I’ve been promising a video blog for weeks now. And I will admit, I could have had it up before now. But last week wasn’t ideal for, well, being on camera, so it kept getting pushed back more and more! But I’m nearly healthy again, and I ended up with the day off, so I had no excuse not to get something done and up for you all today. Little did I know when I came up with the idea for the video how involved it would be. Nevertheless, it is filmed and in the process of being edited together as I type.
The video, as you will see soon enough, is an interactive quiz, testing your knowledge of figure skating trivia. I won’t pretend that I knew all the answers to the questions you’ll find below, but searching for them made me realize how much skating surely has changed since its early days. And that got me thinking about how much skating has changed just in the less-than-a-decade that I’ve been a die-hard fan.
Just after I became skating crazy, the 6.0 system came under scrutiny at the 2002 Olympics. What a mess that was! That next season, the “New Judging System” called the “Code of Points” was born. International events didn’t make the complete change until 2005 – the first World Championship to use the new system.
Since then, changes have been made to the system, to the requirements, and to how it works in “real life” each year.
I had a very interesting conversation the other day with someone about the new scoring system, which is undoubtedly the largest, most influential change of my time in skating. I will admit, as I did in this conversation, I’ve been highly critical of the Code of Points system, because some of the requirements make skating so inspiration-free. When every lady has to hold a spiral in 3 different positions for 3 seconds each, there are only so many ways to do that and make it unique. When spins stop being about quality centering and speed and become about how gumby-like you can be without toppling over, you lose some of the solidity things like a good, old-fashioned, one-position sit spin can bring. I even posted on a fan forum one time a post entitled “How Michelle (Kwan) made me hate COP.” Want to know how? Her sit spin. The back position, the centering, the speedy, the steadiness…all things I haven’t seen in a lady’s sit spin since then.
And yet, writing for this blog and analyzing the skaters who will be competing this season, as well as talking with my COP savvy friend, I’ve noticed even another change – COP is getting better with age.
Sure, it’s not perfect. There are still things I don’t like about it. But if we’re going for judging that is at least closer to fair, well, this certainly helps. It at least quantifies elements based on the difficulty and the quality – something 6.0 couldn’t ever do.
Skaters now are on level footing entering a competition; the favorites can’t be as easily held up because of their past successes. This is, perhaps, most notable in ice dance – a discipline rich in tradition, so much so that North American skaters weren’t even on the map until Bourne and Kraatz, Belbin and Agosto and the introduction of COP. Now, it’s anyone’s game. Or at least more so than ever before.
The system also forced skaters to become more well rounded. Take a Patrick Chan or and Evan Lysacek vs. an Evgeyni Plushenko or a Brian Joubert. It’s not enough to throw the big tricks. If you don’t have the transitions, the footwork, and the spins, the technical advantage the later two may have had under 6.0 is eliminated in favor of the complete skaters like Chan and Lysacek.
This I like.
My biggest concern has always been the fact that a program skated beautifully both technically and artistically seems to present a difficult situation – how do you quantify spark? Magic? Passion? How do you add in points for a skater who skates as though the music is coming from within? What “base mark” can you come up with to apply when a skater has a “skate of their life” moment where the entire arena is on its feet, wrapped in the emotion that comes with witnessing history? That emotion is such a part of skating’s past…how can COP make it a part of the sport’s future?
And yet, I may have recently discovered that, as with most things in life, there’s a pretty serious learning curve within this system. One that, once mastered, may make way for such memorable performances as Michelle Kwan’s 1998 Nationals Lyra Angelica, Torvill and Dean’s “Bolero,” or the teenage miracles of Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes.
See, while the technical demands are greater and the point values tend to overtake the creativity, it’s skaters like Patrick Chan that give me hope – he moves me. He’s pretty close to a “COP baby,” growing up in skating under this new system. And he’s comfortable enough with it, that you don’t see him counting rotations or numbers of turns – you see him connecting with the music, the movement, and the crowd. There may not be a mark for that, but as long as it doesn’t go away entirely, I think I can find it in my heart to appreciate the value of the Code of Points.
Afterall, nothing’s perfect. But people who have the passion to skate will find a way to always, always, always express that passion on the ice.
Changes will come, but that fact remains the same. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
So what about you? What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your years of skating fandom?
Plus, are you confident in your skating trivia skills? Test them out with the video below! Good luck!