The number of entries allocated to each country at the World Championships is determined by the placement of that country's skaters at the prior World Championships.
Prior to the 1998 Championships, the method used was very simple. All members of the ISU are permitted at least one entry in each event. If a skater from a given country placed in the top 10, then that country could send two entries the following year. If a skater from that country placed in the top 3 then that country could send three entries the following year.
In 1996 this method was changed in order to make it more difficult for any country to send three entries. The number of entries from each country is now based on a point system using the results from all skaters a country sends in each event. The points assigned each country is the sum of the placements for that country's skaters, with the limitation that no result from a single skater is assigned more than 16 points. Thus, skaters who place 16th or worse in an event contribute 16 points to their country's total. Skaters who do not make it out of the qualifying rounds, or withdraw for any reason after the opening draw for the competition also contribute 16 points to their country's total. The 1998 World Championships is the first Worlds where this method has been used to determine the number entries allowed each country.
The following point values are used to determine the number of entries earned by each country in each event. The point totals listed to earn one entry is just a round-about way of saying that each member of the ISU gets to send one entry in each event no matter what happens the year before.
|To Earn 3 Entries||To Earn 2 Entries||To Earn 1 Entry|
|3 Entries Competing||6 - 21||22 - 22||>33|
|2 Entries Competing||3 - 13||14 - 22||>22|
|1 Entry Competing||NA||1 - 10||>10|
With 1 entry in the current year, a country gets two entries the following year if their skater places in the top ten, just like before. Unlike previously, however, even if that entry wins the event the country still gets to send only two entries the following year. Countries cannot jump from one to three entries in just one year now.
With 2 entries in the current year, a country will get three entries if the combined placements of those two skaters adds up to no more than 13; for example, 1st and 12th, or 2nd and 11th, or 3rd and 10th, etc. Notice also that if one of the two entries is forced to withdraw it is impossible to earn three entries the next year, even if the remaining skater wins the event. To hold on to the two entries for the following year, the sum of the two skater's placements can be no greater than 22. If one of the two skaters was forced to withdraw the other skater would have to place in the top 6 to hold onto the two entries for the following year.
With three entries in the current year, a country will hold on to three entries if the combined placements for the three entries adds up to no more than 21. If one of those skaters is forced to withdraw the remaining two would have to have a combined placement of 5 (e.g., 1st and 4th, or 2nd and 3rd). If the combined placements of the three skaters is more than 21, but less than 34 only two entries are earned for the following year.
With this method of determining the number of entries it is harder for a country to earn three entries in an event, and it is harder to hold on to three entries. It is also harder for three entries to hold on to three entries than it is for two entries to earn three entries. Similarly it is harder for two entries to hold on to two entries than it is for one entry to earn two entries. Thus, it is sometimes advantageous for a country to send fewer than its allowed number of entries in order to maximize its chances to earn the largest number of entries the following year. Two examples of this have cropped up at the 1998 Worlds.
In the ladies event, the U.S. seemed to be assured of earning three entries with the original team of Bobek, Lipinski, and Kwan. No matter how badly Bobek might have done (taking the pessimistic point of view) with a one-two finish, or even a two-three finish, three entries would be earned for 1999. When Lipinski withdrew, things became tougher, and with Bobek withdrawing even more difficult. Let's assume now the best result for Kwan and the worst result for the other women. With a team of Kwan and Kwiatkowski a result of 1st and 12th would earn three entries - not out of the possibility; but with a team of Kwan, Kwiatkowski, and Nikodinov a result of 1st, 10th, and 11th would be needed to hold on to three entries - far less likely with Nikodinov never having competed at Worlds before and also not having been training for Worlds since U.S. Nationals in January. Consequently, no substitution was made for Bobek, and the U.S. entered two women in the ladies event, maximizing their chances to earn three places for next year.
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