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  1. #1

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    Hypothetical -- What should the free skate reward?

    Let's imagine the following 4-minute women's programs. All are performed cleanly to the best of the skaters' ability, and all are comparable in terms of speed, edge security, and jump size.

    If all were competing against each other under 6.0 marking, how do you think you would rank them?

    It seems to me that we'd come up with very different rankings for these programs if emphasis is on jump contest, all-around technical contest, art contest, entertainment contest, or best balance of all of the above.

    So what kind of contest should Olympic-track freeskating be?

    If you were designing rules for the final phase of freeskating competition, which of these approaches would want to favor? Which would you want to discourage in competition but encourage in other contexts?


    Skater A: 3A, 3Lz+3T, 3F+3T, 2Lo+3Lo, 3Lz, 2A, 3S
    Four spins; simple basic positions, solid but not exceptional quality. Not many transitions, aside from a decent Ina Bauer and a basic spiral sequence. Step sequence is quick and rhythmic, not very difficult. Bombastic symphonic or soundtrack music with appropriate general phrasing and highlight moments. Average body line, basic general connection to the music and audience.

    Skater B: 3Lz+2T, 3F+2T, 3Lo, 3Lz, 3F, 2A+2T, 3S, 3T, 2A
    Four spins, level 1 to level 3; a few difficult variations, nothing very contorted, nice positions, good centering, average speed. Strong spirals, spread eagles, and edge work throughout, including a lyrical, moderately complex step sequence. Intensely engaged performance to instrumental opera music, telling the emotional arc of the story through full body movement in the steps and transitions and some spin positions with good musical phrasing and nuance. Simple steps entering or enhanced landings of some solo jumps; some break in musical connection to set up jump combos with multiple crossovers. Above-average body line.

    Skater C: 3Lz+3T, 2A+3T, 3Lo, 2A, 3F+2T+2Lo, 3Lz, 3S
    Three level 4 spins and level 4 steps, with transitions in and out of solo jumps and spins. Choreo sequence emphasizing flexibility. Lots of "stuff" thrown in seemingly to gain technical and Transitions points with no evident theme; vague connection to audience and generic New Age music. Generally average carriage and line, but some spin and spiral positions are painful to behold

    Skater D: 3Lz+2T, 3F, 2A+1 Lo+3S, 3Lz, 3Lo, 2A+2Lo, 3T
    One level 4 and two level 3 spins with fairly good technical quality; level 3 steps with excellent choreography to the music and the storytelling theme; complex transitions and patterning between and in and out of elements. Good execution and good use of the technical content to support a character-driven story to a classic movie soundtrack. Above-average body line, good musical connection except during spins and to set up difficult jumps.

    Skater E: 3Lo, 2A+2A+seq (with reverse 1A between them), 3T, 3S, 2Lz+2F+seq
    Highly refined abstract thematic performance to challenging chamber music. Excellent body line and connection to every beat of the music. One exquisite sustained classic layback to end; otherwise the several other spins are brief, woven into the musical and choreographic structure. No separate step sequence or spiral/choreo sequence, but complex edge work and extended glides in position continue throughout the program so that every move flows into the next with no breaks and never more than one crossover at a time. Most of the skating takes place in the center of the ice with rare excursions to either end.

    Skater F: 3T+3T, 3S, 2A+2A+seq, split 1F, backflip
    Charismatic extroverted performance to upbeat club dance music. Flashy spins including a high-flying deathdrop, complicated combo spin with wowie-zowie flexi positions, blinding fast scratch spin to end. One straight-line sequence of flashy ultraquick steps and toe work (but few if any turns), as well as highlight moves like barrel rolls, quick "Scottie" turns, arabians, cantilever, split jumps, etc., throughout, interspersed with dance breaks in place. Almost all travel is along straight lines and simple counterclockwise circles. Lots of eye contact with the audience, who are inspired to clap along throughout.

  2. #2

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    This is really difficult to answer abstractly, and the descriptions are rather opaque. For example, you only talk about ice coverage in one case (E); you only talk about audience connection in one case (F; skater B is "intensely engaged" but we have all seen programs where such engagement is not shared by the audience); and it is hard to believe that a skater with A's jump content would not have the audience on its feet, but you say she has only a basic connection with the audience. You talk about them all having comparable speed but only some have "ultraquick" or "quick and rhythmic" steps. You name the levels but mostly dont describe the steps or spins, and to me the leveling of everything has often, but not always, led to overcomplication and sometimes an excruciating loss of speed -- what I want to know is if the highly levelled spins and steps are also beautiful or exciting.

    Soooo.... I have a lot of reservations about the question... but based on what I think you are saying, I would prefer Skater A (who sounds like Midori Ito apart from the incredible line about average audience connection) to be most rewarded. She is the only one pushing the envelope technically as far as jumps go... but I would hope she is young enough to grow artistically or to find a better choreographer next time.

    Skater B is presented very positively, with all her triples, apparently great artistry, and moves that should pull in the audience - but I dont want to lose the 3-3. I would want her to be rewarded highly but probably not as much as the phenomenal Skater A.

    I would want Skater D judged as fairly equivalent to Skater B - a little less jump content but with stronger spins.

    Skater E is exquisite but lacking enough technical content and ice coverage for an Olympic medal, sorry!

    Skater C seems to have wow moments and lots of technical skill but is distinctly inferior artistically, so she shouldnt beat Skater A who is not only well rounded, but has totally wow jumps.

    Skater F obviously needs to move into show skating due to her simple jump content, but cheap tricks aside, it could be nice to see some of her exciting moves in competitive programs. I also dont see why "upbeat club dance music" or other pop music shouldnt be in competitive programs if they inspire the skaters and the audience (apart from my stodgy self) gets a kick out if them. I love competitive skaters who really connect with audiences - but there is a difference, and I dont enjoy seeing competitive skaters pumping up the audience to cover up their lack of technical content.

    I find myself reacting to your descriptions with a mind already formed by IJS categories. Which I think is what you wanted to call into question. My take on your exercise is that it could be summed up by a simple question: would we be willing to sacrifice jump content for artistry, beauty, spins, or well-rounded programs? Because you carefully made your skaters equal in terms of speed and execution. My hypothetical answer ... which might be totally dfferent if we looked at actual programs... is No, but we need to leave room for the X factor - magic, which could come in any of those forms -- jumps, spins, speed, beauty, execution, artistry, or perfection of the program. And when it happens it should be rewarded.

  3. #3

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    Thanks, Spun Silver.

    I was thinking that A would be a jump-focused 6.0-style program, B a 6.0-style program by a typical "artist" (as opposed to "athlete") type skater, C an IJS-friendly athletic/technically focused program, D an IJS-friendly program that aims at artistry, E an ice-theatre-style program, and F an exhibition-style program.

    My personal opinions:

    I think A-D are all valid approaches to a competitive free skate, and I'd like to see rules and scoring system that can allow them to compete against each other on an even playing field. I think D is the most "well balanced" in terms of variety of skills, so if I were judging those four programs against each other under under 6.0 judging I would probably put D first. But it would all depend exactly how well each of the skaters performed that day.

    With IJS-style scoring, if I were a judge I would just mark each element and each program component according to its own merits, and let the results fall where they may. Looking at a broader picture, I'd want the system itself to be structured so as to reward D for the various areas that are missing from A, B, or C's programs. But if those skaters perform their simpler programs very well, they may earn enough more in jump base value (A and C) or components (B), or GOEs, to close the gap on any given day, which would be fair.

    I'd hope that all of these skaters are able and encouraged to use contrasting music styles for their short programs or in other seasons.

    I think E and F could be appropriate for shows or for professional/interpretive competitions -- depending on the structure of such a competition, they might or might not belong in the same events as each other. They also could be judged against each other or against standard freeskate programs more meaningfully by IJS than by 6.0, although they would come up short against top-level standard freeskate programs because of the lack of technical content.

    I don't think E and F are appropriate approaches to program construction for top-level competitive sport. I would hate to rewrite the rules, as some have suggested at times, so that the final round of competition is an artistic program with limited technical content -- and non-well-balanced choreographic use of the ice surface.

    In an art competition targeted toward classical music and dance fans, I would expect program E to be the favorite, and in an entertainment competition targeted toward general audiences, I would expect F to prevail. I think the sport governing bodies might want to consider adding competition circuits with such emphases to appeal to those fan bases, and to skaters who can excel in those areas to a degree that audiences would pay to see but who who are limited in their ability to meet one or more areas of technical demands of Olympic-style well-balanced programs. I just wouldn't expect the IOC to accept that/those competition format(s) as Olympic events.

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