a matter of opinion

i find the 2012 handbook for referees and judges to be a very curious document.

ice dancers get a +2 grade of execution in the ascent and descent of their lifts if they do it "with ease" and they get +3 if they do it "effortlessly". but ... "ease" and "effortlessness" mean the same thing. how does this terminology help to distinguish anything? or, if ice dancers have a "relaxed, bold" stability in their lifts, they get a +3 goe while if ice dancers have "confident" stability, they get a +2. again, what's the tangible difference between these two ideas? i would have expected something better. after all, bragging rights, gold medals and the decision to stress tessa's legs for half an hour more to get that +3 depend on this language. that said, at least there is a pretty solid explanation as to why ice dancers should gain or lose grades of execution. here it does say that twizzles should reflect the character of the chosen dance. ditto for lifts, spins and step sequences. twizzles must gain a grade if they are in character. dances lifts and step sequences that aren't must lose one. spins and dance lifts can score no higher than -1 if they don't fit the phrasing of the music. it's not perfect, but at least there is a criteria.

i can't say the same about the program component scores. where is the explanation of how ice dancers go from a 9.75 to a 10 in program component scores? there is a clear explanation of how ice dancers get into the 9-10 range, but not how the program component scores increase by 0.25 increments. the handbook does say that "the mark for each program component is established at a certain degree according to the majority of characteristics of program component which are met." ... is that as much guidance as judges get with the actual rules? they do get to study examples as they develop as judges, but there's no objective, consistent standard demanded by those words. and when the gap between two teams comes down to fractions of a point, there probably is no real criteria to distinguish which team is a smidgen better than another. it becomes so obvious how perfectly timed off ice comments, reputation and taste matter. ... can you imagine what it's like to take to the ice each morning in canton and know that at this point, all you're training to do is move even more effortlessly than you did the day before and yesterday, you were already touching perfection?

as i think about this, i remember that scott did say to the press after he and tessa received multiple deductions on the timing of their lifts, that "to lose the points -- it is disheartening but it's easy too at the same time. at least we have them in black and white, on paper. i always find it a lot more difficult to go home and try and fix the program component scores where you have no idea where the judges' brains are at." he also said after another competition that "if we had to fix some things, it is better they are in the technical area, because they are so easy to identify and fix." there's something inherent about those program component scores that leaves skaters helpless and judges inscrutable.

and as you wrap your mind around this, wrap your mind also around the fact that this is the only reason why carmen lost to notre dame de paris at worlds, because everything else was judged to be absolutely equal.

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