Coaches Propose Changes to IJS


Editor's Note:  For the past six months a group of international coaches have been developing a set of proposals for the improvement of the International Judging System (IJS).  These proposals were recently submitted to the ISU Singles and Pairs Technical Committee.  With the permission of the coaches, the cover letter we received with the text of the proposals follows, and then the text of the proposals themselves.  Other than formatting the document for this page we have made no changes, deletions or additions to the content of the proposals.

Proposals to improve the IJS

These proposals have been submitted to the ISU by a group of top level international coaches and figure skating experts. The intent is to provide the Figure Skating Technical Committee with some suggestions on how to improve the quality of skating, the creativity of the competitors, as well as the credibility of the sport. 

The proposals are drawn from the professional experience of coaches teaching in different countries both at the national and international level.

1.  Abolish 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 itís 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.

2. Abolish 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 is not fair to the skaters. It is like a coin toss.

The random draw is another flaw of the system, especially when it does not guarantee a fairer result but is only used to make secret judging even more secret!

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. To promote transparency show the list of judges in the protocols.

3. Return to Qualifying rounds at ISU Championships.

The present system used at ISU competitions, with the short program event lasting more than 9 hours, or breaking the event into two groups that compete at vastly different times or on different days, plus the new seeding method based on previous results, seems ill-conceived. The thought that a point system allows the judging of groups of ever larger size, without limit, is not defensible.

For instance in the Ladies Short Program at 2008 Worlds there were 53 competitors. No human being can be expected to judge in a fair way such a large field of skaters and in view of the impact drift in judging standard can have on competition results, it is proposed to go back to the use of qualifying rounds, except that the top ten ranked competitors and the winners of the Senior Grand Prix events will automatically qualify for the final round and will not be required to skate in the qualifying rounds.

4. Both in the short and free program one sequence of the competitorís choice to be required.

The ladies may execute either step or spiral sequences, or a sequence that is a mixture of both steps and spiral positions. The men shall execute a step sequence in each program which can also include spirals and spread eagles ( see related item 9).

5. Reduce the number of spins to be executed in the free program.

In the free program, three spins must be executed. One must be a spin combination with change of foot and change of position, one a flying spin and one a spin with only one position. If two spins with only one position are executed they must be in different basic positions.

6. Abolish the use of "features" in spins and sequences, and use the Grade of Execution to reward added value in these elements.

It is proposed to abolish the use of "features" in spins and sequences, and assign only basic values for each element.

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.

7. Definitions of Spin positions

        Upright spin

In the upright spin, the longest axis of the skaterís torso is vertical and coincides with the axis of rotation. The skating leg may be bent at the knee and the hip, so long as the axis of the torso remains in essentially a vertical position.

A position where the torso is inclined forward, but the skating leg is essentially straight (angle at the knee of the skating leg more than 135 degrees) shall also be considered an upright position.

Other examples of variation of the upright spin include the cross-foot spin, layback spin, side-leaning spin, Biellmann position and "inverted-V" spin (knees straight, skaterís head near foot level).

a) 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 degree angle to the first foot.

b) 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. [Note: When an upright spin is required, if the angle is less than 135 degrees, the spin will be called no value.]

        Sit spin

The skater is in a sitting position. The skaterís 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). When the angle is greater than 135 degrees the position shall be considered an upright position.

Note: When a sit spin is required, if the angle is greater than 135 degrees, the spin will be called no value.

        Camel spin

The competitorís torso must be in a horizontal, or nearly horizontal position, with the free leg held as high as the hip joint of the free leg, or higher. 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 skaterís torso may be in an arched position so long as the axis of symmetry of the lower back and pelvis is nearly horizontal.

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.

        Intermediate Position

This position is an unnecessary fiction that serves no useful purpose and is unnecessary with the above definitions.

8. Base values of spins

Note: Minimum rotations are part of the well balanced program rules, and vary from one event to another.

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

d) Spin combination with no change of foot and two changes of position. Base Value 4.5

The spin combination must include at least two basic positions or their variations. 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.

e) 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.

f) For items c) through e) add 0.5 to the Base Value if the spin is begun with a flying entry.

g) 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 is not one of technical quality of skating. The quality of a spin should be its speed, centering and the position or the positions during the spin.

9. Step Sequences

a) General description

All step sequences should be executed according to the character of the music and should make full use of ice technique. 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. The sense of slow does not mean slow speed on the ice but a slow movement done in most cases with ice speed. However, a very slow ice speed with controlled movement can also be of credit to the skater. This all depends on the choreographic conception and interpretation.

Each step should be progressive and no retrogressions are allowed. However short stops in accordance with the music are permitted, as well as a limited number of spread eagles, Inna Bauer eagles and Walleys along the small jumps of half a turn rotation to give wider choreographic and artistic interest.

b) Musicality, style and presentation

The musicality of a step sequence means it translates the rhythm and melody into the skating movements.

The style of step sequences should be related to the total program conception and the music. The sequence must have a connection to the other parts of the program to be considered coherent. Style can vary from elegant to comic, tragic and satiric. Style is much related to presentation since the skaterís ability to project the style and convey the theme of the program to the public is vital to its success.

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). The tempo of the execution will not change the number of GoE points. The GoE will depend on the total quality of the ice technique and the style. Even in fast step sequences, the type of turns should be clearly evident to the spectatorís 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.

Reduced GoE

Increase GoE

a) 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.

b) 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.

c) 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. No stops allowed.

d) 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.

10. Eliminate the downgrading of jumps if they are not fully rotated, and instead change the point values for the GoEs so that ANY element so poorly executed as to deserve a GoE of Ė3 should get no more than 25% of the base value, regardless of its difficulty (see related item 16).

With the present system, the competitors are penalized twice: by downgrading the jump and by applying a GoE from -1 to -3.

11. Unify the base value of the Lutz and the Flip jumps into a single jump.

In view of the never ending controversy over the starting edge of the Lutz and the flip jumps it is proposed of getting rid of the take-off edge requirements for these jumps. This is not unprecedented in the world of figure skating. The "Toe Walley" used to be a "real" jump and now it is just the same as a toe-loop.  The skater will be allowed to take off from the inside, the outside, or the flat of the blade. A competitor will be allowed to attempt this Flip/Lutz jump twice, following the current repetition rule for jumps.

12. 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. It is proposed sequences be evaluated as follows:

13. Award NO value if a jump or a throw (in pairs) is marred by a fall.

In case of a fall or landing on two feet on any jump or throw jump in pairs, the concerned element should be considered as a not-completed element and called by the Technical Panel as a no-value element, and not marked by the judges either.

No longer should jump attempts with a fall be rewarded by nearly as many points, if not more, as a completed jump of a lower level.

14. Deductions for falls.

A penalty of 0.5 shall be applied each time a skater falls in an element. A penalty of 1.0 shall be applied each time a skater falls outside an element.

15. Revise the 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 Ė 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 in item 16 means that a skater in command of the triple jumps remains competitive against a skater with a quad. For example, if the proposed SoV had been used at the 2008 World Championships, Jeffrey Buttle would still have scored higher that Brian Joubert.

16. Define the values of GoE points

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.

The proposal is to revise the Scale of Values tables to use the following instead (rounded to the nearest 0.1 point):

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 GoE.

17. Reduce the number of the Program Components to a maximum of three, with the marks ranging from 0 to 6, marked to the nearest 1/10th of a point.

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 skatersí 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.

It is recommended to reduce the number of the Program Components, as well as of the number of the criteria for each, with the marks ranging from 0 to 6.0. This would definitely be an improvement for the judges and the skaters. In singles and pairs it is proposed the following Program Components be used, with the criteria for each listed below. Each component will be given equal weight in the scoring.

The above grouping seems the most practical. Skating Skills, Transitions and Linking Movement encompass all the technical aspect of skating outside of the individual elements. Choreography and Interpretation are more closely related concepts than Performance and Choreography. To make the analogy of a play, choreography is the script, and the interpretation is the "spin" given to the script by the director and actors. They go together. Performance/Execution is then how well the actors perform and execute the script and communicate the story and intended interpretation to the audience.

Skating Skills, Transitions and Linking Movements

For Pairs and Dance

Performance / Execution

For Pairs and Dance

Choreography / Interpretation

For Pairs and Dance

18. List the elements on the large screen ("Jumbotron")in the arena and indicate in red when an element is being reviewed.

This will allow the audience to know what is really going on. When the total score is shown they at least can see WHY the score was higher or lower than they thought. This will create more audience participation and decrease audience confusion.

The following proposals deal with Pairs.

19. Abolish the use of "features" in side-by-side spins, side-by-side sequences, twist lifts and death spirals and adopt the same concepts as for Singles in step and spiral sequences.

It is proposed to abolish the use of "features" for these elements. The reasons for this are the same as described above for Singles. Features would be retained only in pair spins and overhead (group) pair lifts.

20. The death spiral executed in the Short Program cannot be repeated in the long (free skating) program.

This was once a requirement in pairs and should be brought back. It will promote variety in pairs programs.

21. Death spirals.

Definition: 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. The man holds one hand of the lady with one hand. Minimum 2 full revolutions of the lady while the man remains is in deep pivot position.

Base value of death spirals:

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