Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Op-Ed: 210.03

I've been grappling with this for a couple of weeks. 210.03, the record breaking score Kim Yu-Na achieved at Trophy Eric I crazy for thinking that was high?

First I took a Quick Poll and asked: "Do you believe Kim Yu-Na's record breaking score was appropriate for her performance at Grand Prix Paris?" Overwhelmingly (71%), respondents thought the score was appropriate. Of course the poll is unscientific, bias obviously plays a part, and my blog hits from Korea where up 247% during the time the poll was available. Nontheless, it became clear that many supported the score.

I poured over the judges score. As far as technical elements, there is no fault in the judges score. It was judged accurately and the appropriate marks given. You cannot fault the technical mark at all.

So I then took a look at the program components. While the judges were, um, a bit generous with the performance, choreography, and interpretation scores, on the whole they looked fairly in line with "what" she skated. Perhaps a bit padded but she is clearly the cream-of-the-crop as far as women skaters.

The math adds up. When you combine it all (add in the short program) you get 210.03. Yet, I still feel that wasn't a 210.03 performance. For me...the "what" she skated didn't equal the "how" she skated. Kim Yu-Na's short program blew me away. Oddly, the judges were somewhat less generous with the aforementioned component scores, in that short program where I felt she knocked our socks off (Kim Yu-Na could get a job as a Bond Girl anyday!). But her free skate, which was beautiful, didn't get me to that wow moment I would expect of a world record breaking (shattering?) performance.

Kim Yu-Na's free skate didn't include a triple flip or a triple loop. While the program is beautifully choreographed and skated with precision like perfection (despite all my flounderous nitpicking here, I think she's a pure gem!), it didn't pull me out of my seat like her Scheherazade program did. So I'm left with a dillema here.

I think my biggest beef here has nothing to do with Kim Yu-Na. She skated a lovely program, she was well deserving of the title, and I think if she continues to skate like that she IS unbeatable. My beef is with the judging system.

While the technical mark gives little room for wiggle aside from the GOE's judges assign, the component marks do give the judges a little room to play with. I know I've brought this up before, but the judging system as it exists, doesn't give a mark for "wow." We break it down and give individual marks for this and that and add it all up. But even if a skater scores high in all the component scores...does it equal "wow?" Is it possible to skate everything to almost the highest point total possible and it still not equal ridiculous amazing? I have more questions. Should a program be granted the highest total ever, despite the clear absence of two triple jumps? Was Kim Yu-Na's TEB program the finest program anyone has ever seen under the international judging system...ever?

I have some personal opinions here. I think a skater can earn high marks in every category and fall short of "wow." So many skaters do that these days. How many times have we heard commentators (see Dick Button) say "Well that's an unattractive position, but it gets the points." I do think a program can achieve the highest total without every triple...but it shouldn't be easy nor happen often. These days it's becoming common place for skaters to remove triples from their programs. Take out a lutz and try a triple axel (see Asada), remove a loop and do a double axel combo (see Kim). Didn't someone suggest giving a bonus to skaters who complete every triple in their program (women would of course be exempt from the axel). That, I think, would be an awesome change. And on the topic of axels, pray tell why a triple axel/double toe combo is worth less than a triple lutz/triple toe combo? At the very least, they should be worth the same.

Finally, I don't think Kim Yu-Na's performance in Paris was the finest ever under IJS, which ultimately, was my biggest beef with the score. I've seen far superior performances from her. Her World's performance from L.A. I think easily was better than what she did in Paris despite the recent edition of the triple lutz/triple toe combo. I think Kim Yu-Na would even agree with that. That program was and really felt like a world record breaker. That program had "wow!" And even that program was missing two triples!

I don't know if this is a problem that can be solved. Logic tells us (I am going to go all Vulcan on you!) that 1 + 2 = 3. But in skating that doesn't always hold true. The judging system tries to make it true but I think that's where this judging system's greatest weakness lies. But how do you fix that?


Frances said...

To be honest...I think the "wow" factor is heavily dependent on personal taste. I appreciated last year's long program, but it didn't "wow" me, whereas I absolutely loved this season's LP from the very first time I saw it. For me, this LP is the best one I have seen since her Lark Ascending LP.

Anonymous said...

Eh, your argument would be more plausible if you used a better example like Plushenko. His marks were unbelievably, undeservingly high. That same kind of mentality is not as unanimous with Yuna's marks.

Agreed with Frances about the wow factor. It comes down to personal taste and what doesn't work for you can't be said for the majority of viewers.

jumping clapping man said...

you make a lot of very good points.

i agree with you that that particular performance (in paris) did not deserve the crowning score to date, relative to some others over past year (including her LA LP, as you stated).

doesn't this, in some respects, inevitably leave less room at the top for point/scoring increases when she DOES skate this new program perfectly? it has to, because otherwise, in 5 years we'll see skaters passing the 250 mark, as "the best" will have to keep moving up.

at the least, it does throw off our ability to relatively judge "the best" into the future.

this is one of the reasons i miss the 6.0 there is NO ceiling.

and, a big YES to requesting the 3A/2T combo garnering AT LEAST the same as the 3L/3T!!!

Aaron said...

Anonymous, I don't want to compare her to Plushenko. I'm just trying to understand her performance relative to her other performances and the scoring system. I'm not criticizing her score...just trying to understand how she got there.

The subjective nature of this sport is where things are a little...uncertain. For many, her performance in Paris was the crowning acheivement of ladies figure skating under the current IJS. I think one would be hard pressed to find a majority of people say that was the greatest performance by a woman. And if it isn't the greatest does it get the highest score?

That's what I'm wrestling with.

All of this aside...I still think she is leaps and bounds ahead of her competitors.

evilapprentice said...

I agree--this wasn't her absolute best performance ever, much less the best performance of any woman EVER under this current scoring system. That makes it a bit unnerving that her score was so astronomically high, despite the fact that she is a FANTASTIC skater.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad that someone neglects 3Lz/3T.
Currently,I know that Raura Lepisto has 3T/3T and Yuna Kim has 3Lz/3T.
Do you know anyone else who has triple/triple combo?
please tell me about it.

I agree. 3A is also difficult jump.

I like Ito Midori's 3A.
Her 3A is very powerful!
I love that! So high. long driving distance.

I want to see 3A like that.

jk_ready said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jk_ready said...

I don't think judges giving the highest score ever to her Paris performance means they are telling the audience that they have to like that performance as the best performance ever in the history of the sport. Rather it all depends on individual taste. I personally prefer her LP and her performance this season to the last season's because it feels more subtle but has more layers than Scheherazade which felt a bit linear. Sure, the circumstances in which she debuted her new programs at TEB was nowhere near climactic as those at the last Worlds, but nevertheless I think her programs and performance at TEB should be taken in their own merit.

Anonymous said...

CoP world record shouldn't be taken too seriously. Statistically, each realized score is just an incident of a statistic, marred with a lot of noise and from a very small sample size(n=7). Her previous WR setting FS program was Miss Saigon at COR 2007. She had a clean program then, complete with 3Lo. Do I think her Scheherezade with no 3Lo, blown 3S and the faulty final spin at the World beat that performance? Absolutely, although the score from that performance was lower than her Miss Saigon. This season's new FS program beats that 2007 performance by a mile as well, at least to me.

Anonymous said...

1. The key aspect of the sport is subjectivity. As a fan of your site, I don't understand why you
had to put three postings - the latest one being quite lengthy and a bit confusing - just to restate that well known fact. (Then again, it's your blog and you can do whatever that pleases you! :)) As the poll result showed, there are many people, Korean or non-Korean, who think her performance at TEB received the score she deserved.

2. Statistics can be very deceptive depending on how you present it. Without the knowledge about the initial volume of traffic from Korea, the information presented in the post about the surge during the polling period means little. Plus, I think it is a bit unfair not to disclose the initial traffic volume and the increase coming from Japan to this site during the polling period; I visited this site a couple of times over that period and I saw three or four Japanese flags on the side bar every time I visit. Something tells me that someone familiar with this site might have spread the words through some Japanese skating forum. I don't think they were here to vote yes. :)

3. Her Scheherezade at the last World deserves at least 4.00 points more than the score received because she wasn't credited for her last spin at all; we as audiance saw a perfectly good spin which counted zero toward the total score. It's a bit deceptive to compare the Scheherezade score and that of Gershwin at TEB.

Aaron said...

The more I post about something the more I'll find lots of my posts are at time repetitive...just how I am. I learn something new each time.

Good point on the we can infer that her World's Free Skate might have been close to her score at TEB (perhaps higher) had she gotten credit for the spin.

For statistical purposes I went and checked the blog tracker and during the time of the poll traffic from Japan was up...12%

I should also disclose, anytime I do a post about Yu-Na Kim...traffic from both Korea and Japan goes up (much more so from Korea).

Odd I don't get the same Canadian bump when I do a post about Joannie, Tessa and Scott, or Patrick.

Now I'm just rambling...

Anonymous said...

The "WOW" is precisely why the ISU 6.0 judging system was revised. Because people injected their own "WOW" biases into unfair results for decades which resulted in rankings and medals that the judges themselves couldn't validate or even necessarily logically express after the fact. The current system objectively quantifies required elements. People who criticize the scores do so almost universally from the POV of what they WANT to see in the program, not actually what was in the program. All that stuff is subjective and as a figure skating fan that kind of junk has been going on since the Witt and Ito, it has nothing to do with skating it's all noise and sour grapes.

As for your traffic from Korea and Japan, obviously that speaks that you need to do a better job with your English language links. If more people are linking from across the world in other languages for your posts than from your own continent in your own language then you obviously aren't getting many hits on google in English nor are other blogs bothering to link to you.

Finally I cant believe your nasty bit of racist insinuation that because traffic surges from Japan and Korea those people will automatically "bias" your poll unlike Caucasians or North Americans who I guess are automatically more subjective and fairminded (perhaps less ignorant or more informed on the technical aspects of skating? not sure exactly what your point was). Not only is it incredibly bigoted but it seems ungrateful, most of the responses here from across the pond have been civil and polite. Instead of being grateful that people across the world think enough of you and your blog that they log on to view your thoughts on skating you automatically pull a passive aggressive thing where you automatically dismiss them as "biased" and snark about them jamming into your site as if they're some yellow wave that's going to pollute the integrity of your site. Maybe your should put up a "no asians" banner on your site when you do polls so they know better than to pollute your polls and comments with their obvious bias.

Aaron said...

To Anonymous...

Anonymous said...

Wow, sorry about that unfortunate anonymous posting. Just wanted to let you know that I'm Asian and follow your blog, and have never seen any hint of racism on your part. It was an unfair and unwarranted accusation, and you shouldn't take it seriously.