Coach Proposals for the Improvement of IJS

Six years into the development of IJS, the ISU's scoring system remains the subject of continuous intense discussion within the skating community.

The 2006/07 skating season saw the release of a large number communications and clarifications to communications resulting in frequent widespread confusion.  During the 2007/08 season the ISU recognized that a period of stability was needed leading up to the 2010 Olympics, and that potential substantial alterations to the scoring system should be deferred until after the Olympics.  Consequently, a halt of sorts was called to the incessant tweaking of the system.

Beginning in 2008, the ISU rumor mill had it that a committee would be set up during the 2008/09 season to take a comprehensive look at IJS from top to bottom during the hiatus from the communications blizzard, and develop a series of proposals to be considered by the 2010 Congress.  In order to meet deadlines for submitting proposals, the first draft of this committee would have to be completed by 1 September, 2009.

The effort to set up this review committee was led by ISU vice president David Dore, and near the end of the season in March 2009, at the Los Angeles meeting of the ISU Council, an ISU Working Group was set up with Dore at the helm.  Rather than including a wide range of experts and constituents within the skating community, as one might have hoped for, the Working Group was limited to senior ISU insiders.  Only key players in the day-to-day development of IJS since the beginning were selected as members, with skater and coach membership in the group excluded.  Together with Dore on the committee are Peter Krick, Ted Barton, and chairs of the ISU technical committees: Alexander Lakernik, Robert Horen, and Joanne Shaw.

Independent of the ISU Working Group, many a federation has been active this past season developing their own proposals, as they always do in the year prior to a Congress.  But, as several ISU official have often remarked to us, any proposals not going through the technical committees and receiving their blessing have little chance of passing at a Congress.  All of which may be moot, however, since a reliable source tells us that the proposals submitted as of 1 September, deal mostly with a plethora of details, and that neither the ISU nor the federations have completed a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of IJS.

Against this background of more than a year of wheel spinning, one independent group has found the time to take a comprehensive look at IJS.  This group consists of a large number of international coaches, supplemented by some current and former skating officials, and even a few fans and journalists.  They have managed to accomplish in their efforts what others have not -- a complete review of IJS and the preparation of a thorough self consistent set of proposals.  Regardless of the extent to which one agrees with their proposals, one has to admire the way they have cut through the politics and personalities that prevents others from taking a hard complete look at IJS -- and the way they have included all constituencies in their discussions.

The following are the proposals submitted by this group to Oleg Vassiliev, the coach member of the ISU Figure Skating Technical Committee.  The formatting of the proposals has been changed from the submitted document for clarity of viewing on a web page.  Note that because these proposals have been written as specific changes to existing ISU rules (and not as the complete text of substitute rules), reference to the ISU rulebook may be needed to fully understand the effects of the proposals.  The ISU rulebook is available in pdf format on the ISU website.

Determination and publication of results

Deductions for falls.

Rule 353 ii)

Revise as follows:

falls - 0.5 for every fall in attempting an element (in Pair Skating 0.5 for a fall of one partner and 1.0 for a fall of both partners) and 1.0 for every fall elsewhere in the program (in Pair Skating 1.0 for a fall of one partner and 2.0 for a fall of both partners); for interpretation of this Rule, a fall is defined as loss of control by a Skater with the result that the majority of his/her own body weight is supported by any other part of the body other than the blades on the ice; that is, the body weight is primarily supported, for example, by hand(s), knee(s), back, buttock(s) or any part of the arm;

Reason: To reduce the penalty in case of falls in attempting an element, in view of the proposed changes in Rule 522 b)- Levels of Elements - and Rule 522 c)- Grade of Execution-

Special Regulations for Singles and Pairs

ISU judging system. General

Art. f) (i)

Delete the whole paragraph


Delete the random draw of the judges.

Studies have proven that there is a wide a spread of marks and consequent placements among the judges, even among the top five competitors. Depending on which judges have been selected, the result could vary from first to fifth very easily. This problem, inherent in the system since it’s inception, has become even more severe since the number of judges used in ISU competitions was reduced in 2009. This situation is not fair to the skaters. It is like deciding results with a coin toss. The only way to compensate for this is by using the marks of all the judges on the panels, deleting the highest and the lowest. In addition, to promote transparency the list of judges should be shown in the protocols.

Delete secret judging. Secret judging has proven to be, perhaps, the greatest disappointment in the history of the ISU. The problem it was intended to solve is a serious one, in need of firm action, but secrecy has not accomplished its (this should be its not it’s) intended goal: to eliminate judging misconduct. It is perceived by the public, and many in the skating family, as a way to hide intrigues or deals among the judges and is detrimental to the credibility of the sport. It is unfair to the skaters and to the judges as well. Secret judging has proven not to be the cure needed, and has done harm instead.

Rule 510 Short Program for singles

Senior and Junior, Men and Ladies

Revise paragraph g) as follows

g) One step sequence (straight line, circular or serpentine)


To reduce the number of elements and leave more time to the competitors for preparation for jumps and interpretation of the music. To promote variety, in Ladies it is proposed to limit the choice between a spiral sequence and any other step sequence, to the free skating.

C. Free Skating

Rule 520 Free skating Singles

Senior and Junior well Balanced Program

Rule 520 1) Senior Well Balanced Program -- Step Sequences

Revise Senior Men, bullet 3 as follows:  maximum of 1 step sequence.

Revise Senior Ladies bullet 3 as follows:  maximum of 1 step sequence or 1 spiral sequence

Rule 520 2. General

First sentence, revise as follows:

The competitor has complete freedom to select the Free Skating elements, the sum of which will comprise the program. However, in the junior short programs no triple Axel shall be allowed for the men and no triple/triple combination for the ladies.

Rule 520 , 2 repetitions

First and second sentence revise as follows:

Multiple rotation jumps, be they double, triple or quadruple, should be limited to one of each variety. Only two jumps can be repeated in a combination or jump sequence. Any additional jump after the first two jumps in a jump combination shall receive no value.

The remaining part of the rule is to be modified accordingly.


To limit the number of repetitions of the same jump and promote variety and to discourage combinations with more than two jumps

Rule 520 2) Spins -- Repetition of Basic Position for Spins in One Position

Revise the first sentence of the Spins remarks to read:

All Spins must be of a different character.  Any Spin with the same character (abbreviation), or any spin in one position in the same basic position, as one executed before will receive no value (but will occupy a spinning box).


To promote variety in spins included in programs. Too often programs contain, for example, a flying sit spin in one position and then a non-flying sit spin in one position -- and perhaps also a combination spin with a preponderance of sit positions.

Definitions of Spin positions

Spin Positions: there are 3 basic positions, upright, sit, camel .

Upright spin

In the upright spin, the longest axis of the skater’s free leg and/or torso is essentially vertical and coincides with the axis of rotation, or nearly so. The skating leg may be bent at the knee and the hip, so long as the axis of the body remains in essentially a vertical position. Nevertheless, other examples of variation of the upright spin shall include the cross-foot spin, layback spin, side-leaning spin, illusion spin, Biellmann position and "inverted-V" spin (knees straight, skater’s head near foot level). In addition the skater may be in a inverted position (head near ice, free leg extending upwards).

  1. The cross foot spin must be commenced spinning either forward or backward from a one foot flat spin with the free foot being placed on the ice as soon as possible after a minimum number of rotations necessary on one foot. The free foot can be crossed either in front or behind provided both skates are on the ice, toe to toe. If crossed in front, the free foot may be placed on ice at a 90 - 45 degree angle to the first foot
  2. In the layback or sideways leaning spin and in the Biellmann spin any position is permitted as long as the layback or sideways leaning position is maintained for at least eight revolutions without rising to an upright position.

Delete the Intermediate Position. It is an unnecessary fiction that serves no useful purpose and is unnecessary with the above definitions.

Sit spin

The skater is in a sitting position. The skater’s torso may be vertical or leaning forward or sideways. The skating leg should be bent at the knee at no more than a 90 degree angle.

Judges shall reduce the GoE for sit positions where the angle is more than 90 degrees (a weak sitting position).

Note: When a sit spin is required, if the angle is greater than 135 degrees, the spin will be receive the maximum negative GoE (-4).

Camel spin

The competitor’s torso must be in a horizontal, or nearly horizontal position, with the free leg parallel to the ice or higher, with the knee and the foot as high or higher than the hip joint. The position of the free leg is otherwise free. Variations of the position are permitted, including holding the free leg at any point, including the skate blade.

The skater’s torso may be in an arched position so long as the axis of symmetry of the lower back and pelvis is nearly horizontal. The following exceptions are noted: the Beillmann spin and the illusion spin shall be considered upright positions.

Judges shall reduce the GoE for poor positions of the torso or free leg, or if the free leg is not held as high as the hip joint of the free leg. Judges shall increase the GoE for superior positions of the torso and/or free leg.

Concluding revolutions, revise as follows:

The concluding upright position at the end of a spin (final wind- up) is not to be considered another position. The maximum number of concluding rotations is three and these revolutions are not to be counted in the required number of revolutions.

Steps, Spiral Sequences and Moves in the Field


The competitors have complete freedom in selecting the kind of step sequence they intend to execute. Spirals, spread eagles, Ina Bauers, etc. may be included in the step sequence.

All step sequences should be executed according to the character of the music and should make full use of the ice surface. All step sequences may contain a variety of different turns -- threes, brackets, rockers, counters as wells as mohawks and chocktaws-- or always the same turn which can be done forward or backward, on the right or left foot or always on the same foot. They can be fast or slow.

Each step should be progressive and no retrogressions (abrupt reverses of direction) are allowed. However, short stops in accordance with the music are permitted, as well as a limited number of spread eagles, Ina Bauer eagles and Walleys, along with small jumps of half-a-turn rotation, and small loop-like movements or sub-lobes.

Spiral sequence (Ladies)

The ladies may execute either a step or spiral sequence, or a sequence that is a mixture of both steps and spiral positions, which will be called a step sequence.

The Spiral Sequence Consists primarily of spirals, commencing at one end of the ice surface, progressing in bold curves and ending at the opposite end of the ice surface (serpentine), or a circular or oval pattern the full width of the ice surface. A spiral is a position with one blade on the ice and the free leg (including knee and foot) as high or higher than the hip level. There must be at least three spiral positions, with at least one change of foot. Pushes in order to gain speed are permitted. Except during these pushes the competitor must be primarily in a spiral position with the free leg higher than the hip joint. Variations of the position are permitted, including holding the free leg at any point, or the skate blade. The position of the free leg is otherwise free.

Death spirals

In all death spirals the man skates on a backward outside edge in a deep pivot position with his legs well bent while the lady skates around him on one foot with the body very close to the surface of the ice, however she must not touch the ice with her head or assist herself with the free hand or any part of the body . The man holds one hand of the lady with one hand. In seniors: minimum 2 full revolutions of the lady while the man remains is in deep pivot position In juniors only one revolution is required.

Rule 522, 1. Technical Score

a) Scale of Values

The Scale of Values Table of the elements in Single and Pair Skating is published and updated in ISU Communications This Scale of Value (SoV) contains the Base Values of all the elements Base Values are specified in points and increase with increasing of the difficulty.

The elements difficulty depends: …….

Bullet 4 : In other elements – on their Levels of difficulty . Delete

The Scale of Values (SOV) of spins should be revised as follows:

Base values of spins

1) Spins with no change of foot and no change of basic position.

Upright Spin   Base value   1.5
Cross foot spin, free foot crossed in front   Base value   2.5
Cross foot spin, free foot crossed behind   Base value   3.2
Layback or sideways leaning spin   Base value   3.2
Biellmann spin   Base value   4.0
Sit Spin   Base value   3.0
Camel spin   Base value   3.5

Any edge permitted. Variations of positions of the head, arms and free leg, as well as fluctuations of speed are permitted.

2) Spins with flying entry and with no change of foot and no change of basic position.

Flying sit spin   Base Value   5.0
Flying sit spin changing the foot of landing   Base Value   5.5
Flying Camel spin   Base Value   4.5

Any type of flying spin is permitted. The chosen position must be maintained in the air. Revolutions in the landing position may be different from the flying position. No previous rotation on the ice before the take off is permitted.

3) Spins with change of foot without change of position.

Upright Spin    Base Value   2.8
Layback Spin    Base Value   4.2
Sit Spin    Base Value   4.0
Camel spin    Base Value   4.5

The spin must consist of only one change of foot, which may be executed either in the form of a step over or a jump. Variations of the positions of the head, arm or leg, as well as fluctuations of speed are permitted.

4)  Spin combination with no change of foot and two changes of position.

    Base Value 4.5

    In seniors, the spin combination must include at all three basic positions or their variations. In juniors only two basic positions are required. A minimum of two revolutions in each position is required. Variations of the positions of the head, arm or leg, as well as fluctuations of speed are permitted.

5)  Spin combination with change of foot and three changes of position.

Base Value 5.5

The spin combination must consist of one change of foot and must include all three basic positions or their variations. The change of foot and change of position may be made either at the same time or separately. The change of foot may be executed in the form of a step over or a jump. A minimum of two revolutions in each position is required. Variations of the positions of the head, arm or leg, as well as fluctuations of speed are permitted.

6)  For items 3) through 5) add 0.5 to the Base Value if the spin is begun with a flying entry.

7)  Change of edge during the spin.

Add 0.5 points to the Base Value of any spin performed with a change of edge. Only one spin with a change of edge is permitted in a program.


The recent trend to "change edge" during the spin should be discouraged. The change of edge in the spin does not improve the technical quality of skating. The quality of a spin should be its speed, centering and the position or the positions during the spin.

Step Sequences

Step sequences shall be designated by pattern/type.

1) Straight line step sequence: base value basic 3.0

Commences approximately at one corner of the ice surface and ends near the diagonally opposite corner of the ice surface, or follows the long axis for the full length of the ice surface. Only one stop is allowed.

2) Circular step sequence: base value basic 3.0

Skated on a complete circle or oval utilizing the full width of the ice surface. The skating must be on a circle or oval without excessive sub-curves. Only one stop allowed.

3) Serpentine step sequence: base value basic 3.0

Commences at the end of the ice surface and progresses in two or three bold curves of not less than half of the width of the ice surface and ends at the opposite end of the ice surface. Only one stop allowed.

4) Spiral sequence: base value basic 4.0

Consists primarily of spirals, commencing at the end of the ice surface, progressing in bold curves and end at the opposite end of the ice surface (serpentine), or a circular or oval pattern the full width of the ice surface. There must be at least three spiral positions, with at least one change of foot. Pushes in order to gain speed are permitted. Except during these pushes the competitor must be primarily in a spiral position with the free leg higher than the hip joint. Variations of the position are permitted, including holding the free leg at any point, or the skate blade. The position of the free leg is otherwise free.

Base value of jump sequences

For jump sequences, the jumps must be connected by small hops. In addition a single Mohawk should be permitted between each jump in the sequence, but no other turns or steps.

1)  in the case of only small hops connecting the jumps, the value of the sequence shall equal the sum of the base values for the two highest value jumps in the sequence;

2)  in the case where a Mohawk is included between any two jumps in the sequence the value of the sequence shall equal to the sum of the base values for the two highest value jumps in the sequence, multiplied by a factor of 0.9.

Step and Spiral sequences will receive no GoEs from the judges and will be scored in the Program Components.

Base value of death spirals:

Backward outside: base value 4.5
Backward inside: base value 4.0
Forward outside: base value 5.0
Forward inside: base value 4.0

Rule 522 , b) Levels of the elements

Technical Specialists will determine the name and the Level of difficulty (when necessary) of elements.

In the case of a fall, or landing with nearly equal weight on both feet, for any jump or throw jump in Single or Pairs, the jump or throw will be considered not-completed, and called by the Technical Panel a no-value jump or throw with a base value of 0.

Delete the last sentence of the paragraph


a)  It is proposed to abolish the use of "features" in spins and step and spiral sequences in singles, and in side-by-side spins, side-by-side step and spiral sequences, twist lifts and death spirals in pairs. Features would be retained only in pair spins and overhead (group) pair lifts.

Only basic values for each element should be assigned and use the Grade of Execution to reward added value.

The elimination of "features" would have the following effects:

a) stimulate the creativity of the skaters

b) place emphasis on the basic qualities of the elements (speed, balance, beauty of positions, etc.) instead of simply achieving levels of difficulty at the expense of quality of the elements

c) reduce the risks of "personal interpretation" by the various Technical Panels in establishing the level of the elements

It will be the duty and the responsibility of the judges to establish with their GoE marks the extra value added by the skaters through their ability and creativity, such as: number of revolutions above the minimum required, new and original positions, speed, quality of a spin in general; use of complex turns, changes of skating or rotational direction in steps, speed, depth of the edges, extension of the free leg, etc.

b)  A jump attempt with a fall or landed solidly on two feet would not be rewarded. Currently such an attempt is often rewarded with as many points as a completed jump of a lower level, if not more.

Rule 522 c) Grade of Execution (GOE)

Rule 522 1) c), rule 611 a) iii) and 608 3) a) ii)

Revise to read nine GoEs instead of seven.

Every judge will mark the quality of the execution of every element depending in the positive features of the execution and errors on nine grades of execution scale +4, +3, +2, +1, Base Value, -1, -2, -3, -4 using the principle that every minor error is a reduction of 1, every major error is a reduction of 2 and a catastrophic error (e.g., a fall) is a reduction of 4 and 1 positive aspect for +1, 2 positive aspects for +2, 3-4 positive aspects for +3, 5-6 positive aspects for +4.

In marking the GOE the following must be considered:

g) delete (see proposal on Program Components)


A jump sequence is evaluated as one unit.

The Scale of Values tables should be revised to use the following for GoE values (rounded to the nearest 0.1 point):

- 4 is 25% of base value
- 3 is 50% of base value
- 2 is 75% of base value
- 1 is 90% of base value
0 is 100% of base value
+ 1 is 110% of base value
+ 2 is 125% of base value
+ 3 is 150% of base value
+ 4 is 175% of base value


Even when used correctly, the GoE points as they are conceived now, do not produce a fair and acceptable result. As the base value of an element goes up, the value of the GoE does not keep pace. A cheated triple or quadruple jump now may get more points than a well executed triple or double, which is unfair and wrong. For example: for a triple toe loop, -3 takes away 75% of the base points and +3 adds 75 % of the base points.  For quad toe loop, however, -3 takes away only 33% of the base points and +3 adds only 33% of the base points.

Using additional GoEs will allow the marks to better reflect the subtle differences in quality that exist in the execution of elements and is currently not captured with seven GoEs.

This proportional approach solves other mathematical problems in the system. For example, the relative value of every element currently varies with each element and GoE. Under this proposal the relative value of all elements stays the same for each.

Rule 522 ,2) Program Component Score

a) Definition of Program Components

In addition to the Technical Score each judge will evaluate the Skater’s/Pair’s whole performance which is divided into two (2) Program Components:

  1. Skating Skills
  2. Presentation
1.  Skating Skills

    The Skating Skills component includes: Step and Spiral sequences, Transitions and Linking footwork.

    All step sequences will be judged on the harmony of content and the finesse of skating glide technique, the precision of edges, glide in and out of turns, free leg, back, arm, shoulder and head positions, musicality, style and presentation. The tempo of the movements can be very slow (adagio), medium (andante) or fast (allegro). Even in fast step sequences, the type of turns should be clearly evident to the viewer’s eye. If rockers and counters are incorporated into "straight line" step sequences their entry and exit edges must be sufficiently defined curves to distinguish them from brackets and threes.

In evaluating Transitions and Linking footwork the overall skating quality must be considered.

    1. Cleanness and sureness of deep edges, steps, and turns (Demonstrated in part through flow and effortless glide, balance, rhythmic knee action and precision of foot placement.)
    2. Varied use of speed and acceleration
    3. Mastery of one foot skating and multi-directional skating
    4. Variety of transitions and linking movements
    5. Difficulty and intricacy of transitions and linking movements
    6. Quality of skating, transitions and linking movements (Includes unison in Pair Skating )

    Additionally for Pairs

2.  Presentation

The Presentation component includes: Performance/ Execution, Choreography, Interpretation and Expression of the music.

Performance is the involvement of the skater/pair physically, emotionally and intellectually as they translate the intent of the music and the choreography; the execution is the quality of movement and precision, and it includes harmony of movement in pair skating.

In evaluating the Performance /Execution the following must be considered:

    In evaluating Choreography, Interpretation and Expression the following must be considered:

    Additionally For Pairs

b)  Marking of Program Components

Program Components are evaluated by judges after the completion of a program on a scale from 0 to 6.0 to the nearest of 1/10th of a point.

Points given by the judges correspond to the following descriptions of demonstrated skill: 1 – very poor, 2 – poor, 3 – fair. 4 – good,, 5 – very good, 6 – superior, outstanding.

The marks for the first competitor will be determined in an absolute way by taking the average among all the marks awarded by the judges. The Program Components shall be judged using "relative marking, "by comparing the various performances with each other.

The Program Components will represent 50% of the total score in an event segment. To achieve this, when calculating results the Program Components are multiplied by appropriate program component factors published and updated in ISU Communications. In addition, the factor for Presentation shall always be exactly 1.5 times the factor for Skating Skills.


This would definitely be an improvement for the judges and the competitors, besides making the marking more comprehensible to the public and the TV audience as well.

The marking of the Program Components has been most disappointing despite significant efforts to train the judges. As it is described in the rules, the marking of the Program Components is much too complicated and idealistic. The judges have great difficulty in evaluating the skaters’ performance by assigning credible marks to five Program Components with 7 or 8 different criteria each. As a result pre-judging and the reputation of the skater can prevail.

By reducing the number of program components to two, with one covering all the technical aspects of the program (except jumps and spins) - skating skills, transitions, footwork, linking movements and step and spiral sequences - and the second one covering the artistic aspects - performance, execution, choreography, interpretation and expression of the music - judged on a relative scale, not only do we simplify the judges’ job and make the judging fairer, but we also allow the public in the arena and at home to be able to understand the results and interact with the judges, as they used to do until 2004.

As to absolute and relative judging, the only way to be consistent through the whole event is to be thinking all the time whether the marks given now make sense compared to the marks given before - and that is a comparison. On what basis can Choreography, Composition, Interpretation of the music be considered worth 7 rather than 7.5? Where is the definition of a perfect "Performance/Execution" worth 10? In which way can "beauty" be defined as perfect? The judges have very little specific guidance for what marks to give, and if they are forbidden from comparing the marks they gave at the beginning of an event or to a previous skater, how possibly can they assign a correct mark? And on what basis can a certain mark be considered right or wrong?

The purpose of a figure skating competition is to determine which skater gave the best performance on a given day.

By requiring the factor for Presentation 1.5 times the factor for Skating Skill, the element score in an event segment will be 50% the total score, Skating Skills will be 20% of the total score, and Presentation will be 30% of the total score (consistent with current rules where Skating Skills and Transitions are 20% and the other three components are 30%).

Downgrading of jumps.

In case of under rotated jumps, if the jump is more than ¼ of a revolution short but less than ½ , the jump will not be downgraded and the Technical Panel will signal to the judging panel that the jump is under rotated and they must apply a negative GOE. If a jump is ½ a revolution short or more, the jump will be downgraded by the Technical Panel.


With the present system the competitors are penalized twice: by downgrading the jump and by applying a negative GoE. Besides, the fact that the judges are no longer informed if a jump is slightly under-rotated, does not help the skaters and creates confusion among the judges and discrepancy in the marking which affects negatively the credibility of the judges.

Revise the Scale of Values for jumps.

Scale of values for jumps



































With these base values:

It is NOT proposed to give the second and third jumps in jump combinations more value than if executed individually. It is impossible to add this characteristic to the SoV without also making the values of quads nearly double what is shown in the table – something that is clearly undesirable.

Note that this SoV does not make Singles a one-jump (4T) competition, despite the large values for the quads. The greater values also given the triple jumps, and the greater penalty for a poorly executed jump proposed under Rule 522 means that a skater in command of the triple jumps remains competitive against a skater with a quad.

Flip and Lutz

In view of the never ending controversy over the starting edge of the Lutz and the flip jumps it is proposed for further consideration, to eliminate the take-off edge requirements for these jumps and to unify the base value of these two jumps into a single jump. This is not unprecedented in the world of figure skating. The toe Walley used to be considered a separate jump from the toe loop but it is now interchangeable with the toe-loop for counting repetitions of jumps.

If unified, the skater would be allowed to take off from the inside, the outside, or the flat of the blade. A competitor would be allowed to attempt this Flip/Lutz jump twice, following the current repetition rule for jumps.

[Ed. Note:  This last item is not a proposal to implement now.  It is a proposal suggested for further study.]

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Introductory comments copyright 2009 by George S. Rossano