Score favors Russian figure skaters | Port Macquarie News

sport, paralympics-2021

Regardless of how the Kamila Valieva doping case plays out, Russian women’s Olympic dominance in figure skating has led to dealing with performance-enhancing drugs. It’s more because of something much simpler – math. While the sport’s much-criticized judging apparatus has undergone overhauls, teardowns and total rebuilds over the years, it has ultimately produced a convoluted system that rewards high-flying jumps – even those with hard landings – by relation to skating skills and art. This gives the few women in the world capable of these jumps, almost all Russians, an unassailable advantage even before setting foot on the ice. “You know, I’ll be honest: yes, I’ve had these thoughts before,” said American figure skater Karen Chen. “I think any athlete in my position, or in a similar position, would have those thoughts. Maybe my best is not comparable to the Russians?” It’s the unintended byproduct of the International Skating Union’s attempt at a fairer scoring system. Those who remember the sport of the 80s and 90s will no doubt remember the simple 6.0 system. The judges gave this perfect number a score of zero based on two factors, a program’s presentation or artistry and technical merit. This system was long gone after the judges scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. It is now a system that only Euclid and Pythagoras could love. It is divided into two scores – the technical score rewards how well a skater performs jumps and spins. Then there is the component score, designed to value skating skill, transitions, performance, composition and interpretation – all nebulous and purely subjective numbers. This is the score of the component where the Russians find an advantage. Each skater is required to perform certain jumps in their programs – the axel in the shorts, for example. But they can do any variation of it, and each is worth a different point total. So while the majority of skaters on Tuesday night opted for a relatively easy double axel, with a base value of 3.30 points, Valieva and her Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova did a triple axel, which carries a base value of 8.00 points. Essentially, they had a nearly five-point field lead. There is another score that accompanies each jump or spin called the “Execution Level”, which allows judges to adjust a higher or lower score to reflect the quality of the execution. But even a perfect double axel, like the one Kaori Sakamoto of Japan did in her short program, won’t make a difference over a poorly executed triple axel. The mathematical advantage of the Russian team – and Valieva in particular – will be even more pronounced in Thursday’s free program, where skaters are required to do seven jumps instead of three and allowed to do quadruple jumps. The reason Valieva, Shcherbakova and Trusova, known as the “Quad Squad”, can pull off the jaw-dropping four-rev jumps and most others can’t is largely due to the Russian system. The trio, all coached by beleaguered Eteri Tutberidze, learned impeccable jumping technique at a young age, then their still-developing bodies were pushed to extreme limits as they started jumping higher, spinning faster and add more rotations. Australian Associated Press


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