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Some more on the New Judging System
by Sonia Bianchetti
February 2005

I have read with great interest the exchange of comments and opinions between George Rossano, a mathematician with his feet well on earth, or if you prefer, on the ice, and Joe Inman, whom I would define gently as "a dreamer." It goes without saying that I belong more to George's category than Joe's. I do agree with Joe that the best part of the system is that it shows all the parts of the skating, and it is thanks to this detailed information that, after two years' testing, some people are starting to wonder if everything is as good as the inventors and the supporters of the NJS seem to believe or want us to believe, and if the improvement with respect to the old 6.0 system was worth the costs.

In Inman's opinion, the technical part is surely better judged and the "GOE is NOW explicit." Well I would very much appreciate if Joe, or anybody else, could explain to me how it is possible that, at the European Championships, from the top skaters to the very last one in the classification list, both in men and ladies, the GOE for a given element is more or less the same, 0, all the way through. If you take, as an example, the GOE points assigned by the judges to the triple Axel jumps in the men's event in Turin, you will notice that, except in case of a fall or a particularly severe error for which a deduction had to be applied, they are the same from Plushenko down. I saw the competition and I had quite a different impression! The difference in the quality of the jumps was there as bright as the sun! Another question: how is it possible that there are so few elements deserving pluses? Plushenko skated an outstanding program; nevertheless, the only +2 and +3 were awarded to his step sequence. What about all the other elements that were excellent as well? Are the judges really judging? What are they looking for to give a +1 or a +2?

Although I never took part in any specific seminar on the NJS, as Joe might object, I believe and hope that the concept as to what must be considered a jump of good, mediocre or poor quality, or a good, mediocre or poor spin or step sequence, has not changed and all the judges know it very well. Why do they not give the correct marks? What are they afraid of? Is there something wrong with the Assessment system?

As to the components, the situation is really dramatic. There is no doubt that the artistic part of our sport is very important, that the programs must be well choreographed, and the performance, the interpretation and the composition should all be based on the music, but without forgetting that we are talking of a sport and not a music contest, as Joe would like to cast things.

The definitions set forth in the rules as to what must be considered when marking Performance/Execution, Choreography/Composition and Interpretation of the music are really going overboard. Terms such as "Physical, emotional and intellectual involvement"; "Projection"; "Purpose (idea, concept, vision, mood)"; "Utilization of personal and public space"; "Phrasing and form (movements and parts structured to match the phrasing of the music)"; "Originality of purpose"; and to the top it all, "Use of finesse to reflect the nuances of the music," in which "Finesse" is defined as "the skater's refined, artful manipulation of nuances, and the nuances are the personal artistic ways of bringing subtle variations of the intensity, tempo, and dynamics of the music made by the composer and/or musicians" can perhaps belong to a music contest to become a conductor for La Scala, not for a skating competition. Perhaps Joe envisions that in Turin for the Olympic Games the panel of judges will include Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, and Herbert Von Karajan.

I wonder how many judges understand what these words mean and are able to use them. To make things more and more complicated has never helped anybody in any field, be it sport, work, administration, or bureaucracy. It would be better, in my opinion, to reduce from five to two the marks for presentation: the first one for Skating Skills, Transitions, Linking Footwork and Movement; and the second one for Choreography, Interpretation and Expression of the music, using simple and clear definitions that can be understood by each figure skating judge and not only by a restricted elite of musicians, as Joe may wish.