Monday, March 08, 2010

The Op-Ed: Judging the Judges

I just read one of the most telling interviews anyone has ever had with a judge since the inception of the code of points judging system (Thank you Blazing Blades)!

Tony Wheeler sat down with Patrick Ibens who is a ISU Figure Skating Judge who has sat on several judging panels including the Men's panel in Vancouver. Read this interview...shocking!

So in my discussions with a couple of people in Vancouver I have learned that the judges can be 'greasy scoundrels' as I put it but who could have imagined that many are just downright incompetent! The fact that judges who are improperly trained can 'hide' in those safezone corridors of marks is unbelievable.

The ISU has got to change business as usual here! What is with judges getting 'assessments' if they are outside the safezone. That explains why a skater such as Tugba Karademir gets lower scores versus skaters who skate later in a competition who perhaps perform an element at the same level of competency. Why would a judge risk giving a skater a deserved mark if it means they could be penalized, reprimanded, or even dismissed? God forbid we give a skater a deserved mark. This is a shocking revelation in the scoring system and needs to be addresses now...right now!

Interesting how making the judges anonymous has solved nothing as far as mark-fiddling or coercion from federations. If anything, it makes it easier to veil these attempts and harder to discover fraud as it is happening.

Oy me!

The ISU has to fix this somehow or I'll be the first person to advocate the removal of figure skating from the Olympics! The IOC should put pressure on the ISU because honestly this is just a joke. I'm a fan of drastic measures...people tend to perk up and listen.

A judge shouldn't be penalized for marking outside of a prescribed zone. If someone in the first group skates well, then they should absolutely be rewarded for it, safezone corridor be damned!

The idea that their is national allegiance associated with judges has been a problem for far too long. We may be at the point where Federations should not be allowed to nominate judges but rather the ISU just have a trained pool of trained and qualified judges randomly selected with no attachment to nations whatsoever. Member federations would probably have a cow about this and there is no guarantee judges still wouldn't have national allegiance but it's a start.

Will any of these judges stand-up for these skaters who are pouring their heart and souls out there on the ice and stop trying to cover their own rear end?


Stella said...

Aaron - I tried to send you an email about this post but it bounced back. Do you have a different one?

Aaron said...

Did you try the address on the right hand sidebar under the formspring link?

kortney said...

It sucks being an honest judge and the pushing for honest judges is out there. I'm a beginning level judge in Canada and judge just the little guys in the first few levels. I just completed my new system training and will get to judge under that system for the first time in singles in May. Again, just PreJuvenile and Juvenile, but you have to start somewhere. I've judged various synchro levels with the new system.

I can tell you I am an honest judge. I can tell you that they push for this. The people who run the courses explain that PCS should never be on a scale, never used for comparison. They push that there is not ranges in levels. They go over how to judge PCS at every competition and remind us of this.

Obviously somewhere along the way this breaks down. My dream is to be an Olympic judge one day (well, actually it was to be an Olympic Champion, but that goal broke down when it took my 3 years to learn an axel)'s frustrating to know that my dream may never be realized because of politics - or else I'll break down what I believe in to achieve it...and that's not what I want.

I wonder if the smaller, European countries have programs like this for judges - or do they take what they can get. Becoming even a National level judge in Canada is going to take me at least 10 it that way in other places?

I also really didn't like how that guy talked about ice dancing not being real judging...personally, I think it's the hardest part to judge under the new system, simply because there ARE rules and requirements to actually judge. It's the hardest discipline to judge for sure!!!!

Anonymous said...

That would perfectly explain how Johnny Weir got lower component scores than the 'medal contenders'. That would also explain why Plushenko got such high transition scores in the Europeans. It also means that if someone like Chinquanta or Inman critizises skaters for certain elements the less 'experienced' judges will feel they should give a lower score to whoever was critizised.
Honestly, reading the whole thing makes me want to have the 6-point system back. It was understandable and you could also enjoy some fingerpointing at coorupt judges.
Also note that under the 6-point system the winner probably would have been... TAKAHASHI. That might actually have been much less controversial than Lysacek/Plushenko.

Peter Murray said...

The only real comment from the interview with Patrick Ibens that surprised me was his view that only 10 percent of all International, World and Olympic level judges are honest. The rest has been known and discussed on many skating forums and lists for the past several years.

Especially known and criticized is the safe corridor of marking that the ISU has put in place to use against honest judging. The creation of this so-called safe zone (which I prefer to call the Restricted Zone) follows the same dishonest pattern of doing business the ISU leadership has demonstrated for many decades now. Just ask Sonia Bianchetti, who was blackballed from the ISU by Ottavio Cinquanta for trying to deal with the corruption within skating's governing body.

Aaron is absolutely correct in recommending taking the judges training and assignments out of the perview of their individual federations/associations. However, I feel no trustworthiness for the ISU to improve on their control, with their current and past record of corruption and cheating amongst their own organization.

The culture has to be changed. I have spoken on this forever it seems. Until individual governing bodies within the sport have the cajones to stand up, and put it to the current leadership governing their sport, NOTHING POSITIVE will take place. It's as simple as that! Until national agendas are set aside and the current leaders with their cheating and lying ways are thrown out of the sport, this crap will continue to be perpetuated.

Anonymous said...

To the comment above, yes, Weir probably should have been 4th or 5th at least, but he doesn't deserve the highest component marks. He skates noticeably slower than some of the skaters, his transitions aren't great, and he doesn't relate to the audience well (he skates very "internal", I guess you could say). Plus performance wise, he does take off on the wrong edge on his triple flip and he had difficulties with a spin. Weir wasn't as flawless as he thinks he was.

Anonymous said...

I didn't find the interview shocking really, except that he said only 10% of judges are honest. But then again, how could he know for sure who's honest and who isn't? As for his ice dance comments, maybe he just isn't educated enough about dance to know how it's judged. Do you really think 24th and 25th place in ice dance are predetermined? Nah, there would be no point.. So there must be SOMETHING that's making one team outscore the other. I'm just not not educated enough about dance to know.

However, I completely agree that judges should be selected through the ISU and not nominated by countries. What is the point of that?

The scoring system does need a little tweaking... But no matter what they do, numbers and math cannot pick a skating winner, PEOPLE pick the winner. If a skater needs lower PCS after splatting through an entire program to ensure that she will rank low instead of high, then so be it. My issue is that the 5 components aren't judged separately enough. A skater who jumps miserably should have a low PERFORMANCE/EXECUTION score. But it doesn't nessarily mean she suddenly has poor artistry and skating skills. The problem is that the performance score is only 1 of 5 program components, so when a skater blows, ALL of her PCS are affected to make sure she is ranking behind the others who skated better.

Likewise, Plushenko is easily out-jumping everyone and deserves to finish high at every competition, regardless of how weak the rest of his skating may be. So his PCS are inflated. I understand that, I really do. But I don't like when the marks become ENORMOUSLY inflated (ie. his insane transition mark) when he would have STILL would have won, say, Europeans with the low transition mark he deserves!

Skating shouldn't, and won't, ever be removed from the Olympics. It's an amazingly difficult sport and the most popular of the Winter Olympics. Maybe ice dance should be removed until they can prove that it is judged properly, but other than that, skating results usually make sense (even if the scores don't).

You are completely right that certain judging practices should be changed or corrected. Perhaps Patrick Ibens' interview can be sent to someone in a position of power in the skating/USOC world? I really have no idea how to reach out to the people who could be capable of making change, but maybe others will.

Ice Charades said...

"Judge the Judges" should be the mantra - and Aaron, you could be the guy to rally the troops.

Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

Figure skating should only be judged by judges that are not from any country that sent figure skaters to competitions (be it Worlds or Olympics). Meaning it should most likely be judged by judges from Brazil, Algeria, etc. That way you don't have the "I must give high scores to my own country". There is least amount of bias since they have nothing to gain or loose.

Anonymous said...

I am a high level judge in the US who has decided to stop judging for this very reason. The hypocrisy in judging skating is rampant and very disturbing, to say the least. In our training we are told to mark how we see each skater regardless of fame or rank, and that there is no "range" ("corridor") in the IJS system. However, upon giving skaters the marks they actually earned in my view, I have been criticized for failing to "understand the system", and told that I would not be promoted further. I am very sad for the sport I love, and that I have decided I can no longer be part of it.

Anonymous said...

I think what Patrick means by only 10% of the judges are honest is that they all have something to defend! Don't forget a judge only can judge if they have a skater participating so... every judge "has something". Of course there's a big difference between defending your own skater and making deals with other judges and federations like the french judge did at the 2002 Olympics but both have a certain degree of dishonesty!

Don't take what he said about ice dance too seriously since he said "I'm a real judge! it's an inside joke in figure skating". As far as I know the judges (singles & pairs) and the ice dance judges are in two different camps and they always joke about each other. However, when you see some of the ice dance results (Top 5) one starts wondering about how they come to the same result over and over and over again...

To Kortney, Good luck with your judging career and hopefully you can stay neutral and also unbiased when you judge the Canadian skaters at international competitions! Let's wait and see!