Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Figure Skating Needs Rule Revision

By gauntlet in Op-Ed
Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:24:59 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

Yesterday, a pair of Russian figure skaters were awarded gold medals in the pairs competition at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. This award prompted boos from the assembled crowd, exclamations of disbelief from Canadian and American broadcasters, and accusation of back-room dealings from international journalists.

But it's not the judges that were wrong, it's the rules.

After looking at the scorecards of the judges, I am of the opinion that there is no fault to be found in how the judges scored. Rather, there is fault to be found in how the scores are counted.

The Canadian couple, on average, were scored approximately seven one-hundredths (0.07) of a point higher for technical merit. The Russians were scored approximately four one-hundredths (0.04) of a point higher for artistry. The Canadians were scored approximately five one-hundredths (0.05) of a point higher overall.

So how is it that if on average the Canadians were considered better, the Russians won? Consider for instance the Polish judge, who gave marks (technical and presentation) of 5.7 and 5.9 for the Russians and 5.8 and 5.8 for the Canadians. Who did this judge prefer? The Polish judge was recorded as having ranked the Russian couple first, and the Canadians second. This is because the rules state that in the case of a tie (both sets of scores add up to 11.6), the presentation mark is worth more.

This rule belies an underlying assumption that you must break an individual judge's tie between two couples. That doesn't make any sense. A tie indicates that the judge thought the skates were equivalent. Using artistic impression as the tiebreaker ignores the fact that it is supposed to be of equal value to technical merit. It also ignores the judge's true feelings, and in exchange for that doesn't even by itself guarantee that the tie can be broken.

If, as was the case here, two judges feel the performances were equivalent, four feel the Canadians were superior, and three feel the Russians were superior, should the gold medal not go to the Canadians?

The counter-argument is that without breaking the ties, you may not be able to determine who won. My response to that is that I have never seen a figure skating competition in which there were more than two competitors tied for a certain position. If that happens, very simply give them all whatever medal they have earned.

If the sport gets to the point that you have too many ties, do the same thing that other sports have done: Make the scoring more precise. Allow judges to assign marks precise to one-twentieth of a point rather than one-tenth, or increase the upper limit of the scores.

Yes, corrupt judges will use whatever system they are given to corrupt the results. But before we blame judges for their opinions, should we not at least give them the opportunity to express their opinions honestly?

According to a poll on a prominent American news website, over 90% of viewers believed that the Canadians should have won. The fact is, the judges agree. It is therefore the rules with which they have quarrel, not the judges. The figure skating community should take a look at those rules, and question whether they are truly determining who skated better, or merely determining who won.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Who should have received the gold medal in pairs figure skating?
o Sale and Pelletier (the Canadians) 70%
o Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze (the Russians) 16%
o I'm not sure. 12%

Votes: 89
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by gauntlet

Display: Sort:
Figure Skating Needs Rule Revision | 86 comments (67 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
Not the Rules (3.91 / 24) (#2)
by Osiris on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 02:51:28 PM EST

It's not the rules which need revising, it's the list of which activities are considered 'sports'. Anything which gives points for artistic qualitites or 'presentation' is not a sport. Hell, anything which needs judges is probably not a sport- if you go faster, farther, or outscore the other team, you win. If a panel of 'experts' has to vote on who won, it shouldn't be in the Olympics.

oh... (2.10 / 10) (#5)
by alprazolam on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:11:57 PM EST

I'm sure now that the IOC has heard your well informed opinion they'll be doing everything in their power to reform the Olympics to be in line with your glorious vision.

[ Parent ]
I have to agree (3.60 / 5) (#7)
by eyespots on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:28:15 PM EST

Even though the judged "sports" may require skill, strength, and endurance- they are still merely artistic presentations.

Suppose there was an event where the best artists from around the world had to paint 5 paintings on a particular subject in only 1 hour, and they would be graded on both speed of completion, difficulty of the painting, and the beauty of the end result. I think everyone here would agree that would be both physically and mentally difficult- it would require extensive training and endurance.

But is it a sport?

I would say no. It is difficult and challenging, but a sport? No.

[ Parent ]

I agree 100% (4.12 / 8) (#9)
by elefantstn on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:37:27 PM EST

I can think of no single good reason why figure skating should be considered a sport. When I say that, I always get a response of "You don't know how difficult it is" or "I bet you couldn't go out there and do that." Those are both right, but I can't play the violin, either, and that doesn't make the orchestra a sport.

The analogy I like to use is marching band competition. It's a group of people running around doing things to music, while being judged on technical precision and artistry. Is anybody trying to get band into the Olympics? No, because it's not a sport. It's a competition, but not a sport. If at the end you have to wait for a judge's decision to know who won, it's subjective, and not a sport.

[ Parent ]
Figure skating is a sport (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by damiam on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:51:29 PM EST

Webster's defines a sport as a "physical activity engaged in for pleasure". I don't skate, but I'm sure many that do skate get pleasure from it. And figure skating is definitely physical. Skating requires more strength, stamina, and coordination than a good deal of other sports.

Besides, a good deal of other sports are also rather subjective. In soccer, football, hockey, etc. the outcome of the game can depend on the decisions of the referee. Did a player intend to trip an opponent or not? The only difference between figure skating and other sports is that skating is far more complex and thus harder to define an arbitrary set of rules for.

[ Parent ]

Well then... (5.00 / 3) (#47)
by MeowChow on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:23:57 AM EST

Webster's defines a sport as a "physical activity engaged in for pleasure".

My thoughts exactly, but how does one score a good shag?

[ Parent ]

I've advocated it for a long time (none / 0) (#57)
by damiam on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 06:49:33 AM EST

Sex should be an olympic sport!

[ Parent ]
The sports you mention have objective rules. (none / 0) (#60)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:05:33 AM EST

And a dictionary defintion can be wrong.

Based on that ballet is a sport.

Bring ballet to the olympics. NOW.
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
[ Parent ]
physical activity (none / 0) (#62)
by chopper on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:32:33 AM EST

Webster's defines a sport as a "physical activity engaged in for pleasure".

until i see Olympic Breakdancing, i'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with that definintion.

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish
[ Parent ]

damn right, figure skating is not a sport! (3.00 / 6) (#12)
by deadplant on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:41:51 PM EST

I blame it on the IOC's mandate (to make as much money as possible) Artistic competition has no place in the olympics, no matter how good the ratings.

[ Parent ]
Artistic Sports. (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by opalhawk on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:40:27 PM EST

You have obviously never Skated.

I Was a profesional figure skater for a good number of years, and let me assure you that it is a test of physical strength and endurance just as much, if not more than downhill skiing, or any other winter sport.

The only thing I can think of that compares in any way is Gymnastics, which most skaters also cross-train in. Gymnastics does not have a pairs compitition (that I am aware of) though...

Nothing compares to the strange sick and thrilling sensation of flying through the air after half being thrown and half jumping out of the arms of some hugely muscled man, spinning around a few times, and then wondering if he will be in the right place to catch you. and then wondering if he catches you, will physics coperate and allow him not to slip on his blade sending you both crashing to the very hard, very cold ice?

My point being: Figure Skating and Painting are both physical, visual arts. Figure skating has the added dimension of being a rigerous physical activity, and most of the time, the artisty is the last thing on your mind. Just because it is an art, does not mean it can't also be a sport. Not to mention that most painters don't continually have bruises all over their body, and stress fractured shins from falling out of the sky...

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
[ Parent ]
Artistic/Sports (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by Ludwig on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:42:47 AM EST

I don't think anyone would, upon reflection, deny that figure skating is a sport. The point is that when subjective judgements of artistic merit enter into the picture, it's no longer a proper competitive sport. They're competing, but for the approval of a group of judges rather than against each other. You might as well have ballet and juggling in the Olympics too.

[ Parent ]
on painting... (none / 0) (#61)
by chopper on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:28:41 AM EST

Not to mention that most painters don't continually have bruises all over their body, and stress fractured shins from falling out of the sky...

then you've obviously never painted using 'the Chopper method'. of course, the electric shocks and bandsaw do tend to frighten more than a few away...

give a man a fish,he'll eat for a day

give a man religion and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish
[ Parent ]

Athletics vs. Sports (none / 0) (#76)
by mccoma on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:08:53 PM EST

I believe skating is an amazingly demanding athletic endeavor. Skating has a true beauty to it matched by few other human activities. Going further down the line of purely judge scored events; I remember an article about a study saying gymnasts were the fittest athletes of all.

That being said, I think a lot of the posters here want to separate what is an athletic event and what is a sport. I am given to think figure skating, gymnastics, and ice dancing are athletic events scored by subjective measures. This does not make them less worthy pursuits, but I do not think they are sports.

Yes, football, hockey, and basketball have referees who have made some amazing bad calls over the years, but they are not setting the score of the event. Yes, the refs have a large influence, and some sports have worked to remove some of the human element from their judging (ex. tennis and line computer line judges). At the end of the day, the score is more about the play then the opinion of the judges as to who the better team / player was.

[ Parent ]

Boxing? (3.75 / 4) (#14)
by EraseMe on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:48:40 PM EST

Boxing is judged, except for KOs. So is wrestling. Aren't they sports?

[ Parent ]
Boxing, wrestling (4.60 / 5) (#16)
by elefantstn on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 04:03:03 PM EST

I also have a real problem with boxing, both the way it's handled in the ring and outside. That the judges' decisions are secret until the end smacks of an opportunity for corruption, so I don't usually watch or follow it.

As for wrestling, are you talking about the normal wrestling that goes on in high schools and colleges in the US? If so, I think the judging there is just a determination as to whether or not a competitor completed a given action. The referee simply determines whether there was a takedown, or whether a wrestler spent a certain amount of time on his back, much in the same way a football ref determines whether the ball crossed the goal line or a player's foot touched the sideline.

In both cases, I would say that since the judges/referees make no decision on the merits of the competitors, but rather the number of hits, takedowns, etc., they qualify more as sports than figure skating, synchronized swimming, etc.

[ Parent ]
there's a simple rule of thumb (4.25 / 4) (#18)
by eLuddite on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 04:29:31 PM EST

if steroids help, its a sport. There's a corollary: If the athlete *must* smile, steroids isnt going to help.

A boxing match between a synchronized swimmer and a figure skater is problematic, sorta like a chick flic (Breathless in Seattle) with with female nudity and car crashes (Braless in Thunderdome).

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Boxing is not judged (4.20 / 5) (#24)
by thenick on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 05:00:22 PM EST

Boxing matches are scored, based on how many times a boxer connects on punches. Boxers are not judged on how clean and graceful the punches are or how well the boxers move around the ring.

"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
[ Parent ]
Boxing is not judged (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by mamann on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 02:40:17 AM EST

Boxing scores are not based upon how many times one opponent hits the other, though it does play into it.

Each boxer starts each round with ten points. The boxer who was dominated, did not perform as well, did not hit as much or just plain "lost" the round has a point deducted. If a boxer performs an illegal maneuver (such as hitting below the belt) after being warned repeatedly, another point is deducted at the behest of the referee. Finally, each knockdown / standing-eight-count results in another point being deducted.

Each judge totals her points for each boxer and states who she thinks is the winner. The fighter with the majority of judges votes wins.

This is an extremely subjective system, and half the fun of boxing is the controversy that surrounds the unbelievable decisions.

All of the above assumes that one of the pugilists didn't get his lights knocked out.

[ Parent ]

that's pro boxing (3.66 / 3) (#52)
by streetlawyer on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:01:32 AM EST

amateur boxing, as appears in the Olympics is meant to be scored on a punch count. Which leads to bizarre, stupid anomalies but there you go.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Side Question (none / 0) (#67)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:48:37 AM EST

Each judge totals her points for each boxer and states who she thinks is the winner.
I'm all for inclusion, and I marched for the ERA and stuff, but just how many women are there judging boxing?

[ Parent ]
Side Question (none / 0) (#80)
by mamann on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:23:22 AM EST

Beats the heck outta me :)

It's not too rare anymore to see at least one or two female judges for fights shown on HBO, Showtime or ESPN. And one of the five commissioners for the Nevada Athletic Commission is a woman.

Personally, I just get tired of always writing he/him/his, and I despise the generic each/them/they/etc method of avoiding gender. Just pick a pronoun gender and stick with it. Anything's better than s/he or he/she fumblings.

[ Parent ]

Gender Issues (none / 0) (#82)
by davidduncanscott on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 10:42:07 AM EST

Yeah, I know what you mean. There has to be a better way.

I knew about the Nevada commissioner, now that you mention her. Mostly I was just curious -- boxing is among my least favourite sports (Hell, if I want to see two guys fight I'll just walk around Baltimore for a while -- I might even get gunplay).

"He/she fumblings"? Sounds like a transexual-curious site :)

[ Parent ]

I agree, but it's beside the point. (3.00 / 4) (#17)
by gauntlet on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 04:22:18 PM EST

I'm of the opinion that anything that is judged is an art, not a sport. That said, I'm not vehemently opposed to arts being included among olympic games. I'm more opposed to objectively scored games that require no athleticism at all being included, such as demonstration bridge.

All of this is beside the point, though. The question is not how should the olympics deal with the problem. The olympics don't set the rules. The question is how should figure skating deal with the problem.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

It's happened before (4.33 / 6) (#4)
by Torgos Pizza on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 02:58:45 PM EST

As I've read elsewhere, this has all happened before in 1988 when Brian Orser lost to American Brian Boitano. Four judges voted for Orser, three for Boitano and two others called it a tie. Now the rules for a tiebreaker where different back in '88. Each judge could choose either the technical score or the presentation score as the deciding factor. Both chose the technical, rather than the presentational score, giving the gold to Boitano.

Why they tinkered with the system is beyond me. In the old system, the judges were still allowed discretion in deciding who would ultimately win.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.

I would have tinkered (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by gauntlet on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 05:08:02 PM EST

If they scored the two competitors as tied, taking into account the equal balance between techique and presentation, why should they be forced or enabled to choose between them on no objective grounds?

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

To pick a winner? (3.50 / 2) (#28)
by Torgos Pizza on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 05:26:54 PM EST

If you're going to have a judge, let them judge. If there's a problem with having no ojective grounds, then you shouldn't introduce a human element in having judges.

Letting a judge choose between the two disciplines: technique and presentation, allows the judge to make that ultimate decision of who wins. Otherwise they are forced to make that decision based on a rule.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]

What? (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by gauntlet on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 05:49:17 PM EST

I want the judge to judge the performance. The marks are for judging the performance. Picking one or the other skill afteward is not judging the performance, it is an best making a subjective and arbitrary judgement on which is more important, and at worst, making a concious decision to allow one person to receive a higher ranking, without regard for their performance. How you can defend that, I'm not sure.

I'm not against allowing judges to say who they think should win. I'm against disallowing them from saying that more than one competitor each equally deserves to win.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

Why you can't have a tie (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by Torgos Pizza on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 06:14:22 PM EST

I know that you're trying to explain that in skating that results should be able to be left in a tie allowing in this case both the Russian and Canadian teams to both get the gold. But my point is that with nine human judges trying to come to a consensus on a tie just isn't possible. Each one of those nine judges are going to see different things and have their own opinion. Even the audience saw things differently from the judges. I can't believe that someone saw both performances and said, "Yep, they both were good. They should tie."

You mention that you "want the judge to judge the performance". The technical and presentation are part of the whole package. When you recommend a movie to a friend do you just say, "Yeah, go see it." I'm assuming that you also mention the script, the acting and the direction. Have you ever recommended a movie knowing that the plot is just horrible, but the special effects are worth the price of admission? Or despite a horrible script, the acting is so outstanding it outweighs everything else? So why can't judges do the same thing? Currently the judges are asked to base the tiebreakers on "direction" when I think that it could be that or Best Actor/Actress. Breaking down a skating performance is a good thing. To do otherwise is like narrowing down the Academy Awards to just Best Picture.

One last point: Do you honestly think that if both teams tied for gold that it would settle the matter? You'd still have the same argument about who really deserved the medal. Most people watching thought the Canadian team won the gold outright. People want a winner. Competitors want to win. Tying isn't losing, but it still leaves you hollow and wanting for more.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]

Not quite what I meant. (none / 0) (#71)
by gauntlet on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:26:00 AM EST

I'm not saying there should have been a tie. I'm saying that two judges thought there was, and had those judges been allowed to score it as a tie, the Canadians would have won. However, those judges, because of the rules, were not allowed to score it as a tie, so the Russians won. The problem with allowing the judges to score ties is that if an odd number of judges in an odd numbered panel of judges were to score ties, you might end up with a tie overall. You argue that this is unlikely, and that's exactly what I'm arguing. If it's unlikely, let it happen. If it happens too much, then score more precicely. But don't force judges to pick or pick automatically for them between two options that they consider to be equivalent.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

What would he do? (4.33 / 3) (#45)
by fluffy grue on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:33:16 PM EST

What would Brian Boitano do, if he was there right now? Would he make a plan and follow through? Is that what Brian Boitano would do?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Saturday Night (4.22 / 9) (#6)
by BWS on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:12:09 PM EST

Remember everyone... they had a short compulsary program on Saturday night (worth 1/3 of the score)...

and the Russian pair did better then the Canadian pair... however... the media made no mention of this... prehaps this swing things over a bit as well towards the Russian favor?

-- Comments are by ME, not YOU! ME! ME! ME!
I saw that. (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:42:24 PM EST

I didn't see last night's competition, but in the short form the night before, I thought the Russians were clearly better.

(Vocal crowd, too. There were loud boos when a Chinese pair got scores significantly lower than the crowd thought they deserved.)
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Short Program didn't matter (5.00 / 2) (#21)
by gauntlet on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 04:50:16 PM EST

The short program is worth 1/3, but the way it works is that your ranking is multiplied by 0.5, then added to your ranking from the long program, and the pair with the lowest ranking as a result wins.

In brief, the marks you get in the short program don't matter, only the ranking. As long as the ranking is 1st or 2nd, you are for all intents and purposes tied for the lead.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

short programme (none / 0) (#55)
by treefrog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:32:28 AM EST

I didn't see the freestyle, on the short program.

The canadians were technically excellent, but left me cold.

The russians didn't seem to make it look as hard, but their artistry moved me almost to tears.

On what I saw (and I repeat that I didn't see the freestyle), I thought that the russians were worthy winners.

Oh, and the BBC commentry deserved a medal. For the first time I actually understood what ice skating was all about. Hats off to the BBC!

regards, treefrog

Twin fin swallowtail fish. You don't see many of those these days - rare as gold dust Customs officer to Treefrog
[ Parent ]

I ddn't see it (none / 0) (#72)
by gauntlet on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:31:22 AM EST

I don't think, however, that there was any argument on the issue of whether or not the Canadians should have received second place behind the Russians in the short program. However, because of the complex way skating is scored, being in second place in the short program is for all intents and purposes equivalent to being tied for the lead. The actual scores you receive in any program are not important, only your ranking, and a ranking of 2 in the short (which is only worth .5) is just as good as a rank of 1.

Now, if you're arguing that the difference between the pairs in the short program was indicative of the difference between the two in the long program, I think you should talk to some people that saw the long programs. They seem to almost unanimously agree that for the long program, the tables were turned.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

Hmmm (4.31 / 16) (#8)
by malikcoates on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:33:00 PM EST

This is a tough dilema... I'm not sure how to solve it.... Often when faced with problems like this I try to put myself in the shoes of a role model who I know always worked out tough problems like this for the best.

I have to ask myself, "What would Brian Boitano do?"

Well, duh! (4.75 / 4) (#34)
by kaemaril on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 06:20:46 PM EST

He'd probably kick an ass or two, that's what Brian Boitano'd do...

Why, yes, I am being sarcastic. Why do you ask?

[ Parent ]
Figure Skating? (2.29 / 31) (#11)
by Pac on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:38:42 PM EST

Oh my. This may well represent the final blow the whole Figure Skating establishment had been needing for ages. The anti-Canadian Polish-Russian conspiracy has finnaly been unmasked. This is certainly a brave new world.

May I remember you that no less than 23 panels and conferences were dedicated to the ongoing Figure Skating Scandal during this year's World Social Forum in Porto Alegre? I also recall its suspicious absence from the New York's Forum. We should have seem it coming.

Also, just last week Linus included the Preemptible Kernel Patch into 2.6.4-pre6 main kernel tree, and the kernel mailing list was suspiciously quiet about the state of the Figure Skating patch.

And the Slashdot editors have been storm-moderating down all comments about Figure Skating, so you have to navigate at -3,Hell and Bellow to find it.

Maybe now, with the media all over it, we will finnaly be able to get a decent, open, Posix compliant, Microsoft free, beewulf cluster of these.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

That was just stupid (1.00 / 1) (#36)
by suick on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 08:24:59 PM EST

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
[ Parent ]
(+1, Funny) (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by bart on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:10:25 PM EST

As a Polish Canadian with roots in Lithuania, I am starting to feel quite dirty.

[ Parent ]
Speaking of modstorming (4.00 / 2) (#59)
by wiredog on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 08:36:20 AM EST

Take a look at the ratings war going on with this comment.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
My fault (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by Pac on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:02:08 AM EST

Being from a warm and snowless country, I would never guess Winter Olympics, and particularly Figure Skating, were such vital matters to so many people around here.

Lesson learned, next time I feel the urge to make a lame joke about a post I will choose less important submissions. Probably texts about the War on Terrorism, the recession, Microsoft last security flaw, Linux in the desktop, Enron...

(just kidding, I would do it again with FS exactly as I would with my country's national sport - soccer :))

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
Bias of judges (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by Pseudoephedrine on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 07:08:53 PM EST

The bias of the judges to the Russian and French delegations in the winter Olympics is an open secret - I've heard it said before that no one but a Russian team will ever win the 'Dance' category. There was a scandal about this at the world championships a few years back (it was pretty big event up here in Canada at the time) when another Canadian team lost to an inferior Russian team because of politics (one of the judges ended up being kicked out, IIRC). Figure skating's best bet to clean up the sport would probably be to recruit only from countries who are at the Olympics, but aren't competing in that sport, if possible. So, if Lithuania isn't running a candidate for the women's short program, then they get to judge the women's short program. If you can't find anyone, at least get rid of Russia, Poland, and France from the judging, since they're three of the worst for voting politically.

"We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of human ideals" -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
the fact is... (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by Robert S Gormley on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 09:03:06 PM EST

the judges agree?

Says who? If this is a well known 'issue', is it not entirely possible, if not probable, that said judges took factors like this into account?

Sport vs. Art (3.66 / 3) (#41)
by THoliC on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 10:21:12 PM EST

Further down the page, in earlier comments, it has been argued that ice-skating should not even be considered a sport. Indeed, some posters proposed certain axioms as to what the true definition of a sport should be.

My first reaction on reading these was one of total agreement. I did not see the ice-skating in question (although my flatmates thought the Canadians were robbed), but this very issue occured to me as I watched another event: the Snowboard Halfpipe competition (both men's and women's).

I couldn't help but feel the most extreme admiration for all the competitors and the skills they displayed; and personally found it hard (even subjectively) to seperate perhaps the top 7 contenders in each event - they were all absolutely incredible. I know the USA managed a triple-whammy in the men's event, but even so I felt that Jarret Thomas (who got the bronze) was in some way robbed, and that the french girl, Doriane Vidal, should have got gold instead of silver.

Again, because of the subjective nature of judgement (and, as has been expressed earlier, the subjective way in which it is agreed by the administrators that the judging should be implemented), I couldn't help feeling that it was totally contrived rubbish. At the same time I held the completely paradoxical view that it was good that these events WERE in the Olympics, and that these people deserve at least equal recognition to those in other events that more 'objectively sport-like'.

The problem with dismissing anything that leaves room for subjective judgement from the pantheon of what is considered sport is twofold:

1.) As already stated: Devoted athletes, in whichever discipline, deserve recognition for their skill and devotion on an equal footing with others (and seeing as subjective 'sports' have been included for a number of years it would be unfair to dismiss the newer ones for that reason)

2.) You'd really have to ban all team sports too...

"What??? Why???" I hear you cry: A 4-3 score in Ice Hockey is surely about as objective a measure of prowess as is possible.

Well: yes AND no. We can all think of examples, I'm sure, where a bad, subjective decision by referee (a definite 'judge' in some sense) drastically altered the outcome of the game.

I don't know: It's too complex...

All I know is that I think the inclusion of these events makes for a more diverse and interesting Olympic experience (we're all talking about them now, right? - like they matter...)



has got us both,
looking for a bed today..."

Earlier comments... (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by axxeman on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:30:32 AM EST

...are further up the page for some people.

Desperately need Egyptologist. Can you help?
[ Parent ]

Stand... (none / 0) (#54)
by THoliC on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:29:32 AM EST

...on your head ;)

(point taken though...)


has got us both,
looking for a bed today..."

[ Parent ]
Different things (none / 0) (#66)
by elefantstn on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:38:00 AM EST

Well: yes AND no. We can all think of examples, I'm sure, where a bad, subjective decision by referee (a definite 'judge' in some sense) drastically altered the outcome of the game.

The difference is that the referee is making a judgement on one definitive objective criterion: did the player so something or not? Did the linebacker hit the quarterback after the play was over? Did the first basemen get his glove between the ball and the ground? That the referees, umpires, etc., sometimes get calls wrong does not mean that the rules for the sports are not entirely objective. When a judge at a figure skating event scores a competitor, it is based on his subjective opinion of how artistically he performed.

[ Parent ]
Clearly (none / 0) (#79)
by pietra on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:30:23 PM EST

you aren't a Raiders fan ;)

[ Parent ]
Good point (none / 0) (#83)
by elefantstn on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:09:35 PM EST

Although, I do believe that in that case the referee examined the evidence and came up with the correct interpretation of the rules. It's just too bad that the rules have been written in such a way as to be contrary to the spirit of the game.

[ Parent ]
Let the audience vote (2.50 / 2) (#44)
by FattMattP on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 11:00:51 PM EST

Why not take a cue from Kuro5hin and let the audience vote on who won? Why use these "official" judges at all?

Vote, vote, vote for the home team! (4.00 / 6) (#48)
by Kyle on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:54:30 AM EST

So, the one with the most fans in the audience wins?

[ Parent ]

Why not? (none / 0) (#84)
by elefantstn on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 12:15:42 PM EST

Hell, it's no worse than "who has the most fans in the judges' box."

[ Parent ]
Now an inquiry is scheduled (2.00 / 1) (#58)
by imrdkl on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 07:27:36 AM EST

The Intl. Skating Uniion will conduct an internal assessment related to this matter, according to this article on CNN

What I want to know is .... (none / 0) (#63)
by craigtubby on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 09:55:19 AM EST

When will Championship Staring be part of the Olympics - Spasskys win at the championship was classic and definately deserves some recognition.

try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *

The write up .... (none / 0) (#65)
by craigtubby on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 10:11:38 AM EST

To his great win is at



try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money, then you die.

* Webpage *
[ Parent ]

I think it was the judges (none / 0) (#68)
by psicE on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:04:21 AM EST

Am I the only person who thinks that the Canadians were a little better than the Russians on technical merit but were *far* better than the Russians artistically? Which, of course, makes me think that there was a conspiracy among the judges to rank the Russians higher in presentation, even if just a couple points higher than they would have otherwise, just to make sure they'd win.

Overblown and conspiracy hungry (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Daniel Stillwaggon on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:20:59 AM EST

I think that you may be the only one (or one of few) the Canadian program was better executed (a little bit) but was wooden, unemotional, and even the biased NBC announcers commented that it was much less technically difficult than the Russian program. Combined with the higher scores from the Short Program (1/3) it seemed clear to me that the Russians won (if by a narrow margin). The rest is overblown and conspiracy hungry hyperbole. Take for example the comment made by my candidate for most annoying commentator of the year, NBC's female commentator for this event: "The Russians could have done better. The Canadians could not have done any better and still lost" This was her "proof" that a controversy is amongst us. It also, coincidentally I'm sure, supported the announcers previous statements that the Canadians had already won (made before the scores were announced) and allowed them to retract the statement without admitting that they were wrong. Way to go NBC, back up your announcers and generate a scandal for ratings at the same time! Daniel

[ Parent ]
Re Scoring and Conspiracy (none / 0) (#73)
by gauntlet on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:45:55 AM EST

I didn't see the programs, so I'm not going to comment on whether they were emotional or stiff. I saw an interview with the Russian reporter covering the event, and he said that even they agreed the Canadians should have won, so I don't think it's any sort of home-continent bias. I'd be interested to see a poll of who people in Russia thought should have won.

All that aside, the scoring between the first and second programs is not combined. The scores are used inside a single program to determine a ranking for that program. That ranking is multiplied by a coefficient of importance for that program (.5 for the short, 1 for the long), and the products are added together. The end result is that second place in the short program is equivalent to being tied for the lead, and the only thing that ended up mattering was the scores given in the long program.

Furthermore, the French judge is reported to have said to colleagues that she was forced by her national skating union to vote for the Russians in return for a favour from the Russians in the ice dance competition. I was wary of attributing it to the judges at first, which was my reason for writing the article, but if this report is accurate, there is no doubt that the conspiracy was real.

The idea that they would invent a scandal for ratings in entertaining, but without basis in fact.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

RED MENACE! (none / 0) (#78)
by pietra on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 05:25:33 PM EST

No, not the Russians; the Chinese. My personal theory is that the judges were a tad biased, but not in the grand conspiracy-theory Soviet manner. Instead, I think that the Canadians were rated down just a smidge because the judges knew they were going to see the final Chinese pair next. For those of you who care about such things, the final skate of the night was much anticipated, as the Chinese skaters had been practicing a really insane move (a quadruple throw jump, wherein the male partner flings his female partner into the air, and she performs *four* full rotations before landing). No one had ever done it in the Olympics before (all prior throw jumps were triples, and most women can't do independent triple jumps at all). Artistry aside, if the Chinese skaters could have pulled that jump off flawlessly, they would have won. Period. It would have been an unprecedented athletic feat. As it was, they managed to do the full 4 rotations, but blow the landing, and consequently got the bronze medal. I think the judges were hedging their first-place bets until the Chinese skated. Net result was, the Canadians got screwed.

[ Parent ]
Like the electoral college (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by jolly st nick on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:12:23 AM EST

In the last US presidential election, the electoral college denied victory to the candidate with a plurality. Lots of handwringing went on over this, but the fact is that this is precisely what the system was designed to do -- to give small states a weight that is in greater in proportion to their population. This obscure patch to the plurality voting system is in there for a good reason. Assuming small states have distinct interests from large ones, then the interests of small states would be completely disenfranchised because citizens of these states could never join a winning coalition.

It seems to me that the skating voting system does something similar. It is designed so sometimes a less admired performance will win over a more admired one. It keeps the competitors honest, forcing them pay attention to technical factors as well as flamboyance. It designed to be beneficial to the sport, rather than perfectly fair to each individual competitor. In the end who can say if it is not fair? Why should a point of technical merit be equal to a point of artistic merit? Artistic merit can't even judged on a linear scale: the difference between 4.8 and 5.0 is the difference between two mediocre scores. The difference between 5.8 and 6.0 is the difference between an outstanding performance and a sublime one.

I have in the past competed in a sport (wushu) with similar judging problems. In theory, our sport is judged mostly on technical merit with a small allowance for the judge's opinion. The degree to which this is true depends on the training of the judges. In theory there are strict criteria for deductions and the number of deductions should leave only a small margin for artistic merit to tweak the rankings of technically very similar performances. In practice, your outfit, grooming, the air of authority with which you perform cast a halo over all of the judge's technical judgements. What I am saying is that artistic impression, even if it is given a separate score of its own, always gets a second bite of the apple.

Re Voting Methods (none / 0) (#74)
by gauntlet on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:54:41 AM EST

The scoring for skating is strange, actually, in that the scores of one judge are not compared to the scores of another. Essentially, the scores are used only to determine a pairwise ranking of the performances for each judge, and those rankings are added together and multiplied by different scores to determine the final ranking for each judge. Then, the competitor with the most "wins" in the pairwise competition wins the event.

So, essentially, it's nothing like the electoral college. The fact that artistic merit can't be judged on a linear scale is irrelevant. The scores are used only to determine a ranking for that judge. And in response to the question of who is to say that technical merit and artistry should receive equal balance, the ISU has that say, and has said so, by giving each categoy a scale of 6, and adding the two together in the rules.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

Of course (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by jolly st nick on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:46:42 PM EST

The scoring for skating is strange, actually, in that the scores of one judge are not compared to the scores of another

My sport works much the same as you seem suggest. However, it's far from perfect.

Consider this: I really liked so and so's performance so I ranked it very high. Another person's is much more parsimonious with scores and has a tighter spread. However he ranked the contestants identically. Did we agree or disagree? I see this all the time. In fact, because I score more widely means I have a big impact on who is winner, and my more critical colleague has no impact.

Basically, there's no way to assure that all judges are scoring on the same scale. Therefore adding the judges score is fundamentally meaningless. In my sport, there is one custom whihc is sometimes used to handle this problem: after a sampling of competitors have performed (say three out of ten), the judges have a conference and discuss the quality of the peformances and how they would weight them. They then agree on a point spread between their favorite and least favorite contestants which calibrates the scale for all the competitors. This is actually a good system, although it may be an embarassing admission of the subjectivity of the scoring scales. However, even this system is not foolproof, and inevitably (especially with larger numbers of contestants) the indivdual judges' scoring style affects the outcome in unpredictable ways.

The fact that artistic merit can't be judged on a linear scale is irrelevant.

Not at all, because at the outset each judge's ranking is determined (if I understand correctly -- I don't follow figure skating) by adding the two scores together. This means that it is guaranteed that the rankings of any individual judge will sometimes be counterintuitive, since it will favor technical points over overall impression, and in fact favors it in the case of ties.

Just like the electoral college, these results are by definition going to be unpopular, but there are good reasons for such unpopular results to exist. Also, it is likely a better system could be devised, but as a caution the Arrow impossibilty theorem applies here: there is no system of combining the pairwise preferences of individuals into a groupwise ranking that won't result in some people being "robbed" of victory when the rankings are looked at some way. It's mathemtaically provable that there is no way to amalgamate individual rankings into an unambiguously fair group ranking. In addition, the interests of the sport must be weighed in as well as the fairness to the judges and competitors.

My comparison to the electoral college don't mean I consider the systems mathematically isomorphic, but that like the electoral college some "bugs" may actually be intentional features.

And in response to the question of who is to say that technical merit and artistry should receive equal balance, the ISU has that say, and has said so, by giving each categoy a scale of 6, and adding the two together in the rules.

Here I fear you are deliberately mistaking what I said. I asked "who is to say whether it is fair" rather than "who is to say that it shall be so." Adopting the fiction that two numbers are on the same scale for scoring purposes is not the same as assuring the fact.

[ Parent ]

What's the point? (none / 0) (#77)
by gauntlet on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 04:29:08 PM EST

I don't think we disagree on the fact that not comparing judges' individual scores is a good idea.

I still maintain that the fact that the artistic score is going to be on a different scale for each judge is irrelevant. You seem to be saying that the overall impression is not reflected by adding the technical and artistic impression marks. I disagree, on the basis that if I were the judge, and I felt that the technical marks did not do justice to the quality of the performace, I would give a higher artistic impression mark to compensate for it.

In any case, it's not an argument for using the artistic mark to break ties, which was the original complaint.

You said yourself that Arrow's theorum tells us that there can be no "fair" system, so I ignored the moot question of who shall decide which one is fair. Instead, I'm concerned with the rules that are imposed, and those are written by the ISU.

Into Canadian Politics?
[ Parent ]

Let me clarify my point (none / 0) (#81)
by jolly st nick on Thu Feb 14, 2002 at 09:20:36 AM EST

My point is that it's a fools errand to try to develop a judging system that doesn't occasionally have results that looked at in certain ways are flawed. According to Arrow's theorem, is a certain arbitrariness to any election system ranking three or more candidates. The relevance of the difference in scales in technical and artistic merit is that it is another source of arbitrariness that leads to some unexpected results. Combine these things and you have a practical limit to how perfectly your judging system can work.

You seem to be under the impression that I think adding the technical and artistic scores is an unworkable thing. This is not my opinion. I think it is workable, but we cannot expect it to be perfect and come up with results that everyone will agree upon after the fact. In practice, judging systems don't have to be perfect. They just have to be sufficiently predictable that they give the contestants something to aim for. Furthermore, the scoring system must do more than be fair to each individual performance, it must be good for the sport as a whole.

If making a perfectly fair system were the highest priority, you would create a system based on technical merit alone, using an objectively measurable scale with so many deductions for every fault, etc. Such scores could be added objectively, the differnces between judges should only be lapses of observation or differences in vantage point. However, artistry is an important part of the sport, and while there is no accounting for taste, you still could reasonably add the judges artistic score, provided you train the judges to score the contestants on a similar scale. This introduces a small degree of arbitrariness (what is worth a tenth of a point artistically speaking), but if you disagree with the results, its a simple matter of a difference of opinion.

However, skating is a sport in which technical and artistic factors are important. As soon as you combine those two factors, you are guaranteed to have results that seem to be unfair or even arbitrary. If you fixed the rules to work better in this case, there will be future cases that are just as broken but in different ways.

It is important to the sport to combine these two factors, but it gurantees that there will be differences in opinon. The interests of the sport to maintain these two independent scales of performance overrule the interests of the contestants. Getting all prosecutorial over mathematically inevitable flaws is just poor sportsmanship.

If I were to suggest a system that would be more fair than the current one, sufficiently simple that an ordinary person can understand it, and scrupulously fair to each performance, I would suggest this. Score the performances independently for artistic and technical merit, add the judges' scores in each category separately and award two independent championships. A performance could potentially win up to two medals. If one couple were superior on both categories, they'd get a double-gold, a kind of superchampionship that would carry a kind of glory that would motivate contestants to work on both aspects of their performance.

In the current case, we'd have one couple walking off with an artistic gold and another with a technical gold. It may be disconcerting that there is no single championship pair, but this reflects the reality that neither pair was agreed by the judges to be superior in both categories. Any attempt to name a single champion will necessarily be unfair to one or the other pair.

Such a system avoids the arbitrariness of adding numbers awarded on incommensurable scales. It also avoids the Arrow theorem, which is about the impossibility of composing pairwise preferences into a composite preferences. The judges are not raking candidates, they are scoring them.

[ Parent ]

Why (none / 0) (#85)
by linca on Sun Feb 17, 2002 at 06:26:57 PM EST

Why don't the canadians scream for their stolen bronze medal, as Ono got silver after the massive fall he caused?

Figure Skating Needs Rule Revision | 86 comments (67 topical, 19 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!