Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002


February 19, 2002


— Acting quickly to reform a judging system that scandalized the Winter Olympics, the head of the figure skating union proposed a revolutionary point system Monday to reduce the chance of vote-swapping.

The plan would eliminate the traditional 6.0 system and replace it with a far simpler way of grading jumps, spins, footwork and other elements based on difficulty.

It also calls for 14 judges, rather than the current nine, but only the scores from seven of them would count. Judges wouldn't know whose marks would be used, limiting the possibility of a repeat of the improprieties that rocked the Salt Lake City Games.

Ottavio Cinquanta, the head of the International Skating Union, called the proposal "a total revolution."

"But more importantly, I promise this system will reduce to a minimum the prospect of bloc judging," he said.

Cinquanta presented his reform plan to the ISU's council Monday, and he said there was a "consensus" to approve it.

However, the reform package must still be approved by the entire ISU, which meets in June in Kyoto, Japan, for its biennial congress.

The plan is in its very early stages, and Cinquanta said it was unclear how quickly it could be voted on or implemented.

Marking down

Figure skating's subjective judging system has long been criticized because it leaves room for improprieties. Skaters start with a base mark of 6.0, and deductions are taken for mistakes and missed elements. Skaters also can be marked down simply for the aesthetics of their programs.

Under Cinquanta's proposal, every technical element  including jumps, spins, footwork, spirals  would have a certain point value. A double axel, for example, could be worth two points and a more difficult jump, such as a triple, could be worth three.

Skaters would get points for those required elements, as well as for execution. The winner would be determined by total points, similar to the way other subjective sports are scored, such as diving.

"The system change is terrific because instead of going down, we go up," Cinquanta said.

The proposals are radical. Skating has used the same judging system since its inception, and a 6.0  just like a 10.0 in gymnastics  is accepted universally as the mark of perfection.

But the scandal over the judging of the pairs final Feb. 11 is proof there's need for change, Cinquanta said.

"It is time to find out something new," Cinquanta said. "We are very proud of this, very proud to have tried to deliver a system for all of the sport."

Judge speaks out

Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold medal by the slimmest of margins, defeating Jamie Sale and David Pelletier 5-4. But French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne said the next day that she'd been pressured to put the Russians first, implicating her federation.

After an outcry  and accusations of vote-swapping among ice skating judges  the ISU and International Olympic Committee awarded the Canadians their own gold medals. Le Gougne was suspended indefinitely.

Le Gougne wanted to tell her side of the story to the ISU, which met in closed session Monday. The 11-member council denied her request, but council member and French skating federation president Didier Gailhaguet said she would be allowed to speak at another time.

In an interview published Monday in the French sports daily L'Equipe, Le Gougne said she had never made a deal involving the pairs competition.

"I judged in my soul and conscience," Le Gougne said, speaking publicly for the first time since the event. "I considered that the Russians were the best. I never made a deal with an official or a Russian judge."

Le Gougne also told the newspaper she was verbally attacked by an ISU committee chairwoman last week and felt physically threatened because of the way she voted.

American attorney John Jackson, an ISU championship judge who witnessed the incident, said Le Gougne has it all wrong.

"Her admission was unsolicited, unequivocal and clear," Jackson said. "There's no question about it. It was witnessed by at least four parties."

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