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    Janet Lynn on COP and the decline of figure skating

    Very interesting recent articles from Janet Lynn and Liz Leamy on COP and the declining popularity of Figure Skating:-

    Janet Lynn Article

    Liz Leamy Article

    Janet Lynn's comments were as follows: "Figure skating has provided the world a visual picture of freedom, lifting the human spirit, at least before figure skating took a nasty debilitating tumble...Complex rules (International Judging System or IJS) that make a person's head ache, now dictate what skaters must perform. Those rules for measurement employ an equally head-splitting concoction of computations to count points earned...Earning points is the goal, not learning how to skate....The safety of growing skaters is no longer on the radar screen. If it were, skaters would not be dictated to perform contorted positions or maniacal jumping....Measurement is the new paradigm. The paradox is that qualities that historically made skating popular for skaters and audiences are not measurable. Skating to music cannot be measured. Music played during a skater’s performance has become something like elevator music; sometimes it is heard and sometimes not. Most of the time the skater’s music is not connected to anything, not even the tricks and "jumping passes" performed to tally up more points. Here is a tiny partial list of audience pleasing skating skills that cannot be measured: smiles; pointed toe; stretched leg; line of body; flowing true edges and change-of-edges; long controlled glide that looks like it floats-- to music; footwork that makes the music come alive throughout the performance; an edge or turn that "whispers" (instead of ripping or grinding), the excitement of a classic sit, change sit, change sit, change sit spin to exacting music; a long blurred spin with musical crescendo. Oh, how the immeasurable soaring delayed one revolution axel made audiences feel as if they were flying with the skater! How is the intangible joy of skating measured? The imagination to create beauty and excitement on ice is unending. Watching skating used to be interesting and relaxing. Now it is monotonous and stress filled...If the present International Judging System had been in place in the past centuries, the axel, salchow, lutz, Hamill Camel, Biellmann spin and on and on, would never have been invented...The system no longer assures knowledge, security, individuality and freedom on ice. Longevity of skating is sacrificed. Now, too often skaters never start, or soon stop, competing. Coaches don’t want to teach competitive skaters. They would rather not "deal with" the complex rules for measurement. Talented choreographers stop choreographing. It is bland at best, or boring, to choreograph for skaters who have never learned much of the skilled language on ice. Heads hurt trying to follow the dictatorial rules of measurement. Figure skating enthusiasts, are we having fun measuring yet? If measurable defines sport, then anyone who can best measure the distance between their eyebrows is performing a sport. Objective measurement is causing figure skating to fall from popular grace. The technique is wrong for enthusing skaters to keep skating, general audiences to watch, and news media to retain interest. Measured numbers tell the story. Will those that rule figure skating and are the "umbrella for the concept of skating" [iii] recover the foundations and freedom of a beautiful, exciting sport and art? Will they stop imposters from decomposing figure skating into dull, tedious, one dimensional measurement? Suggestion for regaining popularity in figure skating: Teach skaters how to skate a resplendent language on ice with necessary self-government and set them free to beautiful music. Figure skating is culture. Culture matters. Why has interest fallen in a once grand and glorious sport and art? Freedom is fragile in all its forms. Freedom springs forth from sound foundations. Foundations and freedom have been stripped from figure skating. A totalitarian system of measurement does not breed freedom on ice that lifts the human spirit."

    I couldn't agree with Janet Lynn more. COP/IJS in my opinion is the biggest factor in the declining popularity of figure skating. It has basically turned a once great artform and sport into something that is a lot more monotonous. I would never say that figure skating has become boring per se, but certainly, compared with what it was pre-2002, it is a lot more tedious and overpacked with the so called 'point scoring' elements. In turn, this has mean't that a lot of the artistry has been lost - and at the end of the day, it was the artistry that was the biggest crowd puller. The horribly low attendance figures at Skate America in particular and at the grand prix events in general are a wake up call and COP needs to go. In essence, bring back the artistry and that will bring back public attention
    Last edited by Maofan7; 11-21-2011 at 07:13 PM.

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    COP should be kept for ice dancing and maybe pairs, and scrapped for singles IMHO. Singles skating has only gotten worse since COP was introduced, minus the magnificient 2010 Olympic ladies event but I doubt that had anything to do with COP and was merely inspite of it.

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    Wow - she is as good at writing and expressing herself as she was at skating! I never would have found the words to express it that way........but right she is.
    DH - and that's just my opinion

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    She is very smart. Everything she said is so true.

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    I do agree with much of what Janet says but it is interesting to hear her lament the demise of the figures system; a system which she herself suffered under and which began its demise almost directly due to the perceived injustice (by fans and media) of her incomparable freeskating not being able to win gold medals.

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    Free the Free Skate!!

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    Watching skating used to be interesting and relaxing. Now it is monotonous and stress filled
    I think she is being over dramatic.

    I feel no more stressed watching Kim as I did Kwan nor do I find one more interesting over the other.

    This:

    5.7 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.7 6.0 5.7 5.8

    makes no more sense than:

    72.30 + 85.14 = 146.44

    If people want to follow figure skating for the love of the sport they will follow make an effort to understand the the rule changes, just like in any other sport.

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    Quote Originally Posted by floskate View Post
    I do agree with much of what Janet says but it is interesting to hear her lament the demise of the figures system; a system which she herself suffered under and which began its demise almost directly due to the perceived injustice (by fans and media) of her incomparable freeskating not being able to win gold medals.
    She may have not been the best at figures but I'm sure she realizes that her marvelous edges & control may not have been possible without figures. Years ago Janet often spoke of Trixie Shubert & how much in awe she & Karen Magnussen were of Trixie's figures.

    IMO the problem was that they put too much weight on figures (60% during Janet's era). If it had been something like 20%, which is what used to be used for the QR, maybe figures would have survived.

    It is true that Janet might have an OGM without figures. But maybe Todd Eldrege would have one if quads hadn't come along or Michelle Kwan would if there were no 3/3's. You deal with the rules at the time. Which skaters are doing now, but I agree with her that much beauty has gone out of the sport.

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    Quote Originally Posted by julieann View Post
    I think she is being over dramatic.

    I feel no more stressed watching Kim as I did Kwan nor do I find one more interesting over the other.

    This:

    5.7 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.7 6.0 5.7 5.8

    makes no more sense than:

    72.30 + 85.14 = 146.44


    If people want to follow figure skating for the love of the sport they will follow make an effort to understand the the rule changes, just like in any other sport.
    Actually, I understand those first marks far more easily than the "new and improved COP" ones. And before you spout it again, I *have* tried to learn the COP system, but unless you've got a Masters in Complex Math, then Good Luck to you.

    Janet is not being overdramatic. She's hit the problem straight on the head and voiced so more beautifully than I think any of us could try to. I remember my Dad saying in the mid 80's that he couldn't understand why I watched skating as it all looked the same to him. As he learned as the years have gone on, it wasn't, but it sure is now.

    Rarely do I pull out my tapes or discs of the last six to seven years, but I'll pull out my tapes from mid 80's to 2002 all the time. Sadly, it's to remember what a great thing skating used to be instead of what it's turned into now.

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    I think a lot of the time skaters were given the benefit of the doubt on jumps and it was easier to score at home because if I a jump was done you didn't have to wait for a technical panel to review it and and put a < in a protocol sheet that are rarely if ever talked about while a competition is on TV! There just is not enough time for TV to go over performances in detail. Skating on TV is treated wrong. Every time a jump is landed a score should show up on the screen! This is not 6.0 where a score was unified at the end. Someone lands a lutz "7 Points!" You can't watch other sports without a lot of time the top and bottom of the screen loaded with numbers! DUH figure skating is like that now!! CROWD THE SCREEN!

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    Quote Originally Posted by taf2002 View Post
    She may have not been the best at figures but I'm sure she realizes that her marvelous edges & control may not have been possible without figures. Years ago Janet often spoke of Trixie Shubert & how much in awe she & Karen Magnussen were of Trixie's figures.

    IMO the problem was that they put too much weight on figures (60% during Janet's era). If it had been something like 20%, which is what used to be used for the QR, maybe figures would have survived.

    It is true that Janet might have an OGM without figures. But maybe Todd Eldrege would have one if quads hadn't come along or Michelle Kwan would if there were no 3/3's. You deal with the rules at the time. Which skaters are doing now, but I agree with her that much beauty has gone out of the sport.
    Of course she realises it. Sorry if my post misled you but I wasn't blaming Janet in any way for the demise in figures. I've just always been struck by the irony that the decreasing of figures value in 1973 was pretty much a rule made for Janet. I totally agree that skating would be better off if figures were still part of the system. Not necessarily in championships but along the way at test level. But I understand the reasons why they are not done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by julieann View Post

    This:

    5.7 5.7 5.8 5.9 5.7 6.0 5.7 5.8

    makes no more sense than:

    72.30 + 85.14 = 146.44
    I'm always puzzled when people argue that general public understands 6.0 system better. The fact that there are less numbers doesn't make it more understandable. People are not that stupid that they don't get that one skater scored higher than another. If they don't understand why, than they sure wouldn't understand it under 6.0 either. It has always bothered me as a casual fan that there is simply no explanation in 6.0 system. The viewers are just told that skater A is first and skater B is fourth, without even knowing what the judges are looking for. Sure, not everyone understands under IJS either, but you can at least try to educate yourself. It's really not that hard to see "hey, this jump got negative GOE all over the board, there must have been something wrong" or "gee, base value of this jump is higher, it must be more complicated". I think people make COP more mathematical than it really is. It is not differential calculus or trigonometry, it is just arithmetics.
    Many sports have complex rules and I very much doubt that general public has read hundreds of pages of FIFA rulebooks but this doesn't stop them learning the basics of soccer if they're interested in the sport. COP has its flaws but I very much doubt that the decline of figure skating has to do with the scoring system.

    I wonder, was the demise of figures lamented the same way back in the day?
    Last edited by Margaret; 11-21-2011 at 08:23 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Margaret View Post
    I'm always puzzled when people argue that general public understands 6.0 system better. The fact that there are less numbers doesn't make it more understandable. People are not that stupid that they don't get that one skater scored higher than another. If they don't understand why, than they sure wouldn't understand it under 6.0 either. It has always bothered me as a casual fan that there is simply no explanation in 6.0 system. The viewers are just told that skater A is first and skater B is fourth, without even knowing what the judges are looking for. Sure, not everyone understands under IJS either, but you can at least try to educate yourself.
    Many sports have complex rules and I very much doubt that general public has read FIFA rulebooks but this doesn't stop them learning the basics of soccer if they're interested in the sport. COP has its flaws but I very much doubt that the decline of figure skating has to do with the scoring system.

    I wonder, was the demise of figures lamented the same way back in the day?
    I don't think some understood the sport any more under the 6.0 then they do now. I think they knew 6.0 was better than 5.9 they just didn't know why the judges thought so. It was the same when gymnastics used the 10.00 system.

    I think in most sports if you are interested in the sport, you learn the rules; athletes will always continue to push themselves to the limits of their bodies. Sports evolve, skaters need to appreciate it for what it is now.

    Compared to some other sports the rules of skating are pretty easy to learn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Margaret View Post
    I'm always puzzled when people argue that general public understands 6.0 system better. The fact that there are less numbers doesn't make it more understandable. People are not that stupid that they don't get that one skater scored higher than another. If they don't understand why, than they sure wouldn't understand it under 6.0 either. It has always bothered me as a casual fan that there is simply no explanation in 6.0 system. The viewers are just told that skater A is first and skater B is fourth, without even knowing what the judges are looking for. Sure, not everyone understands under IJS either, but you can at least try to educate yourself. It's really not that hard to see "hey, this jump got negative GOE all over the board, there must have been something wrong" or "gee, base value of this jump is higher, it must be more complicated". I think people make COP more mathematical than it really is. It is not differential calculus or trigonometry, it is just arithmetics.
    Many sports have complex rules and I very much doubt that general public has read hundreds of pages of FIFA rulebooks but this doesn't stop them learning the basics of soccer if they're interested in the sport. COP has its flaws but I very much doubt that the decline of figure skating has to do with the scoring system.

    If you don't believe me, take a look at the gymnastics floor routines. Show me even one example where the gymnast tries to use the music. This is the direction that skating is headed in.
    I wonder, was the demise of figures lamented the same way back in the day?
    This is missing the point. Janet's argument has nothing to do with results. It's about the skating. All of the things that used to make skating special are deteriorating and it's not as beautiful to watch. If I wanted to count points and keep time, I'd watch any other stupid sport where balls fly into nets and finish lines are crossed. I realize that some people may like counting every spin position and footwork step, but I don't. I like to sit back, and take in the overall impact of a skater's creation.

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    Unfortunately, most of her lament just adds fuel to the fire that figure skating isn't a sport, but a performance art.

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    Please. allow Janet the privilege of expressing herself as she sees fit; whether you agree with her. or not.

    I admire Trixi Schuba's beautiful figures as much as anyone could.
    Should she have been able to trounce her competition for years because of them, when the other elements of her skating were at nowhere near the same level?

    No.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple Butz View Post
    This is missing the point. Janet's argument has nothing to do with results. It's about the skating. All of the things that used to make skating special are deteriorating and it's not as beautiful to watch. If I wanted to count points and keep time, I'd watch any other stupid sport where balls fly into nets and finish lines are crossed. I realize that some people may like counting every spin position and footwork step, but I don't. I like to sit back, and take in the overall impact of a skater's creation.
    But it is a sport, some kind of quantification of the results comes with the territory. Otherwise it would just come down to personal taste.

    I just don't think that artistry was killed with COP and there's no beauty left in figure skating. People are always more fond of their era and more emotionally involved with the skaters they admired when they started watching the sport. But every sport progresses and evolves, this is inevitable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by taf2002 View Post
    IMO the problem was that they put too much weight on figures (60% during Janet's era). If it had been something like 20%, which is what used to be used for the QR, maybe figures would have survived.
    True although even just 20% was enough to create travesties:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvgWI8QDrzQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqGlVby9xzg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q-TyL-Fe_o

    I still far prefer the figures era to the COP era in singles though. The COP era is the death of singles skating.
    Last edited by judgejudy27; 11-21-2011 at 09:07 PM.

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    I think that you can't say it be more holistic and keep it in the Olympics as a sport.

    In some ways, I think when it was strictly (or majorly) judged by figures, you were comparing apples to apples in something very easily measured, which made much more sense as a sport. In terms of having programs and free skating, having a more holistic system may work for figure skating but it also makes it less sportive IMO. Sport has to be as defensible in its results as possible - which is why moves to include better review for goals in hockey, in soccer, and other sports is generally a key move.

    The problem in figure skating is that so many things go on at the same time, that people can key into one area but lose track of the larger picture. It is much easier to check off the list of what one needs to do to perform well in other sports - run faster, throw harder, score without violating other rules, etc. COP, I think, is an attempt to try and take all the one areas and integrate them into a larger picture, but it is tough for people to understand because of how they were previously shown to appreciate skating.

    Simply put - think of whether or not COP was the dominating system before 6.0, and then 6.0 would be introduced. I would think the same kinds of denouncements (under different reasons) would occur, probably because programs would get 'too simple', the judging would be 'far more arbitrary', etc. It's the whole 'grass is greener on the other side' argument, but in this case, COP makes more sense from a sportive point of view. Speaking anecdotally to a small number of people who think figure skating should not be in the Olympics as a sport, they've said that while they don't see it should be included period, COP makes more sense from their point of view because if someone wants to understand what happened, they can more easily track what happened. That didn't happen under 6.0.

    Thinking about it, I think they're right. COP needs tweaking, it needs better actual implementation of its rules (and following by judges), but IMO it is in essence the superior judging system from a sportive point of view. Seeing some of the skates of the past, you can argue that they are 'elegant', 'attractive', etc., but those kinds of descriptors are even more arbitrary than what's currently listed under COP. For instance, facial expression is not an Asian aesthetic for artistic performance, but in figure skating there's always the outcry that people are so stone-faced or whatever. If you bring in those cultural overtones, aren't you basically saying that the activity is culture-specific, which I think erodes one of the general ideas of sport's attractiveness (universality)?

    I don't deny that the current layout requirements for skaters may make programs too dense to digest and appreciate, nor do I deny that the current system could use significant overhaul. That being said, reverting to a more holistic scale, IMO, makes figure skating more of an art, less of a sport, and ultimately I would like to watch it but favor its inclusion less in the Olympics. YMMV, but as it is, I feel it's already on the fine line because of the external part-subjective judging component, along with gymnastics and diving, which I also enjoy watching.

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    Couldn't agree more with Margaret and julieann! For me the main difference between 6.0 and COP is that now understand (in most cases) why skater A got a better placement than skater B and how a mistake effects the score/placement. Under 6.0 it was not clear how the elements and mistakes exactly effected the score. Now you know for example that a 4t-3t comination is worth 14.40 points vs. a 3f-3t combination: 9.40 points.

    One thing that is the same: There are boring programs under 6.0 (for example Timothy Goebel) and under COP and there are interesting programs under 6.0 and COP (for example Yuna Kim, D. Takahashi).

    Skating changes also under 6.0: If you watch programs from the 1970s they are different than the programs of the 1990s. I started watching skating in the 90s and I don't like most programs I've watched from the 70s. So it's not just COP that changed the look of skating... it's also the time/era, taste, certain skaters etc.

    COP actually requires more of the skaters, it's more demanding and - given that a sport is supposed to develop - that's actually a good thing. Now you need not only difficult jumps, but also difficult spins, steps etc. (Compare Alexei Yagudin and Patrick Chan) In that regard it got back to the beginning: skating/gliding/FIGURE skating. One of the main reasons of Patrick Chan's superiority is that his late coach Mr. O. Colson made him train figures every day, very unusual nowadays.

    ETA: I also agree with jl: great argumentation!
    Last edited by skatingfan26; 11-21-2011 at 09:17 PM.

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