So...exactly how objective were compulsory figures?
As someone who became a skating fan after the elimination of figures, I've often wondered how objective the judging process was regarding them back in the day.
We all know about the extensive history figure skating has had with politicking and shady when it comes to judging SPs and LPs, but how much did that factor into compulsory placement?
How much was quantitative, how much qualitative?
Was it simply a matter of making the right mark on the ice or not, or the correct shape or not? Or was there a lot of subjective nuance between figures to play with and potentially hold up certain skaters over others?
That's the $ 64,000 question. Kind of busy now but will write more later.
In the fire and ice movie Dorothy Hammil complains that there were no real established international guidelines for judging figures. That is, you never knew from judge to judge about how they weighed the different parts of figures, whether a particular judge was more interested in clean turns or tracings close together or well formed circles. Ideally it was all important but ....
Related to this, over time the judges seemed to pay more attention to closeness of tracings and less to other features. The footage of the last figurres competition I've seen (1990 worlds) displays some really ugly postures (kicking rather than swinging the free leg through the change of edge on a loop figure for example).
I think roller figures (which are still competed) have clear guidelines where (for example) clean turns are more important than staying on the figure away from the turn and skaters are also judged on speed and posture and not only on how well they keep to the lines.
On the other hand, i that same fire and ice movie, one experienced judge of figures competitions claims the results were fairer and more accurate than free skating judging. In a way I can believe him as the figures section was first and the skaters competed in random order. By the SP they were already seeded (and the judges had made scoring investments in some of the skaters) and that has to have had an influence on the judging.
I guess this is because skaters spent less and less time doing figures. The problem is that it's less objective when everybody is mediocre !
Originally Posted by Mafke
In ice dancing, Compulsories could be very objective. That was the most objective part of the competition, IMO.
I think the video you're referring to was Reflections on Ice - a diary of ladies figure skating. It was Ben Wright who, as an international judge and referree of many years standing, stated that the judging of figures was much better than free skating in many instances. Cecilia Colledge was also quoted in this section saying that judges certainly had their favourites but that is all she would say on the matter and it's hard to tell if she was quoted out of context.
Originally Posted by Mafke
It's so hard to judge the marking because there is no footage and only hearsay to go by in most cases. I do remember reading about Robin Cousins being held up in figures in one competition despite getting a 2.9 from his own judge sally Stapleford. He later said that she gave him what he really deserved.
There have been some curious results with video to back them up. Manley winning 2 out of 3 figures at the 1988 Worlds and somehow managing to lose the figures portion to Witt is a result I still do not understand to this day.