Bold Considerations for an Aberrant System

By Philippe Pelissier


Realizing that is useless to be nostalgic about the old judging system, and considering the deficiencies and structural faults of the new one, the necessary alternative would be: either to conceive and elaborate the structure of another judging system, or to restructure the present system keeping only rational criteria for evaluation of technical and artistic levels adapted to each specific discipline.

To be totally honest, it is necessary to evoke the reasons which led to the elaboration of the present judging system.

The "Salt Lake City scandal" was the last straw of a series of mini scandals which stemmed from pre-determined decisions due to ideological-political reasons more than the direct consequence of incompetent judging under an imperfect system. In spite of and considering all sides of the question, these "deals" or errors have never had a lasting or serious effect on the overall results and fairness in the competitive field. The commercial and hyper media coverage of the Salt Lake City "case" promoted the theory that this episode would endanger the possibility of figure skating participating in the Olympics – a totally hypocritical and unfounded story when one knows all the incredible turpitudes and compromises which occur in the sphere of the Olympic Committee – it then became necessary to set up a parade, "an ice parade", which would provide total guarantee and security against any possible deals or pre-judging decisions against the athletes. It was at this point that a fundamentally short-sighed narrow-minded fatal intellectual decision was committed.

This error which condemned in the long term the existing judging system is problematic in itself since the fundamental question was the security control in the judging system and not a problem related to the judging technique which needed to be redesigned to make it more pertinent and viable.

Clearly to keep figure skating in the Olympic sphere, one had simply reduced to zero the possibility and use of individual judgment. As if figure skating, an entertainment sport could be defined by using quantitative and arithmetic criteria, devoid of any aspect of quality which calls for reflected appreciation.

Since the quantitative creates the problem, let us isolate and analyze the parameters of it.

This dialectic jump from quantitative to qualitative which is used to bear out theories in the areas of genetics, chemistry or the changes in historic sociology becomes in this case complete loss of reason. The consequences of this deviation are overwhelming. The analysis of this is as follows:

Since it is necessary to eliminate rumors due to subjective judging interpretations which are by necessity divergent, thus a factor of "chaos", let us first limit the decision given by the subject, "the judge" by subjecting them to an electronic box where the decision will follow the orders of a supreme jury which sits to the right of "Truth" and which rules through successive prejudgments established during official training sessions and defines the value of the executed elements of each competitor based on the average of levels obtained in other competitions.

To fight against the plague of prejudging, they have officially instituted with great pomp and ceremony prejudging as a model of objectivity because it is entrusted to the care of technical specialists obliged to take an oath under the control of a licensed controller stamped ISU and therefore qualified.

Between the plague and cholera, the ISU has decided to give blank endorsement to cholera.

Now let us be serious. The result must be evaluated and measurable. To do this it is necessary to compute everything by a system of points where each element is supposed to receive an arithmetic value, and since it is necessary to compare without confronting the performances of one or another, one must refer to an absolute value of measure over and above any possible uncertainty coming from a comparison.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the ISU has pulled out of its hat a platonic idea that the quantitative value rules over the skies of intelligence.

What should be comparable which is performances weighed against other performances no longer exists but is judged by a super celestial metric system. This is so true that the scores of absolutely similar performances change depending on the climate, the season and the technical controllers …

The ISU has very flexible concept of the absolute in its measurable decisions!

The "artistic" side of figure skating is itself evil and does not have a place in an objective system. It is thus necessary to slice it up like a sausage. Consequently any abstract or confused idea will be reduced to simple elements and truths.

Following this line of thought there are now five elements. This "segmentation" produces a double error:

The ISU has invented the breakdown of the artistic value in the form of a light spectrum where all the colors are mixed and which is pre-regulated to appreciate only one "color" of the skater’s presentation.

Finally, and it is here that the present system can be fully measured : not satisfied to hamstring the jury, not satisfied in formatting the content the performances rendering them a measurable product, uniform and homogenous, it has made the evaluation of the results and their communication totally incomprehensible to the public and the television audience.

Soon, it will be necessary to have a computer on one’s knees in order to follow the show and appreciate it the way it deserves.

At the next congress, I propose that spectators come and meet in groups of fifty in rooms equipped with computers in order to learn to follow all the subtleties of the calculations of the performances. It is thus without a doubt that the fans will finally have access to the "Nirvana" of figure skating and go down on bended knee in the most perfect communion in front of the absolute light in the name of the ISU.

It would be advisable that the ISU add some other elements related to this logo!!!

Philippe Pelissier was 5th at the European Championships 1969.  From 1976 to 2003 he coached most of the French international skaters and directed schools for professional trainers. Since 1992 he is a consultant and commentator for Eurosport for figure skating.  Pelissier is also a successful writer and painter with pieces of his works exhibited in Paris. He is also a producer of theatre plays one of which, Brouhaha, is currently being played in Paris.

Ed. Note:  This article has been translated from its original French.

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