by Alexandra Stevenson
Wednesday, Sept. 12: Official Practice
Thursday, Sept. 13: Men's Short Program; Short Dance
Friday, Sept. 14: Ladies Short Program; Pairs Short Program
Saturday, Sept. 15: Men's Free Skate; Free Dance;
Sunday, Sept. 16: Ladies Free Skate; Pairs Free Skate.
(11 September 2012) “We were blind-sided,” a president of a smaller skating association admits. “We didn’t realize that with no qualification rounds, our competitors would be subjected to such high point restrictions to compete. It will be hard for our competitors to get the technical scores for BOTH Programs to get into Worlds.”
A high ISU official
admitted, “We were swamped with phone calls protesting minutes after
the new higher qualifications were announced. But by then it was too
late. The delegates should have done their homework and realized
what they were doing.”
The much higher point
totals required for entry into Figure Skating’s four main annual
championships came as an unpleasant shock to many of the sport’s
smaller countries. Skaters must achieve certain technical scores in
recognized events, including previous international championships
and the so-called “Senior Bs”. [Senior B is an
unofficial term for an ISU sanctioned competition of lower stature
than ISU Championships and Junior and Senior Grand Prix events.]
[Senior B is an unofficial term for an ISU sanctioned competition of lower stature than ISU Championships and Junior and Senior Grand Prix events.]
This year is the first
time the U.S. is holding an ISU “Senior B” competition, and its popularity shows it
fills a great need. Nineteen countries posted entries. Canada is
sending a team of 11, including their Ladies champion, Amelie
Lacoste, and the US/Canadian dual nationality ice dancer Piper
Gilles and her former Canadian ice dance champion Paul Poirier.
Last season, there were also certain scores competitors had to post to gain entry BUT they were MUCH lower than this season. The rise in standards is a very unpopular development. Skaters are flocking to multiple events to keep trying to get credit for their ability. This Senior B in Salt Lake is a great help, particularly for U.S. skaters.
The need for a Senior B in North America was
highlighted last season when the new pairing of Rocky Brubaker & Mary
Beth Marley had to travel from California in January of 2012 to the
middle of Poland where they were one of only two pair entrants in an
international in Torun. They achieved the minimum score, and
finished 10th in Worlds in Nice last March. However,
their partnership has since dissolved.
U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith has said that the event is expected, “to become an annual occurrence. … Salt Lake Figure Skating has always done an exceptional job of hosting U.S. qualifying events and we are confident this will be another outstanding event. We look forward to strong skating and a great kick off to the senior season."
Entries for Senior B
events, which include the upcoming Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf,
Germany and the Finlandia Trophy are sky-rocketing as competitors
scramble to get the scores. The ISU Council did leave the sport with
a backup clause. ISU Communication #1742 states that if insufficient
skaters qualify (or too many qualify which is highly unlikely), the
points required can be adjusted.
Last season, Skate
Canada planned to upgrade one of its summer events to a “B”
international but later called off the project as “too expensive”.
Such an event must be okayed by the ISU and be conducted with ISU officials. Unofficially, it was rumored
that Skate Canada became disillusioned with the project when
numerous American skaters decided to enter the event and would have
over-shadowed the Canadian skaters.
The numbers needed to
enter the World Championship are so elevated, that the
technical score the former twice world champion, Mao Asada of Japan,
earned for her Free at Worlds in Nice (45.01) was not high enough to
qualify for this season. She finished sixth in the Free Skate and
overall, but the marks were lower than the new requirements of 48
points to enter for next year’s championship.
Many of the Presidents of the lesser known nations’ Figure Skating bodies wrongly believed that when they voted to eliminate the Qualifying Rounds, their competitors would still be allowed to start in the Short Program. The standards for technical scores for the current season are as follows:
For the ISU 2013 World Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario
MEN: Short Program 35.00; FS 65.00
LADIES SP 28.00; FS 48.00
PAIR SKATING SP 28.00; FS 45.00
ICE DANCE SD 29.00; FD 39.00
For the ISU European Championships in Zagreb, and the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Osaka, Japan
MEN SP 25.00; FS 45.00
LADIES SP 20.00; FS 36.00
PAIR SKATING SP 20.00; FS 36.00
ICE DANCE SD 18.00; FD 28.00
ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2013 in Milan
MEN SP 20.00; FS 40.00
LADIES SP 20.00; FS 35.00
PAIR SKATING SP 20.00; FS 30.00
ICE DANCE SD 17.00; FD 27.00
This decision was made
in mid-June, at the ISU congress in Kuala Lumpur, which seems a strange location for a
meeting determining the future of figure skating.
There are no minimums for the component scores. Skaters may enter any of the “B” competitions to keep trying to get the technical score. Skaters may post the minimum score for the two sections in different events, which means the more money you have, the more Senior Bs you can enter to increase your chances. But there still are only a limited amount of these events, and they are beginning to post restrictions on their maximum number of entrants.
Privately, an ISU official told this reporter, “Obviously, it is theoretically possible that we could have less competitors making the numbers that we expect. But you have to remember, this is a sport and we have to encourage technical development.
“Entrants must be able to meet very high standards. Their development stage should be in the lower level competitions, not at the top. We just can’t afford that. Holding championships is a VERY expensive project.”
Seven-time British pair champions, Stacey Kemp & David King, were planning to compete in Salt Lake, hoping to get the scores, but she was injured. They now hope to get the necessary marks at Skate Canada. The injury came as a bit of fortunate occurrence. The National Ice Skating Association of Great Britain is not able to fund even their champions so, although these Britons train in Florida, they were still struggling with finances for the trip to Salt Lake.
President of the ISU, Ottavio Cinquanta, has no sympathy for those who will not make it to the next Worlds. “We are NOT running a Winter Festival. This is the world championship.” Yet if other sports are examined, some have entries that are over 100. And who can forget the wonderfully enthusiastic Jamaican bobsledders at the Calgary Olympics. Although they were very formative at that stage, they continued to improve and eventually became very respected competitors, and their determination was never in doubt.
Another bone of contention is that the 2013 Worlds determine which countries are allowed to send competitors to the Olympic Games. It is possible something untoward could happen and leave an unexpected country out in the cold.
A lesser discussed, but very important aspect resulting from this major change, is that there will be far fewer judges because countries may send officials for the panels, only if they have qualified for an entry in that event, with exceptions in events in which the field includes less than nine countries (which of course would not be the case at an ISU championship). Without the Qualifying Rounds, and with strict qualification marks, the number of judges who will get world experience will be far fewer.
Judges are well-meaning volunteers, who are not paid although their expenses are covered. It is probable that if this “perk” is no longer available, some could choose to leave the sport.
If such ruling restrictions had been in effect in 1980, the Chinese would never have got their start. Bin Yao and his pair partner Bo Luan were last by a long way in that Worlds in Germany. But they made a great impression and Bin went on, practically single headedly, to create the great Chinese pair skaters of this century.
The Canadians, naturally, are annoyed about the lateness of the elimination of the Qualifying Rounds because that was passed after tickets for 2013 Worlds had gone on sale. Last March in Nice, the calendar called for eight days of events. Without the Preliminaries, the competition will now be completed in six.
Planning to compete in Salt Lake is Clara Peters from Ireland, who trains at the University of Delaware, where she is a student. She recently turned 21 and has represented her country in the last four world championships. But she may be a victim of the new standard.
Peters was the first from her country to enter an International Skating Union skating event and her pioneering sparked an interest in the sport in Eire. She is a marvelous ambassador for figure skating because she radiates joy and pleasure while skimming over the ice.
In Worlds in Nice in March, she gave a showing which projected such pleasure and enthusiasm in the Preliminary, the audience gave her a huge reception. Some stood up to cheer even though she was only 11th of the 12 who progressed from the Preliminary to the Short Program. The event definitely would have been poorer had she been absent.
Peters knows it will be an uphill battle for her to get the minimums because of her limitations on jumps. But she refuses to be downhearted. She said, “In the last Worlds, the set scores were pretty much achievable for everyone. Now, they are a LOT higher.
“The way I have to look at it is: ‘OK! I have to do more. I need to work on everything and I really have to push my jumps.’ I’m certainly going to try my best. I won’t go down without a fight!”
Another factor is that the ISU has upped the requirements to earn Level 4, meaning that identically performed programs from last year and this will now get lower marks.