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Category: World Figure Skating Championships

Tara Lipinski on the scoring system: Skaters who go for it are the ones to watch

Editor's note: All week, Ticket to Vancouver has been featuring posts from past skating champions. On Thursday it was Olympic gold medalist and 1997 world champion Tara Lipinski, who recalled her own victory at worlds and "being in the zone." She is back today, the day of the ladies free skate, to talk about the scoring system.

Tara LipinskiSkating has progressed through the years, and it's about time judging evolved as well. The international judging system, or IJS, is intended to be fair and unbiased. In essence, each stroke a skater takes is analyzed by the panel. 

Programs are dissected and every aspect of an element is accounted for. You will never have to worry that any facet of a skater’s program is going unnoticed -- a great attribute of the system. 

Skaters are well-informed of the criteria necessary to maximize their scoring potential. The elements that comprise an individual’s score do allow the audience and, more importantly, the judges to know the caliber of a program. 

In a way, it is a little like the degree of difficulty in diving or gymnastics. Maybe it’s not as "simple" as the old six-point system, and a common complaint is that the audience can’t figure it out. Could the audience truly figure out how a program was judged under the six-point system? I don’t think so. It’s just that 5.9 seems like an easier number to work with rather than 70.23 (or whatever the score may be).

It may seem confusing, but with the right explanation everyone should know exactly what to watch for and know when we might see a 70-point-plus performance in a short program like we did Friday from Kim Yu-Na. Audiences appreciate good skating whether the skater scored 5.8/5.8 or 68.95.
 
Some other questions arise. Under the IJS will skaters really go for it and take the risk of pushing the technical envelope? I would like to think the answer is yes. The IJS separates the skaters that have the confidence and ability to attempt more difficult elements from those who do not. Our elite female skaters continue to raise the bar, attempting triple axels, triple lutz-triple loop combinations, beautiful spiral variations and difficult spin positions, knowing the rules will recognize and reward. 

At the same time, this is exactly where the system has its faults. A skater may choose to increase the number of less demanding moves in a program in place of fewer moves that have higher scoring potential. By doing this, a program can score at the same point level but with less risk of execution.

The skaters that I take pleasure in watching are the ones who do go for it. These are the skaters who will reach new heights and push boundaries. They are the ones who will make the sport grow and evolve. 

I realize some competitors are adding up the points they could lose by taking chances and it can be scary -- but, after all, it is competition.  I knew that I had to land triple triples to make the podium. Under the old system I never added points but I definitely knew where a fall would land me. I skated on the offensive. When I returned from a competition, I worked on new jumps, new combos, anything that might set me apart.

I always wanted to try something new that would distinguish me from my competitors. With that said, consistency is paramount. I can't imagine that today's skaters feel any different than I did.

On Friday, Yu-Na, Joannie Rochette and Mao Asada found a beautiful balance of artistry and technicality. The best skaters will always differentiate themselves by executing unique programs with a mix of difficulty and balletic qualities.

If there was ever a time to educate the general public on what to look for when a skater performs it is now. I think as a group we have been divided on the judging system and we are doing neither the sport nor our audience any favors. 

Vancouver is right around the corner, and I want to do my part to encourage the fans to get excited.  This has the makings of a great pre-Olympic year!

-- Tara Lipinski


More musical memories

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France used an uplifting compilation of Edith Piaf music, with Piaf's vocals, which had the crowd clapping and stamping feet, and it was perfect for ice dancing and for just plain singing along if you know a little French.

And the next couple, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy, chose a "Love Story" soundtrack sung by Nana Mouskouri. Now I loved the movie as much as the next girl and I know there was skating in "Love Story," but is what you're going for here, to make the fans (at least the female ones) all weepy?

-- Diane Pucin

Pernelle Carron and Matthieu Jost of France compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


Kristi Yamaguchi on the ladies' short program tonight: 'Wow'

Editor's note: Ticket to Vancouver is featuring guest bloggers this week in honor of the World Figure Skating Championships being held here in L.A. Tonight is Kristi Yamaguchi's turn. She is a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, 1991 and 1992 world champion and 1992 U.S. champion. Here are her thoughts on the women's short program from tonight, with insights into leaders Kim Yu-Na, Mao Asada and Joannie Rochette, as well as U.S. entrants Alissa Czisny and Rachael Flatt.

Kristi Yamaguchi was on hand Thursday night at Staples to congratulate Evan Lysacek after his flawless performance. My impressions are that I'm very impressed. We'll start with Alissa. I was really, really behind her and pulling for her so it's disappointing. But I spoke with her afterward and I was telling her, 'C'mon, fight. You know you can do it, and enjoy it. Fight and do it.'

But the top three ladies -- wow. Yu-Na, I was so excited to see her skate live. This was my first time seeing her live, just seeing the speed and the flow she has on the ice. I always knew her jumps were gorgeous, but her artistic impression -- she's very expressive and has that command on the ice which is fun to watch.

In the short you have your eight required elements and you can play with the choregoraphy in between. Mao, she just floats on the ice. She's beautiful and elegant as well. It's a different style but I like it, too. She has a light quality.

We were only required to do a triple-double and then footwork into a double, versus now they do footwork into a triple. Definitely after 17 years it's a step up in difficulty there. It's progressing.

There are no American women in the top five but this is Rachael's first appearance at a world championships and this is invaluable experience she's been getting. She's competing with the girls who are the best in the world and I think she's going to see how they train, what they're doing, and take that home with her and she has all year to prepare and use that for the Olympics. Rachael is only 16 and I think she's only going to get better and better, so this is a great learning experience for her.

She's done well. Seventh is respectable. She just needs to go out and do the long program like she did at nationals, which I'm sure she can, and she'll be sitting pretty.

You just see other countries emerging and being powerhouses in this sport. I think the U.S. has an incredible pool of talent. Look at the girls who didn't get to come: Caroline Zhang and Mirai Nagasu, national champion. I think they'll all be back in the mix next year for making the Olympic team. I think we're just seeing stronger and stronger skaters from outside our country, which has been impressive.

I think there are good things and not-so-good things about this scoring system. I don't think it's perfect yet. By all means the other one wasn't perfect but it served our sport for hundreds of years. It's going to take a while, I think, before this one is perfected and I don't think it's quite there yet. It's affected our sport, certainly, and the way that they compete these days.

You can argue whether it's better or worse but a lot of us old-school people are seeing that a little something might have been lost. It's hard to be wowed by a performance these days because instead of skaters developing their strengths and showing off their own strengths, their own personalities, they need to be in this cookie-cutter system to earn points.

And I think one of the things that made skating so interesting to the audience was that your favorite skater didn't necessarily have to be the champion. It could be the skater in eighth place that had the personality. It's hard to have that now because no matter who you are you have to try to do the Level 4 spin and Level 4 step sequence and the spiral sequence.

I'm sure if I had to do it I would have. I would have done anything to be competitive.

As far as Yu-Na, you certainly always have the cream rise to the top and with Yu-Na she's found a way to bring out her personality. I think that just shows maturity. It shows the confidence that she has and great coaching, too.

Yu-Na seems so many points ahead of everyone that it's going to be tough to catch her. She set a really good cushion for herself. If she can skate and put together a long program like she did the short, she'll be hard to catch. I think Mao is going to come out banging because I'm sure she's mad at herself for making the one mistake [a flawed double lutz instead of a triple]. So I'm sure she's going to put up a good fight.

Joannie, she's a powerhouse too. I think she's another one who has a great personality and that she's not afraid to show a lot of emotion on the ice. That should be a good final.

-- Kristi Yamaguchi

Photo: Kristi Yamaguchi was on hand Thursday night at Staples Center to congratulate Evan Lysacek after his flawless performance. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images


First for a moment anyway

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It's not going to last, but there is a warmup group now so young Americans Emily Samuelson (18) and Evan Bates (19) are, right now, in first place at the world championships in ice dancing. This is the first senior worlds for the pair who won the junior world title last year. As they waited for their scores, the Staples Center crowd started chanting "USA." They had been 12th going into this final of three portions of ice dancing. There are 10 more couples to skate.

-- Diane Pucin

Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates of the United States compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


And to be fair...

Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, skate in the ice dancing free dance competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, Friday March 27, 2009. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Katherine Copely who, with Deividas Stagniunas, represented Lithuania just now in the ice dancing competition, was born in Cincinnati and lists Canton, Ohio as her hometown.

She also lists Stagniunas's home town of Kaunas, which is actually in Lithuania, as her other hometown.

Someone in crowd at Staples Center shouted something in Lithuanian at the couple. Stagniunas looked up and smiled. Copely just looked puzzled.

-- Diane Pucin

Katherine Copely and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania, skate in the ice dancing free dance competition at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles, Friday March 27, 2009. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Musical memories

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski from Israel perform during the Ice Dance Free Dance event of the 2009 World Figure skating Championships, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2009

Growing up in a pretty conservative Catholic home, I was not allowed to listen to the album Jesus Christ Superstar when it first came out.

So I immediately ran out and bought it (the actual album, kids, no CDs back then!). I still have it, but I haven't heard that music in at least a couple of decades.

Until right now.

Alexandra and Roman Zaretski, the ice dancing team from Israel just skated to it. If I still had a record player I'd go home and play it!

-- Diane Pucin

Alexandra Zaretski and Roman Zaretski from Israel perform during the Ice Dance Free Dance event of the 2009 World Figure skating Championships, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2009. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images


Questions. Ice dance questions.

Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin of Azerbaijan compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Why is the girl dancer of Azerbaijan named Kristin Fraser?

Well, because she was born in Montclair, New Jersey, which is very far from Azerbaijan. Her partner, Igor Lukanin, is from Ekaterinburg, Russia, which is closer to Azerbaijan though the couple trains in New Jersey, which leads us to think that Fraser is going nowhere near Azerbaijan.

Lukanin's hobby, by the way, is going to the sauna. Fraser's hobbies are sleeping and watching TV. She doesn't say whether that's in or out of the sauna.

Not to fear, the couple also has a website. But be careful. They also sell real estate!

It's hard not to read the fine print of the media guide during the four hours of ice dancing finals.

-- Diane Pucin

Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin of Azerbaijan compete in the Free Dance during the 2009 ISU World Figure Skating Championships on March 27, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)


Mirai Nagasu: Of watching the worlds and cheering on her rivals

Editor's note: Ticket to Vancouver, in honor of the world championships being here in L.A., has been featuring some guest bloggers this week who know the sport inside-out. Mirai Nagasu is from Arcadia and, at age 14, became the 2008 U.S. women's figure skating champion. She competed most of this season on an injured right foot and finished fifth at the U.S. championships. She withdrew from the world junior championships to allow her foot to heal, but she is watching the worlds.

In January, Mirai Nagasu celebrated at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships -- joyous for having successfully pulled off her free skate routine despite intense foot pain. I hope everyone does their best and and best person wins. For me to watch, it's drive for me to come back and compete next year. I was watching the men on Wednesday night and I was getting really angry with myself because it could have been me here.

I guess it wasn’t meant for me to be here this year, and since it’s in my hometown I guess I was meant to sit here and watch and learn, and I’m forced to think about my mistakes and learn from them. So hopefully I won’t make these mistakes again and I’ll come back strong next year.

The mistakes are bad decisions I made. I could have taken time off in the summer, but I didn’t, and I think that was a very, very bad decision on my behalf, and so I was forced to skate on the injured foot. It’s just a bad feeling to skate with pain because pain is overpowering, and it didn’t help me fully concentrate on what I fully wanted to do. So the mistakes are in there.

It’s really hard to balance it out between what I want and what my body needs. This year I was too greedy for what I want, but I didn’t get what I wanted, so I want to listen to both of my needs.

My foot is definitely getting better because I took four weeks off, and I’m just starting to get my skating feet back under me. So we’ll see how this year goes. I'm going to Canada in two weeks to work with Lori Nichol again. I really like working with her, even though she has us on the ice for a ridiculous amount of time. But I really enjoy it, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve got to say she has a God-given talent because she works so well with everybody and creates such unique programs. And I just love working with her. She just teaches me so much, and I really appreciate her. She gives everyone the opportunity to learn from her.

She's opened up my art. Not only that — she helps me with jumps sometimes, so it’s definitely really helpful. She teaches me the meaning of the music, the motivation behind the movements that she creates for me. It’s not just skating; it’s telling a story when she creates it, so it’s just enjoyable to skate every day.

I watched some of the men's short program after school. I saw the last few skaters in the second-to-last warmup group and then the best of the best. I really enjoyed Patrick Chan’s performance — and he also works with Lori, so I was glad to see that he did good. And Evan [Lysacek]. And Brian [Joubert].

What makes Patrick Chan so good is his body movement. It’s like when he skated to "Tango de Roxanne" [last season] it was like he was telling that story.

His movements are like big. . . . Even though I was watching from upstairs in one of the top seats, I could see everything so clearly. And I really understand that, as a skater, I can’t just portray to the audience around you. You have to portray also to the people above because they came to watch us skate, and we have to be grateful for them to come. I have to start learning how to project.

And his triple axel, it was almost like he touched the ceiling!

Evan, his artistic skills are just out-of-the-window great. I wasn’t a fan of "Bolero" until he skated to "Bolero." I really liked Michelle Kwan’s "Bolero" as well and a pair a long time ago which I watched —  [Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, the 1984 Olympic ice dance gold medalists].

I really liked it, but there are a few people who skate it at my rink, but the way Evan skated it is a whole different story. It’s just watching him skate and practice is a learning experience for me. It just makes me want to improve my work habits a lot more. And Brian Joubert just connects with the audience, and his jumps are superb.

Being here is really motivation for me to try harder to make the Olympic team, especially since Rachael [Flatt] is the same age as me. Just to know it could have been me out there if I had made the right decisions. That really makes me kind of mad and just drive to do well for next year. I definitely think she deserved it this year because she skated her best this year. So hopefully she skates as well here at worlds and she and Alissa [Czisny] get us three spots.

— Mirai Nagasu

Photo: In January, Mirai Nagasu celebrated at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She was joyous for having successfully pulled off her free skate routine despite intense foot pain. Credit: Mark Duncan / Associated Press

 


Rachael Flatt almost made it perfect

Rachael Flatt, the 16-year-old from Del Mar* and the only other American woman to have qualified for the world championships, stumbled out of her first triple flip and doomed her chances of completing her triple flip-triple toe combination but she improvised on her next jump, a triple lutz, by adding a double jump.

She got credit for a jump combination and received a season's best score of 59.30 on her short program. She is in second place with eight skaters to go.

-- Diane Pucin

* An earlier version of this post said Flatt is from La Jolla instead of Del Mar.


If only there weren't those pesky jumps

Alissa Czisny fell on both her triple salchow and her double axel, pretty much dooming the graceful college student to a poor placement by the time the women's short program ends at 5:30 this afternoon. Czisny, the U.S. national champion, was extraordinarily graceful on her flying camel spin and had the crowd oohing during her spiral sequence that seemed filled with emotions she was feeling after having fallen hard on two jumps. The nervous practices Czisny had this week turned out to be indicative of the way she skated Friday. Her score of 53.28 was more than two points lower than her season's high of 55.62.

-- Diane Pucin


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