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Janet Lynn on COP and the decline of figure skating

Discussion in 'Great Skate Debate' started by Maofan7, Nov 21, 2011.

  1. Maofan7

    Maofan7 Member

    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: Nov 21, 2011
    Pierre and (deleted member) like this.
  2. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    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.
    Pierre and (deleted member) like this.
  3. AxelAnnie

    AxelAnnie Well-Known Member

    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.
  4. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

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

    floskate Vacant

    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.
  6. caseyedwards

    caseyedwards Well-Known Member

    Free the Free Skate!!
  7. julieann

    julieann Well-Known Member

    I think she is being over dramatic. :rolleyes:

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


    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.
  8. taf2002

    taf2002 zexy demon

    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.
  9. AragornElessar

    AragornElessar Well-Known Member

    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. :(
  10. caseyedwards

    caseyedwards Well-Known Member

    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!
  11. floskate

    floskate Vacant

    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.
    taf2002 and (deleted member) like this.
  12. Margaret

    Margaret New Member

    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: Nov 21, 2011
    mag, jamesy, alilou and 3 others like this.
  13. julieann

    julieann Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. Triple Butz

    Triple Butz Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. Conga

    Conga Member

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

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    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?

  17. Margaret

    Margaret New Member

    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.
  18. judgejudy27

    judgejudy27 Well-Known Member

    True although even just 20% was enough to create travesties:



    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: Nov 21, 2011
  19. jl

    jl Well-Known Member

    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.
    mag and (deleted member) like this.
  20. skatingfan26

    skatingfan26 Member

    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: Nov 21, 2011
  21. OliviaPug

    OliviaPug Well-Known Member

    Let's remember the underlying reason for implementation of COP: Cheating judges.

    Was figure skating an Olympic sport before COP? Yes.

    Are there still cheating judges? Yes.

    Are viewers still perplexed by the results of competitions? Yes.

    Either COP needs an overhaul or we can simply say that COP has not set out to do what it intended to do. YMMV.

    FSfan107 and (deleted member) like this.
  22. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

    I totally agree with skatingfan26, Margaret, and juliann!! I love that difficultly matters and that there are protocols that we, as fans, can actually look at and argue about. I have watched skating from the 6.0 era and I hate the spirals that went up and down so fast it made my head spin, camel spins held of 1.5 rotations, simple spins, and footwork mostly done on toe picks. I also think the main problem with COP is that the vast majority of judges grew up with 6.0 and are still thinking with a 6.0 brain. Once COP has been around for a while, and we get judges who skated under COP judging, I think we will see better use of the PCS scores as well as better use of GOEs.
  23. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Here's the difference between CoP and 6.0 in terms of understanding. It isn't that difficult to see, really, if you think:

    In the 6.0 system, there was a maximum score which was the benchmark for "perfect". That score was 6.0. As a casual viewer, you then understood quite easily that the scores closest to 6.0 were the best scores. If a skater's scores were in the range of 5.4 to 5.6, a casual viewer could think "hmm....that is good but not the best" by the relation of those numbers to the number 6.0. There is no benchmark in CoP. So a skater gets 121.89 and the casual viewer says (as my husband does if he pays attention) "is that good or not?" And, yes, the announcers can start explaining that this jump = these points and a UR call means x amount of points lost....but sports fans don't really want to think that hard or look that hard. Most people watch sports to relax on the weekend. Mathematical computation is not relaxation for the majority of the population.

    I have thought all along that the answer was not a complete overhaul. The answer should have been a new system of mandatory deductions for tech errors in the 6.0 or a similar system. Perhaps increasing the max for tech scores to 10.0 and adding mandatory point deductions and creating levels of difficulty for elements within that point basis. This system judges the parts and never the whole and the result is a loss of creativity, musicality and artistry as Lynn wrote.
  24. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

    Well I don't have a Bachelors in anything let alone a Masters in Complex Math but I do understand the basics of COP (I haven't learned all the bullets with the requirements). I know that certain jumps are worth more than others, that putting a hand down isn't as bad as falling down but both show up in a reduction in scoring, that you can get a 0 or just -1 on an element even if you got a -3 for messing up cause your base score was higher. Some of these things I got to understand because gymnastics (starting value) and diving (degree of difficulty) use similar criteria.

    I found 6.0 as a method of evaluation to be very difficult to understand from a judging perspective. What exactly were they looking for, what made one skater/pair better than another? I remember years ago when talk was about Elvis Stojko and what he needed to do to increase his second mark. The answer I got/heard was "more" -- nothing solid or concrete, just more.

    Then came SLC and the pairs. I admit, I was pulling for Jamie & David and in my eyes, I didn't see a whole lot to deduct from either couple. So to me, I didn't see why one couple got a certain set of marks while the other got lower, and no, I don't want to go down that path, I'm just using this as an example of how 6.0 left me confused quite often.

    With COP, I get the math and when I read details on how the marks took place, well at least I understand them. Do I always agree with the PCS given out? Not always. Is this marking scheme the be all and end all -- I don't think so but it IS one that can be understood if one takes a bit of time to look at it. You aren't likely to see someone's standings flip flop like they did at times in the 6.0 system.

    I get that Janet Lynn (and others) feel that it's not like it used to be and you know what, to some degree they are right. But even in their day, there were a few bright lights that made for interesting watching and then there was everyone else and we watched them because they were part of the competition.

    Do I want to go back to 6.0? Not in my lifetime! Can it be made better? I believe so. The "stars" of skating are still here if we choose to look for them. They learn how to make the system work for them and shine brightly too. This is a sport and it needs rules for measuring the achievements of those who partipate.
  25. Conga

    Conga Member

    Please. I don't believe I said anything about Janet not having the privilege of expressing herself. :confused:
  26. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

    I also think that, in theory but maybe not in practice at least under the current rules, breaking down the elements and the global aspects of the program (components) into separate scores will not always favor busy-ness over simplicity or harder elements over better performed elements.

    Of course the overall technical content will tend to rise over the generations, as skaters push themselves to keep up with and surpass the current leaders of their time and as coaches develop technical knowledge to help pretty-good skaters achieve skills that were once in reach of only the most talented.

    Whether the emphasis is on drawing circles or rotating in the air or extreme flexibility or complex turns or quick steps or average ice speed, etc., will depend on who the current leaders are and what their strengths are and also on what the current rules are designed to reward.

    I think it's important to look at the rules and realize that if you reward some things more than others, then skaters are not going to focus on those other things that aren't rewarded. If we think they're valuable and important, then there need to be built-in ways to reward them more, or reward them at all as the case may be.
  27. Conga

    Conga Member

    Very well stated and I am one who would like it to remain an Olympic sport. It might be interesting to know whether today's skaters would prefer to be viewed as an athlete first and performer/artist second or the reverse.
  28. skatesindreams

    skatesindreams Well-Known Member

    My comment wasn't specifically directed at you.
    However, some posters seem to be misinterpreting what she is saying because they don't agree.
  29. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    But...first of all, there are people like me who have issues with math due to bad bad teachers (At age 8, I was punished daily by a teacher for an entire semester for not understanding math concepts I had never been taught) or perhaps due to learning disabilities or just a general disdain for it. Whatever the reason for it, pages of numbers make our heads spin. And I know very well I am not the only person on the planet like that. I understand the general idea of CoP; I understand the basic deductions; I know a good score from a bad one. But I love skating and loved it before this. Someone who is just kind of interested and has issues with numbers is going to walk away.

    Secondly, for a sport to be profitable, and like it or not that is an issue for skating, it needs viewers. No sport can rely on only the serious fans to sustain it. To be profitable and sustain a viable fan base of both serious fans who post on web forums and casual fans who will tune in to broadcasts and buy a ticket for an event, a sport has to be accessible. Viewers have to be able to watch it and understand for themselves what is happening. My husband is the most non-sports oriented person I have ever met (people find this quite odd considering I am quite the opposite). He asked me one time at a baseball game what the "yellow poles" were for. He does not understand a single nuance or strategy of baseball or football but watches anyway when I do. He enjoys watching. Because he does understand two main things about each sport: when a player crosses home plate a run has scored and when a player is in the endzone with the football, he has scored a touchdown. He doesn't know a curve ball from a fast ball or what a blitz or a lateral is, but he doesn't need to. Because baseball and football are accessible to casual viewers and hardcore fans.

    Skating under CoP has become inaccessible. You said it yourself....CoP is understandable if you take the time to study the numbers. I don't know why it is so hard to understand that most fans don't want to study numbers. They just want to enjoy the competition. A less complex system would have served the sport better.
  30. Veronika

    Veronika gold dust woman

    I really like the idea of a maximum score in COP/IJS. I think that would help a lot.

    Personally, I'm turned off by the current judging system. I don't enjoy programs nearly as much as I used to, and that makes me sad.