.  Further, the  lesser base value does not have to be the base value of a jump with one less rotation -- it could be any value the skating community thought reasonable -- say some fixed percentage of the full base value. The judges would be instructed when they see the downgrade call, to mark everything about the jump BUT the under-rotation in the GoE, resulting in one penalty to the skater taken by the Technical Panel.

The other choice would be for the Technical panel to not call under-rotations at all and let the judges decide for themselves how much of a reduction to take in the GoE -- from -1 to -3 with the GoE only required to be negative if the individual judge thinks the under-rotation was more than 1/4 rotation, resulting in one penalty to the skater taken by the judges.  This is the current situation if a jump is under-rotated by no more than 1/4 rotation.

There are, of course, other variations possible where a downgraded jump receives only a single penalty, either from the Technical Panel or the judges.  It is our understanding the downgrade rule will be revisited again by the ISU after the 2010 Olympics.

Return to title page

Copyright 2009 by George S. Rossano