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A Challenge For All of Us
by Sonia Bianchetti
October 2007

An Open Letter to Coaches, Judges and Figure Skating Friends.

Dear friends,

I want to express all my thanks to the many people who have written to me commenting on my last article, "A Tragic Comedy".

All your opinions were much appreciated. It seems that we are all thinking along the same lines. From your letters it has clearly emerged that:

a) the rules are imprecise and confusing. The constant amendments, with subsequent clarifications of the amendments, make the coaches' and the skaters' lives very difficult;

b) the coaches have often to change the programs of the skaters to follow new amendments and prescriptions;

c) they have to seek the advice and the help of various technical specialists to make sure that they have understood and interpreted the rules correctly;

d) they often receive divergent opinions from different technical specialists and can only hope that the day of the event, their pupils will be lucky enough to be judged by a specialist of the same opinion as the coach!

e) there is no guarantee that the technical panels will evaluate the elements correctly. As competent and in good faith as they may be, they are "only" human beings and it is unlikely that they can have all these details at their fingertips during an event;

f) a rule book comprising all the current and up-to-date rules is desperately needed;

g) all the strings and requirements imposed by the rules kill the sport; there are so many requirements to get the highest "level" that we will see nearly the same elements in the short and in the long programs since it is very difficult to create and to practice to perfection two different sets of elements;

h) there is no time for choreography and art as "levels" are the priority.

And it is really hard to hear from so many friends who watched the Grand Prix events or the Championships last year that there is nothing they can remember of the new champions outside the number of jumps executed (and more than often failed), in the programs skated. Is this what the ISU wants? It seems to me that the ISU never recognizes the unintended results of their actions!

The appeal of figure skating, as we all know, was its beauty, its art. This is what made it unique. AND IT IS LOST! The skaters now have been turned into robots, struggling to fit everything in and especially trying to get the highest "level" for each element, no matter how ugly the result may be.

A level 1 skating move might be the best way to express a phrase of music, but it has become a poor competitive choice. Instead of good choreography, we now see just repetitions of the same elements in the short and the free programs, or positions held long enough for the eye to process. The challenge that we have up front is to fight against some ideas prevailing among a few, but powerful, ISU leaders such as: since figure skating is a sport, difficulty must prevail over artistry. And, the decline of the sport's popularity is due to the length of the competitions.

I agree with Peter Krick that the events are too long. But clearly, to me, that is not the only problem.

Also, I am absolutely opposed to adding entertainment in the arena to distract the audience from the boredom. People should want to come to the arena because of the skating. If they are not coming because of the skating, then I would say the event is a failure. And this, anyhow, has nothing to do with the TV audience. On TV all the wasted time is cut out, yet people still are not watching.

It will not be easy to reverse this dangerous trend, and to convince the ISU that the only way to save figure skating, providing it is not already too late, is to deeply modify the system, giving back to the skaters the freedom to express themselves, to interpret the music as they used to do so successfully.

I will put all my energy into this effort, but I need others at my side.

Over the years, many of you have said or written to me, "You are not alone Sonia, please continue to fight, we are with you". I am very grateful to all those who constantly, even in these days, have offered me their help. I am flattered and thankful for your confidence, but by myself I cannot do much. I need your active support. It is necessary that we all fight together if we want to achieve something.

The first step, in my opinion, might be to come up with some constructive proposals and ideas on how to improve the present system.

I can volunteer to pull together your individual or collective proposals and to compile a summary to be further discussed.

Please circulate this letter to your friends. The more of us there are, the better.